Welcome back to Buy & Sell, where I’m happy to announce that my own adds and drops have earned me a playoff berth in the Pitcher List Legacy League. Unfortunately, I was still negotiating to acquire the first player on this list before the midnight trade deadline struck and I got left with stinkin’ Gary Sanchez. Well if your trade deadline hasn’t come yet, or even if it has, there’s still room for a savvy manager to ride out some big Septembers for the stretch run. On to the list!
Will Smith (C, Los Angeles Dodgers)
I do hereby declare that the Fresh Prince is now the King. I know he’s not exactly waiver wire fodder, as he’s rostered in 75% of leagues. But if your trade deadline hasn’t passed yet, do whatever you can to acquire him, because he should be the second-best catcher this year, if not the best. Sure, he was streaky last year, and his current line of .246 with 6 Homers is fine for a catcher and not turning heads. But he’s been one the year’s unluckiest players according to Statcast, which says he deserves an xBA of .316 and xSLG of .658! Sure, that’s descriptive and not predictive, but even with a small 78 PA sample size, there are several signs the 25-year-old is making his star turn. For one, he’s hitting the ball much harder, as his 94 mph exit velocity is 3rd best among hitters with over 50 Batted Ball Events, and 15th-best Barrels/PA. Not only that, he’s dramatically improved both his contact and plate discipline, bumping his Contact% from 77% in 2019 to 87% in 2020 and dropping his O-Swing% from a great 25% to a mind-blowing 13%. If he can maintain these changes, he’s a slower Mookie Betts at the catching position. Add in all leagues and blow the other team away with an offer, Big Willie Style.
Brandon Belt (1B/OF, San Francisco Giants)
I never believed them. The Belt truthers. Year after year they said greatness was coming, and we laughed. Well look who’s belting now. He’s mashing to the tune of .460 with 4 Homers, 13 R and 12 RBI over the past 3 weeks, bringing him to a season line of .330 with 7 Homers, 18 R and 19 RBI in 97 AB (114 PA). Yet his history of disappointment has caused him to be rostered in only 45% of leagues. So, let me take the Belt love up a notch. Out of nowhere, Belt is posting the 2nd-best Barrel/BBE in baseball at 20%, so Statcast thinks he’s been legit with a .299 xBA and a bananas .683 xSLG. The projections still expect him to hit just .260 with 2 HR the rest of the way, but I think he’ll crush that as he’s made real changes. His Max eV is over 3 mph higher than last year, and he’s pulling the ball at a career-high rate, while bringing his launch angle down from 22 to a more ideal 17 angle. With dual 1B/OF eligibility, his final few weeks could help win you the title. Add in all leagues.
Victor Reyes (OF, Detroit Tigers)
I hate most conspiracy theories, but I can’t help suspecting that Reyes secretly traded places with Victor Robles. After all, he’s hitting .311 with 4 HR, 24 R, 12 RBI and 6 SB as the Tigers’ leadoff hitter… that’s basically what we imagined a best-case scenario for Robles would be like. And yet, Reyes is still only rostered in 46% of leagues. He’s been especially hot as of late, hitting .414 with 2 HR, 6 R, 6 RBI and 1 SB over the past week, and making me feel good for recommending him as an add earlier in the season. He’s ranked the 88th most valuable player in Yahoo and Statcast thinks he’s legit, as he cut his K rate and hit for a career-best exit velocity of 90 mph. Add in all 12-team AVG formats, and stream in 10-team AVG formats (or 5 OF leagues) or 12-team OBP formats while he’s hot.
Rowdy Tellez (1B, Toronto Blue Jays)
Pete Alonso is the Polar Bear, Tellez is the Grizzly Bear. The late-blooming legend has improved from a rough start with a big Rowdy Rally, hitting .364 with 5 HR, 13 R and RBI apiece in 55 PA over the past 3 weeks, bringing him up to .291 with 8 tates on the year. While his barrel rate has dropped from last year, he has a higher hard hit rate than last year, and has the hardest hit ball of the year at 117.4 MPH. More importantly, he has drastically improved his strikeout rate. This seems to be mostly due to him improving his Contact rate from a mediocre 71% to a more solid 78%, though that’s not enough to explain his drastic K rate reduction from 28% to just 16%. I noticed that early and it hasn’t regressed as expected all season long, so it’s worth looking into if he’s developed a better two-strike approach. With the combination of playing home games in a little league field, getting to face the Red Sox little league rotation again, and having the ability to hit for big power and average, Rowdy’s worth riding in all 12-team formats and 10-team AVG leagues. And if you’re reading this Josh (my brother who refused to trade me Tellez in our home league), I hope you’re happy.
