Welcome back to Buy & Sell, where this week’s theme is: Toxic trash dump! And no, I’m not talking about the comment threads on Reddit when I make a typo in the opening sentence of an article, ay-oh! Too many teams are holding on too long to dead weight, which is why it’s up to me, your semi-impulsive waiver wire guru, to help you Marie Kondo those players that don’t bring you joy into the dumpster, a donation pile, or as shredded scraps for your neighbor’s daughter’s hamster’s litter box. But we all know who we’re buying and that’s Elly De La Cruz, with ALL THE FAAB! Which, for me in my TGFBI league that I’m currently winning, is $26 left of FAAB. I don’t think I’ll win him, y’all. Anyway, on to the list!
The line to get to him is more crowded than the line to get a pastrami sandwich at Katz’s Deli De La Cruz. I hope you took my advice to scoop him up several weeks ago, as he’s highly unlikely to be available in all but the shallowest or laziest of leagues. He’s currently rostered in 74% of Yahoo leagues, but that means you still have a 26% chance of getting him, which isn’t half bad! We know De La Cruz has some of the biggest raw pop in the game, similar to that of his partial namesake Oneil Cruz, but De La Cruz seems likely to hit the top end of his power more often, often hitting multiple balls 110+ mph in a single game. In Triple-A, and in his first two major league batted balls, hitting them 108 mph and 112 mph.
He got everyone drooling over the upside after hitting .297 with 12 HRs and 11 SBs in 186 PA as a 21-year-old, and the age relative to level is a huge deal, especially according to recent research on how it improves projections. His biggest bugaboo is his strikeout rate, but he managed to get it under 30% for the first time, and his 27% mark also looks better as he doubled his walk rate to 14% (though this may be more due to pitchers refusing to throw on the plate to him, which is understandable, frankly. He was immediately put in the cleanup spot if you had any doubt that the team had any doubt. Add and start in all leagues, and you’ll be vibing like De La Soul.
Jake the Snake is gobbling down bases like its Rattler Race. Well, without the whole body-elongating-with-each-point thing, since eventually that would make stolen base rules very complicated. While he hasn’t dominated with the bat but has been better, and has let the legs do the talking, hitting .290/.361/.323 with no homers but a whopping 10 SBs in just 31 AB. That’s nuts. That’s more stolen bases than hits (nine)! Given that he was only caught once, nothing is going to stop him from doing everything in his power to catch Esteury Ruiz, and his bat is good enough that he’ll keep playing.
He’s still not hitting the ball very hard at just 24% HardHit%, a nearly 10-point drop from last year’s rate, but he’s making up for it with a higher walk rate and lower K rate, giving him more opportunities to put his 99th percentile sprint speed to use. While he doesn’t have a ton of power, for this week he may get a surge facing an Eduardo Rodriguez-less Tigers rotation over the next three games followed by the Phillies. But even without the pop, he should keep starting in all leagues while stealing bases with nearly every opportunity. With Jake by your side, your odds improve of Finnishing first.
Steer has provided a heifer of a value for his modest draft day price. He is the latest evidence of the notion that one need not worry too much about expected stats when you play half your games in arguably the best overall hitter’s haven for power (since it’s without Colorado’s disorienting effects upon leaving). Steer has had an excellent season, hitting .290/.368/.493, but has been positively on fire the past two weeks, hitting .413/.491/.674 with two HRs and two SBs. What’s even more encouraging is his 7/5 BB/K over that span, showing Steer really is in the driver’s seat.
The addition of stolen bases in the past few weeks, even if a handful, really helps tie the room together at the 3B position in which those are rare, and with his high walk rate, he’s looking like a slightly slower 2021 Jonathan India in terms of the overall package, which is a great player overall. Of course, with Elly De La Cruz likely up to stay and Christian Encarnacion-Strand waiting in the wings, people are looking at the shiny new toy, but Steer is the steady Eddie option with helpful 1B/3B eligibility that should provide a solid value over the season even with some Ty France-esque peaks and valleys. He should be rostered in all leagues at this point and you’ll be pleasantly surprised with Spencer’s gifts.
Jesus Sánchez (OF, Miami Marlins)
Sánchez may have driven off course over the past year or so, but now Jesus has taken the wheel. The 25-year-old has looked much better upon his return, hitting .280 with two HRs and a 3/5 K/BB in 25 AB over that span. One look at his expected wOBA shows it has been only getting hotter over his last 50 PA. Although his high strikeout rate, which is at 28%, is a tad higher than last year, he’s barreling balls at an excellent 14% clip and has the highest launch angle of his career at nine degrees. Hey, it’s not good still, but improvement is improvement.
