Welcome back to Buy & Sell, where’s this week’s theme is Post-Trade Deadline Hangover! It’s still hard to sort out a lot of questions, like why the Cubs and Guardians didn’t trade anyone, why the Red Sox sold a good player and bought bad ones, and why the Rockies. Like, on an existential level. There’s a lot of value in reading the roster tea leaves right, but I’m not a wizard so I’m going to incorporate it only where it’s relevant. But this is a great time to be active as there is suddenly a new influx of players for the first time in awhile, especially if you’re playing in an only league. On to the list!
Adley Rutschman (C, Baltimore Orioles)
Contrary to our initial glance, Rutschman not doing Badley. His rough start had weighed down his batting average but now he’s hitting .251/.347/.441 in 195 AB after hitting an impressive .340/.452/.540 with a homer in 50 AB over the last 3 weeks. Even from the beginning, I noticed that despite the lousy surface stats, he had displayed a good combination of plate discipline, contact rate, and raw power.
His 24% O-Swing% is great, but what I love more is his 70% Z-Swing%, meaning he has a naturally good eye and isn’t passive on good pitches. I also like his 83% Contact%, which gives him an elite 7% Swinging Strike%. Now if he was hitting for Keibert-level pop (this year’s version anyway) that would suffice, but he’s displayed a good basis for power. His 111 mph max eV suggests easy 20+ HR upside, with a healthy 15-degree launch angle. . Sure, his other power metrics like his 8% Barrel% and 44% HardHit% aren’t numbers that jump off the page, but he’s also making a ton of adjustments and I think more power will come, even if neutered a bit by the home park.
The biggest element of his value at the moment is his potential for OBP, as he’s looking an awful lot like the good version of Yasmani Grandal at the moment, which means a top catcher in the game. With his BB/K over the past two weeks a healthy 8/7, he should continue to draw walks and cut the K rate while being one of the few catchers hitting in the heart of the (albeit depleted) lineup. I think he’s a top-5 catcher going forward and in redrafts for trades, while it’s too late to buy low, I strongly suggest buying medium. In all formats, get your pick-axe and race to the gold Rutsch.
Trey Mancini (1B/OF, Houston Astros)
Just last week I wrote him as a sell, but with his new situation, I’m far less Mancinical. This bird has decided to upgrade and fly to outer space. The Orioles made a difficult but probably practical move trading the captain of their surprisingly decent club, although for a rather underwhelming haul. But this is probably good news for Mancini, who will be moving from a park that has turned into one of the pitcher-friendliest to one that turned into one of the hitter-friendliest. And too many people are sleeping on that.
Let’s not forget Alex Bregman, whose guts Statcast has hated for years, but as a righty pull flyball hitter he’s managed to beat the system by flicking the ball over the short fence. Mancini is also a righty, but as we know, he’s more of a groundball guy. Well, KNOW AGAIN! See, this year, although his season line looks similar to last year, he’s quietly making massive launch angle changes. He’s rocking a career-high 38% FB% (30% career) with a strong 22% LD% and 39% GB%, but also has a career-high pull rate of 43% (career 37%). Given that his hard hit rate is exactly his career mark of 42%, one would expect this to result in more barrels, yet his barrel rate is still 10%, also right in line with his career. But still, that shouldn’t be bad, but here’s the kicker… Over his career, his HR/FB has been 19% This year, it’s nearly half that, at just 10%, and it seems the most likely explanation is the most obvious one, that dang wall. So let’s get some fresh-squeezed Minute Maid long-range juice.
Here’s the fun part. Statcast has a feature called Expected Home Runs by Park, overlaying the flyballs over different park dimensions. In new sad Camden, he gets 11. But overlay it to Minute Maid… and it’s 21. Twenty-one! Sure, he only will play half his games there, but I would not be surprised to see him suddenly surge into a .290 hitter with 12-15 HR over the final two months, with plenty of run production. Scoop him now before the new Astro takes off like 2022 baby George Jetson’s flying car.
Alec Bohm (3B, Philadelphia Phillies)
His bat is so electric lately, he might just become Ohm. The line drive extraordinaire still hasn’t brought the lift to make him a power threat, but he’s been racking up hits by the dozen, hitting a blistering .460/.481/.600 with a homer in 50 AB over the past 3 weeks. Sure, the fact he only drew 2 walks over that span isn’t great, but why walk when you’re hitting like that? The fact he only struck out 5 times makes up for it. But what I love most isn’t that he’s hitting the ball, it’s where he’s hitting the ball.
