Buy & Sell 4/18 – Identifying Who to Add and Who to Drop

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

Welcome back to Buy & Sell, where this week the hangover from last’s week’s mad waiver wire panic has started to lift, and reveal before us a whole new dose of waiver wire panic. But hey, this time there’s slightly more rate stabilization, so it’ll be different, right? Try to remember that half the players everyone is rushing to like people trying to tip over a ship won’t be in the conversation two months from now, but I’ll try to separate the wheat from the chaff and the whiffs from the champs. Try to remember though that power does usually take a long time to stabilize, so don’t lose your mind if your favorite player hasn’t homered as much as you like yet. It’s still pretty rainy and cold, y’know. Also, sorry for all of the Orioles’ love, I literally couldn’t help it. On to the list!



Colton Cowser (OF, Baltimore Orioles)

It’s Cowser Time! Yes, I imagine Cowser to be the National Dairy Association’s final boss for Mario. The reality is due to his prospect name and the mad April scramble, he’s probably not available in most formats, but even though he’s this week’s most added player, he’s still just 53% rostered in ESPN leagues, so check your 10-team wire. Normally I’d preach caution and “it’s only April”, but he does have legit reasons to get excited.

The biggest thing driving Cowsermania is the surge in his power, having already demolished his previous MaxEV of 110 mph with an 114 mph mark, ranking him among the upper echelon of sluggers in terms of raw power. The game power has also showed up big with a 17% barrel% and 55% HardHit%, and it certainly helps that he raised his launched angle a bit to a more healthy 10 degrees on average. We still don’t really know how much he’ll run, but it’s quite likely that he can hit 30 homers with a solid batting average in a stacked lineup, whereas last week he was mostly riding the pine.

That said, I think if you manage to add him, you’d be wise to gauge the market for him as you could take advantage of the hype: if you have the chance to flip him in a two-for-two for a struggling Kirby, Pablo López, or Gausman, for example, I’d pounce on that. Why? Well, for one, it’s still very much April. Two, he’s still currently in a platoon, and could end up looking not so far from peak Joc Pederson for that reason. Three, his contact rate still isn’t great at 68%, with a 32% CSW%, so he does have some batting average downside. Still, while I wouldn’t dole out triple digits in FAAB leagues, he’s worth an add in all leagues.

Michael Busch (1B/3B, Chicago Cubs)

“Busch is so good” is a sentence I only expected to say back when I was in college. Still better than Milwaukee’s Best, which made me fear whatever was Milwaukee’s Worst. Busch has done much of what Cowser has done to boost his stock but with less fanfare, despite homering in four consecutive games. Busch hasn’t displayed the same massive raw power yet with a 109 mph MaxEV, but he’s arguably been as good or better in terms of consistency, with a 21% Barrel% and 55% HardHit%. I’m in the minority here, but I think I may be even more bullish on Busch.

Unlike Cowser, Busch has actually had both strong quality and quantity of contact, with an improved 76% Contact%, with all of the improvement coming from a jump in Z-Contact% from 83% to 87%. His SwStr% of 11% is good even for a non-slugger, and I adore his swing decisions (patient on balls, aggressive on strikes) with a 26% O-Swing% and a 74% Z-Swing%. That combines to a 25% CSW% that is excellent for a slugger and gives him lots of chances to make loud contact. First base is surprisingly a rough position around the league in the early going, but I think Busch will be a roster mainstay and can hit 30 tanks with a .260 average and useful multi-position eligibility. Add in all leagues, and if he’s rostered, I’d try to buy high.


Iván Herrera (C, St. Louis Cardinals)

It looks like baseball may have a new quality catcher named Ivan, though I don’t think we can call this guy Pudge. Herrera wasn’t expected to be a major factor at least until the second half but he made the most of the opportunity given by the Willson Contreras hand injury, hitting .270 with 3 homers in just 41 PA. While it’s very early, I’ve seen enough to expect him to be a top-15 catcher the rest of the way, and finding a catcher mainstay like this is quite a Herrarity.

Why? Well for one he hits the bal harder than most catchers, already having laced a ball 112 mph, not to mention 6 barrels (19% Barrel%) and a 47% HardHit%. With numbers like those, he already demonstrated he can go toe-to-toe offensively with the elder Contreras, though the team has already announced they’ll keep him up even when Contreras returns thanks to his talent display. The other thing that has me excited though is a strong 78% Contact%, something that sets him apart from other slugging catchers like Cal Raleigh and Francisco Alvarez. It’s even better that he makes great contact in the zone with 92% Z-Contact%. The one thing I don’t like so far is his swing decisions, as he’s been too aggressive on balls (39% O-Swing%) and too passive on strikes (60% Z-Swing%), though I think he’ll work that out with more reps.

