Buy & Sell 4/11 – Identifying Who to Buy and Who to Drop

Ben Pernick recommends the hottest and coldest hitters to add and drop.

Welcome back to Buy & Sell, where it’s two weeks into April and half the teams may have already ragequit due to devastating injuries (pitchers moreso, but still). Their pain is your gain if you can be sneaky on the wire and try to avoid overreacting to small samples (especially with surface stats), but also not get complacent as there is intrigue all around, and the first weeks of the season is where the most hidden value hitters are found. Take a deep breath, pat yourself on the back for not staring at the eclipse, and dive in, because it’s time for the list!



Jarren Duran (OF, Boston Red Sox)

Look, I try to write for the savvy fantasy leaguers, but I have to acknowledge that ESPN leagues still exist, and there he’s only 41% rostered. Which is crazy. While teammate and April breakout star Tyler O’Neill is getting more attention thanks to his 6 home runs (and O’Neill is still just rostered in 54% of ESPN leagues as of this writing), Duran is showing that he’s capable of being an elite fantasy contributor. This is especially the case in Roto leagues, as his 6 stolen bases carry his profile, but he’s hitting plenty well too with a .326 AVG and one dinger to go with 6 R and 5 RBI. Boston is scrappy again and they’re running wild, you love to see it.

Given that he’s already entrenched himself in the leadoff role in Boston ahead of some lethal sluggers, I’d expect him to score many more runs, but I think the underrated part of his profile is his batting average. While I do have concerns about his contact rate, which actually dropped to 73%, he’s hitting the ball harder than ever, with a 53% HardHit% and 9% Barrel%. What that means though is that he will have his hot and cold streaks, as he showed us last year. Still, I think he can finish the year hitting around .300 again with over 35 stolen bases, double-digit homers (I’m thinking 12-15), which makes him essentially somewhere between last year’s Nico Hoerner and Trea Turner in outfield (yes I know there’s probably an outfielder with this type of line, but I don’t care). He just needs to hold that leadoff spot even when the slumps hit, but I think he already Duran away with the role.

Christopher Morel (OF, Chicago Cubs)

Trust players who hit the ball really, really hard, and improve the rest of their game around it. That’s the Morel of the story here. I’ll admit I was burned by him last year after buying his hot start and then enduring the brutal ice-age-level chill, but it helped that his swing decisions improved by year’s end. This year, Morel has been seeing the ball much better, and it shows in his line, with a strong .300/.333/.525 line with 2 homers in 42 PA. But what gets me really excited is his strikeout rate which is down to just 12%, a big drop from last year’s 31%, and I actually think it’s more than an early April fluke.

My favorite players are those who are aggressive on strikes, even knowing it usually entails more aggression on balls. But Morel has managed to have what may be the highest Z-Swing% minus O-Swing% around, with a hyper-aggressive 88% Z-Swing% but somehow with a disciplined 28% O-Swing%. That in itself would be impressive, but he’s also managed to also improve his contact rate from a fringy 65% to 82%. That’s well above league average, and for a player with Morel’s batted ball ability, is tantalizing.  You gotta love a hitter among the league leaders in CSW% (20%) and also rocking a double-digit barrel rate. I know these rates will regress, but I think this is so many standard deviations of rate stat improvement that it’s likely a sign of a new ability level. I could see a Nick Castellanos 2023 kind of season from him, though if he can keep this improbable plate skills improvement at this level, he could even approximate the outfield version of another player with similar approach and power, Corey Seager. If that upside doesn’t excite you, you’re in the wrong fantasy sport.

Jordan Walker (OF, St. Louis Cardinals)

I get that managers are getting nervous, especially after his Tuesday benching, but I still have hope you can pick him up from a panicking owner and he can turn it around. While he’s currently hitting just .182 with no homers or stolen bases and a 28% K%, it’s worth noting that he’s hitting the ball just about the same as last year, with the same 10 degree average launch angle and similar hard contact (a higher 92 mph avg eV and slightly lower 39% HardHit%). But where I’m least concerned is the plate discipline, since he actually is swinging at more strikes and fewer balls with a similar 73% contact%, so while he has the same poor SwStr% of 15%, thanks to his selective aggressiveness, his CSW% of 24% is a big improvement from last year’s league-average 28% mark. It’s a risk, but targeting him in a trade right now could pay off for a guy with easy 25-15 ability, at least if you have a bench you can put him on until Walker regains his footing.