Since April, he’d been hitting tons of grounders, but he’s no Yandy Diaz. Every month, he’s steadily improved, from a 49% GB% in April to 46% in May, 44% in June, and just 38% GB% in July. That trend is his friend, as his 33% FB% in July is nearly normal and that is exciting for a hitter with his strong 111 mph MaxEV and 43% HardHit%. On top of that, while he’s no contact king, he’s posting the best Contact% of his career at 80%, and despite his increased aggressiveness with a career-high 35% O-Swing%, he still rarely whiffs with a strong 24% CSW%.
Third base has been a rather brutal position this year, and given the incremental improvements of Bohm that seem to finally be blossoming, I’m adding him in the leagues where teams continue to ignore him because of the lack of power. He reminds me a lot of a young Nick Castellanos and he sure found his power, and I expect Bohm to at least be a batting average boon but expect a bit more pop in the second half as well. Be smart with Alec in 12-team batting average formats.
Steven Kwan (OF, Cleveland Guardians)
What would you do for a Kwan-like star? Kwan appeared to be nothing but an example of spring small sample hype mania, and I had reflected that until he brings the wheels it’ll be hard for him to amass value. Well, it seems he listened up, as he’s stolen 3 bases with a .364 AVG this week, and is now up to 9 nabbed bags on the year. While he still has minimal pop, he did hit a homer while hitting .358 over the past 3 weeks, raising his season average all the way up to .297/.370/.381 with 2 HR and 9 SB.
Sure, that may not be the most appealing line with the lack of pop, but many teams right now are hurting for batting average/OBP and stolen bases, and I think Kwan is arguably one of the most reliable sources of both on your wire. While I’m definitely concerned there’s no power upside with one of the lowest hard hit rates (21%), I am at least encouraged that he managed to bop one at 107 mph, so maybe, like Arraez, there’s some hope. And given he stole 3 bases in June and again in July, with only 2 caught stealing in total, I expect another 5-10 SB over the final two months as he plays out the string. He’s a fine category streamer or needs-based add in 12-team, for both OBP and AVG.
Brandon Nimmo (OF, New York Mets)
He’s been in Gotham a while, but now that he’s being overlooked, perhaps he can follow the meme and become Dark Brandon and blast those balls. He’s long been an underrated player (and overrated by some Mets fans), which is understandable when you realize that with 10 HR this year, 2022 is only his second season with double-digit taters since his debut in 2016. I know, I know, he rarely topped 400 PA in any of those seasons, but that’s also part of my point.
This has been a weird year for him, and so I can’t decide if I like him more or less. The bad is that he stopped stealing bases, without a single pilfered parallelogram pad. (Something tells me that term for SB is not catching on). He also has a significantly lower walk rate this year, at just 9% (career 14%). That’s because he’s adopted a more aggressive approach in general, so the good is that he’s striking out less, with a career-best 17% K%. Despite this, he still has a career-best SwStr% of 8%, thanks to a career-best contact% of 84% (89% Z-Contact%). This makes me think it’s a net gain since he likely suffered from letting too many good called strikes past him.
The barrel rate, while not flashy, is a career-best 8%, and Statcast thinks he’s earned every bit of his solid .269 AVG and .429 SLG%. While those numbers may not seem special, keep in mind that he’s batting leadoff ahead of Marte, Lindor, and Alonso, so he should be a run machine in the final two months. I still think he could at least try for a bag or two, but I think it will be his solid accumulation skills that make him a must-own in all 15-team formats, and no longer just OBP formats, so snag him off your waiver wire like a frisbee and the stats of NIMHo.
Luis Rengifo (2B/SS/3B, Los Angeles Angels)
if you think I’m overrating him, you can RenGTFO. I’d love to meet the man in April 2022 who would predict that on a team with Trout and Ohtani, Luis Rengifo would currently be the #3 hitter. I’d also love to take that man with me through a time machine with lotto tickets and an almanac. Rengifo was a prospect I liked years ago as he seemed to have tons of speed, batting average, and lite pop, but this was apparently a minor league mirage as he stole only 6 bags over 500 AB the next 3 seasons… with 6 times caught. But this year, he seems to finally turned into a decently well-rounded player.
The 25-year-old is sizzling up a .373/.422/.492 line with 0 HR but 2 SB over 59 AB the past two weeks, raising his line to a surprisingly adept .275/.319/.410 with 5 HR and 5 SB in 244 AB. And this time, he was only caught stealing once. Extrapolating that 5/5 to a full season at this point isn’t so irresponsible, and a 10/10 guy with that line is rather useful in deep leagues, and better than Ha-Seong Kim who has been the more popular player as of late (at least until the trade deadline). That said, there’s nothing special about his batted ball quantity or quality this year signifying a breakout. His 78% contact% is slightly better, his 38% O-Swing% is worse, and his 4% Barrel% is worse, and his 35% is better. So why the big year? Well, he is taking fewer called strikes this year at 13% (17% career), so that helps, but I think also it’s just some luck combined with better-than-ever lineup protection.
