Welcome back to Buy & Sell, where this week’s theme is “Never give up!” Most of the buys on this list are not established bets or top-billed prospects but rather mid-20s organizational fodder who had a breakthrough on the farm and are riding the wave to greatness. Surprisingly, in mid-August, this week may still offer some of the biggest impact plays on the wire you’ll see all year. Best of luck in winning them … now on to the puns—er, I mean, analysis.
J.D. Davis (3B/SS/OF, New York Mets)
If you want to become a successful late breakout hitter, get sent off by the Astros and have your name be J.D. Well, he might not quite be J.D. Martinez, but Davis has certainly looked legit of late, hitting .385/460/.788 with five home runs, 13 runs, 2 RBI, and a 8:13 BB/K over 52 at-bats the past three weeks. He was one of my favorite buy recommendations in April and May as his expected stats suggested an imminent breakout, but it didn’t pan out mostly because of the Mets’ refusal to give him more playing time over their inferior aging vets. Now, before this year, he was seen mostly as an all-power guy with not enough plate discipline or contact to succeed, but after revamping his swing, he’s managed to hit for even more power with better contact, with a career-best 74% contact rate and judicious 26% O-Swing rate leading to a 20.5% strikeout rate, which is good for a power hitter. As for the power, his average exit velocity is among the best in baseball at 92 mph, which explains his tantalizing expected stats: a .319 xBA and .537 xSLG. Note that it should regress as he faces more righties, but he’ll more than make up for that with the increased volume. Now that he’s finally clamped down regular playing time, he should be owned in all formats. That may sound aggressive for a guy who was likely on many 15-team waiver wires, but I’ll go out on a limb for him once more, I won’t be J.D. jaded.
Josh Rojas (SS/3B/OF, Arizona Diamondbacks)
Ro. Rojas. Ro jas. Rojas mash. The new Diamondbacks call-up has rocked harder than Rammstein everywhere he’s gone in the minors this year, hitting .332/.418/.606 with 23 home runs, 83 RBI, 33 stolen bases, and 89 runs scored in 105 total games between Double-A and Triple-A prior to his promotion. And even though it’s the PCL and whatnot, I must mention that since being traded, he hit .514 with three homers in those 40 plate appearances. .514! And all this coming from a 25-year-old who was drafted in the 26th round in 2017 and entering this year was not even mentioned on the Fangraphs Top 39 Astros prospects—or even the honorable mentions! While sometimes I’m skeptical of older players going ham on the minors, especially this year (see Bobby Bradley), he not only hits for power and average and runs fast, he also has maintained a strikeout rate below 15% and a 12% walk rate that considerably raises his floor. Although he lacks pedigree, he’ll be given every shot to strut his stuff in Arizona, and he has the potential to be a five-tool fantasy monster, with likely multi-position eligibility. So add Rojas post-haste in all formats. Baseball, you be crazy.
Aristides Aquino (OF, Cincinnati Reds)
You must ride into battle on your noble Aristeedes. Before this year, Aquino was never seen as much of a prospect, but he worked with his new hitting coach on changing his swing to an unconventional open stance with a step in, and it’s helped Aquino unlock a hidden beast. He’s hit an insane .429/.474/1.143 with eight great tates in 38 plate appearances. Heck, getting eight singles in 38 plate appearances as a rookie would’ve impressed me. This actually breaks an all-time rookie homer record. While the sample size is still small and he obviously won’t continue to produce at a 200-homer pace, he currently leads all of baseball in barrel rate with a downright ludicrous 30% barrel per batted-ball event rate, and he does have plus exit velocity of 91 mph and 97 mph, with a max of 118 mph that suggests a true massive power ceiling. While his Statcast numbers aren’t predictive, it’s certainly encouraging that he has a bonkers xBA of .341 and xSLG of .786. Again, it’s a tiny sample, but his Triple-A sample, juiced ball notwithstanding, was still a fantastic .299 with 28 home runs in just 323 plate appearances, with a .337 ISO. I’m running out of superlatives, but if by chance he’s still available in your league, snag him as he’s already taken in 75% of Yahoo leagues, and that number will likely continue to climb. Just be warned that while the power is mostly real, the average could tumble fast, so while he’s a must-add in all 12-teamers, in 10-teamers he’s a high-upside Hail Mary.
