(Photo by Carlos Herrera/Icon Sportswire)
Welcome to mid-April, where more than one owner has asked if they should cut Giancarlo Stanton for Mitch Haniger! This list can be tough to make, because on one hand, I want to base my list on the most added and dropped (barring injury) players to point out hot and cold performances. On the other hand, I don’t want to recommend highly added players that are nothing more than fluky hot air, or advocate joining the panic picnic on players who I believe will rebound. On the other hand, WHOA I HAVE THREE HANDS! This list will have a diverse portfolio of legit hot streaks, buy-low pick-ups, and new arrivals. So hopefully these hitters won’t get their 401K, because that is too many strikeouts. Ha-ha! Tax season humor!
Christian Villanueva (3B, San Diego Padres) – I had been resisting the urge to write him up, but he had to thwart my plans by continuing to hit homers. He’s up to 6 on the year, with a .333 Average over 52 PA, which is pretty impressive considering almost nobody knows who the hell he is. He has been a slow climber through the minors, with 20 HR power and a below-20% K rate over the past few years in the high minors, so it’s not like he’s never hit well before. And he seems to be a launch angle revolutionary, with a 53% FB% rate and an average launch angle of 22 degrees. But he only has league-average exit velo at 89 mph, and his batting average looks set to crash like a motor-powered unicycle with his .409 BABIP masking his 32.7% K rate backed by a 16.7% whiff rate. You still have to buy in 15-team formats, and I’d only buy in 12-team formats if you need a hot hand or you think you can flip him in a trade before the April dingers bring May stingers.
Asdrubal Cabrera (SS, New York Mets) – How about those Mets, huh? Something must be in the bagels, I mean, the water, in Queens. He’s already popped 4 homers with a .339 AVG in the early going, showing his typical plate discipline but with an atypical thump. It seems like his power has been aided by him hitting flyballs 44% of the time. He also has a career-best contact rate and best whiff rate since 2010 (barely) at 7.5%, though it’s largely, and oddly, due to his O-Contact% of 85%. That is higher than his Z-Contact% of 83.8%, meaning he is currently making MORE contact with balls when they’re off the plate! That’s ridiculous. What’s more ridiculous? His xStats, which call for a .317 xAVG, .360 xOBP, and a… .605 xSLG%? That’s right, xStats says he’s actually been UNLUCKY from a power perspective! You should low-key scoop him up in your 15-teamers, your 12-teamers, and yes even your 10-teamers. Lowrie may be generating more buzz now, but Cabrera could be outshining him very soon if he keeps this up.
Jed Lowrie (2B, Oakland Athletics) – Look, he won’t stay this good, because that would be impossible. I wrote him up last week, but I have to write him up again because he keeps doing the impossible. He should be owned in all 12-teams while he’s this hot, and should be streamed on a roster in 10-team as well while he’s this hot. xStats believes he will come down to earth back to something resembling his 2017 line, but even that was pretty good and he’s now hitting in the heart of the lineup. Just take him now, you 35% of leagues that still don’t own him.
Todd Frazier (3B, New York Mets) – I’ll admit to having been out on Frazier over the past year or two, because it is maddening to launch so many infield flies that the stadium owners have the Orkin Man on speed dial. But much like the TV show of the same name, he gets better when everyone’s older. At age 32, he seems to have fixed that issue, with a 6.3% IFFB% that’s leagues below the 18.5% mark from 2016-2017, and he’s doing it without sacrificing power. His 93 mph avg. eV and 17.41 avg. LA indicate more homers are on the way and could arrive in a hurry. While his BABIP will still regress super heavily with an xAVG of .249, it comes with an xOBP of .406 and xSLG of .500. Combined with his stolen base ability, that makes him a smart add in 12-team formats, and for OBP leagues he really should be owned even in 10-team formats. Here’s to hoping the Frazier comeback does better than the Roseanne one.
Adrian Gonzalez – (1B, New York Mets) – Remember El Titan? The Mets have to be thrilled with the returns from their thrift shopping, as they paid the league minimum for a fallen star and it seems he’s regained some of his luster. Although many may overlook him with his .222 AVG, .326 OBP and .333 SLG%, he’s earned an .289 xAVG, a .381 xOBP of and a 443 xSLG, so don’t sleep on him. If you do, he may say “Who are you? Get off of me!”. I wouldn’t expect or want him to run as his recent health shouldn’t be messed with, but he is still valuable enough to own in NL-only and 15-team, though I’d only stream him for 12-team OBP. At age 35, it may not too late for him to have a Rocky-like comeback while you yell “ADRIAAAAAAN”!
Josh Reddick (OF, Houston Astros) – The red dog’s got a new bite! He hasn’t been a power bat since his 32-homer Oakland debut, but I see signs of a power resurgence, with a 43.3% Hard Contact rate. But I’m am even more intrigued by his sudden ability to draw walks, with a ridiculous 18.4% walk rate, which xStats believes he earned with a .410 xOBP.. That also adds to increased run scoring on a loaded Astros lineup, making him worth owning in 12-team formats, but a must-own in 12-team OBP and a viable stream in 10-team OBP formats.
