Welcome back to Buy & Sell, where this week’s theme is “And this is why it’s maddening to sell a struggling talented hitter.” I should also add that usually I just write about hot players (and if I think they’re legit) and cold players (whether to cut bait or hold) but that this week, given that trading season is here, I wanted to include some sell high candidates in the traditional sense.
I’ll admit that I tend to be on the impulsive side in my waiver wire strategy, but I managed to wait until the consensus opinion before finally caving and calling guys like Gunnar and Harris II drops, and they make it seem like they read it and took it personally (I give it only 85% odds of happening). But mistakes are how we learn, at least in theory, and I refuse to stand my ground on a player when the data says I’m wrong. Still, for many bounce-back players, it still may not be too late to buy back in. With that said, on to the list!
Henderson is getting revenge on those who dropped him like a Stone Cold Stunnar. And even though I didn’t draft him anywhere, since I had suggested him as a 10-team cut in May, that includes me. He’s doing everything he can to make up for squandered time, hitting a ridiculous .480/.500/.1000 with 4 taters, 10 RBI, and 2 stolen bases in just one week, arguably making him baseball’s hottest hitter, and helps remind us why it’s so dangerous to drop a struggling player with immense upside. That raises his season line to .241/.349/.465 with 10 HR, and 4 SB in 187 AB (218 PA). Of course, we care a lot less about his season total than what we can expect for the rest of the season.
But how do we know this isn’t just a lucky streak and will revert to mediocrity? While there’s no way to know for sure, we can tell that his strikeout rate has gone down, and has dipped below the critical 30% mark to 29% after 3 weeks of hitting at a more palatable 24% K%. This change is supported by an improvement in his contact rate over the last 3 weeks from 68% to 72% (full season).
He’s achieved this by being more aggressive, so in the past 3 weeks his walk rate has dropped from 16% to 14%, but this was a needed change, even though you’d expect increased swing rate to correspond with less contact, not more. While he was on the verge of a possible demotion with Jordan Westburg in the wings, with this streak and the Orioles in contention, he’s a solid bet to hit at least .260/.350/500 with at least another 12 home runs and 5-7 stolen bases, making him a must-roster in all leagues.
You may think that’s obvious, and I thought so too, but his roster rate was below 50% 10 days ago and is still only at 68%. That’s only going to go up as people stop balking at the overall line. With a 114 mph MaxEV already as a 21-year-old, he’s worth weathering the bumps because he’s well on his way to Tom Cruising his way to be the team’s Top Gunnar (speaking off, he has a cannon of an arm).
Jake was “supposedly” in a playing time battle with Moncada, but I predicted all along that Burger would win that beef. While it’s still not over, and Moncada remains the better defender, I screamed that Filet Min-Yoan was a sell-high, sell-medium, and even sell-medium-rare candidate in April and after his return. It hasn’t all been pretty for Burger, especially not his 0-for-12 mini-slump this week, but the recent two-dinger game highlights why you just can’t bench a bat like this.
That said, this remains high-reward but also high-risk. His 67% contact rate is bad, especially when combined with a horrid 55% O-Swing% resulting in one of the league’s worst 19% SwStr%. Even Joey Gallo and most other big boppers could draw a walk. That’s why his 2022 top comp was Bryan Buxton… minus the injury risk. The thing is, with a 100th percentile Barrel% of 22% and 100th percentile MaxEV of 118 mph, a lot can be forgiven. He’s hitting the ball harder than ever (53%), hitting it in the air more than ever 43%, and pulling it more than ever (52%) in a power hitter’s haven, and I predict he can hit 35 homers by season’s end. That’s worth rostering in all leagues to see if he can keep grilling opposing pitchers.
I’ve suggested him as a buy in April, and in May, and while that window was wide open, you better squeeze him through the window while you can because soon his bat is going to Naylor shut. As he’s exactly a week away from his 26th birthday, he’s gotten the party started early, hitting a mighty fine .429/.465/.587 with a homer over the past 3 weeks, which may seem rather Arraez-esque, but I believe the power will come. On the season, he’s hitting a finally good-looking .286/.332/.457 with 8 HR and 4 SB, and I think this will pale in comparison to his second half.
