Welcome back to Buy and Sell, where this week’s hitter theme is “Build me up, uppercut!” It seems there are quite a few former scrubs looking to join the fly-ball revolution early on, and time will tell whether they’ll spring to life or be crushed and occupy the free agent pool.
It’s still so early, but that isn’t stopping the FAAB from flying. You don’t want to miss out on a potential breakout, so lets investigate.
Joc Pederson (OF, Los Angeles Dodgers)
With a performance like this, he’s sending his competition to the Alex Verdugout. It may only be 21 plate appearances, but Joc Pederson has put on a clinic with a .438 average and three taters, with an 18% walk rate and 9% strikeout rate, and if you think it’s 100% fluke, you may be the April fool. He’s showing a more discerning eye and hitting the ball well, with a career-best 90% contact rate (96% Z-Contact) and a Betts-ian 4.4% swinging-strike rate. He’s also clobbering the ball with a 64% hard-hit rate and 0% soft-contact rate, with a career-low 31% ground-ball rate to send more balls out of the park. I liked him as a sleeper heading into the year as he underperformed his expected stats last year. Now I’m buying in all leagues and formats, and that’s not me being Jocular with you.
Tim Beckham (SS/3B, Seattle Mariners)
I can’t not write about him as it’s not every day a non-prospect player goes from under 5% owned to 58% in a single week, thanks to stellar performance in a few high-profile games. The most eye-popping thing about his numbers may be his suddenly Carlos Santana-like 16% walk rate, and to his credit, this seems to be somewhat legitimate as his O-Swing% went from a career 33% to just 22% this year. Unfortunately, his patient eye is not helping him make contact, as his 78% Z-Contact is below his marks the past two years. On the bright side, so far he’s made better quality contact, with a career-high 35% fly-ball rate and 45% hard-hit rate. With 25-homer ability, there’s certainly enough here to pounce in 18-team and 15-team mixed leagues, and I’d even speculate on him in 12-team OBP. Don’t break the bank, but bend it for Beckham.
Kolten Wong (2B, St. Louis Cardinals)
I assumed he would no longer be discussed a week ago, but as his ownership jumped from 3% to 24%, I was proven Wong. Kolten is doing his best Jose Altuve impression with a .500 average, along with three home runs and two stolen bases to make owners dream of five-tool fantasy production. Of course, it’s only been 20 plate appearances, and I’m not entirely sure that .545 BABIP is sustainable. Judging from his startling drop in contact rate leading to a 14.1% swinging-strike rate (double his 2018 rate), it seems he is selling out for power and fly balls, with a shockingly high 61% fly-ball rate and a career-best 36% hard-hit rate. While the results so far have been excellent, I’m concerned that the bottom could fall out if he continues to whiff at such an elevated rate. Wong story short, I’d only add in 15-team leagues and deeper 12-team average formats only and wouldn’t advise blowing too much FAAB on him.
Adam Jones (OF, Arizona Diamondbacks)
When you snooze you lose, but Adam Jones wins when you lose Souza. As much as it sucks for Souza and the team, they must be glad they picked Jones off the scrap heap, and he’s made the most of his time in the lineup. His ownership nearly doubled to 45%, and he started hot, hitting .375 with three homers in 24 plate appearances. While his 0% walk rate and 16% strikeout rate won’t wow anyone, he actually deserves far better with a shocking 90% contact rate so far (97% zone-contact rate). If he can regain even some of his pre-2018 power with his current high 45% fly-ball rate, he could return to 20-plus home runs with a .290 average, making him a worthwhile add in 15-team and 12-team average leagues … just not if it’s OBP. He made a career of proving wrong people calling for his demise, I bet he’d love one last hurrah for the haters.
Ryon Healy (1B/3B, Seattle Mariners)
I’ll admit I thought that after a big opening series, his value inflation was nothing but Healy-um. But there may be something more here, as he reportedly made tweaks to his swing that have helped his ownership soar. He’s currently hitting .310 with two home runs, eight runs and six RBI, with a much improved 7% walk rate and 13% strikeout rate. I think the strikeout rate will rise, but he does seem to be more patient so far, with a 26% chase rate, well below his 36% career mark, which is especially nice with a career high 68% zone-swing rate. It seems he is one of many joining the fly-ball revolution, with a 56% fly-ball rate and just 20% ground-ball rate. He could be a sleeper source of 30 taters and a .270 average, and a not-awful OBP. I’d snag him in all 15-team leagues and 12-team average leagues but would also speculate on him in 12-team OBP. If your offense is hurting, go Healyourself.
Ryan McMahon (2B/1B, Colorado Rockes)
I’m saving up my FAAB to build a Ryan McMansion. Like many spring battles, the winner of the two competitors ends up being both of them. It was seeming like he may have won the battle outright with his torrid spring, but now that Daniel Murphy’s out at least a month with his hand injury, Ryan McMahon finally has some short-term security. While he hasn’t really done anything noteworthy offensively yet, projections are optimistic on what he can do with regular playing time, projecting at least 15 home runs, five stolen bases, and a .270 average. So at worst he’s a 2018 DJ Lemahieu, and he still has the upside to pop 20-plus home runs if he can keep the strikeouts in check. He’s currently owned in 19% of leagues, and that should rise quickly, especially one he gains second base eligibility in your league if he didn’t have it already. With how thin the position is, he should be added in all 15-team and 12-team leagues, especially OBP formats.
