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Waiver Wire Report: Going Deep

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Let me just tell you, I love waivers.  I live on the waiver wire, mostly due to the fact I take a lot of chances when I draft.  I take those chances knowing there will be undrafted players available during those first few months that will step up and exceed expectations far beyond players I considered on draft day.  Marcus Semien, Devon Travis, Mike Moustakas, Ender Inciarte, Aaron Harang, these are just some of the highlight players I’ve added this season.  There are a number more listed below either under the new additions or former recommendations that have paid dividends.  It just goes to show you no matter how well you plan your draft, there will always be something better available.  In a way it has made me lazy during the draft once those first 12 rounds are over, but it has also made me a stronger player as I piece my team together over the first few months into a championship caliber team. 

I find it fun doing things this way, and I also find it can infuriate the occasional owner who methodically plans every pick at draft time and then points out how he should be ahead of me because he drafted x and y and bla bla bla.  This makes me laugh which adds to the enjoyment.  Granted the larger the league, the harder it is to play like this as the level of talent on waivers grows thin, but in 12 team leagues, there is no excuse – let me say that again, No Excuse, for your team to be disheveled and sitting at the bottom.  If it is, the only reason for this (other than really bad luck) is you weren’t proactive enough on waivers and let it happen.  You ignore those hot starts and players who “shouldn’t be doing that” while holding out hope for your struggling player.  Instead of riding one or more of those hot hands, you fall behind and complain.  Don’t be that guy.  There are still 4 months left of play though so all hope is not lost.  Look what I found on waivers this week.

1B – Mitch Moreland, Texas Rangers: It seems like we sing this tune every year, but this may be the year that Moreland is relevant. Moreland has hit .300 each month for the first two so this isn’t a hot streak.  It is also the first time his average has been this high since 2012 (.275).  He has 4 home runs this month and has played in every game since May 13th which should answer any questions about playing time.  The power is real, Moreland hit 23 home runs in 462 at bats in 2013.  I would not expect high run totals without a bump in the order; currently he is being shuffled between the 5th and 6th spot with nobody behind him, but he has plenty in front of him so there are RBI opportunities. 

Moreland is currently ranked at 33 on ESPN’s player rater for first basemen, but one can assume that has to do with the fact he is just over 100 at bats compared to the 150 range the rest of the players are at.  Other than runs, his bottom line is almost a mirror image of Mike Moustakas who is owned in 72% or more leagues on Yahoo, ESPN and CBS.  Moreland is only 29 years old so he might be a late bloomer and this is the start of something good, or it is just a few good months and he will soon regress.  Regardless of which scenario is correct, Moreland is hitting now and should be owned more than he is.

Available in 96% of Yahoo, 90% of ESPN and 82% of CBS leagues

SS – Erick Aybar, Los Angeles Angels: Steady Eddie had a horrible April (.222), and if you haven’t been paying attention you probably missed the fact Aybar is hitting .310 in May and has scored 17 runs.  He was drafted in almost all leagues so it is surprising to see him available in just under half of leagues, even with the slow start.  Aybar is not a top shortstop, he is the steady option we all fall back on once the top guys are gone.  Will Emerson highlighted Aybar prior to the start of the season if you need a reminder of how stable he can be.  It’s time for owners to start adding Aybar again, unless you think that hot shortstop you grabbed in April will continue to put up numbers all year. 

And yes, I am well aware Aybar tweaked his hamstring on Thursday night; he is still worthy of an add regardless.

Available in 47% of Yahoo, 55% of ESPN and 57% of CBS leagues

OF – Preston Tucker, Houston Astros: The Newest Astro is off to a nice start batting .308 with 2 homers, 8 RBIs and 8 runs scored in his first 50 at bats.  For those of you unfamiliar with Mr. Tucker, lets take a look at what he did in the minors.

