This week has some new names, and I’m not rehashing Eric “God” Thames, since he’s taken in 95% of leagues, and 100% of leagues in which every owner is stuck in a catatonic state. I’m focusing more on buys than sells this week and moving forward, as it’s the players you add on the wire that will help you win, and depending on the depth of your league, these guys might still be ripe for the roster harvest.
Steven Souza (OF, Rays) – Time to pick up your Souza phone! We wrote up Souza 2 weeks ago, but he’s remained Souza-ling hot, as he’s now hitting .349 with 4 Homers and a .241 ISO. While it’s true that his strikeout rate has been rapidly rising and now up to 25.6%, his swing rates still indicate improvement with plate discipline. Target him for his 20-25 Home Run and 10 SB ability, but with additional value in OBP leagues as he can maintain a 10-12% Walk rate.
Travis Shaw (3B, Brewers) – Shaw’s got lots of fans. In Boston, they loved him so much, they named a supermarket chain after him. While he may not be in the Star Market (Bostonians will get this joke), he’s been outproducing many brand name Third Basemen with 5 HR and a .266 AVG. I think it’s legit, for many reasons. He’s swinging less at everything and it’s helped improve his contact rate and his K rate improvement. Also, he’s maintained his 2016 Hard Hit % of 33.3%, but has cut down his Soft% from 21.9% to 8.3%. I’d like to see him up that FB rate to keep this rate of power up, but he should still hit .260 with 25 HR, 5 SB and a good amount of runs produced. Don’t doubt my claim, I’m Shaw it will happen.
Mitch Moreland (1B, Red Sox) – Moreland should be landing on more fantasy squads. He’s always hit for good Hard%, but it’s up to a bonkers 50% this year, and his FB% is up from a career 37.8% to 44%. But somehow, he only has 2 HR for an 8.3% HR/FB? Yeah, that’ll go up, and fast. Not only that, but he’s lowered his O-Swing% and upped his Z-Swing% and doesn’t seem to be selling out for his power as his contact rates have remained steady. He’s still weaker against lefties (daily leagues take note), but this could be the makings of career year, so even if he’s owned, point out the high BABIP and make your pitch for Mitch.
Austin Hedges (C, Padres) – After starting the year with a big fat goose egg, many owners cut their Hedgs. But even then, his peripherals showed it was just bad luck, and that goose egg is turning golden, with 6 dingers in 8 games, leading all catchers. While the average is still unsexy at .175, his Hard% at 34.9% is excellent for any player, but especially a catcher, and his 45.2 FB% helps him make the most of that contact. He won’t hit for AVG with an ugly 36.5% O-Swing%, but it’ll be better than it is now, and it looks like the power he showed in the minors is real, so expect 20+ longballs by season’s end. I’d buy and pursue aggressively in all leagues, don’t beat around the bush, don’t hedge your bets, bet on Hedges.
Joey Gallo (3B, Rangers) – Another returner to this list, he handsomely repaid people who read the tea leaves (or Statcast), with 7 Home Runs, tied for the league lead, and leads the league in ISO (he’s only hit 4 singles.) This is the Three-True-Outcome Gallo prospect fans prayed would come true, and why you don’t give up on a massively talented (and also just massive) prospect when he’s 23. But on top of the great run production despite hitting low in the lineup, 3 stolen bases (0 Caught Stealing) is also quite a surprising bonus perk. Expect more of the same (well, maybe other than this SB rate), with some very hot and cold streaks mixed in. If Gallo’s on your wire, don’t leave him hanging.
Aaron Judge (OF, Yankees) – Speaking of massive… I bet most people wouldn’t have bet that Judge would be outproducing his favorite physical comp, Stanton. My verdict 2 weeks ago was to pursue Judge and swung a mighty gavel since, with 6 Home Runs and comparable ISO to Gallo and Khris Davis. What he lacks in Gallo’s high walk rate and speed, he makes up for with lower attrition risk due to better contact skills. Buy in all leagues. Case closed.
Jett Bandy (C, Brewers) – I can’t tell if this a cosmic joke to shame the guy who trashed my bullish Bandy bold prediction preseason. But Jumbo Jett has taken off with a studly .308 with 4 Homers while Jonathan Lucroy is counting paper clips or something. His 36.7% Hard% is quite a surprise, and while his swing rates are pretty terrible, he’s made up for it with an excellent contact rate. His power rate will cool down, but he should still be rostered for the balance of skills and a high run lineup. I bet the Angels feel GREAT about trading him for Martin Maldonado. But I’m not gonna Bandy on about it.
