Over the past month there is a good chance that your waiver wire has been picked cleaner than a Thanksgiving turkey. Looking at the waiver wire in one of my leagues, the top ranked hitters available are 4 catchers, Alberto Callaspo, Mark Reynolds, a few more catchers, Gerardo Parra, and Derek Dietrich. Yea, not much. Looking for arms and it’s basically the same story. Alfredo Simon was just dropped (for some reason) along with Aaron Harang (for good reason), but after that you’ve got Mike Leake, Dallas Keuchel, Chris Young, Henderson Alvarez and a cast of others. That’s the way it should be if you are in a competitive league, out with the dead weight and in with the rosterable waiver wire players. Not every league is like this though, so some of you might be fortunate enough to have some good players to choose from. Speaking of…
Tyler Skaggs (Angels): Skaggs is owned in 76% of CBS & 75% of Fantrax leagues, but for some reason he gets no love in Yahoo leagues (26% ownership) or ESPN (20% ownership). I realize he’s not the strikeout machine owners look for, but he has other qualities. He’s had 4 quality starts in five tries (the other was 4 runs in 7 innings which wasn’t bad) and has also gone 7 or more innings in 4 of 5 (none less than 6). A few too many walks were given up in a few games but 9 in 31 innings (2.31 BB/9) is very respectable. Add in a GB% of 50, 6.94 H/9 and you get a WHIP of 1.03. Skaggs only has 2 wins but it’s not for a lack of trying. With a sold team behind him and spacious home park, what’s not to like. If he’s still available in your league I’d grab him. I’d rather own Skaggs than an overachiever like Aaron Harang
Tanner Roark (Nationals): Roark is owned in 63% of CBS and 69% of Fantrax leagues, but his ownership falls to 32% in Yahoo and 9% in ESPN. Just like Skaggs, he owns the same 4 quality starts in 5 tries as Skaggs, 9 walks in 32.2 innings (2.48 BB/9), 2 wins and an unimpressive but not bad strikeout total. He also plays in a spacious home park and has a better than average team hitting behind him (even without Zimmerman & Harper). Roark’s ERA is .60 lower than Skaggs, currently sitting at 2.76 along with a 1.16 WHIP. His GB% is close to 50 and his LD% is only 14; while his numbers may come up a little, they are sustainable. Sometimes people just want to sit and wait to see if the start is for real. Many did that last year with Bartolo Colon, but the ones that said screw it and picked him up reaped the rewards. It’s your move.
Collin McHugh (Astros): He’s no Jose Fernandez and he pitches for the Astros, but any pitcher with an ERA & WHIP below .60 after 2 starts and a minor league K/9 of 8.70 deserves a look. The 26-year-old McHugh was crushed on his first two attempts to break into the majors with the Mets & Rockies the past two years, but that happens to a lot of rookies. Maybe the third time is a charm? For those of you who are unfamiliar with McHugh:
Not overly impressive, but a few things stand out. First is the walk rate; while his final minor league total was 2.74 it was lower than that last year (pitching in the PCL no less). Second is his home run rate and if that carries over to the majors, there won’t be many leaving the park. Finally there is the strikeouts (631 in 653 innings). All of these are a recipe for success and could make McHugh a decent back-end starter. On the other side of the coin, he has a FB% close to 55 over his first two games. It’s a small sample size but something worth monitoring. He also pitches for the Astros so wins could be hard to come by unless he continues to give them 7+ innings of one run ball. C.M. isn’t supposed to be this good, but just because he wasn’t a highly touted rookie (or even a ranked rookie) doesn’t mean he can’t be a useful major leaguer. He’s got the Mariners, Orioles, Rangers & Angels next. I can’t condone or condemn starting him, but rostering him just in case he’s successful is recommended.
