The Change: A Buy-Low For Every Situation by Eno Sarris July 13, 2016 The All-Star break is a time to furiously send trade offers before those bottom half teams check out, or at least try to entice them back to their computers for one last look at their teams so that they might help you improve yours. But we’re all in different types of leagues, so instead of a few mixed-league buy low players, I thought I would try to dream up some buy-low players for every situation. I won’t cover all of you, that’s impossible with the proliferation of fantasy baseball styles these days, but maybe I’ll cover more of you. Matt Holliday In a shallow redraft league, you don’t care about tomorrow. You might care a little bit that Holliday is 36 years old, that has implications for his second half, maybe, his health, maybe. But he looks healthy now, other than a slight ankle injury going into the break, and you’re not going to get power and batting average cheap like you might with the Cardinals outfielder. He’s hitting .241 so maybe you scoff at the idea that he might hit for average, but he’s actually underperforming his batted ball velocities and angles. His batting average on contact is .310, and his expected BACON based on exit velocity and angle is .370, and no batter with more than 300 plate appearances has a bigger difference between the two. In the past we might have said that power takes long to stabilize and the rest of his line looks mediocre, but now we know that he’s hitting the ball harder this year (95.5 mph, up from 91.6 mph) and in the right angles (his fly ball percentage is up four points). If he keeps up his current swing, he should hit .280 with 15 homers in the second half. Adeiny Hechavarria In a deep redraft league, a warm body with a batting average above drowning level is a valuable thing, especially on the middle infield. So here’s a middle infielder with no power and little speed hitting .238! At the very least, he should be attainable. And if we can believe his expected work on balls in play — by two different calculations, no less — then better days are coming for the batter who can take inside pitches to the opposite field with the best of them. Andre Perpetua’s work says the Marlins shortstop should be hitting .273, and by Alex Chamberlain’s numbers, he should be hitting even better than that. Last year, he had three months where he hit poorly, and three months where he hit .280+. Maybe those months are just coming in a different order this year. Aaron Nola Depending on how shallow your mixed league is, you may not even have to buy low on our shallow mixed league buy low arm. He’s available in 53% of Yahoo leagues. But Nola shows up on too many good lists to ignore him. He’s ninth in strikeouts minus walks. He was second in called strikes per pitch recently. He’s tied for tenth in exit velocity allowed. Judged by z-scores (two times whiff rate z-scores plus one times ground-ball rate), Nola’s curve is ninth in baseball (minimum 200 thrown). It’s a great combination of stuff and command, even if the velocity isn’t top-shelf. Yes, his mechanics might be a little off. This is a guy that has made a living on clean mechanics in the past, and should right ship shortly. Jerad Eickhoff When you’re buying low in a deeper league, it has to be less clear than it is with Nola. Eickhoff is not on the first page of strikeout minus walks leaders, that page is full of buy-lows like Michael Pineda, buy lows where people will see you coming a mile away. David Price? Good luck buying low. There are a couple guys on that page that warrant mention, like Robbie Ray and Jon Gray. Yes, you could take a chance on those two NL arms in terrible home parks. It’s obvious they have velocity and stuff. And, in the case of Gray at least, the chance to have a fuller arsenal sooner, since Gray admitted to me that he’s throwing the cutter, slider, and curve more often, and even experimenting with same-handed, harder changeups. He may click, and he’s already a strikeout minus walk monster. But Ray has no third pitch, no command, and nothing to really recommend him other than velocity and strikeouts. He’s on the wrong side of the exit velocity list, too. Eickhoff is on the second page of K-BB, has improved his exit velocity suppression more than anyone, and now has a full arsenal with an above average curve, slider, and sinker by whiffs and grounders z-scores. He’s doubled his slider usage since earlier in the season and is better than his high-threes ERA indicates. Cody Allen Buying a closer is a terrible idea. Don’t do it. If you have to, look for a guy with a low saves total on a good team. Because when I looked the kinds of teams got the most saves chances, they went to teams that could score runs and had a good bullpen, and there was little rhyme or reason to it otherwise. The Indians are sixth in the American League in batting over the last month, and their bullpen has been average over the same time frame. This is a competitive team that may look to improve the bullpen but won’t pay for a new closer. Oh, and Allen has settled the walk rate, walking only 2.4 guys per nine since June started. He’s a top notch closer that may get more saves chances going forward and doesn’t have any injury markers. Michael Conforto Buying low in a dynasty league, especially for a bat, is near impossible. Everyone wants to wait it out with their young bat. So maybe you can’t get Conforto right now, even though he’s suffering from a wrist injury and was demoted to the major leagues. The Mets probably don’t think Brandon Nimmo is a better solution long term, but they do think he’s a better fit for right now, and that could be to your benefit. By his launch angles and exit velos, Conforto ‘should’ be hitting .251/.321/.455 instead of .222/.296/.431, and that ignores that his plate approach shows maturity beyond his years. Conforto can cover all parts of the plate and is one of the more balanced hitters against fastballs when right. He’s getting right in Las Vegas and nows the time to pounce, even in twelve-teamers where you only keep six or seven hitters. He can make the cut. Domingo Santana Here’s yet another injured outfielder for your keeper league, but admittedly lower on the list and for deeper dynasties. I’ve become the Domingo Santana apologist as one chatter had it. It looks so bad that you might be able to pry this bat, since Santana is striking out in more than a third of his at bats and using a high batting average on balls in play to support a terrible batting average. He’s even probably hurt. But he’s still improved his reach rate by a ton, is swinging less often, walking more often, and hitting the ball hard. If you’re pointing to that high BABIP or wondering about the power, he should be doing better there. His expected slugging percentage by walks and homers should be 40 points higher, at least. Even if he’s hitting too many balls on the ground, he’s lifted them in the past, and he’s in a good spot on this exit velocity list. Now’s the time to offer your Matt Holliday for his Domingo Santana in a keeper league. Phil Bickford Buying pitching prospects? Refer to the rule about closers above. Just don’t do it. But if you were to do it, focus on an arm that you like that’s not in the top 20 on rankings around the internets. Bickford won’t get on those rankings, not with a 92 mph fastball and secondaries that don’t make you drool. What he does have is plus command of a rising fastball, an emerging changeup, and a slider that’s toughened up recently. Don’t target Bickford, especially since you never know if he’ll stay in San Francisco’s organization, but get him in a throw-in for sure. Let them accuse you of scouting the stats, it’s fine. If you want the guy throwing 97 with an awesome breaking ball and a developed change, you’ll have to pay Julio Urias prices, right? Gary Sanchez The chances are running out for Sanchez, it seems, as he’s been in the minor leagues for ages. That’s because he signed at 16 as a catcher who couldn’t catch. Since he’s a little bit big and in the New York organization, he’ll give people the Jesus Montero jiggly stomach with the butterflies and all that. But there’s a chance he’s a better bat that Montero was, and he’s definitely better defensively than Montero. After talking to the catcher about his defensive approach at the Arizona Fall League last year, I’m convinced that the next chance Sanchez will get is a long one, and that Brian McCann is destined for some part-time work at first base or DH in the near future. Not like Sanchez did well in the Futures Game in order to hype his stock, or is showing up on mid-season top 50 prospect lists.