Welcome back to Buy & Sell, where this week’s edition is hot prospects and even hotter journeymen. There have been some surprising hot streaks that sacrifice long-term stability for short-term riches so unsustainable, you’d think they were the fantasy fossil fuel industry. Topical! This is a great time for prospect lovers, as many young’uns are jumping the gun and have a chance to stick for good. But don’t forget the less-heralded scrappers who can save those injury-decimated rosters. Let’s get to it!
Luke Voit (1B, New York Yankees)
I call the reaction of looking at Yankees box scores this week post-Voital afterglow. There have been few hitters hotter, with a line of .429/.529/.786 this week for .275/.392/.523 overall. You’re either in very shallow leagues for him to still be available or benefited from an owner’s early April overreactions. One of my bold predictions this year was that he’d double down from his strong 2018 with a 35-plus home runs, and while I won’t do an April victory lap, I still think that’s very much possible as Statcast thinks he’s deserved even better power, with an xSLG of .618. He’s a prototypical slugger with high walk rates and power as well as a solid average, though it may come down because of awesome quality of contact. He should be owned and started in all leagues.
Carter Kieboom (SS, Washington Nationals)
After a homer in his debut, the taters didn’t return until Sunday, coming back like a Kieboomerang. That likely led to boosted FAABs, though that doesn’t mean he won’t be worth it. Compared with the speed-first approach of Cole Tucker, Kieboom is the more common masher with some speed and as soon as this year can produce like a slightly more well-rounded Paul DeJong (current version). I’m not going to overhype his strong Triple-A performance, as Triple-A switched to MLB’s … er … “enhanced” baseballs, but already he’s showing that he can keep the party going in the majors. I think he’s already done enough to hold his ground and stick for good. In all formats, you should store him now like he’s the cookie and your an Kieb-ler elf.
Nathaniel Lowe (1B, Tampa Bay Rays)
He’s the one I rate the highest of the Lowes. He’s only the eighth Nathaniel to reach the majors in baseball history, maybe because most folks don’t feel the need to compromise between the names Nathan and Daniel. He’s been continuing his hot hitting from last season at Triple-A, hitting .300/.444/.543 with three home runs in 90 plate appearances. This is encouraging that he seemed to get a hang of the one league he didn’t dominate, though the strikeout rate is still higher than I hoped based on his earlier-season rates. Still, while he’s a bit old for a prospect, he clearly can mash and has the potential to be a Rhys Hoskins-lite with the bat (without the outfield eligiblity). Although at such a deep position, it’s hard to find room, I’d be adding him in all 15-team leagues, and he is worth consideration in 12-team mixers, especially if it’s OBP — and perhaps I’m still being too conservative. I’m looking forward to when the Rays finish building their all-Lowe roster. I know a hardware store that’ll sponsor that.
Jorge Alfaro (C, Miami Marlins)
I had been pretty vocal in the past in my opinion that he was overrated as a fantasy baseball asset, especially after going to Miami. But after Al-Pharaoh has plagued pitchers hailing five dingers with a beastly .286/.337/.481, I will no longer pass over him. Sure, he still has one of the worst swinging-strike rates in baseball at 22% with a hilariously bad chase rate of 53%, so I expect his strikeout rate to sit near 40% and the average to drop. But with his strong exit velocity helping him to an xBACON of .500 and xBA of .255 and xSLG of .481, it seems he can stay above the miserable catcher fray. But what I like most is his sneaky stolen base potential: His 2019 sprint speed of 28.8 m/s clocks in faster than Greg Allen, Tommy Pham, and Whit Merrifield. Neat! He stole just three bases last year and has stolen none this year, but I think he could get five and maybe even 10, which would boost his fantasy value even if he hits .230. He’s currently 33% owned but should be scooped in 15-team and 12-team average formats. He’s so wild I think I’d actually recommend him in a 10-team average league before a 12-team OBP.
