Welcome back to Buy & Sell, where this week’s theme is “forget everything you know”. Some previously terrible players are looking great under the surface, and some previously great players are looking terrible. In this depleted offensive environment, sometimes drastic moves need to be made (cough cough such as using less dead-as-doornail medicine balls cough). But hey I made sure not to forget this week’s most entertaining hitters not named Jazz Chisholm who is perennially entertaining and a national treasure. On to the list!
If you don’t think he belongs in the 10-team conversation, Rowdy is going to Tellez like it is. He just won NL Player of the Week and perhaps he’s finally turning into the beast of a slugger I’ve wanted him to become for years, hitting .258 with 7 HR with 15 R and 26 RBI in 105 PA, with a .300 AVG and 3 HR over the past week. He’s always had top-of-the-charts raw power (for a slugger), but only this year is he translating it into barrels, with an eye-popping 21% barrel rate. Now that’s a spicy meatball!
While in the early going I’m trying to lean away from xStats, I couldn’t resist sharing Tellez’s drool-inducing Statcast metrics that should help you get on board… and xBA of .307 and xSLG of .789. The latter number is the highest among qualified hitters, with the next best, Mike Trout at “just” .737. Tellez’s .464 xwOBA is 2nd in baseball to Trout. Not too shabby. While not much has changed with his contact rate, his chase rate has improved for the 4th consecutive year down to a passable 33% with a great 88% in-zone contact rate, so it’s great to see he didn’t have to sacrifice contact for barrels. Long story short, in all leagues, you should ride Tellez like a ski lift Telluride. I don’t ski, but still, add in all formats y’all.
When I look at the profile of Manny Margot, the name that comes to my mind first is Cedric Mullins. That’s not to say he’ll have anywhere near a breakout like Mullins’ 2021, but while people were predicting the “Next Mullins” to be power/speed high-risk plays like Bradley Zimmer, Cole Tucker, Anthony Alford, we all forgot the guy who actually can also make contact. While it seems like he’s been around forever (I mean, he did debut in 2016), you may be surprised to learn he’s still just 27. And while he’s currently Day-to-Day so watch that carefully, he’s been hitting a superb .337/.400/.500 with 3 HR and 5 SB with 10 R and 20 RBI in 93 PA. Looking like Mullins so far!
Of course, this could just be a hot streak, given his longer track record of merely decent production in a platoon role. But I’m encouraged that he has both the highest hard-hit rate (43%) and barrel rate (7%) of his career, and he’s converted 10% of his 2021 groundball% into line drive%, which obviously is good for batted ball outcomes. Statcast thinks what he’s done so far is legit with a .345 xBA and .513 xSLG, As far as his plate discipline, he’s made a bunch of incremental improvements to his chase rate and contact rate, leading to a career-best 21% CSW% (27% career). I think the potential combination of power, average, and speed makes him worth taking the gamble even in 10-team leagues, now he just has to not hit the IL and Margot make me look stupid.
“Brandon Drury is an exciting baseball player” I exclaim, as I listen to the chart-topping Chainsmokers debut and pour one out for Harambe. Oh wait, it’s not 2016, the last time Drury was relevant. Okay to be fair, he did have a decent part-time gig with the Mets last year, but nothing like what he’s done so far. He’s making everyone forget India’s absence while hitting a studly .283/.337/.593 with 6 HR in 89 AB.
His breakout thus far has been supported by Statcast and is likely resulting from a massive jump in barrel rate, from 7% last year to 16% this year to go with a 51% HardHit%. As if that wasn’t enough, he also made a big improvement in his chase rate, as his 31% O-Swing% is his best mark since 2018, helping him to a career-best 8% Swinging Strike rate. When you see good contact rate combined with lots of hard contact and an excellent hitters park, I’m buying. Oh, and did I forget to mention eligibility at second base and also 3B and OF eligibility? He’s a fine add in all 12-team formats and I wouldn’t fault you for streaming or keeping him as a utility/bench bat in 10-team AVG. formats.
If epic celebrations bordering on downright unhinged were a category, Naylor would be a must-add everywhere. It’s rather funny that after that bananas game Naylor now has 21 RBI in 73 PA this year, which is the same amount he had in 250 PA last year. I was bullish last year and got bored with him after last year’s ho-hum showing, but he’s still just 24 and showing why he had received a prospect grade of 70 raw power with his 4 HR, to go with a fantastic .338 AVG and 14% K% rate. Basically, he’s becoming what five years ago we dreamed Willie Calhoun could become.
But is it sustainable? Well, Naylor is certainly growing as he is just 24 still, and he does have the highest HardHit% of his career at 48%. However, Statcast’s measures actually grade him as having identical Soft%, Medium%, and Hard% (28%) as last year, as well as the same mediocre 7% Barrel%. Still, he does have a good base of skills with an 83% Contact% and secure playing time with dual 1B/OF eligibility. While I don’t see him as a long-term hold in redrafts yet, as a useful streamer for a team looking for a spark in 12-team batting average leagues, I’ll say aye to Naylor.