Currently Available in 51% of CBS (Up from 8% last week), 72% of Yahoo, 64% of ESPN and 43% of Fantrax leagues
SP Marcus Stroman (Blue Jays): The Jays lined up his start with Dustin McGowan leading everyone to believe he would be the next in line. McGowan received a stay of execution with his last game, but the writing is on the wall. James Happ is back and the Jays claim to be going with a 6 man rotation, but that won’t last. Even if Happ stays in the rotation & McGowan goes to the pen, Happ has done little to exude confidence. In AAA this season Stroman has allowed only 5 runs over 26.2 innings with 36 K’s, an ERA of 1.69 ERA & 1.09 WHIP. He holds a 3.02 ERA and 1.14 WHIP over 158 innings in the minors (oh, and 188 strikeouts). He was ranked the #52 prospect by MLB.com and is the #2 prospect in the Blue Jays farm system. He’s not the best pitching prospect in the minors, but he’s the closest to making an impact now. He could get off to a hot start or he could flop. If he comes out throwing heat, wouldn’t you rather it be on your team? This one calls for a preemptive strike on your part if you have a spare roster spot (I made room for him where I could).
Currently available in 50% of CBS, 89% of Yahoo, 99% of ESPN and 67% of Fantrax leagues
SP Alex Meyer (Twins): Just like Stroman, this is another potential preemptive strike. Meyer is currently the top pitching prospect for the Twins, and there is NOBODY standing in the way of his promotion except the Twins. Kyle Gibson leads the staff in ERA with a 4.34, everyone else is over 5.0 and deserves to be
shot fired. In 5 starts this year, Meyer has a 2.70 ERA, a 1.12 WHIP and 35 K’s in 26.2 innings. The WHIP is a little deceiving since he has 11 walks (walks have always been a problem), but a 7.04 H/9 has helped keep things in check. Unlike Stroman, Meyer’s call up is not imminent, but when the players wives start wearing bags over their heads the Twins may not have a choice. A June call up would be a reasonable assumption, but since this is the Twins that call up could come tomorrow or next year. If you have a deep bench or minor league slot, Meyer is someone to consider. If not, just add him to your watch list and be ready to jump when the time is right.
Currently Available in 86% of CBS, 99% of Yahoo & ESPN and 73% of Fantrax leagues
Johan Santana (Orioles): Just seeing if you’re paying attention, nothing to see here.
Drew Hutchison (Blue Jays): This was one of the first pitchers I recommended to start the season; after six starts he seems to be coming along quite nicely, even with the few hiccups. Hutch has 38 strikeouts in 35 innings, but all those K’s are clouded by the 3.82 ERA, 1.27 WHIP and 1 win. Don’t let those numbers fool you, he’s better than that. Hutchison was one of the league leaders this spring for strike out rates and he is currently sitting in the top 10. Once that ERA & WHIP come down a few ticks maybe people will take notice. The trust and use of his secondary pitches (mainly his changeup) will only hasten his success, and with that will come wins as the Blue Jays are ranked 8th in scoring runs. Depending on where you play will determine if he’s available to you, and if so you may want to trade in your bottom pitcher.
Currently Available in 45% of CBS & Fantrax and 81% of Yahoo leagues
Matt Harrison (Rangers): Lets get one thing clear, you’re not picking up Harrison for strikeouts. Harrison is here to give you wins and an ERA in the low 3’s. The WHIP won’t be anything to write home about, but it’s not something that will kill you. He looked good in his first game back after returning from back surgery. His final line was 6 innings, 3 hits, 2 earned runs and 4 K’s. That’s the kind of line you’ll get from Harrison on average; nothing fancy, just good solid numbers. Sometimes that’s all you need at the back-end of your rotation, and it’s these type of steady unimpressive performers that often get overlooked. If you’ve been playing musical pitchers with the back half of your staff, Harrison deserves a look.
Currently available in 60% of CBS, 90% of Yahoo and 53% of Fantrax leagues
If you’re in need of a closer and Joe Smith (recommended last week) is still available in your league (approximately 60% owned in all leagues), he should be your grab. If all of the current closers are taken, here are a few names you might want to take a flyer on.
Hector Rondon (Cubs): The Cubs closer role is in flux and Pedro Strop would like you to think he is the man, good for Pedro. Unfortunately, that will not be the case if Rondon has anything to do with it. The former starter turned relief pitcher has been plagued by bad health in the past, but stayed relatively healthy last year coming out of the pen. His overall numbers weren’t impressive, but there is plenty of room to grow. With 1 earned run and 15 K’s in 13.1 innings, Rondon seems poised to take the closer reigns. Before the announcement becomes official, fantasy owners should act now. Don’t worry about opportunities, even closers on bad teams get saves.