For one, he’s improved in almost every aspect of the game, finally overcoming his groundball issues, raising his launch angle for the fourth consecutive year to 15 degrees after cutting his groundball rate from 49% to 40%. This is also the third consecutive year in which he’s improved his hard hit rate (45%) and barrel rate (11%), which makes sense since more hard contact +more flyballs = more barrels. As if that wasn’t enough, he improved his CSW% to an elite 20% via a combination of a higher swing rate (an extreme 76%) with an excellent 82% contact%.
His start was so bad (at least in terms of surface numbers) that his overall line still may seem a bit pedestrian for 10-teamers, though he’s also finally getting some recognition as he’s 66% rostered in ESPN formats. But I still think he’s a buy high, and here’s why. Statcast thinks he’s been quite unlucky, and has deserved an xBA of .303 and an xSLG of .521. Add in the fact that, much like Gunnar, he can reach double-digit SBs, and it should be a fine summer for Naylor in all 12-teamers and 10-team batting average leagues. And to the Reddit commenter who said in May that he’d never roster him and hated his “punchable face”… well I hope that guy’s not punching the face in the mirror right now.
You know, I think Nolan Jones may be the first player in which I’ve written him up first as a buy, then as a sell-high, and then a buy-high because I’m dumb. Especially given that I dropped him in my TGFBI 15-teamer after adding him, and knowing if I kept him I’d probably be top 20 in the overall, it really stings, as he’s hit a gargantuan .364/.429/.636 with 3 homers and 4 SB over the past two weeks since I did so. Nobody told me the Colorado air also makes the baserunners fly farther.
The 4 nabbed bags was pretty unexpected, given that he only stole 5 bases in the run-happy Triple-A in 187 PA. But as for the contact, before his rate was untenable… but I made the mistake of overreacting to a small sample because since then, his contact rate has improved from 65% to a much more tenable 74%. Still, this is likely buying at a peak of sorts, as he still is too passive with a terribly passive 53% Z-Swing% and he won’t be able to ride off a .459 BABIP forever… much less so in a week when the Rockies’ homestand ends.
Still, at the least, he’s a must-stream for the week, and he has displayed skills that will make him likely to outearn Cron going forward. His power is finally showing up for real, with a 17% Barrel% and a 114 mph MaxEV, after many years of teasing but falling flat. While he would benefit from lifting the ball more, his high line drive rate seems like a legit skill and should at least give him an inflated BABIP in Colorado’s spacious confines. But the biggest reason he’s here is the opportunity, as it now appears likely that he’s up for good even when Cron returns. Mr. Jones went up from 2% to 24% rostered in ESPN, but that’s still 76% availability, and during homestands, he can help you be a big star.
The pitchers who face him would make good comedy club patrons; They don’t like throwing to Matos. He’s making me feel old, in that I’ve been playing fantasy baseball for so long that I rostered the (hopefully) less talented Luis Matos who played from 2000-2006, during which time this Luis Matos was born in 2002 (We’ll always have 2003, old Luis). Actually, that year, 20 years ago, could be pretty close to what we’re hoping for this year: hitting .303 with 13 HR and 15 SB. I’d be happy with that.
Back to the present, little Matos made huge improvements in the minors this year with his bat skills, bringing his K rate down to a minuscule 8%, while hitting 10 HR and 15 SB with a mid .340s batting average in 249 PA. He was already looking likely to be a call-up just due to performance before Haniger got a serious injury, followed by J.D. Davis’s injury, virtually guaranteeing that we’ll be seeing a lot of Matos, and I’d expect him to bat in one of the top two spots in the lineup, leading to many run-producing opportunities. While his immediate impact may be more 15-team relevant, if you want him, you likely need to add him for now in 12-team batting average formats to see if the 21-year-old can replicate his success. In this hitting environment, it’s worth betting on.
