Buy & Sell 5/8: Identifying Who to Add and Who to Drop
Welcome back to Buy & Sell, where this week’s theme is expected slugging stars and scrubs, and also lots of players that wear red. I’m expecting some of the deeper league add suggestions to raise an eyebrow or three, but for this edition, I’m going to more or less eschew the most added/dropped players on ESPN and focus on my own personal selections, with Statcast as my handy (yet somewhat screwy) sidekick. Enjoy!
Nick Senzel (OF, Cincinnati Reds)
If he’s still available in your league, you should spend all your money on Zelle. He’s off to a fine start, hitting .235/.381/.765 with three home runs and one stolen base in just 17 plate appearances. Sure, we’ve already been through the rinse and repeat of seeing other hyped prospects falling flat on their faces (Carter Kieboom, Danny Jansen), but Senzel’s a different animal. Statcast was ga-ga for him even before his two-homer game and now gives him a .295 xBA and .783 xSLG (small sample size warning). I believe he’s selling out for power, as his 68% contact rate is low for someone thought to be a high-contact hitter, but he’s at least laying off bad pitches (26.5 O-Swing%) and hitting the ball hard with a 92.5 mph exit velocity. The speed has been as advertised with a 27.9 m/s sprint speed that’s tied with Jose Altuve and Jean Segura. I expect him to level out and be a rather safe .270 with 20 to 25 home runs and 10 to 15 stolen bases, and he should be owned and started in all leagues.
Michael Chavis (2B/3B, Boston Red Sox)
Hopefully you picked him up early because it’s far too late to be part of the Dollar Chavis Club. As many more heralded prospects have flopped this year, Chavis just keeps getting better, hitting .333/.438/.704 this week with three home runs and a stolen base to bring his season total to .309/.433/.673 with six home runs and two stolen bases in just 66 plate appearances. While he’s benefited some from luck, Statcast still thinks he’s a fearsome hitter with an xBA of .260 and xSLG of .585 thanks to his insane 21% barrel rate. Perhaps what’s most surprising is the stolen bases, as he had been given a 40 run grade as a prospect, but his 27.7 m/s sprint speed is well above average and tied with Mookie Betts and David Dahl. The average should fall, as his 68% contact rate is concerning, but he can compensate with a legit high OBP and a fair shot at double digit stolen bases. While it could be a great time to trade him to a hyped up Sox fan, at this point, he’s a must-own in all 12-team leagues and a viable streamer in 10-team OBP formats.
Mitch Moreland (1B, Boston Red Sox)
Time for another game of Dinger Dong Mitch. I’ve fallen for him at some point almost every year I’ve written this column, but this year it’s different, I swear. He’s the anti-Nolan Arenado in that he often underperforms his expected stats and is streaky as heck, but there are some promising signs. While some owners may scoff at his .216 batting average, it belies a far better .265 xBA, and his strong .529 slugging percentage is actually underperforming his xSLG of .580, for a .395 xwOBA, tied with Josh Bell and Matt Chapman. The biggest change is a huge jump in his exit velocity, at a career-best 93.4 mph, and excellent 19% barrel rate that are among the best in baseball. I just found him unclaimed in one of my 15-teamers (I fixed that), but I think he’s even viable as a utility bat in deeper 12-team OBP.
Howie Kendrick (2B/3B, Washington Nationals)
I wonder if this a joke because I feel like we’re all getting Kendrickrolled. OK, so I figured that I wouldn’t need to write about him again because he’d either cool off or owners would wise up and take him. But I was wrong! He’s been on fire, hitting .409/.435/.545 with a homer and stolen base this week, bringing him to a gaudy .338/.405/.592 line with five home runs and a stolen base over 80 plate appearances … yet he’s owned in just 7% of leagues. That’s Kendrickulous. Somehow, the 35-year old’s exit velocity is a career-best 92.6 mph with a strong 15.9% barrel rate, but he also improved his contact with a career 11% walk rate AND 13% strikeout rate. With the rare combination of power, discipline, and contact, it’s no wonder his xwOBA of .467 is currently sitting below Mike Trout and Christian Yelich. While he won’t keep up that pace , there’s enough to like here to believe he’ll bump out Brian Dozier and Kieboom for playing time, and he should be grabbed in all 15-team and deeper 12-team formats, especially in average leagues.
