Buy & Sell 5/15: Identifying Who to Add and Who to Drop
Welcome back to Buy & Sell, where this week’s theme is: Need for Speed 9: Most of the excitement is in the American League (sorry, but it’s true). There were so many call-ups that it was hard to focus on the actual hot hitters, but as always, you can ask about players I didn’t get to in the comments assuming you’ve got nothing better to do. Then again, it’s my birthday, so I should have something better to do, so we’ll see! There are a lot of other call-ups I just ran out of room to write about, and some of those players include (SPOILER WARNING) J.P. Crawford, Shed Long, and Josh VanMeter. But let’s get on to the ones I DID write about, and hereare 15 blurbs for you, in celebration of me!
Franmil Reyes (OF, San Diego Padres)
I got a lot of heat a few weeks ago for saying that I would drop Eloy Jimenez or Max Kepler for Franmil Reyes. Well, look who’s laughing now! Nobody, because Eloy just got hurt so it wasn’t a fair win. Still, it looks like I was right here to trust Statcast’s optimism, as he’s been on fire for a good month, hitting .360 with five dingers over his past 50 at-bats, separating himself from the Padres’ outfield pack. The only thing I’m a bit disappointed by is his reluctance to walk, as he hasn’t drawn a single base on balls in 68 at-bats over the past three weeks. But perhaps that will come naturally as La Mole gets feared like the beast he is. And even though his ownership doubled, it’s still just a measly 30%! I think he should be owned in 12-team OBP and all—yes all—batting average formats.
Keston Hiura (2B, Milwaukee Brewers)
Hiura wizard, Harry. The Keston show has been beston show, with a fantastic .333/.408/.698 line with 11 homers and four stolen bases in just 147 plate appearances in Triple-A, to earn the call. A few months ago, he was highly regarded but more of a gap-power, 15/15 kind of player, and here he’s already bested his home run total at any level. It’s worth noting however, that Triple-A is using the major league “boosted” balls, and his high BABIP and home run totals mask his concerning 27% strikeout rate. Still, I think he has the contact skill innately and could make a Michael Chavis-like impact with a little less pop but a little more speed and average. I think he’s worth taking a chance on in all leagues, especially OBP formats where he could be Ke-stunning.
Hunter Pence (OF, Texas Rangers)
He’s 36-Pence about to get richer. Thought a likely candidate to retire, he instead reinvented his swing in the offseason, and now, its paying dividends. We honestly could have seen this sooner, but he was only being deployed against lefties, and now, they’re letting him mash from both sides of the plate. He’s hitting .368/.455/1.1158 with four jacks, which boosts his season line to .316/.389/.658 with seven Pence Over the Fence. The revamped swing and has paid off shockingly well, as he is posting a career-best exit velocity of 93 mph, and Statcast supports the slugger with an xBA of .339 and xSLG of .581. Sure, he did most of that with a platoon advantage, which will regress with more regular at-bats, but he’s still a solid bet to hit .275 to .290 with 22 to 25 home runs and a handful of stolen bases, which is fantastic for a waiver wire find. In 18-team, 15-team, and even streaming in 12-team, hold on and don’t drop your Pence.
Oscar Mercado (OF, Cleveland Indians)
Time to go shopping for the Supermercado. I was lucky enough to scoop him up on the cheap last week, but in FAAB/bidding leagues, you may not be so lucky. He’s not a top prospect by any measure, but he is the top stolen base prospect likely to enter the pool this year. He’s continued his strong offensive performance in Triple-A, hitting .294/.396/.496 with four home runs and 14 stolen bases. While it’s nice to see his torrid stolen base pace, it’s equally encouraging to see him bring some added pop, as his .202 ISO was double his 2018 mark and gives him more viability as a regular. He may not get full-time reps out of the gate, but with games played at all three outfield positions, with a hot start he can easily supplant Carlos should be Gonezalez or Luplow Spaghettio’s. I’d add in all 18-team and 15-team formats and even worth a spec in 12-teamers with a need for speed because he’s got wheels like Nascar Mercado.
Nicky Lopez (2B/SS, Kansas City Royals)
Little Nicky is the shiznit! I honestly can’t make up my mind whether I like Mercado or Lopez more, and while my gut pulls me toward Mercado’s higher power/speed upside, Lopez seems to be the one with much less downside. In the 24-year-old’s repeat of Triple-A, he doled out hit after hit like a LoPez Dispenser, hitting .353/.457/.500 with three home runs and nine stolen bases over 138 plate appearances. The most incredible part was he did so with a 3.6% strikeout rate and a 14.5% walk rate. That’s more than four times his strikeout rate. The Royals clearly think highly of him because they’re debuting him by hitting him 2nd, and he could have amazing run-scoring potential if he sticks there between Whit Merrifield and Adalberto Mondesi. His superb defense will also help keep him in the majors. He could be a great high-average and OBP run producer (possibly similar to David Fletcher with more speed), so I’d be trying to acquire him immediately in 18-team and 15-teams formats, though unlike Mercado I’m probably not speculating in 12-team yet.
