Welcome back to Buy & Sell! I’m finishing up my Master’s thesis defense, but that’s nowhere near as challenging as my waiver wire recommendation defense. We just missed most of the top prospect call-up excitement of earlier this week, and there’s no real point in recommending you pick up Brett Baty or Zach Neto when they’re likely already long gone in most competitive leagues. Instead of the shiny new toys, let’s focus on the “known” players we overlooked that have made some big changes. And also lets trash a few Oscars. On to the list!
Yandy Diaz (1B/3B, Tampa Bay Rays)
Even before the season, I had Yandy as a target everywhere given that his low March ADP of 273 seemed way too low, especially given that despite the 9 homers, he was actually 5th in baseball in OBP last year. But what intrigued me more about his 2022 line was the muscle-bound third baseman’s marriage of highest HardHit% (48%) with his career-best launch angle (8). But this year, his batted balls have launched into space and space is the place… He’s become launcho man Yandy Savage. Ooh yeah!
How is this happening? Just look at his flyball rate. At 49%, it’s 17 points higher than it’s ever been, and it has all come at the expense of his career-low groundball rate (33%) while leaving his line drive rate at a healthy 18%. While some argue this is a fluke, I believe it’s legit, in part due to something that may sound like bad news: His contact rate (81%) is down from previous years. Typically, to switch to a fly ball approach, you need to add loft to your swing, which naturally reduces contact ability. That is to say, I think this change is intentional, and it’s paying off. At 5 homers already on the young season, he’s already more than halfway to his 2022 homer total. And I think it’s fully legit, as he’s rocking a superb 14% Barrel% to go with a 59% HardHit% and 113 mph MaxEV.
I think in the end, Yandy’s offensive line this year might not be so different from sluggers like Matt Chapman or Austin Riley, since he’s quietly improved his all-around game for years, with this being the one thing left he had to do to unlock his beastly potential. Statcast thinks he may still be a buy-low with his .259 AVG and .552 SLG% still below his expected stats of .304 and .584. I do expect some regression, but with his massive OBP, he now has both a high floor and high ceiling, and is a must-add in all formats, especially OBP formats. I’d also try to trade for him buying high with a strong offer for him to league mates who doubt he can keep this level up, because I believe the Yandyman can.
Patrick Wisdom (3B/OF, Chicago Cubs)
When it comes to waiver wire and FAAB bids, Mark Twain once said, “We chase phantoms half the days of our lives. It is well if we add Wisdom even then, and save the other half”. He’s made those who drafted him feel smart, as he was a total draft day afterthought with a March ADP of 562 after it was assumed he would be a backup thanks to the likes of checks notes Christopher Morel. I didn’t draft him, but added him early when I saw a substantial improvement in his K rate, which is still better (31%) after some serious regression. He’s leading the NL in homers with 8, and hitting a splendid .279/.343/.754.
The question, of course, is can he sustain it? While he obviously won’t maintain the Aaron Judge homer pace, early indicators are promising that it’s somewhat legit. His quality of contact is fantastic, with a 63% HardHit%, 20% Barrel, and an average eV of 95 mph. I think the K rate should continue to be better than last year, as he’s supporting it with career-best contact rate of 72% both out of the zone (53%) and in the zone (84%). Honestly, we shouldn’t have ignored that he improved his Z-contact rate last year from 72% to 77%, and now it’s improving by a similar margin to 84%. While some regression will likely continue, he’s made it clear he’s not another Joey Gallo and he’s managed to refine his plate skills without sacrificing his gargantuan power… and there’s still a chance he can steal 5 or even 10 bags this year with the new rules, even if he hasn’t tried yet. Add him in all leagues in which he is available. Knowledge is power, but Wisdom is apparently light-tower power.
Nolan Gorman (2B, St. Louis Cardinals)
Gorman is an anagram for “Mo Gran” and we definely would like to see mo’ grand slams. He’s proven to be this year’s poster child of the post-hype prospect, which is rather hilarious given that he wasn’t even bad last year (107 RC+) and a year ago was also just 21. He’s currently hitting a studly .316/403/.649 with 5 HR, 6 R, and a whopping 18 RBI to go with a stolen base in 67 PA. At that rate, he could end up the best Nolan on the Cardinals.
