Waiver Wire Report: Thinning out the Dead Weight

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I know we all preach patience early on in the season when it comes to the players we draft, but that patience does not apply to everyone you drafted. I have three simple rules.

  1. You do NOT drop anyone taken with your first eight picks.
  2. Players taken 9-16 should be given 6-8 weeks before a rash decision is made.
  3. Everyone taken after round 16 is expendable.

For me, I start throwing darts after round 16; picking favorites, looking for upside, and basically gambling. While those picks look good at the time, I’m not too attached to those players because I know there will be some hot players out there early on along with some post-hype sleepers that nobody touched. If one of those late picks doesn’t look too good early on, now is the time to make a change. Nobody is going to jump on Adam Lind if you drop him, Alcides Escobar isn’t getting stashed on anyone’s bench, and Clay Buchholz has an ERA that will easily hide him on waivers until he comes around. Two weeks are long enough to get a feel for those bottom guys on your team.

OF Jeremy Hazelbaker (Cardinals): OK, I dropped the ball big time and missed Hazelbaker last week. I see by the ownership levels many of you did not, but the window of opportunity is still open for a lucky few. Hazelbaker displayed some good speed in the minors along with a little pop in his bat. His strikeouts were always a little high; that combined with a full outfield in Boston kept him in the minors. He completely lost his way once he went to the Dodgers, but rediscovered himself last year in the Cardinals minor league system.

Fast forward to present day and he is as close to being a regular player in St. Louis as possible. He’s making good contact, his hard-hit rate is near elite levels, walks are average, and the new lower strikeout rate could be sustainable looking at last years minor league numbers. He’s had four 30+ steal seasons, five double-digit home run seasons and has a total of 178 combined doubles and triples over 2,734 at bats (approximately 40 per season). The average will drop, probably down into the .265/.270 range, and he more than likely has a month-long cold streak coming, but overall the late bloomer should be rostered and owned in all leagues.
Available in 41% of CBS, 28% of Y! and 28% of ESPN leagues
Note: his ownership shot up 13% of CBS, 39% on Yahoo and 14% on ESPN in the past 2 days.

OF Preston Tucker (Astros): Word has it that the Astros will be moving Evan Gattis back behind the plate. That will free up a spot which is all Tucker is lacking right now. Last season he hit 13 home runs over 300 at bats, and looking at his minor league numbers expecting 20 or more over 500 at bats is realistic. He hit .243 which was acceptable, and while I don’t think he’ll hit .290 like he did in AAA, he should be able to get up to the .269 average we saw in AA. We should also see a rise in runs and a larger increase in his RBI totals with full-time at bats and a steady spot in the lineup. Tucker could finish the season with 60 runs, 20 home runs and 70 RBIs if given 500 at bats. Those are more than acceptable totals for a fourth outfielder, but all this is contingent on Gattis seeing time at catcher.
Available in 90% of CBS, 98% of Y! and 96% of ESPN leagues

SS Aledmys Diaz (Cardinals): I always say play the hot hand, and Diaz is right up there with Nick Ahmed as far as surprise starters go. The Cardinals signed Diaz to a four-year deal in 2014, but he has done nothing overly impressive in the minors to suggest this isn’t anything more than a hot start. There’s nothing wrong with that though, as long as you pick up Diaz knowing full-well that the bottom could fall out at any time. As an added bonus Diaz qualifies for second base for those of you on Yahoo. This is a nice stop-gap option for those who drafted Ian Desmond, Addison Russell or those waiting for the return of Jung-ho Kang.
Available in 79% of CBS, 61% of Y! and 83% of ESPN leagues

IF Javier Baez (Cubs): The Cubs just activated Baez from the DL, and while he is owned in some leagues, it seems the rest of the field is taking a wait and see approach. To date the Cubs have lost Schwarber for the season, Soler hasn’t exactly impressed, Szczur isn’t being given much of an opportunity, and the Russell/Zobrist middle infield combo isn’t doing much offensively. Baez should be given plenty of opportunities to shine. He has his faults, but he has more upside than most any player available on waivers right now.

