Welcome back to Buy & Sell, where today’s theme is “Never give up on power/speed talent”. This year has been the year of the power/speed pickup, as we realize silly things like batting average never mattered much anyway, as they can change at the tip of a dime. Or rather, the BABIP of a dime. Also a theme arguably could be don’t use draft capital on catchers, as there are always late rounders who seem to emerge to the forefront. Anyway, on to the list!
Jorge Mateo (SS, Baltimore Orioles)
Mateo’s finally reminding us of why we were hyped for him as a Yankees prospect, and not just because we overhype nearly every Yankees prospect. Mateo is hitting a stat-stuffing .351/.400/.649 with 4 HR and 8 SB in 67 PA, just as all spring drafters clearly expected.
He’s managed to make incremental improvements at just about every aspect of his game, with a career-best and rather top-notch 112 mph MaxEV and 44% HardHit%. He’s improved the plate skills too with a less aggressive approach leading to a surprisingly decent 30% O-Swing% and 86% Z-Contact% resulting in a solid 12% Swinging Strike%. If I had any nit to pick it’s his launch angle which is down from 15 to just 5, though as one of the fastest players in the majors, more groundballs bodes better for his batting average than just about anyone, and it’s not like he wants to hit so many flyballs at home. He’s likely snagged already in many shallow leagues, but you can probably easily “buy high” on him as other managers may assume he’s going to turn into a pumpkin soon. I think he can be a legit .280 15- 35 with upside for more the rest of the way, along the lines of peak Jonathan Villar. So add in all leagues, especially roto categories leagues.
Christian Bethancourt (C/1B, Tampa Bay Rays)
After a career of getting passed around, the ball is back in his Bethancourt. Yeah, I’m going bold here, as I bet some would find it too bold to recommend him in 12-team leagues. But I think he could be one of the best quiet difference-makers we’ll see all season, especially at the catcher position. Yes, on the one hand he showed last year he could be streaky and be worthless for stretches at a time. But I have 19 good reasons to go to bat for him. That eye-popping 19% Barrel% comes with a surprising .286/.352/.612 line to go with 4 dingers in just 54 PA. Obviously it’s a small sample, but the fact that the Rays got him to double and nearly triple his walk rate leads me to believe their hitting coach is a magician.
The 31-year-old journeyman has always had a ton of raw pop but was done in by his free-swinging ways, never posting a single O-Swing% under 40% and last year his highest yet at 47%. But this year, it’s down to a far more passable 36%, and he’s still been able to keep his Z-swing% to a strong 75%. So although his 68% Contact% is concerning, I’m more encouraged that his Z-contact% is up five points from last year, from 78% to 83%. I also love his batted ball profile this year, with a flyball% up to 44%, which you can imagine plays well with an insane HardHit% of 61%. Then you may remember that while he hasn’t done it yet, he can run, and stole five bases last year before the rule change. Although he’s still not playing quite every day, he could end up with similar production to Willson Contreras, and could be even better on a per-game basis. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to be aggressive and add him in 10-team leagues if you don’t have one of the league’s top backstops.
Jack Suwinski (OF, Pittsburgh Pirates)
Mi casa su casa and mi winski su winsky. Yeah, that’s probably going down in my pun hall of shame, but at least it’ll have plenty of company. Jack has lived up to his first name as he’s already managed five jacks in 65 AB to go with a surprisingly excellent .269/.385/.635 line with two SB. I liked him last year as I figured that with his youth he could still develop into more than just a one-dimensional power guy, but he’s gone enough dimensions to earn a visit from Dr. Strange, as he’s become a walk machine with a 17% BB% and also flashed his wheels with two SB already. I fully believe that walk rate is legit as he’s cut his chase rate all the way down to an elite 17%, and more impressively, he’s done this by raising his Z-Swing% to 67%. Now that’s a batting eye.
He’s also flashing an excellent barrel rate at 22%, which has been complimented quite nicely by a HardHit% of 51% and a fantastic average EV of 93 mph. Statcast is in his corner, giving him a strong xBA of .252 and xSLG of .687, and I believe the pop given that last year he managed a MaxEV of 112 mph. The one odd thing that gives me pause is that, despite being more selective than ever, he’s actually struggled more with pitches on the plate from last year, with a big drop in Z-Contact% from 85% last year to 76% this year. Still, he’s at least made up for it somewhat with an improved O-Contact% but it is something to look out for. Still, in this suddenly competitive Bucs lineup, he’s likely to continue to play regular as he’s shown that he can play a capable center field. Bounce a ball and pick up Jack in all 12-team formats as well as 10-team OBP.