If you’re hoping Statcast will tell you it’s a fluke (probably because you missed out on getting him already and you want sour grapes) I’m here to tell you sorry but nope. Not only does it validate his production with a .317 xBA and .613 xSLG, but he has greatly improved batted ball quality with a career-best 112 mph MaxEV, 19% Barrel% and 57 HardHit%. Not only that, but he’s greatly improved his plate discipline without becoming passive. In fact, his Z-Swing of 78% is a slightly up, whereas he lowered his O-Swing% down 9% to just 24%. Not only that, but he increased his contact rate from 69% to a solid 73%, giving him a fantastic 24% CSW% to go with his elite power.
The one downside that makes him more of a speculative add in 10-team formats is the fact that he’s sitting against lefties often, which some might argue is helping with the rate stats and could regress heavily if he starts playing against them. Still, I think he’ll be fine. Why?
Basically, most breakouts occur when a player improves one of the four domains of hitter performance, and he somehow is improving significantly in all four of them simultaneously, making him a high likelihood to be a real star breakout among many meteorites that crash to earth. I tend to bet on the talent with such a young player who before his MLB debut was the talk of the minor leagues, and he’s a guy I think is worth ponying up for now in trades. Add in all leagues in which winning is the objective.
Honorable Mention: Ryan Mountcastle (1B, Baltimore Orioles)
Andrew McCutchen (UT/OF, Pittsburgh Pirates)
Of course he would become the hero in his age-37 return to the Pirates, because he’s so McClutchen. He’s hitting a divine .310/.417/.586 with a 1.003 OPS, with 4 homers and 3 SB, to go with 10 R and 9 RBI. Talk about stuffing the stat sheet! His Statcast page is almost entirely blood red, including his 87th percentile sprint speed, 91st pecentile K% and 89% BB%. Only his Max exit velocity and barrel rate are slightly below league average, and those have never been his calling cards.
Most of this strong year is coming from his contact rate, and his 91% Z-Contact% is a career-best, which is more meaningful than most on this list considering his past history as a fantasy star and a history that goes back to 2009. Although his low chase rate is not the lowest of his career, it might be the best balance of swinging at the good pitches and laying off the bad ones. Honestly, a lot of his batted ball rates are similar to his career levels, but a career-best (well, since 2015 anyway) 47% HardHit% and 91 mph eV have made up for the relative lack of barrels.
He probably won’t keep up this level of production, but he should provide all-around value, and I wouldn’t be too surprised to see him put up a statline similar to that of Taylor Ward who went hundreds of picks earlier. And perhaps most importantly, he has finally reached five games at OF, which should free him of the UT-only designation in most leagues. He’s a must-add in 12-team leagues and worth considering in all OBP formats. Perhaps he’s Iron Man (the polar opposite of Lance McCullers) because McCutchen’s going to go out with a bang and be the hero of the McCu Universe.
Jake Burger (3B, Chicago White Sox)
Burger is going HAM. He’s a former first-round pick who returned from years of being snakebitten by injuries to possess more pop than any expected. Burger could be one of the best deep league pickups yet, since a waiver wire hitter like that is quite rare, and that exit velocity is extra juicy. He’s hit four taters just this week, and with his superlative power, there could be many more to come. On the season he’s hitting .276/.353/.862 with 5 tates, but what is being overlooked is that his sample is smaller… he’s done this in only 34 plate appearances, or 29 At-bats. He’s averaging a home run every six at-bats. Ah, April.
While it’s impossible for him to keep this bananas rate up, I think it’s more legit than most do. He has 7 barrels, which gives him a league-leading 35% Barrel%. Small sample yadda yadda, but still, that’s insane. Oh, and his raw max exit velocity, which has always been elite at 114 mph last year, already hit a new high. How high? How high the moon, in other words 118.2 mph. I know Nick doesn’t like us using decimals, but here it felt as apropos as the .2 you have to run after 26 miles in a marathon. That’s the second highest maxEV in baseball this year, even above Statcast poster boy Giancarlo Stanton.
