Photo by Gavin Baker/Icon Sportswire
Welcome back to this week’s edition of Buy & Sell, and for this week the theme is shallower league and speed options, alternately titled “Yuli Gurriel must hate my guts”. No, I still won’t recommend adding a player with a Barrel rate tied with Jarrod Dyson, but whatever floats your fantasy boat… This week he and his backers can celebrate sinking my battleship. Well the good news is my old buddy xStats is back online after a summer break, and some players that seemed to be on a mental vacation have finally started snapping back into form. Also free Slurpees at 7/11 today, bottoms up!
Kyle Tucker (OF, Houston Astros) – “He’s hitting .100, what a bum!” is what you’re likely hoping you hear an owner in your league say to themselves. Because in most leagues, especially deeper formats, Tucker was likely already owned, but his small sample struggles could deflate hype and helium in a hurry. Granted, his 13.3% Swstr% in the early going is a bit concerning, but I’m more encouraged with his 29.2% O-Swing% vs. his 72.2% Z-Swing%, and his 92.3% Z-Contact suggests he should hit for solid average and OBP. Of course his most enticing ability is his power-speed combo (okay, that’s TWO abilities), and he hit an awfully impressive .306/.371/.520 with 14 HR and 14 SB in his first taste of Triple-A. While the Houston lineup is a glut of riches, Tucker was not called up to ride the pine and should be given ample time to get going. He’s still owned 40.2% of leagues, and he may not be the second coming of Juan Soto, but for now he should be owned in all formats for his considerable upside.
Billy Hamilton (OF, Cincinnati Reds) – He may not be a good hitter, but even broken hitters can get right once a season. He’s been one of the hottest hitters this week, with a .526/.591/.579, which may be one of the only times I’ve seen a hitter with all three slash numbers starting with 5. He’s also been the hottest runner over that span, with 7 stolen bags this week. Now up to a .235/.315/.318 slash with 3 Homers and 22 stolen bases on the season, he suddenly looks like his end-of-season numbers will be pretty close to previous years… if only we could remember that in April and May. xStats does believe he hasn’t entirely deserved it with a saltier .222/.304/.266 xSlash, which is a rather hilariously low power output, and his peripherals don’t support his 10% walk rate. But you take him for bases thefts and he’s on a shoplifting spree, so add him in any 12-team formats in which he was dropped, and feel free to scoop him in 10-team OBP as well.
Jose Peraza (SS/2B, Cincinnati Reds) – He runs 29.1 feet per second and accomplishes many more feats per aza. The speedy second baseman has really picked up his game lately, hitting .321/.390/.623 with 3 Homers and 4 Stolen Bases over the past 2 weeks, bringing him up to a ..273/.322/.374 line on the season with 5 Home Runs and 17 Stolen Bases with only 2 Caught Stealing. Such an impressive season from a diminutive speedster of course reminds many a fantasy owner of the early career of the formerly Jose Altuve, but hold your racehorses. His 1.0 Barrel/PA and 87.2 mph flyball/line drive exit velocity (FB/LD eV) are among worst in the league among regulars (216th and 219th out of 224, respectively). xStats agrees he’s been lucky for power, but otherwise considers him legit with an xSlash of.275/.324/.344 which makes him a more well-rounded option than Hamilton, especially with his 2B eligibility. It may be too late for you to scoop him as he’s owned in 69% of ESPN leagues, but should be owned in all 12-team formats and his speed makes him viable in 10-team formats as well.
Gregory Polanco (OF, Pittsburgh Pirates) – His early season performance was a cancer on the team, but he’s got a new lease on life after seeing a Poloncologist. Bad puns aside, Polanco has seized his playing time back from a floundering Meadows by hitting .333/.452/.667 with 4 jacks over the past 21 days, with 2 of those jacks and a stolen base this week. It’s still a long climb up as it only raises his season line to ..236/.343/.472, which highlights an interesting change in Polanco’s profile. Both his walk rates and his strikeout rates are the highest they’ve ever been, and it’s backed by a career-best 26.6% O-Swing% and a career-worst 77% contact rate. While he seems to no longer be the stolen base threat we hoped for, he could threaten for 30 home runs and 10 SB with a beastly OBP which makes him a player that should be added in all 12-team formats and 10-team OBP.
