My colleague Eric Cross is busy putting together some great content about some sell-high dynasty pitchers and hitters, so I thought I would take the time to put together a list of buy-low hitters and pitchers in redraft format leagues. This week I’ll focus on the hitters with the pitchers coming next week. So look forward to that one as we continue to get deeper and deeper into this fantasy season!
Whether it’s because an owner is fed up with a struggling player, or because they’ve picked up a great replacement, or even because they just have a need elsewhere on their team, it’s a great idea to put some feelers out on hitters that might be ready to have a bounce-back second half. If you can land these buy-low hitters for pennies on the dollar then you’re well on your way to finishing in the money in your league.
Now obviously not every struggling player is going to turn it around, but these are a few guys that I have the utmost confidence in and expect a major uptick in production, making the trade definitely worth it.
Top Buy-Low Hitters to Target
Matt Olson, 1B, Oakland Athletics
Olson took the baseball world by storm last year, clubbing 24 home runs in only 216 plate appearances with the big league club. In case you’re keeping track at home, that equals one homer for every nine plate appearances. That means he was hitting a home run EVERY OTHER GAME. If you go by at-bats and remove the appearances with walks and HBPs, that turns into a homer every 7.9 at-bats. That’s insane.
In that 2001 season that saw Barry Bonds break the single-season home run record, Bonds’ HR/plate appearance was only once every 9.1 plate appearances, though his HR/AB was an astounding 6.5, but however you shake it, Olson was a slugger last year.
That’s why coming into this year hopes were sky-high for the three true outcome player. His ADP was just outside of the top 100 at 117 and people were expecting a 40 homer season for sure. Of course, Olson proved to be human this year, as in his 291 plate appearances he’s only hit 14 long balls, which is a full-season pace of about 31 homers. That’s a bit disappointing, but not atrocious. It’s a good thing his batting average has been in a safe zone, making his excellent on-base skills really help him out, right? Wrong.
Olson’s average fell to .232 along with the lowest walk percentage since his first taste of professional baseball in 2012 of 8.6%. That tosses out a slash line of .232/.313/.440, quite a bit less than his .259/.352/.651 of 2017.
But all is not lost. In-between a sluggish start and this last week of struggles, Olson has a two-month stretch of hitting .254/.332/.488 with 12 of his 14 homers. Obviously, those bad games count, but there is enough talent here to hope the power ticks up just a bit and maybe that average comes up a bit as well. He also has too good a batting eye to “only” walk eight percent of the time, so I think that number jumps a few percentage points and he’s back in the double-digit territory.
Even though he looks like a .230/.300 30 homer bat, I’ll take the over and say he’s what I expected him to be all along, a .250/.330 35-40 homer bat. Pay accordingly. Of these buy-low hitters Olson has maybe the highest ceiling.
Rafael Devers, 3B, Boston Red Sox
In the preseason I was adamantly against taking Devers where he was being drafted (88th overall) for a number of reasons.
First, he was only 21 years old, and though Juan Soto is trying his best to prove that’s a moot point, for the most part, it still holds true that these young kids sometimes aren’t quite ready for the vigors of the Major Leagues.
Second, he doesn’t steal bases anymore like he did in the minors, and I expected anywhere from 3-to-9 total stolen bases from him in a season. And if he’s not going to steal, the value just isn’t quite there. When he hits his prime he’ll be a potential .300 hitter with 30 homer power. But right now, I said, that’s not who he is.
Well here we are in mid-June and sure enough, he’s not hitting .300 (.239), and he doesn’t have 30-homer power (he has 11, on pace for about 24). People are very disappointed, but to be honest, I think they are crazy. Why? Because of reason number one: he’s only 21 years old.
We seem to forget how young this kid is and how special what he did as a 20-year-old in 2017 was. Of course, last year’s numbers (.284/.338/.482, 10 HR in 240 plate appearances) were phenomenal, they were fueled by a .342 BABIP and a decently high groundball rate (remember, ground balls usually help batting average because they can sneak through the infield).
One positive trend is that he’s still hitting the ball hard and has actually improved his Hard% by a few points. He has also managed to increase his Z-Swing%, which is swinging at balls in the strike zone, which for the most part is a good trend. More balls in play means more opportunities for hits. And as long as the O-Swing% (swinging at pitches outside of the zone) remains at a reasonable 37%, he shouldn’t have much trouble getting that average to climb up a bit.
The bad news is that he’s actually gotten a bit worse since the beginning of the season. His numbers from May 1 on are not as good as what preceded them, though at least once the calendar turned to June his average crept up into the .250 territory.
I’m not too concerned though, and based on some reactions I’m seeing from his owners in various leagues they are about ready to cut bait. That means it’s time to swoop in and abscond Devers by giving up something of little value. Pressure the owner into moving him to you, because I think this youngster is really going to hit his stride in the second half.
Now, does that mean he bats .350? Absolutely not. But I do think he can hit .270-plus and provide good power and counting stats thanks to that amazing Red Sox lineup.
RAFAEL DEVERS MURDERED A BASEBALL pic.twitter.com/2IFaUNtrYj
— Andrew Tashian (@Tashville401) June 17, 2018
Josh Bell, 1B, Pittsburgh Pirates
I am notorious for formulating my ideas and opinions on what a player is going to do in a given year and then as soon as a coworker or someone in the industry tells me I’m an idiot, I start to second guess myself and end up taking a player I wasn’t as high on as the consensus.
