Fantasy Baseball: Why it might be time to sell high on Luis Gil and Ranger Suarez (2024)

You should always be looking to sell high in your Fantasy league. It's one of the best ways to increase your chances of winning a championship, for fairly obvious reasons: You've already locked in the production from the guy you're trading away, and now you can add on to that by trading them at peak value for someone you think will be even better moving forward.

Of course, most sell-high candidates are pretty obvious, and aren't likely to fetch much of a return on the market. We can all say "Sell high on Seth Lugo and Reynaldo Lopez and Javier Assad" (all of whom are top-10 in ERA right now), but the people you're playing with in your leagues can look at their underlying metrics and just as easily see that they're buying into fool's gold. That doesn't mean you shouldn't look to see if you can get something of value for those guys, because you should. It's just that, you probably shouldn't be surprised if the market for them is tepid. It should be, especially with how many low-K, low-ERA breakouts there have been in this new offensive environment. Chances are, you won't really miss any of those three.

So, I'm here to suggest a couple of sell-high candidates who might actually hurt to put in a trade offer. Because trading requires sacrifices to be made, and might require moving players you actually think are really good, in the hopes you are capitalizing on them by moving them for a player who is even more valuable. In this column, I've got two pitchers who look like absolute superstars two months into the season, but who might be worth cashing out. There's an emphasis here on selling high, not just selling for anything you can get. But there are reasons to believe each of these guys has seen their best days in 2024 already.

Luis Gil, SP, Yankees

Alright, let's start with the guy making history for the most historic franchise in the sport. Gil just capped off an unbelievable month of May, one that saw him post a 0.70 ERA and 44 strikeouts – the first time in Yankees history a pitcher has had an ERA that low with that many strikeouts in the same month. Not Mike Mussina, Roger Clemens, Andy Pettite, CC Sabathia, Whitey Ford, Phil Niekro … nope, Luis Gil!

Now, what makes Gil's sell-high candidacy so tough to account for is that, when you dig under the surface, nothing really looks like a fluke. I mean, sure his 1.99 ERA isn't sustainable, but that's almost always true of any pitcher who has an ERA that low – but his peripheral metrics still suggest he's been one of the best pitchers in baseball, and that's not an exaggeration. As of June 3, Gil ranks eighth in xERA (which accounts for quality of contact allowed) and 17th in FIP (which doesn't). He has the sixth-highest strikeout rate in the game, and while his 12.4% walk rate is an outlier among the best pitchers in baseball, in May, even that wasn't an issue; he cut it to 8.5% and, as such, tied for the 10th-best K-BB% in the league.

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But that walk rate is where the case for selling Gil starts, though not where it ends. In 345.1 professional innings prior to this season, he walked 13.8% of opposing hitters, and in April of this season, it was 17.6%, so we're talking about a pretty gigantic swing in one month's time. It coincided with a bit of a change in his approach, but hardly a gigantic one – he went from throwing his fastball about 59% of the time to 54%, trading most of this for his (very good) changeup:

Fantasy Baseball: Why it might be time to sell high on Luis Gil and Ranger Suarez (2)

Maybe it's as simple as that, and Gil has figured out how to harness his incredible stuff in a way that will keep him productive moving forward. Given Gil's swing-and-miss stuff and how much opposing batters struggle to barrel him up – his .323 expected wOBA on contact so far this season is one of the lowest marks for any starter – even a 10% walk rate, while still pretty poor for most pitchers, could lead to ace-level outcomes. He could just be the new Blake Snell!

But even if you buy that … it's still not as simple as that. Because there's a decent chance Gil doesn't have a rotation spot in just a few weeks time.

That became less likely with Clarke Schmidt's surprise addition to IL last week with a right lat strain, which left the Yankees short a starter for at least the next 4-6 weeks. But the Yankees are probably going to have to pull back on Gil's workload at some point because the 63.1 innings he's thrown this season are already the most he has thrown in an inning since 2021's 108.2 innings. In 2022, he threw just 25.2 innings, and in 2023 just 4 while recovering from Tommy John surgery.

The Yankees have already had a few situations this season where they've pulled Gil from starts where he was cruising to conserve pitches, and Gerrit Cole's looming return from his own elbow injury seems like the natural spot to pull back on Gil more fully. Whether that means a demotion to the bullpen or a return to the minors to manage his innings like the Marlins have done with both Max Meyer and Eury Perez over the past few seasons remains to be seen, but I think there's going to come a point where Gil stops being a Fantasy contributor, at least for a little while.

