Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire
Welcome back to Buy/Sell: ALL ROOKIE EDITION! I needed to do something to give us some optimism after Kopech’s rapid ascent was cut short and I had to cut a write-up on the intriguing infielder Luis Urias after he went down in a heap in last night’s game. September is honestly a pretty rotten time for fantasy baseball, as most people have turned their attention to football, and leagues can be made or broken by out-of-contention major league teams canoodling around. But in the flurry, there are many players, both new and old, that may be slipping through the cracks, and here’s to hoping one cracks some big hits for you!
Shohei Ohtani (DH/P, Los Angeles Angels) – So I actually have spilled very little digital ink on Ohtani on these pages, for one reason: In most leagues in which there is one Ohtani, he was likely already owned regardless. However, now that he’s received a Tommy John recommendation due to his UCL, it’s likely he won’t pitch again until after 2019, so he’s been cut by some shallow-league owners frustrated in their ace that wasn’t. However, this may be the best think that could’ve happened for his hitting stock, as he is now able to hit every day and focus on hitting exclusively for the stretch run. In shallow leagues that have a separate roster spot for Ohtani as a hitter, he may have previously been unowned despite the tasty rate stats due to his lack of full playing time and resulting run production. Maybe that’s why he’s been a hitting superbeast, going .478/.556/1.174 with 4 Home Runs and 3 SB (2 CS) 9 R and 11 RBI in just 23 AB this week. His power is just as legit as his speed, and the fact he could conceivable hit 25 HR with 10 SB in just 300 AB speaks to his otherworldly talent. Even just as a hitter, he must be owned and started when playing in all leagues, including 10-team AVG and OBP.
Ramon Laureano (OF, Oakland Athletics) – I recommended adding him in deeper formats a few weeks ago, but he’s graduated to be a consideration even in shallow leagues. While he hasn’t made a stolen base attempt since August 28th, he’s displayed surprising power, with 5 tates in just 89 ABs, so you may surmise he’s been getting lucky. WRONG! Well at least if xStats has a say, as they look at his actual line of .292/.373/.539 line and spit out an xSlash of .286/.369/…..569! That’s likely due to his fantastic 10.8% Barrel/PA, which is 3rd-best in baseball (min 50 BBE behind only J.D. Martinez and Joey Gallo). While that number is likely to come down, as well as his .375 BABIP, as his 90.2 mph eV overall and 95.5 mph FB/LD are merely great, the fact that he can hit for power while offering speed and solid average makes him a viable streamer not only in all 15-team formats but also 12-team, especially OBP.
Ji-Man Choi (1B, Tampa Bay Rays) – One of these players is not like the others, one of these players is 27 years old. Okay, so he’s not a rookie, but I still consider him effectively a rookie since this is his first legitimate chance to establish himself full-time. ChoiManJi is trampling all of the pitchers in his path, hitting .327/.419/.654 with 3 HR, 10 R, 12 RBI and a SB over the past 21 days, with 2 HR and 8 RBI this past week. That raises his season line to .274/.359/.522 with 8 HR and 2 SB in just 157 AB, which is pretty great, but I’m even more intrigued by his xSlash, which says he really deserves better with a fantastic xSlash of .291/.376/.572, suggesting the power has not been a fluke. His 7.9 Barrel rate is Top 50 in the majors and above Matt Olson, Jesus Aguilar, and teammate CJ Cron. The biggest thing working against him is that he’s still fighting with Cron for playing time, but despite Cron’s superior season numbers, I’d actually rather have Choi. With his power comes superior batting average upside and especially OBP ability, with an 11.0% walk rate that nearly doubles Cron’s (5.9%). In games with 1-game eligibility, his game at OF gives him shallow league appeal, but he’s still a sneaky good pickup in 18-team and 15-team formats, especially OBP, and I think he’s even a viable stream in 12-team OBP as he could be Tyler White lite. Tyler Lite.
Rowdy Tellez (1B. Toronto Blue Jays) – The legend of Rowdy Tellez would be a great name for a cowboy song. He’s definitely made for a rowdy debut as the fans are going nuts for his blistering current line of .444/.474/.944 with a homer in just 18 AB, leading some to believe he’s ready to be the 1B of the future. But let’s not get carried away. True, his Barrel rate currently leads the majors among players with more than 10 BBE (extremely small sample size warning), as he hit 7 extra base hits in his first 5 games, but his xStats indicate that even this torrid streak deserves a still excellent but far less crazy .316/.351/.582. While he had a terrible 2017 minors season, much like Piscotty, Tellez was coping with a dying mother, and after getting support from teammates this year he’s bounced back admirably. He might not hit for the power of Voit or O’Hearn, but he’s a fine option in AL-only or 18-team AVG leagues, and he could be used as a stream/bench bat/injury replacement for 15-team AVG leagues, though I’m not sure I would do that. Either way, with such a great debut Rowdy will have a great story to Tellez his grandchildren.
Jose Fernandez (2B/1B, Los Angeles Angels) – The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim frustrate me constantly, not just because of their stupid name, and what they’ve done with Fernandez just adds more to the pile. Why sign a 30-year-old, have him mash in the minors, and then once all your options at the position have been traded or hurt, still refuse to play him? Then again, it could have something to do with why the Dodgers dropped him last year, which we still have no clue about. Well at least now he’s getting more of a shot. He hit .333/.396/.535 with 17 HR and 2 SB in the minors, and is hitting .353/.389/.412 this week to bring his season line up to .294/.313/.353. As with most players from Cuba, he seldom walks, but should hit for a high average with his single-digit minors K rate. While his season line, particularly his slugging, may not inspire, consider that xStats thinks he deserves much better, with an xSlash of .323/.342/.459. The sample size is small, but an xSLG% 100 points higher makes it clear he deserves better power numbers. Scoop him in AL-only and 18-team AVG formats, and if you’re in dire need of AVG you can stream him in deeper 15-team AVG leagues, provided he qualifies at 2B despite not playing there yet in the majors.
Francisco Mejia (1B/DH, San Diego Padres) – Well, that’s a way to get noticed. After getting blocked by the Indians and then dealt, Mejia had one big two-tater game that suddenly got him some attention. Unfortunately, a move to the NL really isn’t great for him since he’s apparently a poor defensive catcher, can’t DH, and still isn’t demonstrably better than Hedges. Many an owner looking to catch lightning in a bottle probably snagged him after his big game, but he just doesn’t have much opportunity to make a lot of noise. Which is too bad because his .231/.333/.692 line belies an even better .307/.400/.693… but like, over only 13 AB. With the Padres out of contention, he’ll probably get more playing time than a backup catcher, but still likely less than a 50/50 split. When he gets catcher eligibility (3 games so far, for those who use 5-game eligibility) I’d consider him in two-catcher formats, NL-only, and deeper 18-team AVG leagues, but until he gets it, he’s limited to NL-only value.
Nicholas Ciuffo (C, Tampa Bay Rays) – Ciuffo has had quite an interesting career path, less because of the two pot suspensions and more because he started out as a hitter who can’t catch very well and developed into a catcher who can’t hit very well. This past year he only hit ..262/.301/..380 with 5 HR in 236 PA in Triple-A, but Major leagues however, haven’t gotten the memo. Ciuffo is off to a strong start, hitting .333/.421/.600 with 1 HR in 15 AB, although xStats calls for a more believable xSlash of .286/.384/.389. While those latter numbers are highly unlikely to light the world on fire, Ciuffo has one key advantage over other more highly-regarded young catchers like Jansen and Mejia: Lack of competition. With Wilson Ramos long gone and the briefly intriguing Michael Perez out with a hamstring injury, Ciuffo only has to beat out Adam Moore and Jesus Sucre for playing time, which he’s already basically done just by showing he can swing a bat.He’s still only 23 and catchers sometimes are late bloomers offensively, so with full-time reps he’s a nice sleeper in deep leagues. Pick up in all two-catcher formats, and one-catcher AL-only,
David Fletcher (2B, 3B, SS Los Angeles Angels) – He’s a surprising classic… Call him Fletcher in the Rye. But don’t ban him from your roster, as he’s loved pitching more than a red hunting cap, hitting .346/.414/.462 this week over 26 ABs to raise his season line to .281/.325/.369 with 1 HR and 3 SB over 263 AB. If you want to stop reading now, I understand, as a .087 ISO is not usually fantasy recommended, especially since his xSLG is even worse at .338. However, he just acquired shortstop eligibility in most leagues, and can be a deep league asset while playing every day and hitting for high average with his high-contact approach. He should be owned in AL-only formats and also find his way in 18-team AVG leagues as a utility/bench bat or AVG streamer.
Christin Stewart (OF, Detroit Tigers) – It may be the twilight of the baseball season to earn his chance, though in Triple-A he’d been 50 shades of great. Oops, wrong spelling. He didn’t pack quite as much punch first year of Triple-A, hitting .264 with 23 homers in 522 PA in Triple-A, but that’s good for the pitcher-friendly International league, and he did raise his walk rate to 12.2% and lower his K rate to 20.7%, which improves his chances of his K rate surviving the majors. So far he’s stayed afloat, hitting .250/.400/.250, though he’s struck out in 40% of his ABs. While he’s the Tigers’ top position prospect, their farm system isn’t exactly deep on offense, and the team isn’t really producing a lot of runs. So despite getting full-time reps, he is best utilized in AL-only OBP leagues. Not the most interesting September debut to follow, but still a better story than Twilight.
Brian Anderson (3B/OF, Miami Marlins) – It seems I’ve been waiting all season for this to happen, but it seems Anderson has finally cooled off. He’s been a solid waiver wire find, especially in deeper leagues, as he made up for his lack of pop and speed with good average and even better OBP, but relying on that category burns you more often than not. Anderson’s hit just .167/.316/.300 with 0 homers over the past two weeks, and he’s hit just .233 with 2 HR in 159 AB (187 PA) in the second half. With a name as boring as his average was, it’s no surprise he’s getting passed over with higher-upside players and other new names in September. You can still roll with him in NL-only and 18-team OBP if you wish, but he should be cut in all 12-team and 15-team formats in which he’s still owned.
Vlad Guerrero Jr. (OF, Toronto Blue Jays) – He’s still pretty widely owned for a guy who hasn’t had a major league at-bat. At one point he was owned in nearly half of mixed leagues! But in any redraft format there’s zero chance he’ll get a single at-bat for you this year, quite sadly. Cut in all leagues, except for fantasy leagues in which you earn points for fantasizing how good he WOULD be if he were playing right now, in which case you’re winning, I guess.
Tyler O’Neill (OF, St. Louis Cardinals) – It’s best you don’t Ty up a roster spot with him. In September he’s barely been playing, with just 6 AB this week. Now with Marcell Ozuna back from shoulder troubles and Jose Martinez settling in as the right fielder, O’Neill has already blew his chance to cement himself this year. The power is still elite, but a hideous 42.1% K% with a pathetic 4.1% BB% shows the O’Neill wheels are off the train. Cut in all leagues except in those in which you’re streaming for HR in deep NL-only that allow for daily match-ups, yes all three of them.