  AB  2B  HR  RBI  AVG  OBP  BB/K
A+ 298  61  97  18  15  74  .326 .384 29/45
AA 498 77 134 31  27  72  .269  .348  53/92
AAA 375  57  111  21  17  83  .296  .362  40/92

Power to hit 25 home runs, check.  Above average OBP, check.  Manageable strikeout rate with ability to draw walks, check.  Tucker was batting .320 with 10 home runs in AAA prior to being called up so the quick start shouldn’t’ be a surprise.  The Astros seemed to have settled on Tucker’s spot in the order, batting 3rd between Jose Altuve and Evan Gattis; prime real-estate for runs and RBIs.  Fantasy owners should take advantage of Tucker now while he’s available.  Sometimes it’s the lesser known prospects that make the biggest noise, something I constantly preach. 

Available in 87% of CBS and 95% of Yahoo and ESPN leagues

SP – Tom Koehler, Miami Marlins: This is the third straight year Koehler has shown improvement.  This season Koehler’s ERA is just under 3.5 (a respectable number).  He has allowed more than 3 earned runs just twice over 10 starts and only 2 earned runs in his last 4 starts against teams like the Orioles and Dodgers.  He also has not allowed a home run over his last 4 starts.  The BABIP is a little low (.245) and the xFIP says he has been a little lucky (4.64), but his xFIP for May was only 4.38 which is roughly 50 points lower than it was in April.  While regression may be coming, it might not hit as hard as some think.

The biggest obstacles for Koehler’s ownership are wins and strikeouts.  Wins we can’t do anything about, but as the year goes on he will pitch deeper into games which means quality starts (something more leagues are using).  The strikeout rate is low (6.77) but it was above 7.0 for the month of May which is acceptable.  His current numbers have him ranked just outside the top 60 and along side highly owned players like Collin McHugh and John Lackey and ahead of guys like Jeff Samardzija and Jered Weaver.  Those players are owned in over 70% of leagues yet Koehler is being treated like a low-end streaming option.  This is an arm that should be owned more; someone you can plug into the back-end of your rotation and start most nights without fear.  Add him now because after a few more quality starts, you might not have a chance.  His next start is this afternoon at Citi-Field against the Mets.

Available in 94% of Yahoo, 92% of ESPN and 85% of CBS leagues

C – Francisco Cervelli, Pittsburgh Pirates: His minor league track record is unimpressive and the time spent in the majors as a backup catcher for the Yankees has been mediocre.  With a new team, new outlook and full-time job, Cervelli seems to have turned the corner, at least for the month of May.  This month he is batting .373 with 9 RBIs and 11 runs scored.  Cervelli has been a top 10 option for the past 30 days and a top 2 options over the past 14 days.  In a 1 catcher league I can see Cervelli being available, but in a 2 catcher league – this guy should not be out there, Period.  Russell Martin, Derek Norris and Miguel Montero (to name a few) have gone cold recently; might be time to play the hot hand.

Available in 92% of Yahoo, 94% of ESPN and 78% of CBS leagues

OF – Billy Burns, Oakland A’s: The scrappy youngster (26 is younger than me) has made the most of his May call-up batting over .300 with 7 steals.  The average is a bit of a surprise since Burns struggled with that upon being promoted to AA and again at AAA.  The speed on the other hand is real.  He stole 184 bases in the minors over 1,511 at bats and was caught just 25 times.  The minor league BB/K ratio was 1.16; combined with a .387 career minor league OBP and it’s easy to see how he entrenched himself at the top of the order in Oakland.  So far there doesn’t seem to be any discernible platoon splits to worry about making him a nice rounded player. 

Burns is doing everything that fantasy owners expected from Adam Eaton, and Eaton’s ownership is twice that of Burns.  I suggest Eaton owners drop him for Burns, and the rest of you should consider him if you need a cheap source of speed.  You won’t get any power here (despite the 2 early homers) and RBI opportunities are limited, but it’s all systems go on the other 3 scoring categories.

Available in 90% of Yahoo, 91% of ESPN and 80% of CBS leagues

2B – Matt Duffy, San Francisco Giants: While he may be the everyday third basemen for the Giants, it’s his second base eligibility that plays better.  Duffy is batting .293 for the season, .329 for the month of may with 2 home runs, 8 runs scored and 15 RBIs.  His minor league average was .304 and he hit .292 or higher from A ball on up.  Duffy only has one stolen base, but in 2013 and 2014 he stole 20 or more bases between two levels.  If given the green light by the Giants, the stolen bases will add to Duffy’s value.  I expect the RBI totals to go down moving forward; the Giants had Duffy batting third, but with the return of Hunter Pence Duffy has been moved down in the order.  Still, he should get enough RBI opportunities and run scoring chances to maintain value in mixed leagues; how much value he has though is tied directly to his spot in the order.  I can’t fully endorse Duffy as a starting second basemen, but for those that use a MI slot or have an injury that needs a patch, he could be just what you are looking for.

