Welcome back to Buy & Sell, for another FAABalicious week on the crazy waiver wire carousel. Compared to last week, I actually think this week there are more hot starts flying under the radar. However, just remember that it is still April, and not even past the midpoint of April. But with injuries to the obliques being so ob-chic, there is plenty of need to find adequate replacements all over your roster, unless you’re really lucky. If you’re not so lucky, consider some of these fast starters who may (mostly) be more than just flukes.
Cedric Mullins (OF, Baltimore Orioles)
Cedric the Entertainer returns! I’ll admit not buying into the draft day buzz on the diminutive 5’8 outfielder after a disappointing 2020 to follow a somewhat stale 2019. But he ditched switch-hitting and perhaps that’s what’s helped him get locked in from the left side, and you can’t argue with the results, hitting a scorching .459/512/.676 with a homer and 2 SB in 41 PA. While he’s hitting out of his mind, I still don’t see him as an elite hitter as he still has a poor barrel rate and a 22% K% is rather high for a contact hitter. But even if he cools off (and he inevitably will) he has plenty of security in the leadoff spot in Baltimore, which gives him instant value for his ability to accumulate more than most other major league hitters. I still don’t expect better than .290/12-15 HR/20 SB by season’s end but wait a minute, that’s not something to complain about! I’d add in 12-team formats and consider as a short-term stream in 10-team formats that use batting average if he’s not already scooped up.
Luis Arraez (2B/3B/OF Minnesota Twins)
Watch him closely, his power is transforming before Arraez. The fire-hydrant-bodied 23-year old was largely overlooked entering 2021 due to his noticeable complete lack of 2020 homers combined with concerns about his playing time (which frankly never concerned me. He’s off to a sizzling start, hitting .357/.457/.500 with 1 HR in 35 PA, and more importantly is playing everyday. The career .300 hitter seems to be sacrificing some of his contact ability to smack the ball harder, which despite elevating his K% to 17%, also has given him an excellent 93 mph average exit velocity (88 mph in 2019) and 52% HardHit%, coming in at 84th and 80th, percentile, respectively. He now seems like a far more fantasy viable hitter, with an xBA of .352 now backed by an xSLG of .590. While it may regress somewhat, I think that if he can just raise his launch angle (8 degrees) a bit more, there’s a fair chance he hits .330 with 15+ HR, with which his multi-position eligibility makes him viable in all leagues and a must-start in 12-team formats.
Phillip Evans (3B, Pittsburgh Pirates)
He’s more than just the Phlavor of the week. Phillip Evans has been crushing the ball and gotten some notice despite a boring baseball name (maybe more interesting with a good nickname… McPhlevan?) He’s hitting a studly .406/.457/.750 with 3 HR in 35 PA, and I don’t think this is a fluke. The unheralded 28-year-old is combining a strong 11% Barrel% and elite 62% HardHit% with a fantastic 7% K%. It’s rather insane how drastic this change has been… He’s cut his O-Swing from a solid 29% to 16%, and his Contact% has jumped from 65% in 2019 to 88%, combining to turn a poor 16% Swinging Strike% to a Bettsian 5% rate. Although this is a crazy small sample likely to regress, I don’t think you can luck your way into such a gargantuan improvement and there’s a good shot at a legitimate breakout here. Even though the assumption was he’d be gone when Hayes returns from the IL, I think if he keeps hitting they’ll find a way to keep his bat in the lineup, since he may even outperform Hayes at this rate. Add in all 15-team and 12-team OBP formats.
Roberto Perez (C, Cleveland Indians)
After his bat disappeared on us last season, I can’t help but imagine him returning in a Hawaiian shirt saying, “Bobby, it’s me, your daddy, Roberto!” Still, perhaps we were too harsh on him after a forgettable small sample of a year, as he wasn’t even drafted in my home league, which is a 10-team AL-only league TWO CATCHER LEAGUE! Ouch. While he’s no Salvador, he’s playing full time, with Austin Hedges hardly posing a threat, and hitting a solid .267/.476/.667 with 2 HR in 21 PA. He’s already gotten two barrels for a 29% Barrel% and 43% HardHit% which reminds us that in 2019 he hit 24 Homers and nobody cared. While the K% of 39% seems dangerously high, his per-pitch metrics suggest he should be in for much better times. He still has an excellent eye with a 22% O-Swing%, and in fact his contact has been a strong 80%, the best of his career, with an 85% Z-Contact% and a career-best 7% Swinging Strike% that is among the best players in baseball. With power, discipline, added contact, and now a strong 43% FB% with solid hard contact, he could easily be a top ten catcher the rest of the way with an outside chance of being top six. Add in all two-catcher formats, 15-team formats, and 12-team OBP leagues.
Travis Shaw (3B, Milwaukee Brewers)
Shaw-ty a lil baddie. I mean last year he was just bad. But this year he’s been solid with a .276 AVG, .344 OBP, and .517 SLG with 2 HR in 32 PA while playing nearly everyday. He’s already logged 10 RBI and looks to get the lion’s share of playing time at the hot corner, and he still has that 25 HR upside as evidenced by his strong 112 mph max eV already this year. But what has me most excited is his massive improvement in his contact%, which jumped from 74% in 2020 to 88% this year, with a 92% Z-Contact%. Although his plate discipline is still the same, this sizeable improvement in his contact alone dropped his swinging strike down to 6%, which seems to be the hot swinging strike rate of today’s column. He’s a viable add in all 15-team formats and could be a solid streamer in deeper 12-team OBP.
