Welcome back to Buy & Sell, where this week’s theme is buying low where bats are slow. Sure, there are as many hot bats in here as a tropical cave, but with May right around the corner, emotions start to get the best of impatient fantasy team owners, which can spell opportunity for you. We’re reaching the point where some per-pitch metrics such as contact rate reach a stabilization point (around 50 PA), so judgments about hitters start to become a little less random. However, keep in mind that there are all sorts of shenanigans regarding the state of the ball and its impact on offense, so I wouldn’t make flash judgments on matters of power-hitting yet. With that said, on to the list!
Ty France (1B/2B, Seattle Mariners)
He’s letting his bat eat cake because this is looking like the France Revolution. The 27-year-old is off to a scorching start, hitting .368/.443/.632 with 5 HR and a league-leading 21 RBI, and this week has hit an even more outrageous .519 with 3 of those homers. On the surface, it seems it’s not just luck, as his 9% BB% and 11% K% are both career bests. The underlying stats don’t entirely support a major change, but he is taking slightly fewer called strikes and improved his already-great in-zone contact to an elite 95%. This may have helped improve his batted ball numbers, with a slightly improved 42% HardHit%.
While Statcast validates what he’s done so far with an eye-popping .374 xBA and .638 xSLG, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist or even a social scientist to realize he’s going to regress. But there’s no reason he can’t flirt with a .300 AVG and 20-25 HR, which really is like discount Xander Bogaerts but with superior 2B/1B dual eligiblity. So nab Ty now in all leagues like this were 1995 and he was a Ty beanie baby, and hope he holds his value better.
Taylor Ward (OF, Los Angeles Angels)
Ward. Huh (Good God, y’all). What is he good for? Absolutely everything. I suggested Ward as an add in 15-teamers last week, and he’s been so awesome, when saw he’s still owned in only 20% of leagues, I’ll risk redundancy to recommend him repeatedly. Ward is terrorizing pitchers with a .353/.500/.647 line and 3 homers with 3 HR and 1 SB in just 10 games (44 PA), making Maddon looking like a mad genius for promising him playing time and batting him 2nd, and more recently, in the leadoff spot, where he’s sporting an insane 238 wRC+.Where did this come from? Who knows.
Well, he had always been talented but had struggled with injuries, and the former catcher may have needed time to develop the bat after moving off the position. In 2019 he did hit .306 with 27 HRs and 11 SB in Triple-A (likely rabbit ball-aided) though he couldn’t translate that production to the majors. Although his .409 BABIP will absolutely regress, I do believe he’s too legit to quit, as his career-best 18% O-Swing% (chase rate) and 26% CSW% suggest he now has an elite feel for the strike zone, which makes up for his merely average contact rate so that he can barrel the ball with authority. Steamer600 projected him before the season to hit in the .240s with 21 HR, but I think he’s looking to me more like a 25-30 HR bat with a .260-.270 AVG and a couple chip-in SBs to boot. And maybe even that’s too mild. Add in all 10-team leagues, especially OBP formats.
Alec Bohm (3B, Philadelphia Phillies)
Ever since he swore at Philly, they love him more than ever. I mean hey, this is the same city that gave Bill Burr a standing ovation after he spent his 20-minute set hurling insults at them. But his bat will earn the love too. Sure, he’s not dominating but he’s hitting a strong .316 with 1 HR and 11 RBI in 38 AB, and he’s cooled off lately, hitting just .190 this week. But he is hitting the snot out of the ball with an excellent 55% HardHit% and 4 barrels already on the season. He’s also lifting the ball a bit more, bringing his groundball rate down 5% to 47% and turning that into fly balls.
While it’s a bit too early to rely on expected stats, his xBA of .366 and xSLG of .640 suggest he won’t be stuck with a lone homer for long. The upside with his youth and prospect pedigree in that stacked lineup makes him well worth rolling the dice in all 12-team leagues and some 10-team AVG leagues if you lack an elite bat there. Considering the shakiness of the third base position in general, I’m encouraged by the vote of confidence in Bohm, and avenue to playing time opened by their demotion of Stott (who I suggested to cut last week in all leagues). Soon enough, you won’t need to show off too look smart with Alec.
