Sell Candidates: Is It Time To Move On From These Highly Productive Pitchers (Kluber & More)

by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)

Selling a big-name player is never easy, especially when the statistics support the draft day cost.  However sometimes that is the prudent decision, as the underlying metrics indicate that the production may not be sustainable.  Let’s take a look at two pitchers you may not want to trade, but it may be the prudent decision:

 

Corey Kluber – Cleveland Indians
2018 Statistics – 65.1 IP, 2.34 ERA, 0.84 WHIP, 8.40 K/9, 1.38 BB/9

On the surface it would appear like there’s nothing to be concerned about, but when you start digging into the numbers it’s fair to wonder if there could be a few implosions coming:

  • Luck – Kluber has benefited from an 87.8% strand rate and .212 BABIP, so while the numbers still look elite it’s easy to call them tenuous at best
  • Strikeouts – He’s seen a significant drop in his SwStr% (career 12.6%, after a 15.6% mark in ’17, has fallen to 10.5% thus far) and specifically the swing and miss on his slider (Whiff% has fallen from 29.43% to 19.88%)
  • Home Runs – His HR/9 is up to 1.38 (courtesy of 18.5% HR/FB) and in part it’s likely due to a spike in his Hard% (33.7% compared to a 27.7% career mark)

He remains one of the better starters in the game, but we also can’t ignore the risk that’s out there today.  Barring improvements with his slider, meaning he can improve his strikeout rate, the other numbers are going to fall before long.  It’s a situation that could go south in a hurry, and as of today we wouldn’t consider Kluber a Top 5 starter, despite the numbers, as the risk may simply outweigh the reward.

While he’s hardly a must sell starter, if the price is right we’d be willing to listen.

 

Sean Manaea – Oakland A’s
2018 Statistics – 61.1 IP, 2.35 ERA, 0.80 WHIP, 7.19 K/9, 1.17 BB/9

His no-hitter helps to skew the numbers and allows fantasy owners to hype him a little bit more than they should.  He’s a solid option, but is he really this good?  The quick answer is no, and there are numerous signs that a regression is coming before long:

  • Luck – Does anyone believe that he could conceivably maintain an 81.0% strand rate and .205 BABIP, considering a 21.3% line drive rate?
  • Velocity – His fastball velocity is down about 1 mph from ’17 and 2 mph from ’16 (93.30 to 92.21 to 91.23)
  • Control – While it’s easy to say that Manaea has good control, does anyone really believe he can maintain this type of mark?

Manaea has also generally been a better pitcher at home, as opposed to the road, over the course of his career:

  • Home – 3.26 ERA
  • Road – 4.39 ERA

This year is no different (1.78 / 2.90), it’s just the numbers have been that much better.  Considering the risks hovering over him now is the time to try and sell high and cash in before it’s too late.

Sources – Fangraphs, Brooks Baseball

Missed our Top 100 prospect rankings?  Make sure to check it out by clicking here.  

8 comments

  1. LeftyMaddux92 says:

    What would you consider to be a reach, a reasonable ask, and a settle for Manaea as far as value goes? Especially if looking to acquire a pitcher in return

    • Rotoprofessor says:

      I think it may be a stretch to ask for a Tier 2 starter, but it’s not impossible either (if there’s someone who is really in love with him) if there’s one who has been struggling.

      A Tier 3 starter is probably the “sweet spot”

  2. Duke Slugger says:

    Now that Meadows is getting the call up, do I drop Dexter Fowler or Derek Fisher to make room in a deep keeper league?

  3. Alex says:

    Regarding Kluber, it seems insane to sell a multiple season top 5 starter, even with the warning signs. However, what scenario would one sell him? A Strasburg/support piece trade? An SP for a big bat straight up, even though superior pitching is scarcer? Unless one has a lot of SP depth, or is in an 8-team league, it seems like it would be difficult to stomach sending away a great ace from the past few years. Glad I don’t own him anywhere so I don’t have to make that very tough decision given the advice… whew!

  4. OtisP says:

    Would you deal Kluber for Goldschmidt straight up in a dynasty league?

    • Rotoprofessor says:

      With Goldschmidt’s struggles I’d think you could get him and another piece for Kluber. Depending on that extra piece, I’d definitely consider it (especially if you can get a fairly high upside SP as the secondary piece)

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