Buy & Sell 7/4—Identifying Who to Add and Who to Drop
Happy Fourth of July and welcome back to Buy & Sell, where this week’s theme is … the Fourth of July! Hope you can find some offensive fireworks, especially if they involve a Tale of Two Dickersons. I swear it wasn’t intentional, but 90% of this list is composed of players from just three teams. I’m keeping this one short so you can still read it while enjoying your BBQ, but don’t forget to stay vigilant on the wire as you can pull the sneakiest adds. And before you comment, please note: “Buy” and “Sell” is referring to the waiver wire, not trading, unless I indicate otherwise. Now go be a good American and go watch some baseball!
Matt Olson (1B, Oakland Athletics)
This recommendation is only for the shallowest of leagues, as if he’s on your wire in a 12-team, I have to call in a team of doctors to make sure the owners are still alive. Mashley Olson has been pure fire this past month, hitting .333/.360/.833 with four homers just this week, raising his season line to .247/.335/.553 with 16 homers in just 190 at-bats. He’s showing no signs of slowing down, and although you could have had him much cheaper a month ago, the scary thing is he could still even be better. Statcast considers him unlucky and gives him an xBA of .270 and xSLG of .606, likely in part because of his career-best 18% barrel rate. We saw in 2017 how much of a difference-maker he can be, and you’d be wise to find a way to get him in your lineup in any league in which he is available. I’m looking at you, the 39% of ESPN leagues in which he’s unowned.
Kevin Newman (SS, Pittsburgh Pirates)
Newman thinks short pitchers got no reason to live. Here’s a player so nice I had to write him up twice, as he’s now surged to 15% owned after hitting a fantastic .407/.407/.815 with three home runs and seven RBI over 27 at-bats this past week, bringing his season line to a .327/.372/.482 with five home runs and five stolen bases in 199 at-bats. It’s good to see that he’s been at least a little more aggressive on the base paths with four of his five stolen bases coming in the past two weeks, and his 71% stolen base success rate is good enough to keep getting the green light. But nobody saw the performance with the bat itself coming along like this. While he’s unsurprisingly largely benefited from good luck with a far less impressive .378 xSLG to go with a middling 84 mph exit velocity and 1.7 barrel rate, he still does has a solid .284 xBA, which would still be enough to get him more stolen base opportunities. Unless they’re someone willing to buy high on him, just hold and ride the Pirate’s lucky wave.
Jason Castro (C, Minnesota Twins)
Has he done, well, anything at the plate? Well, no. Has his ownership risen? No, it’s fallen to a measly 1.6%. Am I recommending adding him anyway? You betcha. Castro is one of the unluckiest players in baseball, as his solid .233 average and .465 slugging percentage are well below his xBA of .266 and xSLG of .580. Although he’s mired in a slump, he’s still hitting the ball nearly as hard as he had been during his hot streak in May. And now Mitch Garver, former one the league’s luckiest batters, is returning to earth and still has plenty of ways to fall, opening up the door for more time for Castro. I wrote about him and his excellent hard contact and barrel rates back in May, and although he rewarded me by promptly falling off a cliff, my optimism in him eclipsing 20 home runs this year remains unfazed. I’d add in all two-catcher leagues as well as single-catcher 18-team leagues and even OBP-based 15-team leagues. But if he either heats up again or has a clearer path to full at-bats, you best believe I’m rushing to pick him up in 12-team OBP as well faster than I spend money at the Castropub.
Luis Arraez (2B/SS/3B/OF, Minnesota Twins)
Now’s your chance to Catch Arraez Swing Star. Today, I publish an article on the 22-year-old who seemingly came out of nowhere and is now hitting a beastly .411/.493/.518 with a homer in 67 plate appearances (56 at-bats). It’s important to make that distinction with him because he’s a walk machine, with more than double the walks (10) than strikeouts (four). I believe that while he obviously can’t keep this up, his MLB success is sustainable as he’s shown not only elite contact skills but also elite plate discipline and good quality contact leading to a .324 xBA. He’s already become a favorite of manager Rocco Baldelli because of his exceptional maturity, work ethic, and flexibility, but it seems most still assume that with Byron Buxton, Willians Astudillo, and Marwin Gonzalez back that there’s no room for him. He’s still only owned in 1.2% of leagues, and even with limited power and speed projection, I argue that he’ll produce enough runs and run a high enough OBP to be an invaluable deep-league asset. He should be scooped in 18-teamers and 15-teamers where he’s unclaimed, but he even makes for a viable utility average/OBP stream in deeper 12-team formats.
Kevin Pillar (OF, San Francisco Giants)
Owners looking for a good time should play Seven Minutes of Kevin. Many folks, including me, assumed that moving from the hitter-friendly Rogers Centre to Oracle Park in San Francisco was a death knell for his fantasy relevance, but he’s proved us wrong in a big way. He’s hitting .316 with six home runs and two stolen bases over 76 at-bats the past three weeks with just five strikeouts, raising his season line to .239/.267/.414 with 12 home runs and eight stolen bases. Maybe he just loves America. There’s nothing in his Statcast data to suggest he’s doing much different, with a middling 86 mph exit velocity and 4.5% barrel rate, but he can continue to rack up at-bats and flirt with 20-20 for that alone. But his awful 3% walk rate makes him only usable in 15-team average formats, where he’s only an 18-team play in OBP formats.
