It gets harder and harder as we go through the season to find useable players to recommend. The tough part is not repeating yourself and keeping things fresh with new players each week. There are numerous players listed below in the previous recommendations section, and eventually I will have to beat a dead horse with a “best of what’s left on the waiver wire” episode, but that will not be this week. There are still some valuable players out there that I have not mentioned this year, I just had to be a little creative this week in what to look for.
Ben Paulsen (1B-Rockies): This may only be a short-term addition, but Paulsen is hot and stealing at bats away from Wilin Rosario. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Mr. Paulsen, here are his AAA numbers for the past 3 years.
Paulsen was off to a slow start before being promoted, but as you can see by the previous two seasons he has little to prove. Normally I’m wary of AAA hitters in the PCL, but the fact his new home park is a launching pad eases my concerns. There is no timetable on the return of Justin Morneau so for now playing time is safe as long as he keeps hitting (or should I say out-hitting Rosario). Even when Morneau does return, he is on the final year of his contract (9 Million mutual option w/a $750,000 buyout). The Rockies are in last and might decide to give Paulsen more at bats to see what they have. Plus if the Rockies decide to become sellers and trade Tulowitzki and or Cargo, the next piece to go would probably be Morneau to a contender. Like I said at the beginning, this might just be a short-term add, but it could have long-term implications.
Available in 97% of Yahoo, 94% of ESPN and 89% of CBS leagues
Jung Ho Kang (SS-Pirates): Kang maybe be in a bit of a slump right now, but sometimes that is the perfect time to act. For the season Kang is batting .281, but he hit .298 in the month of May. He is also batting .351 at home and .348 against lefties. Against righties the average is a respectable .264 so the only hole in his game is hitting on the road (.211). Playing time is no longer an issue with Kang playing primarily at shortstop and occasionally shifting over to third giving him dual-eligibility. The Pirates have him batting between 5th and 6th for the most part so RBI opportunities are there, and things could increase if Pittsburgh moves him up in the order; the same goes for scoring runs. Kang has moved up the ESPN player rater and currently sits at #21, and over the last 30 days he is ranked at #13. It is only a matter of time before he passes players like Erick Aybar, Elvis Andrus, Jimmy Rollins, etc.., and takes his place in the top 12. Get your Kang today, supplies are limited. I might even try to swing a trade for him if the asking price isn’t too high.
Available in 42% of CBS and 65% of Yahoo and ESPN leagues
Will Middlebrooks (3B-Padres): I’m sure many of you have given up on Middlebrooks by now (myself included), but I would be remiss in my duties if I didn’t point out what he has been doing as of late. Over the past 30 days Middlebrooks has batted .278; over the last 14 days the average was .321, he also contributed 3 home runs and 8 RBIs over that 14 day span. Maybe the past 2 weeks was a one and done hot streak; maybe it could last a little longer, and there is even the chance that Middlebrooks is turning into a useable fantasy player. I have a hard time buying that one, but anything is possible in baseball. For now view Middlebrooks as a quick add, someone you dump the first time he goes o’fer 3 days in a row (or close to it). He might have a little hotness left in him or we might have just missed it. Use the depth of your league and current roster to determine his value for your team.
Available in 94% of Yahoo, 92% of ESPN and 77% of CBS leagues
Chad Bettis (SP-Rockies): I’m sure his ownership will shoot up after Wednesday’s start so you may want to act now. It’s not often I get to recommend a Rockies pitcher, but Bettis is different; he’s actually pitching well (for now). His debut was a little rough (4 earned runs), but he allowed only 3 earned runs his next start, 2 in the following game, blanked the Phillies over 8 and then 5 hit the Dodgers on Wednesday allowing only 2 runs (1 earned). Bettis has called the PCL home for a number of years so he is familiar with pitching in an unfriendly environment. Here are his minor league totals before getting the call for those of you who don’t know much about the man.
His AAA numbers were a little higher, but like I said he was in the PCL so that is to be expected. Bettis missed the 2012 season and part of 2013 due to an injury, but he appears to be all systems go now. His ML strikeout totals are a little off his minor league average, but the rest of his ML numbers are in line. Bettis throws a two and four seam fastball (92 MPH), changeup (84 MPH) and curveball (74 MPH) – Zach Sanders from Fangraphs goes into more detail on each of them in a recent article. Between the varying speeds and usage of each pitch he’s able to keep hitters off-balance. That and the fact it is his first time through the league so teams haven’t had a chance to fully scout him yet. For now ride the hot hand and ignore the team he plays for and home field. His next start is at home versus St Louis then it’s on the road @Miami followed by Milwaukee and Arizona (or @San Francisco if there are any rainouts). If you are nervous about his next start – don’t start him, but at least have him on your team.
Available in 90% of Yahoo, 83% of ESPN and 75% of CBS leagues
Available in over 95% of Yahoo, ESPN and CBS leagues
Ruben Tejada (SS-Mets): Tejada seems to have taken control of the third base role for the Mets and his bat is sending thank you messages to manager Terry Collins. Over the past 14 days Tejada has his .455 with 6 runs, 7 RBIs and a homer. Two weeks ago Tejada was batting .214 and looking for any playing time he could get and now his average is up to .311 with a full-time gig; that’s life in baseball. He has struggled at the major league level for two years now so this may just be a hot streak or it might be a player who is starting to figure things out. With a hot bat and a prime spot in the batting order, it might be worth throwing caution into the wind and rostering Tejada short-term to take advantage. Depending on your league eligibility rules he may only qualify for shortstop/MI, but Tejada has played 8 games at second and third base this year. His value and numbers play up the middle and I wouldn’t play him at 3B unless you were out of options. This stock my plummet as quickly as it went up so act now and dump it when it starts to turn.
Aaron Hicks (OF-Twins): Called up in mid May after hitting .336 in AAA, Hicks has been playing every day. He is not a power guy (maybe 10 long balls) and until he moves up in the order don’t expect many RBIs. Hicks is a nice source of cheap speed with 98 steals over 2161 minor league at bats. That averages out to a little less than 30 steals a season. His batting average in the majors hasn’t lived up to what he did in the minors, but the 25-year-old is making progress. He hit .289 in AA and .287 in AAA; while he is only hitting .258 now, that is a big improvement over the previous 2 seasons. Over the past 2 weeks Hicks stole 4 bases and has scored 6 runs. In 12 team leagues that means nothing, but in larger, deeper or AL only leagues, that could be waiver wire gold. Hicks can help your team with steals, contribute useable numbers in runs and will chip in a few homers and RBIs. And, if he can keep the batting average in the .260 range, you’ve got yourself a nice fourth outfield option. He’s worth throwing a dart at, just to see if it will stick.
Saves on the Wire
Carson Smith (RP-Mariners): How much longer do the Mariners stick with Fernando Rotten? Seriously? A change is coming soon; it has to be, right? Instead of waiting for that change and scrambling to the wire, why not be proactive and roster the next potential closer now. Right now even without the saves, Smith can be an asset to your team. He has allowed only 3 earned runs over 23 innings and has racked up 28 strikeouts (10.96 K/9). Granted a .216 BABIP is a little unsustainable, but his xFIP (2.20) and SIERA (1.78) suggest if there is any regression, it will be minor. Other than lefty specialist Charlie Furbush, nobody in the bullpen can hold a candle to Smith right now. Unless the Mariners go outside the box (which they are already doing by keeping Rodney in the 9th), Smith should be next in line. I would grab him now. Worst case scenario, he helps your ERA and WHIP while contributing some nice strikeout totals.
Available in 83% of Yahoo, 88% of ESPN and 82% of CBS leagues
Addison Reed (RP-Diamondbacks): Go ahead and get the laughs out of the way. Reed was demoted and since that time Brad Ziegler has converted the save opportunities for the D’Backs. In the meantime, Reed has been working with the coaching staff in an attempt to correct whatever has gone wrong since coming over from Chicago. Remember, this is the guy who had a minor league ERA and WHIP below 1.50 and 0.75 and showed a lot of improvement in his second year with the White Sox. Things did not go according to plan though in 2014 and this season, but Chip Hale hasn’t lost faith in his young reliever.
While things went backwards in 2014, they weren’t all bad. Reed had his lowest BB/9 to date (2.28) along with his best strikeout rate (10.47). This season has some positive notes as well. So far Reed has lowered his FB% and increased his GB% to over 40. Reed also went back to the pitch mix he was using in Chicago, cutting back on his fastball for more sliders. If the coaching staff can fix any mechanical problems, maybe Reed will start to deliver some of that potential. I would still roster Ziegler in the short-term for saves, but if I am a Ziegler owner I’d handcuff him to Reed (and vice versa). Reed may be down, but he’s not out and largely available.