Zach McKinstry (2B, Los Angeles Dodgers)
Zach McKeystone splashed onto the scene to save the day after injuries struck, and is hitting a strong .321/.355/.679 with 2 HR in just 31 PA. While that’s a bit fluky with a more realistic xBA of .261 and .518 xSLG, that’s still not bad for a player nobody knew last week. If you’re wondering how he’s not a batting average boon despite an excellent 13% K%, look under the floorboards at his downright ugly 19% Swinging Strike%. He still has an opportunity for playing time right now, and he has displayed pop with 3 Barrels (12% Barrel%) but don’t be shocked when the batting average floor drops out. Still, he’s a fine add in NL-only or deeper 15-team formats.
Dan Vogelbach (1B, Milwaukee Brewers)
I don’t think I can quit him. I try, but I keep coming Vogelback. Even though he was left for dead in drafts knowing there would be no DH, the sad Wong injury has moved Hiura to 2B… and even when he’s back, it’s no guarantee Hiura will be able to hit enough to hold the position over Vogey. So far, Vogey’s posted a career-best 85% Contact% to go with his usually elite plate discipline, leading to an outstanding 6% Swinging Strike%. Combine this with his typically massive power, already hitting a max exit velocity of 112 mph, and I see the makings of a return to glory. He still doesn’t hit enough flyballs, but I’d look past that ugly .154 AVG (his .313 OBP is better) and remember you don’t take that with you. I could see him hitting .250 with 20 HR and excellent OBP if he got the playing time, making him a strong speculative add candidate in 15-team OBP and NL-only formats.
Rougned Odor (2B, New York Yankees)
I think Rougned Odor can return to his glory days, mostly because he shaved off his beard and instantly became 15 years younger. Odor was signed by the Yankees, activated off the Covid-IL on the 10th, and played his first actual game on the 12th, going 1-for-5. Despite being around forever, he is still just 27, and we’ve seen the Yankees work magic on other mid-career players. Not to mention, Odor’s flyball-heavy approach should fare very well in Yankee Stadium’s cozy confines with the short porch. In AL formats (and maybe 15-team AVG leagues with a deep bench), he’s worth a speculative add, since if injuries open up playing time, the tates will be served like a Brooklyn sports bar that’s too cool for french fries.
Leody Taveras (OF, Texas Rangers)
After all that draft day hype, we’re suddenly reminded that you can’t steal first base. Taveras may be this year’s Oscar Mercado as a speed play that spurned us, as he’s hitting a nasty .107/.167/.107 over 30 PA with a 47% K% and just 3% BB%. While the silver lining is he did increase his max exit velocity to 110 mph, he’s also hitting the few balls he makes contact with into the ground with a -1 Launch Angle. I’m glad I skipped Taveras at the draft table and took Tim Locastro instead since I know he can actually, y’know, hit the ball. He’s actually been fielding pretty terribly too with an outfielder jump in the 3rd percentile. If you have a deep bench, you may as well hold and hope he rights the ship, but if you don’t, you may want to consider throwing him overboard.
Jonathan India (3B, Cincinnati Reds)
Sorry, India, I know you’ve been hot, but I’m going to have to Calcutta you down to size. India received lots of late draft-day hype after winning a roster spot in Cincinnati, and his season line has been Delhi-cious, hitting .379/.394/.483 with 11 RB in just 33 PA. As a result, he’s now 49% rostered, with owners salivating on a .300-20-15 season. But the Elephant in the room is this poor 14% Swinging Strike%, since, despite strong plate contact skills with a 90% Z-Contact%, he’s getting fooled outside the zone with a 38% O-Swing% and 48% O-Contact%. And while he’s showed upside with a strong 110 mph max eV, his expected AVG of .243 and xSLG of .389 has been rather ho-hum. Sure, you can scoop him in a deep 15-league to play the hot hand, but you probably can get more for him now in a trade than you can at any other point this season, and I’d much rather gamble on Philip Evans (who is only 17% Owned).
Andrew Benintendi (OF, Kansas City Royals)
Let’s face it, we never had any viable reason to draft Beni in shallower formats besides a naive hope that somehow moving from a hitters park to a pitchers park would help him remember the time he was decent, like three years ago. It’s sad to see such a young former prospect decline, but with below-average speed, below-average power, you don’t like to see that the contact is starting to become below average too. This year he’s sporting a career-worst 66% Contact% and a 69% Z-Contact%, leading to a Keon Broxton-esque 17% Swinging Strike%. Let’s just say as a Sox fan that I was thrilled when they swapped him for Franchy Cordero. He dropped from 75% owned to 65% owned, which is still way too high, and you’ll probably be glad when you swap him out of your lineup too. Cut in 10-team formats and shallow 12-team formats.
Photos by Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Alyssa Buckter (alyssabuckter.com) and Justin Paradis (@JustParaDesigns on Twitter)