Ty France (1B, Seattle Mariners)

France is having a revolution. But the only thing getting murdered is baseballs. France may not be taken seriously still after a dreary and rather dreadful 2023 in which he hit .250 with only 12 homers over a full season, but… (cue the four words fantasy players love to hear) “He went to Driveline.”. Weirdly, it didn’t get him almost any preseason hype,  and even though he’s hitting a studly .379, he’s still being too often ignored, perhaps due to the total lack of homers. But they will come. He’s currently rocking a superb 57% HardHit% and 13% Barrel% that’s double his career average. And still, he’s managing to hit this hard without losing his typically high contact rate, perhaps due to instead being more selective. This could be the season he hits .300 with 20+ homers, or perhaps instead .280 but with 25+ homers, both of which make him an underrated first baseman who was falling after pick 250 but could easily outhit the young trendy sluggers drafted over 100 picks before him. Give France a Chance in all 12-team formats.

MJ Melendez (C/OF, Kansas City Royals)

MJM Studios also has a roaring lion, and the movie is just starting. Melendez had a year to forget last year, getting moved off catcher for good and being pretty terrible until the final month of the season. But one thing he did all year was hit the ball hard, and this year he’s finally getting the results that befit someone who had HardHit% of 50% even in a bad year. The 25-year-old is hitting the ground running hitting .323 with 3 homers, and I like a lot more than just those surface stats. He already has 6 barrels (an elite 25% Barrel%) and a 55% HardHit%. His strikeout rate has been better at 21%, and while I don’t see a significant difference in his plate skills (though slight improvement across the board), I love that he can hit the ball so hard without sacrificing contact. With an average eV of 95 mph, the HardHit% threshold, he’s hitting the ball among the hardest on average of any hitter. In leagues where has has C eligibility (Yahoo for instance), he’s an obvious must-add in all formats. But even without it, the post 250-pick outfielder could be one of the game’s best 30+ homer breakouts.

Heston Kjerstad (OF, Baltimore Orioles)

Given that he’s one of the top prospects in the game, is 25 already, and multiple Baltimore outfielders are struggling, it’s just a matter of time, and you should stash him now if your league allows due to his gargantuan power (6 homers already in Triple-A) that could play even in Baltimore… operative word is could. This is very league and format dependent, but if you have room on your bench, get him now before it’s too late. Take Kjerstad now, at my beheston.


Josh H. Smith (3B/SS/OF, Texas Rangers)

The guy with a career batting average of .190 could be the next Luis Arraez, and I’m not Joshing you. The recent minor league call-up has somewhat surprisingly usurped Ezequiel Duran of the lion’s share of playing time at the hot corner while Josh Jung is out, and it’s not flashy, but what he’s done has been incredible. He leads the league in O-Swing%, a fantastic 12%. He also leads the lead in contact% with a ridiculous 97% mark. If you know baseball math, you probably also guessed that he also leads the majors in SwStr% AKA whiff rate, but I’m guessing you don’t realize how good it is. Just 1.2%. 24 PA or not, that’s crazy. Last year this guy had a 24% K% and a solid but unspectacular 8% SwStr%.

So you probably guessed that he sold out his already limited power to be a slappy singles machine, right? Actually, the opposite! His 47% HardHit% is excellent and better than his career rates (last year he had a 36% HardHit%), so at least early on, he’s managed to hit the ball hard a lot. So it’s actually a bit disappointing that he’s only hitting .316 with no homers or stolen bases, and Statcast thinks he deserved better early on in average with a .376 xBA. But what’s even wilder is what Statcast thinks of his solid but unspectacular .421 SLG%, as they said he deserved a .617 xSLG. Again, this is Josh H. Smith. Expected stats are mostly baloney this early, but you can’t not find that at least a bit intriguing.

Although he’s bound to regress, I do think there’s a chance we have a .300/.420/.450 bat with about 10 homers and multi-position eligibility, and that’s useful in a lot of leagues… I think he could basically be a higher-contact version of Brendan Donovan. But if he manages to keep both the contact and the crazy plate discipline up (again, this is unlikely), there’s an outside shot in him being not just an Arraez-type (since Arraez doesn’t walk) and more of a Wade Boggs,  but with triple eligibility. Yeah, I should probably stop writing now given I just compared a largely undrafted player to a Hall of Famer. But you heard it here first.

Ryan O’Hearn (1B/OF, Baltimore Orioles)

I know he’s been a frustrating player to roster in the early going due to lack of playing time, but I believe he’s going to O’Hearn his stripes. He’s hitting a sturdy .333/.368/.667 in just 19 PA, but he’s doing everything you’d want to see in what last year seemed like a fluke. He’s hitting the ball as hard or harder than last year, with a 50% HardHit% but a superior 94 mph average eV and a raised launch angle to 18 degrees. What’s even more impressive is his improvements in plate discipline, with a career-best 7% SwStr% (10% in 2023) thanks to a big improvement in O-Swing% (17%) and Z-contact% (96%).

