Welcome back to Buy & Sell, where this week’s theme is FAAB and the Furious (or for non-FAAB leagues, Rat Race). Last week had a sudden late surge of fantasy value, with call-ups of Keston Hiura, Oscar Mercado, Nicky Lopez, etc. It seemed unlikely that this week could top that, but it certainly did. One player in particular drew the average highest bids of any prospect so far this season, and in all that hype, there are certainly less sexy names that can provide value too. As this publishes on a Wednesday and some bidding is Sunday night, it may be too late for some of these, but let’s investigate to cover our bases with hitters who can clear the bases.
Austin Riley (3B, Atlanta Braves)
Everyone who blew their FAAB on other failed prospects and have no bidding money left to spend must be getting Riled up. Austin Riley definitely is the beneficiary of Ender Inciarte’s injury, though he deserved the call-up and could be a major impact player. The 22-year-old had already hit an insane 15 home runs with a .299/.377/.681 slash in Triple-A prior to his call-up and kept the hot hitting going with a homer in his MLB debut and hitting .409 with three homers this week. That doesn’t seem completely fluky either as Statcast fully validates his recent performance with a .408 xBA, 26% barrel rate, and 94 mph exit velocity, though it’s also not sustainable with a hideous 26% swinging-strike rate thanks to a 40% O-Swing and a 56% contact rate, which is below Joey Gallo. Not only that, I’m not so sure he sticks around when Inciarte returns as Inciarte is a Gold Glove defender even if that bat isn’t going and Ronald Acuna Jr. could be stretched in center field. I’d still try to pick him up if he’s available in your 12-team or even 10-team average league and/or bid a fair amount for the upside (15-18% of FAAB), but with this many red flags, I would not bid 25-30% like others may on high-costin’ Austin.
Matt Olson (1B, Oakland Athletics)
Gimme pizza because Mashley Olson is back. I was seriously skeptical about his value this year because hamate bone injuries often sap power, but he has made it clear in his first week back that he’s got a handle on the hand situation. He’s already hit three home runs in one week, and his exit velocity of 90 mph and launch angle of 18 degrees and barrel rate of 18% are in line with previous seasons. Sure, the velocity is not quite up to the 93 mph level of last year, but it’s also just been a week and I expect him to heat up as the season goes on. It might still not be too late to pick him up off the wire or from a leaguemate who is not convinced, and he should be added in all formats where he’s still available.
Willie Calhoun (OF, Texas Rangers)
This WC has been knocking the piss out of the ball. He came into this season with plummeted stock—and he didn’t exactly encourage folks with how badly he took the demotion—but now he’s playing like he got a fire lit under him. He was hitting .304/.416/.657 with eight homers in Triple-A to earn his promotion and has continued to mash in the majors with a .476/.476/.810 line with two homers in his first 21 at-bats. For a player with a historically low walk rate, it was encouraging that he posted a 16% rate in Triple-A prior to his call-up, though I expect the MLB walk rate to still be in the single digits. The sample size is still far to small to make meaningful conclusions, but the fact is he’s hitting the ball hard and in the sky in the AL’s most hitter-friendly park, and unlike Riley, he also is hitting for good contact with a fantastic 95% contact rate and elite 2.5% swinging-strike rate. I always liked him as a prospect for his combination of high contact and high power despite his compact 5’8″ frame, and I expect him to be a strong run producer with 15 to 20 homers the rest of the way. I think he has a better chance to stick on his MLB team, but he is currently in a logjam with some other Rangers outielders. I’m adding in 12-team average formats, but if you have some room on your bench I think he’s worth a spec add in all formats.
Tommy La Stella (2B/3B, Los Angeles Angels)
As Rihanna sang, “When L.A. sun shines on a journeyman fella, you can spend FAAB on my La Stella (ella, ella, eyy, eyy, eyy).” I think a lot of folks kept him as a short-term stream and “cashed out early” before this recent hot streak (.442/.478/.744 with four home runs over 43 at-bats the past two weeks) made those same folks kick themselves upon realizing he may actually be for real. He has a higher wRC+ than Mike Trout, which is hilarious and never going to last, but that’s not to say he is a total flash in the pan. He’s maintained an incredibly low strikeout rate and combined it with a high fly-ball rate, which means that he’s giving himself a lot more chances for the fly balls to turn into homers. While he still doesn’t have huge power, it’s around average and even with a modest HR/FB can “numbers game” his way into several more homers. Especially because, as Alex Fast pointed out earlier this week on Twitter (@alexfast8 is a must-follow) the Angels lowered their wall in right field, something that significantly boosts lefty power hitters such as La Stella at home, though he’s actually hit better on the road (.345 with five home runs in 58 at-bats on road vs. .282 with six home runs in 72 at-bats at home). He needs to be owned in 12-teamers and streamed in 10-teamers for now, and I’d have some patience because the day you drop him may be the day of Tommy Two Tates’ triumphant return.
