Welcome back to Buy & Sell, where this week’s theme is brothers and Italians in baseball, but not Italian brothers in baseball. I hope you took my advice last week and bought low on Wallner and sold high in a trade on Frelick, though judging from the comments it seems many held too long. Well this week is a great time to capitalize as people shift their sights to football and the trade deadline shakes up a bunch of situations.
Also thanks to the deadline, I’m adding extra names this week. Don’t get used to it! On to the list!
So I thought about writing up William Contreras, as he was the most added player in ESPN leagues, and then I fell for his older brother like a generic rom-com. Despite Willson’s rocky start to the season, and the fact his surface stats aren’t so flashy with a .249 AVG to go with 11 HR and 6 SB in 366 PA, under the hood he’s showing many exciting signs.
For one, he’s increased his raw power, with a 118 mph Max exit velocity that’s 99th percentile. He also has the best barrel% of his career (12%), likely as a result of a career-high 21% Line Drive% and a career-low 47% GB%. His 15% HR/FB is significantly lower than his 20% career% rate, and Statcast agrees he deserves better with a .268 xBA and .470 xSLG. Over his past 100 AB, he’s improved a lot with a .411 xwOBA, and I’d argue he’s the more exciting Will, since I always have to be the Contrer-ian.
It took a while for him to finally click, but now opposing pitchers are getting Nootralized. He’s now hitting a fantastic .410/.510/.846 with 5 long balls and a stolen base over 39 AB the past two weeks, raising his season line to a healthier .279/.380/.445 with 11 HR and 7 SB in 283 AB. Don’t look now, but in a full season of at-bats that would be pacing for about 21 HR and 13 SB with a strong average and even stronger OBP that he was projected for by his fans (of which I was a big one) this preseason. What’s more impressive over the past two weeks is his BB/K of 9/5. Now those are some plate skills.
Although the playing time logjam was not cleared up by trade, which is rather surprising since many assumed Tyler O’Neill was a lock to be traded, he is now receiving much more reliable playing time that he deserves. The injury to Brendan Donovan does perhaps clear up some of the time, but with his excellent OBP and solid sprint speed at 65th percentage, he should see plenty of playing time at the top of the lineup around a still strong core of the lineup. He’s a must-add in all OBP formats and a fine add in 12-team batting average formats as well.
Honorable Mention: C.J. Cron (1B, Los Angeles Angels) – Some may jump ship as he’s leaving Coors’ friendly confines. But he’s still been one of baseball’s hottest hitters and actually unlucky (.275 xBA, .514 xSLG) in the heart of a loaded lineup.
Honorable Mention: William Contreras (C, Milwaukee Brewers) – I didn’t want to separate him from his big bro. He’s less hot now, but he kept his power while cutting his walk rate, and improving defense (which matters for his playing time).
He’s so good, he’s almost helping me to forget drafting catcher Einar Diaz in my first fantasy baseball season in 2002 (it did not go well, and yes wow I’m old). Unlike Einar, Yainer’s bat is for real, and not just as a catcher. The 24-year-old is up to an incredible .276/.294/.511 with 13 dingers in just 238 PA, and that may have actually been unlucky. While catchers (well really slow players) always tend to underperform their Statcast metrics, it’s still impressive that he has an xBA of .282 (90th percentile) and xSLG of .565 (97th percentile in MLB), especially given that Yainer is one of the faster catchers with a 56th percentile spring speed.
The one downside, as you’re probably well aware, is playing time now that Yordan is back clogging up the DH slot, and the fact that the lifeless husk of a bat that is Martín Maldonado still plays sometime for some reason (his defense and framing are actually worse this year). But I believe the Astros know what they have in his bat and will get him into the lineup enough to make his combination of average and power worth it. He should be rostered in 12-team batting average leagues, but with his horrific chase rate and corresponding walk rate, in OBP formats he’s really tough to roster in anything shallower than 15-team. I’d probably have him above The Brothers Contreras if I knew he’d play every day, but I don’t.
His bat has been so explosive, they should call him Oppenjeimer. He’s now come full circle, returning to the Cubs, even if it’s a very different team now. Still, I don’t forget what Nick Castellanos did when he went from the Tigers to the Cubs several years back (don’t forget, he used to also be a third baseman), and I think Candelario has a somewhat similar profile and can have at least a lite version of that, and the two can morph together into one Castellario.
Candelario’s been torching the ball for the past 3 weeks, hitting .310 with 2 dingers and is hitting .421 in 19 at-bats the past week. I’ll admit to being late to the party on Jeimer, since his performance was not being supported by his expected numbers, but those have also improved as of late with a .341 rolling xwOBA over his past 50 PA. His real value is more in the streaming for volume, as he now has a .265 AVG, 16 HR and 6 SB. While his season numbers are those of a compiler more than a star, in the end you have a cromulent first baseman, and one worth streaming in all 12-team formats when he’s hot.
