Welcome back to Buy & Sell, where this week’s theme is “Oh my, you’re still here!” That must mean you weren’t eliminated in the first round of your H2H playoffs, you’re contending in Roto, or you’re like my uncle in my home league who just never, ever gives up, even when he enters September in 9th place. You do you, Herbie. Fantasy baseball in September is like dating in your 30s… all the good ones are taken, and you just need to pick the one whose flaws match you best, and have a high rate of contact. And football gets in the way of everything. On to the list!
Nate Lowe (1B, Texas Rangers)
Nate the Great does more than just hit tates. He’s quietly been one of the best first basemen of the second half, hitting a studly .397/.470/.671 with 5 long balls in 73 AB over the past three weeks, raising his season line to .307/.361/.501 with 24 HR and 2 SB. So why has it been “quietly”? Mostly because he’s in Texas, which for most of the year has been a wasteland of talent. However, the team has been hotter as of late, with Bubba T. making pitchers sweat (when he’s on base, not at the plate) and Josh Jung leading the youth movement.
To truly appreciate Lowe’s season, you must remember how absolutely underwhelming he was for the first couple of months, and then he started selling out for power. Back in June, this plan seemed initially unstable, but it worked out for him splendidly, burning me in the 15-team league where I got impatient and cut him in late May. Yeah, don’t do that, 20/20 hindsight me. Whereas initially, he achieved his power and batting average success by forgoing his typically patient approach, he’s brought that back with an impressive 9/10 BB/K over the past two weeks. He should continue to hit .300+ with a strong OBP and a few more dingers, making him a must-own in all leagues.
Eric Haase (C, Detroit Tigers)
I wish I could say it’s time to buy Bo Bichette, who has been hitting .500 over the last month. But I can’t, because literally everybody already has him, but not everybody has Haase, so add him post-haaste. He’s hitting an improbable .500 with 3 homers over 22 AB the past week, and showing that his surge in July wasn’t an isolated incident. He can’t field, but the man can hit.
On the year, the utility catcher is hitting 12 HRs with a solid .256 avg in just 281 AB, and more importantly, is finally playing almost every day in the Tigers lineup. He’s barreling up the ball significantly more and swinging more at pitches in the heart of the zone, which allows him to take advantage of the juiciest meatballs. Sadly, he’s been the Tigers’ best hitter…. by a rather large margin. His hot streaks are legendary so you have to be a Haase ride or die til the end.
Oscar González (OF, Cleveland Guardians)
González has finally taken liftoff. He’s the kind of player I always want to write about because he’s interesting, but there’s always someone else more initially intriguing who pulls me away, so I wanted to give a shout-out to the O.G. He’s hit a wild .391 with 3 HR in 23 AB the past week, raising his season line to .291 with 8 HR and 1 SB in 268 AB.
While that cumulative total may not seem so exciting in 10 and 12-team formats, in the past month or so he’s become a truly different hitter, and has stopped wasting his hard contact on the ground and adding enough lift to hit laser beams into the stands. He still doesn’t manage a lot of barrels, but his raw power (maxEV 113 mph) is evident. It’s too bad he doesn’t take more advantage of his 90th percentile sprint speed in stealing bases too, but right now he’s just circling them. In 12-team AVG formats, you better snatch him up before he’s O-Gon.
T.J. Friedl (OF, Cincinnati Reds)
He takes your salty fantasy loss and throws it in the vat, and gives you a delicious fried L. Terrible puns aside, he’s a true man of mystery. He’s T.J., but he has no J. in his first name. What’s the J. for? He walked on his college team. He made himself ineligible for the draft because of a paperwork mistake. And here he is, with 6 HR and 6 SB, making quite the fantasy ruckus. In deeper leagues, he’s been so on fire that even teams that know nothing about him have scooped him up, but he’s worth riding in shallower leagues with what he’s shown so far since we have just a couple weeks left after all. If you are in a tight race and want to thread the needle, you must befriend the Friedl.
Josh Jung (3B, Texas Rangers)
As the saying goes, only the good buy Jung. I wish my endorsement could be a bit less lukewarm than it is at this moment, but he’s shown reasons to simultaneously be excited and worried. He’s walloped two homers in just a week, and at the same time, he’s in the danger zone with a 50% K% and one of the fastest golden sombreros in recent memory. He’s in a good opportunity and with Duran being sent down to make room for him, his playing time should be uncontested. Given the sorry state of third base after the elites, he’s a worthwhile gamble in 12-team formats, but if the Ks continue and aren’t just post-debut jitters, make sure to have a backup plan.
