Welcome back to Buy & Sell! Hopefully, you took my cartoonish advice and picked up a season of Tuca and Berti (which is also a fun show to watch when your mind wants to go to weird places). Berti has continued to be a vastly underrated Swiss Army knife and the less-heralded Tucupita Marcano is now hitting leadoff! This week has far fewer prospect names, though I easily could’ve given some love for 12-teamers to consider Ezequiel Duran or even Michael Harris II, but wanted to allow some time to let the digital ink dry. This week isn’t about prospects, but the “boring guys” you’re probably overlooking while obsessing over the shiny new toys. Enjoy, and now on to the list!
Adolis García (OF, Texas Rangers)
With his vitruvian performance, he should change his name to Adonis. This week, a player who has 12 HR and 9 SB, pacing for 35 HR and 25 SB, just surpassed 60% ownership. The remaining 40%, what is wrong with you? I get it, his average and OBP have been less than stellar, but he’s been on fire lately, hitting .345 with 2 HR and 3 SB in 29 AB this week, and is hitting .321 with 5 HR and 5 SB over the past two weeks. Even more encouraging is this week’s walk/strikeout ratio of 5/7, and those 5 walks happen to be 100% of his walks over the past three weeks.
If I told you pre-draft that you would end up with a near-repeat of García’s 2021 season in which he hit .246 with 31 HR and 16 SB, you would take it, right? That’s basically an improvement on Javier Baez’s 2021 production, and despite García falling nearly 100 picks later, Garcia’s the one showing far more consistency. But in fact, I think that this year, Adolis has actually been even better. García’s xwOBA over his last 250 PA has been in a steady uptrend, and while his .244 AVG and .457 SLG% are right in line with last year, he’s been unlucky with a notably better .268 xBA and .523 xSLG. Last year he somewhat overperformed, with an inferior .223 xBA and .426 xSLG, and this year the luck dragons have turned the tables like a game of D&D with a critical roll.
While his mediocre plate discipline and contact rate remain almost identical to last year, and the same can be said for his above-average HardHit% and Barrel%, he has turned some more grounders into line drives, which is always good, but the continued SB output is the biggest driver to his value. I even prefer him over Randy Arozarena, and he is a must-own and must-start in all leagues, including OBP, for his rare combo of big power and speed.
José Abreu (1B, Chicago White Sox)
Yes, I know, Abreu is in all likelihood not on your waiver wire, unless you play in a league of ageists and masochists. Ageists and Masochists also sounds like a game that would be released on Steam. Anyway, this is to “Buy” him as a trade target, since we all know that even at age 35, Abreu continues to be a reliably good all-around hitter and should be almost just as good this year. Quick, forget everything you know. Wait, don’t forget how to breathe, that’s important!
Abreu is not just as good, he has quietly evolved into his best hitter self in years. While his surface stats of a .260 AVG, .438 SLG%, and 9 HR in 255 AB don’t show it, under the hood, he has improved in nearly every asset of his game at an age where decline is expected. His strikeout rate of 16% is the best of his career, and it’s supported by a career-best 79% Contact%, but even more impressive is his walk rate improvement. It’s up to 12% and is supported by a massive drop in O-Swing% to 28% (career O-Swing% is 37%). And while his MaxEV of 111 mph is down a few ticks from previous years, he’s maximizing his quality of contact with a career-best 55% HardHit% and 93 mph avg. eV. Take these two together, and perhaps it’s not surprising that he’s underperformed amazing expected stats, with a .305 xBA and .590 xSLG.
So while even in 10-team leagues he’s surely not touching waiver wires now that he’s heated up, note that he had these improved peripherals even while struggling, and could be in for an offensive explosion the rest of this month that pits him against Goldschmidt for best first baseman in the game. If you can flip Olson, Cron, Mancini, or even Freeman in a deal to get Abreu, he’s worth it. I must say, after seeing so much preseason young player hype, seeing Goldy and Jose carrying the torch is Abreuth of fresh air. Target aggressively in all leagues, especially in OBP leagues in which owners may discount that now he helps in OBP too.
