Welcome back to Buy & Sell, where this week’s theme is: Home Makover: DIY Carpenter edition! I hope you added him last week, and now I think it’s time we kicked off a somewhat speculative frenzy of players that can help move the needle in the haystack of boring fantasy options. It’s All-Star week and people are likely checking out, which means it’s time for you to check in like Dunston and monkey around with your roster to get the upper hand and prehensile tail. On to the list!
Matt Carpenter (2B/OF, New York Yankees)
Your memory is not deceiving you, I did write him as an add last week as well, but it’s time he got moved to the top. I hope you listened, as he hit like a man possessed, hitting .400 with 3 HR and a whopping 12 RBI this week, with more than half all coming in one game. It’s been going on for a while now, as he’s actually hitting .432 with 7 HR in 44 AB over the past 3 weeks. That was only 14 games, but it seems the Yankees have learned that he has to play whenever possible while he’s this scorching. So the final excuse for why not to add him is gone, so if you’re in the rapidly-dwindling amount of leagues that haven’t caught on yet that he may be a top-3 second baseman in the game going forward, it’s time you take the plunge in all formats.
Marcell Ozuna (OF, Atlanta Braves)
While he’s not currently hot and he’s unlikely to be on your waiver wire, you should be asking leaguemates if they’re looking to Marsell Ozuna. He’s been ice cold, in fact, hitting just .167 with 1 HR in 36 AB over his last 10 games, bringing his average down to .221 with 17 HR and 2 SB. Given that he wasn’t exactly the most popular player the past few years (deservedly so), a cold snap like this could be enough for owners feeling AVG/OBP pain to look to unload him. And you should pounce on that opportunity.
Despite the declining surface stats, Ozuna’s xwOBA has remained steady all year with an above-average .352 mark, indicating that this is just bad luck and thus should turn around at some point. He’s making great quality of contact, with an excellent 14% Barrel% (89th percentile) giving him a strong .501 xSLG that’s nearly 100 points beyond his current .407 mark. But perhaps more important is the fact that he shouldn’t be an average drain with a solid .263 AVG that is far more manageable than his .223 mark. Now I realize perhaps I should be more skeptical of the disparity, as he similarly underperformed in 2021. However, I don’t see this as especially meaningful as he has often far overperformed his expected stats, and it’s possible to simply be unlucky for two years in a row.
Again, if your leaguemates are at all savvy and not completely impatient, they’re probably never dropping Ozuna outright. But I think his recent struggles may lead to people buying the narrative that 2021 is his new normal, even though his improved barrel rates and Hard Hit (47%) suggest that even if he’s no longer the Statcast Darling of old, he’s still a Statcast dear friend. The fact he can easily end the year hitting .250+ with another 15-20 HR and a handful of SBs and lots of run production going forward makes him a strong buy-low.
Thairo Estrada (2B/SS/OF, San Francisco Giants)
He’s more than just a glue guy, he’s a glute guy. So step up to the Thaimaster. He’s quietly been one of the most productive utility hitters in the game, hitting .259/.310/.417 with 9 HR and 13 SB in 278 AB, with 3 HR and 2 SB in his last 10 games. There are a lot of power/speed guys who lead with the power, but Thairo is considerably more valuable in today’s game by leading with his legs.
Eno Sarris has been preaching that Estrada has been underrated since last year, which, like many predictions, took a bit longer to come true. Compared to a flashier (and perhaps more flash in the pan) player like Christopher Morel, Estrada has a strong contact rate, with an 81% overall contact% and 90% Z-Contact%, giving him a higher floor. His barrel rate of 4% and HardHit% of 33% do certainly leave more to be desired, which is part of wby he’s slightly outperforming his expected stats, and the reason I left him off my lists for several weeks. But I also underestimated his baserunning acumen, as he only stole 1 base last year and lacks raw speed.
Still, it’s hard to argue with the results, as he has only been caught stealing twice in 15 attempts, and signals that he’ll keep getting the green light and be likely to hit 20 SB and perhaps even 25. In that way he sort of reminds me of Ben Zobrist as a multi-position late bloomer guy who provides a ton of sleeper value. So if your offense is making your neck strain in 12-team AVG formats, it’s time to give your team an overactive thairo gland (no ‘roids included).
