A common misconception in the fantasy world is that part-time players hold no value. The common thought process is, why waste a spot on a guy who is only going to get starts two or three times a week. Now if you play in a league that has weekly lineup changes you have somewhat of an argument, but for those of you that are afforded the luxury of daily moves – you have no excuse.
Rostering a part-time player putting up terrific numbers is no different than having a teams setup man in your bullpen on the chance something occurs which forces the current closer from his role. Until that happens you happily play that middleman and enjoy the strikeouts and low ratios he provides until he gets the chance to close and provide you with some real value. Part-time players are no different. Sure they don’t play every day, but when they do play – some of them at least – they put up numbers that when you prorate them over a full season, they add up to top-level production.
Yet here we are, one month into the season and there are a number of players readily available to help your fantasy squad, but there they sit festering in the free agent pool like an orphaned child nobody wants. Their only flaw is playing time, a problem that is now plaguing a popular early wire pick, Jeremy Hazelbaker. He was not receiving full-time at bats when fantasy owners picked him up, but his bat, and a few timely slumps and days off by other players, moved him into the lineup. Now he’s back to being a part-time guy, but the talent and potential are still there.
All Hazelbaker needs is another opportunity, just like the players below. It doesn’t matter what a hitters role is with the club; if they are hitting, the team will find a way to get them in there. The more they produce with what they are given, the more the club will be forced to find playing time and at bats for them. For now, if you’re a fantasy owner, you may want to consider a few part timers; plug them in when they are in the lineup and take advantage of their production. Talent always wins out; Pablo Sandoval and him multi-million dollar contact took a seat to a hot hitting rookie. That right there should tell you something. That hot player getting limited at bats today could very easily be a full-time player tomorrow.
Brandon Drury (Diamondbacks):Average players have approximately 80-90 at bats right now, at least those who bat first through fifth. Drury has 64, but what most people don’t realize is that 42 of them have come in the past two weeks. With the exception of one RBI, all the production you see next to his name has come in that time frame. He has been hitting for average, and that average forced more at bats in addition to a better spot in the lineup.
Drury has seen time at second and third base as well as left and right field. Depending on the site you play he could have some sneaky value at second or middle infield. The Diamondbacks will continue to find ways to get his bat in the lineup, and in turn fantasy owners need to find a way to get him into theirs.
Available in 90% of CBS, 98% of Y! and ESPN leagues
Sean Rodriguez (Pirates):Rodriguez has stats similar to Drury above, yet he has only had 29 at bats – 25 over the past two weeks and 15 just last week. Like Drury all of his production has come during this time, and the batting average and versatility has garnered him more at bats.
Rodriguez has primarily played first base, but he has also seen time at second, third, shortstop and right field. A few more games at some of those infield positions could give him a lot of value should he continue to hit. His track record isn’t all too impressive so maybe there is some luck or he was just due, but there is the chance (however so slight) that he turns in a Josh Harrison type season before fading back into obscurity.
Available in 96% of CBS, Y! and ESPN leagues
Ben Paulsen (Rockies): Owning a Rockies hitter is never a bad thing, even one with only one home run to his name. Paulsen has been splitting time with Mark Reynolds at first, primarily against righties. So far he is hitting at home (.280) as well as away (.350). While he only has one home run, he did hit 11 last season in 325 at bats so there should be more on the way.
Just like last season Paulsen is seeing time at first base and left field; that dual eligibility plays nicely in leagues that use a CI slot along with four or more outfielders. Short of an injury or Mark Reynolds collapse I don’t see the playing time or at bats increasing, so for now he is a person of interest for deeper leagues or a nice player to pair with Mark Reynolds should you roster both of them – playing whichever one should be in the lineup on a given night.
Available in 84% of CBS, 80% of Y! and 94% of ESPN leagues
Mark Reynolds (Rockies): Colorado always seems to rejuvenate a player’s career. I remember when a 36-year-old Vinny Castilla (showing my age here), on the downside of his career, signed a one year deal with the Rockies in 2004. He went on to hit .271 with 35 home runs and a whooping 131 RBIs. I mention this because Reynolds is on the wrong side of 30, and like Castilla he has shown great power potential in the past. Granted Castilla was a much better player when it came to batting average and strikeouts which is where the similarities end, but the move to Colorado is where they begin.
Reynolds is batting over .300 with a pair of homers as the primary first baseman for the Rockies. He is hitting lefties and righties equally well, and much like Castilla he is only hitting in Coors (.375 home, .231 road). That last part shouldn’t be an issue for fantasy owners since most Rockies players have warped home/road splits. The two biggest issues are playing time and reliability. The playing time issue is working itself out with 36 at bats over the past two weeks along with both his home runs. The second issue is something each owner will have to overcome on his own; Reynolds has been so bad for so long some may never be able to trust him regardless of what his bat does.
