Well, I analyzed a lot of the potential buys this week based on most added players, and my conclusion was that a lot of them stink! Here I only list the hot players who are worth your time and are showing real signs of progress… and this week, we had to dig DEEEEEP, so most of these guys will be available in your mixed leagues. I did add some more drops this week, since this is that time of year where you can no longer blame struggles on April and make some tough cuts that preseason you would never believe.
Marwin Gonzalez (1B/2B/3B/OF, Astros) – He’s been fantasy swiss army knife in more ways than one, not just due his positional versatility, but also due to his stat sheet-stuffing ways at a bargain price. But suddenly he’s less knife and more samurai sword, as he’s been slashing the ball to pieces with 9 Homers and a .414 ISO in just 86 PA, on pace to demolish his career high of 13 set last year. While he does sport a massively inflated HR/FB rate (39.1%), he’s hitting more fly balls (granted, at the expense of line drives) and has improved both his swing rate and contact for an elite 94.1% Z-Contact. He’s improved every year and crushed experts’ lukewarm expectations, so I’d buy but especially if you can bench him when he’s not in the lineup since he still lacks security of playing time. Stop doubting him, and he’ll help you start MarWINNING.
Alex Avila (C, Detroit Tigers) – Before typing this, I had to wash my face with cold water and ask myself if I was really recommending Alex Avila. But here I am, recommending Alex Avila. He still has his strikeout-y warts, but hit batted ball profile shows a fantastic 55.9% Hard% with a low 23% GB%. Sure, his liner rate of 38.2% will regress, and he’s always hit the ball hard but the big thing is he’s no longer hitting over 50% wormburners, which is bad when you’re slow as molasses in a vat of dry ice. His plate discipline may also be better as he further reduced his already low 15% 2016 chase rate to just 9.2%. Let’s face it, catcher sucks, and he’s a good deep league flier in 15-teamers or AL-only, 2-catcher leagues, or even some 12-team OBP leagues. Yep, the same Alex Avila.
Logan Morrison (1B, Rays) – LoMo should be on your waiver wire NoMo. He hit his 8th jack tonight, to go with a .248 AVG and career-best walk rate. One would think he is the latest fringy AL first baseman to join the Flyball Revolution, but his FB rate is within career norms, but his 36.5 Hard% is a career high. His high walk rate is due to him swinging at fewer pitches, although currently, he’s reduced swinging at strikes more than balls. He’s extremely streaky so he’s rather high risk, but he’s worth taking a flier on in deeper mixed and 12-team formats and ride it out, since his power hitting ability shouldn’t be underrated…. Even though he still has a punchable face.
Aaron Altherr (OF, Phillies) – Altherr continues to smash Altherr pitches into the seats. After coming into the year without a defined role, he is now hitting .343 with 5 HR and 3 SB in just 75 PA. So it’s kinda crazy that he’s only owned in 16.4% of ESPN leagues. He’s hitting fewer grounders and hitting the ball harder this year (42.2% Hard%), and it seems that his 2016 was more fluky than his 2015. The batting average will regress hard, but he has the ability to go .250-15-15 the rest of the way if he can secure playing time. Monitor him in 10-teamers and shallow 12-teamers, but he’s worth a grab in deep 12-teamers and beyond.
Kennys Vargas (1B/DH, Twins) – The Vargas/Park preseason 1B battle went like the Spice Girls vs Hanson Celebrity Deathmatch battle, where Grossman was Marilyn Manson and tore both of them to shreds with a chainsaw. But now Vargas is back, and wasted absolutely no time, smashing .282 with 4 long balls in just 42 PA. While the sample size is still tiny, and his power and improved strikeout rate are not supported by his poor swing/contact rates and Hard Hit% thus far, he showed last year good Barrel ability so he may not need a high Hard Hit% to hit homers. While he’s a riskier bet than Alonso, Smoak, and other disciples of the flyball revolution, he’s available in most leagues and a must-add for AL-only and recommended for his upside in 15-teamers.
Delino DeShields, Jr. (OF, Rangers) – At a time when flyball revolutionaries are making home runs more plentiful, speed is rare, which is the only reason DD is relevant. On the surface, his strikeout rate will scare many owners away, but he’s hitting the ball slightly harder than ever before (23.9% Hard%, which is acceptable for a rabbit) and his chase rate went down and Z-Contact went up to a career best 88.2%. He could post similar rates to his solid 2015 but with an under 25% K rate the rest of the way and solid SBs. He’s worth a flier in AL-only, but in deeper mixed leagues with benches he makes for a decent matchup play or stream if you need speed in your lineup. Just monitor his playing time situation closely.
Tommy Pham (OF, St. Louis Cardinals) – He demolishing baseballs like he’s been Pham-ished. We know from last year that he hits the ball damn hard, and that has certainly continued and with an even higher FB rate in the early going. But this year, maybe he’ll be more playable with a palatable average, since he shows early signs of a better K rate, due to lower chase rate (18.6% from 25.4%) and better contact rate (weirdly, he’s made more contact on pitches off the plate than on… gotta love small samples). If you need cheap power, he’s your guy, and even with a K rate of 30% he can be an asset in NL-only and 15-teamers, and especially Phamtastic in OBP leagues.