Eric Thames (1B/OF, Milwaukee Brewers)
Different year, Thames story. Over the past two weeks, he’s muscled himself into a bigger role after hitting .348 with three home runs over 27 plate appearances for a season line of .288/.367/.596. While Statcast is skeptical of his average with an xBA of .226, he still has a strong xSLG of .512, and it’s worth noting his high 36% strikeout rate is still an improvement from his over 40% mark a few weeks ago. He has multiple avenues to playing time even if Jesus rises from the ashes, as Christian Yelich is hurt for now and Ryan Braun has been no great shakes. I still don’t think he’s quite at the point where he’ll get full-time reps, but he will hit at a 25- to 30-dinger pace when he does play. I’d add him in all 18-team and 15-team leagues, and he is a solid spec add in 12-team OBP.
Danny Santana (2B/OF, Texas Rangers)
Danny is playing like a man possessed, one might call it Supernatural. The career journeyman has had one of the biggest fantasy splashes, hitting .345/.361/.552 with two home runs and five stolen bases (caught stealing once) in the two weeks since his call-up. Few teams collected on that fantasy goodness, as his ownership rate was just 2% before jumping to 7% this week. He’s made as good as a case as possible for full-time reps with Texas, which I’m guessing was the source of his running aggressiveness, giving his value a higher floor, but the ceiling may be a bit higher than folks think. His exit velocity is over 90 mph for the second straight year, up 5 mph from his earlier career, and it’s a big enough gap to have some statistical significance. I’d expect the average to bottom out eventually, but with his multiposition eligibility, he makes a handy short-term stream. Add in AL-only and 18-team lteagues and stream in 15-teamers, especially if it’s an average league. Heck, for average leagues, even 12-teamers can short-term stan for DanSan til the plan hits the fan.
Luis Rengifo (2B/SS, Los Angeles Angels)
If you don’t know who he is, you better RenGTFO. A lesser prospect when he was first traded, he had a breakthrough year in 2018, skyrocketing up the system like a short and speedy Nate Lowe. He hasn’t dazzled in his small sample, and it’s unclear if he’ll have a path to continued playing time, but there’s still a lot to like. Despite his stature, he has been hitting the ball hard, with a 95 mph exit velocity, though you’re probably looking at him because of his wheels. Well, despite his high minors totals, Statcast grades his sprint speed as only above average, but slower players have succeeded with good aggressiveness and instincts. I could see a profile like a speedier Jorge Polanco, and I think he’s being similarly underrated especially in the aftershock of the big Kieboom. Don’t be a Stimpy and get Rengifo in 18-teamers and deeper 15-teamers.
Brian Goodwin (OF, Los Angeles Angels)
You want to be good and you want to win, right? Then pick up this guy because his name is Brian. What? It’s a nice name. So far he’s looked like a completely different hitter than we expected. On the surface, he looked like a strikeout-prone hitter who suddenly has morphed into a high-contact hitter with a .329/.422/.539 line with three home runs, but his plate discipline skills have actually always been solid and he just improved them a bit. Statcast doesn’t think he’s a total fluke, with an xBA of .287 and xSLG of .484, though his exit velocity is a disappointing 85 mph, so I don’t see him as a major power threat. And while he’s yet to steal a base, he has a strong 28.4 m/s sprint speed that’s top 50 and the same as Yelich. While he’s a bit over his head, he’s been massively overlooked, as he was under 2% owned before climbing to 7%. He should be owned in all AL-only and 18-team leagues and is a viable stream in all 15-team leagues as well.
Eric Sogard (2B/SS, Toronto Blue Jays)
After so many seasons where’s he’s put up streaks like this only to go ice cold, I’m not surprised everyone acts sogarded around him. The original face of the Oakland Athletics has been on fire in Toronto but on the wire in most leagues despite the fact he’s hitting .400 with three homers. While it’s been great and I scooped him an AL-only, there’s not much proof this is sustainable. Sure, Statcast gives him an xBA of .333 and an xSLG of .474, but his career-best exit velocity is still just 85 mph, so don’t expect double-digit power. Still, I’ve always liked his plate skills, and I think this is one where you ride it out until he stops impersonating Ted Williams. I’m adding in all AL-only and 18-team leagues, and he is worth consideration as a utility flier in deep 15-team.
