Buy & Sell 6/19—Identifying Who to Add and Who to Drop
Welcome back to Buy & Sell, where this week’s theme is “Death of a Sells Man.” I’m adding a few unpopular sells this week as players who are hot who I wouldn’t drop but could flip for great return value, as now is the time when fantasy trade offers tend to heat up. Though despite that, I should remind readers that this list is not a buy-low/sell-high list but mostly analyzing the legitimacy of the hottest and coldest players. But when I want to do a buy-low or sell-high in my column, I let you know in the player blurb text. Then again, the people who tend to complain probably won’t read this anyway. So on with the list!
Jorge Soler (OF, Kansas City Royals)
He got what he got the hard way, and now I’m a Sol man. Despite playing in a putrid offense and playing half his games in a hitter’s nightmare park, Soler has finally started delivering on his annual preseason hypefest, hitting .292 this week with two homers to raise his season line to .245/.303/.520 with 19 homers, 37 runs, and 51 RBI. Despite the weak surrounding lineup, his place in the heart of the lineup has made him a surprisingly effective run producer, and yet he’s still owned in just a third of ESPN leagues (33%). I’ll admit overlooking him early as Statcast didn’t back his earlier breakout, but he’s been continually improving his strikeout and walk rates, earning his surface numbers more and more, with a validating xBA of .250 and xSLG of .529. It’s a crazy year when a player near the top of the AL home run leaderboard is sitting on so many waiver wires, and it’s time to scoop him in all 12-team formats and stream for power in 10-team average leagues.
Yandy Diaz (1B/3B, Tampa Bay Rays)
The Yandyman has been up and down on my list, and those ups and downs have matched his launch angle. After starting off with an improved launch angle, he started regressing to his ground-ball heavy ways in May but now seems back on track up to a whopping … 6 degrees. Still, with his high average exit velocity, he’s managed a strong 12% barrel rate, which makes him a threat for average and power, and his strong plate discipline makes him an OBP beast. His metrics validate his .286 average and .503 slugging percentage breakout with a near-matching xBA of .290 and xSLG of .504. He’s still fungible in 10-team formats but is a must-own in 12-team leagues, especially in an OBP format, assuming OBP stands for “obscene bicep pumping.” UPDATE: Yandy hit the IL, shouldn’t be more than the minimum but adjust accordingly.
Ramon Laureano (OF, Oakland Athletics)
The late-blooming prospect was slow out of the gate this year, but he’s gradually rounded into form and reminded folks why he was a popular sleeper entering 2019 drafts. Over the past three weeks, he’s quietly hit .268 with five home runs and four stolen bases over 71 at-bats, doubling his previous totals to 10 home runs and eight stolen bases. While he’s not performing quite as well as last year, he’s shown that last year’s power/speed combo was no fluke, and he now has a total 15 home runs and 15 stolen bases over 419 career at-bats. In short, he’s a strong bet for a 20/20 season, and he’ll continue to get plenty of playing time thanks to his excellent defense. He’s a must-own in 15-team and 12-team formats that use batting average.
Garrett Cooper (OF, Miami Marlins)
He’s been one of the biggest deep-league adds, but still not enough owners are hanging with Mr. Cooper. His ownership rose last week from 2% to 12% after a strong week, but it really does deserve more attention as all he has done is hit since his call-up. While it may seem like a fluke, Statcast mostly validates his current production with a strong xBA of .290 and xSLG of .513. Essentially thus far he’s been like a Diaz but with fewer walks in the outfield, so why he’s been largely ignored is beyond me. His ownership rate is still only 15% and deserves to be at least double that with how consistent he’s been and his key spot in the Marlins lineup. It’s time he’s owned in all 15-team leagues and is a viable stream in 12-team formats that use batting average.