The Orioles lineup may be as crowded with talent as any, and he does have tough competition in Ryan Mountcastle, but I still believe he will find a way into more playing time, even if it involves a trade, and with proper run could be a .290 25 homer hitter this year. I’d at the very least hold for now in 15-teamers and 5-outfielder 12-teamers (or with deep benches), and pray for an opportunity to open up. Hey, not like that, now put away those Ryan Mountcastle and Austin Hays Voodoo Dolls!

Oliver Dunn (2B/3B, Milwaukee Brewers)

He really came relatively out of nowhere, but I don’t think his big first week of major league production is Dunn yet. He has an intriguing blend of moderate power (111 mph MaxEV), speed (2 SB, 16 SB in Triple-A last year) and on-base skills (20% O-Swing%) to be a sneaky play in OBP formats. He could be streamable in batting average formats too, but his 68% contact% and 34% CSW% show that his batting average floor is low. But if things break right, he could be a poor man’s Jonathan India, which is quite nice off your wire. Add in all 15-team OBP formats, or take as a flier in AVG leagues depending on needs.

Deep Leagues

Miguel Sanó (1B, Anaheim Angels)

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I think Sano is back, y’all. He may be the oldest 30-year-old in baseball, given his early start, his “generous carriage” and injury-marred history, but he is still 30. And he is crushing baseballs. He’s hitting .277/.407/.364, which is a fun weird line, thanks to his superlative 15% BB% rate. But you may think the power is gone due to the lack of homers. Think again. He actually not only already hit a ball 115 mph, beating his MaxEV of multiple years, he’s also rocking an excellent 23% Barrel% and downright bananas 77% HardHit%. More than three of every four balls he hits are rockets! Which is why his avg. eV is… wait for it. 101 mph.

Of course, his biggest problem has been contact rate, but somehow despite a disastrous 2022 and another year off from major league baseball, he’s seeing the ball better. His current 67% Contact% and 13% SwStr% would actually be the best of his career, and while that could certainly regress, I’m encouraged by the lack of rust. It looks like he already may be sliding into the middle of the Angels’ order at DH, and could rack up 30 homers in his sleep if he can stay there. Add now before the homers come and people take notice, and while he’s a must-add in AL-only, I think he’s a viable spec add in 15-team OBP.

David Hamilton (OF/SS, Boston Red Sox)

He’s got incredible speed, might have some actually meaningful power (homer in his debut), and now has the opportunity with Trevor Story out for the year. In Steamer600 projections, he was projected for the most stolen bases, now that they finally realized Billy Hamilton is done, though I bet even the emotionless projection system is surprised by how big the runway is in Boston right now for him to actually rack up meaningful playing time. Initially it seems he’ll be in a platoon with ho-hum Romy González (who to be fair did have a great little run in Triple-A), so he’ll need to perform to earn a bigger share and be relevant. But the massive stolen base upside makes him a worthwhile stash in 15-teamers, and worth starting in AL-only formats.

Michael Toglia (1B, Colorado Rockies)

His batting line is the Good, the Bad, and the Togli. We know the good, it’s the 2 homers. The bad is obviously the .143 AVG, and the hideous 0% BB% and 40% K%. But to toggle from surface stats to peripherals, I’m encouraged a mini-breakout could be coming. His 72% contact% is actually an improvement (though his Z-Contact% did decline), and despite worse swing decisions, still has a significantly improved 14% SwStr% (was 18%). Given that he’s already hit 3 barrels (25% barrel%) with a 67% HardHit%, the batting average should rebound. If he’s rostered by another team, you could always reference that this was his production at home and they’ll be on the road soon, though perhaps you want to wait until they’re closer to the next homestand. Add in NL-only formats, or buy low in a trade if you can.



Thairo Estrada (2B/3B, San Francisco Giants)

Trying to decipher what’s wrong with Estrada is as easy as reading an ancient Egyptian message… it’s all Thairoglyphics. And if he doesn’t turn it around, he might no longer be wearing a major league cuneiform. Sorry, I got nostalgic for ancient civilizations, I’ll stop. Anyway, Cairo Estrada has already racked up 46 AB but that just means additional pain since it comes with an ugly .174 AVG and only 1 homer, and perhaps most surprisingly, no stolen bases. I’ll admit that I avoided Thairo like the plague in drafts, since I thought his underlying metrics suggested he’s not the “safe” option people hoped for after the top second baseman were off the board, since his .248 xBA and .371 xSLG suggested he got lucky.

