Buy & Sell 8/5 – Identifying Who to Add and Who to Drop

Ben Pernick breaks down the most notable hitter surges and slumps.

Welcome back to Buy & Sell, and I am hardly alive! Why, you ask? Because I burned my brain out on FAABapalooza this Sunday, and doubled the pain by writing extra columns here in case these guys are still available. Since some of you play in fastest finger leagues where anyone who hits a couple of dingers gets immediately picked up, I included some struggling buy-lows you may be so lucky to find on the wire as well.

BUY

10-team

Trent Grisham (OF, San Diego Padres)

He must be related to John, because Grisham is an action-packed thriller. The 23-year-old cast off for one high-profile defensive miscue has hit the ground running as a starting outfielder for the Padres, hitting .293 with 4 HR and 2 SB in 49 PA. Not only is he the #2 hitter, which is very important in a season where plate appearances are key, he’s doing all the things I like. He’s hitting a crazy amount of pulled flyballs with a crazy 57% FB% and a 61% Pull%, which may drain his BABIP can help him towards a big home total. The power upside is real as his 112 mph is 20th best in the MLB, and he also is a big stolen base threat with 96th percentile sprint speed. That’s why the omniscient Alex Chamberlain (who predicted the success of Mike Tauchman last year) made a bold prediction that Grisham would go 10-10 this year. Not only that, but Grisham looks poised to be an OBP machine with an insane 11% O-Swing%, which results in a fantastic 6% SwStr% and suggests he should post high double-digit walk rates and is a dark horse for the league leader in walks. I may need to write a whole article on how much I love him. He’s still just 58% owned in Yahoo, add the sleeper five-category stud in all leagues.

Giovanny Urshela (3B, New York Yankees)

In the preseason he was my second-most recommended pickup behind only C.J. Cron, and yeah this one looks way better right now. Urshela was a steal due to the nonexistent (as I argued) threat of Andujar stealing his PT, and Gio is hitting a great .300 with 3 HR, 7 R and 9 RBI in 35 PA. Now what if I told you he deserves much much better? While Statcast expected metrics are a bit wacky in such small sample sizes, I notice an xBA of .416 (95th percentile). And an xSLG of .707 (93rd percentile). Urshela may lack studly maximum velocity, but he’s upped his pull rate and fb% while limiting soft contact. He’s also improved his contact and plate discipline by a rather insane amount, reducing his O-Swing% from a lousy 41% to a studly 22% and while increasing his Z-swing% from 77% to 84%. This helps him take advantage of a fantastic 97% Z-Contact% (84% last year). I think he’s a dark horse to hit .400, and failing that, a great bet to hit .300 9-10 homers and strong OBP the rest of the way. He’s still just 58% owned, so I Ursh you to add in all leagues immediately.

Colin Moran (3B, Pittsburgh Pirates)

Guess who’s leading the NL in home runs. If you guessed Colin Moran, well you’re predictable. If you guessed Magneuris Sierra, please join my home league. Moran has five tates in just 35 PAs, which is crazy considering last year he hit 13 in 503 PA. Considering he sported a merely decent eV of 88 mph in 2018-2019 and even his previous prospect pedigree considered him as having limited power upside, it’s easy to be skeptical. But he’s still just 27, and he currently sports a 96 mph exit velocity with a Max eV that’s 36th-best in the MLB. His Statcast data actually suggests with how hard he’s hit the ball, he’s underperformed.  I think he can continue to hit at a .290 with 10 HR the rest of the way, so add Moran before his 52% Own% jumps. Not only that, Mr. Moran is also a great song by the Mighty Mighty Bosstones, just sayin’.