The Yankees have pushed back on the idea that Gil is going to be shut down, which has seemingly quieted what would otherwise be a pretty loud discussion in Fantasy circles about the looming end of Gil's relevance. But it seems all but certain that there is going to be a point in the relatively near future where Gil takes a step back, and that makes this the perfect time to try to sell him. He looks like an absolute ace right now, but it's nearly certain he won't keep producing like one for the rest of the season, whether because the Yankees shut him down or because his control regresses and makes him more of a fringe Fantasy option anyway.

If you want to hang on to Gil, I can't necessarily blame you. He's found money at this point, and just riding it out with the hope of getting some more wins, a bunch more strikeouts, and hopefully more terrific ratios isn't the worst thing in the world. But turning him into a player with a more obvious path to long-term, rest-of-season appeal makes even more sense.

Ranger Suarez, SP, Phillies

Hopefully Suarez is fine after he got hit by a comebacker on his pitching hand over the weekend, and that injury potentially makes this the exact wrong time to try to move him. However, the Phillies have downplayed the extent of the injury, to the point where he hasn't even been scratched from his next start yet, so there might still be a window here.

Now, selling Suarez is tough because there really aren't many holes to knock in his game right now. There's no reason to think he'll be limited moving forward as long as he stays healthy, and he has been, by any measure, one of the best pitchers in the league this season. His 1.70 ERA is backed up by an elite 2.44 xERA, thanks to a career-best strikeout rate and elite quality of contact suppression – his .316 expected wOBA on contact is the third-lowest mark for any starting pitcher.

But what's tricky here is that there wasn't some significant change in Suarez's approach that would suggest this kind of change was coming. His fastball velocity is actually down significantly so far this season, and his pitch mix is basically identical to last season:

Fantasy Baseball: Why it might be time to sell high on Luis Gil and Ranger Suarez (3)

Suarez is getting better results on nearly all of his pitches, but it's not entirely clear why, and that makes it hard to buy in. There was a pretty great piece from FanGraphs' Kyle Kishimoto from late April trying to quantify what has changed for Suarez, and my biggest takeaway from the piece is that Suarez is just locating even better than he has in the past, largely by keeping his pitches out of the strike zone, but close enough to generate largely harmless swings.

That's not nothing, and it's a good explanation for why Suarez has been so good. He's pitching incredibly well right now, with a clear game plan and a high level of execution. But as an answer for why Suarez might continue to pitch this well moving forward, well that's where I struggle to buy in. It's a lot easier to buy into a new pitch, or a new pitch mix, or new movement profiles, or more velocity, or any of the number of ways we try to identify what changes a pitcher has made. But when the answer mostly comes down to, "He's just pitching a whole lot better," it begs the question -- what will happen if he just stops pitching as well.

There's no guarantee that will happen, but it seems like a safe bet to make here. We've seen stretches like this from Suarez before, most notably in the summer of 2021, when he made the transition to the bullpen and posted a 1.51 ERA with 65 strikeouts in 65.2 innings over the season's final two months. Suarez didn't totally fall apart in 2022, posting a 3.65 ERA and 1.33 WHIP in 29 starts, but he wasn't nearly as good as that 2021 run despite the introduction of a very good cutter and curveball that have subsequently become two of his key pitches (especially the curveball).

Maybe it took Suarez a couple of years to figure out the best way to implement those new pitches to maximize his effectiveness. But I think the likeliest explanation here is that Suarez is just hot or locked in, two terms we typically save for hitters, but which can certainly be applied to pitchers who are pitching better than their skill level is likely to support. This isn't to say I think Suarez is going to fall apart, or anything, just that I don't know if enough has changed in his underlying skill set to buy into all this being sustainable. From 2021 through 2023, he had a 3.19 ERA and 1.27 WHIP and if he did something like that the rest of the way, that would still make him a very valuable Fantasy piece, and if you want to just hang on to him and hope for that, that's a perfectly reasonable approach.

But if you've got someone in your league who views Suarez as a top-15 starting pitcher, I think it makes perfect sense to shop him and see if you can get a more projectable difference maker in return.

Fantasy Baseball: Why it might be time to sell high on Luis Gil and Ranger Suarez (2024)
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