Thomas joins Manoah as the two-headed of the Alek revolution, although with his ho-hum debut, Thomas is probably the sidekick. He hasn’t really lit the world on fire in the minors either but posted a solid .277/.362/.495 line with 4 HRs and 3 SB in 116 PA. While that is less impressive on the surface than his excellent minors season last year, I am at least encouraged by his significantly improved strikeout rate. Triple-A numbers are temporary but plate discipline is forever, kinda.
His greatest asset is being on a team that has zero excuses to send him back down because they clearly don’t have anyone better. While he won’t be a massive impact in any one category, his combination of bat, power, and speed give him the ability to be a solid all-around bat, with the low-end looking like David Peralta but a high-end looking more like Alex Verdugo or Austin Meadows (their better versions, anyway). That might not sound especially exciting, but as long as you don’t have to break the FAAB bank, I think it’s worth hoping you can all climb aboard the hype train for Thomas with the Tanking GM.
The traffic clears when Royce rolls in. The former #1 overall draft pick has certainly had quite a fall from grace the past few years between injuries and underperformance, making some wonder if he’s the next Tim Beckham. But despite not playing any pro games since 2019, he’s come out swing hitting .310 with 3 HR and 8 SB in Triple-A, and hitting .300 so far in his 10 PA in the majors. That’s why you don’t give up on prospects… especially when they’re still just 22.
There’s still of course not much to glean from his tiny major league sample. But I’ll call it a good thing he already got his first barrel, and it’s probably a slightly good thing that in this tiny sample he’s displayed both a great 17% chase rate and an 89% contact% rate, though they’ll likely regress. Compared to Thomas, Lewis is rather clearly the higher upside player, and the remaining question is how safe is his role when Arraez and/or the others come back? I think it’s still worth picking him up to see what happens and hope he approximates Jean Segura as a five-category contributor. Add in all 15-team formats and worth a speculative bench add in deep 12-team formats.
Yeah, I can’t believe I’m writing this either, as pre-2021 I was very down on Dylan Moore due to the high bust risk. But hey, now he’s a sleeper again, and most assume he won’t wake up. After all, he’s hitting just .192/.323/.385 with 1 HR, 1 SB, 3 R, and 3 RBI in 32 PA. But I don’t forget the potential power/speed upside, as even in his disastrous 2021 he still hit 12 HR and stole 21 bases (never mind the bollocks .181 AVG). But I found Moore reasons for optimism that he’ll improve.
For one, he’s improved his already strong chase rate with just a 19% O-Swing%, which has led to a career-best 9% Swinging Strike% that is… actually above average! And as for the power… wow-er. He actually already has 5 barrels, good for a crazy 24% Barrel%, also with an improved 38% Hard Hit%. And here’s the kicker… remember that .192 AVG and .395 SLG%? Well, Statcast says he deserved a .276 AVG and a .730 SLG%! Super small sample yadda yadda, but the point is, I think the hard-hitting Moore is back, and nobody has realized yet. I’m snagging in 15-team OBP and AL-only while I still can since it might take just one big game this week before everyone else sees what I’m seeing. Or I look crazy and dumb after he goes 0-for-15, that can happen too.
He doesn’t hit moon shots, and he might not be a star, but he can reach another celestial body, no? Celestino is a very unheralded 23-year-old wormburner who has mostly fast-tracked to the majors due to his excellent defense. However, he’s made changes since his debut last year that intrigue me. The biggest change has been more contact and plate discipline, as his 92% contact% and 98% Z-Contact% are the best of the best and are complemented, by a plus 23% chase rate. In other words, Luis Arraez in the outfield, at least so far, and hey that’s not bad!
What is different from Arraez is Gilberto’s superior speed and raw power. While he’s not a burner, he did steal 14 bases in the minors in 2019 and has above-average sprint speed (65th percentile), which Arraez lacks. And while GC is currently hitting the ball into the ground at an unsightly 54% clip, he’s displayed far better raw power with a 108 mph max eV this year with a 111 mph mark last year which gives hope he can hit the ball with thump more regularly. And for now, he can at least be an AVG/OBP play who is getting playing time, which is well worth the gamble in AL-only leagues and 15-team leagues as a spec add or batting average streamer.
Taylor probably doesn’t seem quite like the bust I predicted he’d be this year, if for no other reason than I’m always skeptical of post-peak vets coming off career seasons (looking at you too, Adam Duvall). Most fantasy leaguers, including me that accidentally auto-drafted him once, have only been mildly disappointed with his current production, as his .256/.327/.384 line with 1 HR and 2 SB isn’t bad enough to cause alarm in this depleted environment. While everyone is worried about Justin Turner, I’m more worried about Taylor. Why? It’s all about the BABIP dragons, baby.
