Welcome back to Buy & Sell, and this week’s theme is: Catcher is out of the dumpster! Sure, aside from Gary Sanchez, you won’t see catchers atop the leaderboard, but the mid-tier of the position has gotten such a boost with so many new faces rising to relevance that you may benefit from an unusual strategy: In single-catcher leagues, consider having a catcher as a bench or utility player. Even the best starting catchers get rested more often, so they’ll find time to play, but in many single-catcher leagues, the best available free agent catcher is actually better than the best available outfielder or infielder. So this week’s list will be rather catcher-heavy, though not as heavy as I am from Fourth of July hot dogs. Yuck. Let me know if you’ve utilized this strategy or if you think it’s complete poppycock! On to the list:
Yuli Gurriel (1B/3B, Houston Astros)
Because of how hot he’s been this month, Gurriel is legally changing his first name to Juli. Perhaps he got jealous of his little brother Lourdes stealing all the waiver-wire spotlight and wanted to show he can mash dingers too. In fact, he’s nearly doubled his home run total in just one week, with an insane .429/.478/.1.333 with six homers in the past week and eight homers over the past two weeks. As hot as he’s been, his Statcast data doesn’t indicate he’s all that different than he’s always been, with a 3% barrel rate, a .273 xBA, and .385 xSLG. But with a career-best 40% fly-ball rate, the ball traveling further in the summer months does benefit the high-contact Yuli (see Tommy La Stella) and pushes more of his doubles over the fence. He will cool off at some point, surely, but he needs to be owned in 10-team average formats and 12-team OBP while he’s hitting like Gurri Sanchez.
Christian Vazquez (C, Boston Red Sox)
It’s rather surprising that the breakout of a big-market player such as Christian Vazquez has managed to fly so under the radar. This is a player who had a previous recorded just five dingers over a full season, and now has nearly three times that, hitting .299/.332/.520 with 14 home runs, 38 runs, and 41 RBI in 254 at-bats and six home runs over the past three weeks. I wrote him up as a player to add back in April, noting he’s barreling the ball more, and he still has a good barrel rate of 7.2% with a career-best 90 mph exit velocity that has helped turn his cans of corn into taters. Even though he’s likely overperforming, with an xBA of .262 and xSLG of .463, it’s canceled out by the fact that he’s on an offensive Red Sox juggernaut and is not in a timeshare, meaning he produces more runs than most catchers.
A.J. Pollock (OF, Los Angeles Dodgers)
Pollock may be a low-grade fish but a high-grade waiver wire pickup. He’s back after missing significant time with an elbow injury, but when healthy, his power/speed upside is still significant. Sure, it looks ugly right now, with a .223 average and .330 slugging percentage, but he deserves better with a .263 xBA and .401 xSLG and an above average 90 mph exit velocity. Ultimately, though, here you have to focus on his career, largely ignoring his one superstar season but recognizing his ability to produce with a solid average at a 20-20 pace in a stuffed lineup. In average leagues, he should be owned in 12-team, but in OBP leagues, you could let someone else take him if you can’t find a worse player to drop.
Danny Jansen (C, Toronto Blue Jays)
DanJan is the man, and he’ll get you TOOTBLAN. He’s had the fastest zero-to-hero season turnaround, hitting .400/.415/1.000 with six of his eight homers over the past two weeks and four just this past week. Not only that, he hasn’t struck out once over the past 2 weeks and has hardly whiffed either. He had been struggling so badly for so long that even the majority of his most loyal backers left him for dead, but Statcast indicated all along that at least a moderate rebound was in store. While his season line of .211/.281/.380 still carries first-half stink, his xBA of .259 and xSLG of .441 suggest it may not be too late to add off waivers or buy low from an owner looking to flip him. He’s a must-add in 15-team formats but viable as more than just a stream in 12-team as he has the skills to keep the surge going.
Christian Walker (1B, Arizona Diamondbacks)
Walker Arizona Diamondback is getting better in the later episodes. Walker hit a scalding .400 with three homers in 15 at-bats this week, the latest climb in his roller coaster season (in this analogy, I assume you hate a roller coaster’s drops, which seems odd). On the season, he’s hit a perfectly solid .263/.333/.504 with 17 homers, and he could keep up this 25-30 homer run pace. His xAVG is identical, but his xSLG of .525 and exit velocity of 91 mph suggest more power may be in store. He’s arguably more valuable than Dan Vogelbach in average leagues (definitely not in OBP though). He’s worth adding and holding in 12-team formats.
Nate Lowe (1B, Tampa Bay Rays)
Lowe and behold, he has returned. Sure, the luster seems to have faded, but that’s no fault of his own and only his puzzling team. He started the year ho-hum in the minors with only three home runs prior to his first call-up but heated up to bring his Triple-A total to .290/.419/.519 with 12 home runs in 296 plate appearances in Triple-A before his most recent call-up. While his majors line of .240 with two homers probably didn’t turn too many heads even after bopping them back-to-back, his xBA of .288, xSLG of .522 and exit velocity of 91 mph (with a launch angle of 19 degrees) suggest he should have many more tates in his future and a respectable average despite a high-ish strikeout rate. There’s still a fair chance he gets sent down when Ji-Man Choi returns, but his power upside makes him a worthwhile gamble in 15-team and could soon be viable in 12-team OBP. So get Lowe, get Lowe get Lowe get Lowe.