Omar Narvaez (C, Seattle Mariners)
If he keeps hitting like this, I’ll have to call him Javiomar Narbaez. He’s tied with Gary Sanchez for the lead in home runs by a catcher, which is funny, but I think this may be no joke. He made a notable addition to his power last year, increasing his hard-hit rate from an anemic 19% to 29%, and it’s currently at 47%. But what’s craziest is his ground-ball rate, which was 42% last year and is currently at 18% with a 59% fly-ball rate. While I’m not sure how sustainable this is, he’s still only 27, and it’s common for catchers to develop late offensively. I think he has a solid shot of being a top-10 catcher the rest of the way. Buy him in all 18-team and 15-team formats, and I’d take a gamble as a flier even in deeper 12-team formats.
Yandy Diaz (3B, Tampa Bay Rays)
The Yandyman can, and it makes your lineup taste good. I believe the Rays got him knowing they can fix him and turn those bulging biceps to bombs. The early returns look promising, as he had two homers in spring and now is hitting .353 with a home run and and a 3:1 BB:K over 20 plate appearances. But what’s better is that he’s upped his fly-ball rate to 31%. Sure, he still has a 50% ground-ball rate, but with his insane 69% hard-hit rate, that’s enough to give him 15-plus home run power with easy upside for more. I think the fly balls will increase more as his drop in contact rate suggests he’s trying to make his swing more uppercut. Especially because he has a high floor with average and OBP, I’m buying immediately in all 18-team and 15-team formats and as a spec add/flier in 12-team OBP.
Clint Frazier (OF, New York Yankees)
If you want production on the skint, look no further than Clint. While Frazier’s own injuries have held him back the past few years, it’s the injuries of others that have given him an opportunity, now that Giancarlo Stanton is out for a while and Miguel Andujar for even longer. Even though it seems he’s been around forever, he’s still just 24, and he still has interesting power/speed upside even though it may come with a high strikeout rate. In 183 major league plate appearances, he’s hit just .238 with four home runs and one stolen base with a 31% strikeout rate, but I expect better results with increased role security. I’d expect a .250 average with a pace of 18 home runs and seven stolen bases, though there’s still upside for more. Add in all 18-team leagues and is at least a viable spec bench stash in 15-team leagues.
Christian Vazquez (C, Boston Red Sox)
In a handful of games, Christian Vazquez already has a third of his 2018 homers. Because he has one and last year he had three. While it’s near impossible to glean much from just 16 plate appearances, it seems at first glance that Vazquez may also be attempting to join the fly-ball revolution. with a dip in his contact rate but with career high fly-ball rate (55%), pull rate (46%) and hard-hit rate (46%). Sure, it could just be small sample size noise, but catcher is so bad that even an inkling of upside is worth looking into, especially because his previous best hard-hit rate was just 28%. Even if it causes his average to dip, I’d rather have a catcher who hits .240 to .260 but with 10 to 15 dingers. I’m adding in AL-only, 18-team and all two-catcher formats but may be also worth a 15-team gamble soon if he can keep it up.
Shin-Soo Choo (OF, Texas Rangers)
Maybe this is the year the Choo Choo Train finally goes off the rails. He’s swinging and missing at everything with a hideous 60% contact rate. Or maybe it’s just that he’s had 10 at-bats. Sure, Choo has fooled us with early season slumps before only to finish with fine numbers. But this time, he’s 36 going on 37, and the Rangers seem much more content benching him to make room for younger talent. Without a high volume of at-bats, Choo’s production will look much more pedestrian, and in 10-team and 12-team formats, it’s time to Choo Choo Choose another player.
Kevin Pillar (OF, San Francisco Giants)
When Oracle Park steals his power, it’ll be grand Pillarceny. He was recently traded from the Blue Jays and their hitter-friendly ballpark, which was likely the only reason he still could muster double-digit homers. He wore out his welcome hitting just .063 in 17 plate appearances, and while he may find more playing time in San Fran, it’s getting harder to see how he’ll really be any different from Steven Duggar but older. Because of the Giants’ lack of alternatives, he may have a longer leash with this ball club, but he shouldn’t for your fantasy team and should be cut in 12-team and 15-team formats and can also get the axe in 18-team OBP formats.
Steven Duggar (OF, San Francisco Giants)
Note: I previously wrote about Hunter Renfroe here, but I no longer stand by that as A. I didn’t realize he was only being benched due to fatigue and B. Popping two homers should help keep him in the lineup. Welp, that’s April for ya. As for Duggar, it hasn’t been announced that his role will change following the Pillar trade, but it’s likely he’ll be bumped from center field due to Pillar’s gold glove defense. And while Duggar could play elsewhere in the outfield, he’s simply easier to bump out now. While his average has been high, it’s not likely to last with a 38% K% and a 14% SwStr%, especially without having the power to compensate. Also, his name backwards is “Raggud” so if you hold him in 12-team and 15-team formats he may just run you ragged.
Brian Anderson (OF/3B, Miami Marlins)
Yes, it’s probably just a slump, but I don’t really get why he was drafted so often in the first place. What we saw in 2018 was likely the best possible outcome for a player with skills as pedestrian as Anderson’s, so seeing any reversion to mediocrity is enough for me to toss him back into the lake for the promise of a bigger fish. I’ll take the blue pill and forget about Mr. Anderson in anything shallower than an NL-only format.
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