Welcome back to Buy & Sell, or maybe I should call it “Buy and Take the L” as I immediately regretted my call from last week on Gorman, and I’m fortunate that it seems nobody took my advice on that, and I’m glad for Cardinals fans that the management isn’t as inept as I thought. So this week, I’m going to focus purely on talent, which is present here in spades. Hopefully, you haven’t blown through all your FAAB like I have to get your guys though. On to the list!
Lourdes Gurriel Jr. (OF, Arizona Diamondbacks)
The Lourd is my shepherd. Too bad Jake Lamb’s not around. After a disappointing 2022 in which his power seemingly fell off a cliff with just 5 homers to go with a .291 AVG and 3 SB in 493 AB, he’s already surpassed his homer total with 7 homers to go with a shiny .312/.376/.553 line and 1 SB. Granted, Statcast thinks he’s playing above his head, which isn’t so surprising, but his expected line is still solid with a .283 xBA and .472 xSLG. But what that line won’t tell you is how hot he’s been the past 2 weeks. Over that span, he’s ridiculously hit .436/.532/.1000 with 6 of his 7 homers. That’s a sneak attack like gurriel warfare.
He was a complete bargain this spring with an ADP of 229, but a guy with a great bat but rather fringy power like him is always a bellwether for the run environment, which means he’s primed for a huge season when the run environment is this hot. The offense is booming almost like in 2019, and it could even surpass it soon simply due to the long list of pitcher injuries leading to more batting practice pitchers taking the mound. His expected xwOBA over the past 50 PA is a strong .454. But perhaps this is more than just random fluctuation. While his barrel rate and hard hit rates are almost perfectly in line with his career rates (rather than a rather low 105 mph MaxEV), his contact game has ticked up. His current 86% Contact% is a career-best, significantly higher than his previous best which he set last year at 80%. Not only that, but he’s actually become rather disciplined with a career-best 29% O-Swing%, and he managed to do it while hardly lowering his Z-Swing% at 68%, leading to an elite swinging strike rate of 7%.
It’s rather impressive how the hard-hitting Gurriel Jr. has managed to improve his plate skills this substantially with hardly any dip in the power numbers. His home park is favourable enough that he can likely hit around 25 homers and give a season with the potential to rival Ketel Marte’s breakout season, though my guess is he regresses at least a little and regresses more into a .290 20-homer type, which is still plenty useful. Without platoon concerns and in an underrated lineup, he is a must-add in all formats right now while he is this hot, and is OBP-viable as well.
Jake Burger (3B, Chicago White Sox)
Welcome to Good Burger, home of the Good Burger, may I take your homers? I’ve advocated picking up Burger several times across my Buy & Sell this year, and I hope this is the last one, since soon he will no longer be waiver wire material but rostered across all leagues. He was quite hot a few weeks ago before a short IL stint quelled the hype, but now he’s back and sizzling with homers in both of his games since his return. He’s now hitting .253/.329/.680 with 9 homers overall, which sounds quite good, but note an important distinction… He’s done this in just 75 AB. Small sample size and all, but he’s on a Judgian pace.
So, how fluky is it? Well, as a rather strikeout-prone hitter, he’ll likely have his hot and cold streaks, but as I’ve shouted from the rooftops before, the power itself is undeniable. His 118 mph maxEV is truly elite, and he’s maximizing it with more flyballs than ever with a career-high 53% FB% and also a career-high 49% Pull%, which both explain how he’s managed to maintain a gargantuan 22% Barrel%. Granted, he may be selling out for his power, as his 67% Contact% is the worst of his career, and with an also career-worst 46% O-Swing%, with a 63% Z-swing% which is quite poor considering. Eventually, pitchers may adjust to just not throwing him strikes. Similarly odd is his Z-Contact is a career-worst 77%, but his 58% O-Contact% is a career-best, meaning that a lot of his damage may be punishing non-ideal pitches.
I’d certainly rather have that the other way, but it is impressive that he’s managed this quality of contact despite the poor pitch selection. Still, he’s hitting for legendary power in a hitter’s haven of a home park at a tough position, making him a must-roster player in 10-team batting average leagues, though his floor is considerably lower in OBP formats. This burger comes with a heaping side of taters.
