Welcome back to Buy & Sell, where this week’s theme is something rattling in Arizona! Texas also has some hot bats (and I’m not talking about the caves), and if I had more time, I’d spill some digital ink on Solak and Calhoun rounding out their lineup. In researching this week, I also accidentally stumbled into some very intriguing deep-league plays who could be the talk of the town a few weeks from now. So let’s get down and sandy.
Carson Kelly (C, Arizona Diamondbacks)
Prospect catchers are often late bloomers, but Carson may as well be in Little Shop of Horrors because he’s a pitcher-eating plant. That’s a joke for the large group of botanist baseball fans. Kelly has not only been the best hitting catcher—he’s been one of the league’s best hitters period, at least if you believe Statcast. He’s hitting a studly .318/.500/.705 with 5 HR in 62 PA, and that comes with an astounding 23% BB% and a 16% K%. While that should regress, Statcast believes in what he’s done so far with a .306 xBA and mammoth .728 xSLG. I do think that while this is driven by barrels, he’s more likely going to settle in as a .270 20 HR pace with chip in speed, but this is a catcher, and that’s still excellent. Add in all formats.
Jesse Winker (OF, Cincinnati Reds)
Winker is making this look so easy, he can do it with one eye closed. Take that, Mr. Bauer. Winker is out of his mind right now, hitting .382/.432/.691 with 5 HR over 74 PA, and yet he’s still unowned in some 10-team and even 12-team formats. Sure, it makes sense to be somewhat skeptical as he hit .269 and .255 the past 2 years, but he’s shown the ability to hit for power (12 HR in last year’s short season) and average earlier in his career, and it seems he may now be putting it together. Of course, he’s been a bit lucky, though his xBA of .308 and xSLG of .632 is nothing to sneeze at. It seems he’s repeating last year’s strategy of sacrificing some contact for power, and combined with his high fly ball rate and a bandbox home park, that looks like a smart trade. While he’s currently not drawing as many walks in usual, he’s hitting at the top of the stacked reds lineup and still a strong play in 10-team OBP and also viable in leagues using batting average.
Evan Longoria (3B, San Francisco Giants)
He used to be a star before becoming a boring regular, but now he is making a triumphant return to cap off his Longstoria. Longo has been on fire recently, now hitting .316/.409/.614 with 4 home runs in 66 PA and a 1.023 OPS. I get that it’s easy to write this off as a hot start, as he had something similar at the start of last year before cooling off, and he did just fight off a day-to-day injury, but I’m still looking favorably upon Evan Almighty. He actually set a career-best max exit velocity of 113 mph, besting his previous best set last year by 1.5 mph. That helps me believe a lot more in his supreme 21% Barrel% (96th percentile) and an astounding 70% Hard Hit%. That is best in baseball, so much so that Statcast calls Longo unlucky and deserving of a mind-blowing .339 xAVG and .752 xSLG. Especially seeing as he’s also showing the best O-swing of his career at 22% and hardly sacrificing contact if he can just stay on the field, this may be his best year yet. Add in all 12-team formats (like I just did in the Pitcher List Legacy League) and 10-team formats as well, especially OBP formats.
Adolis García (OF, Texas Rangers)
He’s got a new Adolease on life. After crushing in Spring training, he has wowed with the boomstick enough to get Leody Taveras sent to the minors (okay, Taveras’s terrible hitting may have also helped a bit). Garcia is a physical beast but was expected to have too much swing-and-miss to capitalize on his power-speed combo. But the 28-year-old is proving the doubters wrong with 5 HR already and a .269/.309/.615 line with a stolen base. Statcast says he’s no fluke, with a .279 xBA and .622 xSLG. Be ready for a potential slump as high-strikeout players are streaky, but he can get homers and stolen bases in bunches while hot and should nab more bags with his 84th percentile sprint speed. Take a flier on him in 12-team leagues using batting average.
Kole Calhoun (OF, Arizona Diamondbacks)
Murphy’s Law says that whatever will go wrong will go wrong. Kole’s law goes well with hot dogs and corn on the cob. But Kole’s fly balls aren’t just cans of corn, with two home runs already and coming off two years as one of the best home run hitters in the league. He was largely forgotten in shallower drafts due to his spring injury, but he should hit in the middle of the lineup that is generally underrated right now with the upsurge with Kelly, Escobar, and crew. Add the boring but dependable slugger in all 15-leagues and consider as an injury replacement to add or monitor in 12-team OBP formats.
Pavin Smith (OF/1B, Arizona Diamondbacks)
He’s really Pavin the way for post-hype prospects. Expectations were not exactly high for Smith, being the #15 prospect for Arizona and winning the outfield role mostly due to a lack of alternatives, but the D-back has been sneakily solid. He’s hitting .288/.329/.485 with 2 homers, and Statcast seems to think that may just be the beginning, giving him a phenomenal expected average of .325 and slugging of .592. He certainly has been hitting the ball hard with a 57% hard contact and looks to be a good bet to maintain his solid 20% strikeout rate. David Peralta has been a hotter pick up right now for some reason, but Pavin is the newer, younger, more-position eligible, harder, better, faster, stronger version. Add in 15-team batting average leagues or a spec in 15-team OBP or deeper 12-team average leagues, as he shows pitchers that “Pavin” is actually short for “Pain in the Glavin.”
