Outfield and Pitching: The two positions fantasy owners are always in need of help at, and when help isn’t needed we’re still looking though at these two positions. With so many player stats and rankings changing on a daily basis in the early goings, you’ve got to keep on top of things, especially when it comes to a position where you’re rostering six plus players. You can never have enough pitching, and having at least two worthy outfielders on your bench to cover off days and emergencies is essential.
The problem is that, all too often, we ignore those hot players; whether it be because they lack a track record, have a checkered inconsistent past, or you have a belief that they cannot keep it up. We let them sit there and then curse as we see said player go off for the next month on an opposing team’s roster. B.J. Upton is one such player who was discussed briefly on Twitter this week. You don’t need to buy into Upton’s hot start, and nobody is asking you to marry him, but he at least deserves a shot despite how badly he has burned owners in the past. Like I’ve been saying for years, play the hot hand.
Enrique Hernandez (Dodgers): Injuries to Scott Van Slyke, Andre Ethier and Carl Crawford opened the playing time door for Hernandez, and he has wasted no time in making an impression. He is hitting for a great average, has shown off a little power and speed, and given the number of at bats, his run and RBI totals aren’t half bad. In the minors, Hernandez displayed enough power to hit at least 15 home runs — maybe a few more. While he did show some speed, the success rate wasn’t there so don’t expect more than a handful of steals.
Hernandez holds a career minor league K/BB close to 2-1, and that has carried over to the majors (for now). As for the batting average, there have been highs and lows, and it is those inconsistencies that make it hard to not only gauge what to expect going forward, but to predict how long his hot start will last. If you pick up Hernandez or already own him, keep an eye on his week to week production. As long as he is hitting he will be in the lineup, even after Van Slyke, Crawford, and maybe even Ethier return.
Hernandez qualifies for third base on CBS (OF coming soon), second base and outfield on ESPN, and second base, shortstop and outfield on Yahoo. Obviously his numbers play much better as an infielder, but they are more than acceptable in the outfield as well.
Available in 68% of CBS, 57% of Y! and 74% of ESPN leagues
Michael Saunders (Blue Jays): For years we’ve propped Saunders up on that sleeper soapbox hoping for a 20/20 season, only to be let down for one reason or another. At age 29, is this the season he finally breaks out? Things are looking up as he has been inserted into the lead-off role vacated by the struggling Kevin Pillar. The batting average is in undiscovered country right now; other than 2014 it was .247 or lower. He is receiving a ton of BABIP love now, thanks in part to a ridiculous LD%. His Swing% is down a hair, but his Contact% is slightly higher – specifically inside the zone. Finally his K% is at the lower end of the spectrum of where it has been most years.
The batting average will come down, but improved Z-Contact and lower strikeouts might lessen the descent. If things stabilize in the .265/.270 range and Saunders maintains his spot at the top of the lineup, he could score 75 runs easily. He also still has the pop to hit at least 10 home runs, and if the speed is still there we could get double digits in steals. Granted this is all contingent on Saunders maintaining a decent average, hitting lead-off, and not falling apart when his BABIP collapses. Ride him while he’s hot, and just like every other year, drop him when he’s not.
Available in 79% of CBS, 89% of Y! and 91% of ESPN leagues
Nick Markakis (Braves): He doesn’t steal bases anymore, and if last year is any indication of his power, the home run is no longer part of his game. What Markakis does do well is hit the ball. In 7 of the past 10 seasons he has hit .291 or higher. The low point of his career was from 2013 to 2014 where he hit .271 and .276 respectively so this represents his floor. Since he hits near the top of the lineup, Markakis can be counted on to score runs as well – even for the lowly Braves. Last season he led the team in runs scored with 73, and he leads the team so far this year with seven.
You’ll get top production in two of the standard 5×5 categories. With the exception of 2015, Markakis has hit double-digit home runs each season so don’t rule out the potential for a few more long balls in 2016. Some may have a nicely stacked outfield and view Markakis as worthless or waiver fodder, but for teams with a few struggling or injured stars, Markakis makes a nice emergency fourth outfielder and solid bench player.
