The past few weeks have been rather dizzying for fantasy teams, as injuries continue to pile up and many of the hot players have been grabbed and held for dear life like shares of Tesla stock. But hey, Giolito just pitched a no-no, so there’s that. And while most previously unheralded hot starts were promptly snatched, there are still many values to be found if you’re willing to dig a little deeper. On to the list!
Jake Cronenworth (1B/2B/SS, San Diego Padres)
Add him now and he’ll be well Cronenworth your while. I wrote him up a few weeks ago as a small sample phenom to take a chance on, and the dude just keeps mashing and his roster rate skyrocketed to 52%. He’s hitting .455 with a homer, 5 R, 6 RBI, and a stolen base the past week, and is hitting .347/.410/.627 with 3 HR, 13 R, 12 RBI, and 1 SB in 75 ABs on the year. The home run total won’t blow you away, but his Statcast page will, as it is redder than Soviet Russia. His .402 xBA is the best in baseball, and his .764 xSLG is 98th percentile. He also has a high walk rate, low strikeout rate, excellent barrel/hard contact rates, multi-position eligibility, stolen base upside… the better question is why haven’t you added him yet? The 26-year-old was the least-known name of the infamous Rays/Padres “Slapdick Prospect” trade, but he has all the makings of a fantasy star and should be picked up and started in all leagues.
Joey Bart (C, San Francisco Giants)
When the hits just keep on comin’, the kids just keep on comin’ up. The Giants finally decided to join the top prospect promotion craze, and it makes sense for a catcher who will benefit more from learning his pitchers and MLB game-calling than wasting away in alternate site little league. Although his call-up trampled Tromp, there have been questions about his bat’s readiness, but he’s started strong hitting .333 in his first 15 PA. He’s been hitting the ball hard with a 94 mph exit velocity and 2 barrels already, so he certainly has potential to hit for power and average with the bat. So far he’s shown excellent contact ability with an 83% Contact% and a 94% Z-Contact% that should help him keep making high-quality contact, but his 53% Swing% suggests he may be exploitable. While he might not light the world on fire like Bohm, his position is a dumpster fire so you may as well roll the dice on the upside. He’s 50% Rostered but is a worthwhile add in all 12-team leagues and 10-team AVG leagues as he could produce like Salvador Perez right away.
Mitch Moreland (1B, Boston Red Sox)
Moreland is doing morelaunching. He got off to a huge power binge in 2019 but is doing even better this year, with a studly .340/.444/.792 slash with 11 R and 18 RBI. While unlike Cronenworth, Statcast believes he’s overperforming a bit, which of course you’d expect considering we know who Moreland is, but still rocks an excellent .288 xBA and .706 xSLG, thanks to his league-leading 26% Barrel%. His plate discipline and exit velocity overall seem the same, but for years he’s underperformed his expected Statcast metrics so maybe luck is finally turning around. The almost 35-year old has put up excellent stretches before leg injuries inevitably slow him down in previous years, and hitting in the heart of a still-loaded Red Sox lineup, he should be started every day in all 12-team formats and worth streaming in 10-team formats, especially those that use OBP. Yet he’s only 35% rostered, so see if you can benefit from your league mates’ ageism.
Austin Nola (C/1B/2B, Seattle Mariners)
When you own an everyday hitter, you really can live every day like it’s Nola day. Another returner to the Buy/Sell, I wrote up Nola as an add after Tom Murphy hit the IL as a useful multi-position stopgap. But with the way he’s hitting, he might have the backstop role for keeps. The career journeyman has been even better in his age-30 sophomore campaign, hitting .298/.344/.524 with 4 Homers, 12 R and 16 RBI in 90 PA, making him quietly one of the better offensive catchers in baseball. It’s not smoke and mirrors either, as it’s supported by a 3 mph jump in exit velocity from 87 to 90 mph, and his performance has been Statcast-backed with a .303 xBA and .506 xSLG. Although his 4% walk rate may lead you to think he’s a free swinger, he actually has both excellent contact rates (85%) and plate discipline (22% O-Swing%) which suggests a higher OBP is in his future. He had a huge jump to 55% rostered, but if he’s around you should add in 12-team formats, and stream in 10-team formats that use batting average. Similar to Mike Yastrzemski, you just gotta trust those baseball bloodlines.