Aristedes Aquino (OF, Cincinnati Reds)
If you don’t feel like playing the power hitter lotto, you can try your hand at a Keno. Aristedes is the same volatile, cross-your-fingers-and-hope-he-makes-contact hitter he’s always been, but right now, he’s hot. This week he’s hitting an impressive .321 with 3 HR this week, raising his season line to a still-lousy .205 with 8 HR and 2 SB in 205 AB.
In some sense, he’s actually worse overall than he was in previous years, with his 37% K% and a 6% walk rate that’s nearly half of his rates over the past few years. Still, having half of those homers (4) over the past two weeks is a good reminder that he hits homers in bunches, and if you play in NL-only or 15-teamers and are in need of power in the worst way, you’d be bananas to let him slip. I’m not so sure he’s a great OBP option this year despite his prior track record, but you’re here because you’re selling out for power, so just know you can come up a champion or totally empty-handed and relapsing after going to A.A.
Jonathan Aranda (1B/2B, Tampa Bay Rays)
He’s buzzing like that old sports game show with Max Kellerman because he’s been Aranda horn. He’s performed well in (extremely) limited time and small sample size, and to me, it’s been maddening that the offense-starved Rays haven’t found a role for him even when their team partnered with local infirmaries with how many injuries they sustained. He was one of my favorite targets this year after his massive campaign in the minors last year hitting over .315 at every stop with above-average pop which he mostly repeated this year. Given the surprise of his breakout last year, repeating it at Triple-A is a bigger deal than many realize.
However, even after getting big pinch hits, he wasn’t getting a regular role, But it seems after he whacked his first homer and played in both games of a doubleheader, that he’s finally getting a shot. He has just a 26% O-Swing% and solid 80% contact% to back his plus-barreling ability, so I think he can definitely be a .300+ hitter with another dinger or two in the final week. Despite the fact that he plays defense like a little leaguer, he should get moved around to rack up intriguing position eligibility in some leagues. He may soon qualify at 3B as well and is a fine option in both AVG and OBP-based 15-team formats.
Matt Thaiss (C, Los Angeles Angels)
He did the impossible and moved from first base back to catcher thanks to his trunk-like legs. That’s why I think you can catch lightning in a bottle with Thunder Thaiss. I had doubts about his playing time initially, but then I took another look at how Max Stassi has been doing lately, and let me tell you, it’s not pretty. And I’d tell you but then I’d have to look again and that could cause problems for my acid reflux. What I can say is that Thaiss has been much better, hitting .350 with 2 HR in 20 AB this week, raising his tiny sample season line to .313 with 2 HR in 32 AB.
In leagues with 1-game eligibility, Thaiss is fun as he has 3 games at the hot corner and 2 at the cold corner. His strikeout rate is still dangerously high, though at least Statcast supports him hitting for decent average and power. If you’re starving for production at catcher, you can certainly do worse than take a gamble on the former first-rounder. Kickoff happy hour and enjoy your Thirsty Thaissday in deep two-catcher leagues and AL-only formats.
Mark Vientos (3B, New York Mets)
Look who the Spanish-speaking winds blew in. I’ll readily admit to not being a big Vientos fan despite him hitting .280 with 24 homers in 427 PA in Triple-A, and that’s mostly because he has been unable to get his strikeout rate below 28% in the majors, which honestly makes it a bit surprising he was called up at all. While I fully recognize that it’s laughable to point to a player’s per-pitch stats after just 6 AB, I’d consider it “not great” that over that span he has a 63% O-Swing% and 50% Contact% rate. Too bad he doesn’t qualify to have the highest Swinging Strike% of 35% and a CSW of 53, which is 35 backwards.
While that does show the obvious risk in taking him, he has a few things going for him, one of which is that he does seem quite capable of hitting for power and already got his first barrel. It also helps that he’s at 3b, which has been quite the talent-starved position that makes a guy like Vientos rosterable. Add in all NL-only formats and spec in 15-teamers if you have room on the bench for him.
Luis Robert (OF, Chicago White Sox)
If I’m going to be bold to the point of being crazy, I may as well do it when there are two weeks left of baseball and literally anything can happen. I’m well aware that he was a first or second-round pick, and his production per at-bat makes him still look like a stud for next year. But I’m just thinking of these two weeks, and I just don’t trust the White Sox or Robert’s health. He’s been battling lingering hand discomfort and Tony LaRussa has hardly gone short of saying he’s bullying him to play through the pain, which is certainly a genius idea. While he’s hitting .292 with 12 HR and 11 SB on the year in 367 AB, he’s hitting .053/.100/.053 in 19 AB over the past two weeks with no homers or stolen bases. He’s on the active roster, but I’d expect him to miss games and hurt your team when he’s in for the most part, and maybe hurt himself in the process. In 10-teamers, you have many other strong power-speed options that lack the same upside but whose safety makes them much less risky options.
