Stock watch: Pirates are must-see TV, Alex Kirilloff is breaking out and more - The Athletic

2022-06-27 00:55:55 By : Mr. Bryan Wang

It was spring 2013, and I was making my daily commute to my newspaper job in Punxsutawney, PA. Yes, that Punxsutawney. Bill Murray. The Groundhog. A random episode of Viva La Bam.

I was the sports editor at the local paper — The Punxsutawney Spirit — and I had a 45-minute drive each way for work. Mind you, gas wasn’t $7.11 at 7-11 like it is now, but it was still quite a trip in my little Chevy Cruze.

On the way home from work one night, I stopped at God’s favorite gas station — Sheetz — and filled up my tank. While doing so, I was on the phone with my girlfriend and future wife, letting her know I’d be home soon and asking about her day. I paid, filled up, pulled away, and made my way down I-80 to get to my home. But that’s when things got weird.

It was about 22 miles or so from Sheetz to my apartment, and I was listening to some kind of music or podcast — maybe even the dulcet tones of Nando, Al, Adam, and Scott — for my trek. A car came up behind me, flashed his lights at me, and started beeping at me. Now, I’ve always been a law-abiding citizen, so I was definitely going like 5-10 mph over the speed limit at the time and my lights were on. What was this guy’s problem?

I moved to the right lane, and he pulled up beside me, continuing to beep and get my attention. While I watched my share of Mike Tyson, Lennox Lewis, and Evander Holyfield fights, I didn’t quite feel like getting into a highway brawl, so I ignored him and just kept driving.

He kept flashing his lights, beeping at me, and trying desperately to get my attention, but I reached my exit and pulled off the highway. Thank God it was over … or so I thought.

When I got to my apartment building, I got out of my car and the first thing I saw made my jaw drop and I realized that was the reason Highway Hank was trying so hard to get my attention. I forgot to disconnect the gas hose from the pump to my car and I drove about 22 miles with it inserted into my gas tank, with the hose flailing about the highway.

Panic, regret, hindsight, and embarrassment set in as I called Sheetz — who let me know that the driver following me did, in fact, call the cops on me. And as I drove back to return their gas hose, I realized I didn’t have panic, regret, hindsight, and embarrassment because I drove off with the gas hose still attached — OK, slightly embarrassed — but it was mainly due to me ignoring the signs that were presented to me from another motorist, as I just chose to go about my drive.

I get those same feelings of panic, regret, hindsight, and embarrassment when it comes to fantasy baseball, too — especially when there is some kind of sign with a player who is right in front of me, but I choose to ignore it.

I’m looking at you, Jazz Chisholm (buy).

In my last stock report, I ended the column by writing that Chisholm was a sell for fantasy purposes — especially in points format.

While I did acknowledge that Chisholm could be changing as a player, I let his longer track record (fair) and my own personal bias (not fair) cloud the actual strides he made as a ballplayer.

It’s important to take a step back and see the signs that are being presented to you. Whether that’s with a breakout fantasy stud, or if you happen to forget the basics of pumping gas.

Let’s get into other players who are buys, sells, and holds.

Like last time, we’ll get into all the players who popped up for me over the past month-plus since my last column ran, but I also have my YTD Points League Rankings sheet that I try to update as often as I can. It should be no surprise seeing names like José Ramírez (buy), Sandy Alcantara (buy), and Mike Trout (buy) among the top performers in the format. They are toward the top in any format, and we know they are studs (strike a few more hitters out, Sandy!). So we won’t be spending a ton of time on those studs, nor will we with Corbin Burnes (buy), Alek Manoah (buy), or Gerrit Cole (buy).

It’s not just the obvious buys we won’t talk about, but we’ll pass over obvious sells — to me, at least — too. I’m talking about players like Martín Pérez (sell), Nick Pivetta (sell), and Tony Gonsolin (sell). But if you have questions about them, feel free to ask me below (like, way below because this piece is probably going to be annoyingly long) in the comments.

Let’s get to it with a pair of Padres, shall we? No, not Eric Hosmer (sell) or Trent Grisham (sell), but two young lads in MacKenzie Gore (sell) and C.J. Abrams (buy).