Derek Dietrich (OF/1B, Cincinatti Reds)
It looks like he’s been on a dietrich with protein because he’s been muscling out dingers left and right. He’s been Reds-hot with a .412/.524/1.118 line with four home runs and a stolen base over the past week in just 17 at-bats. I would pump the brakes and say he’s vastly outperforming his metrics with an .531 xSLG vs his .686 actual, but that’s still pretty good for a player not known for his pop. While his 87 mph exit velocity is in line with his career rates, he’s improved his discipline substantially with a career-best 17% strikeout rate and 8% walk rate, so he’s not a total fluke. With Senzel’s arrival, his playing time situation just got a bit murkier, but Matt Kemp is also gone, so I think he’s still a must-own in all 15-team formats and a great play with daily lineups and DFS, as well as a viable streamer in deeper (five-outfielder) 12-team, and a must-own in bee suit leagues.
Raimel Tapia (OF, Colorado Rockies)
Raimel, the past few weeks it’s been hard to top ya. The long-blocked outfielder has earned his keep after hitting .302/.362/.736 with four dingers and a stolen base over the past three weeks. While he was initially more valued for his wheels, he’s traded it off for power, with an 89 mph exit velocity, which crushes his previous career average of 81 mph, and a good barrel rate of 8.3%. While his 28.3 sprint speed is still excellent, he’s been timid on the bases with just one stolen base so far, but that could change as he gets comfortable and less risk-averse. While Statcast is far more pessimistic with an xBA of .228 and xSLG of .378, its system underrates all Rockies hitters, and I think he should be able to hit .250 to .260 with a 15-home run, 10-stolen base pace the rest of the way. He should be scooped up in deeper 15-teamers and is a decent high-upside spec even in shallower 15-team formats. Of course, I’m assuming he doesn’t get blocked again, consideringn when it comes to the Rockies’ roster decisions, there’s no Raimel reason.
Jonathan Lucroy (C, Los Angeles Angels)
Use the force, Lucroy. The past few years, I’ve had my fun clowning Lucroy as I felt he was constantly being overrated as he was sporting some of the weakest contact in the game. But now with his stock down, he’s coming back strong, with a solid .265 average and four home runs. His resurgence is supported with a career-best 42.5% hard-hit rate and 89 mph exit velocity that’s the best he’s posted in years (85 mph in ’17 and 87 mph in ’18). He’s probably not returning to a 25-home run threat with just a 4.5% barrel rate, but he can at least be a high-floor option thanks to his high-contact approach, with a career-best 9.5% strikeout rate. If you’ve been stuck with Jansen in a redraft, time you cut him for Cool Hand Lucroy as he’s essentially been what Jansen was expected to be. While he’s likely owned in most two-catcher formats, it’s also time to get on board in 18-team and 15-team average formats, and he’s streamable in 12-teamers.
Mac Williamson (OF, San Francisco Giants)
Mac attac is bac. Yes, we’ve been through this before. Yes, I’m still interested. The way Williamson beasted out in Triple-A puts his previous streaks to shame, with a .378/.459/.756 line and nine home runs in just 98 Triple-A plate appearances. I’m hoping this is the year he isn’t suddenly derailed by an injury and can actually carry over some of his insane minors power to the major leagues. With the sorry state of the San Francisco outfield, he could hold on to a spot without much difficulty if he can even carry over half that production, and while the strikeout rate will be high, I expect easy 25-home run power even with his home park. He could be like a Hunter Renfroe-lite but with the better playing time security, he could actually outproduce Renfroe. I’m adding in NL-only, 18-team, and even deeper 15-team formats, especially in OBP. When it comes to professing my love of Mac, I refuse to be PC.
