Fantasy Baseball Sell High Candidates: Looking at the Top 5 Pitcher's BABIP

Eric StashinSenior Writer IJanuary 16, 2017

ST PETERSBURG, FL - JUNE 15:  :  Pitcher Josh Beckett #19 of the Boston Red Sox pitches against the Tampa Bay Rays during the game at Tropicana Field on June 15, 2011 in St. Petersburg, Florida.  (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)
J. Meric/Getty Images

If a pitcher has enjoyed some good luck, does that mean that he is a definite sell high candidate?  Not necessarily, as there are a lot of factors that should go into deciding whether you should trade a pitcher or not. 

With that said, let’s take a look at the five pitchers who have the best BABIP (through Saturday) and determine if we should be looking to move them or not:

1) Josh Beckett – Boston Red Sox – .217

It has been a renaissance campaign for Beckett, who has also benefited from an 84.3% strand rate.  His 1.86 ERA and 0.92 WHIP are sparkling, but is there any way we actually believe that he can maintain it?

Yes, he has always shown great control, so his 2.93 BB/9 is believable, but his strikeout rate is down (7.73 K/9), and his fly ball rate is up (43.6%).  In fact, since 2002 it is only the second time he’s posted a FB% above 40% (in 2002 he was at 42.8%), yet his home runs against are at an all-time low (0.39 HR/9).  That’s what happens when you have a HR/FB of a measly 3.9%. 

Is that believable?  The previous five years saw him post rates of 15.4%, 8.0%, 10.5%, 12.8% and 14.2%.  In 38.1 innings at Fenway, he has not yet allowed a home run (last season he allowed 9 HR in 58.0 innings at home).  There is just no way I can buy into it.

It has been a great season to date for Beckett, but the chances of him maintaining it appear to be nil.  That’s not to say that he won’t remain usable, but if someone in your league is buying and willing to pay a premium, I wouldn’t hesitate to cash in.

2) Phil Humber – Chicago White Sox – .220

Many forget that he was once a top prospect for the Mets (first round pick in 2004) and was included in the deal that sent Johan Santana packing from Minnesota, as he has never even come close to the potential.  He has a minor league career ERA of 4.48 and prior to 2011 had managed only a pair of Major League starts (and only 26 relief appearances).

This season, however, he has been tremendous.  The good times continued yesterday, as he defeated the Diamondbacks by going 7.2 innings and allowing two runs on seven hits and one walk, striking out five (this outing raised his BABIP to .225).

While his strand rate is believable (72.4%), he is barely notching strikeouts (5.47 K/9), and it is impossible to imagine him maintaining his current walk rate (2.08 BB/9).  Yes, he showed good control in the minor leagues with a BB/9 of 2.68, but what he’s shown this season is a significant improvement.

I would certainly enjoy him while you can, but some sort of a regression almost feels inevitable.

3t) Jhoulys Chacin – Colorado Rockies – .221

He was significantly hyped prior to the season, and early on he has delivered with a 2.81 ERA and 1.08 WHIP.  Of course, you couple the BABIP with an 80.6% strand rate and does anyone feel confident that he can maintain his current levels?

A 60.2% groundball rate certainly has helped, and if he can maintain that, there is a good reason to believe that he can continue to be successful.  It becomes even clearer when you look at his 15.7% HR/FB, which he easily could improve upon (last season he was at 8.7%). 

In other words, if you believe that he can maintain his current groundball rate, you have to believe that he can excel.  If you think that could regress, then an overall regression is going to come.

His groundball rates by month have been:

  • April – 60.4%
  • May – 58.5%
  • June – 63.3%

In other words, he has certainly made a believer out of me.

3t) Justin Verlander – Detroit Tigers – .221

It doesn’t matter what numbers you throw out there, Verlander is an ace.  There is no real reason to discuss him as a potential sell high candidate.

5) Jeremy Hellickson – Tampa Bay Rays – .224

One of the most hyped rookies of the year, Hellickson has thrived despite calling the toughest division in baseball home.  He has a 3.09 ERA and 1.14 WHIP, but obviously the BABIP leads us to believe that a lot of luck has been involved in his success.

At the same time, he posted a 9.83 K/9 and 2.12 BB/9 over his minor league career.  Thus far this season, he sits at a 5.76 K/9 and 3.52 BB/9.  Improving on both of those marks would certainly go a long ways in cementing his long term success.

Of course, no matter what he does, pitching in the AL East could cap his value.  He has not yet faced the Yankees, so keep that in mind.  In fact, the AL East team that he’s played the most is the Orioles (2.29 ERA in 19.2 innings), and how impressive is that?  Sure, he has a 3.65 ERA (over 12.1 innings) against the Red Sox, but one of those starts came in early April.  The other was his most recent start, where he allowed three earned runs over seven innings.  Impressive, yes, but is it really enough?

He’s been spectacular, but I would proceed with caution.

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