Welcome back to Buy & Sell, where this week’s theme is Prospectapalooza! While some of the biggest names aren’t currently getting the call, there are plenty of interesting young players. In this edition, I’m tweaking my approach, and for this week, I’ll write about all the low ownership guys on whom you should be taking a chance and the overrated high ownership guys you should be looking to drop to make room. And in the spirit of striving for improvement, I’ll try out a format that is more or less the same but groups players by league type. Feedback is appreciated, thanks and let’s try it out.
Yasiel Puig (OF, Cincinnati Reds)
Hope you didn’t panic sell him in May, an idea that never had my Yasiel of approval. He had a rough start to the season but kept afloat in power and speed but has truly surged in June hitting .400 with five home runs, nine runs, 11 RBI, and two stolen bases. He’s now hitting .240 with 16 home runs and 11 stolen bases, which is on pace for 33 home runs and 23 stolen bases (assuming 550 at-bats). There simply aren’t many other players who offer 30-plus home runs, 20-plus stolen bases ability, and the average should continue to rise in Cincy’s bandbox stadium in the summer heat. That being said, his lower than 6% walk rate is a career worst and 24% strikeout rate is a career high, so the preseason fever dreams of a .290-plus average probably aren’t happening. Still, he should be obviously owned and started in all 12-team formats and all 10-team formats that use batting average, though there’s a case for sitting him in OBP formats. If only there was a category for bat flipping … and bat licking (not for the germophobic).
Ian Desmond (OF, Colorado Rockies)
Desmond has forged his Rocky Mountain coal into diamond. Although fans were frustrated the 33-year-old has been blocking off their young talent, it now seems more justified after he’s hit .439 with three dingers over the past three weeks, raising his season line up to a surprising .281/.341/.518 with 10 home runs and a stolen base. The high average is as surprising as the lack of stolen base attempts, but perhaps it’s wise as his sprint speed is only slightly above league average. But the average seems legit, as he has a .288 xBA despite a career high 26% strikeout rate rate, likely due to a jump in his exit velocity to an elite 92 mph and 13% barrel rate. Statcast usually significantly underrates Rockies hitters, so really he may earn a .300 average with more than 15 tates the rest of the way. He’s a must-add in 12-teamers and is worth picking up in 10-teamers that use average because hitters with his skill set are not a dime a Desmond.
Lourdes Gurriel (2B/SS, Toronto Blue Jays)
Praise the Lourdes! He’s hit .333/.371/.632 with homers homers, half of his homer total, just in the past two weeks. While he’s been known to have red-hot and ice-cold streaks, I still liked him last year as it seemed his so-called “cold streak” was injury-related. Also, it’s worth noting that while he’s still an aggressive hitter, he’s doubled his walk rate to a passable 6%, though his strikeout rate rose with it. Unfortunately, unlike many fantasy shortstops, he does not contribute at all in stolen bases, making him still hard to own in 10-team formats. Still, he’s currently under 50% owned, and his recent performance has merited a pick-up in all 12-team leagues.
Bobby Bradley (1B, Cleveland Indians)
This Bobby B was ruler of the seven minor league kingdoms, Gods was he strong then. He hit .292/.359/.638 with 24 homers in just 284 plate appearances in Triple-A, and while it came with a 32% strikeout rate, it’s hard to cast aspersions on a 50-home run pace. Still, while the power upside is tantalizing, he’s a rather high bust risk because of his long swing that is more likely to get exposed by major league pitching. But in deep leagues looking for a high upside power dart throw, he’s worth a shot. He’s no Yordan Alvarez, but he could be like the Chinese knockoff version you got for 10% of the price on eBay. For those doubting if the power is a mirage, note that on Monday he hit a double at 110 mph, an exit velocity higher than some hitters have reached all season. I’d add in all 15-team formats and as a flier in 12-team OBP in the hopes of lightning in a bottle.
Colin Moran (3B, Pittsburgh Pirates)
Moran Moran refuses to come undone. While he’s yet to fully wrest the hot corner job away from Jung-Ho Kang (though he probably deserved to at least a month ago or more), he really deserves it as Kang is hitting just .145. Moran not only has a sweet beard, but he’s had a pretty sweet year, hitting .271 with 10 home runs and 41 RBI in 210 at-bats. There’s not much different in his profile this year from last year other than that he’s barreled the ball more, with an 8% rate compared to a 5% mark last year. He may be overperforming a bit as his xBA of .259 and xSLG of .436 aren’t anything special, but he should amass volume once the Pirates finally kick Kang to the curb. He can be a solid roster filler guy in NL-only and 18-teamers and even deeper 15-team average leagues.
Luis Arraez (2B/SS, Minnesota Twins)
Look out, there’s a new David Fletcher in town. The lightweight 22-year-old has slapped his way to major league relevance, with a .426/.521/.590 line over 48 plate appearances with eight walks to only two strikeouts. He’s following the Fletcher mold of making contact with everything and swinging at very little, with a 96% contact rate and 21% O-Swing rate for a league-leading 1.6% swinging-strike rate (if he qualified). And while he lacks Fletcher’s wheels, he may have more power upside, with a 42% hard-hit rate and solidly average 88 mph exit velocity (though I should note his Game Power was graded at 20/30 (45 raw power) and he never had an ISO above .101 in the minors). So while he’s been a bit lucky, his xBA of .335 and xSLG of .451 indicate this isn’t a total mirage. The only problem is that he doesn’t really have a lineup spot, with Jorge Polanco at shortstop, Jonathan Schoop at second base and Nelson Cruz at designated hitter. But I expect the Twins to make room for him, and he could score a ton of runs as an on-base machine in front of the Twins mashers. I’m recommending scooping up all the shares in AL-only and 18-teamers and considering as a spec/bench add in deeper 15-team formats if he gets regular playing time. That may seem too bold, but I believe in due time he will Arraez up.
