Some of you may have been wondering where all the pitcher recommendations are. For weeks now I have touted hitters to roster, but pitchers have been conspicuously absent. There is a reason for that; pitchers are a fickle and volatile breed that must be handled with caution. You can make the impulse grab based upon one or two good games, but one awful shelling can have that same player back on waivers faster than you can say – well, practically anything. Will Emerson has given you a few lesser owned names to consider each week in his Field of Streams articles, but this week I am going to recommend a few that you may want to consider for something more than a streaming option – that along with the normal hitter recommendations I’m famous for (at least in my mind).
Travis Wood, Chicago Cubs: From 2011 to 2013 we saw a lot of improvements from Wood, but in 2014 he took a major step back causing fantasy owners to flee and – for the most part – ignore Wood in the 2015 draft. One month into the season it appears that Wood is back on track. I say appears because while there are some positive indicators Wood could be a sustainable product to own, there are a few negative factors as well.
On the positive side, his 3.04 ERA is supported by his xFIP (3.28) and SIERA (3.12). Strikeouts are up in part to an increase in use of his two-seam fastball (22% after being under 10% the previous 2 seasons). Finally he’s knocked almost a full percentage point off the walk rate after averaging in the 3.0 range during his major league career. The negatives are all in his batted ball profile. A FB% over 40 is never good; especially in such a small park. Also the LD% is over 25; since a majority of line drives fall for hits it may only be a matter of time before some of those balls make it past the defense. Finally, as you could have guessed, the GB% is at the lowest of Woods career.
The surface stats say he could make a very good long-term add, but the batted ball profile suggest a storm is brewing. Until the storm clouds form, continue to add and use Wood without fear.
Available in 48% of CBS and 78% of Yahoo and ESPN leagues
J.A. Happ, Seattle Mariners: Like Wood above, Happ is off to a nice start and there is some validity to his numbers. His stellar 2.30 ERA will come up some, but a 3.37 xFIP suggest the fall from stardom will not be that hard. After dealing with a FB% of 40 for most of his career, it is under 30 in 2015. The reduced number of fly balls combined with his home park makes for a nice combination. Happ’s LD% is even higher than Wood’s which will mean a few more hits down the road (the main contributor to a potential rise in ERA), but that might not be an issue if he can maintain his new-found control (BB/9 of 0.99). The biggest knock on Happ is he isn’t striking guys out (5.93 K/9) after averaging 7.5 K/9 over his career, but he did strikeout 9 at Texas a few days ago so maybe they are coming.
Happ doesn’t have a stellar track record and I can see owners being hesitant. In 2014 owners had the same trepidation with Edinson Volquez who had done nothing with his career, but he went on to have a career year with Pittsburgh. I’m not saying that Happ is in line for a career year, but I am saying that sometimes fantasy owners need to look past the career numbers and just concentrate on what’s in front of them. Even if the K/9 remains low, Happ’s ratios and potential win totals make him a solid play for the back-end of your fantasy staff. Worst case scenario is he flames out in June and you grab a freshly promoted prospect off waivers.
Available in 93% of Yahoo, 82% of ESPN and 48% of CBS leagues
Brandon Morrow, San Diego Padres: I’ve been a Morrow fan for years, but up until 2012 he’s been a disappointment. He had to win a starting job out of spring training but has been on a roll since (we won’t hold that game at Coors Field against him). Outside of Colorado he has thrown 7 innings in each of his 3 starts allowing 2 or fewer runs. The xFIP suggests some regression (3.49), but when you factor out the Rockies game (3.27) things look up some. Walks and hits are at an all-time low, the BABIP and LOB% are both at sustainable levels, the velocity is there, and then there is the biggest factor of all – he’s healthy.
Morrow seems to have found whatever he lost in 2012. Perfect timing considering he now throws in one of the best pitcher parks in the league and doesn’t have to face teams in the AL East on a monthly basis. As long as Morrow is healthy he should continue to rack up innings, and with the Padres new-found offense I can see him setting a career high in wins. The strikeouts have not returned yet; they may take a few more months considering everything Morrow has been through the past two seasons.
He gets a chance at redemption tonight at home with a rematch against the Rockies (I’m starting him), then it’s road games at Arizona & Seattle followed by the Cubs, Dodgers and Pirates. I feel confident in adding Morrow for the long haul as long as he’s healthy *knock on wood – and not Travis*
Available in 32% of CBS and 74% of Yahoo and ESPN leagues
Chris Heston, San Francisco Giants: Just like with Morrow, we’re not going to hold that game at Coors against Heston. Other than that one blemish he’s been very good. Prior to last night’s game Heston was sporting an ERA of 2.77 which is supported by a 3.38 xFIP. He is a groundball pitcher that doesn’t walk many batters (2.59 minor league BB/9) and does a good job of keeping the ball in the park. Heston is never going to be a big strikeout guy, but he should be able to maintain something in the 7.0 range (think Hyun-Jin Ryu).