Available in 53% of CBS, 76% of Y! and 55% of ESPN leagues
Eddie Rosario (Twins): Last season he reached double digits in home runs and stolen bases, but there were questions on whether he was playing over his head. A slow start made that answer seem obvious, but Rosario has been heating up with two homers and a steal in the past week. He is being rewarded with a higher spot in the batting order which means more RBI opportunities, but with nobody really hitting behind him I would not count on many runs.
Was this just a hot week? That’s a fair question to ask, but one we will not know the answer to for a few days (at least). For now, Rosario is a cheap available option who could produce decent numbers in three categories along with a batting average that won’t sink your team. A must own right now for leagues that start five outfielders, and someone to monitor closely for those that start four.
Available in 77% of CBS, 96% of Y! and 95% of ESPN leagues
Odubel Herrera (Phillies): Herrera wasn’t even a blip on the radar last season, yet he finished the year with a .297 batting average and 24 combined home runs and stolen bases. Like Rosario above, nobody this year thought much of him heading into the season, and looking at his ownership levels not many do now. I understand the thought process though; he’s on the Phillies and they aren’t going to score many runs so his counting stats will not measure up. Looking at individual categories this is true, but when you combine them the entire package can be quite useful.
If you take out the first week of the season you get a .300 average with one home run, two steals, four runs scored and six RBIs. That .300 is a far cry from the .255 you see when you look on the waiver wire. Unlike last season Herrera is having issues hitting lefties and on the road, but both of those should come around. The walk and strikeout rate are almost dead even, both above 20% – not great for the K’s, but the improved walks are nice to see. There has been a dramatic cutback in swings outside the zone, but the O-Contact% has increased so he’s chasing less. The Z-Contact% is down, but once pitchers realize they can’t get him to chase, he should see a few more better pitches.
Herrera is not, nor will he ever be, a top outfield option. He is, however, a solid number four who will contribute across the board. Those that play on CBS realize that, and it’s only a matter of time before those on Yahoo and ESPN take notice.
Available in 65% of CBS, 82% of Y! and 90% of ESPN leagues
Aaron Blair (Braves): He isn’t one of the top rated pitching prospects in the Braves farm system, but he is the closest to being major league ready. His numbers in AA were quite good: 2.42 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 2.70 BB/9, 7.62 K/9. He earned a promotion to AAA last season and posted a 3.16 ERA and 1.22 WHIP over 77 innings – in the PCL no less. In three starts this season (19 innings) he is 3-0 with a 1.42 ERA, a 0.79 WHIP and 22 strikeouts. The K/9 is higher than expect and will probably settle down to the 8.0 range. His walk rate continues to drop as does his home run rate.
The Braves are a train wreck right now, more so in the pitching department where Jhoulys Chacin is now the staff ace by default. Yea, things are that bad in Atlanta, and this makes an early promotion of Blair a logical move for Atlanta. I had originally written that Blair would need two or three more strong starts combined with a few more blowups by any of the current motley crew. Seems Atlanta isn’t going to wait that long and Blair will be taking the hill today. He becomes an immediate add even before he throws his first pitch.
Available in 89% of CBS, 98% of Y! and 99% of ESPN leagues
Henry Owens (Red Sox): He didn’t make the team out of spring training, but his strong start in AAA combined with Joe Kelly’s inability to get anyone out has him back in the majors. OK, Kelly was injured, but even if he wasn’t the results would have been the same – only difference is we would be having this conversation a week or two from now.
Owens had mixed major league results last season, but his numbers in AAA paint a pretty solid picture of what we could eventually expect. Over 178 innings Owens put up a 3.13 ERA, a 1.13 WHIP and an 8.60 K/9. His HR/9 in the minors was solid, but last season in the majors Owens had a 48.9% flyball rate. That combined with a high walk rate could spell trouble at times, so you may want to take a cautious approach with his starts early on and avoid teams like Toronto. Owens still has some growing to do, but he should deliver more good games than bad ones.
Available in 86% of CBS and 98% of Y! and ESPN league
Matt Shoemaker (Angels): Pitchers with a 4.70 ERA and 1.37 WHIP don’t usually gain much interest on waivers. Take out that first game disaster against Texas and you get a 1.49 ERA and a 0.90 WHIP. His xFIP has gone down with each start. He’s using his slider more (which is a plus pitch) and he is generating a 33% K rate on it. I know, small sample size, but it’s a nice start. Walks are still an issue as are home runs, but his HR/FB% is bound to come down some, and he did have a very respectable BB% the previous two seasons.
It’s Shoemaker’s inconsistencies and occasional blowups that have owners on edge. The lower FB% and hard hit rate should limit some of the damage. The increased slider usage should help increase the K’s (the F-Strike% is already up this year). And hopefully, with a little luck, we’ll see more of the pitcher we remember from 2014 and less of the guy from last season. He has starts coming up against the Mariners (today), Rangers, Rays, Mariners and Dodgers. I’d grab him for a stream today – could be the start of something… maybe?
Available in 84% of CBS, 97% of Y! and 95% of ESPN leagues
Blake Snell (Rays): The Rays called up Snell to start Saturday’s contest against the Yankees after starter Erasmo Ramirez was needed in relief earlier in the week. Snell went five innings giving up only two hits, a walk and one run while striking out six – in Yankees Stadium no less. Not a bad debut.
The one walk was nice to see considering he has struggled with them this year at AAA (4.40 BB/9). He appeared to have the walks under control in 2015 as the BB/9 dropped upon his promotion to AA and again at AAA. While he is not going to two-hit every team, Snell did have a H/9 below 7.0 in AA and AAA. The strikeouts were no surprise since Snell has had a K/9 between 9.58 and 11.90 from the rookie league all the way through AAA. The K’s are his ticket to success in the big leagues, but it’s his control that will keep him there.
There is no official word on what will happen next. Erasmo Ramirez came in to relieve Snell so they will both be on the same rest schedule. Maybe this was done on purpose to get Ramirez back on his starting schedule, or maybe it was just a coincidence and Snell will make the next start at home versus Toronto. Considering his ERA at AA and AAA was below 2.0 and his WHIP below 1.10, there isn’t much left for him to prove there in the minors.
Snell’s ownership levels will probably be higher than what is listed below by the time this posts; hopefully you were one of the proactive owners who didn’t wait.
Available in 52% of CBS, 81% of Y! and 95% of ESPN leagues
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.
This is the last week Wilson Ramos will appear here. His ownership levels have reached a point to where he should be owned in all competitive leagues.
Continue to add
- Jake Lamb, Nick Castellanos, Joey Rickard, Melvin Upton, Joe Mauer, Aledmys Diaz,
- Javier Baez isn’t getting full-time at bats yet, but at least he’s hitting.
- Melky Cabrera is still under-owned in Yahoo leagues, and I can’t put him on your team for you
- Mike Napoli is good for 12 team leagues that use a CI slot or larger leagues; for how long though is anyone’s guess.
Hold – Do not add them, but do not drop them yet if possible
- Scooter Gennett and Nick Ahmed have cooled off in the past week. You can drop them in 10-12 team leagues if a viable option is available, but I might hold if you use a MI slot – at least for another week.
- Jeremy Hazelbaker has cooled – we knew he would, and he is beginning to lose starts because of it. He is still a bench add if you have a player to drop.
- Michael Taylor is starting to show signs of life, but his strikeouts are increasing. Keep your fingers crossed, but start adding outfield options to your watch list if you own him.
- I assumed that since Jose Reyes had charges dropped against him that a suspension would quickly follow, but that has yet to happen. Judging by the latest rumbling it sounds like it could be longer than 30 days. Hold him if you can until we get an official word, but don’t hesitate to release him if there is someone worthy out there.
- Preston Tucker seemed like a nice preemptive grab with rumors of Evan Gattis moving back behind the dish, but it looks like that may take longer to happen (if it even does).
Need more waiver wire recommendations, 2-start pitchers, prospect news and general fantasy baseball goodness, head on over to Fantasy Rundown
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