Prospect Dice Roll: Elly De La Cruz (SS, Cincinnati Reds) (Look, I usually wait until players are called up, but in his case, you really can’t afford to wait if your league allows early adds)
Michael Conforto (OF, San Francisco Giants)
Improve your offense instantly from the Conforto your own home! The former Met slugger took a while to get online but is now a well-oiled hitting machine, hitting .222/.338/.429 with 8 HR in 126 AB. But what that doesn’t tell you is that most of that damage has come this past week, hitting .440/500/.960 with 4 blasts and a 3/1 BB/K ratio in 25 AB. His MaxEV of 110 mph is down a few ticks from previous years, but he’s getting to his top percentile power more often, with a 50% HardHit% and a strong 91 mph average EV. The fact that he’s in line with his career stats is good, considering that previously he was Michael Conforto, a mostly good baseball player.
Then again, this might be more exciting considering that he’s managed to be this good despite the April stats weighing them down, as was expected as a player returning from a long injury. Then again, has he been as good? His groundball rate of 50% is a career-high, and Fangraphs’s Hard% begs to differ with HardHit% as it gives him a career-low 31% Hard% (career 38%). Still, I’ll focus more on the fact that his K% dropped from 33% in April to 14% in May with a 145 wRC+ over the half month, as well as his playing time. He’s one of the few Giants that is playing every day with no platoon, and that should continue as long as he keeps this up and is still on the field. He’s a slam-dunk add in all 12-team formats and viable in 10-team OBP.
Casey Schmitt (3B, San Francisco Giants)
Return the hat to Schmitty-wOBA-jagerman-Giantsen. He was #1! Sure, perhaps you missed on Schmitt already, as his splash was as loud as Jack Black doing a bellyflop off an Olympic high dive. But if he’s still around, although he won’t stay this impossibly hot, he’s worth checking out. He’s hitting .438/.438/.750 with 2 homers. It wasn’t any lucky cheapie homers either, launching one with an exit velocity of 112 mph and 3 barrels already in just 32 PA. Maybe it’s made him a bit too eager to swing the bat, as his 49% O-Swing% is really bad, though, with his crazy 84% Z-swing%, it’s nice to know that he won’t get many called strikes (just 9%). His 79% isn’t amazing but certainly good enough given his power profile.
It’s rather surprising he’s hit the ball with this authority, as he had been rather subdued in Triple-A with a .313 AVG and just 1 HR and .097 ISO over 145 PA prior to his call-up. However, he did hit 21 homers across three levels last year, so this isn’t out of nowhere. Although there are several hitters in the starting lineup also capable of playing third base (Thairo Estrada, J.D. Davis, and Wilmer Flores on the bench), he seems to be a safe-ish bet for regular playing time as long as he’s still swinging the boom stick. Snag Casey in all 15-team leagues and consider as a streamer in deeper 12-team leagues.
Prospect Dice Roll: Matt McClain (SS, Cincinnati Reds)
Zach McKinstry (2B/3B/OF, Detroit Tigers)
McKinstry swears he’s not the mutant hybrid of McCovey and Kinsler, but I can’t be so sure. He certainly is bringing the combination of batting average, power and speed to his game, with a cromulent .275/.362/.396 with 2 homers and 5 SB in 106 PA. Not too shabby for a guy who a month ago was looking from the outside into a starting role.
You may remember him from his Dodger days, as he made a big debut and then faded fast, but he’s improved nearly every facet of his game since then. He’s become more judicious at the plate, with a career-best 26% O-Swing%, while managing to increase his Z-Swing to a career-best 68%. Not only that, he’s making contact at a career-best 84%, leading to an elite 7% SwStr% and a strong 24% CSW%. Considering every asset of his contact game improved, it’s even more surprising that he didn’t need to sacrifice pop, and in fact, it got better. His 108 mph MaxEV this year is already a career-best, 2 mph higher than his previous best in 2021, as is his 10% Barrel% and 38% HardHit%. It helps for his hard-hit balls that they also have a healthy batted ball distribution, even if the 28% line drive rate is probably unsustainable.
Given the prior mediocre track record, the casual player is probably discounting two things: his OBP upside and his multi-position eligibility. Statcast believes he’s deserved better with a .296 xBA and .481 xSLG, and if he can maintain that 12% BB% or even a double-digit mark (more likely), that’s an elite OBP to go with 15-homer power and 20 SB ability. The speed is also surprising, but it’s vetted by a solid 83rd-percentile sprint speed. With triple-eligibility at 2B, 3B, and OF, he has an unexpectedly high to provide mixed-league value in some way. Add in all 15-team formats and consider as a utility/bench bat in 12-team OBP formats.