Harold Ramírez (1B/OF, Tampa Bay Rays)
It turns out that the Rays have the secret to successful launching, and I bet Elon Musk and his “unexpected rapid disassembly” rocket could’ve learned a thing or two from them. Ramírez is following the Yandy method to some degree, though I must say my level of optimism for him is tamed a bit for a few reasons. The first is that he still finds himself in a platoon as well as other talented Rays hitters like Josh Lowe, who I don’t regret recommending as a 15-team add early on. Also, he just doesn’t have the barrel improvement that Yandy showed in his approach change. But now on to the good stuff.
Ramírez, who has never had a groundball rate below 53%, is now all the way down to 43%, which has certainly played a role in the five homers he’s walloped this April in just 69 PA. One more homer, and he’ll tie his total from all of last year (435 PA)! Sure, it’s a bit fluky, as the 27% Barrel% is unlikely to stick, but the good news is that unlike Yandy, he hasn’t sacrificed any contact, with a career-best 90% Z-Contact%, and a 27% CSW% that’s the same of his career average. He joins the list of wild Rays swingers who started swinging less, with a career-best 41% O-Swing% to go with a 69% Z-swing%. Although he’s always had plus running speed but never been a burner, I do think he should attempt at least a few bags, though it seems thus far that the players taking advantage of it are the runners who have more baserunning savvy than natural sprint speed. Still, as an 1B/OF in a loaded lineup who should at the very least be able to maintain a strong batting average with double digit pop, he’s a fine add in 12-team batting average leagues, provided you have an option to switch out when he’s platooned.
Brandon Marsh (OF, Philadelphia Phillies)
It turns out all he needed was a city that better appreciated his incredible beard. Brandon has started to remind people why he was recently a top prospect, hitting a tantalizing .357/.444/.729 with four HR and one SB in 81 PA. While he obviously won’t keep up this Harper-esque pace, this isn’t all smoke, mirrors and vision-obscuring beard hairs, as he’s showing significantly improved plate discipline with a solid 27% O-Swing% and a career-best 79% Contact%, leading to his SwStr% dropping from 13% to a solid 9%.
As far as batted ball quality he’s made some small improvements as well, as he’s already posted a stronger maxEV than last year with one ball struck at 110 mph, and he’s also rocking a much-improved 13% barrel% and 44% HardHit%. With all this, it’s surprising that Statcast remains skeptical on him with an xBA of .239 and xSLG of .475, which is certainly possible but I disagree, as Marsh is also pulling the ball more and making less soft contact. Given that he nabbed double-digit bags last year, I’m surprised he’s not running more and I hope that he does, because he could be an underrated 20-10 asset this year on a lineup that will look formidable when Harper returns. Add in 12-team leagues, especially batting average leagues.
Jarren Duran (OF, Boston Red Sox)
If Jarred Kelenic has taught us anything about struggling power/speed prospects, it’s that third time’s the charm. Duran has been the spark plug for Boston’s offense in the fallen Duvall’s wake, hitting a superlative .400/.425/.629 with a dinger and two SB in 40 PA. While I think there’s a slight chance his BABIP of .542 with his 30% strikeout rate is not entirely sustainable, he is legitimately barreling up the ball with five barrels and a 20% rate. It seems part of this is raising his launch angle from 8 degrees to 14, though I’m sure his new MaxEV of 111 mph also helps.
The odd thing is that he’s not pulling the ball for barrels with just a 12% pull%, so perhaps if he can fix that he can keep hitting dingers, especially as a lefty hitting at Fenway. It seems he’s revamped his plate approach to be more patient, with a low 57% Swing% that it seems is helping him pick his pitch to punish. It may seem early but I’m scooping him up in all 15-team leagues as well as considering as a spec streamer in five-outfielder batting average 12-team leagues.
