Welcome back to Buy & Sell, where this week is a prospectalooza! Of course, prospects can be quite dangerous for your FAAB, as last year many of the top FAAB bids on prospects were major busts and that FAAB could have been better spent on closers. So that’s why I’m hedging my bets by tempering expectations somewhat this year. Then again, with the offensive environment thus far in the majors, they could hit like last year’s busts and still provide a profit! Hey, it’s all relative.
But this week may be where make or break decisions happen for the rest of the season, so don’t remind me that my 2nd-place TGFBI team cut the struggling MJ Melendez two days before his call-up. Oops! Also, this week’s theme is EZ, not only because these players provide EZ value, but also because I just realized that 5 of my 8 buy recommendations have an “ez” sound at the end of their last name. Just a weird coincidence, I prom-ez. Anyway, on to the list!
Adolis made a lot of us “veteran” fantasy baseballers look like grumpy, jaded old misers the way we cast aspersions on Adolis. What a breakout this was from a no-name journeyman! Where was the love for 31 HR and 16 SB from thin air? But alas, he did have a bad second half, and his plate discipline gave off strong Danny Santana “breakout season” vibes. But I noticed in Spring Training. As his ADP dropped in the Spring, I took a few gambles based solely on the fact that in Spring Training his 6/7 BB/K over 37 PA was surprisingly decent (though this also led me to Higashioka, oops.). This season, given his 4 HR and 4 SB comes with an unsightly .207 AVG, it’s easy to assume he’s on the brink of collapse, but I’m actually encouraged he’s on the verge of a breakout.
Why? For one, he’s improved his K rate, from 31% to a passable 25%. Given that he improved both his chase rate and contact rate by 5% each, I think this is genuine improvement. Not only that, but he’s been clobbering the ball, with a much-improved 57% HardHit% and 94 mph average eV, although the barrel rate is a bit lower. Still, his hard contact deserves much better than his current .223 BABIP, which is why I’d expect him to regress towards his notably better xBA of .269 and xSLG of .505. Combined with his ability to steal 20 bags, it’s clear that Adolis is becoming what we hoped Arozarena (who was taken 100 picks earlier) would become. If he’s not on the wire in your league, he makes a great buy-low candidate in 10-team formats.
TreyMan sure is missing the raving Rabbid ball. Yes I know I’m dating myself with the Rayman reference. Trey sure doesn’t look like a shallow league add after hitting a measly .238 with 1 homer in 88 PA, making it quite easy to panic about the new Camden wall. But he’s faking the funk, as his 12% Barrel% and 53% Hard-Hit% would be career-best marks, which helps explain his incredble expected stats, with a .321 xBA and .570 xSLG. As if that weren’t enough to get excited about, he’s also improved his contact rate with a career-best 78% Contact% and 10% Swinging Strike%. Why roster a volatile Sanó-esque slugger like Franmil or Renfroe when you can get your power and average too?
Sure, it might be dangerous to get too attached to expected stats, especially given all we still don’t know about the new park, the humidors, the deadened ball and whatnot. But I do also know Baltimore will still become much more hitter-friendly as the temperatures rise, and I’d like to bet on a guy who has a strong track record of hitting for power and average improving every element of his offensive game. And while he’s not on a good offense, he’s still the cleanup hitter and at least has a few solid hitters around him. He might be my top trade buy-low and I’m scouring my shallow league wires for him, as he should be owned in all 10-teamers with batting average.
Torres’ bad luck bubble finally looks ready to Gleyburst. He certainly looked to be drawing the short straw after DJ LeMahieu’s torrid start, but thanks to both DJ’s and Gleyber’s versatility, Torres has remained a near-everyday player and seems to be rediscovering his pop, with 2 HR (and a .217 AVG) over the past week to bring him up to 3 jacks on the young season. Being on the white-hot Yankees, having a modicum of lineup security alone makes him intriguing, but there’s more reasons for optimism for the 25-year-old.
For one, he’s hitting the ball much harder, with a career-best 48% mark that’s 12% higher than his 2021 mark, and Fangraphs’s Hard% sees it as a more pronounced difference, going from a 26% hard% in 2021 to a 39% mark this year. On the other hand, his barrel rate is a tad lower and his 107 mph max eV is still a bit lacking, but this early in the season I think the overall picture remains positive. Statcast agrees as they think he deserves better than his .225 and .423 SLG, with a .295 xBA and .542 xSLG. Now we’re talking! While he’s chased more pitches so far, he’s been more aggressive in general, so in the end he still has an above-average CSW% of 26% and puts the ball in play. Given his name value, his ownership rate is likely higher than most on this list. But I also can’t quite advocate him in 10-team formats while roster resource still lists him as a backup and if he’s not hitting, he simply lacks playing time security. So hope Gleyber’s pace stays torrid.
Friends, Countrymen, Romans, Melend me your earz. Melendez was the Caesar of the minor leagues, and I was early on the MJ bandwagon as it seemed nobody was talking about his incredible season in which he hit .288/.386/.625 with 41 HR as a catcher. Later, they caught up, though I still feel he was underrated especially since that season also had him post 75 walks and just 115 K over 531 PA. As hyped as I was on the combination of elite power and impressive contact rate, it’s worth noting that he was pretty terrible offensively every other season besides the one where he became a stud out of nowhere, especially because his rough start resembles the before times.
On the one hand, it may be a fool’s errand to expect much given his limited sample struggles in Triple-A, and he might not play regularly as he was mostly called upon to back up the injured Cam Gallagher. On the other hand, the Royals’ offense would be legendarily bad right now if Oakland didn’t exist, and they have every reason to take a chance on a bat with actual thump. He’s unlikely to unseat top gun Salvy at catcher despite being a good defensive backstop himself, but the team talked about increasing his versatility and he did play two games at outfield in the minors with an 100% fielding percentage. This means very little in just 2 games and 8 chances, but it’s still better than 25% and gives hope he can get work in there.
Still, I don’t think you can fake what he did last year. And don’t forget the sad state of catcher right now, which may as well be a Lifetime Movie. So Melendez’s upside makes him every bit as intriguing as Adley Rutschman’s expected arrival, if not more. Carlos Santana just hit the IL, which certainly opens up another avenue for playing time at DH. If you’re feeling bold, he could be worth the plunge in deeper 12-team formats for both AVG and OBP. After all, he already had two hard-hit balls including a barrel in his first game. He might not like using his given first name, but with his incredible power, soon he could become a Mervyl superhero.
I know he’s talented and all, but can he really take DH at-bats from the venerable Corey Dickerson and his .182 AVG? Yep, EZ. Yepez was arguably the most intriguing of a triumvirate of older minor leaguers with monster seasons in Triple-A, and I found Yepez more intriguing than Pratto with his combination of power, average, and batting eye. In 2021 he hit .286/.383/.586 with 27 homers and a 12% BB% to go with a 19% K% over 434 PA, and this year has hit an even more eye-popping 9 home runs with a .372 ISO to go with a .279 AVG in 93 AB before getting the call. Especially in this power-drained offensive environment, that’s plenty to get giddy about.
On the one hand, it’s hard to know how long Yepez will be in the majors, and it’s still possible that by the end of this or the next FAAB period, he’s back to smashing faces in Triple-A with buddy Nolan Gorman (who is well worth a speculative add before his call-up, FYI). But the Cardinals offense, not unlike the Royals, has been jam-packing the struggle bus even before the recent Covid outbreak on the team. If the 24-year-old hits the ground running, he could have a monster debut, making him well worth the add in 15-team formats for now, or 12-team that have many bench spots. I think soon he’ll be popping out the good stuff like a YePez dispenser.
We hope that Miranda is not throwing away his, shot. No I’m not making a lazy joke that he shares the same last name as Lin-Manuel, I’m making the lazy observation that they’re actually cousins. So random! Well, this Miranda could well play the role of Hamilton- er, Josh Hamilton, that is, with a power/bat combo as tantalizing as his plate discipline is terrible. He’s coming off a season in which he hit .344 with 30 homers (and 4 SB) between Double-A and Triple-A, with a 12% K% and a 7% BB. So it may surprise you that his name was left off most 2022 top 100 prospect lists, at least until you watch him attempt to play defense. He could be Astudillo-esque in the sense that he’ll be willing to play any position poorly, but in fantasy, as long as he’s in the lineup, which he should be, he can be valuable.
