Five More Buyback Candidates

I’m not above “borrowing” a good idea from a colleague. Yesterday, Paul Sporer wrote about five players he’d give a second chance in 2019. These were names with a little helium attached who failed to deliver value for various reasons. I especially agree with Jorge Polanco who improved throughout his PED-shortened season.

Shall we get to it? To quote Paul, “the hype is gone, their price has tanked, and now is the time to buy!”

Five More Buyback Candidates

Bradley Zimmer | Cleveland Indians | ADP 512

By ADP, Zimmer has fallen straight off the face of the earth. After a mixed debut in 2017 which included decent power, surprising speed, and not nearly enough contact, a shoulder injury limited Zimmer to just 114 plate appearances in 2018. When he did play, he performed poorly. Even with only a 63 wRC+, he was on pace for a 1.5 WAR season. He’s a quality defender which will help ensure he plays.

A healthy Zimmer is not just a starter for the Indians – he’s their best outfielder. Cleveland is sitting on such luminaries as Leonys Martin, Greg Allen, Tyler Naquin, and Jordan Luplow. Not exactly Stud City. Zimmer is said to be progressing in his rehab, although shoulder injuries require a notoriously long recovery time. The 26-year-old will need health and a modest breakout to become a fantasy contributor. I’m still happy to draft him 200 picks earlier than his ADP. Few players taken after pick 300 offer 30 steals with upside for 20 home runs.

Aaron Sanchez | Toronto Blue Jays | ADP 390

I don’t know how to quit Sanchez. An unceasing barrage of injuries – mostly to his fingers – have prevented him from replicating his breakthrough 2016 season. In limited action over the last two years, he’s struggled to command his pitches. He also lost a tick on the radar gun. All signs suggest we should abandon ship.

So why am I still taking fliers on him? In short, he’s a 26-year-old with considerable major league experience, a sinker we know can play, and a brief moment in time when he was a fringe Cy Young candidate. Sinker specialists often struggle to adapt to the majors. The profile works best with pinpoint control – a trait Sanchez has yet to show outside of his one strong season. There’s some cause for hope that new research on tunneling could make its way into his hands.

Be on the lookout for any rumors related to a new pitch (a slider would make a lot of sense) or different pitch usage. Otherwise, I’d only take him at this ADP since his support cast is too weak to fuel a strong win total. You’re hoping to trade him after a hot Spring Training or April – before your opponents remember the AL East is hell.

Anibal Sanchez | Washington Nationals | ADP 345

The rest of these buyback candidates posted disappointing numbers in 2018. Sanchez’s candidacy is quite different. His 2018 breakout was so uncharacteristic for a 34-year-old that nobody believes he can repeat the feat. His 2.83 ERA with nearly a strikeout per inning were very valuable considering they cost nothing. While regression is likely, we should be looking to his 3.62 FIP rather than the execrable performances of years past.

Sanchez’s resurgence was fueled by a new pitch and a change in pitch usage. There are signs he could even take another step forward by further tinkering with his repertoire. He’s the fourth pitcher in the Nationals weighty rotation. The club should supply him with more than the seven wins he earned in 2018.

Luis Urias | San Diego Padres | ADP 353

Admittedly, Urias is a better asset in deep keeper and dynasty formats where you can afford to be very patient. The 21-year-old was overmatched at times during his major league debut. His minor league track record suggests he should eventually grow in to a high contact, high OBP hitter with a smattering of home runs and stolen bases. The obvious comp for me is Jorge Polanco who Paul already identified as a value at pick 220. The difference between the two players is that Polanco is fully actualized while Urias is a pure upside play. At a 130 pick discount, it’s not a bad gamble.

Michael Conforto | New York Mets | ADP 108

I figured we should end on somebody who isn’t a last round flier in a typical 12-team mixed league.

Last spring, I nabbed a bunch of discount Conforto shares in early February before rumors of his imminent return soured my outlook. Shoulder injuries like the one suffered by Conforto should have held him out through at least the end of May. That he rushed back can be clearly seen in his first half numbers. Through mid-June, he hit just .212/.341/.363. Thereafter, he slashed .260/.355/.494 with a 30 home run pace. His post-All Star Break performance was even shinier.

I’m 100 percent buying the most recent numbers – something I usually strongly caution against. For one, they match healthy versions of Confortos past. The Mets lineup has improved this offseason. While I tend to believe the concept of “protection” is vastly overblown, it does help with run production when your colleagues can hit too. By projections, Conforto is an easy bet to out-play David Dahl (67 ADP). My expectations for him are very similar to Cody Bellinger (49 ADP).

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3 years ago

Conforto had a very high HR/FB rate in the 2nd half. Was high also in 2017. Not so sure how sustainable that is. It would suggest that he is really more of a 40+ HR guy. Will be interesting to see what he does when healthy over a full season.

3 years ago
Reply to  Brad Johnson

Based on his second half’s HR/PA and Steamer 2019 PA projections, he’s more of a ~34 HR guy than the ~28-29 Steamer projects him for. If using his HR/PA rate from his breakout 2017, it would be closer to 37 projected HR for 2019.

I’m willing to buy at last year’s second half HR rate, so ~34 HR. At the very least, I think you have to bump up his current projection by ~2-3 HR though.