Brian Anderson (3B/OF, Miami Marlins)
Anderson has somewhat reinvented himself this year, sacrificing his high batting average for more pop. Still, he’s league-average just about all around, but his ability (or luck) to stay on the field all season in the heart of the Marlins lineup has made him an underrated compiler. He’s been hot of late, hitting .310/.398/.690 with seven home runs, 13 runs, and 14 RBI over 71 at-bats the past three weeks, bringing him up to a .253/.335/.466 line with 20 home runs and five stolen bases with 52 runs and 60 RBI. While he lacks the upside of many on this list and is more widely owned as a known name entering this year, he’s entirely viable in 12-team formats, especially with his rare 3B/OF dual eligibility.
Niko Goodrum (1B/2B/SS/OF, Detroit Tigers)
I’ve written up Goodrum so many times as a buy over the past two years that I’ve done the impossible: I’ve run out of Goodrum puns. He hasn’t been running much lately either, so it might puzzle you why I’d suggest adding a guy hitting just .255 with one home run and one stolen base over the past two weeks. Despite that middling production, Statcast believes he’s deserved better and is heating up, with a .350 xwOBA over the past 50 at-bats, up considerably from the .221 xwOBA in his 50 prior at-bats. Sure, a .350 xwOBA is just a solid league-average regular hitter, but Goodrum also offers speed, incredible versatility, and tons of volume, something that can be hard to find as the season wears on. He’s a useful utility play in all 15-team leagues but also a useful one-man bench in 12-team OBP leagues.
Dom Nunez (C, Colorado Rockies)
Get ready for some Dominationunez. OK, that nickname won’t catch on. He was just called up by the Rockies after hitting for a .921 OPS with 17 dingers in just 61 games (257 plate appearances) at Triple-A and should have a clear path to playing time now that vet Chris Iannetta got DFA’d. Of course, this being the Rockies, there is a fair chance they somehow find a way to mess with his playing time, even if it means getting an old pitcher to come out of retirement to don the mitt instead. He will likely be a liability in batting average as even in the minors he hit .244 with a 27% strikeout rate, but playing half his games in Coors should keep it afloat. What I’m especially encouraged by is his propensity for fly balls, as he hit 49% in the air this year in the minors, and that could lead to a fair amount of Coors blasts even if he lacks great exit velocity. He’s certainly worth a gamble in 12-team two-catcher leagues, but teams in need of a shakeup can also target him in single-catcher 15-team formats, especially OBP leagues.
Jon Berti (3B/SS/OF, Miami Marlins)
I call him Berti Sanders because he has 99 percent-ile speed. His 29.7 feet per second sprint speed is top 15 in baseball, and he’s made use of it, stealing four bags in the past two weeks with a .364 average over that span. His season line is now .291/.351/.437 with two home runs and five stolen bases in 103 at-bats, and while expectations shouldn’t be too high for a 29-year-old rookie, it’s worth noting that his average is supported by his Statcast numbers. For deeper leagues, he makes for a sleeper utility speed play because he has no reason not to run wild on the Marlins and has the speed to give him high odds of success; in fact, he’s yet to be caught stealing this season. He’s a fine pickup in all NL-only and 18-team leagues but is also viable if you need speed in deep 15-teamers that use batting average.
