Buy & Sell 5/29: Identifying Who to Add and Who to Drop
Welcome back to Buy & Sell, where this week’s theme is “All in the Family.” Perhaps it’s fitting that post-Memorial Day BBQ, players are making a splash with baseball in their bloodlines. After the FAAB-apalooza on hot young prospects the past two weeks, some productive but less exciting players had to be cut to make room, and those players may prove to be the ones really worth owning. Alternate title for this week is “Why does Ben hate the NL?” You’ll see what I mean; I swear it’s just how things played out this week.
C.J. Cron (1B/UT, Minnesota Twins)
If you’re browsing for a first baseman, look no further than Google Cron. The streaky slugger has been enjoying his new digs in the Twin Cities, hitting .270/.333/.534 with 13 homers in 178at-bats on the year and hitting .355/.417/.697 with seven homers in 76 at-bats over the past three weeks. While he hasn’t made any massive changes to his game, he’s improved a bit all around, with improved plate discipline (career-best 22% strikeout rate, 7% walk rate) as well as improved power (career-best 91 mph exit velocity, 15% barrel rate). Statcast believes that he’s been slightly unlucky if anything, with an xBA of .278 and xSLG of .531. As Alex Fast pointed out on Twitter, since the start of 2018 he’s hit nearly as many home runs and RBI as Mike Trout and yet is still available in more than half of ESPN leagues (up to 47% owned from 35% last week). If your offense is looking grotesque, it’s time to enter the C.J. Cron-enberg dimension.
Kevin Cron (3B, Arizona Diamondbacks)
C.J.’s little brother has been clubbing the ball like a Cron-Magnon. Well perhaps use of the term “little” is misguided, as the 26-year-old is a mighty 6’5″ and 245 lbs. Until this year, he seemed more like a fringe or Quadruple-A player, hitting 25 homers at every level up the ladder (though improving from a skills perspective), before going gangbusters this year hitting .339/.437/.800 with a minors-leading 21 homers in 165 at-bats. That’s basically a home run every other game. Perhaps the Cron brothers signed a blood pact to sell their souls for unlimited power. While Cron hasn’t yet exploded onto the scene like Austin Riley (and lacks Riley’s prospect pedigree), going 1-for-7 , one number has me giddy: 97.3. That’s his exit velocity, along with two barrels that happened to find gloves. That gives me a lot of hope that he’s for real and not Josh VanMeter 2.0, and he could produce be a viable fallback to Miguel Sano. In leagues with a deep bench, the power is worth a spec add in all formats, though less so in OBP because walks don’t run in the family. In standard leagues, though, he’s a must-add in 15-team and in most 12-team average formats, this Kevin won’t be left Cron Alone.
Derek Dietrich (1B/2B/OF, Cincinnati Reds)
America Home Runs on DD. It might seem completely crazy that player who was cut from the Miami Marlins, of all teams, is now mashing with the best of ’em. But here he is, with 14 jacks on the season after hitting three more dongs this week. While it may seem completely unsustainable, and Statcast seems to agree with that suggestion, remember that he is going from one the league’s worst parks for hitters to one of the best, and former teammate Christian Yelich can attest to the difference that can make. While his exit velocity isn’t all that much better than last year’s and still league average, he’s made the fly balls he does hit count, with a phenomenal 17% barrel rate. He was actually one of the more dropped players this past week, falling from 26% owned to 18% in ESPN, but I think that ownership rate should be over 50% with his 30-home run upside in his new digs. If you doubt he’s strong enough to pull that off, just see him with his shirt off. That’s not too challenging as he rips his shirt off a lot, and I would too if I were that jacked. With his multiposition versatility, he’s a must-add in 15-teamers, and I feel he should be owned in 12-teamers as well.
Oscar Mercado (OF, Cleveland Indians)
He’s running wild like he’s on Supermercado Sweep! And he’s loading up on cheese wheels because he’s hitting the ball with cheese and showing his wheels. He’s started strong with a .323/.417/.516 line with a home run and two stolen bases in his first 31 at-bats. Scouts initially said Mercado stole bases more on instincts than raw speed, so it’s comforting to see his elite 28.9 m/s as an indicator that he does indeed have the speed to succeed at the major league level. While his playing time could be potentially limited because of his mediocre defense (I saw him assist an opposing hitter by slapping a would-be double over the fence), I think he’s already done enough to be considered part of the team’s future. I believe he’ll have double-digit pop too as he made deliberate swing changes for more barrels, and he has a surprisingly robust exit velocity for a speedster at 90 mph. Now that the Indians have already bumped him up toward the top of the lineup, he should be owned in all 15-team and 12-team formats and is even a viable 10-team stream for teams in need of swipes. When you win the guac, you can celebrate with an Avomercado Toast.