Yan Gomes (C, Chicago Cubs)
It seems that this is the year of all things Yan, Yandy, Yan Gomes, and Al Yankovic. Okay, it’s Weird Al’s year every year. Still, Gomes is still not rostered in most 15-team leagues despite playing fairly regularly and being one of the best-producing backstops in the game, with a strong .305/.311/.576 with five HR in 61 PA. While of course he’s in a bit over his head now, he has improved his power stroke, already reaching a 110 mph maxEV that is better than anything he’s hit since 2017. His 10% Barrel% is also a career-best, and while I don’t think aside from that he’s fundamentally different than he’s been any other year, he continues to be a perennially underrated player in batting average leagues. I’d consider him as a stream over some of the struggling bigger name catchers on draft day. If he flames out, say “Yo Gomes, smell ya later!” to the fresh prince of Barrel Air.
Pavin Smith (1B/OF, Arizona Diamondbacks)
Jake McCarthy just got steamrolled, and Smith is Pavin a new path to playing time. He’s hitting a studly .353/.463/.618 with two HR in 41 PA, so it might seem odd that I’m considering him a deep league add. For that, you can just look at his recent history of mediocrity that has left many skeptical. But while he obviously can’t keep this up, I think he’s showed encouraging signs such as an improving barrel rate the past few years before hitting a career-best 12% barrel% so far. With such a strong walk rate, that’s a skill set I can trust.
Aside from his 56% HardHit%, there isn’t much driving this performance as his launch angle of 6 is considerably lower than last year and his plate skills haven’t changed for the better. But still, he now has an opportunity and useful multi-eligibility, and a solid play in all NL-only formats or as an OBP streamer in deeper 15-teamers.
Ezequiel Duran (3B/SS/OF, Texas Rangers)
Ezequiel got the wheels, go sing about it. He’s gobbled up most of the playing time left from a void in the wake of Seager and other various injuries, and skill issues of the Texas offense and impressed, hitting .277/.320/.404 with one HR and two SB in 50 PA. What has really caught my attention is that a few days ago he hit a ball that set his new personal best for maxEV by a significant margin at 113 mph, nearly 3 mph better than his best from last year and nearly 5 mph better than anything he hit this year prior. It wasn’t a cheap grounder either, as it was a screaming liner hit for a double. If we could get excited for the punch-less Santiago Espinal last year, we can get hyped for this… especially since he now qualifies at SS and OF in addition to 3B, and looks likely to get it at the keystone soon as well.
Although his barrel rate is still low and his plate skills have yet to improve, I’ll bet on a former top prospect with power/speed upside who’s currently rocking a 50% HardHit%, and hope that like Jarren, his new playing opportunity will leave him hungry like the wolf, so quickly picking him up in deep leagues and deeper 15-team AVG teams in need of a positional multi-eligible guy would be the reflex. Okay, this is a Duran Duran joke, since I’m clearly not getting through to Gen Z with one. But I hope I get through with Gen Zquiel.
José Abreu (1B, Chicago White Sox)
This makes me rather sad as I, despite my doubts, did draft Abreu in the hopes that somehow Houston’s short porch would save him. But this was never great logic, considering that Chicago’s south side has a better hitter’s park than Houston overall by a good margin. All good things must come to an end, and Abreu isn’t exactly causing panic, but isn’t comforting anyone either, with a lethargic .240/.275/.279 line that really highlights that last year’s power drought was likely more than just a fluke. And unlike last yeah, he doesn’t have Statcast painting a rosier picture, with a still rather sad .238 xBA and .358 xSLG. Not exactly top 10 first baseman material.
Although he’s not Nelson Cruz age territory at 36, it’s definitely an age many hitters decline if they make it that far, and that’s what seems to be happening here. His max EV is down and so is his barrel% at just 6% after double digit barrel rates the past few years (okay, well technically last year was a drop and near miss at 9.5%). This seems to be a continuation of last year’s trend of hitting the ball into the ground too much, with a career-worst launch angle of 6%, and more striking is his quality of contact, as his hard% dropped from 37% to 24%, and even worse, his soft% rose from 11% to 23%. It’s not in an effort to make more contact either as his 31% CSW% is below average and career worst. I know he’s a slow starter and Jose Miranda showed how fast someone can seemingly break out, but there are just too many red flags and too many strong alternatives to stick around in 10-team formats and 12-team OBP. So José can you see your way off my team?