Honorable Mention: Brandon Lowe (2B, Tampa Bay Rays) – Normally I don’t believe much in meaning of a “second half player”, but Lowe is doing it again, with a .403 xwOBA in his last 50 PA. If you missed out on Nolan Gorman’s big surge, he can be the diet (and walks-free) version with massive homer upside.
Honorable Mention: Cal Raleigh (C, Seattle Mariners) – I never gave up on Big Dumper, but I’m relieved he rediscovered his second half thump. He’s still a slightly more polished hitter than he was last year and will get you the dingers you crave.
Rooker goes straight in a line, and he was going straight up, then straight down, and now he’s heading straight up again. He’s the hottest player in rolling xwOBA gained over the past 50 games, and although granted some of that is due to how cold he was before, a .405 xwOBA is still excellent. With his high barrel rate and propensity for strikeouts, this is the player he is, and just because he was hot garbage for nearly two months, it doesn’t mean that he can’t return to his April form. Sure, it’s just 2 homers and a .333 average this week in 19 AB that stirred the excitement, but we just need a sign.
On the year he’s hitting .245 with 18 HR in 295 AB, which is still overall a 25-30 HR pace even if the average and OBP is lacking. Now with his team reinforced by some actual talent (somewhat) in call-ups like Diaz and Gelof, he might actually be able to produce runs like a prototypical cleanup hitter, but we’re here for the dingers. Looking at his numbers and Teoscar Hernández’s side by side, if I didn’t know who they were, I’d definitely take Rooker’s line, so if you need power in 15-teamers you might be able to sneak him by.
As I just mentioned, some of the youth movement finally came up, though many are likely surprised Gelof’s impact has far outweighed Soderstrom, as Gelof’s hit .226/.294/.516 with 4 HR and 5 SB in just 68 PA. No, I don’t think he’s going to pace for 30 HR and 40 SB just because of the small sample, but it’s certainly encouraging to see someone who showed big power in Triple-A be able to still hit them out in the big leagues, and that his speed is good enough to succeed in the majors. When Ruiz is back, the two of them can truly terrorize opposing pitcher-catcher tandems if he keeps this up.
You might be wondering why then I don’t recommend adding him in 12-team leagues. Like so many power/speed guys before him, yes, it’s the strikeouts. While his 13% barrel rate is fine and dandy, and the sample size is still small, my rule of thumb is that when I see a strikeout rate under 65% for a player without massive power, I move on. Gelof’s is 58%. That’s pretty close to Trey Cabbage, and I correctly predicted his early surge wouldn’t last, but Gelof is in Oakland and will probably continue to play even if he’s batting .200 while hitting and running at a 20/20 pace. So add in 15-teams in which you need power/speed and can sacrifice batting average, and if you think he’s sent from heaven, sorry to knock your anGelof his pedestal.
Honorable Mention: Michael Massey (2B, Kansas City Royals) – With 4 HR and 2 SB over the past week, he’s rediscovered his power swing, and Statcast believes he’s been unlucky (.260 xBA). Also can’t hurt that Nicky Lopez is gone.
This list is looking tasty with the Candyman, Lars Baar, and a cheese Canzone. He’s an older rookie at 25 (turns 26 in two weeks), but truly tore up Triple-A with a .354 AVG and 16 HR in Triple-A. Now granted, he was repeating the level and he also had 16 HR (with a .284 AVG) in his first stint, but his plate discipline took a huge leap forward, as he went from a 20% K% and 7% BB% in 2022 to a 13% K% and a 13% BB% this year. That gives off some Vinny Pasquantino vibes (I swear I only realized afterwards that they also happen to be the two most Italian names in the game.
Canzone hasn’t lit the world on fire yet, but he’s playing in Seattle, and I think he can hit some spicy meatballs. Despite the .222 AVG with a HR in 49 PA, he has an xBA of .286 and xSLG of .522, and here’s why I think those numbers based on a tiny sample matter. Barrels and contact% both stabilize quite early, and he’s done well in both regards, with a 13% Barrel% and an 81% Contact%. However, the plate discipline hasn’t appeared as advertised, continuing a trend this year in unreliability of minors walk rates. Still, I think he’s immediately viable in AL-only, and a fine stash even as far as 15-team if he can curb the whiff rate.