UPDATE: Tellez going for an MRI on his knee. Wait and pray that Big Blue is okay. Instead, I’ll give a slightly less enthusiastic recommendation of underrated masher Adam Duvall.
Brad Miller (3B/2B/OF, St. Louis Cardinals)
Why must you continue to play with our emotions like this, Brad? Yes he’s burned us in the past, but I can no longer overlook what he’s doing with the bat. The journeyman is hitting .291 with 5 HR with 1 SB, 14 R and 20 RBI in 98 PA, working that Cardinals’ devil magic. But it’s not all smoke and mirrors, as he’s rocking elite rates in both power and average, with a 15% Barrel%, .312 xBA, and .602 xSLG. And since he’s walking more than ever with a 17% walk rate, his xwOBA of .443 is in the top 1% of the league. That being said, his contact rates and hard contact rates seem in line with last year, so I’d expect a .270 AVG with 2-4 HR down the home stretch. He’s a viable streamer in 12-team if on your wire (50% rostered) but with his multi-position skills he’s a must-add utility/bench player in all 12-team OBP formats and starter in 15-team formats.
Randy Arozarena (OF, Tampa Bay Rays)
Aroza by any other rena would swing as sweet. The 2019 power/speed question mark has made a huge splash, hitting .471 with 4 Home Runs and 5 SB in his first 17 ABs, which I would argue makes a pretty compelling case to keep playing. He’s obviously not going to keep that pace up, and Statcast gives him a more believable but still excellent .294 xBA and .662 xSLG, the latter due mostly to his 3 barrels already. While it’s an incredibly small sample size, he may be selling out for his power as his contact% is down to 64%, which makes him look a bit like an OF Keston Hiura. Still, his speed is real with 95th percentile sprint speed, and combined with the power, he carries lots of fantasy intrigue and is a must-add in 15-team leagues. However, you can hope to play the hot hand with him in deeper 12-teamers that use AVG. Side note bold prediction I think he’ll produce more like 2019 Austin Meadows than 2020 Austin Meadows. Other side note: the PL database misspells his name as Arrozarena, which in Spanish translates to “Rice Sand”. Just thought you should know.
Ke’Bryan Hayes (3B, Pittsburgh Pirates)
I feel like a fool for overbidding on him in The Great Fantasy Baseball Invitational and running out of money to spend on Tellez, forgetting the majority of KeBryan’s prospecty sheen is due to his defense. Still, that should guarantee him at-bats, where he’s been surprisingly solid. The good news is Hayes has hit the ball quite hard, with a 97 mph exit velocity and a 110 mph max eV that suggests he has huge power ability right now. He also can barrel with 2 of them already in just 19 ABs. The bad news is his 31% K% and a .252 xBA that suggests he’s been a bit lucky. But the more good news is I think his strikeout issues are very overblown and will improve. He actually has a very high contact% of 87% that suggests his strikeout rate deserves to be half of what is is currently, especially with his healthy 75% Z-Swing%. While I’d still rather have Tellez, I think Ke’Bryan is the better sleeper at just 8% Rostered. Scoop him in 15-team formats and hope Ke’Bryan goes Ke’Boom. Like in a good way, I’m not hoping he spontaneously combusts.
Raimel Tapia (OF, Colorado Rockies)
Why did the Rockies acquire Kevin Pillar, another crusty veteran to block young talent? There’s no Raimel or reason. Still, Tapia’s playing time still seems safe-ish, and you would think someone hitting in front of Trevor Story and Charlie Blackmon would get more attention. Raimel may never fulfill his loftiest prospect dreams, but he’s hitting .311 with 1 HR and 4 SB. And while he’s overperforming a bit, I do think he can continue to maintain a solid average to go with a power/speed combo, and has made some notable improvements from his disappointing 2019. The big change is he’s cut his swinging strike rate nearly in half, from a concerning 15% to an excellent 8%. That’s thanks to making significant improvements to his contact rate (82%) and O-Swing (32%). His extreme 57% groundball rate severely caps his power upside, but provides him better opportunities to get hits and steal bases. This, combined with his leadoff role, makes him a good add in 15-team AVG leagues and all deeper formats, and he’s rostered in only 8% of leagues. Though if you prefer more power and less speed, Pillar’s your guy to get.