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

This is my second time already on the young season writing about him as he’s O’Hearned a promotion. Although his playing time on the strong side of a platoon has made him less desired, I really think there’s a lot less separating him from Colton Cowser than people realize, and he’s a heck of a lot cheaper.

O’Hearn thus far actually shows more in common with Busch as his maxEV is merely above-average at 109 mph but has an excellent 15% Barrel% and 50% HardHit%. If that fails to impress, consider his average exit velocity of 104.4 mph. But what has me most giddy about him is his sizeable improvements in plate discipline, since that’s near it’s first stabilization point, and he has even better swing decisions than Busch, with a stingy 19% O-Swing% and assertive 70% Z-Swing%. While his overall contact% is the same as last year at a strong 80%, the Z-Contact% has improved a bit to a career-best 90%.

While Mountcastle has also been hot, I don’t think the Orioles are still planning to push O’Hearn aside for young talent as his production is as good or better than the most optimistic projections for the next wave. If teams are still hesitating to add him due to the playing time factor, add him now in 12-team formats, and I’d even consider as a spec in 10-team OBP. While it’s still too early to make much of expected stats, in case you’re still wary, here’s what Statcast thinks of his current .333 AVG and .689 SLG%: “Unlucky!” His xBA is .411 and xSLG is .858 (gotta love April stats). Feel better about jumping in now? Good.

Jordan Westburg (2B/3B, Baltimore Orioles)

I know the Orioles were going to be good this year, but this is getting ridiculous. Westburg has had a fantastic week along with his orange-feathered friends and now is rocking a .316 AVG with 4 HR and 2 SB. I wish I had stuck to my preseason sense that people were too strongly weighing Westburg’s middling debut in his projections despite what had been one of the better power-hitting campaigns in the minors last year, as he had hit .295 with 18 HR in 301 AB in Triple-A with a .272 ISO before his .144 MLB ISO. Last year he at least showed some raw pop with a 111 mph MaxEV, but this year he’s doubled his barrel rate to a solid 13% with a splendid 63% HardHit% and 95 mph average EV.

He does have some downside as he does seem to be selling out for this increased power, as his contact rate has plummeted to a dangerous 64%, after having a healthier 76% Contact% in 2023. I think everyone can agree they prefer the 2024 Westburg, but it does give him higher risk of streakiness which could be a bit harrowing with 2B-eligible Connor Norby waiting in the wings. Still, I think his playing time is safer now than in the preseason, and the dual position eligibility makes him especially useful now and a great injury replacement for Ozzie Albies in shallow formats. Add in 12-team formats.


Edward Olivares (OF, Pittsburgh Pirates)

If you already missed out on the names higher on this list but looking for someone who could potentially be the next big riser, you can take a chance here. Results may Olivary. The outfielder may be most well-known for knowing the road to Omaha and back, but I think he’s definitely shown enough to remain on a major league roster, and break out of this current 4th-outfielder/super-sub limbo. I mean, his surface stats are a solid .286 with 3 homers in just 45 PA, and he’s on the Pirates, so this shouldn’t be too hard, right?

Olivares’ batted ball quality is a bit puzzling, as unlike the other guys, his exit velocity, max and HardHit% are all about the same as last year, but his barrel% of 18% is more than double his career rate (6 total barrels). That could be a fluke, but I think one factor could be his increased launch angle to 15 degrees, though it’s actually not because of an increase in flyballs, but rather due to an explosion in line drive rates with a 33% LD%. That’s probably unsustainable, but I do also like that he’s increased his swing aggressiveness while slightly improving his contact to 80%, giving him a career-best 22% CSW% that’s among the league leaders. His poor defense will always put extra pressure on the bat, but I think he can at least be a solid .280-..290 bat with 15-20 HR and a handful or two of stolen bases, which is more helpful than you realize. I expect him to easily outproduce Michael Taylor and Connor Joe by season’s end.