Heston’s minor league track record suggests he could be a number 3 or 4 guy on a staff which translates into a stable arm for the back end of your fantasy roster. This is his first full season so there will be some bumps in the road, but I wouldn’t worry about that until he starts facing teams for a second time. Heston may not be a household name, but he is a solid add for 12 team leagues. I put my money where my month is on this one and added him in two leagues just last night (because a few vultures in my league read my articles).
Available in 74% of Yahoo, 70% of ESPN and 39% of CBS leagues
Hector Santiago, Los Angeles Angels: Santiago has had a solid start to the season, but just like a duck seemingly still on the calm waters the feet are going a mile a minute below the surface. Visually Santiago looks good with a 2.28 ERA and almost a strikeout an inning, but things could change at the drop of a hat. Santiago’s xFIP and SIERA are 5.02 and 4.63, the BB% is just over 4.5, FB% is over 50 and the BABIP is an unsustainable .222. Eventually the bottom is going to fall out.
I highly doubt that day will be today as Santiago faces a weak hitting Giants team. On tap after that are home games against the Astros and Rockies so you’re safe there as well (Colorado hitters generally struggle away from Coors). After that you’ve got Toronto & Boston on the road before coming home to face Detroit. The schedule lightens up in June if he can continue his torrid pace, but we’ll see how he fares in May before addressing that. Short-term Santiago looks like a good add, but I have a hard time trusting him for anything after the Colorado series. Play him the next 3 games and then monitor him from your bench to see how he reacts to Toronto and Boston (or shop him around). Sometimes a pitcher can put up numbers beyond what sabermetrics say he should be doing. I don’t think that is the case here though.
Available in 72% of Yahoo, 60% of ESPN and 49% of CBS leagues
Dan Haren, Miami Marlins: Just like Santiago, things look good on the surface. The lone blemish to his record this year was a 6 inning 4 run game at Philly; other than that it has been 2 earned runs or less in the other 3 games. A 3.38 ERA is nice; when coupled with a 0.92, .169 BAA and 15% LD rate and you feel all warm and fuzzy. Then you pick up the hood and see the ridiculous .131 BABIP, an xFIP of 4.55, a FB% close to 50 and the worst GB% of his career; all of a sudden that fuzzy feeling has turned into agita.
So why should we trust Haran? To be honest, I can’t give you one statistical piece of information that will sway you to roster him. Haren is giving up a large number of home runs early, but his low hit and walk totals have limited the damage. He has a spacious park to call home and his next two road starts are in parks just as big (Washington & L.A.). He was contemplating retirement before the season started; sometimes a player has a little extra in them knowing that this may be the final year. Other than that, I’ve got nothing other than a hunch and homer like love for the man. He may be getting lucky now, but sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good. I’d ride this one until the leprechaun takes his pot of gold back.
Available in 79% of Yahoo, 88% of ESNP and 56% of CBS leagues
Jarrod Parker, Oakland A’s: Parker will be returning soon, and now is the time to add him before fantasy publications start touting his forgotten name. He has several rehab starts under his belt; the last being a 5 inning, 4 hit, 7 strikeout game in class A. He threw 71 pitches which is encouraging, but I’m sure Oakland would like to see 2-3 games in the 90 range before getting excited. Parker doesn’t have elite strikeout numbers, but he doesn’t walk many batters, is good at limiting home runs and will give you 6+ innings on most nights.
Kendall Graveman didn’t work out and Drew Pomeranz has given up 11 earned runs in 22 innings so there is a job waiting for Parker. You may look at your staff and think “I don’t need Parker”, but anything can happen over the next month. If you have an open DL slot and the bottom half of your rotation is questionable, this is a good place to roll the dice.
Available in 97% of Yahoo, 99% of ESPN and 87% of CBS leagues
Now that I’ve given you a few arms to chew on, let’s get to the bats.
OF – Andre Ethier, Los Angeles Dodgers: Guerrero isn’t the only Dodger looking for playing time, and Ethier picked the right time to heat up. His average is up to .304 with 2 home runs since April 25th; coincidentally the 25th is the day he went 3-4 and this performance (along with a few injuries) is the reason he is back on the radar. While I like Ethier as a short-term addition, he is not someone I would rely upon given his track record and streakiness. I might feel more comfortable with some of the players below, but as long as Ethier is getting playing time and hitting he is someone to consider. I half heartedly recommend him since I’m not a fan, but I am not going to ignore production.