Regression is obviously going to happen, especially seeing as strikeout hiters are streaky and he has a history of streakiness as well. That being said, given his 13% Barrel% in 2021 and 15% mark in 2022%, I do think there’s a good chance that even with regression, he’ll still have a career year in that regard and one of the best barrel rates in the league. He will probably need that somewhat, as his plate skills still hold him back from being a star hitter. That said, while he’s currently chasing too much (42% O-Swing%) and too passive on strikes (59% Z-Swing%), he’s sporting a passable 70% Contact% which is a career best, in addition to a much-improved 14% SwStr% and 29% CSW%. While those rates may be sub-par for a typical hitter, this is a hitter with Stanton-esque power, so this is actually pretty good! And in a weird way, it’s even more impressive that he hit 7 barrels given that such a high percentage of his batted balls came on pitches off the plate.
The most frustrating thing about him, however, is that there seems to be a consensus that he’ll lose playing time when incumbent Yawn Moncada returns. This is, in technical terms, exceedingly stupid. Like sticking with MadBum with Pfaadt in the minors. Despite a hot first week, Moncada is basically toast. I’m counting on Burger to win the role, even if it may take a few weeks of hair-pulling, and I think the upside is worth that. Also keep in mind the off chance that Burger starts playing again at 2B and gains eligibility there. I think he’s better than a stream and should be added in all 15-team formats, though I think he’s a solid spec add in 12-team batting average leagues… I’ve added him in mine. Because when it comes to burger, I put my money where my mout-OKAY HIS LAST NAME IS A FOOD WE GET IT.
Honorable Mention: Brent Rooker (OF, Oakland Athletics)
J.D. Davis (3B, San Francisco Giants)
I wonder if this is the year that Martinez is dethroned and Davis wins JD Power and Associates. While he’s always had plenty of raw pop, he’s never had the right combination of health, contact, and role (especially with platoons) to really let it rip. But now in 2022, after hitting .333/373/.593 with 4 HR in his first 59 AB on a weak San Francisco offense also known for getting the most out of certain players, I can believe that this can at least be the second-based year of his career.
Speaking of letting it rip, that’s what I love about what Davis is doing. The typically disciplined slugger is swinging more than he ever has before, with a career-high 56% Swing%. Although this has led him to a career-high O-Swing% of 35%, his Z-Swing% is now a wonderfully aggressive 84%, and yet somehow he’s still making good contact with an 81% Z-Contact% that is 10 points better than last year. All of this combined adds up to a mediocre swinging strike of 16%, yet a strong CSW% of 26%.
That being said, while the average should be better this year, he needs to make some changes to get to his power. His Barrel of 10% is down from the last two years, and it’s probably because it’s hard to hit barrels when you have a flyball rate of 20%. Still, it seems he has the opportunity to work on it, and despite his flaws, he should still be a solid stream in 12-team batting average leagues for the time being with potential for more. UPDATE: Yeah after looking closer, I actually decided to put Burger with the 12-team and Davis with the 15-team, but I could see it both ways and too each their own.
Josh Naylor (1B/OF, Cleveland Guardians)
This is an ideal buy-low if I ever saw one. He’s hitting just .153/.235/.254 with 2 HR in 68 PA, but I really truly believe everything is going to be fine. While struggling stars get held through thick and thin, guys like Naylor could be cut in deeper formats for the hot flavor of the month (aka Rooker, Franchy, and yes, Burger), especially since he’s already mostly in a platoon. But I think he can be just as good if not better than Bell, his rival Josh.
Naylor actually has a better walk rate (10%) and a better strikeout rate (15%) than last year, and has been hitting the ball roughly as hard as he usually does. The big difference is that this year he’s hitting more flyballs, though unfortunately he’s not combining that with his typically high pull rate, as he’s hit 43% of his balls up the middle where the parks are the deepest. Still, this seems rather correctible especially given his prior history, and could be the kind of guy who has a few back-to-back 3-for-4 with a homer days and suddenly you’re wondering why you didn’t pounce when his stock was low. In total, I expect him to hit about .250-.260 with 20-25 dingers and a handful of nabbed bags, which is absolutely worth rostering in 15-team leagues.