He’s been playing every day and his multi-position eligibility makes him as valuable for your fantasy team as it does for the Angels’ depleted roster. Just don’t get too excited about it. But also keep in mind that he’s just one game away from OF eligibility in most leagues, and the Halos trading Marsh makes that more likely to happen soon, and having the middle, corner, and OF covered by one player makes him a true Swiss-army knife in leagues with shallow benches. So add him for the underrated run-production ability in 15-team average leagues, and even some OBP formats despite the value dip.
Maikel García (SS, Kansas City Royals)
The Royals finally decided they were fed up with Nicky Lopez, and so they replaced him with a younger Nicky Lopez. Maikel García has never had a lot of prospect acclaim due to the fact that having near-zero power is generally not conducive to hype. But to his credit, he did hit .291 with 4 HR and 27 SB in 78 Games (369 PA) in Triple-A as a 22-year-old, which would get a lot more attention if it wasn’t, like, less than half of the output of Esteury Ruiz, whose debut fell rather flat. But Maikel, meanwhile, has been sharp in his first week up, hitting .316/.316/.368 in 19 AB.
Now, you could easily look at the fact he’s doing this with a 26% K% and unsustainable .429 BABIP and call it fluky and move on, which is what I initially did before looking deeper. But his strikeout and walk rates should improve, as he had a strong 11% BB% in Double-A with a solid K% of 16%, and he’s maintained good rates throughout the minors. What’s more, he’s displayed good contact in the majors with a 91% Z-Contact% and 85% Contact% overall, and also has a 24% O-Swing% which suggests a much better walk rate. Part of his problem is that he’s letting too many strikes go by, with an ugly 22% Called Strike%, but I think this is more correctible and less concerning than poor contact. Given his speed and spacious home park, I think he’s exactly the kind of guy who can run a .350 BABIP, though I do hope he’s also the guy who can run, period. I try to not get too impatient despite him not yet attempting a stolen base, and there’s always a risk it continues like it does for other high-SB rookies, but given the lack of other viable AVG/SB options in many leagues, it’s worth the risk.
The Royals dealing Emmanuel Rivera and Whit Merrifield certainly opens up his playing time situation a bit more, which frankly, he badly needs, considering that the Royals Roster Resource page still doesn’t even list him as a starter (they still list Lopez there, though García had more ABs this week). I am somewhat expecting Witt to be moved to 3B (replacing Dozier) to let Garcíatake over short. Either I think the Royals are going to let the kids play, and the question remains if Matheny will still let the kids run. Add in deeper 15-team points leagues and deeper roto leagues if you need speed and average, and if you don’t he’s more of an AL-only play.
Christian Arroyo (2B/3B/SS/OF, Boston Red Sox)
He’s the king of the Red Sox junk pile finds, and it’s time we call him Your Arroyo Highness. It’s too bad this Christian doesn’t also play catcher. The Red Sox made some puzzling moves over the deadline, which if anything hurts Arroyo’s playing time with more at-bats in the short-term going to Hosmer and Pham, but I think Arroyo is actually good enough now that he still deserves to play. Not exactly what I expected to be saying about someone who was an offensive non-factor a few years ago, but I didn’t expect to be saying that a few years before that when he was a top prospect.
Last year he finally established that he can at least be a useful utility backup, and this year he seems he could be taking another leap forward in his age-27 season. Sure, it certainly helps that he’s hitting .538 in 13 ABs since he returned, but what I really like are the underlying numbers. The first thing worth pointing out is that while his surface line of .256 with 4 HR and 3 SB looks rather similar to last year, his K% is down 10 points from 24% to 14%. While I initially expected it to be a small sample fluke, it’s entirely supported by a huge jump in contact%, which is up to a career-best 84% (75% in 2021) and an even more impressive 92% Z-Contact%. While he still has a high chase rate at 39%, he also swings at a whopping 77% of strikes, giving him an elite 21% CSW%, which is 6th best in baseball between Freddie Freeman and Ty France. That suggests his K% should drop and more hits should fall.
So you may assume he’s sacrificing power for contact, but he’s not only maintained, but gained. He has a career-best 42% HardHit% and 9% barrel% which is quite good even for someone without elite contact skills. I also believe it as he raised his launch angle to a healthy 13 degrees (from 9 in 2021), and even more importantly, set a new MaxEV of an elite 112 mph. With elite contact and raw power, not to mention 3 SB without getting caught, I think he may be a classic case of a talented guy just taking a while to find himself. I’m adding in all 15-team leagues, especially AVG leagues, on the chance his last two months resemble Ty France’s first two months.