Aledmys Diaz (SS, Toronto Blue Jays) – I pledge Aledmys to the FAAB, It’s a good thing that the Jays invested in a double backup plan for their mid-infielders. Although Solarte got attention early, Aledmys has also contributed with a surprising 4 homers, you know, more than half the amount of homers he hit in 301 PA last year. It seems like he may be selling out for power, as his contact rate is down from his career mark and his chase rate is an embarrassing 45.8%. That being said, his 28% HR/FB is not going to last, but his 43.8% FB% and 43.8% Hard Contact indicate that his power numbers could at least be closer to his 2016 version, even if the average doesn’t come with it. He should be owned in AL-only leagues and makes for a viable streamer in 15-teamers, though I wouldn’t go beyond that.
Jefry Marte (1B/3B, Los Angeles Angels) – Statcast says his nickname is “El Bley” which is what I usually say when I look at him on my waiver wire. That being said, he did get my attention by hitting ,379, as in my attempt to prove him a fluke, I noticed he actually has made significant contact gains, with a career-best 21.4% O-Swing% (Career 27.6%) and a 91.4% Z-Contact% (Career 83.9%). Still, I expected xStats to throw some cold water on that… not quite. Although the sample is still small, he currently has an xAVG of .352 with an xOBP of .394 and an xSLG% of .433 Well, there was no way his current SLG% is .552, was sustainable considering his 51.9% GB%, but considering how widely he’s available, he may be a major deep league sleeper for as long as he continues to earn AB. He does have some positional versatility that could keep him in the lineup awhile, so I’d definitely grab in all AL-only, and in 18-team AVG formats. I’m not yet ready to recommend him in 15-team though unless your team is really hurting for hits.
Curtis Granderson (OF, Toronto Blue Jays) – Mr. Granderson has been hitting well enough to pick up a fastball in his fingertips. Matrix references are still hip, right? Although the playing time has been a bit inconsistent, he’s hit .324 with a homer in 42 PA, and with that high average and his typical high walk rate, he’s been quite a waiver sleeper in OBP leagues. But the average is sure to plummet, right? Maybe not, as xStats gives him an xAVG of .289 with an xOBP of .374 and xSLG of .479, which would be better than any of his rates from 2015 on. Of course, the sample is smaller than most, and his limited playing time makes him hard to set and forget in shallower leagues. But he is worthy of grandstanding in 15-team AVG leagues and 12-team OBP, as long as you check your daily lineups.
Teoscar Hernandez (OF, Toronto Blue Jays) – He might’ve been sore about getting sent to Triple-A to start the year, but Teoscar Tegrouch is no slouch. He started strong with 2 homers and 2 SB in his first 18 PA, even if he struck out a few too many times. While he’s only had 5 PA in the majors and attempting to analyze it is rather laughable, he did show that he’s looking to be aggressive on the base paths with another stolen base, and his swing rates look improved with excellent 96 mph avg eV. I will repeat that this sample size is ridiculously small, but we don’t need much confirmation after what he did in his small sample last year. He has the power/speed to go 25/25 He should be owned in AL-only despite his uncertain playing time, and I believe he can still easily supplant the struggling Grichuk so you may want to snag him in 15-team as well. You could make a Broadway musical about him and I’m sure you will win Te Oscar.
Ian Happ (2B/OF, Chicago Cubs) – This cannot be Happ-ening. Look, it’s probably just a bad slump. But it’s a BAD slump. Like 47.2% K% bad, backed by a Swstr% over 20% that makes Joey Gallo blush. And it’s Hard Hit% at 26%, with an 84.1 mph eV bad. It’s looking like he may be Trevor Story-ing, as he currently has a 52% FB% and pitchers are making him pay for it. Although he was a solid mid-round draft choice, it’s worth remembering that he can still be sent to the minors, and frankly, probably should if he can’t turn it around in a hurry. I see enough reasons to panic to cut him without hesitation in 10-team formats and cut him with only mild hesitation in 12-team, even in OBP. In 15-team…. Well, if you did, I wouldn’t blame you.
Adam Duvall (OF, Cincinnati Reds) – He’s Mr. Consistency. Last year he was consistently solid, and this year he’s been consistently bad. Yeah, he’s hit 3 home runs, and his .186 AVG isn’t worse than many other players, and he still has a sub-30% K rate. But he may deserve worse, with an xAVG of .205, xOBP of .255 and xSLG% of .385. For a guy whose only real contribution is power, a sub .400 SLG% is really not going to fly. I would not be too surprised to see him get nudged out of the playing time picture unless he can break out of this slump, and while I’d still hold in 15-team, I’d feel okay cutting him in 12-team
Lewis Brinson (OF, Miami Marlins) – Yeah, it’s not a great sign when a guy has to take a few days off to work on things in a batting cage, but that’s where we are. I knew not to trust someone whose name reminded me of Brinstar, my least favorite stage on Super Smash Bros. Without being able to hit the ball, he hasn’t been able to contribute in power or speed, and I’m spooked enough to cut him in 12-team and 15-team formats.
Luis Valbuena (3B/1B, Los Angeles Angels) – What, drop Valbuena, who’s hitting .291 with 3 Homers?! I must be crazy! Or I just looked at his xStats, which say he’s earned an xAVG of .187 with an xOBP of.229 and an xSLG% of .360%. I think I threw up in my mouth a little. So if you can’t flip him, take the good numbers and run before he turns into a nuclear pumpkin. Mmm… nuclear pumpkin.