Cavan Biggio (2B, Toronto Blue Jays)
It seems the Cavangelists are winning plenty of new disciples. The Hall of Famer’s son has been the most-added player in Yahoo coming off a two-homer game that gives him a .364/.481/1.000 line with four tates over the past week for a total of .233/.378/.517 with five home runs and two stolen bases over 60 at-bats (74 plate appearances). While Biggio does have an elevated strikeout rate just south of 30%, I’m encouraged by his crazy high walk rate of 19%. While that surely seems like a sample size fluke, I believe it’s mostly sustainable as he has a near-unfathomably low O-swing rate at just 12%. That stinginess should allow him to get better pitches to hit. That might in part explain his fantastic exit velocity of 92.5 mph and 15% barrel rate. He’s likely owned in 15-teamers, but if not, you best scoop him, and he’s now viable in 12-team OBP as well.
David Freese (1B/3B, Los Angeles Dodgers)
In part-time play, he’s done so well you should scoop up a handful of Freese’s pieces. Over the past week, he’s 5-for-10 with two home runs and hitting .432/.462/.892 with four homers over 37 at-bats the past three weeks. A hitter with a total line of .312/.419/.624 is not usually sitting unclaimed on the wire, but Freese is 36 years old and even as hot as he has been has no path to regular playing times in a super-stacked Dodgers lineup. But like 2019 Buy & Sell poster boy Howie Kendrick, the frequent off days may help keep the older vet fresh. His barrel rate jump to 17% is excellent, and he’s been drawing walks at a career-high 16%, making him viable even in deeper formats that don’t allow for daily moves. In those leagues, he should be added in NL-only and 18-team and streamed in 15-team OBP, though in daily moves leagues, he’s worth adding in all 15-team formats and streamable for average/OBP in 12-team and an underrated DFS option.
Kevin Newman (SS, Pittsburgh Pirates)
Newman’s Own is not just a charity case. Although the 25-year-old entered the year as an afterthought even in deep leagues after hitting just .209/.247/.231 with no homers in his 91 at-bat cup of coffee last year, lately he’s been churning out hits like buttermilk ranch with a .407 average and three stolen bases this week to raise his season line to .315/.364/.430 with two home runs and four stolen bases in 139 at-bats. He has been getting rather lucky with a .277 xBA and .358 xSLG, which I tend to believe more because of his puny 84 mph exit velocity that makes Eric Sogard look strong, but his much-improved 13% strikeout rate gives him some upside as a deep league stolen base play. While he was a nonfactor before his three stolen bases this week, he’s got wheels with a 28.3 ft/sec sprint speed and 28 stolen bases last year in Triple-A, making him a good bet for double digit stolen bases with continued playing time. He’s worth adding in 18-team formats and is a solid batting average stream in deeper 15-team formats.
Jake Bauers (OF, Cleveland Indians)
I call him Clark Kent because he’s been hiding his superbauers. Unlike most players on this list, I don’t have a strong statistical argument to back adding him, other than the fact that he’s hit .360 with a dinger this week and three dingers in the past two weeks. I just feel that he’s a better hitter than he’s shown thus far this season, even if Statcast doesn’t support that assertion yet. He has an ugly xBA of .216 and xSLG of .350 with a 86 mph exit velocity, essentially mimicking his 2018 campaign but with fewer walks. Alex Fast noted he’s struggled against both breaking and offspeed pitches, but I believe Bauers is a good enough hitter to make adjustments and perhaps that is starting to happen. At this point, he’s been cut by many impatient owners, but I think he’s still worth an add in 18-team formats and could even be a viable stream in deeper 15-team OBP.
Eric Sogard (2B/SS, Toronto Blue Jays)
The bespectacled second sacker left me out in the rain last time I suggested him, with a soggy bat in May and a big slump, but he’s turned it back around, with an .375/.395/.650 line with two home runs over the over the past two weeks to bump his season line back up to .294/.361/.485 with six home runs and four stolen bases over 163 at-bats. He’s been doing a solid impression of the poor man’s Tommy La Stella, though for him he’s always had a rather low strikeout rate like this. But what makes him valuable for now is his frequent placement in the leadoff spot and two-hole, giving him ample run-producing opportunity. While he’s overperforming his Statcast metrics, which gave him a yawn-inducing xBA of .264 and xSLG of .366, that’s still usable in deeper formats where you’re likely considering him. He may lose playing time either by trade or if/when Bo Bichette gets his bat going and earns a call-up, but in the meantime, his combination of hits, runs, and RBI makes him an astute add in AL-only and 18-team formats.
