Welcome back to Buy & Sell, where today’s theme is: forget what you know. This year has been a renaissance for nobodies and previously disappointing players, and the ownership rates reflect that many owners are sleeping on value right on their wire, at least in ESPN leagues.
Matt Olson (1B, Oakland Athletics)
This isn’t the first time I’ve sung the praises of Olson, and frankly, I wish I could stop. But here he is, still with a measly 68% ownership rate in ESPN despite mashing taters so often you’d think it were Thanksgiving. Over the past three weeks, he’s hit .306/.338/.677 with seven home runs to bring him up to 19 home runs in just 228 at-bats. He’s been every bit as good as he was during his legendary 2017 streak, and the crazy thing is, Statcast thinks what he’s done so far is actually quite unlucky. He has an incredible xSLG of .610 with an elite barrel rate of 17% and even a solid xBA of .280. Even after missing over a month of the season, I think it’s possible he still totals 35-plus home runs and should be a top-five first baseman in the second half. So get mo’ of M.O.
Shin-Soo Choo (OF, Texas Rangers)
All aboard, because Choo keeps chugging along as one of the most boring yet dependable fantasy assets, above average in every category. He’s hitting .357 with two home runs this week to bring his line to a studly .291/.389/.508 with 15 home runs and eight stolen bases. While he’s no longer quite a 20-stolen base threat, he is underrated for his no-weaknesses approach combined with his skill of manufacturing runs in the middle of the Texas lineup. Not only that, but the ageless wonder is managing a career-best exit velocity of 92 mph (89 mph in 2018) and a 53% hard-hit rate that suggests that 25-plus home runs is well within reach and should come with a strong average and even better OBP. If you’re sad you don’t own Tommy Pham, get the Samsung-esque perfectly reasonable alternative in Shin-Soo in all 12-team formats and 10-team OBP.
Kole Calhoun (OF, Los Angeles Angels)
He’s certainly not unforgettable, but this year, he’s been the Swat King Kole. He’s up to a strong .238/.323/.485 line with 21 dongs on the year and hitting .333/.381/.692 with four home runs the past two weeks, and yet he’s still sitting untouched on an unreasonable amount of waiver wires, as even after a hot week he rose to just 36% owned. While he burned owners banking on a lower-wall assisted breakout last year, it seems the prediction was right but just a year late. He’s posting a career-best barrel rate of 12.3%, and he has basically earned his production with an xBA of .253 and xSLG of .492. So expect the average to improve and scoop in deeper 12-team formats and all 12-team OBP formats.
Danny Santana (OF/2B, Texas Rangers)
Overall, it’s been a pretty good year for all Santanas. There have been plenty of crazy things about this season, but in my opinion the emergence of Danny Santana as a legit fantasy asset must be in the top five, as the former journeyman pinch runner is now hitting .462 with two home runs and two stolen bases this week to raise his line to .309/.346/.543 with 11 home runs and 11 stolen bases in just 223 at-bats. Some still don’t believe he’s legit, especially after he cooled off from his ridiculous 2019 debut, but there’s one number that makes me a believer: 91. That’s his exit velocity in mph, this after averaging an 85 mph between 2016-2018. Combining his elite speed with above average bat speed and hitting in Texas makes him a .290-20-20 threat despite a 27% strikeout rate. DanSan should be owned in all average-based 12-team formats, though he’s almost more valuable in 10-team average than 12-team OBP.
Keston Hiura (2B, Milwaukee Brewers)
Hiura has proven his doubters (including me at one point) wrong by hitting the ball extra hard. He’s hit .308 with three home runs in the past two weeks and now has a pristine .283/.347/.522 line with eight jacks and four stolen bases in just 113 at-bats. His 92.4 mph exit velocity is among the league leaders, so while his 32% strikeout rate is concerning, it’s possible he could pull a Javy Baez-lite and maintain great rate stats anyway. Now that Travis Shaw seems out of the way for good, Hiura can become an important run-producing cog in a loaded Brewers lineup. At just 19% owned in ESPN (note that it’s over double that in Yahoo), it may not be too late to get him in your 12-team league, in which case you should pounce on the upside, but I still suggest holding back in 10-team as his high K rate makes him a potential batting average liability.
Renato Nunez (1B/3B, Baltimore Orioles)
You say Renayto, I say Renahto. But let’s not call off picking him up, as it’s rather crazy that he’s only 16% owned despite hitting .304 with five home runs the past 21 days and hitting .244/.305/.500 with 21 tates in 316 at-bats. Even though he’s on a bad team, his primo spot in the lineup gives him fantastic deep-league run production with 45 runs and 51 RBI. He’s managed to keep his strikeouts at a surprisingly reasonable 26% and has hit the ball very hard with an exit velocity of 91.4 mph and 13.6% barrel rate with an 18-degree average launch angle that suggests that Renato will total many more homers in the Camden bandbox. And compared with sluggers such as Hunter Renfroe, he plays against both righties and lefties every day. Even though third base is quite deep this year, he should be owned in all 15-team leagues and also viable in deeper 12-team leagues.
