Welcome back to Buy & Sell, where this week’s theme is power/speed picks for penny pinchers! Most of the players on this list actually don’t even fit that theme, but if you actually take the time to read this I’ll reward you with some deep-league honorable mentions not on this list in that category: Derek Fisher, JaCoby Jones, Delino DeShields, Luis Rengifo. Boom, done. There’s also quite a few underrated power bats here who I won’t give honorable mentions for! This is a slow baseball week with the MLB Draft distracting us and FAAB rather light as well, so let’s enjoy what we do have.
Dansby Swanson (SS, Atlanta Braves)
Last year, he was the fantasy shortstop ugly duckling, but now he’s a beautiful Swan, son. He should be gone with the wind in all leagues, but apparently 37% of ESPN Leagues frankly don’t give a Dansby, and they haven’t added him. Swanson has been better than bacon with a .264/.320/.495 line with 12 home runs and five stolen bases. And I still think there’s upside for more. His exit velocity took a huge jump this year from 87 to 91 mph, and that plus some added launch angle gives him an elite 13% barrel rate. Statcast sees more from him, with an xBA of .286 and an xSLG of .537, though Swanson has excellent speed to leg out hits, giving him stolen base upside well beyond the five stolen bases he’s shown so far, if only he would be more aggressive. Still, I won’t complain about a shortstop who can hit 30 home runs and steal double-digit bags. He should be owned in all—yes all—12-team formats and likely owned or at least streamed in 10-teamers because his Statcast sliders are more all red than Gloria.
Justin Smoak (1B, Toronto Blue Jays)
Don’t let your team be a No Smoaking Zone. Despite the ho-hum 2018, he’s looking like his studly 2017 self again, and many still don’t smell the breakout coming. He’s owned in 57% of leagues, but I argue that’s still far too low. Although his season line of .240/.383/.475 with 12 home runs may not turn heads, over the past two weeks he’s hit six of his homers with a .324/.419/.838 line and a 4:6 BB/K over 41 plate appearances. I think this trend will continue as up to this point he’s deserved far better, with an xBA of .297 and xSLG of .602. That makes him the second-unluckiest player (wOBA – xwOBA) in the majors, and while his slow speed may play some role, it should regress. Buy low or quasi-high while you still can, and add in 15-team and 12-formats, and I’d even consider adding in 10-team OBP.
Christian Walker (1B, Arizona Diamondbacks)
Only a few days after the fantasy community left him for dead, Christian is risen. He’s hitting .360 with three home runs this week, even though the hot week only raises his average over the past 21 days to .185. Sure, hitting .258/329/.502 with 11 home runs and three stolen bases over 231 plate appearances isn’t lighting the world on fire, but I think better days are still in store. He’s still hitting the ball extremely hard, with a top-20 barrel rate (10.8%) and exit velocity 93 mph overall, and Statcast believes he’s been unlucky with an xBA of .272 and xSLG of .548. While that in itself is not predictive, I think it’s enough to say it’s likely bad luck more than anything fueling his recent irrelevance, and if a panicked owner cut him, you should add him in 18-team and 15-team leagues, and he’s worth a stream even in deeper 12-team average leagues. For what it’s worth, I’d rather have Walker than Lorenzo Cane. That joke was worth negative money.
Jay Bruce (OF, Philadelphia Phillies)
It looks like trade season is already underway once more in Seattle, and I’m sure Bruce is not complaining. He did as well as one could hope for the Mariners, hitting an ugly .214 average and .283 OBP but with 14 long balls. Philly certainly provides a better hitters’ park for him, and I’m hoping he has a reversing of the designated hitter penalty of sorts now that he’ll be kept fresh in the outfield. He’ll only play against righties, but that will at least keep his average and OBP from getting two ugly, and he’s a fine DFS play and streamer at least. Despite his flaws, this Jay Bruce jaybroni should be owned in all 18-team and 15-team formats and is a viable home run stream in 12-teamers.
Myles Straw (OF, Houston Astros)
If you really need speed, you can grasp at him. He’s similar to Mallex Smith in the sense of a better fantasy prospect than a team prospect, but the Astros injury brigade gave the 24-year-old a well-deserved shot (well, don’t mention “deserved” with Yordan Alvarez or Kyle Tucker around, yeesh). Though perhaps Mallex is even too generous of a comp as Straw has zero power with only one home run max at every level of the minors, and at age 24, there’s no room for growth there. But what he can do is steal bases. He nabbed more ethan 70 last year in Double-A and Triple-A and stole 16 more this year before his call-up. He already has stolen three bases in 11 major league plate appearances, with a .364 average. It’s interesting to note that Straw has posted near 20% strikeout rates in the minors but over 22 major league plate appearances has yet to strike out. While he’s likely gone when George Springer and Carlos Correa return, I think the chance that he could pull a David Fletcher/Willians Astudillo contact thing, which with his speed makes him a sneaky upside gamble in 18-team leagues and 15-team OBP, as he may prove to be the steals boon everyone missed while they went gaga for Oscar Mercado. Sure, he has his warts but only because that’s straw spelled backwards.