Chance Sisco (C, Baltimore Orioles)
Watch Sisco hit that dong, dong-dong-dong dong. Sisco is collecting hits and homers at a surprising pace, at least surprising if you believe his 2018 was any indication of his true talent. While Sisco hasn’t been as hot as Jansen, he certainly has the better rate stats with a .283/.394/.667. What’s shocking is that this really hasn’t been a total fluke as it’s backed by an xBA of .281 and still-excellent xSLG of .564, largely thanks to his 18% barrel rate. Still, I think some regression is inevitable with his 32% strikeout rate, but he now has the plate discipline to make it viable with an elite 22% chase rate. He did hit for great power in Triple-A (10 home runs in 193 at-bats) and he’s in a great park for more dingers, and he’s finally pushing out Pedro Severino for the at-bats he deserves. I’d recommend adding in all 15-team formats, but he is a viable add in 12-team OBP if you need a high-risk high-upside boost.
Jeimer Candelario (3B, Detroit Tigers)
One would think that with his big week he would be recommended with more enthusiasm, but he just can’t hold a Candel to the deep crop of third basemen this year. While his season line of .214/.309/.362 with six home runs in 223 plate appearances still kind of stinks, I believe this streak is more than just re-beginner’s luck. He hit a studly .345/.427/.631 with five home runs in 99 plate appearances in Triple-A prior to the call and since his call-up has hit .350 over 40 plate appearances, with four of his six homers coming this week. Statcast still hates him with a .206 xBA and .330 xSLG, but he’s still just 25 and could be a solid producer the rest of the way. He should be owned in all 18-team leagues and is a viable stream in 15-team OBP.
Robel Garcia (2B, Chicago Cubs)
For bringing Italian baseball into the spotlight, he’s sure to win the Robel Peace Price. Garcia is one of the more intriguing stories in baseball, as he fell completely out of affiliated pro baseball, playing in an Italian league, until the Cubs saw his domination and took a chance on him. And he popped 15 home runs with a .281 average in 199 at-bats in Triple-A, (although it came with an eye-popping 34% strikeout rate) and earned at least a brief call-up. He’s hitting well in the majors now, with a .364 average and two home runs in 11 at-bats despite being a bag of bricks on defense, which hurts his future in the NL. While it’s hard to glean much from his MLB offense small sample, so far, it supports the idea from the minors that he has big swing-and-miss but bigger power, with a fantastic 97 mph exit velocity. Again, this is 11 at-bats and will surely come down. But with a lack of info and some intriguing small samples, he could be Cubbie Blue Lightning in a bottle. Remember, he’s at a thin position with the possibility of qualifying at more positions that he can play equally poorly.
Daniel Murphy (2B/1B, Colorado Rockies)
This one may come as a surprise, but my only regret is not writing him as a sell sooner, as Statcast has been suggesting it since his return. Sure, he plays half his games in Colorado, but he’s still among baseball’s luckiest hitters, with a .274 average and .447 slugging percentage belying a .228 xAVG and .339 xSLG. He isn’t doing everything all that differently, with a slight decline in strikeout rate and exit velocity, so it’s rather shocking to see that Colorado hasn’t made him an offensive deity. But at 34 years old, I’m not so optimistic that he’ll overcome his early-season injuries, and he no longer deserves his 85% ESPN ownership rate, so cut him in 10-team (especially in OBP) for a better keystone hitter.
Wil Myers (OF, San Diego Padres)
If you’ve been sticking with Wil, you’ve likely been taking an L. It’s hard to say exactly what’s wrong with him, but a symptom is striking out more than ever. His 36% strikeout rate is the highest of his career by far, and he’s not compensating by improving much in other metrics. In a time where power is up across the board, his has remained stagnant with just 12 home runs to go with his nine stolen bases, and his xBA of .229 and xSLG of .418 don’t inspire much hope. While his .314 OBP isn’t as ugly as his .217 average, both will hurt you more in 10-team than he’s worth. His 67% ownership is too high, and 12-teamers (especially average leagues) should throw this ENFP (egregiously negative fantasy player) personality in fantasy jail, send him to the Myers-brig.
Robinson Chirinos (C, Houston Astros)
I’ve been banging the cut Chirinos drum all season, so I’m glad I finally am not looking like (as much of) a crazy person. Chirinos is hitting a putrid .159/.269/.182 with no homers over 44 at-bats the past 21 days, though you may not realize as it’s buoyed by a solid-looking .225/.352/.445 with 12 home runs in 218 at-bats. Statcast predicted heavy regression, and it’s finally come. The storm may not yet be over. His xBA of .200 and xSLG of .383 suggest his second half will be much uglier than the first, and I would not be surprised to see his playing time cut as he’s already old for a catcher as well as injury prone. He’s still far too owned at 31%, and I’d much rather have Roberto Perez (7%) or Sisco (3%).
Eric Thames (OF/1B, Milwaukee Brewers)
He got some run with the Brew Crew when Jesus Aguilar forgot how to hit, but it seems the Freaky Friday spell has been reversed. His season line of .257 with 13 home runs seems well and good, but behind that sheen is an ugly .208 xBA and .393 xSLG. Add on top that it seems Aguilar is finally regaining his form, and it seems likely that Thames could soon receive at-bats as sparingly as sweets on the food pyramid. OBP leagues may want to wait and see how it shakes out, but in 18-team average leagues, for something with more upside, I’m sending him up the river.
(Photo by Leslie Plaza Johnson/Icon Sportswire)