Jesse Winker (OF, Seattle Mariners)
Winker reminds me of Bitcoin because after Winker’s trade to Seattle, his ADP plummeted and so I was sure I’d look smart “buying the dip”. Now I hate that phrase so much I can’t even eat tortillas. And this is nacho Winker of 2021. Cheesy puns aside, Winker has been one of the worst non-injured top 100 hitters of the year, with a pathetic .158/.329/.175 line with no homers. He’s being dropped in 10-team, 12-team, and even a few 15-leagues, after just a few weeks. But I think he should be okay. For one, Statcast seems to think so, with a .293 xBA and .495 xSLG making him Statcast’s unluckiest hitter so far. He’s also further improved his plate discipline, mostly by spitting on balls and swinging on called strikes giving him an excellent 21% CSW%.
My one concern, and it’s not a tiny one, is his 25% HardHit%, which is pretty terrible and reminds me of the hitter he was from 2017-2018 before he learned to barrel. But I remain optimistic he’ll improve and hit at a solid .270 25 HR pace, which will be plenty useful, especially in OBP leagues where he currently has a 21% Walk rate. Scoop up in any 12-team formats in which he was dropped, especially OBP formats, though if there’s room on the bench it might be wise to keep him there till he gets going.
Jorge Mateo (SS/OF, Baltimore Orioles)
What if I told you that you didn’t need to spend a top 100 pick on Adalberto Mondesi, and that this speedster was less likely to get injured for half the season? You’d probably say Mateo hasn’t done anything to deserve that upside comp or wonder why I’m asking you this at 3 AM in the morning. But Mateo has been the one showing off his wheels with a league-leading 7 swipes so far this season, to go with a .232/.283/.286 line. The first part of that sentence sure sounded better than the second, I know.
Mateo is not what baseball experts would call a “good hitter”. But he also should improve! His xBA of .270 and xSLG of .398 certainly suggest he’s been unlucky, especially since Statcast doesn’t fully account for Sprint Speed, where Mateo’s 94th percentile rank should help him exceed his expected marks. Unfortunately, his 32% K% is not a fluke, as it’s supported by a Galloesque 66% Contact%. Still, even if the average will likely be bad, he does possess decent power for a rabbit and should be able to squeeze out double-digit or near-double-digit power with 30+ SB ability. He’ll also be on a team bad enough to possibly let him work through the inevitable funks, and has nifty dual SS/OF eligibility and possibly 2B as well depending on your league. For 12-team AVG teams that got burned chasing speed, you can get a big energy boost from Yerba Mateo.
Daniel Vogelbach (1B, Pittsburgh Pirates)
What are you looking at? Strike out a Posey. Voguey. Okay, I realize the Venn Diagram of people who are fans of fantasy baseball and Madonna are two separate circles that I’m using as gymnastic rings. But Vogey has been all the rage in Pittsburgh, hitting .320/.382/.560 with 3 Homers in 55 PA. His profile is actually super weird so far this year. See, he has a fantastic 20% O-Swing% and a career-best 85% Contact%, (largely fueled by a 94% Z-Contact%), for a career-best 5% Swinging Strike%… and a career-worst 35% CSW%. How is that even possible? A 31% Called Strike Rate, that’s how, thanks to his 44% Z-Swing%.
If he actually, y’know, swings at pitches, he can do damage, though I think his upside is more of a ..265-270 with 25 HRs and excellent OBP. That’s especially enticing given he’s often been batting in the leadoff spot, even though this may make Ricky Henderson cry inside. Vogelbash is a must-own in 15-teamers (where I’m lucky to have grabbed him 2 weeks ago) and possibly worth streaming in deeper 12-team OBP.
Jose Trevino (C, New York Yankees)
When it comes to deep-league catching values, you either Get Rich or Die Trevino. This was actually a tough one to decide on because on the one hand, I do believe Higashioka should be better than he’s been, as he’s striking out under 30% with an excellent 52% HardHit% despite the anemic .111 AVG. But on the other hand, Trevino is also a defense-first catcher and his offense shows promise in an entirely different way, hitting .278/.316/.333 in just 19 PA. Trevino has quietly been a contact stud, with a mere 5% K%, and has made even more contact with balls (85% O-Contact%) than strikes (80% Z-Contact%). It seems so far the big change is an increase in swing aggressiveness, which has resulted in fewer called strikes and a career-best 25% CSW%. There’s a risk that this approach could backfire, as a 52% O-Swing% is definitely not good, but it’s fun to watch him attempting Astudillo antics.
