Welcome back to Buy & Sell, where today’s theme is: the September call-up frenzy that wasn’t! Thank goodness for Gavin Lux (spoiler alert), who himself wasn’t expected to have any role. But it seems this year many of the more interesting names forced their way onto rosters already, and aside from Lux, there really is a lack of impact talent getting playing time this September.
Though I should give a shout-out to Sean Murphy (C, Oakland Athletics), who impressively bounced back from a torn meniscus to hit .308 with 10 home runs in just 140 plate appearances in Triple-A Las Vegas. Remember that the best starters to bet on are the ones currently in tight playoff and Wild Card races, as the surefire teams will likely give their studs more rest to keep them fresh for the playoffs. On to the list!
Gavin Lux (2B/SS, Los Angeles Dodgers)
As if the Dodgers needed something else to go right for them. The deLux package has been phenomenal this year in the minors and vaulted himself from a sleeper to an elite impact prospect after hitting a combined 26 homers while hitting over .340 with 10 stolen bases in 523 at-bats split between Double-A and Triple-A. While offensive explosions at Triple-A are rather commonplace, the fact that he was able to largely replicate his success at Double-A makes me a lot more bullish on it being legit, especially when you consider he’s doing all this at just 21 years old. Not only does he hit the ball fantastically well, he also draws walks, averaging double-digit walk rates every year while keeping his strikeout rate reasonably low for such a young player. While he was initially expected to be nothing more than a “ride-along,” injuries have opened up his path, which makes him an instant must-add for his potential five-category production at one of the weakest positions in second base (assuming he qualifies there). I’d expect Ozzie Albies-like production as a floor, which is a testament to his ceiling. Add in all leagues in which winning is important.
Mallex Smith (OF, Seattle Mariners)
He’s relatively available for someone on pace to easily be the major league stolen base leader. Although he’s now at 39 stolen bases, he was relegated to many 12-team waiver wires after several prolonged slumps and getting sent to the bench for poor defense and mental lapses on the field. But he’s heating back up again with a .303 average and eight stolen bases over the past 21 days, hitting .375 with three stolen bases just this week. On the season, he now has a .241 average with six home runs, 65 runs, 35 RBI, and 39 stolen bases, and while that’s not as good as his 2018 numbers, the stolen bases alone make it worth weathering the meager production in other categories. Home runs are about three times more common than stolen bases, and with so many speed-only players flopping this year (Billy Hamilton, Dee Gordon, Ender Inciarte, Jose Peraza) he’s a must-own in 12-team formats and even 10-team category formats, provided you have room to make ground in the stolen bases category.
Kyle Schwarber (OF, Chicago Cubs)
The Schwarber of Schweville has been cutting up opposing pitchers. It’s hard to believe we’re in an era where players with more than 30 homers are still on 12-team waiver wires, but he’s just 57% owned in Yahoo despite hitting 32 homers—and he’s been picking up steam lately this week, hitting .350 with two taters. It’s unlikely there’s any skill change as his hot streaks and cold streaks seem to all come with the same 30% strikeout rate, and he provides no help in average or stolen bases. Still, playing in the Cubs’ loaded lineup, he’s managed to be a solid run producer with 66 runs and 76 RBI, with 15 RBI the past 21 days. As frustrating as he can be to own, he should still be owned and started in 12-teamers in which he’s still available while he’s seeing the ball well.
Kolten Wong (2B, St. Louis Cardinals)
For a player who has been largely steady, he’s certainly been a bit of a roller coaster ride in terms of his perceived fantasy value. But although he inevitably cooled down from an impossibly hot start, he’s been an underrated asset because of his bat and fleet feet. Right now, the Redbird is red-hot with a .414 average with two home runs and four stolen bases over 58 at-bats the past 21 days, hitting a bananas .600 this week. It’s not all smoke and mirrors either, as he’s improved with a .363 xwOBA over the past 50 at-bats. For the season, he’s now hitting .288 with 10 home runs and 19 stolen bases (caught stealing twice), and in this current scoring environment, a player such as Wong is super valuable as a 20-plus stolen base guy who isn’t a liability in the other categories. While he’s not an exciting option, he will likely outproduce flashier names and be a must-start in 12-team category leagues, and while he’s less desirable in points leagues, he certainly still is viable.
Anthony Santander (OF, Baltimore Orioles)
Originally, his value came from being thrust into a cleanup spot. Now, he’s looking like a bona fide cleanup hitter. While he’s still just 34% owned in Yahoo, he’s hitting a studly .354 with five homers and 12 RBI over the past week, which raises his season line to .293 with 16 home runs, 38 runs, 47 RBI, and a stolen base in 304 at-bats. He hasn’t just been getting lucky as he has a .383 xwOBA over his past 50 plate appearances, up from a .249 xwOBA over his previous 50 plate appearances. Although he’s outproducing his expected average of .275 and xSLG of .461, teams in need of both average and power would be wise to scoop the 24-year-old breakout as long as they don’t mind that he seldom walks. While he’s likely owned in all 15-team leagues, he’s worth scooping in 15-team OBP formats in which he was ignored and worth streaming in 12-team average formats, though 12-team OBP league owners should search elsewhere.