12-team

Mike Yastrzemski (OF, San Francisco Giants)

Yaz must simply have greatness in his blood. Carl’s grandson has made fools of the skeptics as he’s been a force at the top of the Giants lineup with a .333/.490/.692 slash with 3 HR, 11 R, 7 RBI and 1 SB in 51 PA. Unlike some other names here, he’s not sporting fancy new muscle, as his 106 mph max eV places him 190th in the MLB. But he’s become much more selective at the plate, dropping his O-Swing from 29% in 2019 to 18% in 2020 and his overall swing rate to just 33%. While he only nabbed two bags last year, his 81% Percentile sprint speed suggests he could nab a few more with his large quantity of on-base opportunities. He’s a solid bet to hit .260-270 with 7-8 HR and 2-3 SB but his greatest contribution will be in the oft-ignored runs category where I expect him to finish among the league leaders. Add in deeper 12-team AVG leagues and stream in 10-team OBP if you still can… Oh how I long for Yastrday.

Jacoby Jones (OF, Detroit Tigers)

The reality is that many of the names listed above may have been scooped up by overzealous leaguemates now that “It’s only April” means nothing. But people are less sure of the second coming of Jacque Jones. He’s been hands-down the Tigers’ best hitter but his spot in the lineup has moved all over, but I expect it to move to the top if he keeps this up, as he’s hit .379 with 3 tates, 6 R and 7 RBI in 31 PA. The pop is no fluke, as his Max eV of 112 mph shows (16th in MLB), and his xSLG, Hard Hit%, Barrel% and xwOBA are all above 90th percentile. The downside is he has a lousy 67% contact rate that means he will be prone to slumps when the hits don’t land, and Detroit’s break in the action could throw him off. Still, he deserves to be owned in more than 22% of leagues as he should hit .255-.275 with 7-9 more jacks and a handful of SBs (which he seems to manage despite being rather slow). Stream while hot (after the cancelled series) in 12-team AVG formats.

David Peralta (OF, Arizona Diamondbacks)

No, he’s not hot. At all. The above guys may have been taken already, and someone needed to be dropped. If Peralta was that guy, yoink him. So far, the D-back, along with many of his teammates, has been snakebitten, with a lousy .182 AVG, 0 HR, 0 SB, 2 R and 4 RBI, and the team seems to be souring as he was moved down in the order. Still, I think it’s mostly bad luck. His 114 Max eV ranks 9th in the MLB, so perhaps the 30 HR guy we saw in 2018 isn’t a total fluke after all. And Statcast gives him a much more palatable xBA of .279 and xSLG of .355, and that will likely rise as he hits his stride. In fact, his plate discipline and contact are at career bests, with a 25% O-Swing% (37% in 2019) and 82% Contact% (77% in 2019), and his batted ball rates and velocities are the same. He’s 53% now but I expect that to drop soon, and you should add him for a batting average sleeper. You may consider the 32-year old vet to be washed up, but he’s not a Peraltacocker.

15-team

Evan Longoria (3B, San Francisco Giants)

Maybe we’ve entered an alternate reality where we’re back in 2010. I mean hey, Daniel Bard is an effective major league reliever, that makes for a compelling case. Either way, Longoria is mashing like the old days, hitting .333 with a HR in his first 22 PA. While it’s hard to draw much from that small sample size, it’s notable that his Max exit velo of 109 mph is 81st in the MLB, next to the likes of Jose Abreu and Anthony Rizzo. He’s already hit 3 Barrels and Statcast implies he’s been unlucky. But what interests me most is his improved plate discipline and contact rate to go with the hard contact, leading to a career best 8% SwStr% that makes me think his 11% K% rate isn’t a total fluke. Even in his so-called “down” years, he’s had a high floor as a 20 HR bat with a decent average, but I am optimistic he can hit .270-.290 with 6-8 HRs and strong run production if he can stay on the field the rest of the way. He’s only 8% owned making him a sneaky pickup for a player with so much name recognition.

J.P. Crawford (SS, Seattle Mariners)

It took some time for him to develop a hot bat, but it’s time to enjoy the J.P Crawfish boil. He’s not lighting the world on fire but has been a force at the top of the lineup, hitting .308 with 0 HR, 11 R, 4 RBI and 2 SB in 48 PA. Despite zero home runs, he’s displayed power upside with a 110 mph max eV (43rd in MLB), which is notable for a defense-first shortstop projected to have single-digit pop. Even without power, the 25-year-old does look to be a reliable source of batting average and OBP. This year he’s posted a walk rate (15%) above his k rate (11%). That’s thanks to an almost Arraez-esque 3.8% SwStr% and 90% Contact%. Like Arraez also, he’s not so fast, but he can still nab a few more bases and be an underrated source of AVG/OBP and runs. Shortstop is deep but he makes a fine UTIL. At 27% owned, he’s not a slam dunk to be available, but if he is, give the former 1st-rounder a chance in AVG and OBP formats.