Considering that he was a former Guardians’ outfield prospect alongside Will Brennan, I’m really hoping he establishes himself so that I stop mixing them up. Their profiles are quite different, as Will Benson is reminiscent of Sam Hilliard or Brenton Doyle, who I do bring up specifically as players with big upside but major contact issues in a park that makes it playable half the time. But Benson should be better, if for no other reason than he should get on base a ton, which is important if you want to steal a lot of them. This year he had a ridiculous 24% walk rate and a 26% strikeout rate in the minors, basically making him the speedy version of Edouard Julien.
Initially, he was pretty much just striking out and nothing else, but he’s been improving under the hood and could be on the verge of a breakout. He’s hitting .341/.426/.488 with a homer and 3 SB over 41 AB (47 PA) over the past 3 weeks, and what’s more, it came with a lovely 6/6 BB/K ratio. This week, that ratio is a 3/1 BB/K in 15 AB (18 PA). I’ll admit I hoped for more pop and a league-average 107 mph MaxEV isn’t driving me wild, but he basically profiles as a hopefully not-injury-prone new and improved version of Jake Fraley, something I’ll take a chance on all day in 15-team formats, especially in OBP.
Wait, I’m putting him here in the same article and category? HOW IS THIS SUPPOSED TO HELP THE WILL BRENNAN/WILL BENSON CONFUSION?! It was just fate’s will. His hot streak has gotten a bit more notice than his Reds counterpart since he is now hitting a solid .271/.307/.404 with 4 HR and 6 SB in 176 PA. He’s hit a magnificent .378 with 2 HR and 2 SB in 45 AB over the past two weeks, finally earning regular playing time and drawing comps to last year’s second-half breakout, Steven Kwan.
I don’t think that’s really a fair comparison though, if for no other reason than Brennan really isn’t a big OBP guy, and in fact, he only has 6 walks all season. He’s probably overachieving on the 4 HR as well, though in the majors his MaxEV of 107 mph is the same as Benson. But he can accumulate, and if he’s stealing bases, can be a great 5th outfielder on a 15-teamer to fortify batting average and stolen bases.
He might be the most exciting Royals hitting call-up this year besides Nick Pratto, but that’s not saying much. He’s 30 years old getting his first cup of coffee in the majors, but he did a pretty good job impersonating Esteury Ruiz in the minors hitting .347 with 3 HR and a whopping 47 SB. He can draw a walk with a 10% BB% and 16% K%, though I worry that for such a slap hitter that K% might actually be too high. But if you need speed, he’s a great lightning-in-a-bottle pick, making him a solid add for deep 15-teamers looking for a Hail Mary pick and all AL-only formats looking for a Politely Acknowledge Mary Pick (PAMP it up).
This is admittedly a bit of a speculative catcher pick, but sometimes that’s what you have to do to get a shot at real value. Because if he wrests away the starting gig, you’ll be Miguel A Mile ahead of the competition. He’s hitting .250 on the year in just 32 PA, but he is rocking a 12% Barrel%. The 24-year-old has a solid prospect pedigree, though he’ll have to improve on his current 105 mph MaxEV and 2% BB%, but he makes decent contact and also hits balls at ideal angles quite well with a 52% Sweet Spot%. Statcast is a fan, though I’m not citing his bullish expected stats on such a tiny sample. But with Yan Gomes struggling and just being rather mediocre overall, he can easily work his way into the lion’s share of at-bats soon and be a solid C2 in deep leagues.