Now, let’s be clear here, we are discussing redraft with them and not dynasty. In dynasty, we’re buying both and not expecting a hard crypto-crash. But they aren’t NFTs, they are real, valuable pieces (and people, most importantly).

For Gore, though, I have a little bit of concern after his past two outings. Yes, one came at Coors Field, which is forgivable given the effects it has on breaking pitches. But the outing before, Gore got knocked around by the Rockies in San Diego. Uh oh!

What’s more confusing is that Gore threw his curveball 30.4 percent of the time in his last start, which was a season high. But if Coors suppresses the effects of breaking balls, why would Gore rely on it so much when it’s his most hittable pitch?

Gore has shown a lot this year for those who wrote him off, but the league is adjusting to him. I’d try to capitalize in redraft while you can.

As for Abrams, it’s a different story. I’m looking to buy the young prospect who was recalled after Manny Machado (hold) was injured over the weekend. The cup of coffee that Abrams had to open the season was like an iced coffee from Dunkin’ Donuts, but he turned that into a nice hot mocha after his demotion. Abrams was slashing .314/.364/.507 during his demotion with seven home runs and 10 steals.

With the infield injuries that the Padres have, Abrams’ run should be more extended this time around, and the 21-year-old has game-changing, 80-grade speed. Show me a manager who doesn’t need speed and I’ll Venmo you $1 (times are tough).

Break up the Buccos? Well, not quite. But back in 2012 when I covered the Pirates, Clint Hurdle said that he wanted to reconnect the city of Pittsburgh with baseball. And he did that, to an extent. Hell, look at the playoff game when the Pirates fans got into the head of Johnny Cueto (sell) and made him drop the ball on the mound before the Russell Martin (happy retirement!) home run.

But since then, baseball hasn’t been too exciting in the Steel City. Until now. The team still isn’t good, but they at least have fun pieces to watch as they prepare for their 2024 serious run. The recent additions of Oneil Cruz (buy), Bligh Madris (sell), Jack Suwinski (buy), and Roansy Contreras (buy), as well as the emergence of David Bednar (buy) and resurgence of Bryan Reynolds (buy), makes them a must-watch team on MLB.TV.

I can’t write about all of these guys in-depth, but we have to talk about Cruz, right? His debut has been discussed ad nauseam at this point, but he’s just a special, physical specimen and it took him just two games to set season-highs for the Pirates in Statcast fun stats, and to become the favorite for the National League Rookie of the Year Award. Hopefully he learned how to pinch-hit while he was in the minors.

Pirates farm dir John Baker re: Oneil Cruz’s work at Indy – incl. bouncing positons, pinch hitting – to prepare for his callup: “We’re making sure we cover all possible scenarios he may encounter in Pittsburgh — and we’re getting pretty close to checking all those off the list.”

He’s already been a marvel for the Pirates and showed the glimpses of what he could be when he set the Pirates’ Statcast record for the hardest hit ball in the Statcast era last season.

The hardest hit ball for the #Pirates in the Statcast era (2015-present) belongs to Oneil Cruz (118.2 mph) last season. He has 3 MLB plate appearances. Welcome to the show, kid.

But what does it mean for fantasy?

Well, let me tell you something, Mean Gene (this is not a Hulk Hogan fan account), the future looks exciting for Cruz. He’s a 6-foot-7 shortstop, who hits piss missiles and has elite speed. The worry for me is how his mechanics hold up over time with his large frame. But if they hold up, he’s Aaron Judge (buy) with speed. If they don’t, he’s Franchy Cordero (who cares).

I’m doing a startup dynasty mock with some other rad fantasy scribes, and I took Cruz on the 4-5 turn with the 65th pick overall.

I did a pulse check for Cruz, too, to see where people were at on him.

PULSE CHECK THREAD: Who do you prefer in dynasty leagues?

It’s nowhere the same for Suwinksi, mind you, but it’s easy to write him off because he sounds like a create-a-player on MVP Baseball 2005 and someone with as much prospect pedigree as myself (I hit dingers in Litttle League).