Available in 81% of Yahoo, 75% of ESPN and 71% of CBS leagues
Nick Hundley & Michael McKenry (Rockies): I’ve talked in the past about building a fantasy ace out of middle relief pitchers; well the same principle can be applied to catchers. I recommended Hundley weeks ago (65% owned in CBS, available in 64% of Yahoo and ESPN), but his teammate McKenry should be considered as well. Over the past 14 days he is batting .350 with 3 home runs, 7 RBIs and 6 runs scored. Granted he has only had 20 at bats which makes it tough to roster alone, but what if you paired him with Hundley and rotated them in and out based upon who was in the lineup. Combine McKenry and Hundley’s numbers over the past 14 days and you get the following:
That line would basically tie them with Evan Gattis at the top spot for the past two weeks as the top catcher in the league. Gattis is the only catcher to reach double digits in runs scored and only 3 catchers had double digits in RBIs. Now since 2 weeks is a small sample size, let’s take a look at their combined numbers for the season.
The two catcher combo would have you 1st in run scored, 6th in RBIs, tied for 3rd in home runs and 2nd in batting average among qualified catchers. Now you could try to pair a non-teammate catcher with your current one, but odds are you’ll be choosing between them on many nights and there will be times you have both players off; this is something you don’t have to worry about with players on the same team. If you’re struggling with your catcher spot and Hundley is available, pick him up along with McKenry. If you are a Hundley owner, go get McKenry who is available in 98% of leagues.
Joe Panik (2B-Giants): Over half the owners on ESPN have Panik rostered; over 60% of those that play on CBS own Panik, but he is available in 74% of Yahoo leagues. Panik is the 10th ranked second baseman on ESPN’s player rater, yet I can count a dozen second basemen ranked below him on Yahoo whose ownership is close to double that of Panik. I can see why some are slow to flock to Panik; his home run and stolen base totals have him outside the top 25, but he is 18th in RBIs, 10th in runs scored and 5th for batting average among qualified starters. Panik hit .305 last season so some of the worry about his average coming down should be alleviated.
If you have power and speed covered for your team and want a solid second base guy who will hit for average, score an above average number of runs and contribute solid numbers in the RBI category, you should look no further than Panik. Leagues that use a MI slot, there is no reason for this guy to be available on your waiver wire, period.
Mining the Minors
Players who could be called up soon to stash or monitor
Jonathan Singleton (1B-Astros): Last years debut was a nightmare, batting .168 with 134 strikeouts in 310 at bats. This years AAA numbers look very similar to last seasons before his call-up, similar power, runs scored, RBI totals, batting average, walk, strikeouts, etc.., Maybe he can handle ML pitching differently this year, and given the only person standing in Singleton’s way is Chris Carter, he may get that chance. Carter is far from the 30 home run hitter we saw the past two seasons and his batting average is 25 points lower than his career .219 total. The Astros are on top in the West and if they plan on staying there, they may want to find out now if Singleton has improved enough to stick in the majors. Stash him now before the rush.
Available in 93% of Yahoo, 97% of ESPN and 77% of CBS leagues
Adam Duvall (CI-Giants): Just like Singleton above, Duvall’s debut last season didn’t go according to plan. This season in AAA he is producing a similar line to 2014 that could earn him another shot.
The power is real; Duvall has 22 or more home runs and 87 plus RBIs in 3 of the past 4 minor league seasons. The batting average has been the question mark, but he has maintained a .296 average in AAA – in the PCL though so scale it back some. Duvall is primarily playing first base this year so a hot Brandon Belt could slow things down. He played 3B prior to that where the Giants are riding the hot hand of Matt Duffy (who is a middle infielder by trade). Then there is left field where Nori Aoki calls home. Aoki is hitting the ball well, but the Giants may want someone with a little more oomph. He could play all 3 positions if need be, a super utility guy that would make a better bat than Justin Maxwell (who is on his last legs), Gregor “Ho Hum” Blanco or Joaquin Arias.
It’s no secret Bruce Bochy is not a fan of Brandon Belt so a slowdown/slump by him or Matt Duffy, or an injury to the OF (purely speculative but logical) and we could see Duvall. He may not be a stash, but he is someone you might want to grab upon promotion.
Available in 99% of Yahoo, CBS and ESPN leagues
Finding their way to the Waiver Wire
Each week I will feature players whose ownership levels far exceed that players value who you should consider dropping for someone useful. So far I’ve recommended Chase Utley, Devin Mesoraco, Adam Eaton, Steve Pearce, Marlon Byrd and Victor Martinez and they have done little to change my mind. Drop ’em all.