Starlin Castro (2B, Miami Marlins) – Its rather alarmin’ how fast Starlin the Marlin has become a fantasy darlin’. His ESPN ownership rate is up to 58.5% after going a a scorching 390/.433/.573 with 4 Homers the past 3 weeks with a .419/.471/.710 and 2 of those homers coming this past week, to bring his season line to .299/.347/.423 with 7 Home Runs and 4 SB (1 CS). Despite being in a weak lineup, he’s hasn’t had much trouble producing runs, with 56 R to go with 34 RBI, and has eschewed the notion that he needs to play half his games at Yankee Stadium to be a fantasy-relevant hitter. This year he’s upped his walk rate to a more palatable 7.5%, and even if it regresses some it should still remain better than previous years with an improved 31.4% O-Swing%. Although xStats thought he was lucky last year, they see this year as his best yet, with an xSlash of .296/.344/.447 which suggests that he deserves even better power numbers. Add in all 12-team formats and stream in 10-team batting average leagues in which the table setter is still available.
Jonathan Schoop (2B, Baltimore Orioles) – It might finally be time to scoop up Schoop. The second baseman had seemed destined to have a lost year after struggles plus an oblique injury, but he has heated up as of late, hitting .413 with 2 home runs over the past week, to give him 10 HR with a .224 AVG on the year. xStats has believed his struggles this year are not just bad luck, with an ugly .221/.260/.348 xSlash that suggests he hasn’t even deserved a .391 SLG%. But it does seem like his recent surge looks more legitimate, as his xAVG when I wrote him up several weeks ago was below .200. While his power is still nowhere near 2017 levels, his Hard Hit% over the past month is close to his 2016 levels, and he’s posting the best Z-Contact% at 87.2% of his career since his surge over the past month. He still has very real downside in OBP formats, but with how far he’s fallen, he can provide even deeper leagues with a strong surge at the keystone. Although Machado getting dealt could hurt his run-producing opportunities, he’s now only 61% owned and should still be added in any 15-team leagues, and 12-team formats in which he was cut, especially Batting Average formats, but you may also want to ride and see if it’s a full comeback in 10-team leagues as well if you’re feeling lucky.
Stephen Piscotty (OF, Oakland Athletics) – Baseballs must be telling him “Beam me up, Piscotty” because he sure has been blasting laser beams. He’s surging with a .309/.373/.676 with 6 moonshots the past 3 weeks, and an even better .320/.346/.800 with 3 of those blasts the past week. Yet due to his early season ride on the struggle bus, he may still be unnoticed with a pedestrian-looking overall line of .258/.321/.439 with 10 HR in 287 AB. I do believe he has a legit excuse for his early season struggles as his mother passed away in early May due to a year-long battle with ALS, but since returning from the bereavement list he has certainly looked more like the player we saw in 2016 and perhaps even better. xStats backs his performance with an xSlash of .264/.327/.441, and I expect those numbers to rise from here on out. Take Piscotty in all 15-team leagues and ride him out in 12-team OBP formats as well.
Mark Reynolds (1B, Washington Nationals) – There are 34-year-olds, than then there are 34-year-Reynolds. He’s certainly looking brand spankin’ new, as he’s been spanking the ball with an astronomical .588/.632/1.235 line with 3 longballs this week to bring his season line to a fantastic .297/.365/.595 as the latest Washington hitter to get Muncified (yes, I am taking Max Muncy and verbifying him). Over the past 3 years, xStats has considered Reynolds very lucky from a batting average perspective, likely thanks in large part to Colorado, with an xAVG under .240 and an xSLG under .440 every year, but this year it’s backed his performance more closely, with a still excellent xSlash of .275/.346/.555. Of course, we know by now that Reynolds is extremely streaky and this could come crashing down, especially with his 45% GB% rate and 33.3% HR/FB, but we can at least move beyond the notion that he needs the Rocky Mountain high to be a valuable hitter. He’s still rather widely available and should be added in all 18-team leagues, and 15-team OBP leagues, and despite his lack of consistent playing time, can make for a decent streamer or matchup play in 12-team OBP with 1B being weaker than usual this year.
Kendrys Morales (DH, Toronto Blue Jays) – Kendrys Morales is a man who refuses to be entirely forgotten. Left off many radars as a fantasy afterthought due to lack of regular playing time, he has clawed his way back into our collective attention by hitting .311 with 5 Homers the past 21 days and .500 with 2 homers this week, to bring his season line up to .243/.305/.428 with 10 Home Runs in 222 AB. That probably leaves you yawning, but xStats feels he deserves better, with an xSlash of .251/.309/.491, which makes him among the unluckiest players from a SLG/xSLG perspective. Okay, I know, xStats doesn’t feel anything, it’s just an algorithm and has no emotion. Perhaps more relevant than his offensive output is the fact that with 10 games at the cold corner (what I call first base) under his belt, he now has 1B eligibility in nearly all leagues (with a game at the hot corner for those few leagues with a 1-game eligibility requirement). While the Pearce trade opened a bit more playing time, there are still infielders and outfielders eating Kendrys’s playing time, but he deserves at least semi-regular at-bats and should be owned in all 18-team and 15-team batting average formats.