Available in 88% of Yahoo, 94% of ESPN and 81% of CBS leagues
OF – Rajai Davis, Detroit Tigers: We assumed that Davis would be the left-handed side of the platoon with Anthony Gose, but Davis has been receiving at bats against righties as well. For the season he is batting .300 with 6 steals so it appears another 30+ stolen base season is in the cards. What is impressive so far is that Davis has 7 walks to 8 strikeouts. Davis has never drawn more than 29 walks in a season and I’m not quite sure yet if this is just one of those April average things or if he has discovered patience in his old age. Those walks in addition to his ability to hit righties this year has garnered him more playing time and turned this part-time player and to someone you can plug into your lineup on almost any given night.
Davis was worth owning before for steals and a high average against lefties, but the increased at bats verse righties should mean higher ownership as well. If by some chance Davis is available in your league and you need some speed, throw a dart at Davis. And, if you’re a Gose owner, you should Definitely own his handcuff.
Available in 51% of Yahoo, 69% of ESPN and 72% of CBS leagues
OF – Juan Lagares, New York Mets: This is Rajai Davis light. You will only get half the numbers of stolen bases, but you’re virtually guaranteed to have your player in the lineup every night. Lagares is batting .305 after last night game in which he went 2-4 with 1 run scored (13 runs for the season). That gives him 4 multi-hit games over the past 8 and a .371 average over that time span. Lagares holds a career .284 minor league average, but he did hit over .300 from A+ ball on up so he can hit. If he can stick in the number two lineup spot the runs could increase. And as he gets more comfortable in the majors, the steals should increase as well. Lagares is a 3 category player, but that’s it. You may get 50-60 RBIs depending on where he is in the lineup which isn’t great, but it isn’t bad either when you consider what he could contribute in the other categories (other than home runs – 5 would be his ceiling).
Like I said, Lagares is a poor man’s Rajai Davis. A more appropriate comparison would be Denard Span. If you have power covered and just need a 4th or 5th outfielder to hold things down who will contribute to runs and batting average with the occasional steal, Lagares is your guy.
Available in 88% of Yahoo, 73% of ESPN and 72% of CBS leagues
OF – Justin Maxwell, San Francisco Giants: There are several reasons Maxwell is still available. Up until last week he wasn’t receiving full-time at bats and nobody wants a part-time player. He also doesn’t have the most impressive resume; bouncing around the majors since 2007 with little to show for it. The playing time issue has been settled by Bruce Bochy who stated there is no way to take Maxwell out of the lineup even when Hunter Pence returns. Maxwell’s hitting is putting to rest (for now) the spotted past with regular playing time since last Tuesday.
He is currently batting .255 and has 3 home runs since being inserted into the lineup as a regular. He had 18 home runs over 315 at bats in 2012 so there is power here, but strikeouts and a poor batting average have kept him in the reserve role. His strikeout percentage currently sits just below 23%, the lowest it has been in the majors to date. He is also swinging at fewer pitches outside the zone and making better contact with the ones he connects with inside the zone. Granted we’re only dealing with 51 at bats so small sample size rules apply, but for now he is looking more like a complete player. This may still be a short-term addition since Maxwell could cool off or Bochy might change his mind once Pence returns. For now though, safely add Maxwell if you are in need of OF help.
Available in 92% of Yahoo, 83% of ESPN and 79% of CBS leagues
OF – Josh Reddick, Oakland A’s: I always say ride the hot hand, but sometimes you have to choke back some doubt when doing so. Reddick is similar to Chase Headley, he had a monster year in 2012 and fantasy owners are still chasing those numbers. Odds are that guy isn’t coming back, but that doesn’t mean he won’t show flashes of the past from time to time. Reddick is in a time warp right now batting .368, .500 over the past 7 days with a home run, 7 RBIs and 6 runs scored. He is in primarily against right-handed pitchers so you’re getting the better half of the platoon here.
I don’t trust Reddick, just like I didn’t trust Steve Pearce last season. In fantasy though – if you want to win – you must put aside your feelings (the best you can) and just look at the numbers. Reddick is hot right now and there is no magic ball that will tell you when that hot streak will end. For immediate short-term help in the OF, grab Reddick and quickly dump him when the wheels come off.
Available in 74% of Yahoo, 56% of ESPN and 47% of CBS leagues
OF – Delmon Young, Baltimore Orioles: Young would be a perfect candidate for the AMC series the walking dead because he’s not going away unless you cut his head off. Young is batting .357 and is slowly creeping into more playing time because of it (at Travis Snider’s expense). There is still some power left in those arms; enough to hit 20 with full-time at bats. Hitting 3rd in the lineup (where he was last night) would afford Young ample opportunities to score and drive home runs increasing his overall value.