So far this year, the peripherals have been considerably worse, with a career-worst 72% contact rate, but what is most concerning is that his swing decisions are quite bad, with an aggressive 38% O-Swing% but a passive 64% Z-Swing%, leading to such a high called strike rate that he has a putrid CSW% of 37%. That’s 6th worst in the majors, and you can’t steal first. With poor hard hit and barrel rates (3% barrel%) I think that there’s a fair chance he’s passed by a bunch of Brice Turang-types, so I’d look to sell him low for someone who thinks this is just April panic. I mean, I’m not saying it’s not. Cut in 10-team formats and consider cutting also in 12-team OBP formats.


Brandon Drury (2B/3B, Los Angeles Angels)

Once upon a midnight Drury, I pondered why Brandon looks weak and worry. Welcome to Edgar Allen Poe-tcherlist. Drury seems lost at the plate, hitting just .175/.275/.200 with no homers in 40 PA and a .029 ISO. While I know last year he also had a rough start and had a big comeback, I tend to strongly consider career arcs and the fact is that pop-up players like Drury in 2022 often fade quickly, and I see some troubling signs. Last year may have looked similar to 2022 on the surface, but there were cracks in the foundation, with a worsening 5% BB% and 26% K%. So far this year, his biggest issues have been an excessive groundball rate of 73%, and a significant reduction in ability to handle the zone, with a drop in Z-contact% (71% from 84%) and zone swing (71% to 56%).

Sure, all of this could reverse itself, but his projections going forward show the upside isn’t really what we hoped for, with most projection systems saying he’ll hit .243 or below ROS with 22 or fewer homers. Given the fact he’s a total zero on the basepaths, I think in 12-teamers you can find someone who offers more than that on your wire, like perhaps a Brendan Donovan. Cut in all 12-team formats and 12-team OBP leagues.


José Abreu (1B, Houston Astros)

You know it’s bad when you start losing at bats to Jon Singleton. In hindsight, I feel foolish taking a bet on an aging player coming off a near-disastrous season (save for the September surge) and hoping for better in his age-37 season. But still, I didn’t expect him to be this bad. His .088 batting average does not seem to be just a fluke, as he’s 1st percentile (that’s bad) for xwOBA, 4th percentile in HardHit% at just 19%, with an uncharacteristic 32% K%. I know there’s always the chance it’s just another rough April, but given that there’s not even one part of his offensive game that looks okay right now, I don’t want to get stuck holding the bag and see if I can pivot to another corner infielder with opportunity, since, if this goes like last year, you can always scoop him up after he’s bottomed out, though I doubt he’ll get enough of a leash to make it past the All-Star break if he doesn’t turn it around. Cut in 15-team AVG formats and consider your alternatives in 18-team OBP.

Deep Leagues

Matt Wallner (OF, Minnesota Twins)

Talk about driving headfirst into a brick Wallner. Look, I really liked the 26-year-old slugger going into this year, but he’s been like, so bad. Like Domingo Santana’s debut bad, and maybe even worse. One number tells you all you need to know. 42%. That’s not the answer to everything (except how to lose a job), that’s his contact rate. 20% O-contact% and 57% Z-Contact%. That’s like, making Joey Gallo look like Luis Arraez.

The weird thing is that I liked him because last year he actually had decent contact rates for a power hitter, and it’s obviously the larger sample, but this contact rate is so beyond the pale that seems like something must be out of whack. It’s been only 21 PA, but do we really think the team, even with Max Kepler on the IL, is going to put up with that for much longer? Given that he also had a rotten spring, and he’s not even making hard contact the few times his bat did make contact with the ball, he’s at high risk of being demoted soon (especially since he still has 2 options), and it could be a while until he gets straightened out and gets another chance. I’d rather take a chance on Miguel Sanó right now,  and I’m not joking. Drop in all redraft formats, except in Worstball formats where he’s a must-have. Maybe also in Wallball formats, along with Forrest Wall, Taylor Walls, and Isaac Paredes (Paredes is “walls” in Spanish).

Photos courtesy of Icon Sportswire
Adapted by Kurt Wasemiller (@kurtwasemiller on Twitter / @kurt_player02 on Instagram

Ben Pernick

I've been writing for Pitcher List since the beginning, and have been a fantasy baseball addict now for 20 years. I grew up as a Red Sox fan in New York, but now I declare allegiance only to my fantasy teams.

One response to “Buy & Sell 4/11 – Identifying Who to Buy and Who to Drop”

  1. Buck says:

    Your pun game was outstanding today!

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