Rowdy Tellez (1B, Toronto Blue Jays)
Guess who’s back, back again; Rowdy’s back, Tellez friend. Now the legend of Rowdy Tellez had an underwhelming sequel, hitting .227/.280/.436 with 14 home runs in 264 at-bats before being sent down, but he could be in for a triumphant return in the end of the trilogy. It’s expected he would fare better in Triple-A, but he truly dominated to the tune of .366/.450/.688 with seven home runs in 109 plate appearances for a .323 ISO. It was also encouraging seeing him post a double-digit walk rate near 13%, giving hope that this time he’ll do better than the 6% walk rate in his previous stint in the majors. Statcast felt he deserved better anyway with a more palatable .249 xAVG and .454 xSLG, which is also far better than Justin Smoak. With the Jays having crapped the bed at the trade deadline and going all in on the youth movement, expect mostly regular playing time from Smoak and the ability to score six to eight more Tellez tates. Add in AL-only leagues and 18-team formats immediately.
Tommy Pham (OF, Tampa Bay Rays)
Tommy is so hungry for a good hit, he’s getting downright Phamished. Despite being considered a consensus top-100 pick, he’s really been hurting lately with a .165/.265/.267 line and zero home runs over 30 at-bats the past two weeks to bring his season line to a solid but unspectacular .266/.365/.440 with 16 home runs and 13 stolen bases over 418 at-bats. But he’s also, like, literally hurting, as he’s decided to be all macho and play through a hand injury, likely hurting himself further and also hurting his team with his wet noodle bat. Considering that sliding headfirst puts the hand at risk, I’m expecting a decline in power and speed production the rest of the way, with pernicious off days sprinkled in. In 10-team leagues, especially batting average formats, you can simply do better for a power-speed outfielder, be it Rojas, AJ Pollock, or even Avisail Garcia.
Willie Calhoun (OF, Texas Rangers)
I’d call him big Willie style, but he’s more of a lil’ Willie style. Since Joey Gallo went down, Calhoun has filled in admirably in his stead, hitting a solid .269/.321/.673 with five homers, 11 runs, and 13 RBI over 52 at-bats the past 21 days, raising his season line to .274/.316/.555 with 10 homers in 146 at-bats. In a season where homers are so plentiful, 10 may be easy to overlook, but that paces to 35 jacks in a 500 at-bat season. However, extrapolation is generally ill-advised, and while looking closer, I actually went from recommending him as a buy to a sell after seeing how bearish Statcast is. Despite a good exit velocity of 90 mph, his xSLG is just .423, and he’s actually been one of the league’s bigger fallers in expected hitting since his return, with an xwOBA of just .265 over his past 100 plate appearances after a mark of .335 prior. Without any speed and an aversion to walks, he’s just not quite the impact hitter we were hoping for, especially in a desolate Texas lineup. You may be able to flip him in a trade, otherwise he’s not worth holding onto in 12-team leagues, and I’ll go so far as to say you can cut him in 15-team OBP leagues.
David Fletcher (2B/3B/SS/OF, Los Angeles Angels)
His production needs a shakeup because right now his value is disappearing like a Fletch-a-sketch. Early in the season, I wrote about him as an underrated asset, but he’s now become too trendy and dare I say overrated and overowned. Over the past two weeks, he’s hit a nauseating .111/.149/.133 with no home runs or stolen bases, leaving him with just five home runs and eight stolen bases with a .277 batting average in 408 at-bats. In April, it seemed he improved his already excellent contact skills, but those have regressed to his 2018 rates as the season has progressed. A player who can’t even hit double-digit homers is more of a liability than ever, even with his all-over eligibility. Cut in 12-team and 15- team leagues and consider dropping in 18-teamers if you need a boost and there is a high-upside gamble on the wire.
Melky Cabrera (OF, Pittsburgh Pirates)
No use crying over spilled Melk. He’s been the league’s biggest decliner in batting over his past 50 plate appearances, with a gnarly .201 xwOBA and a .184/.200/.286 with no home runs or stolen bases over the past 21 days. Even in an NL-onl league, still holding on to him is just depressing. Almost as depressing as the Pirates’ collapse, but not quite.
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