James McCann (C, Chicago White Sox)

When he’s played, he’s been great. The problem is he hasn’t played a lot, especially considering he’s hitting .333 with 2 homers in his 17 PA. That’s because he’s known to be primarily a lefty-masher, though he hits well off righties too. Last year he hit a solid .265 with 14 Homers in 339 PA vs righties (northpaws?), and this year he’s hitting .273 with a homer against them. Of course, the reason for his PT cut is due to their offseason acquisition of thee defensively superior Grandal behind the plate, but I am speculating on the DH spot opening up for McCann. E5 looks like a Fatal 404 Error at the dish (more on that soon), and I think it won’t be too long before the Sox see the wisdom in playing the hot hand. When that happens, I expect McCann to approximate the production of 2019, perhaps even exceeding it.

Jason Castro (C, Los Angeles Angels)

Maybe you think I’m crazy now but hear me out. I’ve been a disciple of J.C. ever since last year, even though then it didn’t pan out. But consider this: Behind his meh .211 avg and 1 HR is a potential star! Well, sorta. Statcast rates his xwOBA at 91st percentile, as they say he’s hit the ball hard and had bad luck in average (xBA of .297) and power (xSLG of .653), and while those will regress with more PA, it’s a good sign. He’s doing exactly what I hoped he’d do in continuing to hit lots of barrels and has upped his FB% (54%) and Pull% (46%) to take advantage of the Angels’ short wall. He’s doing all the things I hoped he would when I made a Bold Prediction he’d be a Top 10 catcher this year. Add in all 15-team leagues, though if you’re feeling bold I’d even add him in 12-team leagues if it’s OBP, since I’m rather confident he’ll be owned in most league formats in a few weeks.

Deep Leagues

Ben Gamel (OF, Milwaukee Brewers)

So he’s long been the boring 4th outfielder guy. But right now, he’s the third outfielder guy, and maybe not so boring. Now that Cain has opted out, Gamel will let his long locks flow through center field, and could rack up a fair amount of counting stats. While his sample of 17 PA is too small to draw much from, it at least says he’s hit the ball hard and deserved his current .300+ batting average so far. Thus far he’s cut his grounder rate in half, and if that continues he can definitely become a 12-15 homer guy (in a normal season) with a few SB on the side and plenty of runs. That plays in 18-team formats and even 15-team formats with 5 OF.

Dominic Smith (1B, New York Mets)

Yo is no mo, so go to Do. To be honest, this is more of a 15-team add, but I’m already overloaded there, but he’s still available in 97% of leagues, so here goes nothing. I wrote up Smith as a potential add in my preseason article, as at the time I was skeptical something wouldn’t go afoul with Cano and Cespedes playing at DH. Dom hit for solid average and power last year, hitting .282 with 11 HR in under 200 PA, it’s been a rough for him so far in 2020. Still, I wouldn’t panic about the elevated K rate as his contact rate is the same as last year at 75%, and while he’s struggled to make hard contact, I see little reason to doubt that happening for the 25-year-old. He’s best utilized as more of a Wilmer Flores-esque roster filler than an upside play, but he still has the potential to surprise.

Chadwick Tromp (C, San Francisco Giants)

Chadwick Tromp sounds like something I’d name a pet T-Rex wearing a three-piece suit. Runner-up: Tradwick Chomp. The power he’s shown so far isn’t quite real but neither is the high K rate. You’re mostly taking him because he’s a catcher with a cool name, but he can be sneaky useful, with an outside shot of being what Roberto Perez was in 2019. Definitely worth a gamble in deeper two-catcher formats. Tromp Tromp Tromp.

SELL

10-team

Gary Sanchez (C, New York Yankees)

I know it seems extreme to recommend “selling” the consensus #2 catcher entering the year, even if he is hitting .080 with no homers. But don’t be a fool and drop him, instead try to trade him to one of his many believers. I’m clearly not one of them. Why? Let’s start with his 50% Strikeout rate. I figured it was a fluke, then I saw his 57% Contact% (70% in 2019), including 67% contact rate INSIDE THE ZONE. While given the small sample, it’s only the 3rd worst Contact% this year, the only player with a rate that bad in 2019 was Keon Broxton. So far he hasn’t even brought his typical chart-topping power, as his max eV of 104 mph ranks 251st. While I’m sure that’ll change soon, I get the feeling his 2020 will be much closer to his abysmal 2018 than his 2019, so see if you can swing a deal to replace him with Realmuto, Garver, or my fave, Salvador Perez. I want to go to Vegas just to bet on Jason Castro outperforming him the rest of the way.

Josh Bell (1B, Pittsburgh Pirates)

Are we sure that it’s the actual hitter and not the violinist? He may as well be swinging a bow, because he’s whiffing at everything. Bell earned his keep as a mid-tier first baseman last year by adding power to a high walk rate and low K rate, but so far that’s out the window. After a 12% BB% and 19% K% in 2019, he has a lousy 3% BB% and 34% K%. It’s no fluke either, as it’s belied by an uncharacteristic 41% O-Swing% and a 62% Contact% leading to a 21% SwStr% that is among the worst 5 in baseball. And unlike the other names, he hasn’t hit the ball hard either. See if you can trade him to someone who thinks it’s just bad luck, because if you refuse to uproot him, you’ll evolve into a Weepinbell. Do Pokemon-based baseball puns land? Definitely.

12-team

Edwin Encarnacion (1B/DH, Chicago White Sox)

A few people have asked me if they should drop Khris Davis, but it’s the other DH-only vet I’m more worried about. For one, Davis is 32 and E5 is on the wrong side of 37. For two, he’s not hitting the ball hard. His 80 mph average exit velocity is the bottom 1% percentile, as is his .183 xwOBA. For three, his plate discipline and contact are falling apart, as his contact and o-swing are career-worsts, leading to a 15% SwStr% (10% the past 3 years). For Four, the White Sox may soon be in a roster squeeze. McCann’s bat is too hot to waste on the bench, plus if Tim Anderson comes back soon, the red-hot Leury will move to the OF, which will likely result in Mazara fending for PT at DH as well. He’s a notoriously slow starter, but I’m not waiting for a rebound in a 60-game season. He’s still owned in 74% of leagues but in all 10-team and 12-team formats, yes even OBP. Though in 10-team OBP leagues, I’d probably cut Khris too.

15-team

Bryan Reynolds (OF, Pittsburgh Pirates)

I’ll admit to being a Reynolds skeptic before the year began, mostly because I don’t trust batting average-first players with high strikeout rates. So far that K rate is indeed higher, and it’s validated by a lousy 68% Contact%. It also doesn’t help that Bell is struggling too and the lineup just looks depressing, so I doubt there’s much run production opportunity. He’s still owned in 71% of leagues, and you can hold on to hope in AVG leagues, but I’d cut in 12-team and 15-team OBP looking for someone who actually is likely to help me in a category. If you need average, you’ll be much better off buying low on Luis Arraez.

Deep Leagues

Austin Allen (C, Oakland Athletics)

Allen, please add details! Allen was a quasi-popular sleeper for deep league and two-catcher sleeper as a handcuff to Sean Murphy. But so far, Sean Murphy has looked good, less on the surface and more with his 95 mph avg. exit velocity (99th percentile). Allen’s exit velocity has been… 78 mph. Oof. On the bright side, Allen completed the rare feat of having a batting average and slugging percentage of .091… and Statcast saying both were lucky. Hard pass.

(Photo by Mark Goldman/Icon Sportswire)

Ben Pernick

Fantasy baseball nerd, music therapist, and comedy singer/songwriter and stand-up/sketch comedian. I am also an insufferable enthusiast of puns and dad jokes. I grew up as a Red Sox fan in New York, but now I declare allegiance only to my fantasy teams.

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