Jordy Mercer (SS, Detroit Tigers)
The Jord is risen. OK, he isn’t yet, but he will rise someday, maybe. Statcast almost inexplicably loves Mercer, saying that despite his rather expected lousy .217 avverage and .333 slugging percentage, he deserves an xBA of .308 and xSLG of .572. That gives him an expected wOBA of .397, above Dan Vogelbach and Marcell Ozuna. Sure, this could be some sort of mistake. Comerica could have a hot gun issue, as Statcast loved Niko Goodrum too (and look how that’s misled me so far) but isn’t as bullish on other Tigers hitters, so it seems unlikely. I don’t expect Mercer to reach those heights, of course, but I could see him as a sleeper to hit .260-plus with 15 home runs, which plays in deeper formats, and I’d pick him up as a spec add in AL-only and 18-teamers and monitor in shallower formats to see if the Mercer-nary starts fulfilling the prophecy.
Kelvin Gutierrez (3B, Kansas City Royals)
He hasn’t exactly been red hot, but Kelvin has been more than an absolute zero. Since he was acquired by the Royals for Kelvin Herrera (because of the Royals’ One Kelvin At All Times policy), he’s been hitting a solid .333/.351/.500, which on the Royals is enough to force his way into regular at-bats. Despite his prospect pedigree, he’s gotten lucky with an xBA of .253 and xSLG of .371, largely because of his 0.5 launch angle that makes Yandy Diaz blush. Like Yandy, he has been hitting the ball fairly hard with a 91 mph exit velocity, but the 11:1 K/BB ratio over that span makes it likely that he’ll soon find himself back in the minors when the tables turn. But you can stream him for run production in AL-only and deeper 18-team average formats.
Asdrubal Cabrera (2B/SS/3B, Texas Rangers)
AsdRuPaul has been strutting his stuff, but hold on to him too long and he’ll drag you down. He’s been a solid versatile utility bat so far, hitting .232 but with six home runs and slugging .495, which is more or less what was expected, though with hopes that the average will rise. Well, his xBA of .187 and xSLG of .334 beg to differ. The resulting .270 xwOBA is worse than Mike Tauchman and Adam Engel. Granted, Texas will protect his stats from reaching that nadir, but it’s alarming for a player known for his consistency. I’d try to trade him because I doubt most leaguemates will focus on his multiposition eligibility and not the abyss he’s looking down into, but failing that, I’m cutting in 10-team and 12-team formats, especially batting average formats, but I’m still holding in 15-team for now until/unless he starts losing playing time, at which point I’d definitely Asdrubail.
Ender Inciarte (OF, Atlanta Braves)
All good things must come to an ender, Inciarte. I wanted to write him as a sell from mid-April on and found excuses every week, perhaps because then I’d have to put my money where my mouth was and cut my several shares of him. Ender’s game has been worse all around this year, with pathetic exit velocity of 78 mph (career 83 mph), a career-high 21% strikeout rate, and a below-average sprint speed (26.6 m/s). But the bigger issue is that he’s now stuck at the bottom of the Braves’ lineup, where he will no longer get the volume needed to have valuable counting stats. Write off this Ender bender in 12-team and shallow 15-team formats as well as even deeper 15-team OBP leagues.
Welington Castillo (C, Chicago White Sox)
I don’t have a beef with Welington, but I stlll think he’s cooked. This one is honestly pretty simple. He’s really no worse than he was last year, but last year wasn’t good. But James McCann is crushing and is the better defender anyway, and Castillo’s bat isn’t good enough to DH on this club. Unless he gets traded to another one of the several teams that could upgrade at catcher, he’ll play about as much as a short-side platoon bat, so he’s droppable in 12-team and 15-team single-catcher formats and even 18-team formats, for as long as he remains an outcast-illo.
(Photo by Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire)