Welcome back to Buy & Sell, where this week’s theme is “Don’t judge a book by its cover. Judge them by the underlying stats (considering sample size and regression)”. I’m making some bold picks here, as I think you need to be ahead of the curve as the races heat up, and the influx of top prospects hasn’t ended yet but it is slowing. I expect this one to be controversial, but I’m ready for it (especially from San Diego fans) because I’m armed with nerd stats and a glass of nice Italian wine. On to the list!
His production earlier seemed inflated, but after working through a big slump, now his ability is Moreal. In total, he has a largely unassailable line of .280/.333/.461 13 HR 1 SB 118 AB, though I suppose you could nitpick and complain that he’s not stealing bases like expected this year, especially given the new rules. While he clearly would be pacing for excellence if you irresponsibly extrapolated his numbers over a 500 AB sample, the reality as we all know is that he had an epic collapse to earth, which was so bad that he was getting benched rather often. You can’t extrapolate bench warming.
But he’s finally heated up again, and this time it’s with a tasty twist, in that he’s no longer being one of the worst pitch selectors in the game. He’s swinging at more strikes and laying off more balls, and while the sample is still small, this should help enable him to have elite-quality of contact metrics. He reminds me a bit of a younger, more extreme Nick Castellanos (or perhaps Teoscar Hernandez) by maxing out his quality of contact but with terrible discipline and contact, but if he’s swinging at the right pitches, it at least significantly improves the odds he can post high BABIPs and hit more dingers. And we are here for the dingers, after all. With his multi-position eligibility, he’s worth stashing as a utility player in 10-team batting average leagues and 12-team OBP, but know that he could be among your best adds of the season or someone you cut within a month.
McMahon is bringing the slam from the top rope. After an abysmal start, he’s been a monster since May, hitting .320 with 4 HR in the past 3 weeks to raise his season line .273/.356/.506 with 12 HR. People got lazy this offseason in their analysis of him, not taking into account his batted-ball quality improvements, and even though he’ll likely flag off production-wise after the Coors homestand and the Cincy series, he’s worth snatching up and holding if he’s still around in 10-teamers.
Although his contact rate is down, he’s compensating by being more aggressive on strikes and it’s resulted in a career-best 14% Barrel%, which I think is sustainable given his elite 113 mph MaxEV and 49% HardHit%. He’s currently rostered in 44% of leagues, but the final line will make him worth riding out the cold streaks in all 12-teamers. But honestly, the 4 players in the 10-team and 12-team could rather easily be switched depending on your team’s needs, and I put him here mostly because of positional scarcity and the fact that I don’t think he’s still sitting on the wire of most 12-teamers. So if you need power in a 10-team, it’s time to McMahon up.
Everyone should want to hire Leody Caprio for a summer hit. Taveras has been a monster in June, though most of it was coming off a phenomenal stretch last week in which he hit 3 homers, stole 2 bases, and most impressively, had a 4/0 BB/K over 25 PA. He’s still kept the momentum going though, with 2 more taters this week, giving him a highly underrated .299/.352/.481 line with 8 HRs and 7 SB (3 CS) in 214 PA. Many people forgot after several dud years that this was what scouts had hoped for him in his uber-young prospect days, and why we always must remember that prospect growth isn’t linear.
Of course, we should perhaps express some regression after such a breakout, but I think it’ll be less than most expect. His xBA is .296 meaning he hasn’t been lucky, and he’s increased his MaxEV to an excellent 112 mph. Actually, he hit 113 mph last year, but couldn’t bring the raw power to games often enough, but this year he raised his HardHit% from 36% to 43%, Not only that, but he also improved his plate discipline and increased his contact rate from 73% to 78%, and bringing his CSW% to a mediocre 29% to an excellent 24%. If only he can remember to use his elite speed again, you could be looking at an elite five-tool fantasy stud. I think he’s a must-add in all 12-teamers, as well as 10-teamers with 5 OFs. This may seem obvious, but the crazy thing is he’s still only rostered in 21% of ESPN leagues, so there’s still a major buying opportunity here.
It’s not too often you get excited about a high-octane catching prospect… but it’s more often than you see a major leaguer named Henry (in this era, anyway). Many assumed he would be less likely to get the call than their other nifty catching utility prospect Endy Rodriguez, but Davis simply earned it after hitting a fantastic .284/.433/.537 with 10 HR and 7 SB in 187 PA in Double-A, and then continuing with similar production in 45 Triple-A PA before earning the call. The main highlight in his scouting grade is a superlative 70 raw power, and although his contact skills don’t compare to that, he’s managed to keep a sub-20% K% in the minors with a 17% BB%.
