Sell High Candidates: Which Surprising Pitchers Should You Cash In On Now (Montas, Turnbull & More)

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Nearly two months into the season there are players who appear to be breaking out, but should we be buying in? In other words should fantasy owners be looking to sell high on a player with a strong start or should we stay the course and reap the rewards of a true breakout? Let’s take a look:

Frankie Montas – Oakland A’s
2019 Statistics – 60.0 IP, 2.40 ERA, 1.13 WHIP

He has shown all of the skills we look for from a starting pitching over his first ten starts:

  • Strikeouts – 9.15 K/9 (12.0% SwStr%)
  • Control – 1.95 BB/9
  • Groundballs – 52.1%

So what has changed?  The inclusion of a split-finger fastball, which he has thrown 17.63% of the time, is the big difference.  It’s proven to be a pitch that generates swings and misses (24.07% Whiff%) and groundballs (60.87% groundballs/balls in play).  Opposing batters are hitting a mere .191 against it and it wouldn’t be surprising to see it incorporated a little bit more moving forward.

With a .307 BABIP and 74.9% strand rate there is no indication that there’s luck behind the success.  Whether or not the league catches on in time remains to be seen, but for now there’s every reason to believe in the breakout.

Verdict – Don’t Sell

Wade Miley – Houston Astros
2019 Statistics – 56.1 IP, 3.51 ERA, 1.17 WHIP

This is the encore from a strong 16 start run with the Brewers last year (2.57 ERA), so it makes sense for people to be buying in to another strong start.  At the same time he continues to struggle getting strikeouts (5.91 K/9 courtesy of an 8.9% SwStr%) while benefiting from a lot of luck (.259 BABIP, 78.9% strand rate despite a 37.9% Hard%).  That makes it awfully tough to envision him being able to sustain the success long-term…

You could point to the even further usage of his cut-fastball for his success:

  • 2017 – 11.5%
  • 2018 – 41.8%
  • 2019 – 54.7%

That’s a tough sell, however.  Everything points towards a regression, meaning now is the time to try and get something for him.

Verdict – Sell High

Spencer Turnbull – Detroit Tigers
2019 Statistics – 48.2 IP, 2.40 ERA, 1.25 WHIP

He’s done the job with strikeouts (9.25 K/9), but both his control (3.70 BB/9) and groundball rate (45.9%) have been fairly pedestrian.  Considering his 3.5 BB/9 over his minor league career it’s easy to buy into the rather poor control, though he did show more groundball stuff coming out through the minors (1.59 GO/AO over 119.0 IP at Double-A).  Could he improve in that regard?  Possibly, but he’s only using his sinker 20.68% of the time so it’s hardly a given.

If he can’t improve in one of the other two skills does anyone really believe that he can continue to excel?  It’s a tough sell, especially on a Tigers’ team that isn’t going to be very competitive.  There are tougher times coming, so cashing in now makes sense.

Verdict – Sell High

Sources – Fangraphs, Brooks Baseball, MILB.com, Baseball Reference

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