Michael Conforto (OF, Mets) – Michael didn’t give owners taking a wait-and-see approach a lot of time to get Conforto-ble. In just 44 PA, he’s amazingly has a .361 AVG that is tied with his .361 ISO and just above his .360 BABIP. That’s a fast journey to 1.0 WAR. It seems thus far he’s been less disciplined and swinging and missing more, but it’s hard to say he’s selling out for power as his Hard% is down from last year. The crazy thing is he’s not pulling and hitting more to center and oppo, so maybe’s he’s experimenting with a change in approach. Well, what matters is he’ll get playing time now, and with his talent he should be added ASAP.
Corey Dickerson (OF, Rays) – It looks like Dickerson spent the offseason dreaming he was back in Coors and hasn’t woken up. He’s made a full rebound from his poor 2016 with a .324 AVG, 5 HR, and .311 ISO. His 36.8 Hard% (akin of what he did in Colorado) shows the power is legit, and combines well with his 43.9% FB%; his current HR/FB of 20% may be sustainable. This could be an example of a rebound from the post-Coors funk (that’s a real thing). While I’d add him in all but the shallowest mixed leagues, be warned that the average is likely a mirage, as his swing rates and contact rates are the worst of his career. But his power makes him worth taking on your team, even with his pathetic supporting cast.
Yuli Gurriel (3B, Astros) – It’s not every day you see one of the best strikeout rates combined with one of the worst swing rates. See his strategy is swing at everything, and thanks to his excellent contact skills, it often ends in a hit. He’s been red hot and now is up to a .333 Avg now, and while he only has 1 HR, that looks like it may go up as his 32.7% Hard% is better than the 28.6% he put up last year. Though the average will come down, I’d take a flier and ride the hot streak in deeper AVG. leagues, since he has 1B/3B dual eligibility in most leagues.
Keon Broxton (OF, Brewers) – Even though he was last year’s Statcast darling, I don’t think it takes a rocket scientist to know a 38.5% K rate is, in baseball jargon “not good”. He’s also walking way less, swinging more at the bad pitches and less at good ones, and swinging through 16%, which is just ugly. But the cherry on top off the poop sundae is he’s not even hitting hard anymore, with a measly 22% Hard%. Lock him out and flush the key on Broxton.
Steve Pearce (OF, Blue Jays) – It seemed that Toronto would be a great location for the super utility man, but boy has he been awful. His Hard% is also way down and his Contact Rate and Swing Rate are a mess, so there’s not much hope of a rebound. Either he’s still not fully recovered from his offseason forearm surgery in September, or he’s just in rapid decline at 34. Either way, the answer to that doesn’t belong on my squad, even in deep AL only.
Mike Napoli (DH, Rangers) – Move over, Napoli, there’s a new three-true-outcomes guy in Texas. Napoli was playing with fire last year with a dangerously high strikeout rate, but made up for it with excellent hard contact. Well the Hard Contact has diminished this year (31.9% is still good, but a far cry from 36.7%), and his discipline has continued to deteriorate, with a career-worst 13.9 Swstr%. With no defensive value, it’s likely that when Beltre comes back, Gallo will remain, and Napoli will be the guy asked to ride the pine.
Tim Anderson (SS, White Sox) – Part of one of my bold predictions was expecting Tim Anderson to flop. It’s playing my favorite role, cantankerous old grump throwing shade at preseason hype. It looks right here, as his Hard contact is down, and his strikeout rate of 20% is bad with no power or speed or walks. It’ll probably get worse, too, as his swing rates and 15% Swstr% is hella bad. He still may get 15+ SB if they keep running him out there, but at least for this year, if he asks me to roster him, I’ll have to say “I don’t think so, Tim.”
Brandon Drury (3B, Diamondbacks) – You may not notice, but his performance has been Brandon Dreary. Sure, he has a .300 AVG., and you may argue that it’s sustainable, as he’s further improved his plate discipline, and his K rate at 20% is no worse than last year when he hit .282. Problem is, last year he hit the ball harder than expected, at 32.9%, and this year it’s just a measly 21.2%. Ew. And that .382 BABIP seems more outlandish when you see his Infield Fly Ball rate is at an unsightly, Todd Frazier-esque 28.2%. The jury is out, take Drury out… with the trash, not out to dinner. Well, unless it’s a pity date, I guess.