Last season with Baltimore Young hit .302 over 242 at bats so he can still hit, and in a deeper league this can be just as valuable as a player with more power with a poor batting average. I have confidence he will continue to hit for average, but playing time –at least for now – is up in the air. With the way Young is hitting though, it might be worth rostering him before any official word about increased playing time is handed down. It seems like Young has been around forever, but he’s only 29 so there is still hope; look what he did in 2012.
Available in 98% of Yahoo, 99% of ESPN and 95% of CBS leagues
Finding their way to the Waiver Wire
Each week I will feature players whose ownership level far exceed the players value that you should consider dropping for something useful. So far I’ve recommended Chase Utley and Marlon Byrd; while Byrd has had a few good games this week, neither player has done enough to change my mind. On tap for this week:
Brandon Belt: For years I’ve said Belt was nothing more than an overhyped player. Last year I lowered my guard and bought into the changes he made towards the end of 2013 and hyped him as a sleeper. Yea, we all know how that one turned out; this is why I did not rank him in our top 30 first basemen for 2015. Belt’s FB% is down which isn’t good for power. His LD% is over 30 so you would think the batting average would be higher – it’s not. Right now there are approximately 50 players that qualify for first that make better options. If you are a Belt owner, I suggest you go find one. Belt may still have that one big month where you’ll curse me for suggesting his release, but one good month compared to five mediocre/below par ones will justify things.
Shin-Soo Choo: This one hurts since I’m a well documented Choo supporter. Choo had 2 down years, and both were due to injury and off-field issues so I was quick to dismiss them. Currently Choo is a little banged up, but something tells me that minor ouchie is hampering him more than he is letting on. Choo is a competitor and doesn’t like to come out of the game. I admire that in a player, but when you are hurting your team more than you are helping them; your efforts are in vain. I had hopes Choo would return to his 20/20 ways (or there about), but hope can be a dangerous thing; especially in fantasy. With each passing day the O’fers pile up, he hasn’t attempted a steal yet and he isn’t even hitting half his body weight. It is time to cut the cord and say goodbye; sadly I did just that this week. I still have him on my watch list as I’m a glutton for punishment, but for now – there are more useful things out there to take a chance on.
Previous Waiver Wire Recommendations: I like to hold myself accountable for past recommendations so I will monitor my hits
and misses from the previous weeks.
Continue to add
- Mike Moustakas, Devon Travis, Danny Salazar should not be available, but if by some chance they are; they deserve a home.
- Last chance for Alex Guerrero. The Carl Crawford injury has knocked down the door; now we just need Mattingly to allow him to come through it.
- Adam Lind and Jake Marisnick‘s ownership continues to rise but could still be available in your league for CI help.
- Ender Encarte, Kevin Kiermaier, Marcus Semien, Wilmer Flores and Ike Davis are all still very good addition and available in a large portion of Yahoo and ESPN leagues (ownership is higher on CBS).
- Nori Aoki, Jimmy Paredes, Odubel Herrera and Chris Young are good for larger and deeper leagues but are gaining attention in 12 team leagues as well. Eric Campbell is still a viable option in deeper leagues, but the clock is ticking as David Wright ramps up his rehab.
- Adeiny Hechavarria is still hitting, but remember don’t wait when the bottom falls out if there is anything better on waivers.
Hold – Do not add them, but do not drop them yet if you own them
- Yonder Alonso has slowed down, but give him another week unless you have some tasty options on waivers for 1B/CI. Same goes for Sam Fold, but I’d be more willing to throw him back since he is just a speed only option.
- Jake Lamb – Yasmani Tomas is a horrible defender at third and will need to put on a hitting display to force Lamb to AAA upon his return from the DL.
- Chase Headley hasn’t done anything to warrant being added. Unless you use a CI slot, he is droppable in 12 team leagues.
- All of last weeks drops are still in effect. They include Lonnie Chisenhall, Jace Peterson and Casey McGehee, Jed Lowrie, Johathan Schoop and Michael Taylor. I know Taylor was just recalled, but unless Denard Span is slated to return to the DL this should just be a quick visit for Taylor. Feel free to stash him if you like, the Washington OF is brittle.
- Will Middlebrooks joins the above group and will continue to tease owners all year. Micah Johnson also joins the drop club, but keep him on your watch list as he has the talent to be an asset at some point.
Do what you will – Caveat Emptor
- Justin Masterson is still on the border between own, hold and stream.
- Luis Valbuena, Anthony Gose, Alejandro De Aza and Nick Castellanos are volatile players to own and could frustrate owners from week to week with their sporadic production and or playing time. They are adds, drops or holds based upon your league size and waiver wire depth, but I think you can do better.
Need more waiver wire recommendations, 2-start pitchers, prospect news and general fantasy baseball goodness, head on over to Fantasy Rundown.