Fantasy baseball: Get rid of these imposters immediately

Things have gone quite well for Jose Berrios so far in 2024, but perhaps a bit too well. Getty Images

Not every hot start represents a breakthrough.

Monday marked the 40th day of the 2024 season. Through an identical number of days last year, Matt Chapman, Bryce Elder, Sean Murphy and Eduardo Rodriguez had each scored at least 100 fantasy points to place among the top 40 in baseball.

For all four of that quartet, however, those numbers represented at least 35% of their entire seasonal fantasy production. Managers who traded away any of them at that time would have been far better off -- and for each, there were indicators that such a deal would have made sense.

After we examined slow starters who are worth seeking on the trade market last week, today we will turn the tables and pinpoint nine hot starters you should deal away now:

(All statistics are entering play on Tuesday.)

Jose Berrios, SP, Toronto Blue Jays: The current MLB leader in ERA (1.44), his Statcast expected ERA (4.93) almost perfectly summarizes his case. Berrios has been absurdly lucky, from his two best fantasy performances coming against two of the game's softest matchups (SEA, COL), to his .229 BABIP, 64 points below his career number, to his 96.6% LOB rate. To put that last number into perspective, consider that only 19 ERA-qualified pitchers in history have finished any season with greater than an 85% rate.

Berrios' underlying numbers in some ways pale in comparison to his 2018, 2019, 2021 or 2023 seasons, in which he finished merely 26th, 21st, 13th and 25th in SP fantasy points. He's plenty talented and capable of finishes similar to those, but he won't come close to keeping this up.

Alec Bohm, 3B, Philadelphia Phillies: The hitting version of Berrios, Bohm has (through 40 days) scored the 13th-most fantasy points (117), been the 20th-best rotisserie player and turned in the majors' sixth-best qualified weighted runs created plus (175). Beneath the surface, however, Bohm's .394 BABIP is fourth highest among batting title eligibles -- 67 points higher than his career number -- and he and his fellow Phillies hitters have benefited from playing 13 games against the six worst pitching staffs in terms of ERA.

In fairness, Bohm has, between this season and last, made adjustments that have made a modest breakthrough possible. Thus far in 2024, he has 23% chase and 91% zone contact rates, both on pace for a personal best, but his power metrics haven't made the significant gains we'd have hoped. Bohm has become a high-floor hitter, but his statistical ceiling can't remain nearly this high.

Carlos Rodon, SP, New York Yankees: He could prove to be a tough cookie to trade, due to a checkered injury history that includes 2019 Tommy John surgery and an additional five trips to the IL since his recovery, two of which were for shoulder fatigue. For now, however, Rodon is healthy, his average fastball velocity (95.2 mph) this season is within range of his 2021-2023 number (95.4), and he has scored 15-plus fantasy points in three of his past five outings.

The problem, however, is that all three of those outings came against some of the league's softest matchups. Two were the Miami Marlins and Oakland Athletics, two of the league's worst offenses, and the third was against a Milwaukee Brewers team whose bottom five of the lineup had entered that game with a combined .632 OPS and 26.5% strikeout rate.

I watch a lot of Rodon, and this season (including spring training), his fastball velocity and the effectiveness of his slider have been anything but consistent, not only on a game-by-game but even a pitch-by-pitch basis. The moment you get an opportunity to trade him for a more stable pitcher, do it.

Teoscar Hernandez, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers: He's one of the game's best power sources, his 14.3% Statcast barrel and 51.5% hard-hit rates since the beginning of 2022 ranked 18th and 12th among hitters with at least 500 plate appearances over that time, though the remainder of his game is mostly lacking. Hernandez continues to strike out about as often as any qualified hitter (his 31.0% rate ranks 14th highest) and he has hit a grounder a career-high 50% of the time he has made contact.

Much of the appeal with Hernandez is his status as the Dodgers' No. 5 hitter against LHP and No. 6 against RHP, slotting him behind the game's most potent top four in the order. See if you can use his role to pump up his trade value to that of a top-10 fantasy outfielder (which shouldn't be too hard, since he's OF11 in points scored already) and then move him for a more well-rounded bat.

Kyle Finnegan, RP, Washington Nationals: Currently tied for the MLB lead in saves (11), Finnegan stands out as the reliever I'd be quickest to trade, especially in light of Detroit Tigers closer Jason Foley's struggles over the past week-plus. Finnegan has shown hints of improving skills, most notably greater spin and, with it, induced vertical break on his fastball. This gives it more of a "rising fastball" look than it did in the past. It's only a negligible change, though, and Statcast reflects that his expected ERA is 5.00 -- significantly higher than his 1.88 actual ERA -- meaning he's pitching well above what his skill set reflects.

Finnegan might spend the entire season with Hunter Harvey breathing down his neck for the closer role, and the "might" mainly refers to Harvey's propensity for injury. Finnegan's $5.1 million contract also means he might be a midseason trade chip.

Tyler O'Neill, OF, Boston Red Sox: The team's best hitter, at least going by his team-best 1.3 offensive WAR, O'Neill's numbers have been inflated in part by a 17.6% HR/FB rate, eighth highest among hitters with at least as many as his 108 trips to the plate. He continues to be a Statcast darling, but for all that upside, he brings far too much injury risk to trust at this stage of his career. O'Neill has made eight trips to the IL since the beginning of the 2021 season, and he has appeared in more than 100 games only once in his career (2021).

Seth Lugo, SP, Kansas City Royals: Here's another player who has capitalized upon a soft schedule, as the Royals have already played seven games against the Chicago White Sox, another seven against the Blue Jays at a time that their offense was floundering, and three against what was then an ice-cold Houston Astros team. Four of Lugo's seven starts came against those opponents and, in them, he scored a combined 69 of his 112 fantasy points for the season. He's a good, and potentially even top-40-capable, fantasy starting pitcher, but his 4.16 Statcast xERA says he's pitching well above his skill set. Generally speaking, he's more of a 3.50 ERA type, so plan accordingly.

Taylor Ward, OF, Los Angeles Angels: He's off to a productive enough start, having scored 85 fantasy points (tied for 12th among outfielders) while ranking 11th at his position on the Player Rater. That said, with Mike Trout now out for the long term, Ward's Angels are in a rough spot, which has already become apparent with the team totaling only 15 runs in the six games since Trout's last appearance. Ward already seemed to be pressing in an effort to jump-start the Angels' Ohtani-less offense with his 49% swing rate easily a career high, and that might not bode well now that he's effectively the lineup's centerpiece. Trade Ward now before the team's offensive woes make a clear, adverse impact upon his production.

Aaron Nola, SP, Philadelphia Phillies: One line from his preseason outlook, "... keep in mind that much of what you're bidding on here is volume," particularly stands out when weighing the right-hander's value. He's 14th in the league in innings pitched and, with an upcoming Wednesday start, that's helping to fuel his 13.4 fantasy points per start. Nola's underlying metrics have been creeping slightly backwards between this year and last, however, and if his 3.94 Statcast xERA sticks, it would be his worst in any single season since 2019 and the second worst of his career.

Most distressingly, his average fastball velocity (four-seamer or sinker) has taken a sharp downturn, his 90.9 mph number his worst since 2016. You might think of hot-starting Ranger Suarez as the more obvious trade candidate, but Nola is the one more likely to bring a top-shelf return of the two, plus he's the one showing more dire concerns in terms of skills.