Jake Burger (3B, Chicago White Sox)
I’m mad at the Red Sox’ Franchy Cordero for slumping because I would’ve loved to simultaneously recommend Burger, Franchy, and Fried. Before his recent hand contusion, Burger was having a whopper of a week, hitting .385 with 3 HR in 26 AB, bringing his season line up to .273/.322/.508. While his start to the season was ho-hum, since his recall on May 25th, he’s hit for a 1.097 OPS! I’ll admit I was skeptical as the team seemed to be early on, and you should take advantage of that skepticism to see if he’s still available. This week he’s rostered in only 17% of ESPN leagues, and last week it was only 0.4%, so see if you can be the fastest finger to pick up your fast food.
Why? Well besides the hot streak, the power is undeniable and frankly underrated, with an elite maxEV of 114 mph (96th percentile) and 16% barrel rate (94th percentile). This isn’t a fluke, as in last year’s 42 PA cup of coffee he hit a 115 mph MaxEV with 61% HardHit%. While his debut last year was framed as more of a feel-good story for a career nearly lost to repeated injuries, he’s been needed all year with the injury and performance struggles of Moncada, and Burger’s improved with a 29% K% (36% last year). That being said, his approach is a high-risk one, as he has an aggressive approach as evidenced by a 41% O-Swing% and 75% Z-Swing%, but he’s kept his profile stable by reducing his called strike rate and improving his Z-Contact% from 82% to 85%.
While he’s certainly been better than Moncada, money talks, and in a week when Moncada is expected back, I don’t think Moncada will sit full-time, so there’s some risk he becomes a platoon bat in the short-term. Still, with how weak 3B has been outside of the top 50 picks, he could outproduce other names like Bregman and Rendon in even partial playing time, and I think he’s at least worth a speculative stream in 12-team batting average leagues until we see how this all plays out. Perhaps it seems extreme, but I think Jake will be the better hot corner dude in Chicago this year regardless of contract size, so I’d gladly take Goodburger over Yoán Mondo Burger.
Christian Bethancourt (C/1B, Oakland Athletics)
You may have not heard of him, so consider this a Bethancourtesy. 2022 has been a great year to punt catcher, and pop-up names like Bethy are a big part of the reason why. While I initially regarded Oakland’s playing two and sometimes even three catchers, including Bethancourt, in their starting lineup as a sign of how depleted their offense is, I realized that Oakland was up to something. Despite his castaway status, he quickly lodged an elite 113 mph maxEV, which is intriguing when combined with a low strikeout rate. Still, nothing much came of it until the past two weeks when he exploded to a .387 AVG and 4 HR in 31 AB, to raise his season line to .268/.308/.447 with 4 HR, and more surprisingly, 4 SB. He’s the #1 most improved player in baseball over his last 100 PA by xwOBA. And this may just be the beginning.
Like most players on this list, and somewhat unsurprisingly considered Dead Ball April, he’s underperformed, but here that’s truly an understatement. See, while this may seem like a just a hot week, Bethancourt has an xBA of .322, and his xSLG is an insane .657. That gives him a .417 xwOBA, which is tied for 9th best in baseball… with Juan Soto and José Abreu. This may lead you to ask “How is this possible?” or “Is Statcast drunk?” But the numbers don’t lie, he is indeed mashing, with an elite 16% Barrel% and 48% HardHit% that rivals José Abreu, and with a superior MaxEV of 113 mph. And while he’s an extreme free swinger, he has actually improved as his 41% O-Swing% is a career-best and compensated for with a wild 82% Z-Contact%. The contact isn’t amazing at 70%, but thanks to allowing so few called strikes, despite a poor 17% SwStr%, he has a solid 27% CSW% which has helped him have a K% of just 20%. That’ll allow his power to play.