Brendan Rodgers (SS, Colorado Rockies)
For years, the Rockies brass treated him like a total stranger, but now this is Mr. Rodgers’ Neighborhood. He certainly benefited from a combination of injuries and poor performance from Garrett Hampson, but he earned the call-up in his own right. He bopped an impressive .356/.421/.644 with nine homers in an admittedly hitter-friendly Rockies Triple-A affiliate, and I like that as he’s advanced, he’s increased his walk rate and lowered his strikeout rate. He’s one of what now is a more common mold of shortstop who can hit for both power and average, and his home park could provide him a huge boost about 50% of the time. I still am skeptical that the Rockies management won’t somehow mismanage his time, as the Rockies’ infield is still a mind-boggling mashup of Daniel Murphy, Ryan McMahon, and Mark Reynolds for some reason. … I can only surmise the owners are drunk 24/7. He should be owned in 15-team and 12-team average leagues for the upside, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that in a 12-team format that you need to be the one owning him.
Byron Buxton (OF, Minnesota Twins)
We’ve been waiting and waiting, but it might finally be time for the big Bux to roll in. I admittedly got bamboozled by his low strikeout rate and power in spring training, and it seems that little of that carried over into the actual season. However, he at least has hit for a career-best exit velocity (91 mph vs. a previous average of 85 mph), so I had a feeling the homers would come eventually. Sure enough, this week he hit three home runs, quadrupling his previous season total. While it’s clear at this point he’s never going to be close to being Trout (honestly in retrospect it’s kind of funny anyone would dare try to make this comparison), he could still put up a prime B.J. Upton season, with 15 to 20 home runs and 30-plus stolen bases but perhaps with a better average. He should still be owned in 12-team leagues, and it’s probably not too late to buy low on him in trades because I think the best is yet to come.
Mitch Moreland (1B, Boston Red Sox)
When he hits fly balls, more land in the seats. It’s admittedly quite hard to believe in because he’s been a fake Statcast darling of sorts, putting up stretches of high velocity and barrel rates only to get derailed by some sort of nagging knee or toe injury and then becoming near unrosterable. But he’s at least healthy for now, and unlike last year, Steve Pearce has been hot garbage and unlikely to cut into Moreland’s playing time. Moreland is already up to hitting .239 with 12 homers, and the batting average is climbing as I had predicted. With so many younger and more intriguing players being bandied about, Moreland is often among the first player cut among shallower rosters, and you should take advantage. His strikeout and walk numbers are the best of his career by just a little, but his 93 mph exit velocity and 17% barrel rate are career-bests by a lot, and I think this year he could legitimately hit 30 home runs with a .250 or higher average and .350 or higher OBP. He should be owned and started in all 15-team formats but also 12-team, for both average and OBP leagues.
Bryan Reynolds (OF, Pittsburgh Pirates)
The 24-year-old is making it reyn. He only had modest prospect pedigree before his call-up, but he’s been one of the Pirates’ best hitters since. He’s been filling in admirably for an injured Corey Dickerson, hitting for an excellent .320 average (less impressive .363 OBP with threer Homers in just 75 at-bats). Unfortunately, instead of this guaranteeing full-time reps, he’s still going toe-to-toe with Melky Cabrera (who is old enough to be his childhood baby-sitter) with Reynolds posting a .320 average and .896 OPS closely rivaling Melky’s .341 average and .853 OPS. Still, even the Pirates, with their history of somewhat questionable moves, I think will find a way to keep Reynolds in the lineup if he can keep this up somewhat. The playing time risk makes him more of a short-term stream with upside so I’d temper the enthusiasm, but he should absolutely be owned in NL-only and 18-team leagues and deeper average-based 15-teamers as well.