The first time this happened was in the majestic year of 2006. I was preparing for a live draft with some friends for a website league (don’t worry, that website is long dead now) and a young Rockies outfielder named Brad Hawpe had caught my attention. In 2005 Hawpe had put up a solid but unspectacular .262/.350/.403 slash line with 9 homers in 351 plate appearances. I believed there was more power in that bat, and taking an offensive player in Colorado was never a bad idea.
Prior to the draft starting, I was chatting with some good friends and somehow one of them brought up Brad Hawpe. Now both of these guys tend to know their stuff so I listened intently and tried not to show my hand by allowing my excitement to shine through. They then proceeded to talk negatively about him for several minutes and by the end of the conversation, my faith was shaken. I didn’t draft Hawpe that day, and what did he do? Well, he hit .293/.383/.515 with 22 homers in 575 plate appearances. Someone else took a shot on him in the late rounds and was rewarded, all while I felt like an idiot for ignoring my own gut and analysis.
Queue 2018. It’s January and I’m getting into full baseball analysis mode. Josh Bell prior to the 2017 season was a lowpower, low-strikeout, OBP machine with no speed and a hit tool that pointed to maybe a .280 average at best. The 2017 season plays out and all of the above stays the same with the exception of a lower average and a much higher power output. He hit 26 homers in 620 plate appearances after having a previous career high of 17 in 636 plate appearances. You could make the argument that he sacrificed some batting average for power, but I wasn’t sold. His Hard% wasn’t that high, his HR/FB rate was nearly 10% higher than his career rate, and there wasn’t really a change in the number of fly balls he was actually hitting. No thanks, I said.
Then in a preseason episode of the NastyCast Podcast, I made my feelings known and was laughed at by both of my cohosts and a special guest who shall remain nameless. “Obviously he’s a much better power hitter now!” crooned one person. “He could even hit 30!” bellowed the next. And now here I sit through 288 Josh Bell plate appearances with FOUR home runs. FOUR. He has somehow managed to drop his already low power output into this abysmal territory in an era WHERE EVERYONE HITS HOME RUNS!
The first moral of this story is to trust yourself. If you’re confident in your abilities as I am (or should be), then stick to them and don’t let a moment of weakness change your thoughts on a whim. Had I not done so, I could have drafted Justin Bour instead with his 12 homers and nearly identical slash line. Or perhaps I could have gone with Eric Thames who has missed half the season so far and still has more than double Bell’s home run total with 9. Obviously, I’m a bit cranky about this. But it’s still nothing compared to being told Luis Castillo is a second-tier ace when I wasn’t all that interested, but maybe I can talk about that one next week.
The second point I’m making here is that Josh Bell has seemingly been really bad. Overall, his line sits at .246/.326/.381 with those 4 home runs and 36 Runs and RBI respectively. But there are some silver linings. Despite the low slugging percentage, Bell is still rocking a league average wOBA of .310, which isn’t exactly exciting but it does show that despite how “bad” he’s been, he hasn’t been killing the team he’s on despite what the owner may believe.
There are a handful of things that point toward a brighter future ahead including a HR/FB rate 4-5% below his career average. He utilizes all fields pulling the ball only 35 percent of the time, and though that’s not great for power numbers, it does imply there could be some batting average fortune in his future. This is a guy that scouts gave a potential 60-grade hit tool mark too, so if he reaches that potential then .300 is well within reach.
I think Bell owners (except me, I’m too stubborn and I’ll be sticking with him expecting the breakout) are getting a bit fed up with Bell, and if you’re in a league that rosters a Corner Infielder you could do much worse. And I sincerely doubt he’s going to cost much, so there’s plenty of profit to be had here. Snag him while you can!
Zack Cozart, 3B, Los Angeles Angels
Much like fellow transplant to Anaheim Ian Kinsler, Cozart has had a bit of a rough go of it while wearing Halo’s red. While Kinsler has begun to pick it up already, Cozart is sitting on a .219/.296/.362 slash line with 5 homers. This is a far cry from his 2017 line of .297/.385/.548 with 24 homers. I didn’t exactly believe that was truly legit, but I thought some of his gains were real. The truth is probably closer to his .252/.308/.425 16-homer 2016 season. Well somewhere in between ’16 and ’17 anyway. He’s hurt now (like always) but when he’s healthy I expect an uptick in performance and he could be a nice Middle Infield option for the second half.
Kyle Seager, 3B, Seattle Mariners
It’s hard to believe Seager is only 30 years old since it seems like he’s been manning the hot corner for the M’s forever. But it’s the truth and we now have a second year in a row where he’s had a pretty crappy first half of the season. The power has been there, as evidenced by his 12 home runs, but not much else has been good, leading to a .224/.272/.413 slash line. This is a guy who has hit 25-plus homers the last four years and 20-plus homers the last 6, so I’m not quite ready to call this his demise. I think there’s a solid second half in there and I can definitely see last year’s numbers of .249/.323/.450 with 27 homers as easily attainable. If the Seager owner is growing weary, pounce now.
Adam Duvall, OF, Cincinnati Reds
The last several years has seen the rise of the Adam Duvall/Ryon Healy type. They are hitters who bat roughly .250, don’t walk much, and hit for quite a lot of power. Duvall himself has put together two straight years where he hit 30-plus homers, had an average between .240-.250, and walked so little his OBP sat right at .300. Oh, and the strikeouts. He does that a bit with his K% sitting right at about 27 percent.
This season has been a bit different though. He’s walking a bit more, but hitting well below the Mendoza Line with an average of .186. Although the power is pretty much where it usually is, though down a tiny bit, he has just struggled with batted ball luck. A .209 BABIP says he could easily add the .050 points he needs for his average to be where it usually is, so I’m buying in. Check with the owner and complain loudly about that batting average and maybe you’ll get him at a discount.