It’s hard to parse too much from 19 PA, but what is clear is that he’s starting to increasingly become the preferred catcher in the Bronx, and he could have value even without winning the role outright. For one, and this may be most important, his defense has been outstanding, and Statcast rates him as the absolute best pitch framer in baseball. Gerrit Cole certainly approves. For two, Trevino actually has the ability to hit for a high average, and his (Super Small Sample Size alert) xBA of .383 and xSLG of .607 indicate that he’s deserved better. He’s never been a power hitter, but unlike Higgy, he has a safer floor with a .247 career AVG, and moved from pitcher-friendly Texas to the NY bandbox. Given the new dinger-happy digs, it’s a very good sign that he’s slashed his GB% from 44% to 29% while increasing his HardHit% to 47%.
Long story short, if he does in fact win the lion’s share of PT, I think he could easily hit .255 with 9-12 Homers, though I think there’s a chance he can even hit closer to .275 with 15 HR and a few SBs to boot. For now, he’s worth a spec add in all two-catcher leagues and 15-team batting average leagues.
Cooper Hummel (C/OF, Arizona Diamondbacks)
This may seem like a stretch to put him here when he’s hitting .152/.333/.364, though it does come with 2 HRs and 1 SB. I haven’t forgotten Alex Chamberlain’s bold prediction that Cooper Hummel would outproduce Dalton Varsho, which is looking highly unlikely but sure was fun. Statcast certainly thinks he’s deserved better thus far, with a .282 xBA and .564 xSLG that reminds me an awful lot of Jesse Winker. So far! No I am not saying that Cooper Hummel is as good as Winker.
Unfortunately, Hummel does not yet carry catcher eligibility in most leagues, but it’s still a possibility he’ll earn it later this season. If and when he gets it, he could be a steal for his combination of OBP, power, and speed. On the lowly D-Backs, he should move around to get reps around the aforementioned Varsho and Seth Beer, especially if he can heat up. I think he’s well worth the speculative add in 15-team leagues in which he has catcher eligibility, and a spec add 18-team OBP and all NL-only formats.
Carlos Santana (1B, Kansas City Royals)
Carlos Santana’s start of the season has not been Smooth, hitting .114/.264/295 with 1 HR, which certainly looks rather terrifying as a 36-year-old with no position with not one but two top prospects at first base waiting in the wings in Triple-A. Yet, I think Santana will lift this black magic on his bat. For one, his plate discipline and contact are even better than normal, with an excellent 17% BB% and 9% BB%, and it looks like more than a small sample fluke. He actually is exhibiting his best contact rate ever at 87%, which is significant considering this, and his superb 93% Z-Contact% are 5% higher than any year in his 12-year career. But he’s also been more aggressive on strikes with a career-high 70% Z-Swing%, which has led to a career-best 19% CSW% that also happens to be 4th-best in the MLB ahead of Luis Arraez.
But this might not matter so much if the contact quality has slipped (see Jesse Winker), but actually Santana has improved this as well. His current 46% HardHit% and 10% Barrel% are career-best too! And Statcast thinks he’s been unlucky with a .243 xBA and .472 xSLG. Then again, he’s a molasses spill on the basepaths, and perhaps the combo of a pitcher’s park with deadened balls and cold weather has been inhospitable to his 53% FB%. Still, if he keeps this up, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him heat up on a road homestand and give an encore of his excellent 34 HR season in 2019, at least the non-rabbit-ball version. He’s a must-add in AL-only and I’ll argue he’s worth adding in 15-team OBP formats. Maybe his rebound will be Supernatural.
Dansby Swanson (SS, Atlanta Braves)
This version of Swanson is as cold as a frozen TV dinner and nearly as unappealing. In his age 28 season after years of steady improvements, the wheels have fallen off as he sports a hideous 40% K% to go with a .180/.254/.279 line with no homers and 1 SB. I assumed this K rate would be bad luck until I look at his contact rate which has nosedived to a Zunino-esque 61%. Perhaps you assumed he’s selling out for Zunino-like power (last year’s version, anyway), but no dice there too, as his 32% HardHit% is tied for career-worst.