He’s coasted on a .429 BABIP, and while he’s always been a high BABIP guy generally, it’s still nearly 100 points above his career .347 BABIP, and in this environment, it should be even lower. That’s why it’s easy to overlook that he actually has a terrible 39% K%, and I think it’s not just bad luck, given his drastic drop in contact ability. His contact rate is down to a Zunino-esque 59%, down 10%, with a 9% drop in in-zone contact and a 16% drop in O-Contact% down to just 33%. 31 years old is the “magic” age where O-contact drops off the table, and he’s starting to look more and more like Niko Goodrum. The good news is he has been still drawing walks and is hitting a lot of line drives and an above-average barrel rate, but I expect him to finish with about a .235 AVG with 14 HR and 8 SB. Even with his multi-position eligibility, you can certainly do better than that in all 10-team formats and 12-team AVG formats where I’d gladly cut him for a hot bat like Drury or perhaps even teammate Gavin Lux.
Trent’s offensive is simply in Grishambles. Given the sudden mini-sparks for Merrifield, Franmil, and Turner, and given that Grisham was a Top 100 pick and still just 25, there are some who feel it’s still too early to give up on him and his awful .144/.264/.231 line with just 1 HR and 2 SB. But I simply don’t see anything in his profile that makes it look likely, especially considering his only good “season” was the 2020 small sample. And I think we can safely say 2020 was a year of a lot of nonsense. He’s simply not showing much thump at all, with just a 29% HardHit% and 3% barrel rate, and he’s hitting more grounders than ever with a 50% mark that will dampen any power projections.
While the assumption could be that it’s part of an effort to focus on contact and beating out the defense with speed, his contact has also deteriorated. While his 77% mark isn’t bad, his in-zone contact rate has taken a bigger hit, as it’s down to 81% after an 87% mark last year. He’s also allowing a lot of called strikes at 22% thanks to his 58% strike rate, and perhaps like Semien early in his career, his passivity is hurting him more than helping. He still has 3 options remaining and looks so lost that I wonder if the best thing for him is a demotion. Even if he managed to reclaim a good spot in the lineup, it’s best to cut your losses now. Cut in all 10-team leagues and 12-team batting average leagues.
There’s stubborn, obnoxiously stubborn, and then I’m-still-holding-Eddie-Rosario stubborn. He has been abysmal in about every which way so far, hitting a hilarious .068/.163/.091 with 0 HR and 0 SB in 44 PA so far, and I get that’s hard to see from a player with a spring ADP of #168. But Baddoo was around there too, and he just got demoted, and Rosario doesn’t even have the benefit of passable defense, and the DH won’t save him for long. While he has a long track record of success and doesn’t have age or injuries as an excuse, free-swinging types can flame out fast, and it’s pretty hard to just back from such an awful stretch and be hunky-dory.
Although he’s had slightly fewer at-bats than Stephenson, his power has looked no better, with a maximum of 101 mph (again, below Alcides Escobar), which is kind of concerning for a hitter whose power has long been his carrying tool. His HardHit% has plummeted over 12 percentage points to just 24%, which is awful. To add insult to not-literally-an-injury (or is it?) his contact% has also nosedived to a career-worst 72%, while also allowing more called strikes to bring his CSW% to a career-worst 30% (was 22% in 2021). Since he doesn’t offer speed and doesn’t belong anywhere on the diamond other than DH, he’s likely to lose PT or get DFA’d soon, and you’d be wise to be the first to say Rosayonara.
I’m not going to wait until the horse has bolted to shut the Barnhart door. He’s been off to a surprisingly solid start, hitting .279 in 66 ABs, so what could be the problem? Reality, meet .459 BABIP. Once you get past the average you can see he’s had a downright lousy 36% strikeout%, caused primarily by allowing way too many called strikes while making less contact with balls. Long story short I don’t think it’s a small sample size fluke, especially since his age (31) is when O-Contact% typically starts to drop off. It’s not like he’s ever been a batting average asset, with a career .248 AVG, but for a catcher with his limited 7-10 HR power, it was acceptable in deep leagues.
But now he’s also hitting for less power, or more accurately, hitting the ball with similar power but almost exclusively towards the dirt. A 59% groundball rate is not ideal when you’re a slow plodding catcher. Statcast reveals what lies beneath the BABIP curtain with a gasp-inducing .187 xBA and a .233 xSLG. Although Eric Haase has had his own struggles, he’s at least made more contact, and once the luck dragons turn around he’ll likely eat more into Barnhart’s playing time, and even if that doesn’t happen… also note Barnhart only has 3 R and 2 RBI. Josh Naylor surpassed that in just one game! Cut in all leagues that don’t count defense and game-calling as a category. If you are in such a league, please do tell me about it, I’m quite curious!
Photography by Jeff Robinson & Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Michael Packard (@CollectingPack on Twitter)