Cheerio! Welcome back to Buy & Sell, where today’s theme is breakthrough role players, British expressions (I start with where the puns land and work backward from there), and hating on some Brewers. Hey, they broke my heart this week when Josh Hader ruined a potential great comeback at the game I saw, so it’s justified in my mind. This was yet another big FAAB week, and there were many interesting waiver wire names I didn’t even get to here (Cordell, Santana, Quinn to name a few). But here are some players that can give your ailing team a boost like your morning cuppa tea.
Cole Tucker (SS, Pittsburgh Pirates)
Fantasy owners may as well call themselves West Virginians with how eager they are to be Cole-powered. Cole Tucker has been the hottest commodity, costing triple-digit FAAB in most leagues, thanks in part to a massive debut dinger. The 22-year-old’s calling card is his stolen base upside, though his results are more a result of instincts than raw speed, so don’t expect him to be what you thought Garrett Hampson would be before the season. But it’s encouraging that he’s hit four home runs over just 77 plate appearances this season (three in Triple-A) and has the makeup and plate discipline to be serviceable in OBP leagues too. While he has excellent smarts and makeup, his value is a bit inflated as he still has some batting average downside. He’s not a generational talent like Fernando Tatis Jr., but he’s worth at least a speculative pickup in all leagues until we see if pressure turns this Cole to diamond.
Justin Smoak (1B, Toronto Blue Jays)
Just when the fantasy community seemed ready to snuff out Smoak, his bat reignited. He’s been among the hottest hitters in the past week, jumping from 57% to 62% owned after boosting his average over 100 points after hitting .405 with four home runs and a 10:6 BB/K over the past two weeks (three home runs this week). Unlike last year, the metrics like him this year, with an exit velocity over 2 mph higher and an xSLG of .584, with an elite xwOBA of .427 supporting his current performance. If an impatient owner cut him in early April panic, you should scoop up Justin Smoak in all leagues, especially OBP, obviously.
Franmil Reyes (OF, San Diego Padres)
Hold the Guacamole and scoop him up if someone drops La Mole. Savvier owners know not to panic, but some impatient owners have been dropping Franmil Reyes for shiny new toys, and you can make out like a Franmillionaire. He’s been one of the unluckiest players so far, as his .200 batting average belies an xBA of .322, one of the largest expected differentials in the league. His xwOBA of .437 is 15th-best in baseball, with the ability to be a cornerstone bat in the outfield with .300 and 30+-plus home run upside. Even if it means holding him while he’s cold, it can pay off in a hurry. I’m buying where available in 12-team leagues and stashing in deeper 10-team formats with some open bench spots. It’s been cloudy so far, but soon we’ll see a Reyes sunshine.
Josh Bell (1B, Pittsburgh Pirates)
In just one season, he’s gone from Taco Bell to the Bellagio. He was a popular sleeper pick yet that actually remained a draft day value and has been worth every penny, hitting .303 with a surprising .596 slugging percentage. You may assume this is bound to regress to his punchless past, but he’s actually been a bit unlucky with an expected .626 slugging percentage! This seems legit as his exit velocity has soared to 94 mph (97 mph on FB/LD) with a 10% barrel rate. While he still is likely more of a 20 to 25 home run bat, he can do that with a .275 to .290 batting average and strong OBP, making him a must-own in 15-team leagues and a stalwart stream in 12-team leagues, especially OBP. Que Bell-a!
Avisail Garcia (OF, Tampa Bay Rays)
Teams that took a chance on the up-and-down outfielder have had smooth Avisailing. While his .284 batting average is likely some good luck, it’s canceled out by some bad luck on the power front; in the end, his .355 wOBA is the exact same as his xwOBA. Especially with Austin Meadows out for a while, Avisail Garcia should have more playing time security and face fewer platoons, boosting his counting stats. His 11.4% barrel rate is excellent and supported by strong exit velocity (94 mph overall, 97 mph FB/LD) so he can Baez-lite his way to a solid average despite a high strikeout rate. With a shot at 20-plus home runs, a .250-plus batting average and a handful of stolen bases, he makes for a solid outfield add in 18-team and 15-team formats, and for streaming in deeper 12-team batting average leagues, he’s Avisolid.
Dwight Smith Jr. (OF, Baltimore Orioles)
I give him credit: I really resisted writing him up for the longest time, but the dude just keeps hitting. He’s never had an impressive prospect pedigree and Statcast doesn’t bear his numbers out, but old-school folks who just follow the production win this round. He’s hit four home runs with three stolen bases already, and now that Cedric Mullins has finally been demoted to Triple-A, the role is Smith’s to lose with no competition in sight. While I expect his production to drop off eventually, he could still get pretty close to .260-20-15, which is pretty good for a player who wasn’t even on anyone’s radar a month ago. Pick him up in 18-team and 15-team formats, and at this point, I wouldn’t even hate on streaming him in 12-team while DS keeps posting video game numbers.