Fernando Tatis Jr. (SS, San Diego Padres)
Hear me out: I’m not saying to drop him; I’m not a sadist. Clearly he’s been looking every bit like a superstar in the making, hitting .331/.389/.613 with eight home runs and eight stolen bases and hiting .405 with two home runs and two stolen bases over the past two weeks. But I’ll be the wet blanket reminder that thus far, he’s been the luckiest regular in baseball. His expected batting average is just .240 with an xSLG of .459, which is still fine given the power/speed combo, but that would make him really just a super lucky Marcus Semien. The reason he’s a sell is that based on the hype as a 20-year-old soon-to-be-superstar, you can get virtually anything you want for him right now, and what you get will likely retain its value much more than he will if you hold. Drop in no leagues whatsoever, but I’d advise you to test the market in a hunt for top-round talent.
Carson Kelly (C, Arizona Diamondbacks)
Another hard sell as Kelly is not only young with seemingly high upside, but he’s been tearing the cover off the ball, hitting .333/.383/.667 with four home runs the past three weeks and .400 this past week to raise his season total to .271/.347/.526 with eight home runs in 133 at-bats on the year, making him one of the most-added players. Yet like Tatis, while I would not advise cutting him, this is the perfect time to sell him. He’s been another Statcast overachiever, with an xBA of .231 and xSLG of just .384, perhaps in part because of his low 4% barrel rate. On the plus side, his solid 89 mph exit velocity combines well with his 14-degree launch angle, and he has a solid floor thanks to his impressive 10% walk rate and 19% strikeout rate. But with the current state of catcher, you can get a good haul selling him now as a “breakout” star backstop. I’d only cut in one-catcher 10-team or average-based 12-team formats but would shop him in any league.
Stephen Piscotty (OF, Oakland Athletics)
Well I’m glad he seems OK after removal of a melanoma caused quite the Panic at the Pisco. That likely hasn’t played a role in his struggles lately, as he’s laid a goose egg in 12 at-bats this week and is hitting just .161/.197/.290 over the past 21 days. I avoided him in drafts this year as he was drafted for his power but has no other real skill with minimal speed or plate discipline, and the power profile was unconvincing with a merely average 89 mph exit velocity playing half of his games in the cavernous Oakland Coliseum. He’s been one of the biggest fallers but is still owned in 68% of leagues, which is simply too high. In any 10-team or 12-team format, you can tell him to pis off.
Brendan Rodgers (SS, Colorado Rockies)
I get that you were hoping for more, but holding him at this point seems to be less a sign of patience than stubbornness. The Rockies brass have confirmed my initial fears that they’d ruin him with inconsistent playing time, and he hasn’t even made a peep when playing. He’s posted just a .200/.282/.200 line over 35 at-bats the past three weeks for a measly .246/.300/.277 line overall with no home runs, something that is practically a feat playing half his games at Coors. Statcast kicks him while he’s down with an even worse xBA of .165, likely thanks to his combination of high strikeout rate and high ground-ball rate. It’s time to cut him in 15-team and even 18-team formats, though I’d buy him in WorstBall.
Cheslor Cuthbert (3B, Kansas City Royals)
The first Cuth is the deepest. OK, that’s the real reason I wrote him up, not the fact he’s hitting .293/.328/.483 with three home runs and a stolen base over 58 at-bats, but I don’t think there’s reason to get excited. His solid production so far is belied by an xBA of just .208 with an xSLG of .320. Not only does he sport an ugly 85 mph exit velocity, but he’s posting a lousy 28% strikeout rate and only 5% walk rate, and his poor defense won’t help keep him in the lineup if he struggles. In conclusion, in 18-team and even AL-only formats, flip him for anything or launch him far away. Because E-Cuthbert is an anagram for trebuchet.
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