If you’re looking for a part-time plug and play batter who qualifies for first and third base, and outfield (at least on Yahoo), Reynolds makes an interesting player to roll the dice on. He’s not going to put up a Vinny Castilla type season, but he could easily outperform everyone’s expectations and have a career year.
Available in 94% of CBS, 96% of Y! and 97% of ESPN leagues
Chris Owings (Diamondbacks): A.J. Pollock’s loss is Owings gain. He took a step back in 2015, and given the overall depth at middle infield he became an afterthought on draft day. After a slow start Owings has solidified himself as the teams center fielder, batting .349 with five stolen bases over 43 at bats the past two-week – almost double the at bats he had the first two weeks. The speed is real; he stole 16 bases last season, and if not for a paltry .227 average and .264 OBP he could have easily surpassed 20. He is still having issues with lefties, but against righties, home and away the batting average is solid.
While Owings is batting at the bottom half of the lineup, that’s not a bad thing considering everyone in front of him is hitting well (average wise). That means he should see a decent number of RBI opportunities. As an outfielder Owings has limited value, but as a shortstop, second baseman or middle infielder he makes a nice cheap steal option. Like with all players on waivers this may not last so enjoy the ride while it lasts.
Available in 92% of ESPN and 84% of CBS and Y! leagues
Jose Ramirez (Indians): Like Owings above, Ramirez disappointed in 2015 after showing some promise in 2014. He did display enough power and speed last year to tease a 10/20 season was possible – that is if the batting average would cooperate. So far so good as Ramirez is batting .293 over 53 at bats. He has seen time at third base and left field, spelling the unimpressive Juan Uribe and Rajai Davis. If Ramirez continues to hit and either or both Uribe and Davis continue to flounder, we could see more at bats – there has already been a slight increase the past two weeks compared to the first two.
In addition to third base and outfield, Ramirez qualifies for second base and shortstop. It goes without saying the type of value he would have if he was in the active lineup five days a week. He has no set spot in the lineup so his counting stats are up in the air, but guesstimating on the low-end here, 55-60 in each for runs and RBIs with the potential for double digits in homers and steals makes a great infield play. Keep a real close eye on him, and roll the dice on him in leagues with more than 12 teams that use a MI slot if he is out there.
Available in 92% of CBS, 97% of Y! and ESPN leagues
you can never have enough pitching.
Joe Smith (Angels): It should go without saying that Joe Smith should be owned right now, but some owners (mostly on ESPN) have not gotten the memo. It’s not like Smith is a stranger to the closer role, filling in when needed in each of the past two seasons. Last season’s numbers were more like those you would see from a mid-level pitcher than those of a reliever/setup man. This year the ERA is more reasonable and the WHIP is a solid 1.0, but the strikeouts have not materialized.
I could go into advanced metrics, break down some numbers and try to convince you why Smith should be added, but there are simplistic things that I can point out without going into much detail. With the exception of last year Smith has had an ERA below 3.0 and a solid WHIP since 2011. His K/9 during that time has hovered in the mid 7’s, he keeps the ball in the park, and he has maintained a low BAA. Most importantly, he’ll get you saves. Damn, I should have just said that last part to start with; could have saved myself a hundred words or so.
Street is out with an Oblique strain which means you should have Smith for most of May.
Available in 66% of CBS, 48% of Y! and 82% of ESPN leagues
A.J. Griffin (Rangers): Griffin appears to have picked up right where he left off in 2013. The strikeouts have not returned yet, and the walks are a little high, but the walks should come down as he gets some innings in and works out the kinks. Now it’s true Griffin has been blessed with some BABIP love early on (.211), and the xFIP (4.83) and SIERA (4.76) don’t paint a pretty picture, but just because there is regression in his future does not mean he isn’t of value right now.
Currently Griffin is sporting a nifty 2.52 ERA and 1.04 WHIP. His strand and hard hit rates are right in line with his 2013 season; the flyball percentage is down some (still way too high, but down); the line drive percentage is also down (17.8%), and the ground ball rate is up to 37%. In 2013 Griffin posted a 3.83 ERA and 1.13 WHIP, and that was with an absurd 49.5% fly ball rate and .242 BABIP so he is no stranger to pitching over his head. We could see the fly ball rate drop even more given he has double the use of his slider. That pitch is generating a 63.6% ground ball rate and 18.2% fly ball rate; that accounts for the decreased home runs and strikeouts, the latter of the two owners will accept if it means keeping the ball in the park.
Some owners see the low BABIP with a high fly ball rate and run. On the surface it seems like a problem, but given the success of his slider early on I don’t see either being an issue – at least until the weather warms some and the ball starts traveling. Griffin’s numbers will regress some, but until they do take advantage of his new-found pitch and early success.
Available in 66% of CBS, 86% of Y! and 91% of ESPN leagues
Steven Wright (Red Sox): Wright is the new R.A. Dickey, an extreme knuckleball pitcher – he has thrown it 86% of the time this season (similar to Dickey’s usage the past five seasons). Currently the xFIP (4.24) and SIERA (4.09) don’t agree with his ERA (1.37), but it was the same for Dickey from 2010 to 2012. The same rules do not apply for knuckleball pitchers. They throw a pitch not many hitters see, and most of the ones that do see it have a hard time with it. The trouble is, as we’ve seen with knuckleball pitchers in the past, is that if it is slightly off it can make for a long night for his team (and short outing for the pitcher).
Overall I would expect more good games than bad, at least that’s how things are playing out early on. The control and location seem to be on point for now, so fantasy owners should take advantage. His next two starts are on the road against the White Sox and Yankees (who can’t seem to score runs). I’d grab him for his two starts this week and then maybe keep him if you like what you see. Even pick him up and don’t start him if you’re worried, because if he turns in two strong games this week, you might not get another chance.
Available in 64% of CBS, 78% of Y! and 81% of ESPN leagues
Michael Fulmer (Tigers): His debut had its highs and lows. He only walked one batter, struck out four over five innings, had a GB% of 55.6, and he came away with the win. On the flip side it was against the Twins, they did manage to get seven hits off him, and it took 93 pitches to go five innings.
Prior to this year he never pitched above AA, but over 121 innings there he compiled a 2.53 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, and a K/9 of 8.70. He gets good movement on his fastball which sat between 92 and 96 MPH in his first start. His slider, which he threw 26% of the time had a GB% of 83.3. I doubt he keeps that up, but it is an encouraging start. There’s a lot to like here.
Another reason to like Fulmer is the fact he wasn’t supposed to be up yet so teams don’t have much scouting to go on.. That could make for some decent starts facing teams the first time through – that is until they catch up. His next start is Thursday at Cleveland. They are only an average hitting team so we should get somewhat better results given he got the first game jitters out of the way. Following that he should have games at Washington and Baltimore, home against the Rays (the AL punching bag), then at Oakland and Los Angeles (AL). If he does well against the Indians the ownership rates will rise, but decent games against the Nationals and Orioles could take him off the open market in competitive leagues.
Available in 76% of CBS, 85% of Y! and 95% of ESPN leagues
Homer Bailey (Reds): He just made his second rehab start on Tuesday so his next one should come tomorrow. That puts him on schedule to return somewhere between the 23rd and the end of the month – provided there are no setbacks. That’s still a month, but if you wait too long you run the risk of missing out since most of the fantasy publications will be pimping his return towards the middle of the month. I say avoid the rush and roster him now.
We all know what Bailey is capable of. He’s good for an ERA in the mid to upper 3’s, a WHIP in the 1.20 range, a GB% just above 50, and a K/9 in the mid 7’s. Nothing fancy or elite, just solid. When it comes to the back-end of your rotation, sometimes solid is all you really need. It seems like Bailey has been around forever, but he’ll only be 30 on Tuesday. There are still some good innings left in that right arm, and maybe by the time he has shaken off the rust the Reds will have found their offense.
Available in 77% of CBS, 96% of Y! and 94% 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 Aledmys Diaz 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, Michael Saunders and Odubel Herrera are all solid adds.
- Blake Snell may have been sent back down, but he’ll be back.
- Aaron Blair didn’t have the best debut, but I have faith in him.
- Joey Rickard, Eddie Rosario and Nick Markakis have seen their averages drop, but they are still producing elsewhere.
- Javier Baez still isn’t batting full-time, but his time is coming.
- Joe Mauer is still hitting, but the rest of his numbers haven’t increase. He’s still good for larger leagues and maybe a CI slot for 12 team leagues.
- Melky Cabrera is still under-owned in Yahoo leagues – I kid you not.
- Mike Napoli is still hitting for power, driving in runs and scoring
Hold – Do not add them, but do not drop them yet if possible
- Melvin Upton has cooled off, but give him another week to turn things around.
- Jeremy Hazelbaker is now fighting for at bats. I like the upside, but three of his five homers were off the bench.
- I may have jumped the gun on Henry Owens, but I did say he was a gamble.
- Matt Shoemaker: he can be too good to drop at times, but too bad too roster. Flip a coin on what to do with him.
- The Scooter Gennett show is over. If you can’t fit him on your DL don’t waste a bench spot to hold him.
- Nick Ahmed….. It was fun while it lasted, wasn’t it?
- Enrique Hernandez – see Nick Ahmed.
- It appears the commissioner is in no rush to suspended Jose Reyes. There is no point of holding him anymore except in league with more than 14 teams that use a MI slot.
- I’m probably one of the few Michael Taylor supporters out there, but even I am running out of excuses to hold him.
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