While his crazy numbers and 6th-best xSLG% in baseball surely must regress, and Oakland’s park factors certainly don’t help, it’s still quite encouraging he’s more than a journey flash in the pan. I mean, it’s not even such a small sample of 131 PA. And then there are those 4 stolen bases, from a non-Realmuto catcher. Well, it turns out this might be kinda legit too, as his 28 ft/sec sprint speed is above average and superior to Daulton Varsho, although his time to 1st is slower. Unlike the talented Toronto trio of catchers, Bethancourt’s role is safe in the wasteland Oakland lineup and he should hit cleanup as the king of dirt. While his aggressive approach makes him high-risk, I think right now he remains a sneaky add and trade target in all two-catcher leagues and 12-team AVG leagues that if he can keep it going could be a season-winner. And at just 4% rostered in ESPN, he very well may be easy to get even in deeper leagues.
Kyle Farmer (SS, Cincinnati Reds)
If I’m going to compliment the quality of the burger, I also need to compliment the Farmer. They couldn’t be much more different, as Farmer lacks any exciting raw power or tools in general, but has made the most of his skills to be an asset all-around in addition to being a great defender. He’s been on a hot streak this week bringing his average up to .283/.343/.435 with 5 HR and 4 SB in 214 PA, and given the terrible team he’s on, the 37 RBI are a welcome surprise. He’s riding a steady uptrend in xwOBA over the past 100 PA, finally reaping the rewards of cutting down on the strikeout rate.
Statcast believes in the improved skills Farmer has cultivated, with an xBA of .290 and xSLG of .455. His improvements were not jaw-dropping but solid all-around, with a surprisingly decent 39% HardHit% and slight improvements in O-Swing% and Z-Swing%. Most notably though, he improved his contact rate to a career-best 83% Contact%, which has led to a career-best 8% SwStr% and 25% CSW%. The 4 SB are a bit surprising given that he has below-average speed, but he’ll continue to compile in a hitter-friendly park, and will likely outproduce the flashier flavor of the weeks. Add in deeper 12-team AVG formats and all 15-team leagues.
Nico Hoerner (2B/SS, Chicago Cubs)
Little Nico Hoerner, spat on pitches in the corner, watching the strikes go by. But he buffed hard-hit rates and pulled more stolen bases and said what a 15-team asset am I. Something tells me I’m about to be attacked by a wild Mother Goose, but my version makes much more sense. Hoerner has had a rough week, leaving some impatient owners to bail on him, but I still think he’ll be quite helpful if you stick with him, no plums about it.
Hoerner was already great at making contact, but his 86% mark this season is a career best, as his 7% SwStr%. It’s weird that his called strike rate has jumped up to 19% when his O-Swing% and Z-Swing% haven’t changed much, but in the end, his 26% CSW% is still solid even if somewhat disappointing. But he’s also growing stronger, with a 108 mph max eV and 38% HardHit% that make the Fletcher/Madrigal comps no longer relevant. While his barrel% of 4% is still lousy, it’s more than double his previous best, and his raised launch angle (to 10 from a career angle of 6) makes me think it should be sustainable. Statcast is certainly a fan this year, with a .314 xBA and .444 xSLG far better than his current numbers, and that’s not even factoring in his plus speed.
Speaking of speed, I think he’ll continue to be a threat on the bases as his ratio of 6 stolen bases to 1 caught stealing is quite good, and the Cubs can certainly use anything to create more runs. He’s a sleeper for a .300, 10-HR, 20-SB season, which may be better than what Whit Merrifield finishes the year with. Though I think it’s probably more likely he finishes the year around a .280 AVG, 7 HR, and 17 SB, that’s perfectly cromulent for all 15-team leagues and as a streamer in 12-team batting average leagues.
Michael A. Taylor (OF, Kansas City Royals)
He joins a long list of recommended Taylors, but I’m ready to go to the MAT for him. It feels weird to call Taylor an AL-only add after a 2021 12 HR, 14 SB that was helpful for 15-team leagues. But between a slow start, injuries, and getting crowded out by youngsters Isbel and Olivares, he was a forgotten man before this big week in which he hit .419/.486/.645 with 2 HR and 1 SB in 31 AB. He’s now up to a surprisingly solid .280/.370/.409 with 4 HR and 1 SB (1 CS) in 132 AB, and despite being 31 I think his game is still improving by leaps and bounds.