Sano going under the knife is probably great news for his playing time prospects, as, like I said before, his defense is really pretty bad, though not Seth Beer bad. With Arraez the only other guy who can man 1st, he may manage to move around the diamond, as he did play over 20 games at 1B, 2B, and 3B combined in 2021 and logged 5 games at 1B in the minors this year in addition to 14 at 3B. In his first few games, he’s been Steven Kwan-ing, with a 100% contact rate but very little hard contact. Still, given his 30 dingers in 2021, I’m more encouraged by the contact than discouraged by the power for now and expect it to come soon. He’ll be among the bigger FAAB bids and well worth the gamble in 15-team formats, though I think 12-teamers can afford to take a wait-and-see approach for now.
For someone who hit literally over .500 in Spring Training, one would think a team with such a weak offense would, like, give him a chance to keep it going. LOL NOPE. Well, now they seemingly have no choice, as they just lost both Mondesi and Carlos Santana, which opens up playing time at DH. In Olivares’s last game he went 4-for-5, so hopefully, that turns up the heat just a bit, as he now sports a nifty .379 AVG with 2 SB (1 CS) in 32 PA. Send THAT, to Triple-A, Dayton Moore! (No wait, I don’t mean it!)
He lacks a standout tool, he kind of has a Benintendi-esque kitchen sink approach, with moderate power, speed, and underrated batting average upside. Not only did he hit .313 last year with 15 HR and 12 SB in just 292 PA, but he’s also looking to improve his contact rate, with a strong 86% rate this year, a nice improvement over his 79% Contact% last season. The only thing standing in his way, and the only reason I’m not more bullish, is doubts about playing time which I feel are still warranted (not fair, but warranted). Then again, if not for that, he’s probably not nearly as available, as he’s unowned in all but the deepest of formats. He’s certainly worth a speculative add in all AL-only leagues and batting average 15-team leagues as a speculative stream or stash with long-term potential.
Isaac is Parede for duty. The light-hitting 23-year-old was acquired by the Rays from the Tigers this offseason, which upset me as a Tigers fan as I just know the Rays will manage to get something out of him. He’s actually displayed both plus contact rate and discipline in his stints in the majors but worked this offseason to add power. It seems as if it’s been paying off, as he hit 3 homers with a .270 AVG and .230 ISO in 87 PA in Triple-A, a step up from his .186 ISO in Triple-A last season. I’m also encouraged that in under 10 PA, he’s already set a new high max eV of 108 mph (last year’s max was 106 mph) with 4 hard-hit balls in his first 6 events. Again, incredibly small sample, but for a player who had a terrible 25% HardHit% last year, it’s enough to make me hopeful. Remember, he’s still just 23.
He may be a true post-hype prospect as he’s still gone unclaimed in my AL-only, as people are punishing him for a rough first few cups of coffee despite barely being drinking age. He’s still a full year and a day younger than Juan Yepez, people! Depending on your league settings, he may also have coveted multi-position eligibility, as he played 10 games at 2B last year but also more than 5 at 3B and SS (and also played 12 games at 3B in the minors this year). The Rays will likely give him the Zobrist treatment, and as long as he’s playing I believe the bat will play out, as he was a former back-end Top 100 prospect as recently as 2020, and just for the bat. He won’t be a superstar or anything, but if the power gains are real, he could be a Jhonny Peralta type with better plate discipline. Paredes means walls in Spanish, and here’s to hoping here’s the year he hits the ball over those Walls (not Taylor Walls). He should be added in all AL-only formats and worth a spec add to stream in deep 15-teamers in need of a utility bat.
Social psychologists have proven that people are less likely to rate themselves as optimists if they happen to roster Ketel Marte in 2022. Researchers reported subjects looking away from the current line of .156/.222/.289 with 1 HR and 1 SB, and seeking out underlying stats to convince themselves a turnaround was “right around the corner”. As they looked past his career-worst 36% reach rate and then saw he also has a drastic 10% drop in Z-Contact% to just 81%, they became increasingly agitated, and upon seeing his significantly decreased Max eV became downright despondent.