Currently available in 83% of CBS, 81% of Yahoo, 89% of ESPN and 72% of Fantrax leagues
Carlos Torres (Mets): Jose Valverde wasn’t the answer. Kyle Farnsworth is the current closer, but in name only and he’s on a short leash. Torres is the only logical choice here (which means that Matsuzaka could get a shot soon). After failed attempts over the years as a starter, Torres seems to have found his niche in the pen. He’s basically abandoned all his secondary pitches and is going strictly with a four seam fastball & cutter. Both pitches sit in the 89-91 MPH range which is 1 MPH more than last year. That’s not a lot of gas for a closer, but it’s working for now. Both ZiPS and Streamer predict bad things are coming for Torres as far as ERA & WHIP are concerned, but if he takes over the closer role he will still deliver solid K’s and save numbers. People rostered John Axford in 2012 despite his horrid season; Torres will be better than that, but that’s all I can guarantee.
Currently available in 89% of CBS, 95% of Yahoo, 98% of ESPN and 80% of Fantrax leagues
Picking up players is fine and dandy, but you’ll need to drop someone in order to make your acquisition. Might I suggest the following players.
R.A. Dickey was given a pass last year, but this year there is little room for patience. He’s 39 (which isn’t old for a knuckleballer), he’s having trouble getting past 6 innings and when he gets hit, he gets hit hard. He’ll still get you K’s, but are they worth the potential damage to your ERA & WHIP. He’s owned in over 65% of leagues, but I think that’s too much. Trade him if you can, but don’t feel bad letting him go for a younger player with upside.
Aaron Harang had a great start to the season, and if he were pitching for the Cardinals I might be inclined to believe it was for real. You’re looking at a career 1.35 WHIP, a BAA 100 points higher than he is currently showing, average strikeout numbers and an ERA that will finish anywhere between borderline acceptable and abysmal. You got a great month for the soon to be 36-year-old, drop him now and let someone else have him while he declines (sabotage your opponent).
Tim Lincecum is a tough pill to swallow, but 2011 was a long time ago. OK not really, but the past 2 years have been horrible and this year is looking the same. Just like Dickey he is still delivering very good strikeout numbers, but unlike Dickey he has a hard time getting TO 6 innings let along past 6. 61+% ownership is too much for a fading star and nostalgia doesn’t mean anything in fantasy.
Ricky Nolasco is owned in less than 29% of leagues. My question is, What is Wrong with 29% of you. Take out the trash already.
Jim Johnson owners are still holding out hope. Unlike other teams, Oakland isn’t afraid to bench their bigger contract players if they are not producing which is exactly what happened here. Even if he gets his job back he’s not going to come close to 50 saves (he’d be lucky to see 30 at best). He doesn’t get the strikeouts, his WHIP is mediocre at best and he’s been very hittable since last year. Move on to Luke Gregorson (available in 66% of Yahoo leagues), he won’t get you the k’s either, but he won’t hurt your peripherals.
There are some pitchers that look like they should be dropped; I’m going to say hold but keep them on a short leash.
Clay Buchholz is screaming drop me and nobody would blame you if you did. The guy we saw last year was an aberration, he’s not coming back. That leaves the man we saw in 2010/2011 or the other guy we saw in 2009/2012. The former can be a useful commodity while the latter is no better than Felix Doubront. Do what you have to do here.
Danny Salazar was on many sleeper lists coming into the season, but I think somebody forgot to wake him. There were signs of life his last game out, a 1 run 8 inning gem with 8 K’s, that one game brought his ERA down to almost 6.0 (ughh). This could be the start of something or maybe he was just due. He was drafted high enough that some patience is warranted.
Hiroki Kuroda has put up roughly the same numbers for the past 4 years so don’t overreact to the slow start. Then again he is 39 and the final 2 months last year were a disaster. His Fly ball and HR/FB% is up for the second year in a row, not a good sign for a guy with no heat in a pitcher’s park. I have a soft spot for Kuroda, but I don’t know if I could defend him if he were on my roster.