Cesar Puello (OF, Miami Marlins)
I felt a bit foolish after the Angels demoted Puello just days after I recommended him, but apparently someone in the Miami front office read my article. Hey, a man can dream. Puello should get a much clearer path to playing time in the Miami Marlins’ bottom-of-the-barrel offense, and now he has the added perk of a batting order boost if he can keep the good times rolling. While it’s shocking he has three homers considering his -7-degree average launch angle thanks to his insane 67% ground-ball rate, this isn’t such a bad thing as he has near-elite speed at 28.7 ft/sec, which is top 60 in the majors and tied with Cameron Maybin and Cole Tucker. Perhaps that’s why Statcast gives him an xBA of .300, and while he likely won’t continue his 50% HR/FB, a 9% barrel rate indicates potential to hit for double digit pop. He’s a sleeper for a .290/10/10 season, making him worth an add in NL-only and 18-teamers.
Robbie Grossman (OF, Oakland Athletics)
The perennial Toby of waiver wire fodder, he’s the boring yet reliable option you didn’t want but didn’t know you needed. He’s quietly been about one half of Ramon Laureano, with a solid .255 average and five home runs and five stolen bases. None of that will blow you away, but even deep league value diggers probably didn’t realize he’s been a sneaky OBP-league find, as his current 13% walk rate is a career best. He also has bumped up his exit velocity to an average 88 mph after several years in the mediocre 85 mph range. Sure, you won’t win a championship on his back, but he’ll give you the solid all-around production to provid needed backfill in stars and scrubs lineups. He’s a fine pickup in AL-only league and 18-team OBP formats.
Zack Collins (C/1B, Chicago White Sox)
After a start like this, he may seek the advice of his his long-lost brother Tom. The 24-year-old former top prospect was having a solid Triple-A campaign, hitting .250 with nine home runs over 206 plate appearances, though so far he’s hitting only .111 in his first 10 major league plate appearances. While it’s a laughably small sample size, there is a much larger sample size of him struggling to make contact in the minors, and his 32% strikeout rate in Triple-A this year did little to assuage those concerns. Granted, it came with extreme patience as evidenced by an 18% walk rate, so he does carry some OBP league intrigue. It’ll be interesting to see if that extra-patient approach will backfire in the majors, and he doesn’t exactly have a spot locked up with James McCann getting the lion’s share of playing time. Still, he’s an interesting flier in AL-only as well as 15-team two-catcher leagues.
Aaron Hicks (OF, New York Yankees)
Look, suggesting 10-team drops is never easy. Hicks has been slow to awaken since returning from his early season injury, hitting just .204/.305/.372 with five home runs in 110 at-bats on the season and just .158 with one home run and one stolen base in 38 at-bats over the past two weeks. While he’s hitting the ball just as hard, his struggles are validated by an xBA of just .199 and xSLG of .369. While it’s fun to imagine what a healthy Hicks could do, the reality is missing so much time with injuries over the past few years has likely taken a toll on his abilities, and what he’ll provide is simply not good enough to wait for. He’s still owned in 68% of leagues, and I say in 10-team and even shallow 12-team average formats it’s time to Hicksnay on the Hombre.
Rougned Odor (2B, Texas Rangers)
This year has definitely been Roughned. Yes, the upside is clearly still there, but at some point, he has to hit. While he turned it around last June, there are no signs of life here, with a putrid .175/.249/.350 line that even 10 home runs and seven stolen bases can’t save. It’s more than just bad luck, with a career-worst 32% strikeout rate and a .199 xBA. Yet he’s still being held in 52% of leagues, a higher ownership rate than the red-hot Gurriel! You don’t want to get 2018 Brian Doziered into assuming Odor’s awful first half guarantees a huge second half; that’s a gambler’s fallacy. In all 12-team leagues and even shallow 15-team leagues, you should show Rougned the O-Door
Miguel Sano (3B, Minnesota Twins)
Just say Sa-no. He’s been a mess at the plate, and nine homers doesn’t change that. He has a .211 average, which may even be lucky considering his abysmal 42% strikeout rate and .186 xBA. He’s not even a big walk guy anymore as his chase rate has risen every year and is now a pedestrian 32%. Yet because of his name value, he’s still owned in 27% of leagues, While the Twins have some breathing room in the division, they have multiple other players who can play his position with better defense, and the former face of the franchise may soon see a reduced role or a trade to a rebuilding club. Move on from Miggy in all 15-team formats, especially average formats, and rinse your hands of him with Sanotizer.
Jesus Aguilar (1B, Milwaukee Brewers)
Maybe it’s just ESPN owners who are this bad. He’s owned in 47% of leagues. That number should be one-tenth of that, and perhaps even 4.7% is too high. The guy got six at-bats this week, five home runs on the season with a batting average under the Mendoza line. Cut in 18-team formats, and if you can, see if you can replace his roster spot with scalloped potatoes. At least they’ll provide some sustenance.
(Photo by Cody Glenn/Icon Sportswire)