Welcome back to Buy & Sell, where this week’s theme is, the Lowe-Pass Filter. No this isn’t an official Pitcher List term, I just made it up, but it’s the idea that overly patient hitters can succeed by adopting a more aggressive approach, even if it causes the K% to rise (to a degree, anyway). I’m naming this after Nathaniel Lowe, who was last year’s sleeper and succeeded with a similar more aggressive approach in May 2022 and had a career year. Don’t worry, I’ll repeat this in the blurbs since nobody reads this part. Or do they? Anyway, on to the list!
Adding a Story can help your team-building stand a floor taller. It’s hard to believe after the past few injury-plagued seasons but he is still just 30 years old, and he’s certainly gotten off to a strong start since his return, hitting .368/.400/.579 in 20 PA since his return, and more encouraging are the three stolen bases. The baserunning aggressiveness heavily implies he’s back to full health, and so do the three barrels he’s already hit (25% Barrel%) despite no homers yet.
The one warning flag, despite the tiny sample, is a huge drop in contact, with a Trey Cabbage-esque 57% Contact% and a downright abysmal 46% CSW%. Assuming that’s just shaking off the rust and he turns it down, he could provide a similar or even bigger power/speed impact as Zack Gelof has, with better run production on Boston, obviously. So add in all 10-team formats for the upside, but if the contact rate doesn’t improve, consider it as an add to sell high before the bottom drops out.
Until now, I’d called him Alec Ohm, because in 10-team formats I had resistance to adding him. Although his profile is far from exciting due to the lack of over-the-fence power, he’s refined his game and is having a much better second half, hitting .306/.372/.444 with three Bohm bombs since the All-Star break. He’s managed to improve his plate skills this year, with a K% down to 16% and a walk rate up to 7% from 5%, while maintaining the same hard-hit data, and he’s rocking a strong .376 rolling xwOBA over his past 50 PA. As long as you can tolerate a rather boring but steady player, he’s a fine add in 10-teamers in need of reliable batting average and run production.
Honorable Mention: Kerry Carpenter (OF, Detroit Tigers) – He’s hit a fantastic .391/.447/.744 with four HRs in 43 AB over the past two weeks, and despite a lack of runs produced, should no longer be ignored as the Tigers’ best hitter.
It seems like the trade to Miami gave him the “Ding! Ding!” to put the fight back into Bell. In his first game for his new squad, he went 4-for-5 with a homer, and he’s now surrounded by a more potent lineup in Miami with Luis Arraez, Jorge Soler, and Jake Burger in the heart of the lineup. He’s hit .304 with three home runs in the last week, and it seems that his superior expected stats are finally catching up with him, as his xBA of .269 and xSLG of .464 suggested he was having some rotten luck.
It also seems to me he’s becoming more aggressive since arriving in Miami (and almost as aggressive as most people who have to live in Florida) and I think that it would behoove him much in the same way the approach change helped Nathaniel Lowe in the middle of last year. I call this the “Lowe-Pass Filter”, as a conscious decision to swing more often helps improve hitter confidence, and while it makes the swinging strike rate worse, it reduces called strikes. Focus on the CSW% to see if it balances out for them, though even a slight decline is okay if it improves the Barrel% and HardHit%. I’ll still call him a 12-team add in OBP formats for now, but I think he’s also now more viable in batting average 12-team formats as well.
Kepler decided to stop staying grounded in plate discipline and shoot for the moon. While he might not land among the stars, I don’t think he’ll suffocate in the vacuum of space either. Like Josh Bell, he’s another Lowe-Pass Filter adherent and is looking like a different hitter as of late. His K% of 21% is a career-high and his 7% BB% is a career low, but he’s rocking a 13% Barrel% which is his career-best by a large margin (7% career).
The aggressive approach sure seems to be paying off, as he now has 19 homers in just 334 PA, and perhaps still deserves better with a .264 xBA, .508 xSLG, and .355 xwOBA that’s 51st in baseball. Mind that he routinely underperforms his Statcast numbers due to it not accounting for directionality and his weird tendency to pull grounders and hit flyballs the other way (the worst outcomes for both), but his PL xBA this year which accounts for this still has his xBA at .259, and he’s hit .275 with five homers in the past two weeks. He’s a must-add in all 15-teamers but I think he should be added in most 12-teamers as well.