Michael Chavis (3B, Boston Red Sox)
It must be the Avis in his name because this is the year he tries harder. After falling out of the prospect conversation following a PED suspension, he bopped .250 with four homers in 48 Triple-A plate appearances, but what really impresses me is that he posted a double-digit walk rate with a strikeout rate less than 20% for the first time, allowing his power to play more. As if that weren’t enough, the third baseman with the upside to mash 30-plus tates is now playing at second, and once he qualifies there, can be a great value for an injury-decimated keystone position like Travis Shaw was last year. Even if/when they return, I personally don’t see Eduardo Nunez or Dustin Pedroia (who probably should just retire) taking the role back from him, as I expect some big hits immediately. He should be owned in all 15-team leagues and makes a solid 12-team bench/spec add because of his massive power upside with the hope of second base eligibility. Only ignore him because of the PED thing, if you want to be a trashy Brit, the definition of what a Chav is. … Hoo boy, that was a bad one.
Tommy La Stella (2B/3B, Los Angeles Angels)
Fun fact: Tommy La Stella has more home runs (six) than strikeouts (four). Don’t cry because it’s unsustainable; smile because it happened. La Stella seems to be the latest fly-ball evangelist, as he’s been hitting the ball in the air at a higher rate, despite middling exit velocity. That’s how a guy with a 6% strikeout rate has an xBA of just .235. While he won’t continue hitting dingers at this rate, he’s earned regular at-bats and could be a sleeper source of 20-plus home runs for deep leagues, with some useful dual second base/third base eligibility. I’m buying in AL-only and 18-teamers and making him a speculative flyer in deeper 15-teamers. I’d especially be interested in leagues that have a strikeout category for batters. Que Stella!
David Fletcher (2B/3B/OF Los Angeles)
He may not have much power, but that doesn’t make him a Fletchling option at the keystone. You probably haven’t noticed, but I outlined in my recent article that he’s suddenly become the king of contact, with a 97% contact rate backed by a downright BANANAS 1.1% swinging-strike rate, which is twice as good as the next-best player. While he still lacks much power, His 85 mph exit velocity is improved from last year and better than many major leaguers, and with so many hits, he will numbers game himself into some homers. But just by making so much contact, he has a fantastic xBA of .325, and his xSLG of .428 ain’t shabby either for a guy with multi-position eligibility. Be warned that manager Brad Ausmus has been pinch hitting him, but he can earn his keep as he’s still solid against lefties. Grab Fletch-a-sketch in all AL-only and 18-team leagues, and stream in deeper 15-team leagues, where he will likely be yours for the taking.
Michael Tauchman (OF, New York Yankees)
Now we’re tauch-ing. After a brutally rough takeoff, he’s finally settled in and has been a solid deep league stream until his team makes cuts from their split-squad injury roster (yes, they can field all mound positions with injured Yankees). He’s finally brought the power, hitting .261 with three tater tauchs in the past week, and maybe now he’ll settle in with virtually no competition in the foreseeable future. He put up big power/speed numbers last year in a hitter-friendly Triple-A environment, but Statcast is not a fan, calling for a .185 xBA and .345 xSLG. So I’ll scoop him in AL-only and 18-team formats, where playing time is king, maybe in the deepest five-outfielder 15-teamers, but in anything shallower, U Can’t Tauch This.
Jesus Aguilar (1B, Milwaukee Brewers)
It’s true that he’s probably been unlucky. But no amount of good luck could correct just how bad he’s been, with a .134/.234/.164 line, and this week he’s been even worse with a .095 AVG and no extra-base hits. His hard-hit rate is down from 42% last year to just 28% this year, and his xBA of .207 and xSLG of .340, while better than his actual line, aren’t exactly reassuring. His competition, Eric Thames, may be striking out the yard but is winning his way back with some clutch homers (the most recent of which I witnessed live), so Aguilar may be running out of chances to shake the funk. Even though it’s hardly past Easter Sunday, it’s time to cut him in 10-team formats, and 12-team average leagues, as I don’t think this Jesus will rise.
Orlando Arcia (SS, Milwaukee Brewers)
He’s young enough to make improvements in his game, but apparently he can’t tell his Arcia from his elbow. The 24-year-old has taken another step backward, with a Gallo-esque 68% contact rate, which is why his current .218 average is actually lucky. Sure he has four homers, but with middling exit velocity, Statcast believes his current .410 slugging percentage really should be closer to .325. But the biggest concern is his plummeting sprint speed, where his current 25.7 m/s is behind C.J. Cron and catcher Carson Kelly. See if you can deal him now, but if not, cut this fantasy farce-ia in 10-team, 12-team, and shallow 15-team leagues before he betrays you like an Orlando Calrissian.
Francisco Mejia (C, San Diego Padres)
He’s been Meh-jia at best. I give the Padres credit for trying to get Francisco Mejia‘s bat into the lineup. He may as well have spit in their face. He’s been terrible, and it’s more than just bad luck, with bad discipline and poor batted balls leading to a .179 xBA and .258 xSLG legitimizing his struggles. I preach (relative) patience with catcher Danny Jansen but Mejia doesn’t have the same wiggle room. Austin Hedges may well be the better bat this year even with defense not factored in. You can put him on the block, but in anything shallower than a 15-team, two-catcher league, you have to tell him, “It’s not Mejia, it’s Youjia.”
Matt Kemp (OF, Cincinnati Reds)
Great American Ballpark is a hitter’s friend, but it’s not a miracle worker. Matt Kemp has only hit .200 with one home run, but Statcast says even that has been lucky with an xBA of .170 and xSLG of .274 that gives him one of the lowest xwOBAs in baseball (.195). Drop in 15-team and even 18-team leagues because there’s no way to dress those numbers up, and the Kemperor has no clothes.
(Photo by Gerry Angus/Icon Sportswire)