Ramón Urias (2B/SS/3B, Baltimore Orioles)
This month has been a great time to buy low on not one but three Uriases (Uriasi?), but Ramón is the one who truly gets no respect. Ramón may lack speed or a great contact rate, but he does one thing well, and that’s smacking the ball. He’s hitting .255 with 9 HR on the year, which is an improvement on his earlier season numbers but still a far cry from guys like Thairo who did that AND stole 13 bases. But Urias has been on a massive tear, hitting .385/.429/.667 over the past 3 weeks with 3 HR in 39 ABs over the past 3 weeks. I nearly slept on that too. What I like most about this, however, is that during this 3 week span, he only struck out 3 times, and also walked 3 times.
Now, perhaps this writeup came too late, as Statcast has been calling him unlucky since April, and with this streak, his batting average and slugginf percentage finally caught up to his expected stats. Still, he’s hardly owned in most leagues, and it seems increasingly clear that at least while the weather is hot, Baltimore hitters should no longer be treated as pariahs, as the combination of Camden’s high heat and humidors should help him get to his power. He’s also increased his aggressiveness this year, which I think could benefit him given the damage he does when he makes contact, though it may hurt him in OBP formats. With a career-best 50% HardHit% to go with a career-high launch angle of 11 that is double that of last year, I think he could still surpass 20 HR and a strong average with multi-positional goodness. Given the dearth of offense at 3B this year, I think he’s likely most valuable there and a fine add in 12-team AVG leagues.
Carlos Santana (1B, Seattle Mariners)
Santana may be well past his prime, but he’s still cranking out the hits. Considered by many to be a placeholder waiting to be DFA’d, he’s found new life on his new team and is showing no signs of slowing down, hitting 4 taters over the past 2 weeks. Now of course, the batting average over that span has not been great, and has hit just .105 over the past week. But I think his new team situation can only benefit him.
For one, he’s often batting cleanup, and the heart of the Mariners lineup is considerably more fearsome than the Royals. In addition, he’s posting the same excellent BB/K as he has for most of his career, with the lowest K% (15%) since 2017 and the highest barrel% (8%) since 2019. His xwOBA has been steadily trending up over his last 250 AB, and should continue to be a run production machine who continues to be overlooked due to his terrible luck early on. His current xBA of .257 and xSLG of .427 is similar to what I’d expect going forward, which may seem disappointing for an 1B, but remember how his lineup spot and excellent OBP enhance that, making him a must-add in 12-team OBP leagues and 15-team AVG formats. I’m his bat to shine, so don’t forget your Santan lotion.
Rob Refsnyder (OF, Boston Red Sox)
Rob Ref is a real red hot Red Sox. Say that 10 times fast. He’s likely available even in most AL-only formats, so it may seem strange that I’d make thw leap for him, but I think he’s getting no respect for the steady improvements he’s made since his days as a failed prospect. He’s hitting an impressive .338/.409/.425 with 3 HR in 80 AB, and despite being a platoon bat and the small sample size, I think he can still continue beating expectations.
In his age 31 season, he’s managed to maintain his above-average plate discipline while adding thump, with a career-best 13% barrel% that’s nearly double his previous career-high of 7%, which was last year. Last year he also had a surge like this before tailing off, though injuries likely played a role as they plagued him and he never regained his footing. The barrel rate should regress somewhat, but he’s still showing underrated power with a maxEV of 110 mph and a hardhit% of 43% despite his rep as a slap hitter type. Unlike last year, Statcast mostly believes in what he’s done so far this year, with a studly .310 xBA and .512 xSLG, and that means a high expected OBP as he’s at a 10% BB%.
It’s rather unfortunate that he no longer has middle infield eligibility, and that he still sits some days, making him mostly a DFS gem thus far. But I’m trying to take what I learned from Matt Carpenter and betting on the bat, especially since the Red Sox outfield situation doesn’t exactly seem stable. If you miss the call on his value in 15-team 5-outfielder leagues and AL-only formats, you can’t blame it on the Refs.