Alex Dickerson (OF, San Francisco Giants)
Alex Dickerson is not related to Corey Dickerson, but you wouldn’t know it from their batting lines this year. Alex is putting on a similar batting average-centric streak, hitting .364 with two homers since his return to raise his season line to .288/.339/.519 with two homers and one stolen base in 52 at-bats. That’s really quite incredible and commendable considering he hasn’t played in the majors since 2016. I don’t think this is a fluke either, as his performance has been supported by a .278 xBA and .507 xSLG, but what excites me most is his excellent 92.7 mph exit velocity, which even with such a small sample size is a good harbinger of a breakout. However, I wouldn’t expect many more stolen bases as his 26.5 ft/s sprint speed is below average.
Luis Rengifo (2B/SS, Los Angeles Angels)
He may as well be nonalcoholic beer because he’s a speedster who never runs. That’s really pretty crazy that he hasn’t attempted gotten even one stolen base (zero stolen bases, caught stealing twice) in his first 185 major league plate appearances, especially after stealing 41 bases across three levels in 2018. Even if he does have the red light on the bases, he’s lit up the batter’s box lately, hitting .333/.391/.548 with two home runs, five runs, and nine RBI over 42 at-bats the past two weeks. I like to see that it came with a 5:5 BB/K ratio, and his expected stats have risen in concert with his performance, suggested he’s making real improvements. He’s managed a solid 88.5 exit velocity and 7.3% barrel rate, which gives him at least double digit homer upside. He may not have a true standout skill, but he can post a solid .260-10-5 which has plenty of use in deep leagues. If you think you’re too good for that, RenGTFO.
Willians Astudillo (C/1B/3B/OF, Minnesota Twins)
He’s back in front of a live Astudillo audience! It’s a marvel of modern managing that Baldelli has managed to find ways to get Astudillo, Gonzalez, and Arraez into the lineup with near regularity. Astudillo has hit when he’s played, hitting .333 with a home run and a 0:0 BB/K ration over 21 at-bats the past two weeks. While the playing time will remain somewhat a mystery, it behooves me to point out that while Astudillo’s season line of .262/.282/.338 is certainly disappointing, it has also been quite unlucky, with a much more respectable xBA of .297 and xSLG of .451. While that’s still less than his 2018 debut, any catcher capable of being an asset in average and power is worth betting on, even with the position improving this year. He should absolutely be added in all two-team catcher leagues and 18-team average formats.
Adam Jones (OF, Arizona Diamondbacks)
I’m very happy that Adam Jones is still playing, but I’m not happy for the sake of humanity that he’s still owned in 73% of ESPN leagues. Sure, hitting .263/.315/.448 with 13 homers, 40 R, 43 RBI and 2 SB is solid from a run production perspective, but most of that production is in the past. He’s hit just .200/.273/.220 over 50 ABs the past 2 weeks, and many folks don’t notice with his season line still buoyed by hit hot April. He offers little of value in OBP leagues other than Runs and RBI and those aren’t stats I advise chasing. Even in 12-team you can probably find a better option, especially if it’s OBP.
Corey Dickerson (OF, Pittsburgh Pirates)
Even after a layoff, it at least seems like Corey hasn’t forgotten how to swing the Stickerson. He’s hit .352/.379/.593 with a homer in 54 at-bats over the past three weeks, after all. However, much like fellow Pirates outfielder Bryan Reynolds, he really hasn’t exhibited a skill so far other than batting average, with only two home runs and no stolen bases over 71 at-bats. While he’s been a fast riser in ownership, now up to 40%, I am going to flip the switch and recommend him as a sell high. While the sample size is still small and he does have a history of success, his exit velocity thus far of 84 mph is David Fletcher-esque, and his xBA of .225 and xSLG of .362 indicate that at least so far, his roaring return has been a well-disguised wolf. I’m not saying I would cut him outright unless you picked him up in a 10-team or 12-team format, in which case even the small problematic sample is enough to discard him for a better option.
Mitch Garver (C, Minnesota Twins)
It’s hard to believe anyone can recommend cutting someone who is slugging .601. But the Twins like the great rate stats so much, they don’t want to let him play and ruin those pretty numbers. I warned from early on that eventually the Mitch Magic would run out, as Statcast considered him the luckiest player in the MLB (by differential of wOBA and xwOBA). After a hot week upon his return, decay has set in, hitting just .160 with one home run in 25 at-bats over his past two weeks. Sure, he still has power, but I’m putting my money on Castro to take the lion’s share of playing time and Astudillo to take a hyena’s share. I do hope they trade him to the Tigers so they can stop running Grayson Greiner out there every day. Cut in single-catcher 12-team and shallower 15-team formats, though I’d still hold in 18-team unless or until it’s clear he Garv up the ghost.
Bobby Bradley (1B, Cleveland Indians)
I sure had fun writing him up last week as a potential buy, but I noted that he’s a dart throw because of his extremely high bust risk thanks to his strikeout rate. Well, that has come to fruition, as Bobby B has failed to rise to the throne with a 42% strikeout rate. You’d expect that to be a small sample size fluke, but it’s backed by a rather pathetic 60% contact rate. Even when he does make contact, far too much of it is into the ground, with a 36% ground-ball rate. When it comes to first base rankings, he better beware getting vanquished by a wild Bour.
(Photo by Samuel Stringer/Icon Sportswire)