Four Buy Low Candidates You Need to Trade For Before It’s Too Late

Looking for early-season trade targets? Consider these four players.

Trades, even at an early stage in the season such as this, can be crucial in deciding the balance of a fantasy baseball league’s season.

And while summer deals that vaguely mirror real-life, trade deadline adjacent certainly can be impactful as well, hitting on an early-season deal can pay significant dividends later. Whether it’s moving for an undervalued player with strong peripherals or the potential to move into a larger role, or perhaps capitalizing on the fantasy trade value of a player off to an unsustainable start, April and May trades can be key.

This week’s column more focuses on the former, deal-wise.

More specifically, the undervalued players here aren’t necessarily top-50 players at the moment. Or rather, they wouldn’t be a headliner of a blockbuster fantasy trade. More a secondary or tertiary part of a deal structure.

Some of the players listed below might take longer to hit their fantasy ceiling due to a variety of factors, but they’re worth pursuing in deals large and small all the same. With that in mind, let’s look at some early-season trade targets.


Hunter Harvey


Last season, Kyle Finnegan paced the Nationals with 28 saves while also registering a 3.76 ERA in 67 appearances spanning 69.1 innings of work.

However, he also logged a somewhat not as great 4.58 FIP, allowed a 47.5% hard-hit rate (fourth percentile) and ranked in the ninth percentile (24.6%) in chase rate.

Hunter Harvey, by comparison, was much better, logging a 2.82 ERA, a 3.29 FIP in 60.2 innings. He also ranked in the 84th percentile or better in both strikeout rate (28.5%, 84th percentile) and walk rate (5.5%, 89th percentile). The saves were the only bit were he wasn’t as productive, logging 10 last season.

The story has essentially been the same this season, but it’s tweaked only slightly in how it’s been told.

Finnegan has all seven of Washington’s saves in the early going so far, and owns a 2.89 ERA in 10 appearances spanning 9.1 innings of work.

But, he’s also sporting a 5.86 FIP. And while we’re still dealing with a small sample size, Finnegan is also allowing batters to post a .418 xwOBA and a 12.0% barrel rate against him so far.

In short, much of it seems unsustainable production wise.

And while Finnegan has largely been solid in high-leverage scenarios, logging a 0.00 ERA and allowing two hits and four walks against the 20 batters he’s faced in said high-leverage situations, a changing of the guard at closer feels inevitable at some point if Finnegan continues to struggle overall and Harvey continues to thrive.

Because, just like last season, Hunter Harvey has been excellent in a key relief role for the Washington Nationals. In fact, he’s probably been even better this year.

In 12 innings this season, the 29-year-old has struck out 18 batters compared to two walks. And while it’s still early, he ranks in the 90th percentile or better in chase rate, strikeout rate and barrel rate. His xERA and walk rate, both of which are in the 88th percentile, just missed out in terms of qualifying for that distinction.

If Harvey keeps pitching like this, even with a smidgen of statistical regression here and there, he has the potential to be a top-10 fantasy closer should he step into the ninth-inning role. He’s perhaps the most long-term play of the players listed here, but he’s very much worth pursuing as a secondary piece in a larger deal to stash on your bench.


Jack Flaherty


After helping Michael Lorenzen log a quality first half last year en route to an All-Star appearance, the Tigers seem to have done it again in terms of helping a free agent, rebound candidate find success.

Coming off a down season in 2023, in which he logged a 4.99 ERA, a 4.36 FIP, 148 strikeouts and 66 walks in 144.1 innings, Flaherty signed with the Tigers in part to bolster the club’s rotation alongside ace Tarik Skubal, incumbents Reese Olson, Casey Mize and Matt Manning, and fellow free agent signing Kenta Maeda.

It’s still early, and a surface-level 4.44 ERA might suggest otherwise, but Flaherty very much looks like the frontline pitcher he was earlier in his career.

A 3.71 FIP will draw the eye, but it’s the 11.10 strikeouts per nine innings that really stands out, and how the hurler is missing bats.

Per Statcast data, Flaherty has scrapped his cutter so far this season, and while’s still throwing a changeup and sinker occasionally, both sport usage rates south of 3.0%. Really, the hurler has been mostly utilizing his four-seamer, slider and knuckle curve so far in 2024.

Jack Flaherty 2023* Pitch Metrics

*Flaherty threw one pitch in 2023 which Statcast tracked as a slow curve.

Jack Flaherty 2024 Pitch Metrics

Furthermore, Flaherty is using his three-most utilized offerings all around the bottom of the zone, and slightly below the zone, this year, per Statcast heatmap data, as well as pitching inside more often with his four-seamer. He utilized the slider and knuckle curve around the bottom of the zone last year, but utilized both pitches more middle, middle as well. That hasn’t happened as much this year.

The new pitch utilization, not to mention the increased slider usage, has certainly helped the former Cardinals starter in his first season with the Tigers. Entering play Wednesday he was sporting a 36.5% whiff rate that ranked in the 95th percentile. His strikeout rate (29.1%) and walk rate (3.9%) weren’t far behind either percentile ranking wise, ranking in the 81st and 88th percentiles respectively.