Edward Oliveras (OF, Kansas City Royals)
He’s no longer the one who asked for more at-bats: Olivares Twist. Now on a new team, he’s taken over as the Royals center fielder and has started strong, hitting .389 with 3 R and 4 RBI in 18 ABs to bring his total season line to .255/.281/.400 with 2 HR in 57 PA. He does have a rather high Max exit velo of 109 mph and a 95th percentile sprint speed, so even with some contact issues, he has the raw tools to be a sneaky power/speed threat. Add in 18-team AVG leagues and all AL-only leagues, but he may be even worth a power/speed stream in deep 15-teamers.
Daulton Varsho (C/OF, Arizona Diamondbacks)
He’s sinned against fantasy teams, but he can get a fresh start later this month once a rabbi blows the Varshofar. He’s hitting just .143 with 1 HR and 1 SB in 54 PA, but Statcast suggests he wasn’t quite that awful with a .191 xBA and .351 xSLG. Okay, that’s still pretty awful. Still, he’s the rare catcher with power and speed ability, and while he’s struggled with a 31% K% backed by a 68% Contact%, based on his 14% K% in Double-A in 2019, I think he’ll improve with more reps, and the out-of-contention D-Backs seem intent on giving him just that. With how bad catcher has been, what do you have to lose? Add in all NL-only 18-team or two-catcher formats, and monitor in 15-team to see if he stops hitting like he’s on Junior Varshity.
Javier Baez (SS, Chicago Cubs)
It doesn’t matter what his name is. It’s time to say “Baez Felicia”. He’s hit a disappointing .204 with 6 HR, 20 R, 18 RBI and 1 SB in 168 PA, crushing managers who took him in the top 3 rounds. He’s continued to hit the ball as hard as ever, but his already bad contact rate got even worse, down to a career low 63%. It seems he’s also just failed to make quality contact, with a significant drop in both Barrel rate and Sweet Spot%. Shortstop remains a very deep position, so you really don’t have to settle for this. Cut in all 10-team formats as 12-team OBP formats.
Joey Gallo (OF, Texas Rangers)
Look, I get why you can’t drop him. You fear as soon as you do, he’ll hit 3 homers. Sure, maybe, but maybe those will be his only hits for the rest of the season. Gallo has left fantasy leaguers hanging with a .181 AVG to go with just 8 HR and 2 SB, and I think it’s more than just bad luck. His xBA of .206 and xSLG of .446 suggest that as well, and it’s mostly because he simply isn’t hitting the ball hard enough to make up for his whiffy ways. His barrel rate went from a career-high 26% in 2019 to just 16% this year, with his average exit velocity also down 3 mph from his elite career avg of 94 mph to a merely good 91 mph. Much like Javier Baez, this is why it’s risky to depend on players who cover big flaws with hard contact. In 10-team formats and 12-team AVG formats… though I’d cut him in most OBP formats unless I really needed power. Even in Texas, it’s time to toss out your ten Gallo hat.
Robbie Grossman (OF, Oakland Athletics)
Color me shocked that Robbie Grossman went from performing like a stud to performing like… Robbie Grossman. Were this a regular season, we would’ve just chalked up his performance to April randomness. His season line of .265/.400/.529 with 4 HR and 5 SB still looks not bad on the year, but he’s still hitting .214 with 0 HR and just 1 SB over the past 3 weeks. That’s closer to what I’d expect going forward. You can simply do better in 15-team AVG leagues, though you may want to hold in OBP since even when he can’t hit, he still gets walks.
Ender Inciarte (OF, Atlanta Braves)
Look, I get you want speed, but you don’t have to degrade yourself like this. Inciarte was never a power hitter, but his exit velocity has dropped from a poor 84 mph career to a laughable 78 mph this year. He hasn’t even his a single ball over 99 mph. He still provides elite defense in real life, but for fantasy purposes, throw Inciarte into the Incinerator.
Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire
Hey Ben, would you take Varsho or Bart in a dynasty OBP league?
I’ll preface this by saying I don’t play in dynasty leagues… But even so, you have to go for Bart if you’re in contention, especially since he’s an OBP god. If you’re not in contention, then Varsho since I’m skeptical Bart will maintain this level into 2021