Austin Wells (C, New York Yankees)

All’s Wells that ends Wells. The young catcher hasn’t exactly continued his hot spring, hitting just .103 with no homers in 28 AB (37 PA), and still stuck in a timeshare with Jose Trevino. That being said, I think that this may be your perfect opportunity to buy low on Wells. Statcast says he’s the unluckiest hitter in the majors, and that instead of .103 AVG & SLG% (yes, they’re the same) he’s rocking a solid .257 xBA and .547 xSLG. Those expected numbers are sterling… ahh now I’m sad Wells never got a good cheesy nickname from the recent retiree.

Looking at his peripherals, I don’t think this is a fluke and think he could sustain solid production. He’s already smacked 4 barrels, good for a 16% Barrel%. The high soft contact rate and high oppo% rate may limit power, but it’s still too early to judge that. But as for contact which stabilizes quicker, he’s been excellent with an 82% Contact%, though it’s propped up a fair deal by a very high O-Contact% of 73%. Oh, maybe that explains the high Soft% rate.  As a player with a lack of track record, he’s exactly the type of player to target low, although of course there is some risk that Trevino takes over before Wells gets the chance to turn things around. I think the payoff as a potential catcher who can hit for both batting average and power is worth it though.

Deep Leagues

Jacob Young (OF, Washington Nationals)

This Jacob will ladder you up the stolen base ranks. He’s still pretty under the radar, as the probable/possible #9 hitter for a pretty lousy Nationals’ team, but he managed to get 6 stolen bases under everyone’s noses. He’s only hitting .229 right now, but for all the hype around Brice Turang, I managed to get him for free in a 30-team dynasty. He’s got no real power to speak of, with only 6 homers across the minors and majors last year (none coming in the majors), but aside from running he does one other thing well – he puts the ball in play.

Young is rocking an excellent 89% Contact%, with a 78% O-Contact% and 94% Z-Contact% that is among the best in the game. He also deserves much better than his current 3% walk rate as his 26% O-Swing% is pretty good, though perhaps it’s in part because pitchers feel more comfortable challenging him in the zone. Still, with fantastic 5% SwStr% and a 22% CSW%, I think he’ll maintain a decent batting average as he’s both fast and puts the ball on the ground. If you need stolen bases, here’s a guy who can get you a lot of them without tanking your batting average like a Mallex Smith.

Gabriel Arias (1B/SS, Cleveland Guardians)

His recent production makes me want to play the trumpet while singing self-contained pieces of music, Gabriel’s arias, if you will. Oh, you won’t. Shoot, didn’t plan for that. Arias seems to be rather rapidly taking over for the sleeping bat of Brayan Rocchio and getting the results, hitting .313 with 1 HR and 1 SB in 33 PA. Heh, all 3s and 1s, just like my FAAB bids. Arias got my attention last year mostly for being a 23-year-old who, despite lots of contact problems, still hit a ball 114 mph. This year, he’s looked like a totally different player, though he’s still in the Voros McCracken window of “anything can happen in 60 PA”.

Arias is actually putting the ball in play among the best of them, thanks in part to a much-improved 76% Contact% (with a 87% Z-Contact%, a significant jump from his 65% contact% last year). But the other factor is his hyper-aggressive swing rate, with a 49% O-Swing% made up for with an insane 87% Z-Swing%, giving him one of the league’s best CSW% at 21% (a far, far cry from his 31% CSW% in 2023). He’s still hitting the ball fairly hard with a league-average 8% Barrel% and is lifting the ball more with an average launch angle of 14 degrees, though the hardest ball he’s hit so far is just 107 mph. He could be a sleeper for a usable average with 20 homers and a handful of stolen bases to go with an unusual and useful dual eligibility.



Bo Naylor (C, Cleveland Guardians)

I think Bo may not be ready fo the sho. In my preseason Guardians preview, I warned of a splitting of the brothers, as I labeled older brother Josh Naylor a sleeper while Bo was a bust. In that, I pointed out that although Bo finished strong and had surprisingly good contact numbers, he actually hit the ball with very little authority. Well, this year, he’s doing the opposite of Arias, as he seems to have reverted to his all-power, no contact mode. Shame that he doesn’t have an in-between mode.