Nick Gordon (2B/SS/OF, Minnesota Twins)
Just because he’s a Gordon, it doesn’t mean that I’m giving him a grade of Dee minus. While he’s not as fast as his older brother, he has an underrated bat, which is likely more underrated after his recent mini-slump in which he’s hit just .182 with no HRs or SB over 22 AB the past 2 weeks. That, combined with his lack of a secure spot in the lineup, makes him a major sleeper for deep leagues. And with it being all-star week, teams are sleeping more than ever.
Why? Well if you want the lazy answer, just look at his Statcast page. He’s in the red in average exit velocity, maxEV, Barrel%, xBA, and xSLG, not to mention sprint speed, scoring 72nd percentile or higher in all of them. It’s certainly not what you probably assumed given his mediocre history and his lackluster line of .258 with 4 HR and 3 SB in 212 PA. I could go as far as to argue that if he played regularly, he’s like Ramón Urias but with speed, as he also sports a 50% HardHit%, although his dangerous 26% K% and 4% BB% does give him a lower floor. Still, his multi-position eligiblity makes me confident that he’ll at least play enough to be worthwhile in AL-only formats, and given his xwOBA over his past 100 PA is on a strong uptrend, I think this is the perfect time to buy before he heats up and people catch on, so get Gordon in a flash.
Tim Locastro (OF, New York Yankees)
Yeah, I know this is even more speculative than Nick Gordon or my other picks, but after getting Carpenter in nearly all 9 of my leagues, I’m feeling the speculation gold rush and may break my computer with my pickaxe. Locastro certainly opened eyes shortly after his IL return with a stat-sheet stuffing day with a homer and 2 SB in one game, hitting .429 in 7 AB since his return. That may seem like too small of a sample to glean anything from, but then again, on the season, he has just 22 PA. And in those, he has 6 SB.
After Berti going down, I’m looking for someone else who can fill in with that level of instant earth-shattering speed, and Locastro could be that guy. Sure, he’s a .237 hitter over his career, but he also has 7 HR and 37 SB in 525 PA over that career, which if it was all one season, would be not so unlike a typical Adalberto Mondesi year, and we paid top-5 round freight for that. But Locastro has been more impressive recently, as his 2 barrels in 22 PA this year already is a career-best, to go with a HardHit of 43% that’s more than double his career mark. Again, tiny sample, to be sure. But given he’s been the fastest guy (or at least top-3 depending on metric) in baseball for the past few years, and also has a solid 108 mph maxEV, I’ll be glad to bet this is the year he puts it all together in a hitter-friendly ballpark, and nudges his way into semi-regular at-bats while Gallo and Hicks ride the pine more. In AL-only formats, DFS or leagues with deep benches, I’m loco for Locastro Puffs.
Jared Walsh (1B, Los Angeles Angels)
He was seeming like he was unstoppable, but it looks like he’s finally run into a brick Walsh. He’s hit an incredibly awful .075/.119/.075 line with 0 HR, 0 R and 1 RBI (sac fly) in 40 AB over the past 3 weeks, suddenly making Jonathan Villar look like an offensive upgrade. Sure, he’d been better on the year, but his current line of .236/.280/.412 with 13 HR and 1 SB in 313 AB is still pretty ugly, especially at a position where hot bats are popping up like hot cakes.
It’s not all bad luck either, as his xwOBA has been steadily declining over his past 250 PA, and he’s been one of the biggest decliners in xwOBA over his past 100 PA, hitting well below league average during that span. This guy was being drafted next to C.J. Cron last year! What happened? Well, it looks like a mix of things. One is that he’s hitting the ball with less authority, with the first single-digit Barrel% of his career at 9%. He’s also suffering with plate skills, with his contact% declining and called-strike rate rising for the second consecutive year, giving him a 29% CSW% that’s notably worse than the past few years.
