Welcome back to Buy & Sell, where this week’s theme is “Statcast Darlings and Disasters.” Also a lot of cartoon references for some reason. This week, I deviated from my normal methodology of starting by looking at the most added/dropped players and instead took a deeper league-focused approach of finding players whose breakouts were supported by the metrics or are breakouts waiting to happen. So I’ll focus on the next feel good hit of the summer, and keep the spotlight away from pop sensation Freddy Galvis Presley.
Mitch Garver (C, Minnesota Twins)
He’s been Garving up opposing pitchers, and even pitching machines are no match for this Mitch machine. He started the year without a role but has been the more impressive breakthrough than Astudillo, with a .423/.444/.885 line with 3 home runs in just 27 plate appearances. It’s a great case to make for the starting role because unlike Willians, Garver is actually a passable defensive catcher. He’s sporting the best exit velocity of his career, at 91 mph as well as a phenomenal 100 mph FB/LD exit velocity and 11% barrel rate. Not only that, but his contact has improved, with a great 15% strikeout rate backed by a career-best 91% Z-contact and Betts-ian 5.3% swinging-strike rate. Not shabby, especially for a catcher. He’s a must-start at this point in all 15-team formats, and with catcher being so thin, I’d pounce in 12-team too, and in 10-team I’d consider it in both average and OBP formats. Yes, his sample size is small, but don’t be afraid to spend some Scratchy for Mitchy.
J.D. Davis (3B, New York Mets)
Move over, J.D. Martinez, we have a new winner of the quality award from J.D. Power & His OPS. Some say his playing time opportunity is about to run out, but I’m not so J.D. jaded. I’ve followed him a few years as he’s always been a big barreler held back by poor defense, high strikeouts, and Astro excuses to block him. His 14% barrel rate is on par with Khris Davis, and it’s even more supported with a monster surge in exit velocity; up 7 mph to 96 mph overall and 97 mph on FB/LD. For that reason, he has crazy expected stats with an xBA of .387 and an xSLG of .743, and while that will come down (only 38 plate appearances so far), I still think we have a .260, 30-plus HR power bat here with a chance for more. What’s crazy is that instead of selling out for power, his discipline has been boosted too, with a walk rate that’s doubled to 19% and a strikeout rate at a career-best 17%, mostly backed by an insanely improved 17% O-swing rate. The Mets’ Pete Alonso move signified their intention to put the best players on the field, so I expect Jed Lowrie and Todd Frazier to become the new pricey utility backups or trade bait. Get your J.D. degree in 15-teamers in which he’s available, and I’m pouncing to speculate in 12-team formats maybe even in 10-team OBP.
Hunter Dozier (1B/3B, Kansas City Royals)
I liked him entering this week as a sleeper, but then he bulldoziered my chances of getting him on the cheap. He’s been on fire this week, raising his average to .300/.379/.580 with four dingers. Maybe H. Dozier is actually Hozier because he’s been taking these pitchers to church, with a 94 mph exit velocity (96 mph overall), with a strong 9.3% barrel rate. He also has some stolen base ability and could be the strong 25 home run, 10 stolen base asset who people hoped for last year from Teoscar Hernandez. Statcast thinks the power is real, with an xAVG of .304 and XSLG of .649. I prefer Davis over him, but Dozier will still likely be the more affordable option and a fine backup (though less so after his recent hot streak), with a bit of extra versatility. Add in all 15-team and deeper 12-team formats.
Niko Goodrum (1B/2B/OF, Detroit Tigers)
It’s rare that you find a Statcast darling who’s in the red (that’s a good thing here) for every metric AND speed. He’s owned in deeper formats after posting a .293 average with a home run and a stolen base, but here he is, with an xBA of .348, an xSLG of .688 and an elite sprint speed. While that power hasn’t shown up on the stat sheet yet, he’s a sleeper 20/20 threat with multiposition versatility, making him a must-own even in shallow 15-team leagues, but I’d argue he’s also a great sleeper in 12-team formats as a versatile utility bench bat. Assuming he gets over his illness, having missed several games presents a solid buying opportunity, also a great opportunity to pretend you’re Beck and say “That was a Goodrum break.”
Jason Heyward (OF, Chicago Cubs)
He’s not quite the say hey kid, but J-Hey has been A-OK. He’s been crushing the ball to the tune of .349 with four home runs and three stolen bases, making him one of the season’s biggest surprises. Experts are split on the sustainability, but I believe the metrics show he’s got some of his old mojo back. He’s hitting the ball harder this year, with a career-best exit velocity of 92 mph, and has higher expected stats with an xBA of .309 and an xSLG of .404, suggesting some of the gains are real. Not only that, he’s more than doubled his walk rate to 18% while cutting his strikeout rate to just 9%. Yum. He’s a must-own in all 15-team formats, but I’m buying in 12-team formats as well with five outfield slots. Just like Squidward’s so-called masterpiece, Heyward is Old Bold & Bash.
