Welcome back to Buy & Sell, and this week’s theme is me eating a big plump Crow a la Gleyber as punishment for casting aspersions on the young star. In this week’s edition, I try to focus on their track record, not overemphasize Statcast (with mixed results) to find the values springing up in the wake of the never-ending injury deluge. And this actually refers to the whole league, not just the Mets.
Brandon Crawford (SS, San Francisco Giants)
I’ve been trying SO hard to not fall for it again. You know, what happens every year (for the past few anyway) in which Brandon Crawford, a boring, glove-first regular, goes on a hot streak, and then you pick him up only for the floor to fall out from under his bat. But while he’s not the biggest upside play, you also can’t not ride this out. He’s hit a fantastic .321 with 7 HR, 16 R, and 19 RBI in 56 ABs over the past few weeks, raising his season total to .256/.336/.543 with 11 HR and 3 SB in 129 AB. While he’s unlikely to continue on a 40 homer pace, the 34-year-old looks poised to top his career-best 21 HR that he mustered back in 2015. This is the third consecutive year he’s raised his barrel rate, and his 15% mark this year is in the top decile of major league hitters. Hitting in the heart of a sneaky good offense, he should be added in 10-team formats, and despite being ESPN’s most added player, he’s still available in one-third of leagues, so put that in your Craw.
Max Kepler (OF, Minnesota Twins)
The Twins might feel a bit better about their widely-panned decision to cut Eddie Rosario with the sudden glut of slugging outfielders at their disposal. While everyone else is distracted by the shiny new toys with their prospect sheen, swoop in on the steady hitter with German craftsmanship. While he’s hitting a ho-hum .221/.312/.451 overall, with his five homers, come five stolen bases, and he’s hit all five of his jacks in the past 3 weeks with an impressive 9/12 BB/K in 64 AB over that span. The 28-year-old’s sudden prowess on the base paths (with no caught stealing) is a welcome change, and he’s likely to reach double-digit thefts. His entire statcast page is pink or red, and he’s finally sporting a good barrel rate with a sturdy 11% clip. It’s not flashy, but he can quietly land you a .260/25/10 pace production with excellent OBP, and I think there’s potential for more. He may seem ordinary, but you’ll be on a trip to the championship with MK Ultra.
Ian Happ (2B/OF, Chicago Cubs)
He’s deserving of some Happreciation. After a huge 2020 largely propelled by across-the-board improvement in plate discipline and batted balls, he was cut by some who thought of him as a fluke after the injury-riddled start. But he’s come back with a rip-roaring streak, hitting .324/.378/.765 with 4 HR in 34 AB since his return. The only bad news is this came with a less than stellar 2/11 BB/K ratio that indicates he may be quite streaky still. However, being at a weak position, he could easily lead his keystone competition in homers going forward, with great OBP and a smattering of stolen bases to boot. Stream in all OBP formats and add in 12-team leagues.
Keston Hiura (2B/1B, Milwaukee Brewers)
You may remember me clamoring for fantasy leaguers to drop him early in the season when I saw his already terrible Zone-Contact drop to a level of a major league pitcher, neither of which should be allowed to happen for long. But now I’m reversing course to say take him for one key reason… second base is a dumpster fire, if not a five-alarm dumpferno. Hiura doesn’t seem likely to stop striking out as his K rate was still scarily high (34%) in his Triple-A reboot campaign, but he did at least hit .438 with plenty of power and speed, which should help him regain his confidence. The last time he was demoted back in his rookie year, he came back guns blazing, so if you’re injury-ravaged, you can take a shot on him. Just have a backup plan if it’s same old, same old with the youngster.
Ji-Man Choi (1B, Tampa Bay Rays)
Folks are stampeding to pick him up like a dangerous game of Choimanji. After tearing the cover off the ball, there was a collective gasp in fantasyland after pain in his surgically-repaired knee, but it looks like he’s fine, at least for now, and we’ll take it! Since his recent return, he’s hitting a healthy .400/.531/.760 with two taters in 25 AB since his return, and Statcast supports the studly small sample with a .311 xBA and .628 xSLG. While he’ll likely regress with an unsexy 69% contact rate, he has an opportunity to supplant the worm-burning Yandy Diaz as the first baseman, and the Rays wouldn’t shy from batting Choi high in the lineup to capitalize on his OBP, boosting his run production. Jump for Choi in 15-teamers and consider as a stream in deeper 12-team OBP.
Rob Refsnyder (OF, Minnesota Twins)
This is one Ref that clearly isn’t blind. The 30-year-old former Yankees second base prospect has done a stunning job filling in for Minnesota in Byron Buxton’s wake, hitting .393/.438/.536 with a homer in 28 AB. His three barrels in that timeframe give him a 14% Barrel rate that trounces his previous career marks, and while this may regress, his tradeoff of contact for hard contact could help him have a career year. He’s unlikely to contribute in the stolen base department, as his 39th percentile sprint speed makes him rather slow for a center fielder, but his ability to play the position adequately gives him a chance to remain in the lineup, though Kepler remains a threat. I like his batting average ability enough to consider him a useful stream in 15-team AVG leagues for now.