Honorable Mentions: Jack Suwinski (OF, Pittsburgh Pirates)
Leody Taveras (OF, Texas Rangers)
I think he could be useful for you, but mileage may Ta-vary. Leody was having a rather untriumphant return to the majors aside from one big game, but he does enough to keep me interested in deep leagues. For one, he has the playing time opportunity, as a combination of injury (such as Corey Seager) and poor performance (Robbie Grossman) has opened the door. He’s still hitting just .208/.240/.375, but there are a few promising signs.
For one, he has already, in just 24 PA, nearly matched last years MaxEV of 113 mph with a strong 112 mark, and for two, he has a career-best 44% HardHit%. He’s also just bit higher in flyball rate at 39%, though unfortunately it’s come with an unsightly 29% infield fly ball rate. But I’m intrigued by the 50% Pull%, and if that and he high flyball rate stays, the speedster’s a good bet to produce a surprising amount of dingers. With the chance that soon he becomes more aggressive on the bases with his plus speed to go with that pop, he’s probably the deepest candidate for a 15/15 season that I can imagine, and maybe even pace for 20/20.
Tucupita Marcano (2B/OF, Pittsburgh Pirates)
After referencing both the Candyman and Burgers, I think I have learned that I should never write this article hungry. But earlier this week, when I was standing in line at the falafel stand and my phone told me Marcano was coming back to the majors, I Tucupita and ran. Marcano didn’t make a fantastic or even remotely good impression in 2022, hitting just .206/.256/.305 with 2 HR and 2 SB in 160 AB, but I’m optimistic that the 23-year-old, despite a near-complete lack of prospect pedigree, is going to improve on that. So far, that’s not exactly apparent, as he’s hit .200/.333/.500 with 0 HR and 0 SB in just 12 PA. But I think the production will come.
One thing that encourages me is that he’s hitting the ball hard, something he rarely did last year. He already has 6 Hard Hits and a 67% HardHit%, and while it’s sure to regress, it’ll have to regress a looooong way to reach his downright puny 17% HardHit% last year. His current average EV of 95 mph is actually 10 full mph higher than his 2022 average of 85 mph, though given that, it’s very weird that his MaxEV this year is just 99 mph. Eh, it’s a start. While I won’t read too much into his plate skills, what he has displayed in the small sample is excellent zone recognition skills and a very high contact rate. Even if one of the power gain or the plate skills gain sticks, he could become a Josh Rojas lite, which may not sound appealing until you realize this league is very deep. Add in NL-only formats and Fun First Name leagues.
Honorable Mention: Lenyn Sosa (2B, Chicago White Sox)
Masataka Yoshida (OF, Boston Red Sox)
Yoshida Battles the Pink Pitching Robots, and the robots are winning. He definitely is not among those with flaming BABIPs, with an unfortunate .167 average on balls in play, which happens to be the exact same as his regular batting average. I think most people aren’t panicking with him yet, mostly because they see a homer, 2 stolen bases, and even more notable, a 14% BB% with a 9% K%. So you may figure you have the next Steven Kwan just in a cold spell. Well, not exactly.
See, I think that K/BB is mostly a mirage. He is stingy with balls, with a 25% O-Swing%, but his contact rate is not as advertised at just 79%, with only 80% from in-zone contact. So while his 9% SwStr% is solid, his 28% CSW% isn’t special, especially not from a player who was expected to specialize in this. It’s also less from that of J.D. Davis. As for the batted ball quality, I’m pretty negative about it, by which I mean his average launch angle is -5. It’s going to be hard to reach 20 homer or even 15 homer power with a 67% GB%, and I find it rather shocking he also managed to have a line drive rate of just 9%.
You may argue that he’s still getting adjusted to a whole new league and culture, and you wouldn’t be wrong that he will likely adjust and learn on the go. Still, in 10-team formats, it’s absolutely not waiting for as there are stud-level options like McCutchen who basically do everything they hoped Yoshida could do and more. While I hope the Red Sox don’t have a Rusney Castillo part two on their hands, I do think you can safely cut in 12-team AVG leagues.