Howie Kendrick (2B, Washington Nationals)
What’s better than players with two first names? One with three: Howie Ken and Drick. Or just Rick. He must be Howie Kendrick Lamar because he’s dropping hot fire, with a .533/.600/1.133 line with two homers. Sure, it’s probably a fluke, as he’s only had a wee 20 plate appearances, he’s 35 and that’s not exactly when you expect breakouts to happen. But it’s hard to argue with the metrics with an exit velocity jump from his usual 90 mph to 96 mph(!) leading to an xBA of .515 and xSLG of 1.161. Even as those unreal numbers regress, he now has done enough to earn regular at-bats at the keystone over Brian Dozier, and he’s a cheap gamble in 15-team leagues and streamable in 12-time while he’s launching like a Howietzer.
Melky Cabrera (OF, Pittsburgh Pirates)
The Melkman has not gone bad but rather turned into a delicious cheese. He was left for dead even in deep leagues, but he’s surprised with a shocking line of .390/.405/.537 with a home run and a stolen base in 42 plate appearances. It’s easy to assume he’ll regress to his typical fourth-outfielder production even for Pittsburgh, but I think The Cheese is the best character on this show, as his exit velocity, which has remained stable at 88-90 mph, has jumped to 93.6 mph, with an xBA of .315. Add in that hard contact with a career-low 9.5% strikeout rate, and I think he’s an underrated deep-league play and must-own in all 18-team and most 15-team average formats, though you can pass in OBP because he’s not walking. So go get your outfield to join the Melks Lodge.
Neil Walker (1B/2B/3B, Miami Marlins)
He had been a fantasy pauper, but now you must Neil before him. A failed sleeper last year on the Yankees pressure cooker, he has succeeded under the radar in Miami’s fish fry, hitting .231 with three home runs and a stolen base in 57 plate appearances. Nothing about his numbers will blow you away, but he’s crushing more than you’d expect, with an elite barrel rate of 13.2% backed by a career-best exit velocity of 91 mph, with an xBA of .287 with an xSLG of .568. With combined first base, second base, and third base versatility, he can be a solid power sleeper who’s looked over in many deeper leagues, and I’d add in all 18-team leagues and a solid bench bat in 15-team formats.
Kolten Wong (2B, St. Louis Cardinals)
A lot of us took the bait that Kolten was suddenly a slugger, but it turns out we were Wong. Sure, he still has a mighty pretty season line of .280/.403/.600 with four home runs and four stolen bases, but most of that was a first week fluke, and in shallow leagues, the party’s over. His 84 mph exit velocity is actually a career-worst, and his xBA of .265 and xSLG of .445 tell you what to expect moving forward at best. I’d still hold in deeper leagues, especially ones that use OBP, as he should still get some more playing time and be a solid accumulator, but it’s time to cut him in 10-team an 12-team average formats and 15-teamers in which hotter tickets such as Kendrick are available.
Brian Dozier (2B, Washington Nationals)
When one Dozier rises, another Dozier falls. There was some hope that last year’s awful struggles were because of a lingering injury, but that wouldn’t explain why he’s dozing off at the plate. He’s been replaced by the supernova-hot Kendrick, and the reality is Dozier was always on the cusp of major league irrelevance with an ideal 18% launch angle making up for mediocre exit velocity, but now, that launch angle is down to 5. To boot, his discipline has gone out to pasture, with career-worst strikeout rate of 26% and walk rate of 4%. It’s still early, but he’s not just a Bad Luck Brian according to his xBA of .185 and xSLG of .319. Cut in 15-team formats, and I’d cut him immediately for Fletcher. Now that’s something that’d make a-month-ago-me do a cartoon double take.
Jose Peraza (2B/SS, Cincinatti Reds)
I think we’ve reached the point where it’s OK to Perazz him. He was entering the year a sleeper as a poor man’s Segura, but this is the knockoff version that broke as soon as it was unwrapped. The biggest reason is a collapse in his historically good strikeout rate, with a strikeout of 29% that is only acceptable for a slugger. That helps explain why his metrics support the struggles with an xBA of .202 and disgusting xSLG of .258. He’s also at the bottom of the lineup, and he’s now an easy candidate to get the boot when top prospect Nick Senzel is ready. Cut in 12-team and 15-team, but I’d cut him in most 18-team leagues too, especially OBP formats.
Tyler White (1B/3B, Houston Astros)
Where to begin? He cost a pretty draft day penny, but he’s striking out more, hitting everything into the ground, exit velocity is down some too. His xSLG of .266 is just gross. But also, he’s not playing and on a team where it’s really quite easy to get blocked. He’s only eligible in most leagues at first base and third base positions where there have been tons of breakout hitters, and he’s been passed by nearly everyone. In all but the deepest AL-only formats, it’s time to correct this roster mistake and get White out.
(Photo by Dan Sanger/Icon Sportswire)