Welcome to this week’s Buy & Sell! Ben Pernick is taking his own All-Star break this week, and I’ve been uneventfully appointed to fill in. While I was rooting around his office, I couldn’t find much of his “secret pun juice,” so most of those will also be on vacation, though very little is as funny to me as thinking about him squirm at the missed opportunities for jokes in this column. Also, there’s baseball to talk about! With the trade deadline looming, big changes to player values are on the horizon. But before we know who’s moving (and who’s moving to the bench), there’s plenty to talk about thanks to “regular” issues like injuries and callups. Let’s get into it.
Michael Conforto (OF, New York Mets)
Let’s put it this way — there’s no reason he should be on the wire, but Michael Conforto is somehow still under 75% rostered on both ESPN and Yahoo. Maybe it made sense to drop him after his injury, but the only explanation for why he’s not back up over 90% rostered is that nobody has checked their team at all since seeing a near-endless supply of “family” jokes online after F9’s release. Realistically, there’s just no justification for this. If his batted ball luck hadn’t been brutally unlucky in April, we almost certainly wouldn’t be having this conversation: the gap between his .317 wOBA and .370 xwOBA was the 18th largest in the league, and it was almost all driven by terrible luck on line drives, which doesn’t last. He’s also notably setting a career-best 13.9% walk rate, boosting his floor for runs on what should be a talented offense for the rest of the year. He’s not due for an unreasonable lucky streak or anything, but he’s also just plain top-75 pick good (and better than that in OBP leagues). Go get him, even if he’s not on the wire.
Jarren Duran (OF, Boston Red Sox)
Jarren Duran might only be MLB Pipeline’s #86 overall prospect (only!), but given how real his power surge in AAA looks, he has as good a case as any to be the most valuable FAAB acquisition that you could make this year. Think about how much people were willing to pay for Cavan Biggio in the offseason he was a top-50 pick in many formats because he was seen as a 20-20 threat (with maybe a bit more power, but that’s no guarantee). With friendly confines in every AL East ballpark either thanks to dimensions or AAA-level pitching, it’s very easy to project at least a 10-10 half-season with solid counting stats and a batting average that will hurt you a whole lot less than Biggio’s. Sure, he doesn’t play second, but he’s been hitting second for Boston. What more do you want? A Duran Duran pun? Boston’s next Big Thing deserves better than that.
Mitch Garver (C, Minnesota Twins)
Production at catcher is nothing if not a volume play. Sure, it’s nice that Will Smith and J.T. Realmuto are “good at playing baseball” and “deserve to bat as often as possible.” For most other teams, though, catcher is a revolving door that can produce some fun moments. Minnesota, though, has an intriguing track record of treating Mitch Garver as though he belongs in that upper echelon of catchers, and since his return from the IL, he’s batted sixth and second on consecutive days. Minnesota’s offense has also been about the 12th best in baseball this year despite their struggles, and with the rest of the team finally healthy, we’re likely to see a great window of time before everyone gets traded where Garver’s surrounded by some great teammates. It’s sort of a win-win for him: if they get traded, he moves up in the order. If not, he’s surrounded by talent. We shouldn’t forget that he was striking out closer to the amount that he was in 2019 before he got hurt this year, and the results look almost as good. He should be due for at least another 10 home runs at catcher this year. That plays in every format, but for now, he’s a must-add in 12-team.
Jed Lowrie (2B, Oakland A’s)
He’s not just here to fill our quota of former Mets players who are starting for West Coast teams with more wins than either team in New York: Jed Lowrie also happens to deserve your attention. Oakland has some stadium-related issues that have weighed down just how good Lowrie could be this year — xHR isn’t exact, but he’s be expected to have 21 in the Bronx or Milwaukee instead of the 11 he has. At 37 years old, Lowrie still isn’t striking out much (just under 20%) while walking just enough (9.5%). The big improvement has come in his late-career best hard-hit rate — all told, he’s producing a hard-hit ball in 33% of his PAs, by far the best of his in the Statcast era and 34th in all of baseball, ahead of such power threats as Yordan Alvarez, J.D. Martinez, and Pete Alonso. Better ballpark luck could be on the horizon, and in the meantime, he’s still just been really good. Don’t let him get away — just because the Mets are still leading their division in spite of losing him doesn’t mean you can.
Brandon Marsh (OF, Los Angeles Angels)
This might seem a little low for a guy who’s ranked just a couple spots behind Vidal Bruján in the MLB Pipeline rankings at 38, and especially if what you know about Marsh is that he should be fast enough to swipe some bags (he already has one in just three games). The issue with Brandon Marsh, especially compared to Duran and Brujan, is that we have no track record of minor-league power or even batting success to work from. That means that we’re purely speculating that he could suddenly show that. In 15-team leagues, the upside is worth the add, but above that mark, the opportunity cost of rostering someone who’s capable of more than 3 HR, 2 steals, and a 103 wRC+ over 110 AAA PAs is probably the move. If you’re playing in a Jayson Werth lookalikes league, Marsh might be worth a little more than this. The reality is, though, that the power potential his frame suggests could come is still on its way to the majors.