M.J. Melendez (C, Kansas City Royals)
Melendez has been in a M.J. Malaise. I would have been less surprised if he had a season more along the lines of Cal Raleigh, with a poor average but still huge power, which I think was fair to expect after he hit a major-league-leading 41 homers in Double-A last year in his age-22 season. But the power has dried up and the hits have stopped falling, and he’s now hitting just .179 with 1 HR in 56 AB in the past 3 weeks, dropping his average to .219 with 15 homers in a near-full season of 384 AB. Given the fact that Salvador Perez is back and regained his mojo, there’s enough reason for him to lose playing time, but even with at-bats, he’s hurting more than helping. I’d cut him in all 10-team leagues and 12-team average leagues for Raleigh, Haase, or maybe even Jansen at this point, though MJM grant may still have a bright future.
Lars Nootbaar (OF, St. Louis Cardinals)
Nootbaar got too hot and turned into a chocolatey, noogaty puddle. I still love him and the changes he made, but he’s definitely regressed in the past few weeks. While he does have two taters over the last 2 weeks, his .094 AVG over his last 32 AB has been just brutal. If you’re in an OBP league, the .211 OBP hasn’t been as devastating, but he basically needed to continue at his previous level to be more than 15-team viable in AVG leagues, though his ridiculous 15% walk rate makes him worth holding onto in 12-team OBP formats as he is still drawing walks and that raises his Nootflaar, I mean floor.
Gavin Sheets (1B/OF, Chicago White Sox)
It was so recently that I said you should buy Sheets, but those sheets are no longer white after he wet the bed in his late-season opportunity. He’s facing fewer righties in terms of matchups, and he failed to capitalize on the ones he did face. After his impressive surge, he’s now hitting just .097/.194/.129 in 30 AB over the past two weeks, likely undoing whatever good he did for teams who picked him up, and perhaps then some. Essentially now the White Sox have every reason to start Andrew Vaughn over him when they’re able. Give him the axe in all 15-team leagues, and some AL-only formats depending on how dire it is on the wire.
Jose Barrero (SS, Cincinnati Reds)
He’s helping everyone appreciate how hard it is to make contact with a ball. His 45% K% is just downright laughable, and he’s been so awful that you’re actually better with nothing. On the season he’s hitting .160 with 2 HR and 3 SB in 125 AB, which makes it pretty surprising and sad that he’s still receiving regular playing time (and still striking out in half of his at-bats. I’m in one league where I’m completely out of FAAB and no bench, and I decided to start an empty roster spot to keep him on the bench and keep my team’s batting average from getting dragged down.
Max Stassi (C, Los Angeles Angels)
Well, this should do the trick to make him a backup for the rest of his career. He’s hitting just .100 with 1 HR in 30 AB over the past three weeks, bringing him to a .186 AVG and 8 HR in 306 AB. He must be getting hitting instruction from Jeff Mathis. If you’re rostering him for some reason, you should cut him before I finish this sentence.
Feature image by Michael Packard (@CollectingPack on Twitter) / Photography by William Purnell & Nick Wosika / Icon Sportswire
Haase’s latest hot streak was even more isolated than the one in July – a ridiculous two-day surge Sept. 9-10 where he had 8 hits in 10 AB, with 3 HR and 4 RBI. Other than that, he’s hit .217 with 1 HR and 10 RBI since Aug. 1, a pretty rough stretch to ride out for those two days of production (assuming you were even starting him). As for Friedl, he’s been hot but don’t expect much in the way of SB, only one of those since June 9 (three of his steals were bunched on consecutive days May 11-13).
Hey BB, I appreciate your input! While it’s true it was mostly concentrated in a two-day span, it also seems a bit unfair to him to say that “other than those two amazing days, he’s been mediocre”, since statistically it’s the same as if he had the hits/homers spread out over two weeks. If you remember how poorly he started off the season, you’ll realize he’s actually been a batting average asset from june onward, especially at catcher where the bar is quite low.
The Friedl example is more apt I think, since certain MLB catchers (Pirates, Nationals come to mind) are very easy to steal bases off of. Still, for a rookie, willingness to attempt stealing is important, so it is a good sign at least.