He’s red hot, but I think it is just a good opportunity to sell “high” (relatively speaking). Because, when it comes to predicting if Bogaerts will do better or worse than last year’s totals, I’m taking the Xunder. I am a rather firm believer in thinking hitters who are playing hurt are doing more harm than good (to themselves and the team) and I also think the managers that enable it and encourage it (looking at you, White Sox) are stupid. Anyway, it also might seem stupid to call him a sell after
Granted, I was down on Bogaerts to begin the year, as my article Affinity Pool: Statcast Busts for 2023 (which I just looked at, and, well, it’s looking pretty accurate (injuries notwithstanding), pointing out his top comp for batted ball profile was Victor Caratini. Of course, he’s always found a way to beat Statcast, but without Fenway’s weird park helping him, and playing half his games in a pitcher’s park, the odds were more stacked against him than his #91 preseason ADP would suggest. Even after the strong recent surge, his overall stat line is .264/.348/.403 with 7 homers and 7 stolen bases in 267 PA, but the power is front-loaded, and he hasn’t hit a single homer in the past 3 weeks.
Remember I’m not saying DROP him, but sell him, since there’s likely to be buyers. But as someone whose offense has been sapped after wrist problems in the spring exacerbated by a hit-by-pitch, I doubt he reaches 15 homers this year. To back that, he has the worst GB% since 2015 this year at 51%, and the worst HardHit% at 33% since 2018. He can continue to be solid, but more in a Zach Neto kind of way (as a best-case scenario), and is also a higher risk to hit the IL with this eventually, so sell at a mild discount and upgrade elsewhere. Otherwise, you could be haunted by a Xander Bogeyman.
Elías Díaz (C, Colorado Rockies)
Well, in this case, you can’t say I didn’t warn you, as I suggested him as a sell high three weeks ago, pointing out that he was in every way under the hood the same Elías Díaz as we saw in 2022. Since that article came out 3 weeks ago, he’s hit .194/.250/.328 with just one homer in 67 PA. If you’re still holding him though, the good news is that his season line still looks pretty with a .295 AVG and 6 homers, which is solid enough for a catcher that you can net a solid return.
I should say I don’t think he can’t be a solid regular, as I think he certainly can be a roughly league-average offensive catcher, which is great. But what I am saying is that he’s been this bad during a stretch in which a fair chunk of it was a homestand, and in another week they go back on the road. If you shop him now, he looks quite appealing, and it’s a time when there are lots of buy-low catchers… and also Gary Sanchez. So it’s not too late to use Hitter + Rockies Magic = GREAT logic to still make some profit by upgrading at another position. If not trading, he’s more of a 10-team drop, but I’d consider cutting him if the slump continues or just when he’s in for the Rocky Road.
He was worth a look, but much like Hosmer, I think we’ve all Mancin-enough. No, I’m going to stay focused and not into my rant about how enough, cough, bough, and dough all have the same ending yet sound completely different. Not today, Trey. He is still rostered in 6% of ESPN leagues despite a mediocre .237/.303/.345 line with just 4 homers in 197 PA. Mediocre is too nice, but everything is relative, and his Statcast expected stats of an expected batting average of .216 and expected SLG% of .335 are the new terrible. To have your Statcast sliders blue across the board like he does is especially concerning when you’re playing a premier hitting position, and also slow as molasses in June (not quite as glacial as in January, but still quite slow). I’d cut in all 15-teamers, but probably also NL-only formats in which a regular with a pulse was available. Sorry if I sound too Mancynical.
Forget the Jared Walsh you knew from 2020-2022. This version is totally Walshed up. But let’s be positive for a moment… he went through a major surgery that ends many player’s baseball careers instantly, and Walshie boy, you made it back! Yayy Jared! Moment over, now please leave.
He’s hit just .107/.254/.161 in 67 PA, and while you could argue that he’ll get better with time, the data suggests the opposite. His plate discipline is still there, but the power is simply gone, with an embarrassing 26% HardHit% and a maxEV of just 105 mph. He’s also been so bad lately he’s making a case to be usurped by Matt Thaiss, Drury, or really anyone else, as he’s hit just .034/.151/.069 (not “nice”) in 29 AB the past two weeks. I hope the power comes back someday, but you’re better off letting a hamster pick a random part-time player on the wire than sticking with him for this year. In AL-only, cut your losses now, and please purchase hamsters responsibly.
Featured Image by Ethan Kaplan (@DJFreddie10 on Twitter and @EthanMKaplanImages on Instagram)