The most notable difference here is the change in strikeout and walk rates, as his 20% K% is way down from his 30% career K%, and his 12% BB% is nearly double his 7% career walk rate. While the walk rate is probably mostly a small sample fluke as his 31% O-Swing% is identical to his career rate, it helps that his Z-Swing% jumped to a career-high 77%. And the K rate boost is semi-sustainable thanks to a career-best 87% Z-Contact%, up from 81% in 2021. While we all know the book on him as a fringy power/speed guy with contact issues, he has actually improved his CSW% for the fourth consecutive year, from 32% in 2019 to 30% to 28%, and now at 26% that is solid and tied with Nico Hoerner.
He also may be experimenting with an approach change, as his 34% GB% is a career low and his 49% FB% is nearly 10% more than his previous high. That being said, it’s probably not the best year to take that approach, and his HardHit% of 35% and max eV are slightly below career rates and his Barrel rate of 9% is slightly above. Still, improving his contact without sacrificing power is a plus. It’s a bit strange he’s been so passive on the bases, as his sprint speed is still top 100 in baseball and virtually identical to last year, so I remain optimistic they’ll come as he gets his feet wet. He’s a must-add in AL-only formats and a fine streamer in 15-team formats.
Vidal Bruján (2B/OF, Tampa Bay Rays)
I thought he would be Vidal for my team, but he’s been Bru-tal. While his season line of .157/.206/.236 with one HR and two SB is awful, perhaps the most surprising part is the four Caught Stealings, which has made him a liability in leagues that use net SB. Still, his samples have been small, and it’s still too early to completely write him off.
This week he’s been slightly better with a .263 AVG and one HR and one SB. At age 24 with nothing left to prove in the minors, the Rays will likely try to play him around and see if he can tap into the upside that made him recently considered an elite fantasy prospect. The Sprint Speed has been 66th best in the league, which is very good generally but less than we expected, though the time to first base is barely Top 100. The good news is his contact rate and plate discipline have improved substantially with an 85% Contact% and 33% O-Swing%, resulting in a strong 22% CSW%. And while the power is still bad, with just one barrel and a 26% HardHit%, that’s one more barrel and 10% more HardHit% than last year.
Basically, he’s best as a stash to see if something clicks or if this is a confidence issue and once he gets hot he breaks out, and given his scouting grades the talent should still be there for that to happen. In AL-only formats, I’d take the gamble even if I have to play him, and hopefully, soon he’ll have even more positional eligibility. Just don’t go thinking you’ll be getting Vida Blue from Vidal Bru.
Rowdy Tellez (1B, Milwaukee Brewers)
This hurts me to say, as I bold called for him to be a buy-back in May, but when I get excited about him he always Telletz me down. I will openly admit to always being a bit too fond of using Statcast in my analysis, which makes it hard to call him a sell when I see his xBA of .276 and xSLG of .581 are far better than his current .248/.312/.457 line with 10 HR in 231 AB. Power hitters will always be streaky, but it’s worth pointing out that while he hasn’t destroyed you lately, he’s been killing you softly. Over 44 ABs in the past two weeks, he’s hitting .250 with no homers, no runs, and just two RBI. Can’t get rowdy with that.
On the one hand, you could argue this is a classic case of “what have you done for me lately?” and then he’ll pop off for a four-homer week and I look stupid, I get that. But first base is a competitive position, and even Statcast sees the slump with a .304 xwOBA over his last 100 PA, with a -.140 xwOBA decline over 100 PA that’s 3rd-worst in baseball. While he is getting the playing time, all of his stats that seemed improved this year, like contact rate, barrel rate, and HardHit%, have all regressed almost perfectly to his career averages. His 12% Barrel%, 45% HardHit%, and 28% CSW% all match his career, which is kind of uncanny.
This ultimately seems like a case of “he was who the thought he was” and perhaps also a case of “Ben is using too many phrases in quotations”. In a chat a few weeks ago, I suggested Christian Walker was the superior option to Tellez and I hope they listened, and I think if you’re not ready to drop him, the fact he’s resting his laurels on double-digit homers with still-pretty Statcast lies- er-rates means you can still flip him for something. Cut in all 10-team leagues and in some 12-team OBP formats.