Danny Santana (1B, Boston Red Sox)
Santana is back and digging the long ball. After being one of the biggest busts of 2020, Santana was completely forgotten about entering drafts this year but now finds himself with a chance to carve out a role in hitter-friendly Fenway amid a formidable Red Sox lineup. He’s already hit 2 homers and 1 SB in 15 PA, giving hope that he’s in for another 2019 20-20 campaign. I think the power should still be there, as he’s showing strong exit velocity and two barrels already, but the average is still quite volatile with his poor plate discipline and declining contact%. In fact, so far, it’s been abysmal, with a 53% contact% (that’s like Bartolo Colon batting) that will need to improve right away for him to be remotely viable, but perhaps that will improve as he shakes off the rust. He’s a pure power/speed lotto ticket but with enough upside to cling to in this injury-ravaged landscape.
Taylor Walls (SS, Tampa Bay Rays)
Everyone was hoping that the Adames trade meant that the path was clear for wunderkind Wander, but the Rays kept putting Walls up in front of him. Walls certainly hasn’t lit the world on fire, but he was cromulent in his Triple-A campaign, with a .327/.468/.490 line with two homers, two stolen bases, and an unusual 21% BB% to go with a 29% K%. So far in the majors, he’s been quietly humming along at a .250/.357/.417 rate with no homers or stolen bases yet, but I actually think he’s quite a deep league sleeper thanks to his astounding plate discipline. His 14% walk rate looks legit with a phenomenal 19% O-Swing% to a 73% Z-Swing%, and he’s alleviated strikeout rate concerns with an 86% Contact%. While he lacks big power, he can be another Joey Wendle type but with better OBP. Scoop in AL-only leagues and 18-team OBP formats, and consider as a streamer in 15-team OBP.
Eric Haase (C, Detroit Tigers)
Do… Do Haase… Do Haase mash? I honestly originally picked him here just so I can write that. Super-current Rammstein references aside, Haase made quite a splaashe with a double-dinger debut but hasn’t done much since, hitting .278/.297/.500 with an 11/0 K/BB. However, he is playing almost every day with Ramos out indefinitely, and Statcast thinks he’s been unlucky with a .311 xBA and .581 xSLG. While I still expect him to ultimately hit like the backup catcher he is, I think he’ll be better than Jake Rogers, and he should remain a useful fill-in in two-catcher and AL-only formats, especially in batting average leagues.
Joey Wendle (2B/3B/SS, Tampa Bay Rays)
This may come as a surprise, as thus far, he’s been some kind of Wendleful. But Warren Buffett always said you should be fearful when others are greedy, and you’re better off cashing in your chips now while his value is at an all-time high. He’s hit a mind-boggling .500/.565/1.150 with three homers the past week, raising his season line to .310/.365/.552. But here’s the thing: It’s not going to last, and right now, you can get an actually valuable player for him. Statcast rates him as the luckiest player in baseball, and under the hood is an ugly .243 xBA and .369 xSLG that’s actually below his expected rates from 2020! Even more surprisingly, his rolling 50 game xwOBA from his last 50 plate appearances is actually down from .296 to just .276. There’s nothing in his contact rate, batted ball data, or anything else to suggest he’s anything other than a sell-high, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him return to part-time duty by season’s end. While I wouldn’t advocate dropping him outright while he’s on this streak, try to flip him for value now, and don’t get too greedy.
Joey Gallo (OF, Texas Rangers)
Gallo looks like he’s at the end of his rope. Much ado was made of his launch angle change, and lo and behold, he has lowered his launch angle a little, to just 19%. Only one problem… it didn’t help him with his batted balls and didn’t help reduce his whiffs either. In fact, his 58% Contact% is a career-worst, and while he has 7 homers, the fact that he’s only hit 3 other extra-base hits and his 38th percentile xSLG indicates he might not have enough pop to compensate. He still draws plenty of walks, but I’d much rather roll the dice on a guy like Jorge Soler, who actually can make contact enough for the mammoth power to matter. Cut in batting average 12-teamers, and I’d be looking to sell low in OBP leagues where his walk rate overshadows his glaring flaws.
Kyle Higashioka (C, New York Yankees)
Bless my soul, what’s wrong with me, added Kyle for homers at my C, then he struck out and looked as lost as an anxious pup, I got a bust, huh, I’m Higashiook up. It’s not like Gary Sanchez has been much better, but Higgy’s rolling xwOBA, which had been flying high, has plummeted to below league average and will likely return to his previous role as a backup with an occasional multi-homer game. Cut in 15-teamers unless you need homers in the worst way.
Dan Vogelbach (1B, Milwaukee Brewers)
Vogey has been a bogey in everything but deeper OBP leagues, and he didn’t capitalize on his chance to run away with the first base gig the past month. Now the return of Hiura is likely to eat away at his playing time, as Kolten Wong has been red-hot. Of course, Hiura can flop again, and Vogelbach can get more chances, but with his penchant for hitting balls that find fielder’s gloves, the juice is simply not worth the squeeze. Cut in all but the deepest of NL OBP formats and don’t look Vogelback.