If you want to get a bit giddy, look at Jesus Sánchez’s expected stats: a studly xBA of .314 and xSLG of .537 makes you want to believe he’s already a star. And sure, he could be. But right now he’s also rocking a ridiculous 35% line drive rate, which is not sustainable over the long haul. So while he’s deserved great numbers thus far, that part of his game won’t continue. That being said, given the plate discipline improvement since his return, he can and probably will still succeed to hit a 25-30 dinger pace with a solid batting average and an outside shot of double-digit stolen bases. With his high talent level, it’s time to add him in 12-team formats, hoping you caught the big fish, and won’t just get dragged out to sea (and become an old man).
I originally considered taking the mild approach and saying he’s a 15-team add, but then I consulted the sassy 90’s kid in me who said “Oh, a cleanup hitter is 15-team viable? Ryan No-Duh!” I think that despite the lack of very appealing surface numbers, he’s looking like a breakout waiting to happen and another success story of the A’s scouting the stat lines. Noda was a Rule 5 pick with big power and walk rates (and surprising speed for a big guy) but a troublesome strikeout rate, and we saw mostly the latter half of that equation early on. But while still rocking a dangerous K rate, he’s hit better as of late, with a .318/.434/.535 line with two HRs over the past two weeks. Over that span, he’s managed eight walks, although also 20 Ks.
So, why should you add him? Because when he does make contact, he mashes. He has a 91st percentile barrel rate and 93rd percentile HardHit%. Well, okay, the other reason, although league dependent, is that he’s a walk machine. He has a 100th percentile 19% BB rate, making him much better in OBP leagues than he may appear at first glance. With Jesús Aguilar finally out, he looks to have a real opportunity for full-time reps, so Seth Brown can cut in if he’s not hacking it. He could bring some pain in batting average leagues as his expected stats suggest he’s deserved significantly worse, but he has such a high floor to go with his upside in OBP formats that he should be rostered in those 12-teamers. If that feels weird, just don’t forget the song “O.B.P (Yeah, you know me), a hit from Noda By Nature.
He’s putting on quite an operatic masterpiece, so let’s give a standing ovation to Eddie Impresario. He’s hit .400 with three homers over the past week, quickly boosting his season line to .256/.282/.472. He seemed to fall off the map last year after his K rate jumped by 10 points, and while the K rate hasn’t improved at 25%, he’s doubled his barrel rate to a career-best 10%. Given the fact that he’s not an asset on the basepaths (one SB but three CS) and is drawing even fewer walks than normal, he’s mostly a streamer in 12-team formats looking for power or batting average (but not OBP) in deeper five OF 12-team formats and 15-team leagues.
Oh, the flak that I got earlier this year for suggesting Gary Sánchez was a potential stash. Then again, it was while he was on the Giants, and he’s been rather tempest-tossed without a real chance before finally making his splash in San Diego, completing the bicoastal travel plan. The 30-year-old (side note: wow, he must be the oldest 30-year-old in the league) has been positively en fuego this week, hitting .300/.391/800 with three HRs in 20 AB this week, and he has a .267 AVG on his tiny 30 AB sample for the season. So, is he a new man? Well not exactly, but maybe that’s okay.
Sánchez has always had a plus barrel rate and even has that in his small sample this year, at 14%. Currently, he’s hitting the ball at very good launch angles with a 52% SweetSpot%, but with a 29% K% and an 8% BB%, he looks more or less like who he’s been for the past few years. The positive, however, is that he has a solid chance to overtake the starting catcher’s role, as Nola has continued to disappoint and Luis Campusano hasn’t met his prospect hype and has been injury-riddled. Perhaps the company of veteran sluggers Matt Carpenter and Nelson Cruz can encourage him to find ways to increase the pulled fly balls even more, and it’s encouraging that all three of his homers were hit pull side nearly to the same location. He’s a must-add in 15-team OBP formats and two-catcher leagues, as you can fight pitcher windmills with Gary Sancho Panza at your side.