Yoán Moncada (3B, Chicago White Sox)
He was really exciting in his prospect days, but now he just makes me want to Yawn. I think Moncada may be the one guy I have written at a sell at some point every year for as long as I can remember. I’d love to stop if people didn’t keep trying to kick the football every year. Even as everyone else’s bats are heating up, his remains frigid, hitting just .136/.208/.159 over the past three weeks with nary a homer, not to mention the slugging percentage even lower than his putrid OBP. The sad part is on the year, it’s hardly better, with a horrific .141/.198/.222 with just 2 HR and 0 SB in 99 AB.
Last year, we at least had hope that maybe his awful 2020 was due to lingering effects from COVID since his raw power returned, but now once again it’s way down. While the maxEV of 110 mph isn’t so bad, it’s still tied with his career nadir, and his 32% is a career-worst. Maybe that’s why even Statcast doesn’t see much hope for him with a .193 xBA and .323 xSLG, which are still better than his actual rates but couldn’t get much worse. I figured perhaps he was trying to sacrifice contact for power, but his contact is even worse. He’s chasing more this year with an uncharacteristic 33% O-Swing%, with a career-worst 70% Contact%. The only positive I can find is that he’s swinging at more strikes, but even that didn’t stop his 31% CSW% from being tied with career-worsts.
The good news is that this is still just 99 PAs for him, and we’ve seen from players like Brendan Rogers or Trent Grisham that a terrible start doesn’t mean continued terrible-ness. Still, when I see him, I remember a guy who was praised for power, speed, and OBP. Then the speed disappeared and he was praised for power, then for average, then at least for OBP… I think you get the point. IMO he’s the oldest 27-year-old in the game and can be cut in all 12-team formats and may be an option in your 15-team OBP league.
Owen Miller (1B/2B, Cleveland Guardians)
Owen Miller is a fine player to roster. Fine as in “It’s fine you didn’t do the dishes even though I told you twice and you were home all day”. And taking Miller out with the trash was also a chore. Perhaps it’s too harsh, given that we know he was lucky after his big first few weeks and he’s still hitting cleanup in Cleveland often. But in April, we thought we had a brand new Miller, but turns out he’s just Miller lite.
While his season line looks fine as he’s hitting .264 with four HR on the season, he’s hit just .231/.288/.292 with no HR and no SB in the past three weeks, with the only saving grace being his 13 RBI over that span. Going into the season, we thought he was a .240ish guy with single-digit power, and it seems that was mostly right. If there’s any hope it’s that his Statcast rates haven’t changed so much, with a .275 xBA, but a xSLG right where it’s at now. And for someone with a history of some stolen bases and a strong sprint speed, it’s been a letdown that he hasn’t stolen a single base on a team that really could afford to give him the green light.
It’s not so much to say that Miller is worthless, he’s still fine for the offensively-starved Guardians, though I am guessing when Franmil returns he’ll lose some playing time to Naylor as well as Rosario/Gimenez. It seems the Guardians definitely are going with the “throw stuff against the wall and see what sticks” and Miller has been the toy climbing down the wall until it gets the fuzzy stuff on it. But even if not, it’s more about the opportunity cost of keeping him over much more interesting options like the now leadoff-hitting Tuca, Berti, and Hoerner. I say cut him in all 15-team formats, though ESPN must think I’m crazy as they still have him 51% rostered; I think they’re crazy (or just lazy) to have him so high. Well, at least he gave me another opportunity to poke fun at ESPN leagues, just grist for the Miller.
Jackie Bradley Jr. (OF, Boston Red Sox)
I don’t care if he plays every single game, batting cleanup, and they push in the walls for him too. Just, like, just don’t. If you’re frustrated having taken a chance on him at some point this year, just be glad you’re not as frustrated as Jarren Duran must be right now.
Feature image by Michael Packard (@CollectingPack on Twitter) / Photography by David J. Griffin & Brandon Sloter/Icon Sportswire
Wait! So you would trade away Freeman for José Abreu? In a 1vs1?