As much as I love to preach patience, this is 10-team and Shortstop is the deepest position of all, so you really pay a heavy opportunity cost every day you stick with him over players that can actually help you. With 67 PA, he actually has a relatively large sample size and that contact% drop is meaningful. So in 10-team and even shallow 12-team leagues, you should cut your losses and embrace a change of plansby.
Andrés Giménez (2B/SS, Cleveland Guardians)
Perhaps it may seem surprising to suggest cutting a 23-year-old hitting .286, but if you own him you probably understand why. Gimenez was a popular sleeper entering the year, with Alex Chamberlain’s boldest prediction that Gimenez would be a top 15 hitter overall. Ludicrous but fun. The problem is, despite a high-contact Spring that gave me hope for a breakout, The batting average is a rapidly fading mirage, as he sports a 30% K% with just a 3% BB%. His power also hasn’t developed further so far, and just 1 SB so far is certainly not what fans were hoping for.
But the biggest reason he’s a cut is that, even in a depleted Guardians lineup, he’s just not getting enough volume. He’s hardly started against lefties at all, which is an odd choice to make for the development of a 23-year-old, and sometimes is benched even when he does have the platoon advantage. When he does play, he bats 9th, which hurts even more on a weak offense like theirs, which is why he’s amassed only 37 PA thus far. The speed could appear in spurts, but I think the zeroes will simply do too much damage to be worth it. He’s worth cutting in 12-team and 15-team OBP formats, at least according to my conscious, who I named Gimeny Crickets.
Brendan Rodgers (2B/SS, Colorado Rockies)
Nothing ever put me to sleep like Mr. Rodgers Neighborhood. He’s hitting a pathetic .078/.192/.098 that certainly seems to be the worst of any major league regular and far from what you’d expect from the guy who hit .284 with 15 homers last year. The worst part is this is what he did after the Rockies’ homestand, and I doubt it’ll get better on the Rocky Road.
Generally Statcast pities slow starters somewhat, but even they think he’s been awful with a .137 xBA and .180 xSLG. How is this possible from the 25-year-old former first-rounder? Well for one, his contact rate has dropped over 10 points to 69%, and his hard-hit rate has also dropped 10%. Those two combined is quite the ugly combo. I’d much rather take a chance on his teammate Jose Iglesias, who at least can be relied upon for making contact. Cut in all 15-team formats, though I wouldn’t fault you for pulling the plug in NL-only if there’s a good alternative on the wire.
Jorge Alfaro (C/OF, San Diego Padres)
He impressed us all with a big spring, but in the end, it seems he is who we thought he was. Alfaro’s season numbers may not look so terrible, as .214 with 1 HR and 1 SB isn’t so bad for a catcher, but there’s one thing I can’t seem to get over. Hmm, what could it be? Oh, maybe it’s his 54% Strikeout rate. That’s over half of his at-bats!
This seemed perhaps some bad luck, as his 59% Contact%, while being worst in the majors, wasn’t that much worse. That was when I saw his 18% Called Strike rate, which is not awful if you’re a Vogelbach type but it sure is when you have a 49% O-Swing%. Among qualified hitters, the worst CSW% in the majors is Avisail Garcia at 37%. While he didn’t have enough PA to qualify, Alfaro would crush them all with his 42% CSW%. He’d honestly have a better shot of production just swinging at nothing. I’d even take Kyle Higashioka over him. Sometimes you gotta let your people go, and even in the deepest leagues’ waiver wire, Alfaro is a name to pass over.
Photography by David John Griffin & Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Michael Packard (@CollectingPack on Twitter)
Where is Vaughn?? I’m going to ask until I see him here…which I will.
Good call on Ward btw. Wow.
Disregard. Not sure how I missed last week’s column.
It’s all good, and yeah what a crazy game from Ward!
What’s the deal with Profar? Is this the long-awaited breakout that we should be buying or a flash in the pan? Looking at his statcast numbers, it seems like his barrel rate is way up despite his hard hit rate being basically the same?
I mean, I think he’s not a breakout per se, but making incremental improvements on a skill set that’s already pretty fantasy viable when he gets playing time? He had 2 back to back 20/10 seasons in 2018/19, and to me it seems his hard hit rate (and average eV) are up in addition to barrel rate. I could see him putting together a .245 24/8 season which is pretty great given he was basically free, I just don’t think it’s star-level.