Mallex Smith (OF, Seattle Mariners)
It seems he’s finally back to normallex. After forgetting how to hit a baseball in the majors, he’s rebooted in Triple-A, tearing the cover off the ball with a .333/.375/.467 line with a homer and seven stolen bases in 48 plate appearances. What’s most encouraging is how he’s rediscovered his contact, with just an 8% strikeout rate in Triple-A after having a ghastly 30% this year in the majors (last year was 18%). He’ll need to take that with him because a player with his power profile really needs a strikeout rate below 20% to stay fantasy-relevant, but the team can use him to kick-start its slumping lineup. You should pick him up in 15-team and 12-team formats if an impatient owner foolishly decided to Mallexit.
Jason Castro (C, Minnesota Twins)
Wow, I’m telling you to buy Jason Castro; do I need my temperature taken? No, because it’s Castro who is bringing the heat. Mitch Garver has been eating away at his playing time and Willians Astudillo is lurking too, but Castro could be the standout from this bunch because he’s doing something he hasn’t done before: hitting the ball VERY hard. After posting average exit velocities of 88.5 mph in 2015-2016 and just 87 mph in 2017-2018, he’s suddenly jacked it up to a startling 93.6 mph (101 mph FB/LD), with a 15.5% barrel/PA that is second-best in baseball only to Gary Sanchez. So while his .245/.362/.612 with five homers is nice, he’s earned a xBA of .275 and an insane xSLG of .702! And until earlier this week, he was sitting unclaimed in my two-catcher AL-only league. Of course, Garver is hitting out of his mind right now, but I think Castro will win playing time somehow, even if it means Garver moves off backstop. Castro is the superior defensive catcher, and that matters more than most fantasy folks realize, especially when that defensive catcher could produce one of the highest catcher WAR in the game if he keeps this up. Scoop him up in all two-catcher leagues and one-catcher 18-teamers, though I’d spec on him in 15-team OBP as well.
Ronny Rodriguez (2B/SS, Detroit Tigers)
I’m enjoying this sequel, Home Run Ronny Run. Like Gio Urshela, he’s another former Indians prospect having a midcareer renaissance, and like Urshela, on a team that’s currently depleted enough to keep getting playing time. On the season, Car RonRod is hitting a robust .301/.350/.658 with five homers and two stolen bases in 71 at-bats. He clearly can’t keep up this torrid pace all season, but Statcast believes it’s not all smoke and mirrors, with an xBA of .296 and xSLG of .563 that’s surprisingly not too far under his actual line. Especially being on a depleted Tigers team and even Niko Goodrum flailing, he’s going to have to really tank to lose regular at-bats, which gives him an automatic value floor in keeper leagues. I don’t think it’s unreasonable if that sticks to expect another 10 to 12 home runs and five-plus stolen bases the rest of the way, which combined with his positional versatility (one game from qualifying at first base) makes him a worthwhile add in 18-team and 15-team leagues as well as possible short-term stream in deeper 12-team formats.
Giovanny Urshela (3B, New York Yankees)
He hasn’t just been hitting the ball well, he’s been Urshellacking it. The Yankees third baseman has made the most out of an opportunity he likely would have never gotten were the Yankees regulars injured and their backups injured. Urshela has provided his usual stellar defense but swinging a hot stick too, hitting .370/.414/.574 with two home runs over the past three weeks. But what really got him noticed is his impressive run production, with eight RBI this past week. I think this may be somewhat legit, as his career-best 90.5 mph exit velocity is above average, and his xBA of .328 and xSLG of .482 mostly validate his performance thus far. While Miguel Andujar‘s latest return to the IL is awful, Urshela now has a cleared path to continued playing time and Giodude should be a rock-solid add in all 18-team and at least streamed in most deeper 15-team average formats.
Charlie Tilson (OF, Chicago White Sox)
Tilson the Volleyball is finally getting some service time. He was cast away after a ho-hum 2018 debut following a brutal injury in his 2016 MLB debut game, but he’s already cementing himself as the regular center fielder for the Pale Hose after hitting .310/.355/.379 with three stolen bases over his first 31 plate appearances. In a tiny sample size, it’s unclear what to make of his contact skills thanks to an amusing statistical juxtaposition: a 91% Z-contact but a 25% O-contact, leaving him with a lousy 16.5% swinging-strike rate overall. He may not last if he can’t cut down the strikeouts, but he is hitting the ball harder with a solid 87 mph exit velocity, which is below the league average but above average for a rabbit. I think especially in this environment, it’s not unreasonable for him to produce at a 10-home run/25-stolen base pace with a solid .260 average. I think he’s only a surefire add in AL-only and 18-team formats but could be a viable speed streamer if you really need it in 15-team as well.