David Fletcher (2B/3B/SS/OF, Los Angeles Angels)
He’s far more than just a Fletchling option at the keystone. I wrote a piece about him back in April about his insanely amazing contact skills suggesting surprising fantasy value, and unlike many April surprises, this one is actually panning out. He’s now hitting an impressive .314/.362/.451 with four home runs and four stolen bases over 175 at-bats on the season and hitting .478 with one home runs and at stolen base this week. His contact skills have remained the best in the league, with a top-ranked 2% swinging-strike rate to go with a 94% overall contact rate and 98% zone contact rate. Yes, he’s been thrown 482 strikes and has made contact with 473 of them, and that is downright bananas. He’s become a bit more aggressive at the plate lately (O-Swing rose from 21% in April to 25%), which is a good thing for him, as he previously took far too many looking strikes. It’s no wonder he now sports an xBA of .335. With his high .300 average floor, he should be owned and started in all 15- and even 12-team leagues, especially with his multiposition eligibility, so get your red Halos hunting cap like a Fletcher in the Rye.
Lourdes Gurriel Jr. (2B/SS, Toronto Blue Jays)
Praise the Lourdes! Yuli’s younger brother came zooming back into fantasy relevance, but no, I won’t write Yuli as a buy just to have two brother pairs. Prior to his demotion, Lourdes had really been struggling to hit the ball with authority, but it seems the Triple-A confidence boost did the trick. Since returning, he’s been smoking the ball with a .538 average and all three of his homers in just 13 at-bats. While his overall sample size is still small, his current 15% barrel rate is double last year’s mark, and I still believe he can be the type of hitter who can sustain a high-ish average even with a relatively high strikeout rate. I’d be scooping him up in 18-teamers and as a flier in 15-team average formats as he can make an impact in quite a Hurriel.
Cavan Biggio (2B. Toronto Blue Jays)
Enough with baseball brothers, now for a baseball son, and now I suddenly feel very old. Makes me want to pour vodka into my prune juice. Although he lacked the prospect pedigree one would expect from the son of a Hall of Famer, Biggio has managed to exceed his expectations. After strong numbers last year in Double-A (26 home runs and 20 stolen baess), he put up a .307/.445/.504 batting line with six home runs, five stolen bases and a 28:32 K/BB ratio this season at Triple-A Buffalo. Seeing as a high strikeout rate cast a shadow on his future outlook, it’s certainly encouraging he cut his strikeout rate from 26% to 16%, though time will tell if it’s a Triple-A mirage. Outside of a big day where he went 3-for-4 with a homer, he hasn’t done much yet in the majors, but if he can keep the strikeouts under control, he could be a solid source of double-digit power and a handful of steals with plenty of walks for a middle infielder. I prefer Gurriel for this year overall and especially in average leagues, but in 18-team formats and 15-team OBP, you should become a Cavangelist.
Avisail Garcia (OF, Tampa Bay Rays)
I don’t know how they did it, but the Rays took a player off the scrap heap and Tommy Pham-ified him. He’s been hitting an impressive .279/.344/.494 with nine home runs and six stolen bases and has been especially hot as of late, hitting .286 with three home runs and two stolen bases this week. He already had the hit-the-ball-hard part of that profile but has improved even more at that skill with a career-best barrel rate of 14%. It may seem like luck, but it seems that he may have actually been quite unlucky with an xBA of .293 and xSLG of .557. But what’s most noticeable is that he’s gotten more aggressive on the base paths, with six swipes and only one caught stealing, already one stolen base away from his career high of seven. But I think it’s no fluke, as his 28.7 m/s sprint speed is elite and tied with Greg Allen and Tim Anderson. He’s actually a step slower than previous years, but he’s finally with a team that’ll let him put that natural gift to use. My only reservation is his discipline is still bad, with a career-worst 19.7% swinging-strike rate and 64% contact rate that suggests a rockier road ahead. But he’s still just 27, and he should at least produce on an Andrew McCutchen-level, making him a must-own in 12-team average formats.