Available in 93% of Yahoo and 90% of CBS and ESPN leagues

Yahoo Special

2B – Logan Forsythe, Tampa Bay Rays: I assumed his Yahoo ownership would catch up to ESPN and CBS, but since it has not and Forsythe is available in over 80% of Yahoo leagues – we need to address this.  Forsy comes in at number 11 on ESPN’s player rater and is the 13th ranked second base option in Yahoo.  He is 6th in batting average among qualifiers, 4th in OBP, 11th in RBIs, tied for 11th in home runs, yet all the players ranked ahead of Forsy are owned in the same number of leagues that Forsy is available in. 

In case you’ve forgotten (it has been a while), this was a player that showed a nice combination of power and speed in the minors along with a respectable batting average and BB/K ratio (1.23).  We saw glimpses of that potential in 2012, but that was a long time ago for fantasy owners and apparently some of you (who play on Yahoo) have forgotten about him and moved on.  That is a mistake, not just with Forsythe but for every other player you’ve turned your nose up at because he didn’t hit the ground running or doesn’t have an impressive resume or track record.  Forsy would make a great second baseman for any team; at the very least he deserves a MI slot or a backup spot on your bench.  He is still available in CBS and ESPN, but that window is slowly closing.

Going Deep
Available in over 95% of Yahoo, ESPN and CBS leagues

RP – Josh Fields, Houston Astros: Everyone is always looking for the next Wade Davis; well, this could be it.  The former first round pick has a ML K/9 of 11.25, and while his average BB/9 is 3.29, it has been below 3.0 the past two seasons. Last season he allowed only 2 home runs covering 54.2 innings; between the walks, strikeouts and home runs, Fields has everything you look for in a relief pitcher.  The reason he is so under the radar is A. he doesn’t get saves, B. he doesn’t get holds and, C. nobody is ready to trust him yet.  There is also the fact that Fields is buried in a bullpen that is deep in talent with Willie Harris having a career year, Tony Sipp taking a step forward and veterans Chad Qualls and Pat Neshek performing admirably. 

Fields has limited appeal in holds leagues, at least for now until he starts getting put in some better situations.  But he can help your team out with ERA, WHIP and most of all strikeouts.  Plus with Luke Gregerson struggling, the Astros might be looking to make a change.  Most see Qualls or Neshek as the front-runners, but since Houston is a young club gearing up for the future, I can see Fields getting the call (Harris has an outside chance).  Regardless of potential save or hold opportunities, if you have punted saves and are looking for a Wade Davis type relief pitcher to plug-in and help pad your ratios, Fields could make a nice play.

OF – Brandon Barnes, Colorado Rockies: With Corey Dickerson’s return date unknown and Drew Stubbs proving last year was nothing more than a career year, there is an outfield spot wide open in Colorado.  Enter Barnes, a former power/speed minor league player who has shown flashes of brilliance in the majors but not enough to put things together over a full season.  Before being promoted Barnes had 5 home runs and 7 steals, but they were attached to a .205 average; the batting average has been his Achilles heel to date.  It has improved, from .240 in 2013 to .257 last season, and he did hit .300+ in April and September last year so it all depends on when you get him. 

The Rockies are in Philly this weekend and then return to Coors for a 10 game home stand.  This might be a good time to try and catch lighting in a bottle with his fast start.  Barnes should be rostered in larger and deeper leagues, but could be worth a speculative add in 12 team leagues as well that use 4 or more outfielders.