The 24-year-old’s strikeout rate has ballooned up to 39%, a massive jump from his 24% last year, and it’s mostly been earned with a poor 68% contact. Perhaps that could work with a very aggressive approach on strikes, but his plate discipline is far too passive with a terrible 58% Z-Swing% that counters any good from his 24% O-Swing%. At least he hits the ball harder, with a career-best 47% HardHit%, but he’s not hitting more barrels at 9%, and his MaxEV is below league average at 106 mph. Statcast thinks he’s earned the bad numbers, but the real reason he’s cuttable is the competition. There are so many interesting catchers this year that a handful of stolen bases isn’t worth the headaches he’ll give you, even if he manages to hold off Austin Hedges and David Fry eating into his playing time. Cut in all 10-team leagues and consider cutting in 12-team AVG leagues.


Ke’Bryan Hayes (3B, Pittsburgh Pirates)

Hayes is once again proving to be that guy that takes your preseason excitement and leaves you sitting alone and Ke’ryan yourself to sleep. Perhaps I’m being overdramatic, but the main reason we decided we were bullish on Hayes again as a fantasy cotributor instead of just a defense-first real-life asset was his increase in launch angle. It’s still early, but right now his groundball rate is 57%, with a career-worst launch angle of 2 degrees. But the other thing that bothers me doesn’t involve the bat. It’s been 79 plate appearances, and he has yet to steal a base, or even attempt one.

In the course of the season, I’m sure he’ll be fine, but if you’re still thinking he’s perfectly viable in 12-team formats, perhaps you should take another look at the projection. ZIPS projects him for single-digit homers, and aside from ATC, all the others have him in the 11-13 homer range with a similar number of stolen bases and a .260 batting average. I wouldn’t expect a hitter performance like that to be in the top half of the Pirates’ lineup, and just really doesn’t cut the mustard with stolen bases being so commonplace. I’d cut in 10-team formats and consider cutting in 12-team formats that have a solid hot corner option on the wire (Jordan Westburg, for example).

Oswaldo Cabrera (3B/OF, New York Yankees)

After seemingly being everywhere, in the first weeks of the season, his production has faded into the background so much it’s like playing Where’s Oswaldo? The overall line is still decent, as he’s hitting .294 with 3 homers, but I left him off my early buy list because I didn’t expect the early production to last, and I expect him to fade further. Much further. And yet, he’s currently being started in 48% of Yahoo leagues and rostered in 66% of them. Sell now while you can!

The main reason I didn’t like him is that he’s still not hitting the ball with any authority, with a below-average 32% HardHit%, but it gets worse from there, with a puny 104 mph MaxEV, and a 2% barrel%. He has made a big improvement to his contact% this year, with a career-best 86% Contact% and a great 6% SwStr%, but thanks to his passiveness at a plate his CSW% is the same 25% as last year. In general, I see him as a rather fungible Will Brennan/Ernie Clement/Tyler Freeman type with a friendlier ballpark but without the speed. Though as long as he’s playing, his dual eligibility makes him startable in deeper leagues, he doesn’t have (and never had) any business on 12-team rosters other than trade bait. He was just here to bring the coffee.


Willi Castro (2B/SS/3B/OF, Minnesota Twins)

You can’t steal first base. Like some other Twins’ hitters, he’s been a wreck, with a horrific 44% K% that would be a total non-starter even if he did have big power (he does not). His contact% is a career-worst at 68%, but he’s also allowing a career-high amount of called strikes at 20%. He’s still playing for now with Carlos Correa being the latest to hit the shelf, but he’s only dragging you down. If you need speed that badly, I think it’s time to roll the dice on Jacob Young or even a young high-risk Jonatan Clase. In all leagues, at least until he gets right, it’s time to free Willi from your roster.

Deep Leagues

Austin Hays (OF, Baltimore Orioles)

I apparently just hate players with this last name as my sell list has two horrific hitter homonyms. Yes, I’m in a phase of malaise with Hayes and Hays. I was fading Hays entering draft season as his hard hit rates and expected stats didn’t line up at all with the decent 2023 surface numbers, but it seems now the bottom has dropped out at an inopportune time. He’s hitting just .077 with 0 homers and 0 stolen bases in 42 PA, and it’s looking like more than just a fluke. For a guy reputed as a contact guy, it’s pretty troubling that his contact% is a career-worst 69%, and his average exit velocity is also a career worst 85 mph. By the time he figures it out (maybe), one of the Norfolk cavalry will arrive with electric guitars to blast Purple Haze as they Usurple Hays.


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 4/18 – Identifying Who to Add and Who to Drop”

  1. RowdyFellaz says:

    The references are a bit much but great stats

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