Travis D’Arnaud (C, Tampa Bay Rays)
Obviously, I had to write him as a buy after Monday night’s three-homer game. But it was going to happen anyway, really. Even before that game, Statcast rated d’Arnaud as one of the league’s unluckiest hitters (14th-biggerst wOBA-xwOBA differential, with an xBA of .255 (.237 AVG) and xSLG of .458 (slugging .401)). I bet now those rates are a bit closer. He’s always had double-digit pop and has clearly trounced Mike Zunino as the Rays’ primary catcher. He’s a fine add in 15-team leagues, at least until he inevitably gets injured.
Brandon Belt (1B, San Francisco Giants)
He must be Quailman, because Belt’s at the top. He’s earned reps from the leadoff spot after hitting .324 the past two weeks to earn a .240/.364/.424 line with 51 runs scored, 11 home runs, 34 RBI, and three stolen bases in 349 plate appearances this season. While he hasn’t been the revelation he was last season, he returned to his ridiculous high-walk ways that should make him viable in 18-team OBP formats and NL-only leagues.
Mike Brosseau (2B/3B, Tampa Bay Rays)
He’s Brosseau hot right now. The 25-year-old graduate of my dad’s alma mater (Go Oakland University Golden Gophers!) has been another valuable find for the Rays (he was added from Down Under after leading the Australian Baseball League in 2017), hitting .395 with four dongs in his first 40 at-bats. He’s not a complete fluke as he had been tearing up Triple-A to the tune of .317/.408/.590 with 15 home runs, and the venerable analyst Eno Sarris recently tweeted that Brosseau reminds him of Max Muncy. Unfortunately, this rate of production is unlikely to last, as his xBA of .232 and xSLG of .387 paint a very different picture. Still he’s picking up multiposition eligibility, and I wouldn’t be afraid to ride it out as he could carve out near-regular playing time in Brandon Lowe’s absence at hit at a 20 home runs pace over that span. Add in all 18-team and AL-only leagues.
Matt Carpenter (1B/2B, St. Louis Cardinals)
If you’re still holding onto Carp, you’re likely to end up shaking hands with a limp fish. He’s only hitting .214/.319/.372 with 10 home runs and six stolen bases, yet he’s still owned in 75% of leagues. That’s largely because of the late season surge in 2018 giving his owners anxiety of repeating that mistake, but I don’t see a repeat. That year, his exit velocity and barrel rate suggested he would rebound, and this year, his exit velocity is down 2 full mph from 89.6 to a league average 87.6, with his barrel rate dropping from 13.7% to just 7%. His expected stats suggest he has been victim to some bad luck but not enough to redeem him with an xBA of .226 and xSLG of just .404. Ask yourself if that’s worth banking on in 10-team, I don’t think so. He probably deserves to be cut in some average-based 12-teamers as well, but if that makes you too scared, you can rip the band-aid off slowly.
Scott Kingery (2B/OF, Philadelphia Phillies)
Kingery has been a lot more like Paupery. At least it smells nice. Back when I wrote him up in May, I noted he was vastly outperforming his expected stats, and while he hasn’t done much, his ownership has only slid 6% to 47%, which is still too high. He’s hit just .135/.200/.216 in 37 at-bats over the past two weeks to bring his line to a more realistic .284/.335/.532 with 12 home runs and six stolen bases. Of course, that’s still not at all bad, but his xBA of .254 and xSLG of .443 suggest more regression is coming, especially in the power department. That’s still usable in 15-team, but it just doesn’t make the cut in 12-team, especially in OBP formats.
Jurickson Profar (1B/2B/3B/SS, Oakland Athletics)
He may be owned in 57% of leagues, but that’s far, far too high for Semi-Profar. He’s hitting just .143/.226/.321 with one home run over the past three weeks and is losing playing time to Franklin Barreto and anyone else with a pulse, something Jurickson has seldom shown all season. Cut him in 15-teamers, and with the reduced playing time, he is a viable cut in 18-team leagues as well.
Nicky Lopez (2B/SS, Kansas City Royals)
OK, I know this is obvious, but can we just acknowledge that merely two months ago we considered Lopez and Oscar Mercado near equals? Hopefully you chose wisely. Lopez has hit a pitiful .235/.278/.310 with just one home run and one stolen base over 200 at-bats. The sad thing is that’s actually considered lucky with an even worse xSLG of .281 thanks to his poor exit velocity of 84 mph and high ground-ball rate. The one thing he was supposed to be great at—contact—hasn’t been so great either, with a ho-hum 16% strikeout rate. Even in AL-only leagues, you can certainly do better, even if by throwing a dart at your waiver wire listing.
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