Depending on your league settings, Baez could qualify for second, third and short – those are some nice positions to be eligible for.
Available in 60% of CBS, 69% of Y! and 82% of ESPN leagues

3B Nick Castellanos (Tigers): In part I can understand why people hesitated here given his average production the past two seasons. All too often we forget to look at a players age — we forget Castellanos was only 23 last year. Now in his age 24 season, could we see an uptick in power? He is batting over .300 thanks in part to a .391 BABIP. The strikeouts have not improved, and he has yet to draw a walk this season. Some positive signs are the decrease in GB% and increase in FB% and hard hit rate. The contact has also improved, and considering the increase in swings I’m not surprised.

I don’t know if this new version of Castellanos will last, but if you need a corner infielder I’d be willing to roll the dice and ride this hot streak for as long as it lasts.
Available in 67% of Y! and 50% of CBS and ESPN leagues

1B Mike Napoli (Indians): Napoli has a lot in common with former slugger Adam LaRoche: Both with enough power to hit 20 or more home runs in a season, but the inconsistencies in the batting average and fluctuating counting stats have made each of them less than desirable. Napoli’s final year in Boston left a bad taste in fantasy owners mouths, enough so that many missed his mini-resurgence when shipped off to Texas. Prior to last nights game Napoli was batting .258 and had a seven game hit streak going, which included a couple of homers. With the exception of 2012, Napoli has hit 20 or more homers in each of the past seven seasons — not bad for a guy who has averaged 112 games a year throughout his career.

The biggest negative here is a declining batting average against righties, but he murders lefties which makes him a great platoon player for your corner infield or utility spot. Napoli isn’t someone for shallow leagues, a decent consideration for 12 team leagues, and a potential regular for leagues with 14 or more teams.
Available in 79% of CBS, 94% of Y! and 92% of ESPN leagues

SS Jose Reyes (Rockies): Given the early success of Trevor Story and the uncertainty of when Reyes will return, it’s understandable that his ownership is declining. This might be the perfect time to stash (or even trade for) him, before any news comes out. Odds are his suspension will be in the 30 day range which means we could be seeing Reyes around June. Regardless of what you may think of his numbers in 2015, he ranked fifth on ESPN’s player rater for shortstops so there is still value here.

But what about Trevor Story? Well if he continues to hit we could have a dilemma on our hands. While I’m pulling for Story (even though I own zero stock), a BB% of 4.3 combined with a 36.2 K% is not good, and that 60% fly ball rate will come down as will his ridiculous 53.6 hard hit rate. Remember Joc Pederson’s first half in 2015? Maybe Story will fall off some and still be productive. Maybe Reyes will get traded. Bottom line is, no matter what uniform he is wearing, Reyes will be productive somewhere in 2016.

If you don’t have any room on your bench right now, add him to your watch list at the very least.
Available in 38% of CBS, 65% of Y! and 87% of ESPN leagues

OF Melvin Upton (Padres): It’s been a while since anybody had anything nice to say about Melvin (other than his mom). He shouldn’t be in your lineup versus lefties (.182 this season) until he figures them out again, but against righties he is batting .304 – that is where all his power and speed is currently. The Padres are a mess in general so he doesn’t have a set spot in the batting order, and right now it’s anyone’s guess on who can step up to help this team offensively. If even a few no-name players step up even a little, that could mean a few more run and/or RBI opportunities.

Upton’s LD% and hard-hit rate have increase the past two seasons, his walk rate has remained constant, and most importantly his K% is at its lowest point since 2009. I’m not declaring Upton back, nor am I advising people to run out and roster him, but he deserves your attention at the very least.
Available in 95% of CBS and 98% of Y! and ESPN leagues



Yahoo Specials

Melky Cabrera is owned in 54% of CBS and 60% of ESPN leagues, but he is readily available in 65% of Yahoo leagues. I realize he doesn’t have any home runs yet, has only scored two runs, and has driven in just three, but it’s early. Keep in mind that for the past two seasons Cabrera has averaged 75 runs and RBIs along with 14 homers. He is capable of hitting .300, but on the low side it won’t go below .270. Once Abreu (.257 w/2 home runs) and Frazier (.171 w/2 home runs) start hitting the RBIs will pick up. Last season Cabrera floated between second and fifth in the batting order, and if the Sox begin to utilize that again we should see an uptick in run production.

Cabrera isn’t the best outfield option, but he is a decent number four to complement your current stars.

Catcher Carousel

Russell Martin (.067), Travis d’Arnaud (.087), Matt Wieters (.222), JT Realmuto (.233), Derek Norris (.147) and Devin Mesoraco (.100) have been utter disappointments, and have zero home runs combined. Fantasy owners need some short-term replacements to stop the bleeding — and fast. While you’re not going to find much power on the wire, you can (at the very least) find someone who will not kill your average and hold down the fort until your current backstop comes around.

I mentioned Wilson Ramos last week, and his .406 batting average is available in over 40% of Yahoo and CBS leagues. Yadier Molina is available in a little over 35% of Yahoo and CBS leagues and is batting .341 along with contributing to runs and RBIs. Miguel Montero is batting.286, is contributing across the board, and is available in 50% of Yahoo and 40% of CBS leagues. Chris Iannetta is off to a career start with a .320 average and two home runs, and unlike the players named he is readily available in 82% of CBS and 93% of Yahoo leagues. All four players are ranked in the top 10 on the ESPN player rater and should be added.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia is only hitting .176, but he has 2 home runs and 8 RBIs. The Red Sox have made a change and are going with Christian Vazquez at catcher. He’s not much for power, but he did hit .275 in AA and .285 in AAA. Vazquez could be another sneaky short-term add. So could Blake Swihart when he returns, and his ownership on Yahoo is low.

If you own a struggling catcher, stop sitting there waiting for him to come around. Check your waiver wire; see if any of the players above are available and pick one of them up. Each year there are three or four catchers who are lightly drafted (if at all) that finish in the top 12 — one of those hot players above could be one of them.

Finding their way to waivers

Like I stated in the intro, those players drafted late are expendable. They were taken near the end of the draft for a reason — because nobody thought that highly of them in the first place. If they aren’t living up to their potential early on, you should be able to release them without other owners making a mad dash to claim them as soon they are dropped.

You can safely drop the following players in 10 and 12 team leagues; those in 14 and 15 team leagues use your best judgement base on the available waiver wire talent.

  • Kevin Pillar: A bad Spring plus a batting average equal to his weight equals an unworthy bench player.
  • Khris Davis: It appears the move to Oakland has not agreed with him and you’d be better off monitoring his progress on your watch list.
  • Alex Rodriguez: The comeback tour ended last season for those of you who didn’t get the memo.
  • Marcell Ozuna: He is a few 0-4 performances away from being a complete disappointment… again.
  • Ketel Marte: Just another name on the list of failed middle infielders Seattle has produced over the past five seasons – at least it’s looking that way right now.
  • Jayson Werth: Half of his production for the season came in this past Friday’s game.
  • Derek Norris: Unless you play in a two-catcher league he is waiver wire fodder.

Next week I’ll cover starting pitchers.

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 Tyler White will appear here. His ownership levels have reached a point to where he should be owned in all competitive leagues.

Continue to add

  • Wilson Ramos, Jake Lamb, Scooter Gennett and Joe Mauer.
  • Nick Ahmed and Joey Rickard are still adds as well, but monitor them both closely.

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

  • I still like Michael Taylor and am holding out hope myself, but the clock is ticking on that batting average.

Drop ’em

  • I stand by all my picks from last week, but there will be some duds as the season progresses.

 

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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. You can also find me at FanRagSports.com
Jim Finch

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