Honorable Mention: Ke’Bryan Hayes (3B, Pittsburgh Pirates) – He’s back and the bat is hot once again, and although the lack of SBs decreases his upside, he may be finally ready to boost his power game thanks to a better launch angle.
It took me a while to come around on Toro since I assumed his early season surge was just a lot of bull. But there really may be something here, as Toro is now hitting .444 with two homers in 20 PA, and it’s supported by an xBA of .374 and xSLG of .611. Now of course, I don’t take a 20 PA sample’s expected stats seriously, but barrel rate is reliable faster, so it’s impressive that he already has two, with a 46% SweetSpot% that’s 15% higher than his career-best of 31%. So what we do know is he’s hitting the ball at more ideal launch angles, which is significant for a player who has a decent contact rate. I think the odds are he falls back in line with his career mediocrity (wouldn’t be the first time) but there’s still enough talent here to roll the dice in 15-team batting average leagues.
With his big power, I’ve taken to calling him Nelson Veláz Cruz. Of course, he’s 24 and not in his 40s, and he’s already popped five taters with a .268 AVG in 44 PA, and it’s easy to overlook that this gives him a slugging percentage of .683. Gotta love those sneaky late-season adds… I had a similar success scooping up Cole Ragans a few weeks back. He already has six barrels, good for a 23% Barrel%, and despite floundering last year he did show a knack for the barrels with a 13% Barrel% and I think he’s just building on that now.
His contact rate still isn’t ideal at 70% but definitely passable with this power, and his aggressiveness helps him as he has a fantastic 80% Z-Contact% (relative to that, his 37% O-Swing% is decent) so he has a solid 27% CSW%. That means he should put the ball in play enough to avoid an ugly strikeout rate, and his power is apparently big enough to leave Kansas City’s spacious confines. He also has good speed (he stole five bases in 206 PA last year) and if he stops hitting homers and gets on base more he could easily rack up a handful of SBs to boot. He’s a fine add in 15-teamers (especially batting average leagues), but I’m aggressive enough to be ready to add him in 12-team AVG leagues soon too if he keeps playing and keeps it up. If you need a power boost, you need to add exit Velázity.
Honorable Mention: J.P. Martinez (OF, Texas Rangers) – He’s 27 so hardly a prospect, nor is he J.D. Martinez, but he had a fantastic season in the minors with great batting average, power, and most of all, speed. He’s off to a good start and could do a decent Jarren Duran imitation with regular run in Texas, though I’ll admit I’m skeptical that the power isn’t a mirage (a la Esteury Ruiz in 2022).
His slow start has likely scared off aggressive owners chasing the next big thing, but I think Butler can be like Alfred and help with the Bat, man. Although he’s hitting just .167 in his first few games, he’s barreling the ball well, with a 20% Barrel% and a 40% HardHit%. But what’s more important to me scouting the early performance of a prospect with a 60/70 raw power grade is that he’s continuing his recent stretch of improved contact, as the formerly 30% K% rate guy was putting up 20% K% in the minors, and so far in the majors it’s been just 17%. Of course, I focus more on per-pitch metrics in a tiny sample, but they’re actually even more encouraging, with a Contact% of 83%, a solid O-Swing% of 27%, and a strong CSW% of 25%.
He may still be in a tough situation with a pitcher’s park and a weak surrounding lineup (though better than the early-season A’s), but he has a good chance to earn regular run going forward. Speaking of run, he has decent wheels too, as the slugger actually stole 21 bases in the minors this year, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see the aggressive A’s give him the green light once he gets on base more. I’m adding in all AL-only formats but think he should be on your 15-team stash list or at least watch list because soon Butler will be serving up the goods.
He’s not a big guy at just 5’8″, but I consider investing in him because Luis Urías is the one I’m shorting. The Red Sox dropped Christian Arroyo to take a chance on Urías, but I still have concerns about a decline in Urías’s contact quality with a feeble 22% SweetSpot%. Reyes, meanwhile, is hitting a sturdy .313/.355/.404 with one HR and two SBs in 103 PA, and I think he’s boring but steady. He’s always been a high-contact slap hitter type, but he’s slapping the ball harder this year with a career-high barrel rate, and in AL-only formats it’s worth betting on him to win the battle and bop in some runs.