Jon Berti (2B/SS/3B/OF, Miami Marlins)
Why did people draft Adalberto Mondesi? Because while he was a liability in batting average and had questionable power, he could win you the stolen base category. So, uh, why is a guy who has essentially been an older but Mondesi been largely ignored? You may need to sprint to the waiver wire after he stole not one, not two, but three stolen bases Tuesday night, which gives him 8 nabbed bags on the year, which is tied for 2nd-best in the league, and more than Mondesi. He also has a homer, 14 R and 6 RBI, each of which are also more than Mondesi, and qualifies at 3 positions, which is also… you get it. The 30-year-old has a slightly higher K rate than last year, but it should improve, as he’s improved his contact rate from 77% to 85% and Z-Contact% from 86% to 96%. He also draws walks at a sustainable 10% which gives him more SB opportunities, which will make up for his lack of pop. Berti is currently only 18% rostered which is criminally low for the base thief, as he’s a must-add in 15-team and a great utility play for 12-team, even if you have to blow some FAAB to nab him.
Sean Murphy (C, Oakland Athletics)
It looks bad now, but I believe you won’t have Trouble with the Murph. If you already missed out on the buy-high catchers, let me let you in on a buy-low. Sean Murphy’s top competitor, Austin Allen, was just demoted, meaning the position is Murphy’s for keeps, and he can still have a huge breakout. His .222 with 2 HR, 8 R and 5 RBI looks pretty lousy, and it’s not just bad luck with an xBA of .223 though a better xSLG of .402. But what catches my eye is his 93 mph exit velocity (94th percentile) and his 60% Hard Hit% which is best in all of baseball. Remember, this is a catcher. With a 20% LD% and 35% FB%, more homers should be coming if he hits the ball that hard. And his 31% K% should improve as he has a solid 76% Contact% and strong 23% O-Swing% that should make him an non-liability in AVG leagues and an asset in OBP formats. He could very well be what you’re hoping for out of Gary Sanchez. He’s only 23% rostered and makes a fine add in all 15-team formats and a sneaky play in 12-team OBP formats with his 16% walk rate.
David Bote (2B/3B, Chicago Cubs)
When Bryant went down, we voted to name his replacement Bote McBoteface. The 27-year-old backup made a big power splash in 2019 and despite a slow start, looks poised to reprise that role. He’s hitting .222/.300/.429 in 70 PA, but deserved better, with a .278 xBA and .504 xSLG. He’s largely accomplished this by hitting the ball harder, with a strong 92 mph average exit velocity (95th percentile) and 14% Barrel% (92nd percentile). While his K/BB has declined from 2019, he actually should be improving, with a slightly better Contact% of 73% and a much-improved O-Swing%, down eight points to 24%. His one flaw is he still sports a 50% ground ball rate that saps his considerable power. Still, he should hit for solid average and power while contributing chip-in speed, which is why I think he’ll be more valuable per at-bat than Kris Bryant the rest of the way. Add in all deeper leagues and add as a utility or injury replacement in 15-teamers.
Pat Valaika (2B/SS, Baltimore Orioles)
It’s hard not to be skeptical of a sub-Mendoza line hitter, but there’s a lot to Valaika here. He homered in back-to-back-to-back games and is now hitting .231 with 5 tates on the year in 71 PA. While that could be a fluke, Statcast actually thinks he deserved far better thus far, with an xBA of .324 and xSLG of .580. That’s double his career xSLG, so what is going on here? It seems the major driver of his performance is a much-improved 14% K%, nearly half of his 27% career K%. It’s somewhat supported by a career-best Z-Contact% of 91% (79% overall) and a 10% SwStr%. The 27-year-old finding better pitches to hit on the plate gives him the ability to hit .260 with another 5 homers the rest of the way and has near-guaranteed playing time in an Orioles lineup that lacks infield depth. While he’s only 1% Rostered, he’s a worthwhile power/avg streamer in deeper 15-team leagues and must-add in AL-only formats. Also there’s a great Russian Jewish folks song named after him, called Tumbavalaika.