But the difference between Suwinski and me — one of many, probably — is that he’s hitting dingers in the big leagues (but I bet he can’t write as well as me, so there, Jack!).

Suwinksi, who suddenly feels like a grizzled vet after the call-ups the Pirates made, leads all rookies in home runs. He’s a hard player to evaluate because of the canceled 2020 minor league season, and he had no exposure above Double-A. The strikeout rate is high, but the swinging strike rate isn’t terrible. And while he doesn’t make hard consistent contact, I do like his approach at the plate. I think there’s something there in 15-teamers going forward, and you shouldn’t be surprised with a final line of like .256 and 27 home runs. That’ll play.

Pittsburgh is a beautiful city, but let’s move on to the oasis of America — Detroit.

While Robbie Grossman (hold) is coming around, we are really excited that Riley Greene (buy) is back, and his impression has already made a world of difference for the Tigers. What I’m watching for with Greene is his strikeout rate, which has been around 27 percent throughout his minor-league life.

Cruz is getting all the hype of the rookies right now, but there’s a reason that Greene was a Top 3 prospect before he got called up. Temper the expectation for steals, though.

Since we are already up north, let’s go further north to the most beautiful city in the world, Toronto, Canada.

I could write 3,000 words on the Blue Jays, but as a professional, unbiased journalist (go Jays!), I’ll keep it brief.

Kevin Gausman (buy) seems to have been a victim of the slick ball, but MLB is taking steps to remedy that, it seems. Get up, come on, get rid of the slickness, or whatever Disturbed said in that song back in the day.

As for José Berríos (sell), what are we even doing, folks? The only thing consistent about him is that he’s inconsistent. I feel like I’ve written that line about 68 times in the past four years, so there’s no more to add to it.

I don’t care about Ross Stripling (whatever), but I am intrigued by Maximo Castllo (buy) in deeper leagues. Castillo recently got the call to Toronto to work out of the bullpen, but I remain hopeful that he can push Stripling to the bullpen and get a shot to work in the rotation. Castillo had a 29 K% across Double-A and Triple-A this year, with a 3.65 FIP and 45.5 GB%. He’s a fastball and changeup guy with a show-me curveball. Don’t rush to grab him right now, but put him on your watch list in deeper leagues.

Before we go through customs, we need to briefly touch on the turnarounds of Teoscar Hernández (buy) and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. (buy), but if you’re surprised at all with the latter, look at his splits over the past few seasons. This is what Gurriel does.

As for the starting catcher in the All-Star game, Alejandro Kirk (buy) is showing why patience can pay off, as he’s rebounded in a major way from a slow start.

Let’s stay in the division and bounce down to Tampa, as the Rays have a few guys to check in on. Isaac Paredes (hold) just had a three-homer game, which in itself is great. He’s a player with a good feel for the zone and makes hard contact like the Rays like. I’m hesitant to fully buy in just because of usage questions in Tampa, but it is fun to take a look at the trade the Rays made with the Tigers to get him.

See, the Rays sent Austin Meadows (sell) to the Tigers for Paredes. Meadows is one of eight big league players to have at least 140 plate appearances this season and nary a home run. We literally drafted him as a boring outfielder who can hit 20 homers. It’s bad for Detroit, but at least it’s not as bad as signing Javier Báez (sell) to a long-term deal.

Also in Tampa, it’s worth noting the return of Josh Lowe (hold), who everyone made it rain on during the first NFBC FAAB run of 2022 like they were in Club LIV in 2008. But Lowe was bad. Like, real bad. Like, Javier Báez long-term cont… OK, I’m done, Detroit.

Lowe’s overall numbers after going back to Triple-A were fine, but the concerning thing with him that could keep him from being a five-category contributor is that he still struck out 31.2 percent of the time against Triple-A pitching.

We have to talk about a pitcher, right? It’s Shane McClanahan (buy) who we’ll look at.

“But Waterloo, you said we won’t discuss the obvious guys?”

Good point, Brutus, but it’s my column, so I’ll touch on Shane-o-Mac, OK?

He’s a stud, we know that. Like, if he was on Megan Wants a Millionaire on VH1, she’d probably pick him. But what stood out to me from his last start was his pitch usage. McClanahan threw 40 percent changeups, 25 percent sliders, 20 percent curveballs, and just 15 percent four-seamers against the Yankees and generated 16 total whiffs.

It’s otherworldly what he’s doing and I haven’t missed on a player so badly since I doubted Anthony Davis would be a difference-maker in the NBA.

Instead of bouncing to a team here, I want to touch on a position. We’ll go to the hot corner, but I’m actually cool on these two guys and you should be, too.

Why are we still trying to make Alec Bohm (sell) and Yoán Moncada (sell) a thing? Bohm was the talk of the Twitter world in the first month of the season, but the victory lappers (it’s fine to do because this is fun!) must have pulled up lame because you don’t hear a peep-peep from them now.

It’s day and night, really.

Look at the three-month split from Bohm.

Name the player

Like, what is he doing for you? He’s tied with Yuli Gurriel (sell) on the year for points, and it’s widely accepted and thought that Gurriel is having a bad season. Why not the same for Bohm?

As for Moncada, well, we just kind of know who he is, and it’s fine. But let’s let go of the former top-prospect talk, yeah?

Did someone say prospects? Somewhere, Ian Kahn’s ears perked up.

There are a few who I’m in love with, starting with, you guessed it, a Blue Jay. What’s worse, is that it’s a pitching prospect. When have those every come back to bite us before?

It’s Ricky Tiedemann (buy), folks. He was a guy I was all over in the offseason, and unlike Akil Baddoo (where have you gone?), this one has paid off so far. Tiedemann is rising up the prospec ranks, and it’s easy to see why. He has a 1.17 ERA with a 0.76 WHIP in 53.2 innings across A and High-A ball. To add to the intrigue, Tiedemann has a 41.7 K% across the two levels, and he’s getting hitters to hit the ball on the ground 46 percent of the time. I still have love for you, Eury Perez (buy), but Tiedemann is right beside you right now.

We’ll continue the prospect discussion with the talk of the prospect world in Vinny Pasquantino (buy), who has yet to get the call to Kansas City. I mean, it’s easy to understand, though, right? When you have Carlos Santana (DFA) hitting .210/.347/.333 with 4 home runs, you have to make sure he’s playing over your prized prospect. Pasquantino has nothing else to prove in the minors, and Super 2 has passed, so the Royals really have no excuse and it’s a slap in the face to their fans.

I received a request from Steve (one of our subscribers, but I guess you are, too, if you’re reading this, so I don’t know why I’m mansplaining this right now) to talk about Drey Jameson (buy) on Twitter. Ask and you shall receive, Steve. As Steve noted on Twitter, Jameson picked up where he left off last year in Double-A, but he’s struggled since moving to Triple-A. But why?

Well, before even digging, there are two answers that are plausible — jumping from Double-A to Triple-A is still a jump in competition, and going from the Texas league (which has an OPS of .774) to the insanely offensive-friendly PCL (with an OPS of .792) is a big reason. We’re seeing a lower K% from Jameson (23.6) and an absurd BB% (11.5) in his jump to Triple-A, but we are also seeing some unlucky numbers with his 55.6 strand rate and .339 BABIP against. A couple of starts ago, Jameson mowed down eight hitters in four innings, including striking the side out in the first. The move to the PCL is a real hit to every arm, so I’m chalking most of his struggles up to that. It’s a nice buying opportunity.

Christopher Morel (buy) is another rookie who was showing out, and his debut — a home run that had Chicago rocking — immediately put him on the radar of fantasy managers. He’s slowed down some, but has a nice speed-power blend to make him a Top 175 player in dynasty leagues.

If you’re a Tanner Houck (buy roto, sell points) manager, it depends on the format you’re in if you’re happy or not. It all changed with the initial trip to Toronto, where Houck lost his rotation spot and was moved to the bullpen. The Red Sox pen is terrible, so he’s been a huge cog to the backend of it, recording five straight saves for Boston. But as a points league player, you have to be annoyed. He was showing promise out of the rotation early on, and his value is cut in half in the format as a bullpen piece.

