Welcome back to Buy & Sell, and after getting lambasted in Reddit comments about a claim I made I want to apologize. I was foolish to suggest that Eloy Jiménez was a sell because he would end up hitting the IL again with some random injury any day now. I haven’t been following the White Sox all week out of sheer humiliation since I know he homered the day I posted the article, so I’m sure he must have 10 more by now on his way to the MVP. But aside from him, let’s focus on some of the other guys I really have been wrong about, as well as some who appeared more or less out of nowhere. On to the list!
Considering he was compared preseason by many experts to Alex Verdugo, it seems clear we massively mistook Masataka. I’ll take my big fat L as well, as I didn’t draft him in a single league and unwisely called him a 10-team drop after a rough start. It’s almost as if players coming from another country might need a bit of time to adapt. Despite hitting .167/.310/.250 in his first 58 Plate Appearances, he’s been one of baseball’s hottest hitters since… he’s now all the way up to .308/.377/.496 with 6 dingers and 2 stolen bases in 134 PA.
It’s not just a fluke either, as he’s meaningfully improved his xwOBA, with a truly fantastic .487 xwOBA over his past 50 AB, the 6th biggest improvement in the MLB over that span but also the highest p50 xwOBA in the majors right now, and nearly as high as Adam Duvall had in his red-hot Red Sox start. This may be a situation to buy high as his xBA of .309 and xSLG of .537 validate everything he’s done and suggest even better may be in store. His 112 mph maxEV shows he has big raw power, and even though his current average launch angle is 2 degrees, that’s a fair improvement from a few weeks ago when it was in the negatives. For a hitter who at 5 foot eight is shorter than me, I wasn’t expecting this much power to go with his batting average, but with a near 1/1 K/BB ratio and power to all fields, he’s apparently a Red Sox international signing that will look smart (I’m still jaded after Rusney Castillo, okay?)
It’s also encouraging to see that he’s already stolen two bases, as I’d imagine stolen base ability to the MLB doesn’t come so naturally, and yet he hasn’t been caught stealing. That said, I wouldn’t expect more than a handful more the talented outfielder, as his 23rd percentile sprint speed indicates he’s really not fast enough to get the green light regularly, although it’s interesting that a few other slow Sox have also stolen a few (Emmanuel Valdez has similar sprint speed and has 3 bags). In the shallowest leagues it’s possible he was dropped early and can still be scooped up, but this is more to tell managers in leagues in which he’s owned that he’s worth “buying high” and trading for him.
It’s been a fun time in North ChiTown already with Mervis, but they were offense-hungry enough to say “Please sir, I want some Morel”. While Mervis was the bigger name early in the preseason, Morel should be the one earning more hype after his huge numbers in Triple-A, complete with a stunning .330/.425/.730 line with 11 HR and 4 SB in just 134 PA. Pacing for a full season of Triple-A Aaron Judge, is, in the terms of prospect evaluators, absolutely dope.
It’s easy to forget that Morel, despite the relative lack of pedigree relative to Mervis, is actually the younger prospect as he is still just 23. So although I have some concerns about the fact that last year he got beaten often in the zone, with one of the lowest Z-Contact% in the majors (69%), I’d still bet on the talent to assume that should improve in his second go-around along the likes of Patrick Wisdom, who I think is a decent comp for the kind of impact Morel might make, although his numbers may not be quite in the same shape.
If I want to be pessimistic for a moment (I don’t, but I need to be), his minor league line, while it certainly looks better on the surface than his 2022 Triple-A foray, he actually had a worse and notably concerning 31% K% and was boosted by an unsustainable .429 BABIP. So even though he had a nice debut with a homer, this profile still carries a ton of risk. But given that he also has the ability to go 20/20 over the rest of the season and is second-base eligible (with dual outfield eligibility and possibly 3B down the line), he’s worth taking a flyer on and hoping he hits some flyers over the fence. And I’m not just saying I want him to punch Philly fans who also like hockey. Add in 10-team category leagues with batting average and points leagues that favor power/speed combos over walks.
I’m glad I called Chicago and he was finally brought back after speaking with a Customer Mervis Representative. Although his demotion was rather puzzling, even moreso the signing of Hosmer and Mancini, Merv kept the pressure on high after hitting .286/.402/.560 with 6 HR in 112 PA in Triple-A, and unsurprisingly Hosmer has been okay but boring and Mancini has been bad, leading to the call. Sure, in his limited time (22 PA) on the Cubbies, he hasn’t done much, hitting just .190/.227/.190, but I definitely think that will improve.