While there’s not one thing that jumps out as a red flag, given these declines and the depth of the position, I think it’s perfectly reasonable to cut him while he’s this lost and gamble on another hot first baseman. I’d even consider Darick Hall on the Phillies, who has guaranteed playing time and a high barrel rate despite shaky plate skills. This Jared isn’t giving you any diamonds, but does need to be cut.
Josh Donaldson (3B, New York Yankees)
Sometimes I feel bad for despising Yankee player just because of the team he plays for, but thankfully Donaldson has freed me from that guilt. I also despise him for making my prediction for a studly year fall flat, which should be a lesson for me to not get overly infatuated with last year’s Statcast metrics for an aging player. Because this year, much like Votto and several others, the batting magic has shifted to a Houdini act.
Donaldson, now 36, hasn’t completely fallen off the map, and did recently put together a mini-streak with 3 homers to boost his lackluster season line to .224/.310/.390 with 9 HR in 259 AB. You may have noticed that that line is currently below the production of Ramón Urias, who similarly missed some time with an injury issue. He hasn’t completely fallen off the map, but rather has drifted southeast towards Antarctica, and although he had previously underperformed his expected stats somewhat, even that’s been declining, with an xBA of .229 and xSLG of .400. His Barrel% is considerably down from last year’s peak to just 10% from 17% last year, and his HardHit of 44% is the lowest it’s been since 2018. In addition, his strikeout rate has jumped 6% and his 10% walk rate is a career-worst (not counting the early bad years).
He still has a great lineup surrounding him, and if he could hypothetically get back to hitting lots of flyballs, there is always the chance he could log a bunch of homers in a hurry. And the position is thin as it’s ever been, making him hard to cut, at least, like mentally/emotionally. But between him and fellow struggler Justin Turner, the latter has far fewer signs of decline under the hood, and I’d certainly consider one of the many utility bats that qualify at third base, or try trading Donaldson to a Yankee fan. Otherwise, he’s a cut in 12-team AVG formats.
Michael A. Taylor (OF, Kansas City Royals)
Michael A. Taylor is looking as fresh and reinvented as MATlock. And I think it’s time I lock him out of my roster. He was off to a hot start that had me hoping that maybe he finally was turning a corner with an improved contact rate, but that turned out to be just a royal prank. His xwOBA has dropped precipitously in his last 100 PA, and is one of the biggest decliners in the MLB over that span.
The good news is he still has better strikeout and walk rates than he has for most of his career, at 24% and 10%, respectively. However, it seems that in order to achieve this, he sacrificied his usual batted ball authority, as his HardHit of 31% is a career low by a considerable margin. Perhaps that’s why Statcast has turned on him with an ugly xBA of .223 and xSLG of .367.
Given that his competition in Olivares is showing more signs of life, and also deserved the shot as a younger and more talented version of Mr. A all along, he’s moving quickly towards becoming a total fantasy non-factor. But perhaps the biggest reason is his lack of moving… he’s only stolen 1 base this year after nabbing 14 bags last year. Given that was the central piece of his fantasy value, if that’s gone I’m jumping off the ship with a cannonball. He’s safe to cut in 15-team AVG leagues.
Luis Torrens (C, Seattle Mariners)
Last year his skies looked to be clearing up, but now his value is dropping in a Torrensial downpour. This one really isn’t too complicated. Torrens failed to capitalize on his chance earlier in the year, even though his peripherals suggest that perhaps the early dead ball led to some unlucky numbers despite retaining a decent chunk of the skills he showed last year. But he got run over and passed by the Cal Raleigh Trolley, and now at-bats at catcher are few and far-between. Now with the Mariners acquisition of Santana with France also back in the fold, he lacks an opportunity for more that a sprinkling of at-bats at DH.
I hope that, given his young age and potential, he can find a team in need of a fringy catcher (Cleveland comes to mind), but until that happens, he’s simply not going to play enough to be rosterable, even in some deeper keeper formats. Though in dynasty, he makes for a solid buy-low for a rebuilding squad.
Feature image by Michael Packard (@CollectingPack on Twitter) / Photography by Gavin Napier / Icon Sportswire