Brian Goodwin (OF, Chicago White Sox)
Brian Goodwin, a player who does not play against lefties and who was released by the Pittsburg Pirates this year, has been batting fourth against righties for the arguable best team in the American League. In this smaller role, he’s flashed a career-bet 24% strikeout rate, his second-best walk rate, and what would be the best wOBA of his career. In other words: if he’s only batting against righties, he’s going to get some great chances to create a ton of value for your team as exclusively the best version of himself that we’ve seen. In daily-moves leagues with some bench flexibility, he could be a big counting stat contributor with decent pop and batting average for free. That’s worth a look.
Alcides Escobar (2B/SS, Washington Nationals)
It’s entirely possible that Alcides Escobar might not be worth rostering for wrong. Nats GM Mike Rizzo has said that the team is planning as though Starlin Castro will not play again this year after the credible domestic violence accusations against him. Rizzo has also said that the team is preparing for situations where the team could either be buying or selling at the deadline. But if your team’s waiver options aren’t leading off in front of Trea Turner and Juan Soto every day, Escobar is an obvious add. He’s not a power threat, and he’s yet to swipe a bag this year, but he should score runs like crazy and boost your team’s batting average. That’s the perfect recipe for a fill-in add at middle infield. It also helps that Escobar’s profile is exactly that of someone who we can believe isn’t a puff of smoke. He’s striking out just 11% of the time (not out of line with his career numbers in the teens) while walking about half as often, giving him the chance to put the ball in play 85% of the time. With his decent speed, that’s a recipe for scoring a bunch of runs. It’ll be obvious when he’s worth dropping — if he starts not starting, be ready to move on.
Christian Vázquez (C, Boston Red Sox)
I’ll never quite understand why so many people intentionally sign up for the “which catcher should I trust this week” game. Christian Vázquez, who is the 8th most-rostered catcher on both ESPN and Yahoo, was one of the names that a good chunk of them chose seemingly at random in March, but it seems like far too many of them forget the step where they drop that catcher if they’re not good enough. Vazquez has just three home runs this year — one since the end of April — and while he’s managed to swipe 8 bags this year, neither his track record nor his sprint speed suggests that’s deserved and sustainable. The best case that players typically make for catchers like Vazquez is that he’s “not a negative” at the position because his batting average isn’t horrendous, but it’s exactly this sort of thinking that leads players to miss out on dozens of counting stats and up to 10 home runs so far. There are far better options on the wire (I suggest Garver, but Eric Haase looks like good value as well!). Sure, they might be bad for a week occasionally. But Vazquez already has plenty of those.
Nate Lowe (1B, Texas Rangers)
Nate Lowe might not be worth dropping outright, but all signs point to this being a last chance for the moment to get any value before he is worth dropping. Lowe’s stock has risen slightly recently — his rolling wOBA charts are currently on the upswing if you’re into that sort of thing — but there’s no real clue that any change in talent is behind it, and most of the shine behind his hot start should have worn off by now, and the reality is that he’s settled in to being a league-average talent. His 100 PA rolling xwOBA was above .350 for much of April and May, but it’s back to about .300 and has been for a while, and he’s also just not deposited the ball into the bleachers that often with just two home runs in each month since April. He’s also on a bad team that’s getting worse, with Gallo likely to be out the door soon, which could hurt his chances to rack up counting stats. Lowe’s an easy piece to toss in if you need to make a move, but the more likely case is that you’ll just deposit him on the wire in a week or two after you’ve missed someone else you’d rather take a swing at. Average players on bad teams don’t move the needle in fantasy, and it’s likely that there’s another move you can make that will increase your odds of winning your league, even if it might not bring the same comfortable floor.
Bobby Dalbec (1B, Boston Red Sox)
Let me get something out of the way: I don’t typically care this much about the Boston Red Sox. They’ve exceeded my expectations this year, I guess, and I’m more than willing to be excited by someone being in their lineup. The issue is that Bobby Dalbec hasn’t been in the Boston lineup — he’s been stuck in a small-side platoon role, and Danny Santana has been getting starts over him since returning from the IL. His near-40% strikeout rate against both righties and lefties is still a gigantic issue, but the fact that he’s been somewhat protected from facing righties this year is a large part of why his barrel numbers look so good. A larger role for him — which still hasn’t come in late July, by the way! — almost certainly won’t bring the same production. Let someone else hope, and pick up someone who’s actually playing baseball. Maybe that’s Dalbec next spring.
Joshua Fuentes (3B, Colorado Rockies)
Writing about the Rockies is a lot like writing a standup routine: you’re probably just stealing something that somebody else has written, except it’s not funny anymore. Josh Fuentes should be in line for more playing time soon because he shouldn’t be blocked! He’s shown improvement this year! Coors! Fuentes has been the small-side platoon bat for the Rockies this year, which is by itself a problem, but this weekend he sat against two lefties. Fuentes deserves to be cut from your teams even if we have some belief that he could succeed elsewhere. His .309 OBP against his strong platoon side just isn’t worth holding onto him for.
Photos by Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Alyssa Buckter (alyssabuckter.com) and Justin Paradis (@JustParaDesigns on Twitter)
Great stuff, Alexander. The intro to your Fuentes blurb is brilliant!
Yes, good writing and analysis. Letting someone else hope can be freeing. Would you drop Molina for Garver?