Yes, I know he was terrible in the majors, and it’s not like he even did well in the minors upon his demotion. Still, he’s been called up, and a lot of room has been cleared by the Guardians in dealing away Josh Bell, not to mention the Guardians basically signaling once again that even though they should be contending, they’re going to go into rebuild mode.
He’s been better since his return, hitting .385 in 13 AB this week, and the more important part is that he’s playing. Let’s not totally forget why we liked him: He still has big raw power (he hit 112 mph MaxEV this year) and he’s lifting the ball a bit more than last year (48% GB% this year, 51% in 2022), so he’s a sleeper for some homers and RBI, which makes him immediately AL-only relevant and someone to monitor in 18-team AVG formats.
Honorable Mention: Ildemaro Vargas (2B/SS/3B/OF, Washington Nationals) – With Jeimer gone, someone has to man the hot corner, and I like his offense more than the overperforming Jake Alu. With a high contact rate and an improved 4% barrel% and career-best 31% HardHit%, he could hit an empty .280 going forward. which is made extra useful with his multi-position eligibility.
Honorable Mention: Liover Peguero (2B/SS, Pittsburgh Pirates) – He’s displayed big raw power with 4 HR in just 28 AB and big raw speed (93rd percentile), but the contact rate will be a problem (40% K%) and playing time has been sporadic. He’s a good foil for Vargas as the high-upside high-risk type.
Lourdes Gurriel (OF, Arizona Diamondbacks)
Gurriel has historically been a player whose hot streaks are incredible but his cold streaks are downright brutal, and it’s just not worth holding a non-stealing hitter who’s hit just .200/.212/.292 with 1 HR over the past three weeks. His recent dip in performance is supported by a plummeting rolling xwOBA that went below league average. In 10-team leagues, his decent batting average and power simply don’t compensate for everything he doesn’t do, and there are better options on a 10-team wire. Cut in 10-team batting average formats and consider cutting in 12-team OBP.
Dishonorable Mention: Josh Lowe (OF, Tampa Bay Rays) – He hasn’t been the same hitter since his hot April/May, and it’s troubling that his K rate has regressed heavily even while being mostly platooned. One Lowe up, one Lowe down, because there can be only one… Lowelander.
I realized I had to write about him when I was looking to trade for a power hitter and when I saw his stats I thought “I think I’m more interested in their Brett Rooker”. Even though I still might come to my senses, the reality is that Teoscar entered the circle of trust for many fantasy leaguers despite troubling signs after several years of big power numbers, but that dried up this year with just 16 HR and 5 SB with a .239 AVG and .287 OBP. That’s in 449 PA, so it’s not due to missing any time or anything either.
How did we get here? Well he may be slightly unlucky according to Statcast (though I think the park change is the factor there), it’s moreso a degradation of his previously elite hard contact that revealed his many weaknesses. His max eV and average eV dropped 2 mph this year to a rather pedestrian 91 mph average eV. If that weren’t already bad enough, his K% rate of 32% is the worst since his breakout. To me he always seemed like the type of a player with a short peak due to the contact rate risk, and now on a team that is out of contention, I wouldn’t be surprised for them to try their young guys out like Canzone and Marlowe. Cut in all 10-team leagues as well as 12-team OBP formats.
Someone must have replaced this Rizzo with the rat Muppet of the same name. Though to be fair he’s a very underrated Muppet. Rizzo was one of the hottest hitters of April, but his performance over the past month and a half makes me fairly confident that he must be hiding an injury of some sort, because the power just evaporated. Over the past 3 weeks he’s hit just .177/.215/.242 with 1 HR, and you know something is wrong with him when he’s not even walking.
It might be too bold of me to say cut the 33-year-old even in 15-team formats, but so be it, being bold (and sometimes boldly wrong) is kinda my thing. At 1B, there are lots of options, especially this year with pop-ups who qualify there like Isaac Paredes. He’ll probably continue to keep the cold corner warm since they really don’t have other viable options at 1B, but it doesn’t mean you should, given there’s no clear sign that the 33-year-old is going to get right and time is running out. Give Rizzo a Razzie and run. UPDATE: Rizzo was placed on the IL today with a possible concussion.
He’s actually been one of the hotter hitters for the team, so at least they’ll have that moment together. Even while playing every day, he was quite mediocre with just 3 HR and 2 SB on the year (something that should have surprised nobody given his advanced age and the park switch). Now, with the much-needed influx of Burger and (Taco) Bell, there’s no room left for the crafty vet other than as a clubhouse guy who could transition to a player coach.
Dishonorable Mention: Mike Moustakas (3B, Los Angeles Angels) – His decent offensive production was fairly overlooked, but the new hitter arrivals, push him out of the playing time situation even before Drury’s return.