Kendrys Morales (DH, New York Yankees)
This may seem Kendrys More or Less like a waste of time. Earlier this week, after hitting just .204/310/.259 with one home run, the A’s designated Morales for assignment. This more or less signaled that Morales’s relevance, even in the deepest of leagues. BUT! The Yankees, as cunning as they are crippled, just picked him off the scrap heap, which may be the best possible outcome for his fantasy value. He goes from the worst hitters’ park in the AL to one of the best, and as a switch-hitter, he can maximize the short porch. And as for the bat, he’s actually been Morales as good as last year, with a 92 mph exit velocity, improved launch angle (13.5 degrees) and better strikeout rate (15%) and walk rate (11%) than last year. He’s always been a bit overrated by Statcast because of molasses being as slow as Morales in January, but this year the difference is striking, with a surprising xBA of .280 and xSLG of .452. His xwOBA of .371 is more than 100 points over his actual mark and right in line with previous years, so he really may be fine and the only obstacle is regular at-bats at designated hitter, which I think he can earn initially. I’m making speculative adds only in AL-only and 18-team leagues because of the positional lack of versatility, but I’d still be monitoring in 15-team OBP.
Tim Beckham (SS/3B, Seattle Mariners)
To some of you this may be obvious, as he was the No. 1 drop, but still not enough of you, as he’s still currently owned in 56% of ESPN leagues. The emergence of J.P. Crawford signals the end of the Beckham “era,” which was really just a few weeks at the beginning of April that he’s been coasting on since. He’s hit just .197/.222/.361 with two homers over 61 at-bats the past three weeks and is not at all a good defender, whereas Crawford makes up for middling offense with elite shortstop defense. Beckham may still stick around and pop a dinger here and there to pique your interest, but I’m inoculating myself from TB in 10-team, 12-team, and 15-team OBP formats.
Robinson Chirinos (C, Houston Astros)
It seems folks want more than just the obvious drop recommendations, so here’s a surprise. Chirinos is the regular catcher on an elite franchise with no signs of slowing down … until you look under the hood. He’s hitting an impressive .266/.403/.543 with six home runs in 94 at-bats, but Statcast thinks it’s a load of spicy baloney, giving him hilariously low expected numbers, with an xBA of .181 and xSLG of .367. It seems the biggest culprit is his 85.1 mph exit velocity, the lowest of his career. So even though his .414 wOBA is the best of his career, his xWOBA of .318 is identical to his rather ugly 2018. Also, not to be ageist, but remember he’s a really old dude with a history of difficulty staying healthy, so flip him now before the bottom falls out. As for cutting, it’d be hard to cut him while this hot in an 18-team or even 15-team one-catcher format (especially OBP), but in 12-teamers, I’d keep afloat with another catcher and I’d send him out to the island like Robinson Crusoe.
Chris Taylor (2B/SS/OF, Los Angeles Dodgers)
A stitch in time saves nine, and cutting the Taylor will save you nine forgettable innings, so you’ll be fine. Taylor built up some momentum in recent weeks, earning more playing time after hitting .297 with two homers and two stolen bases over the past two weeks, but I’m still not calling it a comeback. He might need a CT scan because he seems broken, with a measly exit velocity of 84 mph, well below his normal rates and leading to an xBA of .176 and xSLG of just .288. He still has the speed aspect of his game, so he could garner some stolen bases, but it’s starting to look more and more like 2017 was the anomaly and Kiké Hernandez is far more deserving of the playing time. Chris shouldn’t touch any 15-team roster, OBP included, so if you picked him up there, cut Taylor swiftly.
Billy Hamilton (OF, Kansas City Royals)
Well, one speedster blows in, another blows out. I actually still own Hamilton in a five-outfielder 15-teamer, but at the end of the day, his offense aside from the stolen bases is so weak that I usually end up benching him and punting stolen bases. While he’s still among the stolen base leaders, the total (nine stolen bases, caught stealing four times) is not enough to justify his putrid .225/304/.288 line and complete lack of power. I’d rather take my chances on a player who can provide more all-around value with his speed such as Mercado or Lopez, the latter of whom could eat into Hamilton’s playing time now that Merrifield will be moving to the outfield. I’m selling my shares in 12-team and even the deepest 15-team leagues, with 18-team leagues likely depending on his playing time from here on out. Sorry Hamilton, but I’m trying to win a title, I’m not giving away my shot.
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