Mickey Moniak (OF, Los Angeles Angels)
It looks like he’s sending balls special delivery, because… The Moniak’s in the mailbox! So many options for puns, and I had to go with another Spongebob reference, really. He’s somewhat of a spec add, if for no other reason than the Angels haven’t committed yet to playing him regularly, despite the fact that he’s handsomely rewarding them every time they do. As someone who loves 2s and 5s, his line is very visually pleasing in his first 11 AB with 5 hits, 5 runs, 2 homers, 2 RBI, and 2 SB, with a .455/.500/1.000 triple slash. This seems to be the year to buy the talented post-hype toolsy outfield prospects given the bouncebacks of Kelenic, Duran (Jarren… well actually Ezequiel too), and Bleday, so why not bet on a former first-round pick?
While he said nothing about an approach change, he seemed to take well to the change of scenery in the minors with a .308/.355/.585 with 8 HR and 2 SB in 141 PA in Triple-A (note: hitters haven environment) though granted, the Angels now play in one as well. Although he’s been playing part-time when he does play he’s been batting leadoff, and leadoff for the Angels ahead of Ohtani and Trout is still as good as it gets. While I don’t think he’ll maintain his current pace that would result in him having 80 homers and 80 SB in 440 AB, he could continue with a 20-homer pace and double-digit SB with a somewhat suspect batting average, which is upside that I think is well worth weathering the current wobbly playing time. Add in 15-team batting average leagues, especially in formats with daily lineups or a bench.
Prospect Dice Roll: Mark Vientos (1B, New York Mets)
Freddy Fermin (C, Kansas City Royals)
He saw Melendez’s defence and said “I’ll be back…stop”. That’s why they call him the Ferminator. No relation to the Furminator (which is an excellent brush for fluffy cats). So anyway, yeah somehow on a team with Salvador Perez and Melendez, a different guy is playing catcher, and playing pretty well. He’s hitting .310/.394/,690 with 3 homers in 33 AB, yet he’s getting none of the hype of other big splashes like Schmitt. Maybe it’s because he’s never been much of a prospect, only making Eric Longenhagen’s Royals 2023 Top 47 prospect list as an honorable mention as a “plus catch-and-throw athlete with an average feel for contact and no power, and a third or fourth catcher type”. Fermin must have taken umbrage to that, as he already has 5 barrels on the year for a 22% barrel% that’s higher than his strikeout rate (18% K%).
He’s still not starting every day, since the team still needs Salvy to play backstop sometimes now that Melendez is in the OF and isn’t very good defensively there. But he also will likely play more if he keeps this up, and it’s worth noting he hit for more power in Triple-A, with 5 homers and a .304/.448/.674 line, a .370 ISO and a 19% BB% with a 15% K% in 58 PA in Triple-A prior to this. He’s a fine second catcher in two-catcher leagues, although if his major league sample is any indication, he’s not likely to have a helpful walk rate going forward.
Andy Ibáñez (2B/3B, Detroit Tigers)
Apparently, today is Scrappy Tigers Day. Ibanez has been a letdown since his deep-league intrigue after hitting .277 in his rookie year, and seems unlikely to reinvent himself at age 30. Yet here he is, with a 13% Barrel% (5 barrels) and 59% HardHit% on the year, which are both substantial improvements from his middling numbers from prior years.
Of course, his sample is still small as it’s still just 50 PA, so regression is expected. But then again, how much? Andy tore up Triple-A, hitting .297/.418/.609 with 5 homers. That may seem less impressive at his age, especially since he’s had several bites at that apple, but it’s worth noting that his 17% BB% and his .303 ISO were the highest of his career, and it at least validates his improvement in the majors. On top of that, while his 83% contact% is a career-best just by a few points, he’s been so aggressive that his CSW% is way down, from 26% last year to a superb 18%. While I still don’t expect many homers, he can pop a few with a solid .250-.275 batting average, which is useful given his dual eligibility. Pick up as a utility or stream in 15-team batting average leagues.