Taylor Jones (1B/OF, Houston Astros)
Alvarez is Yordone, so the Astros replaced him with another hulking giant. Jones is 6’7 and has many of the flaws you’d expect from an Aaron Judge-sized hitter, and without the power ability of Aaron Judge. He didn’t make the Astros’ top prospect lists as more than an honorable mention, but he’s acquitted himself so far, hitting .222/.363/.444 in 19 PA. While he’s prone to strikeouts, he can hold his own with a 76% Contact%, and his 50% Hard Hit% suggests his power is translating. Playing DH most days for the Astros means he’ll have a favorable home park for home runs and plenty of run-producing opportunities next to Kyle Tucker in the back half of a still-potent Astros lineup. Add in all AL-only formats and consider as a spec add for power in 18-team formats.
Tim Lopes (2B/OF, Seattle Mariners)
If your team is in need of slalom speed, go to Ski-attle and hit the s-Lopes. That pun was about as half-hearted as my enthusiasm for this guy. But Seattle is largely an offensive wasteland and he’s racking up regular playing time, as he’s quietly racked up 89 PA with 1 HR, 10 R, 6 RBI and 5 SB. The 26-year-old has a wet noodle for a bat but can hit .250 with another homer or two along the way, but can grab 5-7 more stolen bases with some runs to rack up sneaky value in deep leagues. He’s just 1% rostered, so consider him as an SB sleeper in an 18-team or AL-only leagues, before someone else eLopes with him.
Austin Meadows (OF, Tampa Bay Rays)
I believe in the ability, but for this year, Meadows may need to be sent out to pasture. Most folks haven’t noticed just how bad he’s been, as he returned from the COVID IL hitting an excusable .229/.300/.443 with 3 Home Runs, 13 R, 9 RBI and 1 SB in 80 PA. But he also has lucked into that, with a putrid xBA of .191 (7th percentile) and xSLG of .359. It’s likely he’s been affected either by COVID or just the lack of a spring training because he’s not seeing the ball well with just 2 barrels all season and with a slip in contact% from 79% in 2019 to 75% this year. Not only that, he looks unlikely to be much of a stolen base asset as his Sprint Speed is only 34th percentile this year. With so much value to be found in the outfield this year, I think you’re better off riding someone else’s hot streak in redrafts. At 96% rostered, this is an extreme opinion, and in leagues with 5 OF or deep benches you can try to stash him and hope hit bat wakes up, but in 10-teams you should get tired of him Meadozing off.
Yandy Diaz (1B/3B, Tampa Bay Rays)
Some players are owned for power. Some are owned for speed. Yandy is owned for his gargantuan biceps. Unfortunately, that’s not a category in fantasy baseball. He’s been hot lately, hitting .304 with 2 Homers this week, and .302/.432/.396 overall… and that’s why you should try to trade him. Why? Because he’s hitting everything into the ground. After still hitting too many ground balls last year at 51%, it’s now a worm-burning bonanza at 65% GB%. His once drool-inducing exit velocity is a ho-hum 88 mph, so he should continue to help in average and OBP, but you’d be a lot better off in the power department betting on Alec Bohm, Giovanny Urshela, or several other 3B options. See if you can trade him in 10-team or 12-team, but don’t be afraid to cut him if someone on the wire better suits your needs.
Donovan Solano (2B/SS/3B, San Francisco Giants)
Solano and thanks for all the hits. Solano was a waiver wire darling as he looked to hit .400, but reality has finally struck, as he’s hit just .188 with 5 R, 0 HR and 1 RBI over the past two weeks. You may have missed it as he’s still hitting .363 on the year, but it’s all downhill from here. Statcast still lists him as one of the biggest xwOBA performers, with an xBA of .296 and xSLG of .464. That still sounds pretty good, but he still offers zero power or speed so he’s a net negative in shallow leagues, and I’d much rather roll with higher pop options like Howie Kendrick, Robinson Cano, or Tommy La Stella, to name a few. Cut in 10-Team and all 12-team OBP formats.