SS – Nick Ahmed, Arizona Diamondbacks: I know it appears the guy is barely hitting his weight, but there are several things that batting average doesn’t show.  First is he’s batting .277 for the month of May which is close to what his average was in the minors.  Next, he is crushing left-handed pitching to the tune of .379.  Finally, while he only has 1 steal to show in 3 attempts, Ahmed has some speed to him.  Over 1,648 minor league at bats he has 98 steals, so once he gets his footing we could start seeing some stolen base numbers.  While Ahmed seems like a low-end shortstop/middle infield option, if he continues to hit we might see him moved up in the order which means more runs.  And, if he starts running, you’ll have a three category player on the cheap.  12 teams leagues should at least add him to their watch list while larger and deeper leagues might want to take a flyer if their SS/MI player is scuffling along.  For those that play DFS, this is a nice cheap option to play when the D’Backs go up against a lefty (hint-hint).

Saves on the Wire

Shawn Tolleson, Texas Rangers: In case you haven’t been paying attention, Tolleson has converted 5 saves in a row since May 20th.  The 2.82 ERA is mostly a result of a 4 run shelling against Oakland on May 1st.  Since that time Tolleson has allowed only 1 earned run along with 16 strikeouts covering 12 innings.  His K/9 is just over 12.0 and his xFIP is over 60 points lower than his ERA.  While there is a chance Neftali Feliz reclaims the closer role when he returns from the DL – a date which has no timetable as of now – the odds of that happening become less and less with each save converted.  Is Tolleson available in your league? If so, slap yourself in the back of the head…then go pick him up.

Available in 46% of Yahoo, 51% of ESPN and 52% of CBS leagues

John Axford, Colorado Rockies: Yup, I cringe as well when I see the name Axford.  It’s time thought to put aside your past perceptions of the man and give him a whirl.  It’s only a small sample size, but over 12 innings Axford has allowed only 1 earned run and converted 8 saves.  A .212 BABIP, 4.5 BB/9 and xFIP of 4.34 raise all sorts of red flags.  The FB% is down to 27%, GB% is just over 54 and the velocity sits just below 95 MPH so there are some positives here as well.  He also hasn’t allowed a home run yet *jinx*, something that was an issue in 2012 and 2013 during the peak of his meltdown years.  Did Axford figure things out?  Is he fixed now?  I don’t know, but he’s doing a hell of a lot better than Fernando Rodney who is unexplainably owned in 85% or more of leagues.  I don’t like Axford, I don’t trust Axford, but even I can’t deny what he’s doing.  If he’s out there, give him a test run for now – see what happens.

Available in 45% of Yahoo, 48% of ESPN and 55% 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, Devin Mesoraco, Adam Eaton and Steve Pearce and they have done little to change my mind. Drop ’em all.
Brandon Belt, Marlon Byrd and Pedro Alvarez have heated up recently. I’m all for playing the hot hand so maybe dropping them might be premature, but I can’t see their recent good fortune lasting long. The Jury is out; if you own them I would be actively shopping them before the June swoon comes.
Now for this weeks drop.

Victor Martinez: I know you shouldn’t pick on a man when he’s down, but I was down on Martinez before the season started so I have no issue with doing so now.  He was supposed to be healthy coming into the season, but apparently his surgically repaired knee still has issues; bad enough to keep him out until at least the all-star break.  That’s strike one.  Martinez is 36, rehab is slow and tedious for a young man but once you pass the 30 threshold rehab becomes slower and harder with each passing year. 

Now last season Martinez smacked 32 home runs; realistically a number he would not reach again.  In 2013 he had 14 homers and in 2011 he had 12, and the kicker is he hit them in roughly the same amount of at bats as 2014.  For the past 4 years his fly ball distance has been on the rise and topped out at 298 feet last season (batting righty – 286 ft. as a lefty).  That’s 10 feet more than 2010 when he hit 20 home runs and close to 20 feet more than 2007 when he cranked 25.  This season he couldn’t break 260 ft. before going o the DL.  Even with rest and rehab, you have to question how much Martinez will have behind those swings.  With an ISO of .141 in 2011, 1.29 in 2013 and a career ISO of .166, I’m guessing not much.  Strike two. 