Kyle Tucker (OF, Houston Astros)
He’s your ultimate high-upside, high-risk gamble, but for him, the only high risk is that he mostly rides the pine. For everything that’s made the Astros look brilliant, it’s somewhere between puzzling and maddening that they’ve continued to trot out the mediocre Josh Reddick while Tucker’s tantalizing ability has largely been wasted in Triple-A, and the Astros has clarified that even in September, they aim to get him as few at-bats as possible. So unless a crazed fantasy owner is going to Tonya Harding his way into causing an IL stint to get Tucker playing time, he’s unlikely to make a huge impact, but teams looking for a Hail Mary play may as well hope the Astros come to their senses and let his prodigious power/speed combo shine. It’s worth an outsider’s shot in 15-team leagues, but unless a path to regular playing time is clear, that’s the shallowest I’d gamble on him.
UPDATE: After Springer’s scary injury yesterday, Tucker now does have a clearer path to playing time in the OF. He’s now viable in deeper 12-team as a spec add for his upside, but I’d still wait for him to show something in the majors first and then pounce.
Jake Cave (OF, Minnesota Twins)
The Cave man has been clubbing the ball, hitting .263 with five homers over the past two weeks. However, for this week, his average is just .185, which accurately reflects the kind of player he is. Although he makes excellent loud contact with a 90.6 mph exit velocity, his 33% strikeout rate is the exact same as last year and makes him entirely dependent on his ability to hit the longball. But if power is exactly what you need, he can be useful as a fourth or fifth OF in AL-only leagues or for streaming for home runs in 18-team leagues while he’s in the lineup.
Mark Trumbo (DH, Baltimore Orioles)
He’s back for a Trumbo triumphant return. He got his return off with a bang with an RBI double and a few RBI, but don’t rush to gamble on another 40-plus homer pace. He’s essentially admitted that he’s playing through an injury, so that could limit his power output to his 2017 level—and he could be playing half as often. He is unlikely to take the field and may struggle to play on back-to-back days, which unfortunately only makes the former slugger only viable in AL-only and DFS formats, where he still may make for an underrated matchup play.
Hunter Dozier (1B/3B, Kansas City Royals)
The Hunter may soon become the hunted. On the surface, he seems to be doing fine, hitting .280 with two home runs and seven RBI this week to raise his season line to an excellent .280/.356/.542 with 24 home runs, 65 runs, 75 RBI, and two stolen bases. But while that’s a great story from an April afterthought, he’s mostly benefited from luck lately with a poor .277 xwOBA over his past 50 plate appearances and a below average .315 xwOBA over his past 100 plate appearances, down from .383 in his previous 100 plate appearances. The high average masks that it’s been steadily sliding down from his first-half mark of over .300, so he’s really been a below-average option at a deep third base position in the second half. It’s never easy to suggest dropping a 10-team hitter as they’re all pretty darn good, but Dozier is currently over-owned at 74% when that mark should be below 50%. Cut in all 10-team formats, though he’s probably just good enough to still be worth holding onto in 12-teamers unless there’s a third base stud on your wire.
Oscar Mercado (OF, Cleveland Indians)
At least for this year, he seems more like an Oscar Bodega. The bare essentials but nothing too wholesome. He’s been ice-cold as of late, hitting just .122 with no home runs, an extra-base hit, and a stolen base over 41 at-bats the past two weeks, bringing his season line to a .266/.315/.419 with 10 home runs and 12 stolen bases in 346 at-bats, which may not sound bad until you realize that looks just like the typical ho-hum production of Kevin Pillar. He’s still 26% owned, likely because of his speed, but there are likely stolen base options with higher floors. Statcast thinks he’s been a bit lucky with the homers with a .387 xSLG, thanks to his below-average 86 mph exit velocity. While his speed is still elite, he’s getting pushed out of guaranteed full-time at-bats with the arrival of Franmil Reyes and Yasiel Puig while he still fights off Jordan Luplow, Tyler Naquin, and now Jake Bauers. It’s time to drop him like he’s cold in 10-team and 12-team formats, especially in OBP leagues.
Mike Tauchman (OF, New York Yankees)
It turns out Tauch was bright but was washed away like Sidewauch Chalk. Even while recommending him as a streamer last month, I pointed out that none of the Statcast numbers supported his supposed breakout at all, much unlike they mostly supported the breakouts of other Yankee unknowns such as Giovanny Urshela and Mike Ford. Regression has hit him hard, as he’s hitting just .226 with no home runs, a stolen base, and just four runs and four RBI over his past 21 days, and with several previously injured Yankees about to rejoin the club, it’s time to toss Tauchman back into the magical Yankee scrub waters from which he was fished out. Cut in all 12-team, 15-team, and even 18-team formats.
Willi Castro (SS, Detroit Tigers)
Yep, I’ll do an about face on Castro like the Abe Simpson GIF of putting his hat on the rack and walking back out the door. Although Castro still has a bright future as a prospect, I find his lack of plate discipline disturbing, with a 36% strikeout and just 3% walk rate (just one walk) in his first 37 majors league plate appearances. It’s not like he’s providing power with an exit velocity below 85%, so it’s no surprise he has a terrible xBA of .176 and xBA of .271. Even in 18-team and AL-only leagues, you likely won’t do worse taking someone else for a spin.
(Photo by Russell Lansford/Icon Sportswire)