Tommy Pham (OF, Boston Red Sox)
Congratulations on your new team! Now into the trash you go. Going into this year, I gladly discounted the ravages of age for his discount price, seeing his hitter-friendly home park and seeing a resurgence, and for a good chunk of the year that looked astute. But he’s really fallen off in every aspect of his game, with his solid 11 HR and 7 SB overshadowed by a steadily slipping average that now sits at .238. His xwOBA has been steadily sliding down into the ice-cold zone in his past 100 PA, and over the past 3 weeks is hitting an anemic .200/.237/.218 with 0 HR and 0 SB in 55 AB, to the point I wonder if he’s trying to play through an injury.
I assumed when the Red Sox acquired him, it was part of a bigger plan, but nope, they got him and Hosmer while still having JBJ around and also Enrique Hernandez coming back soon. So essentially, he needs to prove pretty quickly that he can hang, especially given that he’s not a good defender. Sure, last time he was traded to the AL back with the Rays, he had a big finish, so there’s hope he could do that again. But he’s also just not the same hitter. His strikeout rate is up about 5 points since then, and while he still hits the ball hard, the hard-hit rates are no longer their formerly elite rates. I don’t think the ballpark switch hurts him as much as bigger flyball hitters, but it doesn’t help him, either.
The good news is that in his first game, he hit second, and if he played every day in that slot, he’d still be pretty okay. But I doubt the goodwill gesture lasts for long if he plays out the string like this, and both his lineup position and playing time can easily be downgraded. Given I considered him a cut even before the trade, now it’s time to reject green goose eggs and pham.
Ryan Mountcastle (1B/OF, Baltimore Orioles)
I thought this was Mountcastle, but all I see is Moatcottage. I mean like the thatched roof cottages that can easily be burned by flamethrowing dragons. The 25-year-old slugger just lost one of the few players who could drive him in Mancini, and I don’t know if he really has a lot of drive left. He’s hitting just .153/.212/.186 with 0 HR in 59 AB over the past 3 weeks, and this is from a guy who had homers as his carrying tool, in the middle of a heatwave.
The good news is his barrel rate of 13% is actually higher than last year, as his career-best 47% HardHit%, which is why Statcast has called him a major underperformer this year, with a .279 xBA and .487 xSLG. But then again, I think that his home park digs are seriously crushing Baltimore hitters, and unlike Mancini, Mountcastle is stuck here on an offensive wasteland. I mean, it offends me how bad the other non-Adley hitters are.
There’s really just nothing special about the bat that makes him worth holding onto in shallow formats, especially OBP, where his 5% walk rate is worse than last year and caps his upside. In batting average leagues, you could still hold, but I don’t think the runs or the handful of SB make up for the fact that at a 102 wRC+, he’s been just barely above replacement level, and could soon slip below that. Dismount in 12-team OBP and shallow AVG formats.
Max Stassi (C, Los Angeles Angels)
At some point between 2020, someone turned the dial from Max Stassi to Min Stassi. He’s weaker than he’s been in previous years despite a still solid barrel rate, which has impressively stayed at 11% for 3 straight years. Around that, though, the rest of his game has crumbled, with a sudden career-worst 57% GB% (career 48%), and even worse is that nearly all of this came from his line drive rate. On the year, he’s hitting just .210/.301/.338 with 6 HR in 249 PA. That’s almost as disturbing as Max Headroom.
His contact rate, which had jumped up to 75% when he emerged as more than a backup option, has steadily climbed back down to a barely serviceable 70%. And if you assume, “He’s still barreling fine, so he’s just unlucky!” and disregard my panicking, consider this: His xBA is .198. Personally, I think the Marsh trade was, in a sense, a vote of no confidence for Stassi to remain the starting catcher, and I wouldn’t be too surprised for the Halos to call up their newly acquired catching prospect to Logan O’Hoppe into his place. Given he’s still in Double-A, that might not happen, but either way, I think Stassi is like a calendar, in that his days are numbered. Cut in 15-team AVG formats.
Nomar Mazara (OF, San Diego Padres)
Look, I normally dive into all the peripherals, but I don’t think I need to spell this one out for you. If you were sleeping under a Petco Park-sized rock, the Padres acquired Soto, Josh Bell (who can play OF), and Drury (who also can) and traded virtually no present talent away. He was cold, but given that even Ha-Seong Kim and others are likely getting squeezed out, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Nomar of this guy. Cut in all leagues as his playing time is going to approach Mazero.
Feature image by Michael Packard (@CollectingPack on Twitter) / Photography by Randy Litzinger & Rich von Biberstein / Icon Sportswire