Welcome back to Buy & Sell, where this week’s theme is “Call-up Bonanza, but I’m literally going to talk about one of them!” The others I just don’t see as fantasy relevant relative to how much waiver wire attention they’ll get. Even Trey Cabbage, who I wanted to write as a deep league buy initially, I soured on after seeing his moldy 48% contact%. So let’s focus on the real impact players that have been ignored for too long, and after a tortuous week off, it sure feels good to say “and on to the list!”
With his big power, I fondly remember the prime of “E5” and now get to see his re-encarnacion. Okay, they’re not actually related, but fantasy managers in deeper leagues that had the patience to hold him are finally rewarded, but shallow leagues may still have a chance to grab him. He first attracted notice last year and after an amazing spring that wasn’t enough to make the roster, but he continued to excel with both huge power and good average in Triple-A, slugging .331/.405/.637 with 20 HR in just 316 PA in his Triple-A debut. Now imagine that kind of power playing half their games in a home run bandbox… sorry I can’t 3D print you a tissue to clean up drool through the computer.
While minor league walk rates are a bit untrustworthy, it’s still significant that he logged his first double-digit rate, and also managed his best career K%, down to 22%. Triple-A may be a hitter’s haven, but that’s still a 160 wRC+, which is another way to say he really deserved a promotion for a while now. The lineup may be stacked offensively, to the point that the logical options to lose playing time are fellow fantasy studs Spencer Steer and Will Benson, but I don’t think CES will miss much PT aside from the occasional off day.
In the majors so far, he’s been great but not in the noisiest way, hitting .333 with a homer in 9 PA (3 games). But the homer barrage will come, just you wait. While peripherals in such a small sample are rather silly, it’s a good early sign that he’s rocking an 87% contact%, far beyond what he’ll need to be a fantasy stud. He also has his first barrel and two hard hits. He probably can’t match Elly for overall fantasy goodness, but the power bat is as explosive as CESium.
Stolen bases help me sleep early like Abrams lullaby. He’s very much at the opposite end of the spectrum as CES in terms of how he provides fantasy value, as he still doesn’t have much thump, but he’s finally tapping into his elite stolen base ability, hitting .366/.409/.512 with 1 HR and 9 SB in 41 AB over the past two weeks. More impressively, he hasn’t been caught stealing once in any of those 9 attempts, and has an 18/2 SB/CS ratio, on the year, which equals a 90% success rate. Methinks he should run more.
Statcast still doesn’t think much of the bat, but he has improved over his last 100 PA, with a .335 xwOBA compared to a .307 mark in his previous 100 PA. While he’s not the only player to start running wild, and his hard hit rates are still meek, I’m betting on the pedigree and the fact that he’s still 22 and has playing time security in Washington at deceptively disappointing position to start finally giving him some love in leagues in which he’s available.
Keibert Ruiz (C, Washington Nationals)
Keibert is finally keyed in. He’s been dropped as many managers finally got tired of saying “B..but Statcast says he’s just been unlucky!” He does have a xBA of .280 and xSLG of .458 after all, much better than his present AVG of .240 and SLG% of .393. Well, sure enough, like so many other players right now, he’s riding the regression monster (he can be friendly sometimes), hitting .471 with 2 HR and a stolen base in 17 ABs this week. That’s still a small number, and for what it’s worth Statcast actually thinks his expected wOBA has plummeted in his last 50 PA or so, but it’s besides the point. He plays more regularly than most other catchers, and his 22% Called Strikes + Whiffs (CSW%) is excellent even for a non-catcher, giving him a higher batting average floor. For reference, that mark is 10th best in the MLB this year, between Bo Bichette and Freddie Freeman. Not too shabby for a catcher that just celebrated his 25th birthday. Happy Keiberthday!
While it’s true that he had a 21% CSW% last year and still disappointed with just a .251 AVG and 7 HR in 433 PA, his quality of contact has improved this year, with an 8% Barrel% that’s double his 2022 mark. While his max eV hasn’t changed, his HardHit% is also slightly higher, and when you make as much contact as he does, every bit of improvement in batted ball quality counts that much more. It would not at all surprise me for him to be a top-10 catcher the rest of the way with his ability to hit for power and average, and rack up counting stats. Add in 12-team batting average leagues and all two-catcher formats and perhaps Keibert will Kei-earnie you a championship.
He’s binging on homers after a long drought like how I celebrated finishing a 90-day diet by eating 90 sushi at an all-you-can eat buffet. They’re healthy so it’s fine! He’s hit .381 with 3 homers in the past week after a few weeks of hitting over .300 but the lack of power making it look like an empty average. Well, it looks like that wrist is finally back in action.
