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Buy or Sell – Jordan Lyles, Sean Manaea, Tyler Wells, and Zach Eflin

It’s wild to think most leagues already had two FAAB periods to make roster moves after one weekend of baseball. With most roster moves, we’re looking to identify players to buy or sell based on the underlying skills and production. Each week, we’ll look at a few pitchers to help decide whether to buy or sell their results and skills. Since it’s a small sample, we’ll keep these notes short. We’ll head deeper into the analysis with more data and information in the future. Let’s dive into our weekly buy or sell installment about pitchers.

Fantasy Baseball Buy or Sell

Jordan Lyles (SP – BAL)

In early March, I examined Jordan Lyles increased slider usage, then noticed the shape of Lyles’ slider morphed given the movement, velocity, and spin. The slider evolved into a slurve with the velocity drop, increased spin, and added break. Behind John Means, Lyles projects as their SP2, and he should eat innings, though we hope they’re at least league-average innings. 

buy or sell

Against Tampa Bay, Lyles went five innings yet allowed seven hits, five earned runs, and three walks with two strikeouts. Although it’s only one start, Lyles didn’t appear to use the revamped slider. The velocity on the four-seam, curve, and slider dipped with the latter almost down four mph. Lyles’ overall 22% CSW% aligned with the unexciting results against Tampa Bay. He only gave up one home run, and we’ll want to monitor the home run rate with a 1.90 HR/9 in 2021. Derek Carty projects the Orioles’ home park to be a neutral park with the changes meaning it could help Lyles’ home run rate. 

Buy or Sell Jordan Lyles?

Jordan Lyles landed into the initial article since the 2021 slider change looked interesting. Unfortunately, Lyles isn’t a streaming option outside of deep leagues or AL-only leagues, yet he’ll hurt the ratios. Lyles isn’t a buy or sell until we see an uptick in skills, but keep an eye on the slider velocity, spin, and movement in 2022. 

Sean Manaea (SP – SD)

In Sean Manaea’s first start for the Padres, he threw seven no-hit innings with one walk and seven punchouts. On Friday, Manaea used the sinker heavily (57%), plus the changeup (24%) and curve (19%) as usual. Although it’s a weaker Diamondbacks offense, Manaea finished with a 31% called-strike plus whiff rate (CSW%) overall, with 13 called strikes on the sinker yet only a 12% whiff rate.

buy or sell

Manaea’s changeup elicited a 29% whiff rate versus a 31% whiff rate in 2021. Oddly, Manaea’s sinker boasted a 25% whiff rate in 2021, partly due to the increased velocity at 92.1 mph versus 90.4 mph or below (2018-2020). 

It’s only one start, but Manaea’s sinker velocity dipped one mph, with the curveball dropping over 2.5 mph. I would imagine most starting pitchers will need a few starts to hit peak form before we start to panic. 

buy or sell

Manaea located the sinker up in the zone and peppered the lower half with the curve and changeup. That’s likely an ideal pitch illustrator for Manaea if he commands those three pitches well. 

Buy or Sell Manaea?

In Sean Manaea’s next two starts, he’ll possibly face the Giants in San Francisco and the Reds in San Diego. Monitor the early-season velocity and how Manaea locates his pitches. Assuming Manaea’s sinker velocity inches closer to 2021, fantasy managers should want to buy more than sell Manaea as an SP3 or SP4 on their squads. One final note with Manaea – the sinker had a 25% Whiff%, almost 9% higher than the league average in 2021. Outside of a small 2019 sample, Manaea’s sinker peaked at a 16% Whiff%.

Tyler Wells (P – BAL)

Unfortunately, Tyler Wells’ first start didn’t end so well since he allowed three hits, four earned runs, and two walks with two strikeouts in 1.2 innings. After speculation that Wells could serve as the Orioles’ closer, he moved into the starting rotation. As a reliever, Wells boasted a 29% strikeout rate and 5.4% walk rate across 57 innings in 2021. 

Wells primarily used a four-seamer (56%), slider (27%), and changeup (10.4%), with the curve and sinker accounting for just over 6% of the rest. Against righties, Wells relied on the four-seamer (54.3%) and slider (37.2%). Meanwhile, against opposite-handed hitters, Wells swapped the slider for the changeup, which he threw 23.4% of the time. 

Although Wells only threw 54 pitches, the arsenal seemed mediocre, with the changeup eliciting the most whiffs at 40%. Since it’s Wells’ first start, we shouldn’t panic about the velocity, movement, and results. In 2021, the four-seamer boasted above-average vertical movement with above-average horizontal movement on the slider. It’s a small sample, but Wells’ slider and changeup elicited a swinging-strike rate above 17% last season.

Wells located the slider and changeup well, but the Rays took advantage and crushed the four-seamer with an average exit velocity of 104.7 mph, particularly Wander Franco and Brandon Lowe. After re-watching the start, the non-fastballs looked solid for Wells. Also, Eno Sarris noted that Wells popped on the Stuff+ leaderboards over the weekend. 

Buy or Sell Wells?

In 15-team leagues, put Tyler Wells on the watch list to see how he progresses. We’ll want to monitor the pitches and innings, plus any potential arsenal adjustments as a starter. As noted with Jordan Lyles earlier, they both possess interesting skills to monitor. However, Wells isn’t a buy or sell at this point.

Zach Eflin (SP – PHI)

Since Oakland sold off their core players, we’ll want to target pitchers and streamers against the Athletics. Although Zach Eflin only went four innings and 68 pitches, he tossed four scoreless with two hits, two walks, and three strikeouts. Over the past few seasons, Eflin dealt with knee issues, multiple back injuries, and an oblique injury. 

buy or sell

Against Oakland, Eflin relied on the sinker (47%) with the slider (13%), four-seamer (15%), and curveball (12%) rounding out the arsenal. In 2021, Eflin’s sinker and four-seamer boasted above-average movement. Outside of Eflin’s sinker, his other pitches in the slider, four-seam, curve, and changeup elicited a double-digit swinging-strike rate. In future starts, we could witness better results on the non-sinkers. 

Buy or Sell Eflin?

From 2019 to 2021, Zach Eflin has a 21.4% strikeout rate and 5.7% walk rate. As a sinker-heavy pitcher, Eflin typically pitches to contact. Over the past three seasons, Eflin allowed an 87.1% Z-Contact% and 80.1% Contact%. Amongst pitchers with 300 innings, Eflin ranked 37th with a 15.7% K-BB% and 36th with a 4.27 SIERA. Although Eflin isn’t a dominant pitcher, he serves as a streamer for ERA, yet the 1.30 WHIP from 2019-2021 isn’t great. Overall, buy into Eflin as a streamer in 12 or 15 team leagues when healthy. 

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