Some have argued my Pedro Alvarez recommendation, but I will again point out that Pedro’s bottom line is no different from David Freese – and look at his ownership levels.
For this week’s drop: Fernando Rodney, come on down. Now Get Off My Roster! Sure the guy gets you saves, but are they really worth it? With the exception of a career year in 2012, Rodney’s WHIP has been 1.34 or higher since 2008. The H/9 have gone up for 3 straight years and is now close to 11.0. Of the last 3 years, last year was the best for walks with a BB/9 of 3.80; this year and 2013 we saw a BB/9 over 4.5. His ERA has always been high for a relief pitcher, but this year it is in 2014 Joe Nathan territory. You’re still getting a K/9 in the 8.0 range which is one of the lone bright spots. He has 14 saves (another highlight), but 10 closers have more saves, a handful are tied with Rodney and a number more closers are right below him in the saves categories that have better ratios.
Are the few strikeouts and save numbers worth what Rodney can do to your WHIP and ERA on any given night? In the month of May he could not make it more than 2 games without giving up an earned run. Rodney is in the final year of his contract and the Mariners are slowly falling out of contention. A change is coming soon, at least one would hope. If you’re a Rodney owner you can try to trade him, but odds are you’ll find something better on waivers. I would add Carson Smith if he’s available or some other middle reliever who could be closing down the line. Your team will be better off and your ratios will thank you later.
Previous Waiver Wire Recommendations
I like to hold myself accountable for past recommendations so I will monitor
and misses from the previous weeks and adjust the players accordingly.
This is the last week Shawn Tolleson, Alex Guerrero, Ender Inciarte, Nori Aoki, Rajai Davis and Hector Santiago 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. If they are still available, your window of opportunity is closing.
Continue to add
- Mitch Moreland, Chris Colabello, Billy Burns, Erick Aybar, Justin Turner, Nick Hundley, Yunel Escobar, Logan Forsythe, Andre Ethier, Mat Duffy, John Axford, Mike Bolsinger, Lance McCullers, Tom Koehler and Kyle Gibson are all still solid additions if they are available depending on your needs.
- Nick Ahmed, Brandon Barnes, Preston Tucker, Cory Spangenberg, Wilmer Flores, Todd Cunningham, Juan Lagares, Jace Peterson, Chase Headley, Brandon Guyer and Josh Fields are good for larger and deeper leagues and could have use in 12 team leagues as well.
- James McCann, Mike Zunino and Francisco Cervelli are gaining value in 12 team leagues with several catchers starting to slump.
- Delino DeShields was moved to hold status last week, but with Josh Hamilton back on the DL the playing time will be there. I love that he is eligible for 2B on Yahoo.
Hold – Do not add them, but do not drop them yet unless necessary
- Ryan Howard, Maikel Franco, Odubel Herrera, Anthony Gose and Miguel Montero have gone cold so you may want to bench them for now.
- Aaron Hill, Danny Espinosa, Gerardo Parra and Brad Miller are cold for a second week in a row. Hold if you can but drop them if better options are available.
- Michael Taylor has made a little noise and has a job with Werth out for an extended period of time. Hold or drop depending on what is available in your league.
- Ike Davis, Kyle Blanks, Brandon Morrow and Jake Lamb are all on the DL, hold if you can but drop if you need the DL room. Yonder Alonso returned this week so play this one by ear for now.
- Caleb Joseph has hit .250 over the past 14 days, .167 for the past 7. With Wieters back you should be looking for a replacement. I recommend holding Joseph for now until we see how healthy Wieters is, but this is looking like a lost cause.
- Just like the graduates above, this is the last time Chris Young, Justin Maxwell, Austin Hedges and Alex Colome will appear here. If you have not dropped these players, now’s the time to do so.
- Jake Marisnick has been losing at bats to Preston Tucker, if this continues he can be dropped despite his bottom line.
- Nick Castellanos has been a borderline drop/hold player, but I’m officially adding him to the drop list. Same goes for Luis Valbuena who is still scoring runs but hit .163 in May.
- A.J. Pierzynski is officially in a time-share; coupled with the declining numbers and fresh faces emerging on waivers at catcher, he can be dropped.
- Rubby De La Rosa has given up 4 earned runs in 3 of his last 4. J.A. Happ has had 3 below par games and the strikeout totals are dwindling. Chris Heston has been on again/off again. All 3 are looking like streamer options and nothing more in 12 team leagues.
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