While his recent Statcast doesn’t fully back the power breakout, it does give him a .337 xwOBA over his last 50 games compared to a .314 mark previously. But most important is that he finally seems healthy for the first time in a while (at least for now), still has a great bat, and also benefits from having a great hitter-friendly schedule in the coming months, facing many of the worst teams in the majors. While he may be less useful in OBP leagues, he should provide a strong batting average and plus power and run production from a suddenly surging Twins lineup. He’s worth adding in 12-teamers, especially as his 1B/OF eligibility gives him some very useful position flexibility.
He may appear to be as bland as his old profile picture in a suit and glasses, but McCormick is really adding all the spice to his game now. His recent red-hot stretch is supported by Statcast, as he’s rocked an productive .375 xwOBA over his past 100 PA (previous was .315), mostly carried by his elite .431 xwOBA over his last 50 games. But perhaps that’s burying the lede in how great his performance has been on the surface; This past week he’s hit .556/.652/1.222 with 4 HR and 8 RBI in 18 AB. That is some some red hot chili.
While he’s always been thought of as a part-timer and largely ignored due to his lack of pedigree, he’s really been quite productive when given opportunities, which is probably why Houston is now batting him right after the heart of their lineup (granted, injuries to hitters also play a role). With 12 HR, a .285 AVG, and 9 SB in 220 PA, he’s been an all-around contributor, and his playing time and role are now looking more secure than ever. He also has a deceptively great OBP and improving strikeout rate, and despite him tearing things up, you can still probably buy high on the “Chasmanian Devil”.
Honorary Mention: Edouard Julien (2B, Minnesota Twins) – He was quietly hot for some time now before going on a stretch even hotter than Kirilloff. At a weaker position he is a must-roster in 12-team formats, especially OBP, even with some playing time uncertainty with Polanco due back.
I know his surface numbers flat-out stink. Kinda like Josh Naylor in April. Prospecting often means grabbing the shiniest new toy, but things can come to those who wait. Even though he has a reputation for being very strikeout-prone (last year’s Domingo Santana-esque disaster debut didn’t help), I’m actually encouraged by his 29% K% in the majors so far… because I don’t believe in it. For one, he managed a 19% rate in Triple-A, the best of his career and certainly buoyed by a fantastic 18% BB%. Like Edouard Julien, the walk rate doesn’t always translate, but his contact rate is a different story.
His current contact rate is 81%. That’s really good, especially for a catcher who has a reputation more for his power. Even though his O-Swing% of 36% isn’t so good, he still has a strong 24% CSW% thanks to a relatively low called strike rate of 13% and his general contact. While David Fry did emerge as an at least somewhat viable competitor, the starting role is still his, and just needs to tap into his big raw power more regularly, as his current 31% HardHit% is below his talent level. He’s suddenly become post-hype, but buy low even if he’s singing “I’m BoNay, I’m BoNay, leave me a-lonay!” …Yes, I really do know how to reach today’s youth with my references to Wienerville.
At a time when you have burgers, fry and cabbage on the hitting lineup, you might want more meat in your lineup with Mousstakas. Yes, I know it could also be moose tacos, or even mousse Takis (ew). He’s widely thought of as washed up, which is fair considering he couldn’t even hack it in Colorado’s notoriously hitter-friendly confines. However, that overlooks the fact that adjusting to Colorado air isn’t for everyone, and he’s looked like a new hitter since arriving to Los Angeles. Well, sorta.
His batting average is still a bit of a sinkhole, as he’s clearly trying to max out for power. But maybe that’s not so bad. While his K rate is a career-worst 26%, he’s also showing power that we thought was long gone, with an 113 mph maxEV tied with his best marks since 2015, and the best HardHit% (42%) since 2016. He has a sneaky power advantage as a flyball hitter playing half of his games in Los Angeles since the right field wall is now a power alley, and he has pulled all of his homers there. If you missed out on Mike Ford and want someone with a bit more track record, go for the old classic with M&M. Just don’t eat Moussaka-flavored M&Ms. That’d be gross.
Honorable Mention: Travis Jankowski (OF, Texas Rangers) – He may be in a platoon, but the career journeyman keeps hitting for high average and steal bases for a good while now in a great lineup.
He may not be the offspring of Mike Mayers and Dane Cook, but he laughs at his own jokes and his hitting is groovy, baby! Somewhat like several hot hitters before him, he has succeeded to hit for a high average despite a mediocre strikeout rate of 20% and low walk rate (2%) thanks to plenty of hard contact. Patrick Bailey comes to mind as a similar player, and he stayed hot for a good while. Myers is rocking a 57% HardHit% which would be a lot better if it weren’t mostly on the ground, with a negative launch angle and Tim Anderson-esque 63% Groundball rate and unheard of 6% flyball rate. Still, he’s playing and has decent raw power and excellent raw speed, and unreal production in the minors. I’d bet on the 27-year-old late bloomer in NL Only and 18-team, but is a stretch in 15-teamer.
Mike Tauchman (OF, Chiacago Cubs)
He’s making a comeback just like the Walkie Tauchie. The former one-year wonder is hitting an improbable .467 with a homer, 8 RBI, and a 4/1 BB/K this week, making him a boon for the vast minority of deep leagues rostering him. Although it may seem to defy all human logic, the Cubs seemed intent on giving him playing time even before this streak, and now that he’s rewarding that faith, I expect some serious confirmation bias to kick in for him to keep getting reps. It’s not all undeserved either, since he has an improved .379 xwOBA over his last 50 PA, even though a good deal of that is likely fueled by a plus walk rate. That, and his modest power/speed combination make him a nice deep league streamer, especially in OBP formats.
After a nasty slump and the Reds’ high-octane promotion, Steer is definitely not in the driver’s seat. He’s had just a .249 xwOBA over the past 50 PA, down .200 points from his .449 mark in his previous 50 PA, and it’s been even worse lately, as he hit just .094 with 0 HR and 0 RBI in 32 AB over the past 2 weeks. Still, given his overall great season performance, it was somewhat of a surprise to see him become the one to ride the pine with CES’s arrival, but that’s what happened.
With his triple position flexibility, I think it’s too soon to panic cut him in 15-team and deeper formats, but the bar for production is high in 12-teamers and especially in 10-teamers, and if your league has a shallow bench, the off days can really hurt your bottom line. It might feel weird to cut him given the .272 AVG, 14 HR and 9 SB, but sometimes it’s okay to just bank the production you got (which Statcast suggested wasn’t sustainable) so you don’t get left holding the bag. Cincinnati needs a trade or two, but I don’t recommend waiting for it to happen and hoping it helps him.
Part of becoming a one-tool player is you need that tool to keep showing up to stay interesting. While he has 18 homers on the year, he’s hitting just .111/.200/.222 with just 1 dinger in 27 ABs over the past two weeks. On the year, he’s hitting .239/.316/.461 with the aforementioned golf course of holes-in-one, but he hasn’t stolen or attempted a single base, which makes him more of a liability in the category than normal given that the average number of SBs needed per player is nearly double last year’s total, and outfield is one of the best positions to get them.
With mediocre average and OBP to boot, he’s only worth holding if you really just need HR and run production, which he can’t help but get in a stacked Braves lineup. Then again, they also may not remain so patient if he can’t get things going soon. Go grab some of the much more well-rounded outfielders available in 12-teamers instead of getting burned by the hole in the Ozuna Layer.
Due to popular lack of demand, the McKinstry has been taken off the menu as he left a bad taste in our mouths. He was one of the hottest hitters in May into June, but since has fallen and he can’t get up, with a .220 xwOBA over his past 100 PA, and it’s only getting worse. His season line has still remained looking okay with a .243 AVG and 6 HR to go with 12 SB in 302 PA, but it seems nearly everything appealing about him vanished in thin air.
He stopped stealing bases, his power surge snapped and didn’t return, and his OBP and strikeout rate regressed rather quickly. His xBA, which was at one point over .300, is now just .252, and this smells like a classic case of “He is who we thought he was”. Essentially, a part-time role player who doesn’t belong on your 15-team fantasy squad.
He’s earned some increased playing time after struggles of Elvis Andrus (also Tim Anderson to a lesser extent) and was dishing out a high batting average as tasty as remoulade, but when it dried up we realized it was mostly lard. His speed is pretty good, with an 82nd percentile sprint speed, but the 29-year-old rookie strikes out way too much to be a batting average asset with a 25% K%, and a hard hit% of 21% is just not major league quality (at least Jankowski combines his weak contact with awesome plate skills). If you stick with REMillard just because he’s playing, it’ll be the end of your team as we know it.
Featured Image by Ethan Kaplan (@DJFreddie10 on Twitter and @EthanMKaplanImages on Instagram)