Freddy Galvis (SS, Phillies) – I swear I did not get cut a check by the Phillies’ front office. Last year Galvis was probably the most looked-down-upon 20 HR, 15+ SB shortstop in history, as it was written off as totally fluky. But while his numbers aren’t eye-popping, his 4 HR and 3 SB show he might be able to do it again, and without needing luck. His current 29.2% Hard% is a career high, as is his 42.2 FB%. His chase rate is also down to a less abysmal 36.3% from 40% in 2016, with everything else basically steady. He has the ability to hit .250 with 15 HR and 10 SB, so let them laugh at you for picking him up in deeper mixed leagues, since you’ll have the last laugh. Ha ha, Galvis!
Jed Lowrie (2B/3B, Athletics) – Lowrie’s probably managed the least exciting 1.0 WAR of the year, and it had nothing to do with defense. I mean, I got him for a buck in an AL-only! But he’s his best version of himself, staying healthy, with decent pop, average, and plate discipline. I must say I was shocked to see the diminutive man of glass has a Hard Hit% of 40.2%! The discipline is also at a career apex with an O-Swing of 20.7% and a Z-Swing of 75.5% He’s always had this ability, so t’s fair to expect more of the same until he inevitably gets injured, which makes him an underrated asset in AL-only and deeper mixed league, especially OBP, at least until you stop feeling lucky.
Aaron Hicks (OF, Yankees) – Like the other A-A-Ron, he’s another currently excelling power-speed outfielder without guaranteed playing time! He’s amassed 1.5 WAR thanks to his .342 AVG, 6 HR, and 5 SB! However, unlike Altherr, his underlying metrics show lots of scary stuff, He’s actually making a ton of soft contact (30.6%) instead of hard contact, and while his plate discipline looks good thanks to a reduced chase rate, he’s also swinging less at strikes and making less zone contact, which should come back to bite him as pitchers get more aggressive with him. If you own him, sell him on his shiny surface stats, because he might soon turn into a pumpkin and revert to being a regular 4th outfielder. Someone should be willing to give you something of value instead of you dropping him outright, and you’ll feel smart later for letting them get hitched with Hicks.
Jose Bautista (OF, Blue Jays) – Say it ain’t so, Joey Bats! While I truly thought his obsession with fighting father time would bode well for him, father time has given him a spanking for being disobedient, with just 2 dingers and an average below the Mendoza line. His Hard Contact% is below average, and his contact rate has plummeted. There’s always the chance he’s playing through an injury and will improve, or hulk out like Papi did that one year a while back where he sucked for 2 months and then hulked out, but at his age, it’s much more likely the Paul Konerko-esque rapid fade from major league relevance. I finally bit the bullet and cut him in my 12-teamer, stubborn OBP leagues can wait a tad longer but know that a turnaround doesn’t seem probable.
Brad Miller (1B/SS, Rays) – After his excellent 2016, some thought he’d revert into a pumpkin, but this is more like rotten, bug-infested, overcooked brussels sprouts. The 30-homer power seems to have simply evaporated, with just 1 all year, and it hasn’t just been bad luck. Like his teammate Kiermaier, he just looks lost at the plate and has reverted to all his worst habits. He doesn’t belong on any mixed league rosters.
Javier Baez (2B/SS, Cubs) – The funny thing is, like with Aaron Hicks, I was giving him a closer look because I wanted to add him to the “BUY” list. But there were some nasty smells and noises coming from under the hood. Sure, he’s opened some eyes by popping a few dingers as of late, but both his chase rate (47.6%) and swinging strike rate (21.1%) are through the roof and launching into orbit, and unlike Joey Gallo, is only showing average power to go with it. But he’s young and people still get excited for him, so sell him now for whatever you can in any redraft mixed league. You don’t want to be stuck holding the Javy Potato.
Chase Headley (3B, Yankees) – He had one of the more shocking hot starts to the season, and it seemed at least partially fueled by the fact that Chase… didn’t. But his low O-swing has regressed to his career norms, as has pretty much everything else, making him the same unexciting late game 3B. In AL-only, you might lack a better option at the moment, but any mixed league should use his roster spot on someone with more promise than Headley’s consistent mediocrity.
Eric Hosmer (1B, Royals) – This is not to say drop him in all leagues, which I wouldn’t do, but I think we should no longer think of him being useful in 10-team and 12-team mixed. Below is a poem I wrote on Hosmer’s lackluster performance and outlook:
He’ll do more of the same, which is a shame,
since he had so much upside, and has grounders to blame.
While he’s chasing less often, his hard hit rate did soften,
In shallow mixed, he belongs in a fantasy coffin.