While I personally don’t have any shares, I do worry that perhaps he’s still dealing with an injury as it’s just very odd to see a player with his contact-first profile at age 28 have such a notable drop-off in plate skills. I will say at least he has a decent HardHit% of 44%, which is well in line with his post-breakout rates, but I am concerned that with the lack of high-end max eV, he won’t be approaching 20 homers this year as he’s never been great with barrel rate, never reaching a double-digit Barrel/PA even in his monster season or any of the past 4 years where he’s maxed out at an elite 116 mph. Sure, it’s still early, but his current max of 109 mph is quite far, and given that he’s never made use of his speed, we could be looking at a quite pedestrian .260 15 HR 5 SB season as a best-case scenario. Actually, that’s basically what all the projections are saying right now, except some think .270 is more likely. Not exactly top 100 pick material. I’d cut in 10-team formats, especially if it’s OBP, and wouldn’t Ketel a soul.
Obviously, his rookie debut in 2021 was bad, but at least it can’t get any worse, right? WRONG! So far this year, he’s hitting a ghastly .132/.221/.279 with 2 HR and 3 SB in 77 PA, and no I’m not assuaged by the power and speed when he’s hitting nearly half the Mendoza line. While it is certainly a good sign he reached a much better Max eV of 114 mph, he’s not making consistent hard contact, with his current 31% HardHit% and 8% Barrel% well under his 39% HardHit% and 10% Barrel% last year.
More importantly, he simply is not putting the bat on the ball enough. His contact rate, which was an adequate 75% last year, has nosedived to just 65%, with his Z-Contact% dropping from 85% in 2019 to just 71%. Since his chase rate is also up, that gives him a Swinging Strike rate of 17% when last year’s roughshod had his SwStr% at just 11%. With J-Rod hitting his stride and other M’s bats surging and 2 options remaining for J.K. Drowning, I think it’s time he goes back to find his form at a hitting Kelenic. Cut him in 10-team and shallow 12-team formats with a small bench.
I’ll admit, I never understood the hype for a bounceback that blew in around draft season. The logic was, “Oli Marmol likes him, and he was really bad so he needed to make a change, and he had a great spring training so he probably did”. Granted, my bet on his competition Edmundo Sosa didn’t pan out either. But DeJong has done more damage with a hideous .131/.221/.230 line with 1 HR and 2 SB in 68 PA. While he’s hitting the ball roughly as hard as usual, Statcast doesn’t think he’s been a victim of merely bad luck, with an ugly .154 xBA and .282 xSLG suggesting that the struggle is real.
When you look at his contact rate, his 70% is tied for his career-worst, and well below his early career marks of 75%. But what’s worse about it is when he’s making contact. He’s managed to actually improve his O-Contact% rate to a career-high 64%, but his Z-Contact%, which throughout his career has hovered around a solid 85%, has plummeted to just 74%. And Juan Soto can tell you all about how outcomes are a lot worse on contact made on pitches off the plate. Personally, I wouldn’t be surprised for him to get DFA’d or otherwise lose a starting role to somebody, anybody, in a month’s time. Cut in all 15-team formats.
Look, I know this won’t be a popular take. If you happened to scoop up Zack Collins and got some taters and a passable batting average, congratulations. But I’d gladly trade him for scrap or a Haase/Zunino/Higashioka/Trevino type (or something equivalent) while you still can. Teoscar is coming back from the IL soon, meaning there will be fewer DH reps and he’ll have to fight Alejandro Kirk for catcher at-bats, and I still stand by that Kirk is the far better bat.
Why? Well, I’ll refrain from waxing poetic on Kirk and focus on why I don’t like Collins. For one, not counting this season, he’s been a sub-Mendoza line hitter and isn’t doing anything really different this year. His 12% Barrel% and 46% HardHit% are actually quite good but on the low end of his career marks. And what’s that other thing that explains why I don’t care, oh right it’s the 42% K% and 4% BB%. He’s always been bad in this regard, but never this bad, and I think it’s more than just a small sample size fluke, as his career contact% is 69% (not “nice”) and this year it’s just 58%. Yikes. If you can’t trade him, I’d be ready to cut him in all formats this week. Because when Jazzy Jansen gets back, Collins is going to get the Bootsie.
Photography by Keith Gillett & Kiyoshi Mio/Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Michael Packard (@CollectingPack on Twitter)