Free Emmanuel! Well, he’s been somewhat freed, but he still has one leg stuck in the door. RosterResource still lists him as the small-side platoon bat for Arizona, but I think talent is finally starting to win out and you might need to jump the gun to snag the sneaky batting average stud. He’s hit an impressive .387 over the past two weeks with no homers and one SB over 31 AB, which raises his season line to .348/.383/.461 with one HR and one SB in 89 AB. You may say “Do you really think the D-Backs will start a third baseman with virtually no power? Well, his competition is Josh Rojas, who hasn’t hit a single homer (and also hasn’t hit for average and is just generally bad).
Also, while it may seem like Rivera’s a slap hitter, he’s more like a smash hitter. Believe it or not, he has a 52% HardHit%, with an above-average max EV of 109 mph and a career-best launch angle of 11 degrees. Even more intriguing is his much-improved plate skills, with excellent swing decisions with a 28% O-Swing% yet a 73% Z-Swing% to go with a great 94% Z-Contact% and 85% Contact% overall. That gives him an elite 21% CSW% that is right behind Freddie Freeman and José Ramírez. If nothing else, he’s a great stream for the next few games, but I think he should be rostered in all 15-teamers going forward and could even be batting average 12-team viable once he earns the role outright. Because if you’re looking for a potential Luis Arraez-type but trading off some contact for power, he’s The Manuel.
I had written up Bauers’ interesting profile earlier this year just before his brief power breakout (and ensuing swoon), but he’s picked it back up as of late, hitting .280 with three dingers in 25 AB over the past two weeks, with two of the homers this week. That brings him up to five homers and one SB with a .227/.329/.500 line on the season, which seems rather ho hum… until you realize he did that in just 66 AB (77 PA). That’s some big pop from the guy who was supposed to not have any. And I think it’s real. After a career Barrel% of 6%, this year he has a Barrel% of 22%. That’s… a standard deviation or two, with lots of room for error.
It’s not a surprise that the average isn’t pretty as he is maxing out and has a 35% K% as a result, but the good news is that his expected stats think he deserved a bit better, with an xBA of .246 and xSLG of .573. With Aaron Judge hitting the IL, Bauers has another chance to stake his claim on playing time, and I like his odds more than the low-upside Willie Calhoun (who I do also like as a floor guy). I’d stream him for now but wouldn’t be surprised if a few more homers put him in the conversation as a must-start regular. So why am I saying he’s a deep-league guy? Name value… or lack thereof. He was just dropped in my deep AL-only league, and if you need power he’s a fine streamer even in 15-teamers.
He’s no longer the fantasy Wicked Witch of the NL West? Odorothy, I’m so happy to hear it! Look, I just had to make a non-smell-related pun, okay? Odor seemed to be on his last major league legs, but it’s hard to argue with his underlying stats, even though the surface line is just .211 with four dingers and two SBs. His hot homer week has already ended, but San Diego will be facing Colorado and he’s exactly the kind of hitter you want to stream for that. His hard-hit metrics look similar to last year, which isn’t great (since last year he had a raw power drop-off), but his plate skills have improved substantially, as his Z-Swing% is a career-best 79% while his O-Swing% went in the other direction to a career-best 32%. Good things tend to happen when you swing at more strikes.
In fact, since he’s taking so few swinging strikes (an elite 9% Called Strike%), even with his ho-hum 76% Contact%, he has an elite 21% CSW% which if it qualified (which it does NOT, small samples size warnings are important, okay?) it would be ahead of the previously mentioned Emmanuel Rivera as well as Freeman. This could all be a blip, sure. But given how poorly Jake Cronenworth has turned into a wretched fantasy glob, he has an opportunity to get semi-regular or even regular playing time in a still-great lineup and provide one of the more surprising comeback seasons in recent memory. He’s a must-add in AL-only formats and worth consideration for a spec add in the deepest 15-team leagues, but don’t dive in on him deeper since this could all be a mirage and it wouldn’t be the first time he’s pulled the Roug out from under us.
Hello, I’d like to return my Michael Harris II. Can I get a Michael Harris I? I liked the previous edition much more. Harris was always a regression candidate who I avoided on draft day, but I don’t think anyone expected this kind of regression. He’s hitting a positively abysmal .163/.246/.244 with just two homers and five SBs in just 123 AB, and I’m sure every once in a while he may have a big game that makes you decide to hold him for another week or two (or three) while the struggles continue. A few weeks ago, some people pointed out that his strikeout and walk rates had improved from last year, but now his K% has risen to 25%. While his current rates still aren’t good, what’s more troubling is the lack of good contact.