Joey Votto (1B, Cincinnati Reds)
He got a lot of people on the hype train after 3 early home runs (none of which were barreled), with hopes that a better swinging-strike rate would mark a triumphant return to greatness. Yeah, that didn’t happen. While he has maintained one of the lowest K rates in baseball, it’s coming with a slap hitter’s pop with an all-time worst average EV of just 85 mph, 4.0% Barrel%, and Hard Hit% of 24%. It seems he tried to max out his power with a career-high 52% Pull%, but it simply hasn’t been enough to outmatch the undefeated father time. That being said, Statcast considers him unlucky with a passable .268 xBA and .431 xSLG, so he’s not worth cutting in deep leagues, but he does not deserve to still be rostered in 50% of leagues. In 10-team, 12-team leagues, and shallow 15-team leagues that use AVG, make like Reddit and Downvotto him to oblivion.
Daniel Murphy (1B, Colorado Rockies)
I remember a few weeks ago considering writing up Murphy as a buy, but then I saw his underlying stats and ran far, far away. Murphy basically has a case of the Vottos, as he has a good K rate but simply doesn’t have the power anymore to give his high contact much impact. And even Coors can’t help that too much. It seems owners may have forgotten he’s no longer a second baseman, as his 47% Roster rate is way too high considering first base’s resurgence in elite hitting. If you want a Rockies’ bat with upside, roll the dice on Ryan McMahon or even Raimel Tapia instead. Cut in 12-team and 15-team OBP leagues at the very least.
Rougned Odor (2B, Texas Rangers)
The Good News: Odor has hit 3 home runs. The Bad News: Everything else. Odor is off to one of his trademark terrible starts, but this time he won’t have several months to remember how to hit again. He’s hitting just .150/.198/.288 with the aforementioned 3 tates and zero stolen bases in 86 PA, and it’s not just bad luck. Statcast also thinks he stinks with an xBA of .181 and xSLG of .350, largely thanks to Odor’s lousy 26% Soft Contact rate. With Odor’s low stolen base success rate and 37th percentile sprint speed, he may finally get the boot in favor of Solak once the team is fully healthy. I’ve written up Odor as a sell so many times I don’t even have any original name puns let for him.
Omar Narvaez (C, Milwaukee Brewers)
If you decided to spend draft stock on him and haven’t upgraded yet, I’m sure you’ve been a Narvaez Nelly. I warned regression was coming big time last year and it never came, but now reality has set in and then some. He’s hitting .175/.299/.281 with just 1 HR on the season but continues to play due to his strong framing, which only hurts you more. His average exit velocity of 83 mph is the bottom 1% of all hitters, and his strikeout rate has also jumped. You’d be better off with basically any other starting catcher and a few part-time ones. He’s still rostered in 26% of leagues and that should be down to 5% if we lived in a sane world.
Anthony Bemboom (C, Los Angeles Angels)
My boy Max Stassi has hit the IL. My other boy Jason Castro has been out with a stiff neck. So Bemboom’s the guy to own, right? No. He hit a homer in just 7 at-bats, and that plus having the word “boom” in his name makes him seem like a slugger. But the 30-year-old career journeyman catcher is a career .130/.145/.204 hitter in 56 plate appearances and he’s never hit more than 5 HR at any stop in the minors. This might be a situation where you’re better off having an injured player on your roster than adding him. And Bemboom goes the bye-namite.
Photo by Keith Gillett/Icon Sportswire
“Redder than Soviet Russia.” “Solano and thanks for all the hits.” I love it! Thanks for the entertaining article and helpful fantasy advice, Ben!
Thanks so much Brian, I’m glad you enjoyed it!
Moreland is probably owned so little because he sits vs lefties. If you have bench space in a daily changes league he’s an asset otherwise he’s less so
You make a good point, Paul. I guess I’d argue he’s doing so much damage vs righties it outweighs that fact, though the Sox have nothing to lose playing him vs lefties, so far he has 3 hits in 8 AB (9 PA).