Well if he isn’t going to hit for power, at least we can depend on the batting average, right?  Martinez holds a career .305 batting average, and that is very close to the career average of Joey Votto.  Votto missed a large portion of 2014 with a quad injury and when he was in the lineup, not only was the power absent but the average took a hiatus too.  Now these are two different types of injuries, but the quad is just above the knee area and both play a critical part in a players swing.  If your legs aren’t under you or you experience discomfort you’ll make adjustments.  Making those kind of alterations at the plate can have a negative affect, enough so that the player will attempt more changes which could lead to a further decline in numbers or another extended absence.  That’s strike 3 in my book.

If you are a Martinez owner, I’d trade him for pennies on the dollar to get the best possible deal I could.  If you can’t deal him then let him rot on the DL.  But if your DL spot is needed for a more prominent player (or you don’t have a DL spot) and you need the room, just cut him loose.  It’s better you get rid of him now than holding out false hope during crunch time waiting for a comeback that never shows.  Sorry Victor, maybe next year.

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 and adjust the players accordingly.

Graduated

This is the last week A.J. Ramos, Josh Reddick, Rajai Davis and Dan Haren will appear here. Their ownership levels are high enough and with the exception of 10 team leagues, all of these players should be owned in any competitive league.  Danny Salazar makes this list as well due to his ownership, but he is an on again/off again starter so choose your matchups.

Continue to add

  • Chris Colabello, Ryan Howard, Justin Turner, Ender Inciarte, Alex Guerrero, Nori Aoki, Nick Hundley, Hector Santiago, James Happ, Rubby De La Rosa, Lance McCullers, Mike Bolsinger and Kyle Gibson are all still solid additions if they are available depending on your needs.
  • Gerardo Parra, Cory Spangenberg, Rajai Davis, Juan Lagares, Odubel Herrera, Todd Cunningham, Brandon Guyer and Anthony Gose are good for larger and deeper leagues and could have use in 12 team leagues as well. 
  • James McCann and Mike Zunino could be worth adding in 12 team leagues with several catchers starting to slump.
  • Andre Ethier is hitting again, but that could stop at any minute so keep an eye on him.
  • Maikel Franco was listed as an add last week; while I still endorse him, temper your expectations when it comes to rookies.

Hold – Do not add them, but do not drop them yet if you own them

  • Aaron Hill, Yunel Escobar, Brad Miller, Danny Espinosa and Miguel Montero have started to go cold, you may want to bench them for now.
  • Delino DeShields is now a hold due to the presence of Josh Hamilton.  Deshields should continue to see playing time, but things could change if/when Leonys Martin starts hitting.
  • Ike Davis, Kyle Blanks, Yonder Alonso, Brandon Morrow and Jake Lamb are all on the DL, hold if you can but drop if you need the DL room.
  • Caleb Joseph could soon be losing playing time to Matt Wieters who has begun a rehab assignment.  Monitor the situation closely.
  • Wilmer Flores has come around some; enough to warrant a hold but not enough to deserve increased ownership.

Drop ’em

  • Just like the graduates above, this is the last time Delmon Young, Kevin Kiermaier, Alejandro De Aza and Travis Wood will appear here. If you have not dropped these players, now’s the time to do so.
  • Alex Colome could be considered a hold candidate after his last start, but I don’t have much faith that it was anything more than just one good game.
  • Jake Marisnick, Justin Maxwell and Chris Young move from hold to drop due to declining numbers and or playing time issues.
  • Austin Hedges is not going to receive the playing time some anticipated.
  • A.J. Pierzynski goes from April hero to May zero.  You may want to consider his teammate Christian Bethancourt who has been heating up or James McCann.
  • Michael Taylor isn’t doing much to impress while Jayson Werth is out.  Odds are you can find better on waivers, but hold him on your bench if you believe in his upside.

Do what you will – Caveat Emptor

  • Chase Headley, Luis Valbuena, Nick Castellanos, Jace Peterson and Chris Heston are volatile players to own and can be considered adds, drops or holds depending on your league. Use your leagues waiver wire depth as a guide.

 

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By Jim Finch

The self proclaimed Grand High Exhausted Mystic Ruler of Fantasy Baseball. While I am not related to Jennie or Sidd Finch, I will attempt to uphold the integrity of the Finch family name as it relates to baseball.