While his overall Contact% is the same, his Z-Contact% is way down from 86% to 79%, which is a below-league-average rate and helps explain part of why he hasn’t made great contact this year. His MaxEV is still quite high at 114 mph so he clearly still has the raw talent and has the ability to turn things around quickly, though playing on a competitive Braves team, they may be running out of patience, as they’ve showed with Michael Soroka and other players that they move quickly and decisively.
I don’t expect a demotion soon, but I think one other aspect of his game hurting his viability in 10-teamers isn’t discussed enough. When it comes to stolen bases, he’s been… just okay, I guess. I know he hasn’t been on base as much, but five stolen bases aren’t making a dent in this environment. I mean, even Michael A. Taylor has double that! So really you’re waiting on the bat to turn around, and missing so many good 10-team options in the process, especially in Roto where you can’t make up for missed production as easily.
I guess people really must love DJ like a big sibling in a full house. Because in ESPN he is still rostered at 57% when there are so many other better hitters that get far less attention. LeMahieu’s age is really starting to show, as he’s hitting a lousy .239/.301/.296 with just six HRs and no SBs, a line which if you take out run production considerations, is no better than the Pirates’ Rodolfo Castro. He’s been especially bad of late, hitting just .153/.194/.254 with one HR in 59 AB over the past three weeks, and there aren’t many signs of things getting better. Okay, there are some, but it don’t impress me much.
He’s still got the pop, but he’s lost the contact touch. His barrel rate is higher at 7% and his HardHit% is quite strong at 48%, and his Z-Contact% is still solid at 91%, but his O-Contact% fell off a cliff, from 80% in 2022 to just 59% this year. That, combined with excessive passivity at the plate, with a whopping 24% Called Strike% has led to a 32% CSW% that is below league average and closer to that of low-contact boppers. Add the fact that at an injury-prone age 34, he’s unlikely to steal bases, and you basically have a player somewhere in between Brandon Drury and Jonathan Schoop. And that’s not where you want to be. With Josh Donaldson back and Isiah Kiner-Falefa getting hot, he may get increasingly squeezed out of playing time from all corners (and middle infield) if he can’t turn it around, and you have no reason to wait for that. He’s a difficult, but important cut in all 12-team formats.
Dishonorable Mention: Ian Happ (OF, Chicago Cubs) – With no homers and just one stolen base over the past three weeks, there’s just not enough Happ-ening here for him to be worth rostering in 12-team batting average formats. Still walks a lot though.
Well, if you read why I love Emmanuel Rivera, you probably also realized I do not like Rojas. The 28-year-old is having a season to forget, hitting just .247/.310/.319 with zero HRs and six SBs. And if you really want to be convinced, consider that Statcast considers his current level of production to be lucky. Yeesh. All of his various quality of contact measures are blue to deep blue, and you know what else is blue? His Sprint Speed. That’s right, 32nd percentile.
It is true that he’s never been liked by Statcast and has always seemed to find a way to beat his expected stats, but this is a bridge too far, and why cross that bridge when his competition, Rivera, is soaring? He will likely become more of a defensive specialist utility infielder if the team wants to compete, and it boggles the mind that he’s still rostered in the double digits, a higher rate than the red-hot Rivera. Cut your losses and get someone who actually has fantasy juice and not fantasy-flavored lukewarm water.
I wanted to believe, too. I thought Mickey was going to help my team win and take me to Disney World. Well, Disneyland, given he’s in California. But there are more red flags than a bullfight. The worst might be his 50% O-Swing%, which just makes it obvious that he’s exploitable, especially since his O-Swing% is quite poor at 50%, giving him a Swinging Strike rate of 20%. I want off this ride.
Only the game’s best power profiles could still succeed despite that, and Moniak doesn’t have that either. Sure, his 11% Barrel% and 110 mph MaxEV are solid, I mean it’s not far off from Zach McKinstry. But a 29% HardHit% is not encouraging, nor is the fact that he has a 65% FB%… I normally love flyballs, but an approach like that is just so transparently exploitable. With Taylor Ward finally feeling the pressure and heating up, Moniak’s chance may be quickly closing anyway, and I think you’re best off taking the production you’ve gotten so far to the bank before it turns into Monopoly Moneyak.
Featured Image by Ethan Kaplan (@DJFreddie10 on Twitter and @EthanMKaplanImages on Instagram)