It’s not a Waterloo column if we don’t talk about Alex Kirilloff (buy). He’s my Anna Kendrick (marry) of fantasy baseball, and I won’t apologize. Kirilloff was recently recalled from the Twins, and your window to buy him in redraft or dynasty is closing. Remember, it’s never been a skills question for him, but it’s been a health question. His wrist looked damn healthy in his stint in Triple-A. The 24-year-old slashed .359/.465/.641 wih 10 home runs, 65 runs and RBIs and a steal. The talent is immense, and health pending, the breakout is upon us.

Do you know what has value? Opportunity. Do you know what else has value? Staying power. It looks like Leody Taveras (buy) may have both. It’s taken some time, but Texas has called up the post-hype-hype-hype-post-hype player and it seems like they wanted to do it when they could ensure he’d be there to stay.

The returns have been … suboptimal so far. But in the small sample, the strikeout rate has been manageable. Tavares was a dart throw for me as this year’s Cedric Mullins (hold), and while that may not happen, he has 12/12 potential with a .240 average. He’s hitting in he bottom of the lineup now, but a hot stretch could elevate him.

If I could interview one player right now, it would be Patrick Sandoval (sell) and I’d ask him just one question:

Michael Waterloo: Yes, Patrick. Michael Waterloo from The Athletic here.

Patrick Sandoval: Hi, Michael. I’m a fan of your shoes that you post.

MW: Thank you, thank you. Far too kind. A question, if I may?

PS: Sure, hit me like people hit my fastball.

MW: Good segue, actually. Why do you hate us by not throwing your changeup?

PR Person: This interview if over.

What made Sandoval special last year was his changeup. It was one of the best pitches in baseball, but this year, he’s throwing it only 22.9 percent of the time. Mind you, it’s a pitch with a .169 xBA on it and a 48.3 Whiff%. And he just won’t throw it.

Poor Shohei Ohtani (buy) being forced to deal with the clownery in Los Angeles.

Is there a more obvious buy-high than Will Smith (buy) right now? The actor may be banned from the Oscars (sell) for a decade, but the baseball player should be welcomed on any fantasy team immediately. The results haven’t exactly been there, but Smith is playing more than ever before and his batted ball data is elite.

We aren’t talking enough about Andrew Vaughn (buy) and the stud he’s turning into. Despite Tony La Russa’s (fire) best efforts, Vaughn has broken out in his second year. Vaughn is 170th overall in the format, but over the past 30 days, he’s the 61st player in the format, scoring 3.4 fantasy points per game. That’s better than Freddie Freeman (buy), C.J. Cron (hold), Juan Soto (buy), and Kyle Farmer (wait, what? Sell).

What he’s doing is the perfect model for what Spencer Torkelson (buy) should do in his second year in the league.

It’s been a roller-coaster ride for Charlie Morton (buy) so far this season, but Chuck has had his fastball and curveball working of late, generating Whiff rates of 38.3, 48.9, and 46.7, respectively, in his three June starts.

I have a few other guys I really want to talk about, but this column is longer than a line of 35-year-old men going to see Carlie Rae Jepsen (buy), so I’ll hit on them real quick before ending with one player I should make amends with.

Before getting to him, here are some quick-hitters:

Luis García (Nationals) (buy)

OK, now that that’s out of the way (I’m happier to expand on any in the comments), let’s talk about a player I was harsh on in the last version of this column.

I’m looking at you, Anthony Rizzo (buy). I essentially wrote Rizzo off due to his home runs coming in the fashion they did — targeting the short-porch in right field in New York. Someone wrote in the comments that we should buy him because we get 81 games of Rizzo there. I was hesitant, but I’m coming around. It’s not the results I’m buying, but it’s the approach of Rizzo. In 2022, he has the highest barrel rate (11.7), launch angle (18.1), fly-ball rate (37.8), and pull rate (46.9) of his career. You can’t tell me that isn’t intentional given the dimensions of the ballpark.

And if you look at his spray chart, well …

The results are cool and all, but it’s obvious that it’s intentional on Rizzo’s part to take advantage of the park.

Thanks for calling me out on that, Glenn R.

(Top photo: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports)