Buy & Sell 8/8: Identifying Who to Add and Who to Drop
Photo by Juan DeLeon/Icon Sportswire
Welcome back to Buy and Sell, and give yourself a pat on the back for still being in the race and still actively managing your team instead of turning your attention to football! While this week was sorely lacking from the high excitement of last week’s trade deadline, there have been some new faces with some surging middle infielders and some electric outfield speedsters. Time to see if you can cut some dead weight and get a late season boost with these fine upstanding gentlemen.
Jonathan Villar (2B/OF, Baltimore Orioles) – Lately he’s been putting up video game numbers, so I hope you’re wearing your Villar Goggles. He seems to enjoy being the latest baller in Ballmer (That’s “Baltimore” in a Baltimore accent), with a .471/.500/.746 slash with 7 R, 3 RBI, 1 HR and 1 SB in just 17 ABs since being activated from the DL. That has been legit as it comes with a Past 30 Days xStats line (I’m calling this p30xSlash from here on out (no relation to p90x)) of .343/.436/.486, although that sample is still tiny. Baltimore is traditionally averse to giving the green light on the basepaths, though they may make an exception with Villar who derives so much value from his legs. Well, it’s really more his skills than his legs, as his 27.6 ft/sec sprint score ranks 206th in the league, and about a full ft/sec slower than his 2016 rate. While it’s certainly possible that he can be a whole new player on a new team, he still seems to be much closer to the 2017 version, with a 26.8% Soft%, 61.9% GB% and 13.0% Whiff rate (13.7% Swstr% in 2017 vs 10.6% in 2016). With him making such a loud splash with his name value, he’s been a hot add, but he’s really more of a 15-team format guy and just a speed streamer in 12-team for now. Villar you not entertained?
Mallex Smith (OF, Tampa Bay Rays) – His name should enter your Mallexicon. He has been the most added player and with good reason, as he’s stealing bases more and getting on bases more, with a fantastic .625/.714/.875 slash with a 5/2 BB/K and 5 SB just this week. He now has nearly as many SB (23) as he has RBI (26), but while he’s not a great run producer, he’s not a one-tool rabbit either, as his .299 AVG and .369 OBP make him plenty useful in both formats since it’s harder to find than power. While his 1 home run on the year highlights that he’s no slugger, he’s not just a slao hitter, with a surprisingly high .460 SLG% on the year, probably thanks in part to his speed which enables him to get doubles where most others could only hope for a single. I have been bearish on him in the past due to his unfriendly xStats projection, which still projects a poor .263/.337/.348, but I’m starting to think xStats underrates pure speedsters and will give the benefit of the doubt to Mallex until he proves otherwise. It’s pretty crazy that he’s still only owned in just 24.6% of ESPN leagues. If you’re rostering Billy Hamilton over him, especially in an OBP format, go and fix your Absence of Mallex.
Steven Souza (OF, Arizona Diamondbacks) – He may be the Souzaphone, but this performance is nothing to play off with a tuba. Over the past 21 days, Souza’s hit .327/.411/.571 over 49 ABs with 2 homers, with both homers coming this past week. He certainly seemed ready for this after crushing his Triple-A rehab assignment with a .438/.500/1.250 slash, 3 HR and 2 SB and a 16.7% K% in just 18 Triple-A PA, though unsurprisingly, the strikeout rate issues are not cured, with 15 Ks since his return. Still his 26.4% K% is his best mark of his career, and while it comes with a lower BB% rate, I believe the walk rate can go up without the K rate following suit, as his excellent 24.5% O-Swing% is the same as in 2017 but his 85.9% Z-Contact% and 76.4% Contact% are career-bests by a big margin (78.7% and 69.6% last year, respectively). Remember Souza went 30-16 last year, and with better contact he can be a true homestretch gem, especially in OBP formats. I’ve seen enough to pounce early on him in 12-team OBP formats, and he should be scooped in 15-team AVG leagues if he’s not already owned, and can be streamed there for power/speed.
Aledmys Diaz (SS/3B, Toronto Blue Jays) – His sudden surge was easy to Aled-miss. After getting lost in the middle infield fray for a good chunk of the season, suddenly he’s tacked on 6 HR over 21 days with a .372/.378/.884 slash and just 2 strikeouts in 43 ABs. Over the past week in particular he’s surged with the power stick with 4 of those jacks coming this week. Although the Jays did acquire Brandon Drury, with Donaldson and Gurriel both down and Yangervis mired in a long slump, ALedmys is currently the guy to own in the Jays infield carousel. It’s starting to look like our currently Aledmys is built from the 2016 Diaz prototype, as his xSlash of .286/.319/.491 is highly useful in fantasy leagues and not the rates of a backup, although he lost the ability to take a walk. Now, to throw the wet blanket…while the bat as been hot and his 12.5% K% is a career best, it’s not backed by his plate discipline metrics, with a career-worst 40.0% O-Swing%, 87.2% Z-Contact and 12.5% Whiff rate. That last point makes him only a must-own in 15-team OBP and a short-term stream in 12-team OBP, but should be owned in batting average leagues where he gets a big boost. Buenos Diaz!
Evan Longoria (3B, San Francisco Giants) – The old days of Longo are long gone, but him rebounding isn’t a total longshot. After his recent hot streak with a .359/.419/.769 slash with 4 taters, 9 R and 14 RBI over the past 2 weeks, he’s up to a much healthier .262/.294/.460 slash line, even though the 35 R and 38 RBI certainly leave something to be desired. Still, from a rate stat perspective, he’s slugging much better than he did in 2017, and it could be even better with a bullish xSlash of .275/.309/.495 that is certainly enough to dream on given his history. Unlike with Villar, in this case Longoria isn’t doing much different recently other than his bad luck positively regressing, as his p30xOBA of .327 isn’t close to his p30 wOBA of.423. So while he may not explode offensively down the homestretch, he still may continue to ride the luckdragons that bit Longo in the first half. He’s a cromulent add in 15-team and deeper 12 team average leagues, though his loss of plate discipline makes him more strictly a 15-team play in OBP formats unless you’re in need of an injury replacement stopgap.
Harrison Bader (OF, St. Louis Cardinals) – Darth Bader looks ready to strike back. He’s been merely solid with a .281/.318/.381 slash with 0 HR and 2 SB this week, but his inclusion on the list is more about opportunity. He looked poised for a timeshare with young bopper Tyler O’Neill after the surprising trade of Tommy “My stupid team won’t buy me fancy workout equipment” Pham, but now O’Neill is out with a groin injury, further opening up playing time. Maybe O’Neill wouldn’t have gotten hurt if he had used fancier workout equipment. While O’Neill is expected back when eligible, Bader is an underrated speed option with the 6th-fastest sprint speed in the MLB (30 ft/sec), and unlike the other rabbits atop the list, has some decent power to boot. While xStats sees his current .271/.338/.404 line as lucky with an xSlash of ..247/.322/.351, I’d take that xSlash with a big grain of salt until I see more evidence that the formula doesn’t underrate speedsters. He’s only owned in 5.5% of ESPN leagues, and he’s similarly viable in OBP and AVG formats. However, be forewarned that the lack of guaranteed playing time makes him only a must-own in 18 team formats and a speed-first streamer in 15-team formats for now.
Russell Martin (C, Toronto Blue Jays) – Catcher is like, really, really bad. So yes, even a catcher with a batting average still under the Mendoza line still gets a write-up. It seems the threat of getting benched in favor of career journeyman Luke Maile set the fire under him, though Danny Jansen in Triple-A is the guy who truly deserves the opportunity. For what it’s worth, he’s quietly been much better lately, with a .391/.481/.870 slash line with 3 homers, 7 RBI and 6 Runs over the past 2 weeks, to bring his season line to .197/.336/.347. After seeing that slash line, I probably don’t have to tell you that he’s been far more valuable in OBP formats where his high walk rate has kept you afloat from his bat which has spent most of the season underwater. xStats seems to think he should be better, with a .226/.360/.374 xSlash, which again, is much better in OBP. While his 20 HR days are likely over, he’s still a solid 2nd catcher in two-catcher OBP leagues, or single-catcher 18-team and 15-team formats and worth streaming even in 12-teams. In AVG leagues, I still would at best stream him in 15-team formats to see how long he can keep the streak.
Steve Pearce (OF/1B, Boston Red Sox) – Look, you knew I couldn’t NOT write him up after that 3-homer game… The thrice was nice. He has continued to be a beast when he gets the opportunity, with a studly .308/.386/.583 line with 9 homers in just 139 AB. Not only that, xStats thinks he’s been UNlucky, with a crazy xSlash of .325/.399/.634, which even is amazing for a platoon hitter. The problem, as you probably realized, is that lack of playing time. Still, with Moreland stinking at the plate in the second half with just a .179/.220/.333 slash over the past 21 days and having dealt with knee soreness, I think Pearce can start to eat into more playing time, and he’s still always been a solid hitter vs righties and has a .268 average, 5 HR and 9/14 BB/K in 71 PA against them this year. I kinda wish the Sox would pull a Brewers move and have Pearce play at 2B while Kinsler is out… at the very least it’d make things interesting. While he’s most valuable in daily leagues, he makes a valuable plug-and-play bench piece in AL-only and 18-team AVG and OBP leagues, and even 15-team formats with deep benches, but in moves where you can’t set daily lineups, for now he’s an AL-only or 18-team option at best.
Renato Nunez (3B, Baltimore Orioles) – With all the buzz that Villar’s getting, I feel that Nunez’s improvement is Renato be forgotten. He’s slashed an impressive .458/.458/.625 over 24 ABs this week, which raises his previously pathetic season line to a decent .253/.294/.392 with 1 HR over 79 AB. He’s was dealt from Oakland to Texas and now to Baltimore, going from a very pitcher-friendly environment to a very hitter-friendly one, and while he hasn’t reflected that in his single homer, I still have reason for optimism. His xSLG% of .429 signifies he probably deserves better power, and his 7.4% Barrel% and 94.6 mph eV on flyballs/line drives is above league average. He’s certainly done enough on a depleted Orioles club to earn full-time ABs, which makes him instantly valuable in AL-only formats, and with one more game of OF eligibility (currently at 4) he becomes worth riding out in 18-team formats as well.
Yangervis Solarte (SS/2B/3B, Toronto Blue Jays) – Don’t let the homer count fool you, it’s time to say Solarte, farewell, Auf Wiedersehen goodbye. He’s been an absolute zero for several months now, with a dreadful .151 AVG and 2 HR in July and is still homerless in August. It turned out his early season high-walk rate was a fluke, with double the walks in April (14) than his high in any other month (7). While he’s been versatile, and xStats thinks he’s had some rotten luck (.271 xAVG), he’s still been outshined by the younger Gurriel (24) and more recently by Diaz (27), and seeing as he’s the old one at 31, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him as the odd man out when Gurriel and Donaldson return. Cut in all 10-team and shallower 12-team formats, though giving him the axe in 15-team would still make me Yang-nervous.
Steven Piscotty (OF, Oakland Athletics) – Piscotty has been quite the roller coaster ride this season, and lately it’s just been downhill. He’s hitting just .178/.275/.289 with 1 HR in 45 AB the past two weeks, and when you look at his season totals of a .253 AVG, .317 OBP, 15 HR, 48 R, 51 RBI, and 2 SB, you may start to release that he’s average or below average in every counting category. In shallower formats, he was a guy to stream while hot, but he just doesn’t have the upside to be worth holding onto while he goes through spells like this. He was one of the top fallers of healthy players, going from 58.9% owned to 49.8%, but that’s still too high, and should be tossed like stale biscotti in 10-team and 12-team formats.
Albert Almora Jr. (OF, Chicago Cubs) – He’s like fantasy candy… an empty batting average, but leaves your team feeling like it’s lacking nutrients. It is true that average is a rarer commodity nowadays, but it’s also susceptible to steaks and Almora’s in a bad one, with a .158/.158/.211 line over the past 38 ABs, bringing his season line down to .302/.337/.409 with just 4 HR and 1 SB in 325 AB on the year. xStats isn’t keen on him either , with a .273 xAVG. Sure, he’s young and easy to dream on, but remember the cautionary tale of Jon Jay. He’s cuttable in 12-team formats, and 15-team leagues in which you’re okay without average, and in OBP formats he’s a NL-only guy at most. On the wire, with pedestrian stats like his, there’s plenty Almora where that came from.