Andrew Toles (OF, Los Angeles Dodgers) – For whom the bell Toles, time Dodgers on. Toles has been a fantasy tease for some time, getting really hot and showing promise, then getting hurt and getting lost in the Dodgers shuffle. While it’s unclear how long he will receive playing time he will receive with Puig on the mend from yet another tricky oblique injury, he certainly is interesting in the short term with his ability to hit for solid power and average. He was hitting .326 with 4 Homers in the minors, but he did have an elevated strikeout rate with less power and speed than his previous campaign at the level. But then again, the 26-year-old does already have a .299/.348/.490 slash with 8 HR, 38 R, 33 RBI, and 1 SB in 221 PA in the majors, and I’d weigh that success more heavily. Add in all NL-only leagues and 18-team batting average formats, but even 15-teamers should keep a close eye on him for streaming purposes.
Niko Goodrum (1B, 2B, 3B, SS, OF, Detroit Tigers) – This guy has been like MacGyver’s dental floss with how many ways he’s helped savvy fantasy owners this year. He’s hitting .367/.387/.633 with a homer and a stolen base this week, to raise his season line up to .253/.324/.463 with 8 HR and 7 SB (1 CS). While xStats believes he’s been lucky with a much more sobering xSlash of .231/.306/.429, he still does have a strong 7.0% Barrel% with a 29.1 ft/sec foot speed (tied with Peraza) making him among the most underrated power/speed threats currently in the game. On top of that, he has multi-position eligibility all over the the place, with more than 5 games played at 1B, 2B, 3B, SS, and OF… man I wish he’d go full Kiner-Falefa and play catcher too. Like Captain Morgan, this good rum is unspectacular but blends well with most deep league fantasy situations and will give your team life, love, and looted bases. Add in 18-team leagues and consider as a streamer or bench/util bat in 15-team formats.
Adrian Beltre (3B, Texas Rangers) – Look, I’ve been holding back from writing this one for a while, because we all know his soul feeds on proving his doubters wrong as much as his soul loathes teammates touching his head. But Beltre’s 2.9 Barrel% has been unacceptably low all season, and his xSlash of .298/.361/.416 suggests the SLG% over 100 points below his 2016-2017 rates hasn’t just been bad luck. Sure, he’ll hit for solid average and OBP, which has its uses in deeper leagues, and there’s always the chance he heats up. But he is 39, and Paul Konerko can vouch that even ageless wonders do decline eventually, and it’s looking like this is probably that year. He’s still 62.5% owned as teams hesitate to ditch him, and you’re probably stuck with him in deeper formats, but I think it’s time to say goodbye in 10-team formats and shallow 12-teamers if you have a superior 3B option.
Trey Mancini (1B/OF, Baltimore Orioles) – After how he’s been swinging lately, his bat has been in court trying to get legally emancinipated. Throughout his struggles, which have been ongoing, I kept pointing to an xSlash pointing to better days. After all, even now, his .222/.296/.365 line is way worse than his decent xSlash of .252/.321/.422. But back when I had been writing him up earlier, his xAVG was in the .290s, then in the .270s, so his bad luck came early but this decline has been real. I get it, Baltimore must be depressing to play for right now. While you could point to his improved walk rate and similar K rate to 2017 as a sign of improvement, his 57% GB% rate is what digs the fantasy nail in the coffin for me. Cut in 12-team leagues and I’d even consider cutting in 15-team formats for a potential spark plug like some of the latter options above. I’m hating on the “Tre”s today.
Kevin Pillar (OF, Toronto Blue Jays) – Like Mancini, he’s a guy I earnestly tried to hold out hope for, but his performance has been a bitter pillar. He’s hitting an anemic .197/.219/.295 over the past 21 days, and that’s no better than the previous 21 days. On the season, he’s hit just .243/.276/402 with 8 HR and 11 SB, and while the speed is nice, he really has done virtually zero on the base paths since April. Much ado was made about him hitting the ball harder earlier this year, but his xSlash looks virtually similar to the one he posted last year, which was widely regarding as a disappointing year. Sure, he’ll probably go on another hot streak, and he still will probably steal 20 bags, but outside of AL-only and 18-team he really just doesn’t do enough to justify starting him right now. Cut in 12-team and 15-team OBP formats.