Dishonorable Mention: Francisco Álvarez (C, New York Mets)
Brandon Drury (1B/2B/3B, Los Angeles Angels)
Once upon a midnight Drury, while I pondered why he’s hitting like Leury. He’s certainly making people who spent a top 200 pick on him on draft day weary, as the 2022 breakout is hitting just .185/.220/.296. I don’t normally recommend overreacting to a few bad weeks in April, but given that his track record suggested the risk was considerable of him turning into a pumpkin, I’m getting the horse and carriage to escort him out of my roster.
Why do I think it’s not just bad luck? Well for one, he has a 3% walk rate, and his strikeout rate is 33%. Those are both way worse than his 2022 rates of 7% BB% and 22% K%, so you’d hope maybe he was at least hitting the ball harder. Nope. Although his HardHit% has remained steady, his barrel rate of 5% is half of last year’s mark. Actually, Fangraphs’s other hard contact metric says that he is hitting the ball weaker, as he has a 24% Hard% and 60% Medium% compared to last year’s 35% Hard% and 48% medium. Going back to the contact rate, it’s rather shocking how his contact% has plummeted from 81% to just 68%, lower than Patrick Wisdom. Given he doesn’t have any OBP skills, stolen base upside, and that the league has been flooded with multi-eligible middle infielders, in 10-teamers he’s an easy drop that you’ll probably regret not dropping now before I even finish this……. sentence. I tried to give you a few more seconds.
Dishonorable Mention: Trey Mancini (1B/OF, Chicago Cubs)
Oscar González (OF, Cleveland Guardians)
I hope you listened to the age-old fantasy draft day adage “You’ll be in the need of quite the fix if you draft a Guardians sophomore named Oscar in the Top 200 picks. I didn’t forget you, Oscar Mercado! It feels a little weird writing up three different players all taken between beck 180-200 on average and weeks later, one is a 10-team drop, one a 12-team drop, and Gonzáles down to 15. They’re all struggling, so what’s the difference? Playing time. Playing time is the difference.
Oscar has certainly has disappointed, roughly as much as the others, with a .156/.191/.267 line wit h1 HR in 47 PA. Now, it’s not all bad as his 4% walk rate and 19% K% were the same as last year (not that it’s that good). His hard contact metrics aren’t so bad either, with a similar launch angle and even a slightly higher barrel rate, which might be why Statcast deems him unlucky with a .264 xBA and .413 xSLG. But here’s the thing: He’s now on the short side of a platoon with Will Brennan.
Sure, there’s a chance that Brennan flounders and González is back to regular playing time, but I think the fact that the team was so quick to start benching González says a lot about what they think of them. Although Brennan has a lot less upside than Oscar, he is decent at getting hits and could be a poor man’s Steven Kwan, and that is the profile Cleveland tends to be more fond of. If you have a deep bench, you can hold O-Gon and see if he can redeem himself, but in the meantime it doesn’t seem to make much sense when I’d much rather take my chances on guys Jack Suwinski. Cut in all OBP 15-team formats and shallow 15-team average leagues.
Dishonorable Mention: Oscar Colás (OF, Chicago White Sox)
Christian Arroyo (2B/SS/OF, Boston Red Sox)
I drafted him in my AL-only this season, and now I can admit that I made Arroyo blunder. There’s not really much to say here other than I promised I’d send him off when I cut him in my AL-only league, and my only regret was not cutting him sooner. He quietly had a solid year in 2022 hitting .286 with 6 HR and 5 SB in 300 PA, but this year he’s taken a big step back. He’s hitting just .160/.192/.200 with no homers and just 1 SB. It’s almost impressive how his HardHit% got halved, from 42% down to just 18%. Sometimes you throw a late round dart and it hits, sometimes it bounces off the wall and hits you in the neck. Pluck him from all 18-team leagues, AL-only formats, and the fact I even have to mention a guy like him is probably the worst advertisement for AL-only and NL-only leagues yet.
Dishonorable Mention: Hunter Dozier (3B/OF, Kansas City Royals)
Featured Image by Ethan Kaplan (@DJFreddie10 on Twitter and @EthanMKaplanImages on Instagram)