Sam Haggerty (OF, Seattle Mariners)
It’s worth the rugburn to run to get S.Hag. Nobody laid out the red carpet for Haggerty, as he was a complete draft afterthought, but in spite of lack of playing time, he’s making quite an entrance hitting .263/.300/.447 with 2 HR and 3 SB in just 40 PA. He is a great sleeper for nabbed bags with a 98th percentile sprint speed, which he clearly is not afraid of using, and has some pop in the bat with a 107 mph Hard Hit% and 50% Hard Hit%. And he’s making much better contact than last year with an 82% Contact% (94% Z-Contact%). While he’ll have trouble keeping a role in the outfield, if they give Moore the boot and give Haggerty a role, he could be a Whit Merrifield lite kind of late breakout. For now, stream in AL-only and spec add in 15-team leagues where you need SB, and I’m scooping him wherever I can because I’ve got the moves like Jaggerty.
Andrew Knizner (C, St. Louis Cardinals)
If you’re looking at catching options this deep, you better get down on your Kniz and pray. However, with Yadi hitting the IL, the unheralded 26-year-old will get a shot at the lion’s share of at-bats. While his glove will make Yadi’s presence feel missed, the bat should be fine. He’s been cromulent in a small sample with a .273 AVG and 0 HR in 22 PA, but his per-pitch rate stats give hope for the bat, as he’s sporting a 91% contact% and a 4% SwStr% that is elite for any hitter, much less a catcher. That’s about a 20% Contact% jump from his previous small samples, so it should regress some, but it’s still a good sign, especially as he’s hitting the ball reasonably hard with a 41% Hard Hit%. Over a full season, he could probably hit .260-.270 with 10-15 HR, so he’ll be a great NL-only and two-catcher league stream for as long as Yadi is out.
Gary Sanchez (C, New York Yankees)
I know emotions shouldn’t play a big role in fantasy, but after rostering him last year, waiting for the turnaround like Godot, I’m not doing this again. You may remember last week I wrote up the perennially underappreciated Kyle Higashioka as a buy, and as Sanchez’s great first week seems more and more like a mirage, it will be hard to deny Higgy’s bat. Aaron Boone has already said that Higashioka will be getting more time going forward, so Sanchez is running out of chances. Sanchez is now hitting a measly .182/.308/.309, and I’m not assuaged by his 23% K% as it’s belied by a 68% Contact% similar to 2020. This year is full of intriguing breakout catchers (Posey, Kelly, Narvaez, and, Trevino to name a few), and you’re likely better taking a flier on them than risking being stuck with Sanchez’s dead weight. He’s a clear drop in all 10-team formats and a viable drop in 12-team AVG leagues where there’s a good replacement still available.
Dylan Moore (2B/OF, Seattle Mariners)
He was a fantasy anchor last year, but now he’s become completely unMoored. My favorite hot take tweet of the offseason was “Underrated: Nick Solak, Overrated: Dylan Moore,” which means I am a clairvoyant, and anything about Franchy was posted by someone who hacked my account. The one piece of good news is Moore now qualifies at second base in all leagues, but it doesn’t mean much when he stinks at every position. He’s hit a nauseating .113/.243/.226 with 1 HR and 4 SB, and the stolen bases don’t make up for it. It’s not bad luck either, as his xBA of .198 and xSLG of .342 are something to sneeze at and sanitize. With fresh breakout Ty France and my favorite new deep sleeper Sam Haggerty both able to play a passable (flexible definition) second base, his leash may as well be a piece of floss on a choker collar before he gets replaced. Sell in 12-team and 15-team AVG formats.
Josh Fuentes (1B, Colorado Rockies)
Colorado can’t make a mountain out of a bowl of swill. Fuentes is doing some things right, including increasing his fly ball percentage, which is generally a good idea. But you know it’s bad when Statcast says that your .190 AVG is correct and that your .302 SLG% is lucky. I’m still firmly on the Cron train, who, unlike Fuentes, also knows how to draw a walk. Cut Fuentes in all 15-teamers and all leagues that use OBP.
Martin Maldonado (C, Houston Astros)
Mal donado in Spanish means “badly donated,” which is fitting if you took him from the end-game catcher charity. He’s rated by Statcast as the best framer in the game, and if you play in a fantasy league that counts that, congratulations. Otherwise, he’s been the garbage that garbage would throw out, which shouldn’t be so surprising considering him hitting .215 with 6 Homers last year was considered a “career year.” His expected stats are worst in the majors, with an xAVG of .120 and an xSLG of .140. Drop in all non-catcher-defense-only leagues, and now would be a smart time to add deep league shares of my fantasy kryptonite, Jason Castro. Really, this is his year—I can feel it!