What’s more, his stat line should probably look much better on paper. That’s in large part due to what’s starting to look like an outlier of a start against the Oakland A’s at spacious Comerica Park.

Oakland, the second-lowest scoring team in the league, put up nine hits, six earned runs, a walk and a home run against Flaherty in six innings, accounting for more than an eleventh of their runs this season in those six innings against the former Cardinals starter. Otherwise, the veteran has thrown at least six innings while scattering three or fewer runs and striking out a minimum of seven batters in each of his other three starts.

But that start did happen, and as such, Flaherty’s stat line looks a bit misleading in terms of just how effective he’s been this season. In a way, the A’s start and the misleading ERA are ideal for fantasy managers looking to bolster their rotation as the manager with Flaherty on their roster might not value the right-hander as highly, especially coming off a down 2023 season.


Bailey Ober


Speaking of pitcher’s with an outlier of a start on their resume, Bailey Ober did not have an ideal start to the season.

After logging a 3.43 ERA in 144.1 innings last season, and finishing in the 91st percentile in chase rate (33.5%) and 93rd percentile in walk rate (5.0%), Ober got ambushed by the Kansas City Royals in his first outing of 2024.

In said start he was tagged for eight earned runs, three home runs and a walk while recording just four outs. Of the 14 batters he faced, 10 reached base.

Some maybe thought 2023 was a fluke and dropped him immediately. Maybe, despite what’s transpired since (more on that in a moment), the manager with Ober in your league is still uneasy about Ober’s long-term prospects this season due to the potential of another poor start popping up.

If the latter is the case, now’s the ideal time to try and work out a trade, because the Kansas City start is starting to look more and more like the fluke the further it disappears into the rearview mirror.

Since the outing, in three starts (two against the Tigers, one versus the Dodgers) Ober has scattered just two earned runs and fewer hits in 17 total innings (eight) than he did in the start against the Royals (nine). Furthermore, he’s yet to allow a home run in the intervening three starts, and has 16 strikeouts compared to four walks in the span.

One of the more jarring things about the Kansas City start for Ober was all the hard contact he gave up. After finishing in the 73rd percentile in the league in hard-hit rate last season  with a 35.7% metric, Kansas City put seven balls in play against the right-hander with an exit velocity of 96 MPH or greater in just 1.1 innings.

“Outlier” seems to be the theme de jour of this column all of a sudden, and it certainly describes the sudden occurrence of so much hard contact that day in Kansas City.

Since then, Ober, while facing 61 batters, has allowed just 13 batted balls with an exit velocity north of 96 MPH.

Overall, the starter owns a 1.06 ERA and a 1.80 FIP in 17 innings, holding batters to a 7.1% barrel rate and just a 31% hard-hit rate. Those run-prevention numbers are probably on the unsustainable side of things, but Bailey Ober should be much closer to that pitcher production wise moving forward than the one who Kansas City lit up on March 31.


Lars Nootbaar


After beginning the season on the injured list due to multiple rib fractures, Nootbaar is back in the lineup on a regular basis for the St. Louis Cardinals. And while his .216 batting average might just suggest it, he’s been excellent at the plate.

The 26-year-old has walked (17.4% walk rate) more than he’s struck out (13.0% strikeout rate) while providing his usual quality plate discipline in the form of an 18.2% chase rate and a 16.1% whiff rate.

And while that’s been a constant for Nootbaar in his time in the Majors, the outfielder is usually punishing the pitches he does swing at, with a .429 xwOBA and a 56.3% hard-hit rate so far. With just a .232 BABIP and no pop ups so far, it’s clear there’s some unfortunate luck holding back Nootbaar’s production in his first 50 plate appearances.

And while you might be saying to yourself, “wait a minute, this is a 50 plate appearance sample size, isn’t that on the smaller side of things?”

Well… you’d be right. But this kind of production isn’t anything new for Nootbaar. Last year he turned in a .356 xwOBA in 504 plate appearances. What’s perhaps intriguing, however, is that he’s never topped a 46% hard-hit rate in a full season. Obviously it’s still early, but if the decidedly above-average hard-hit rate persists, it’d raise the fantasy ceiling even higher on a batter who brings such a unique skillset to the table fantasy-wise.

Last season, Nootbaar was one of five qualified hitters to log each of the following: an xwOBA of at least .350, double digit home runs, double digit stolen bases and a whiff rate below 20%.

The other four?

José Ramírez, Kyle Tucker, Mookie Betts and Ronald Acuña Jr.

Ben Rosener

Ben Rosener is baseball and fantasy baseball writer whose work has previously appeared on the digital pages of Motor City Bengals, Bleacher Report, USA Today, FanSided.com and World Soccer Talk among others. He also writes about fantasy baseball for RotoBaller and the Detroit Tigers for his own Patreon page, Getting You Through the Tigers Rebuild (@Tigers_Rebuild on Twitter). He only refers to himself in the third person for bios.

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