Scott Kingery (SS, Philadelphia Phillies)
When I see folks pick him off the deep-league scrap heap, I become Kingery-n with envy. I basically had to write him up after he crushed the Yahoo! most-added player by a mile, which is still a bit surprising for a player without a clear opportunity for playing time. Of course, he was hitting better than .400 over a small sample, which certainly doesn’t hurt. While Statcast seems to think most of that is luck and he deserved a .287 average, he still has a surprising amount of speed, though I doubt his recent injury is going to increase his already tame aggressiveness on the base paths. While he’s unlikely to steal much time from Jean Segura or Cesar Hernandez, he could start platooning or otherwise sapping time from Maikel Franco, who lately has been as useless as a fishnet face mask. I’m adding in all 18-team leagues and deeper average-based 15-teamers.
Roberto Perez (C, Cleveland Indians)
A player named Perez being a catcher is a tradition as old as time, and with Salvador down, someone needed to step up. Roberto has been quietly producing as a league-average catcher with a .232/.325/.434 with six homers over 99 at-bats, which for him is a huge improvement. After opening some gullible eyes last year with eight home runs in spring training, he laid a big fat egg in the regular season, which I guess makes him a post-microscopic-hype player. Perhaps that spring bat awakening wasn’t meaningless, as he may still have much more power in store, with a career-best barrel rate of 15% and an xSLG of .476. While initially it was assumed he’d be platooning, he’s run away with the lion’s share of at-bats and should be added in all two-catcher formats, single-catcher AL-only, and 18-team formats, and he is worth streaming in 15-team OBP leagues.
David Peralta (OF, Arizona Diamondbacks)
Let me be clear: He’s a sell-high for trading purposes, not a cut. That’s what y’all said you’d like more of. After DP punished pitchers in 2018, a season with solid power and a .300-plus average has most owners more than content with Peralta’s production. But of course that what makes him good to sell because it seems he’s been nothing more than a lucky rather pedestrian hitter. Belying his .312 average and slugging percentage of .529 is an xBA of just .256 and xSLG of .400. It’s not like if he regresses toward those rates it will devastate your team or anything, but in shallow formats (10-team and 12-team OBP), he’s just so replaceable in this run environment yet has significant trade value. Sure, right now he’s rockin’ like Woodstock, but hold him too long and it could go downhill like Peraltamont Speedway.
Omar Narvaez (C, Seattle Mariners)
His hitting looks good so far, but he’s not Nomar Garciaparrvaez. Yikes, that one was a stretch. Sure, he has a strong line so far with a .301/.373/.507 line with eight home runs, and he has no viable competition with only the 40% strikeout rate Tom Murphy challenging him for at-bats. But it’s likely this will be the only time this year where you could actually get something of value when trying to trade him. Statcast thinks this is all smoke and mirrors and gives him an xBA of just .227 with an xSLG of .391 for an xwOBA of .309 that’s lower than his 2018 mark. He rates below average or bad in every category in Statcast’s slider scale, including the defensive categories. If you can fetch a mint for him and get a Perez type to fill in, I think you’ll be better off for the wear.
Maikel Franco (3B, Philadelphia Phillies)
Phillie me once, shame on you. Phillie me twice, dang we all got fooled again. It was easy to believe Franco was finally turning an actual corner when he started the season with such low strikeout and walk rates, but he ultimately let us down like the Game of Thrones finale, or Seinfeld finale, or really most finales because they’re hard to do well. Franco may be having his Phillie Finale if he can’t turn it around, as over the past three weeks he’s hit just .179/.214/.239 with nary a tater over 67 at-bats. A .239 slugging percentage is so bad! Kingery (who just returned from the IL) will probably will start eating away at his playing time and could win his job outright even with a modest performance. I’d certainly cut Maikel in 12-team, but in most 15-team leagues (especially OBP formats), you should also do a Maik drop.
Albert Pujols (1B, Los Angeles Angels)
It may be obvious to you, but it’s not obvious to everyone that Pujols shouldn’t be owned. I hate to say it, but the likelihood of Pujols getting released this year seems as inevitable as the Titanic sinking. Sure, Pujols could hit a few dingers to make career-based headlines, just as Leo and Kate Winslet could hypothetically find a better wood plank that supported both of them (I’m still not convinced they couldn’t have shared it if the tried a bit harder), but barring a miracle, he’s just practically not in the team’s plans as more than a tool to get some butts in the seats (and not nearly as effective at that as if he were still in St. Louis). He’s recently been losing time to Jared Walsh, who isn’t nearly the hitter that Justin Bour was supposed to be preseason. Sure, he’s probably not kept in shallow leagues, but I’m sure you could find a superior option even in deeper 15-team and 18-team formats. Hate to say it, but it’s probably time to cut in some AL-only leagues too, and time to send Big Al to the Toy Barn.
Photo by George Walker/Icon Sportswire