Prospect Dice Roll: Joey Ortiz (SS, Baltimore Orioles)
Jack Suwinski (OF, Pittsburgh Pirates)
I’m very petty and litigious, and after getting burned by his recent stretch, you can bet that I’ll be Suwin someone. He’s hit just .152 with 1 HR and no SB in 33 AB over the past two weeks, reminding us that Jack may be who we thought he was, at least to an extent. He still has a beautiful 18% Barrel% and elite 114 mph MaxEV, which makes me ask why I want out. And then I remember the strikeouts.
His K rate has been skyrocketing as he’s struck out 25 times in his last 53 AB (61 PA), and you can probably guess that it’s not great when your K rate is hovering between 40 and 50%. Perhaps the thing more concerning is that this is what his production looks like having been benched when facing many lefties. If you’ve been paying attention, you’ve probably noticed he’s really bad against them and often sits, but when he has faced them, he’s hit .125 with no homers in 30 PA, good for a (I mean very bad for a) 31 wRC+. It’s just usually not worth rostering a platoon bat in 10-teamers, so I’d say he’s safe to cut at least in 10-team batting average formats. But of course, it’s never really safe to cut a power hitter.
Dishonorable Mention: Alejandro Kirk (C, Toronto Blue Jays)
Brandon Marsh (OF, Philadelphia Phillies)
Marsh has definitely gotten swampy, yet there’s a lack of big flies. Marsh started so hot that inattentive owners might not realize how bad he’s been lately, since his season line of .288/.408/.425 with 4 homers and 2 SB isn’t too shabby, especially in OBP formats. But the regression monster is accelerating at him like a game of SkiFree, as he’s hitting .188 with no homers over the last 3 weeks and just .071 over the past week. Even with that, all of his rate stats are demonstrably better than last year… but that’s not saying much.
Now, I’m not calling him an all formats drop, because he’s still doing one thing that’s important to many people… he’s still drawing tons of walks, with a 16% clip. But while he has a strong 50% HardHit%, he’s not hitting many barrels at 9%, at least not for someone whose K rate has risen up to 29%. I do think he’ll hit for more power, but the lack of stolen bases is disappointing, since all of his walks have given him plenty of opportunities to get on base. Until he starts running wild, he just doesn’t do enough to justify rostering in 12-team leagues, even OBP formats.
Dishonorable Mention: Connor Joe (1B/OF, Pittsburgh Pirates)
Brice Turang (2B, Milwaukee Brewers)
My computer told me I should cut him despite the solid season numbers, so it passed the Turang Test. I get the argument that his power/speed combo makes him a poor idea to cut in 15-team leagues, as the 3 homers and 6 SB sure does look nice, I get it. But I simply don’t trust that the bat is enough to keep him a regular. Sure, he hasn’t embarrassed himself, as he’s hit ,250 with a homer and SB the past week, leading some to think he’s due for another hot streak. However, the real hot streak belongs to his competition.
Owen Miller, who has primarily played second base and is no stranger to hot starts, is hitting .500 with a homer in 22 AB over the past week, and is hitting an impressive .350 with 1 HR and 3 SB in 80 AB over the season. While this pace is not sustainable, it puts lots of pressure on his playing time, and Turang needs to accumulate to gather value, since his batted ball quality is no good. He may have been a bit lucky, as his xBA of .213 and xSLG of .324 are in the bottom 11% of the league (granted, his 95th percentile sprint speed likely factored in here). Unless you need speed in the worst way, I think you’d be better off with other 15-team options like McKinstry, Zach Neto or Jon Berti. Cut in 15-team formats.
Dishonorable Mention: Wil Myers (OF, Cincinnati Reds)
Mike Zunino (C, Cleveland Guardians)
Seriously, how long are they going to keep trotting him out there while Bo Naylor is destroying Triple-A? Zuni is hitting .165/.276/.318 with 2 homers on the season as the team’s regular catcher, with a 47% K% that is hideous even by Zunino standards. The fact that he has earned 0.1 WAR due to his defense makes me want to go to war with WAR because he’s singlehandedly made the team’s offense worse than Oakland. Yet my AL-only leagues all still roster him. WHY?
Dishonorable Mention: Luis Rengifo (2B/SS, Los Angeles Angels)
Featured Image by Ethan Kaplan (@DJFreddie10 on Twitter and @EthanMKaplanImages on Instagram)