One of the criticisms he’s received by experts is that he doesn’t have great exit velocity given his homer total, so I consider it encouraging that he’s already tattooed a ball 111 mph. He has the launch angle for barrels, but needs to find it more consistently. And has for his plate discipline, in his small sample he’s been less disciplined than one would expect, and he’ll need to get that right to make up for his sub-par contact rate. Still, given his easy 30 homer high OBP upside, he’s worth sticking with, even if you feel like you need to bench him in the short term (and I’m not saying I would). Add in all 12-team formats.
J.J. Bleday (OF, Oakland Athletics)
Grabbing a hitter in Oakland may feel as fun as cleaning the toilet, but he’d at least be a J.J. Bidet. He’s certainly bid us a good day with a marvelous .379/.419/.793 line with 3 homers in 31 PA, which is quite a line from a so-called former prospect who seemed to lose his shine as was traded for failed starter prospect turned plus reliever A.J. Puk in the offeseason. Bleday signaled he made a big change in Triple-A, where he hit .316 with 7 homers, but more notably, a 17% BB% and a 13% K% over 119 PA, which is huge considering his K% was 27% at Triple-A in 2022. He may as well have thrown 2022 Bleday through the announcer’s table, because God as my witness, that K rate is broken in half!
As glad as I am about his splashy start, the times probably won’t continue to be this good. He’s still at least for now getting most of his starts on the strong side of a platoon, and while he has a great 46% HardHit%, he still only has one barrel. But what about the plate skills, Ben? Well, they’re better…kinda. His 78% Contact% is definitely an improvement over his 74% mark last year, it’s just a little underwhelming given what he did in Triple-A… but I suppose it always is the more cartoonish version, or arcade mode, of reality. He does have a good blend of plate discipline with a low O-Swing% and relatively high Z-swing% giving him an excellent 24% CSW%, so I think he could definitely be a solid 15-20 HR bat with a good OBP and the odd stolen base, which is quite useful in 15-teamers and might have weeks of usefulness in 12-team OBP when against lots of righties. If you’re hurting in outfield, don’t delay, grab Bleday today.
Little Nicky is fighting a demon that possessed his appendix, but it’s his replacement’s bat that’s ready to burst out. Try not to have your judgment affected by the last Royals third baseman named Maikel, as Garcia is more likely to fulfill his talent with underrated skills across the board. While he’s usually regarded just for his speed, as he did steal 39 bases in the minors in 2022 (just 8 CS), it’s actually the rest of his game that has me more intrigued.
Let’s start with the part that’s more apparent, his bat. He’s hitting a solid .267/.314/.333, which isn’t bad for someone who just turned 23, but I’m thinking this may the nadir of his batting average which makes him a great buy-low if you missed the boat on scooping him. His xBA of .347 certainly seems to agree, as does his .547 xSLG. But wait? I thought he wasn’t supposed to have power, and he hit just 1 homer this year in the minors… what gives? Well, despite a lack of apparent raw power (105 mph MaxEV), he’s hit the ball hard consistently with a 48% HardHit% and a 7% Barrel% (two barrels) with a high rate of line drives (24%) and flyballs (41%). It’s with fewer barrels, but it reminds me a bit of Michael Massey last year, although that also means that the park is likely to steal some big flies from him… it already turned his two deep flies into doules.
If the power numbers don’t overwhelm you, I think you need to view it in the context of his plate skills, which sure seem to be elite. Despite a pedestrian walk rate, his current 18% O-Swing% is similar to Jack Suwinski’s when his hype train started, and the somewhat passive 60% Z-Swing% is decent given that context. He’s punished pitches on the plate with a 94% Z-Contact% and a 90% Contact% overall, which is good for an Arraez-ian 4% Swinging Strike rate. With even moderate power combined with some speed (although it’s not elite raw speed) and that kind of batting eye, he could turn into the next Nico Hoerner. Add in all 15-team formats in which an impatient manager already cut him after a bad few days, but also strongly consider in 12-team OBP leagues.
Maybe this is the day I stop mixing up Tyrone Taylor and Trayce Thompson. Definitely wasn’t this Sunday when I spent my FAAB on the wrong guy. The other double-T has had a solid but not splashy start since his return from the IL, hitting .231/.222/.346 with 1 HR and 3 SB in 8 games (27 PA). I would argue that perhaps the trio of stolen bases does actually add to the intrigue, but I’m more interested in the rest of what’s under the hood.
Although he hasn’t hit any barrels yet, and his hard contact is down some, he still deserves better than his .208 BABIP, and I expect barrels to come. His 106 mph MaxEV is fine for now (though I’d like to see him approach his 110 mph 2022 mark soon), and has a well-balanced mix of liners, flyballs and groundballs. But maybe the pulled punch is intentional, as he’s rocking a noticeably better contact rate this year. Although his K% is unlikely to stay at its eye-popping 7%, it’s validated by improvements in contact rate, with a contact% that improved to 84% from just 75% last year. Granted, more of the improvement came from balls off the plate, which may be a factor in the low BABIP. Still, it’s a good thing overall, and should give him more opportunities to steal bases, since the free swinger is unlikely to get on base via the walk with a 40% chase rate
The 29-year-old is running out of time to establish himself, but he has a good opportunity here as the regular left fielder for the time being, and stolen bases should at least help him establish his value in fantasy leagues if nothing else. For teams looking for a solid power speed bat with a higher floor, Taylor is your guy, who may outproduce the flashier names that commanded more FAAB but may ultimately be more likely to fall flat.
I love the new Bauers since he’s basically reinvented himself from a James Loney type to a Joey Gallo type overnight. I mean, this is Jake Bauers, and he smacked a ball 114 miles an hour! What! The problem is, as I alluded to, he’s striking out 40% of the time in his tiny sample of 15 PA, and that’s not such a coincidence if his 65% Contact% and his even worse 38% CSW% have anything to say about it. And he’s fighting for playing time scraps now with Bader and Judge healthy again. So why am I suggesting to consider him anyway?
Yeah, I blame Statcast. Their small sample expected stats are of course silly and not to be taken too seriously on their own, but still, behind his humorously odd .167/.267/.667 line with 2 homers is an xSLG of .758, and more shockingly, an xBA of .327. Yeah, that’s broken. Or is it? Although it does show similarities to Gallo’s early season “improvement” that really wasn’t so much, it’s worth noting he does have an insane 57% Barrel% and 86% HardHit%. Basically, he’s refusing to swing unless that pitch is more mashable than a tech blog. And maybe, just maybe, that can lead to a huge streak in these hot summer months. He’s ideal in leagues with a bench and DFS, but in AL-only his good days may make him worth weathering in the short-term. After all, when it comes to deep league hitting, there’s the right way, the wrong way, and the Max Bauers way.
Stassi went down. O’Hoppe came in. Then O’Hoppe came in. Then O’Hoppe went down. Then Wallach came in. Then Wallach went down. Thaiss, if you don’t stay in, you’re going down. With his main competitor for playing time down, you may assume he’ll get full-time reps, but don’t forget he’s still not a cromulent backstop so he’ll probably lose some playing time to whatever scrub they call up from the minors. But he’s done well while in, hitting .310 with a homer in 42 AB, and an even hotter .419 with a 5/5 K/BB in 31 AB the past two weeks (and .538 this week). That’ll do.
He’s likely to also get some reps at DH and maybe 1B which can give him some rather unhelpful but not altogether useless eligibility, and his .289 xBA and .492 xSLG indicate that they don’t think his limited performance thus far has been all luck. Given his 70% Contact% the strikeout rate will go up, but with a 20% O-Swing%, he should at least draw some walks. He’s a fine play in all AL-only leagues as well as a solid streamer or injury replacement in 18-teamers or even tw0-catcher 15-teamers. After all, what better to support your team’s dead weight than Thunder Thaiss.
Look, I really hope this is the last time I have to mention him, since that would mean Cardinals management stops panicking and makes decisions like normal, rational adults. But given what I’ve seen of the team and of Oli Marmol so far, I’m not so sure that will happen. The Cardinals, in the first year of a five-year contract, have apparently banished Willson Contreras to some position other than catcher, as if it’s all his fault that the pitch-to-contact rotation is getting whooped by players in a more high-octane offensive environment. Clearly I’m stalling because I don’t really want to talk about Knizner, who should not be relevant were he not thrust into full-time reps. But here we are.