That’s quite exciting since he never even had a double-digit walk rate in previous years, though some of that could be in part due to people being afraid to pitch to him. Given the fact that he’s also pacing for over 15 stolen bases, it’s pretty hard to find a weakness in his game, as he has power, (decent enough contact), elite plate discipline, and speed. And while the defense isn’t as good, it matters less now that the team has started to play him in the outfield (AKA the Wil Myers/Bryce Harper route).
It’s far too early to judge from his minuscule major league sample, but he’s providing a potential opportunity by not storming the gates. He does already have a barrel though, and I think he could be a Top 10 catcher in the second half, and is well worth adding to cut bait with draft disappointments Melendez and even Cal Raleigh (who I normally can’t quit). It looks like he’ll actually be more valuable by not playing at catcher due to better chances at regular playing time.
If you’re looking for deep league first base options, welcome, and know that Mi Casas Su Casas. He had an ugly start but has rebounded as of late, as the towering 6’5 23-year-old has hit an impressive .364 with a homer this week and .311 over the past 2 weeks. His xwOBA has been steadily increasing over the past 50 games and has risen above league average, though it’s easy to miss with his .219 AVG spoiling his 8 HR and .333 OBP in 249 PA. Look, I never said his past was pretty.
Much like Torkelson, you have to remember the upside and the fact that through all the growing pains, he still has an 87th percentile MaxEV and a 90th percentile barrel rate. With a healthy 15-degree launch angle and an excellent walk rate, all he needs to do is improve the contact rate, and he seems on his way to doing that. He’s still a great buy-low in dynasty leagues and redraft leagues alike, although the window may be closing. So don’t just Tristand there, do something like add him in all 15-team formats and consider him as a spec add in 12-team OBP leagues.
Andy Ibáñez, power hitter. Get used to it. Hey, maybe he learned from Raul. I must say I like the makeover, selling out his relatively decent contact rate to swing from his heels and smack the ball like it was being fresh to him. Sure, this isn’t the easiest sell, as this supposed power hitter is still hitting just .233 with 4 HR over 140 PA, and he’s even worse in OBP leagues with a useless 4% walk rate. But the weird thing is his K% has actually stayed great at 16% while rocking a great 13% Barrel% and a HardHit of 51%. He gives off Mike Massey 2023 vibes as a player whose home park hurts his production, but I think a combination of road-stands and luck regression will soon make him more popular in 15-team batting average leagues.
I really just want Tucupita Marcano to get hot at the same time so they can have a utility man duo to bring back Tucu and Berti to Netflix. Berti’s hit a scalding .438 this week, but you probably didn’t notice because he’s been such a fantasy non-factor this year, which is really making me look bad in my bold prediction that he’d reach 40 SB again. I seriously don’t get why he’s not running with his elite speed, but he is currently running with mostly regular playing time after injuries opened up some playing time. Okay, maybe it’s his 4 CS, as a 66% success rate is right around the red-light zone.
Still, he’s a decent stream for batting average from a utility slot with a strong 82% contact% if you believe the speed will return, as he did turn up his stolen base aggressiveness in the 2nd half last year. His walk rate is just 6%, but he’s deserved better with a low O-Swing%, so I expect it to regress to 10% going forward. He’s less sexy than shiny new toy Samad Taylor, who has been hailed as potentially the next Jon Berti. But there’s still a chance that the next Jon Berti is the 2023 Jon Berti.
I guess he joined the Ryan O’Hearn club as someone who apparently needed a change of scenery, but Hicks is the one who everyone’s so skeptical of still that you can benefit. I see it like this: The Yankees are, in recent history, one of the teams with the most average IL days. Which one of the teams is the best in this regard? Baltimore. If they can actually keep him healthy, the rate stats really aren’t as bad as you’d think, with a 23% K% and a double-digit walk rate.
For all of the talk about Mount Walltimore, the right field is still short at 318 feet at the pole, and Hicks has pulled three of his four homers down the line. Right now, at least until Mullins returns, he has a path to solid deep-league production, and the fact he stole two bases over the last two weeks gives me added encouragement that he’s feeling good. Add in all AL-only formats and consider as a spec add or stream in deeper 15-team 5-OF OBP formats and hope that the Orioles pick of Hicks sticks.