Chance Sisco (C, Baltimore Orioles)
No, I’m not going to make the joke about his last name. We already know it sounds like Cisco Systems, the networking hardware company. But this is his second chance. He was really really bad last year, hitting .184 with two home runs in 184 plate appearances (Danny Jansen owners just got chills), but this year, he thrived on the farm, hitting .289 with 10 home runs in 193 plate appearances. While his .241 ISO is nearly double his previous marks and I’d love to say he finally tapped into his power, this could be another Triple-A juiced ball mirage; as aside from the homers, not much from his game seems to have changed much. Nonetheless, the allure of being a catcher with tangible offensive upside, especially one playing half his games in a hot bandbox—yeah that sounds pretty nice. Still, I doubt his clear path to playing time, as Pedro Severino has been surprisingly cromulent offensively and might not cede playing time without a fight. Still, Cisco is worth an add in AL-only one-catcher formats or 15-team two-catcher formats in the hopes he’s better than the wholesale catcher you can get at Sysco (they make my job’s flimsy single-ply toilet paper).
Shed Long (2B, Seattle Mariners)
His name is fitting; he’s got a lot of tools, but it may take a long while to fully realize them. In 2018, Long was vaulted into prospect sleeper status after hitting .261/.353/.412 with 12 home runs and 19 stolen bases in Double-A last year, and he continued to chug along in 2019 hitting .293 with six home runs (no stolen bases) in Triple-A before earning the call. Although the 23-year-old is short, he has surprising power potential with his speed and also good plate skills despite plenty of whiffs. He’s earned more regular playing time after hitting .313/.436/.500 over his past 36 at-bats. He may be more of a streamer for now until Dee Gordon returns, but I expect the Mariners to shed Dee and go Long. For now, he’s best suited for AL-only and 18-team OBP leagues, but if you’re overrun by injuries, he could be a viable 15-team OBP stream too.
Adam Haseley (OF, Philadelphia Phillies)
He’s benefiting from the fact that the Phillies’ regular is McCrutchin. While he may not be up for long, Haseley is an intriguing power/speed prospect and has continued to build his stock. Entering the year rated the No. 5 Phillies prospect by Fangraphs, he continued to succeed, hitting better than .270 with seven home runs and four stolen bases in 204 plate appearances in Double-A and Triple-A. He’s likely to be a roughly offensively average center fielder, which may not sound exciting, but in his case, that likely means the upside for a .260/15/10 season which has plenty of value in deeper formats. I’d only add in NL-only and 18-team OBP stream. Even though McCutchen is out for the year, I’d only add ho-hum Haseley in NL-only and 18-team OBP for now because of the low upside. So in 15-team and shallower, don’t Haseley, bro. That reference dates me and explains why women do not.
Garret Cooper (OF, Miami Marlins)
The Coopa Troopa is launching some hammers lately. The Miami outfielder has hit an impressive .364/.423/.636 this week with two homers to bring him to .256/.337/.423 with four homers over 78 at-bats on the year. Being on the Marlins, a team virtually devoid of usable options, he has automatic deep-league value in guaranteed playing time, but I think there’s potential for more than that. His 91 mph exit velocity is a career-best, which could explain his superior xBA of .290 and xSLG of .494, but that’s not nearly as surprising as his contact ability. After posting a Joey Gallo-esque 67% contact rate in 2018, it suddenly jumped to a perfectly acceptable 81%, and if he can maintain that power and contact, he could be a sneaky source of a .275-plus average and 10-15 homers the rest of the way. Add in NL-only and 18-team formats, and he is a viable streamer in five-outfielder 15-team average leagues.
Miguel Sano (3B, Minnesota Twins)
“Look, he’s back and better than ever,” is what you should tell other teams. Actually don’t say anything, they’ll think that when they see his five homers in just 51 at-bats since returning from the IL with a solid .260 average. But I still see that near-bottomless floor through this thin veneer. He actually is a big batting average risk as ever, posting a career-worst 61% contact rate and 20.2% swinging-strike rate with an xBA of .212, and even drawing walks won’t save that from being a thorn in your side. Don’t forget he also may not even stay healthy, and I’d flip him now as the return value will only plummet with his batting average. I’d cut only in 10-team or 12-team average formats and probably some shallower 15-team leagues too if he starts to lose playing time thanks to his poor defense that makes Twins fans Sayno.
Ronny Rodriguez (1B/2B/SS, Detroit Tigers)
Car RonRod has crashed and burned. He always seemed to be more of a short-term stopgap stream, but my, did he go past the stream into the sewage runoff, hitting just .109/.105/.236 over 55 at-bats the past 21 days. Yeah that’s right, his OBP is even lower than his average! With his 29 strikeouts over that span, this serves as a cautionary tale as to why we should be wary of high-strikeout low-walk types whose success is riding entirely on batted balls. You can safely extricate him from your roster in all leagues.
Jesus Aguilar (1B, Milwaukee Brewers)
Yes, I would’ve thought this was too obvious too, but apparently 53% of ESPN leagues in which he is owned disagree with me. And to those owners, I ask: What the flubber is wrong with you? Over the past three weeks, he’s gotten only 29 at-bats and hit only .138/.278/.241 with one home run. Give it up. The breakout isn’t happening this year, and you’re all in denial. Maybe like Domingo Santana before him, he’s the annual Brewers slugger sacrifice that must be made to the baseball Gods to give supernatural powers to Christian Yelich. So unless you’re in NL-only, cut Aguilar in all non-Worstball leagues. OK, scratch that. He actually doesn’t play enough to have value in Worstball either.
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