Enrique Hernandez (2B/SS/OF, Los Angeles Dodgers)
I felt the need to include Quique, as it’s rare that ESPN’s most-dropped player (17%) isn’t a result of injury or role change. It’s understandable though after such a hot start followed by hitting .186 over the past three weeks with just two homers. His season line of .250/.340/.478 is right in line with last year’s .256/.336/.470, and that’s perfectly solid, although it’s moving in the wrong direction. I think it was a mistake to bum rush him in 10-teamers and this is just correction, but I’d only cut him there and 12-team average leagues. I’d still hold in OBP even though he’s making you angrique.
Jackie Bradley Jr. (OF, Boston Red Sox)
You may say that this one is an easy call, but that wouldn’t explain why he’s still owned in 40% of leagues. It’s hard to point at one thing is going wrong because it seems like everything’s going wrong, even his defense (he actually has a -1.8 UZR)! His contact rate is down to a career-worst 67%, and his exit velocity regressed back to his pre-2018 levels. His xBA of .194 and xSLG of .282 show this isn’t just bad luck, and while he can’t get much worse, the fantasy upside just isn’t worth holding on to in most leagues. I’d cut JBJ in all 12-team formats and 15-team average leagues as well. Maybe it’s finally time for Rusney Castillo! Remember that guy? Yeah, me neither.
Marwin Gonzalez (2B/SS/3B/OF, Minnesota Twins)
He’s so hungry for a hit, he’s becoming a starvin’ Marwin. While he’s managed to play about every day, he’s really been a stinker with a .167/.244/.256 line that two homers and a stolen base don’t save. Statcast has mostly verified his misery with an xBA of .204 and xSLG of .373, but one stat gave me pause. His exit velocity is a career-best, with a 91 mph exit velocity that crushes his career average of 87. And while the strikeout rate is up, his plate discipline isn’t the problem with a career-best 28% O-swing and above career average 89% zone-contact rate. But remember that Miguel Sano is coming back soon, so his playing time could get cut (especially when La Tortuga returns too), which is why I’m cutting in 12-team and shallow 15-teamers. But in formats with a deep bench or 18-team and deeper, I think it’s better to hold and sunbathe on the Playa del Marwin.
Danny Jansen (C, Toronto Blue Jays)
This hurts me to say as I’ve been a Jansen fan for awhile, but yikes has he been bad. He’s hit a paltry .182/.267/.242 (sad and funny that his OBP is higher than his SLG), and he hasn’t gotten off the schneid with nary a dinger to his name. The only red in his Statcast sliders is sprint speed (surprising, though), and his .288 xSLG is laughable. Even worse, his strikeout rate has jumped to 28%, backed by a shocking contact rate decline from 84% to 75%, and the contact he has made has been in the dirt, with a 52% ground-ball rate. I hope he can turn it around, but I think it’s time to cut him in 15-team and 18-team single-catcher formats and even 10-team and 12-team two-catcher formats in favor of less buzzy names such as Robinson Chirinos, James McCann, Pedro Severino, or even Jason Castro (yes, really). I hope he’s not secretly Cam Jansen because he won’t want photographic memory for this.
Jordan Luplow (OF, Cleveland Indians)
Luplow, Spaghettio’s! OK, that’s the only reason I included him; we can move on now. Fine, he has some speed and is on a team that is literally just throwing things against the wall and seeing what sticks. But even in super-deep leagues, he’s just a placeholder until someone with REAL fantasy value shows up: Oscar Mercado. If you’re in a keeper, dynasty, or just a league with a large bench, I’d get Super Mercado, which may coincidentally contain many cans of Luplow Spaghettio’s.
(Photo by Andy Altenburger/Icon Sportswire)