I raised the ire of much of the fantasy community when I warned that he was a potential bust in the preseason and said to sell high in April, but everyone assured me I made Mach ado about nothing. Well for a while, for me it was a comedy. Of course, since returning from his hand injury, his production has been much better, hitting a Manny-esque .320 with 3 homers and 1 SB in 50 AB. This provides Manny owners a great opportunity to advertise this and sell high on him again. Uh, what?
Believe it or not (yes, I already know you’ll choose “not”) Manny’s expected wOBA over the past 50 PA is actually slightly worse than his previous 50 PA. Before it was .318, which is pretty bad. Over his last 50 PAs, it’s been just .298. It’s not too often you see an expected wOBA below their actual batting average. Over 100 PA, he’s been a similar hitting, with .306 before and just .308 in his past 100. Past 250 PA. Just .298. He’s had a half-season of performing, from an expected stat perspective, as a below-replacement level player!
But how is this possible? I’ll keep it short here but may expand on it later, but essentially his game has slowly been eroding for a few years under the hood, but this year the quality of contact has fallen off a cliff. His current barrel rate is just 7% (that’s rounding up) and his HardHit% is 41%. Both of those are worse than Andy Ibáñez, FYI. He’s also had worsening plate discipline and contact, leading to a career-worst 26% CSW%, which is fine for most players but not for someone whose power and batting average made him a consensus top-20 pick. Sure, he could turn it around right away, just as Jose Ramirez has recently, but I think everyone has ignored that he has been trending downward for some time. Most importantly, now may be your last chance to get a strong return from him by selling him “high” in a trade, because every league has someone who believes in a monster second half. While it could happen, I think the odds aren’t as great. I might sound crazy saying this, but I’d flip him for Sandy Alcantara in a heartbeat, and I bet you can get a throw-in to your side. In a no-trade league, I’d cut him outright in a 10-team format that uses OBP, and be called a maniac in the process. But I do think it’s best to trade him if you can, find the Manny bull, and don’t overcharge.
Maybe I entered an alternate universe in which I seem the same but he’s become a disgusting blob who everyone still seems as normal. Am I in Cronenworth World? In ESPN he’s still owned at a head-scratching 68% rate, despite the fact he’s hitting just .160 with no homers this week, and hitting .211/.313/.360 with 7 homers and 3 SB in 261 PA for the Padres. He has just a 33% HardHit%, and Statcast says he’s hardly been unlucky with a .360 xSLG. What am I missing?
While he does have 2B/3B eligibility, so do a lot of other players who can do much more for you, I liked him a few years ago when he did the high barrel rate thing, but he had no prospect pedigree, his OBP skills are overstated, and the fact he only has 3 SB in a world where Esteury Ruiz just stole 12 times that amount underscores the fact that he is a negative in every category, and if you could sell him for a can of beans I’d get my spoon, but would outright cut him for any 12-team option, and many 15-team options. Yes, for now, he still gets regular playing time, but while playing like this, it only magnifies the stink. Cut in 12-team, and 15-team AVG leagues, as you realize he’s Crononworth peanuts now. Sorry, Mr. Peanut, you didn’t deserve that.
I had big expectations, but he’s at best been Jurickson Semi-Profar. For one, the double-digit speed which has been central to his deeper league value has completely vanished at the most puzzling possible time, as he was always a guy who ran with gumption instead despite mediocre raw speed, and those are the kinds of players running wild. So maybe as a longtime vet he just gave up the ghost, as his hard-hit rate went way down too, which has led to just 5 homers and an ugly mid-.230s batting average. Given the influx of more exciting talent, I wouldn’t be too surprised to see a DFA in his future if he can’t pull off a big second half, and even in that thin air, I’m not holding my breath. Cut in 15-team leagues.
Sometimes, Moreno is Lessno. The return of Carson Kelly hasn’t had much of an impact on his playing time yet, but that will likely change if he keeps hitting like he has been, hitting just .182/.250/.227 with 0 HR and 0 SB over 44 AB the past 3 weeks. The Diamondbacks are in the hunt for a pennant run, and Kelly’s production can certainly outdo that with superior defense and experience with the pitchers. Moreno’s future remains bright as he’s still quite young, but the Diamondbacks haven’t hesitated to send struggling players to the minors. In redraft formats, I’m even cutting in NL-only single-catcher formats or two-catcher leagues, as I’d expect Gabriel to be tossed off the ship and swallowed by the whale.
Featured Image by Ethan Kaplan (@DJFreddie10 on Twitter and @EthanMKaplanImages on Instagram)