Honorable Mention: Brayan Rocchio (SS, Cleveland Guardians) – He’s a good defender but a lack of power and speed makes him boring for fantasy. Although he certainly has enough ability to be better than he’s been so far.
He may be on the Reds, but one look at his Statcast page gives me a serious case of the blues. He’s not just below average in batted ball quality metrics, but among the worst in the league, with a 27% HardHit% (4th percentile), a .241 xAVG (33rd percentile), and perhaps most surprisingly, a .320 xSLG (3rd percentile). Obviously, his numbers from this year have been great as he’s hitting .277 with 10 HRs and 22 SBs, and he gets a big boost from being in a hitter’s haven for half his games, but there’s a limit. The power/speed combo has numbed the pain, but his batting average has been backsliding for weeks now, and he’s going to stop stealing so many bases when he can’t get on base to begin with. I’d try to sell high by trading since someone will be buying, but it won’t be me.
Dishonorable Mention: Josh Lowe (OF, Tampa Bay) – I put off putting him on the list for too long, but I have to now at least acknowledge his early season contact rate improvements have heavily regressed, and is seeing a lot less PT sitting vs. lefties and only hitting eighth. Also a viable cut candidate in 12-team depending on bench size and team needs.
I went to bat with him earlier this year, but it was a Suwin and a miss. He’s hit a hideous .096/.242/.154 with no homers and just one SB in 52 AB over the past three weeks, tanking competitive teams that were rolling him out for the surface numbers without paying attention. The raw ability may still be there, but with the huge swing-and-miss in his game and resulting volatility, he’s looking too much like a Jarred Kelenic (well minus the kicking the cooler thing) and it’s time to tell Jack to hit the road in all 10-team and 12-team formats.
Dishonorable Mention: Randal Grichuk (OF, Los Angeles Angels) – It seems he’s had a Rocky Road getting accustomed to the move to Los Angeles, and Mike Trout’s impending arrival means he could be in a timeshare if he doesn’t snap out of it soon.
He sure picked a bad time to struggle, and soon Julien could be on the cutting board and finely chopped. He’s hitting just .063 this week and .208 with one HR and one SB over 53 AB over the past three weeks, and now Jorge Polanco is back with Royce Lewis’s call-up imminent. He could easily end up in a timeshare that would cut into his fantasy production, and while his elite batting eye has finally come into the picture, with a 99th percentile chase rate, the power on non-barrels gives him real batting average downside. You need to hold for now in 15-team OBP, but if you’re in the running and need a hot bat, you might want to consider cutting in 15-team OBP.
Dishonorable Mention: Mickey Moniak (OF, Los Angeles Angels) – The harder they defy Statcast, the harder they fall. Moniak is striking out in nearly half of his at-bats and the luck has run out hard, as he’s hitting just .087 this week and .182 with one HR and one SB over the past three weeks, and might need a demotion.
If you think there’s something left in the arm, I’m here to tell you the horse has already left the Sabol. There have been a lot of catchers I’ve been telling you to buy the past few weeks between the Contreras brothers, Freddy Fermin, Mitch Garver, and Ryan Jeffers, among others. Well here’s one to drop. Although he has 11 taters to go with a .246 AVG in 278 AB, the production is one of the league’s luckiest, as he has a terrible .205 xBA and .369 xSLG. That xBA is 3rd percentile, and the xSLG isn’t much better at the 23rd percentile… and lately, his xwOBA has been falling even faster. His home park doesn’t do him any favors, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him pushed out even more despite the rest of the offense also being bad. If you can sell for anything, go for it, but I’m happy to cut Sabol like it’s whitefish at a Bar Mitzvah brunch.
Dishonorable Mention: Jon Singleton (1B, Houston Astros) – He made it back to the majors after nearly a decade of obscurity, and popped two homers in a game. Great story and all, but he still stinks (too much K% and weak contact), drop him like a cartoon anvil that weighs a single ton.
Featured Image by Ethan Kaplan (@DJFreddie10 on Twitter and @EthanMKaplanImages on Instagram)