Javier Báez (SS, Detroit Tigers)
I knew after the Tigers signed him that he was bound to be their next Bobby Higginson bust contract, so maybe my being this down on him is just a case of Confirmation Báez. He reinvented himself as a hitter in the same way Twisted Metal two reinvented itself into Twisted Metal three, doing lots of things people asked for yet being absolutely worse all-around. Really going with the relatable references here, I am. It’s rather shocking that this is the same player who walloped 31 home runs as recently as 2021 and is still just 30, but he may as well be Samson with a shaved head that’s been salted so hair can never grow again. He’s hitting an odd-looking .234/.294/.286 with nary a homer to his name, and two stolen bases. Bet you didn’t expect Nico Hoerner to hit for more pop than him, didya?
I wish I could say it’s bad luck, but he’s sporting mediocre power metrics with a career-high 51% GB% and 36% HardHit%, and most strikingly, a 0% Barrel%. He’s already had 86 PA and not a single one! Even in last season’s mess he finished with 33! If it weren’t for that, I’d be happy that he’s hitting for the best contact% of his career at 73% as well as a surprisingly cromulent CSW% of 28%. But unfortunately, the most important thing he did to make his profile work was to hit the ball hard, and he’s in a park where hard contact is more important than anything. He had a comeback in the second half of last year and could do it again, but I don’t think it’s a lock to happen again and don’t want to subject myself to the pain in the meantime. Cut in 12-team leagues and consider as a cut in 15-team OBP where he’s always been a poor bet to return value.
Jake Fraley (OF, Cincinnati Reds)
It’s never a good look when even an offense-boosting environment and a homer-boosting home park can’t make you look good. Fraley enticed many drafters in the 200s on draft day with a seeming opportunity to go 20-20 with solid OBP just by hitting enough flyballs, but he failed to capitalize on his opportunity and is already getting muscled out of playing time by burlier bats. Although it seems he’s doing what he was signed to do with a career-high flyball rate of 43%, it seems just missing the required oomph. Even with the great home park, perhaps we should’ve been more skeptical of the rather generous HR/FB% of 18% and 20% the past few years to regress, given that last year he had a rather low HardHit of 27%.
This year, it’s even lower with a marshmallow-esque (but not tasty) 24% HardHit%. You’ll find it hard to hit balls out of the park much less to the outfield with that. I do think that perhaps his current HR/FB of 5% will positively regress especially as the weather warms up, but I also don’t know if he’ll still be getting regular playing time at that point. The Reds still have talent waiting in the wings with Elly De La Cruz and Christian Encarnacion-Strand waiting in the wings who actually do have real offense ability. And while similar sleeper TJ Friedl has been overperforming, he has the capability of playing center field which Fraley lacks. Although he still has solid raw power at 112 mph, he also has a career of a track record of rarely reaching it, and I’d rather roll with one of the many waiver wire outfielders popping up than stick with this mediocrity in 15-team batting average leagues, although if it’s an OBP league you might want to consider your alternatives first.
Lenyn Sosa (2B, Chicago White Sox)
There’s really not much to say here except that this was a rather rise and fall of Lenyn, He’s hitting just .122/.143/.220 with 1 HR in 41 AB on the season, and an even worse .067 in 15 AB this week. When you look at his peripherals and his age at 23, it’s easy to conclude that he isn’t this bad, and I don’t think he is, as his contact rate, flyball rate and hard contact rate all aren’t that bad. That being said, he’s probably running out of time to prove himself, he doesn’t offer any baserunning speed like competitor Elvis Andrus, and so he’s really worth letting go in all redraft leagues, and seeing if you can still get Edmundo instead.
Featured Image by Ethan Kaplan (@DJFreddie10 on Twitter and @EthanMKaplanImages on Instagram)
Yes, there are others as well. It turns out that usually the name search that populates when I typed in his name didn’t populate and I jumped to conclusions, without realizing it was because my internet had died for a few minutes. Fixed.
Good to remember Ruben Mateo though now… and Ruben Rivera, top prospect turned Jeter thief
I am wondering when some stats are said to stabilize, or at least stabilize enough to respect the results and accept the risk.
also, TB has helped change just about all of their batters. take a look at each batter, and most of them have made changes this year alone.
also, the batters do unusually better I think their analytic dept must be very sharp. Maybe even to the point where they are analyzing the opp pitchers repetoire vs their hitters talents. just guessing.
at the very least they are getting the most out of their batters.