Fantasy Baseball Trade Analyzer: Why a trio of early-season aces should be dealt away

After offering some big-picture fantasy trade tips last week, it’s time to get back to the nitty-gritty of trade talks by recommending some specific players who should be involved in many deals in the coming days.

And don’t forget to check the Yahoo Trade Market, which will give you a good barometer of a player’s recent trade value.

Players to trade away

Brandon Marsh (OF, Philadelphia Phillies)

I’m not buying into Marsh as a breakout player. His .464 BABIP leads all qualified players and is propping up his .326 average. And with a 35% hard-hit rate, the outfielder is not earning his amazing batted-ball luck. Statcast has currently assigned Marsh a .238 xBA and has him with a .334 xwOBA, which is more than 100 points lower than his actual mark. I would be happy to trade Marsh for anyone whom I can picture being on my roster all season.

Luis Arraez (1B/2B, Miami Marlins)

Having logged a .435 average, Arraez seems to be more valuable than ever before. But the opposite is true, as his empty batting mark is now a drain on fantasy squads. First off, Arraez isn’t going to hit .400. The lifetime .322 hitter could lead the majors in average but will likely finish closer to his career mark. And a .300 average is less valuable than it was a year ago, as we have roughly double the number of players with that mark in 2023 as we did at a similar point in the schedule last year. Finally, Arraez’s lack of homers and steals is a bigger problem now that fantasy squads need more of them to stay in the race.

Dustin May (SP, Los Angeles Dodgers)

I apologize for having already mentioned May twice this season, but I fear that his sell-high window could close quickly. The right-hander has been arguably the most fortunate starter in baseball (.198 BABIP, 2.8 percent HR/FB rate) while showing poor control skills by walking at least three batters in three of his past four starts. I know that the Dodgers tend to maximize the production of their pitchers, but there seems to be little chance that May can log helpful ratios without making major improvements on his 23:14 K:BB ratio.

Graham Ashcraft (SP, Cincinnati Reds)

The sell-high sales pitch with Ashcraft is easy: He was one of the most hyped players at the outset of the season and is exceeding expectations by delivering a 2.00 ERA across his initial six starts. To the naked eye, Ashcraft is one of 2023’s breakout starters. But the reality of the 25-year-old is that he has benefited greatly from a .245 BABIP and a 4.5% HR/FB rate, while a little bit of digging reveals a poor 27:16 K:BB ratio and a 3.87 xERA. Ashcraft still has plenty of potential, but he is not yet a set-and-forget fantasy starter.

Gerrit Cole (SP, New York Yankees)

Hear me out on this one. Cole is awesome. He might be the most valuable starter in fantasy baseball. But two factors at play might make him a sell-high option. First, he isn’t this good. After all, someone who arrives at his age-32 season having had career-long issues with homers doesn’t suddenly suppress power to the point that he allows zero long balls in his initial seven starts.

And the second reason to sell high on Cole is that there might be a manager in your league willing to overpay for his services due to the lack of security among starting pitchers this year. My goal in trading Cole would be to get an enormous return. Anything short of that, and I’ll hang on to him.

Players to trade for

Logan Webb (SP, San Francisco Giants)

Webb’s 4.10 ERA makes him look like an average starter, but he has pitched much better than his results indicate. The right-hander owns an impressive 43:5 K:BB ratio, and both his strikeout and walk rates are career-best marks. His BABIP (.333) and HR/FB rate (25.9%) are among the worst in baseball — his bad luck with homers really stands out, as Webb has never had problems in that area in past seasons. I could see Webb finishing 2023 with an ERA that is nearly a full run lower than the mark he has right now.

Josh Naylor (1B/OF, Cleveland Guardians)

I detailed my thoughts on Naylor in Monday’s Waiver Wire column. Those in shallow leagues should pick him up, while those in deeper formats should put in a buy-low offer. He will turn things around.

Ryan Helsley (RP, St. Louis Cardinals)

Simply put, I’m not worried about Helsley. He has blown half of his six save chances, which will undoubtedly leave some of his managers frustrated. But his elite velocity has carried over from 2022, and many of his struggles can be traced to a .400 BABIP. As a team, the Cardinals have underachieved thus far, but I expect them to get back on track, with Helsley being a big part of the resurgence.