If you really just need plate appearances, he’ll be okay, as you can do worse than his .220/.250/.360 line. Still, while his contact rate is down nearly 10%, his barrel% is up to a nearly 10% with his 4 barrels, which may be a sign that he’s trying to sell out for power. While I think guys like Thaiss will likely amass more value even in less playing time, in the deepest two-catcher formats, he can make for a sneaky accumulator.
Don’t blame me, blame the toppling House of Cards. Willson getting thrown off catcher takes one of St. Louis’s biggest problems (too many mouths to feed at OF) and makes it worse, even with Tyler O’Neill out. Since Contreras isn’t great at fielding any non-catcher positions, unless the team admits they were being dumb and impulsive and reverts course (which I doubt), he’ll probably clog up the DH spot, which seemed to be the safe zone for Gorman considering that he’s facing competition at 3B (Arenado, obviously) but also at 2B (Edman, though he can play OF).
The good news is that Gorman IS playing for right now, but we do need to acknowledge that as much as I still love his bat and high barrel rate (15%) that he is still in a mild offensive funk, hitting .189 with 3 HR and 2 SB over the past 3 weeks and just .111 with a homer and a bag this past week. His total line of .255/.346/.518 is still solid, but now may be a good time to cash in while he’s still getting mostly regular reps, since he’s one cold streak (with a rival’s hot streak) away from falling into a strict platoon, or worse, as a super-utility backup.
The good news is that he’s at least stealing bases, with 6 so far this year. The bad news is that kind of matters less than ever, and that also that seems to be the only good news. Giménez was a consensus top 100 pick entering this year for the potential for power, speed and batting average but he flashed last year, but he was also labeled as a bust risk, and now the power and average bubbles seem to have popped. He’s hitting just .214/.288/.317 with 2 HR with the aforementioned 6 SB. It’s not great when Jon Berti is having a down year and handily outproducing that.
But wait, power can come in spurts, so he’ll be fine, right? Ehhhh… when your barrel rate is 1%, that’s not looking so likely. Although the K% of 19% and the BB% of 5% are similar to last year, they’re still not that good, and it’s worse when you dig deeper. He’s swinging at more balls and fewer strikes, and on top of that, he’s making contact with more balls and with fewer strikes, which explains the quality of contact drop. Speaking of drop, he was also dropped in the lineup, which especially hurts his run scoring chances on a rather tame Guardians lineup. It’s easy to forget how bad he had been in 2021, and he may be regressing towards that… and that’s something you definitely don’t want to roster in 10-team formats and 12-team OBP formats. You’ll have plenty of other speed options on a 10-team wire, so it’s time to move on-drés.
It might be time to start buying back speculative McCarthy shares. I really thought Thomas was due to break out after he posted solid barrel rates and excellent plate skills, as well as expected stats that said that despite hitting under the Mendoza line that he deserves to hit .300. Well, it looks like he’s gotten his unjust desserts, as he’s still hitting below .200 and the expected stats have come down to meet it. He’s hitting just .196/.259/.333 with 2 HR and 3 SB. That smarts, Alek.
That’s why we need to remember that it’s descriptive and not predictive… before he may have been unlucky but now he’s just been bad. Even though his peripherals are still solid, and he’s hitting .364 in 11 AB this week, given the relative lack of short-term upside, only the defense has kept him getting playing time, and he may run out of time to hit his way into securing a regular role before Thomas gets run over like a Tank Engine. If I still rostered him in 15-teams, I’d probably already be dialing the mayor.
In a sense, this is basically just a way to squeeze in the opportunity to say that I also like Zack McKinstry and also Andy Ibanez more than Schoop. And I like a pile or chewed gum on the bench more than him too. A one-tool power guy in a bad park for power, who’s not hitting for power, he’s hitting just .193 with nary a homer in 57 AB, which almost makes Miguel Cabrera’s line look passable. Almost. Sorta. Ok not really.
Now with competition that can Swiss army knife their way into carving out chunks of his playing time, it’s looking like his days in the majors may be nearing an end, and we may not even get a one-month Schoopening like usual. I’d feel worse for him if his name was pronounced “shoop” instead of “scope”, but hey I don’t make the rules. Cut in all non-Worstball formats, and shoot from the hip with a 360 No-Schoop.
Featured Image by Ethan Kaplan (@DJFreddie10 on Twitter and @EthanMKaplanImages on Instagram)