Renato Nunez (3B, Baltimore Orioles)
Someone better contact ReNATO because Nunez is launching bombs everywhere. He’s hit .346 with five taters just this week to bring him up to 13 on the season. He’s been due for the power breakout, as his exit velocity has been way up to 92 mph with an elite 15% barrel rate. And it hasn’t been pure luck, as he’s actually underperforming his xBA of .252 and xSLG of .506. Still, he hasn’t gotten the respect of many other corner infielders, as his ownership actually went DOWN this week, from 6% to 4%. That is way way way too low. While he’s going to weather some rough cold spells, and likely not going to be an asset in OBP or stolen bases, he can still hit 30 dingers from the hot corner and for that reason is an obvious add in 15-teamers and average-based 12-teamers. So if he’s still on your wire, you better run at Renato.
Jose Iglesias (SS, Cincinatti Reds)
Well, he’s not a family member of any other major leaguers, but he is one of two Iglesiases on the Reds (Raisel’s the other one), and teams are like big corporate families, right? Iglesias was the David Fletcher prototype before David Fletcher, and now he’s Baby Sharking his way to a triumphant return to relevance. He’s smacked two dingers with a .354 average over the past two weeks and has handily outplayed fellow Jose speedster Peraza while manning shortstop. Well actually, he’s no longer really a speedster, as his 26.8 m/s sprint speed is merely average and tied with the likes of Josh Bell and Grayson Greiner, which might explain his 1-for-4 stolen base success rate. Still, he should continue to post a high average and reach a career high in homers thanks to his very beneficial bandbox of a home ballpark. He’s a fine add in NL-only and 18-team average formats.
Derek Fisher (OF, Houston Astros)
In the flurry of more heralded prospects, he is easy to overlook, but I wouldn’t forget about him. Although his call-up likely brought about some anger from Kyle Tucker and Yordan Alvarez owners, as he lacks their upside, he did at least earn it with a .314 average, eight home runs and six stolen bases in Triple-A. He’s gotten off to a fine start this year, with a .375 average and above average exit velocity. He hasn’t seemed to be able to remedy his contact problem, but he’s compensated with hard contact. Even though he’s not exactly a prospect anymore at 25 going on 26, I still think he could go at least 15-10 with a passable average in this environment if he had run over a full season, though barring a trade or more injuries, that’s probably not happening. I’d roll the dice on him in AL-only and 18-team, and in five-outfielder 15-team OBP formats. You could deep stream Fisher.
Joey Votto (1B, Cincinnati Reds)
It brings me no joy to cast aspersions on a baseball great, but I think it’s time. This offseason saw many predictions of a comeback in his age 35-season, but things have only continued to go downhill. His normally elite strikeout rate is a pedestrian 22%; his barrel rate and exit velocity are lower than last year at 6.5% and 86 mph, respectively; and he isn’t even drawing a ton of walks anymore at just 11%. It hasn’t been just bad luck, as his actual .311 wOBA is quite close to his .316 xwOBA. It seems he’s continuing to tinker and there’s always the chance he has a Eureka moment is is great again, but neither the numbers nor watching him indicate that is likely to happen. I’d cut in any 10-team or 12-team formats, and I’d consider holding a bit longer in 15-team average formats but wouldn’t fault you one bit for cutting him if there’s a strong option on your wire.
Maikel Franco (3B, Philadelphia Phillies)
Look, I know this probably looks obvious … but if it’s so obvious, why is he still owned in 66% of ESPN leagues? Yeesh. His decent-looking overall line masks the fact that he hasn’t hit a lick in a month, hitting a putrid .148/.175/.213 line with no homers over the past two weeks. He’s always seemed to have potential with his low strikeout rate, but his quality of contact is just bad and has probably earned too many chances. Scott Kingery definitely seems to be the more intriguing bat and should start eating into Franco’s playing time. Cut Franco loose in all 12-team and 15-team leagues, and even in 18-team leagues, I would at least bench him if possible.
Albert Almora Jr. (OF, Chicago Cubs)
We’d like to see a lot Almora this, but we probably won’t. Another junior on our apparently family-themed list, he’s been one of the NL’s hottest hitters, hitting .292 with five homers over the past two weeks. However, Statcast suggests this is all smoke and mirrors, as he still has the same wimpy exit velocity at 85 mph and launch angle of 8 degrees, and his slugging percentage of .442 is significantly higher than his xSLG of .396. His ownership rate isn’t high at 6%, but with his youth (25) combined with his three-homer week, this is probably the best time to flip him for anything of value. If you can’t trade him, I’d just ride it out in 18-teamers, but in 15-teamers, I’d cut before his line gets scarier than A Nightmare on Almora Stream.
Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire