2013 Fantasy Baseball

Fantasy Baseball Week 2 Waiver Wire: 3 to Cut, 3 to Catch, 3 to Keep

Some rights reserved by Keith Allison
Some rights reserved by Keith Allison

3×3 is back, and this time we’ve got something even better than Spring Training stats: opening week stats!

One quick note: Since I’m only discussing nine players per week, I’m going to try as much as possible not to repeat myself. Please check out last week’s list for your Jackie Bradley, Jr. fix.

3 TO KEEP

Chris Davis, Baltimore Orioles 1B/OF

My first instinct when I started writing this was to put Chris Davis in “3 to Cut.” He seemed like an ideal early season trade candidate, coming off a home run binge that landed him in the first segment of SportsCenter for a week, but certainly couldn’t continue much past that.

I assumed that Davis was what he’s always been, but then I noticed his strikeout rate.

As with all of the players on this list, we’re dealing with a preposterously small sample size, but Davis has only struck out twice in his first 22 plate appearances. On top of that, he’s cut his swinging strike rate to 5.4%, less than a third of his career average.

Davis obviously isn’t going to keep up this pace in either home runs or strikeouts, but if he can put a significant dent in his strikeout rate, his .337 BABIP proves he’ll maintain a high batting average as he makes more contact. A better batting average brings more chances to score runs and a greater conversion of RBI opportunities, turning Davis from a single-category provider to an all-around stud.

Watch his K rate closely, but he’s absolutely worth holding on to for now.

R.A. Dickey, Toronto Blue Jays SP

If you’re going to own R.A. Dickey, you need to understand that weeks like this are going to happen. Every once in a while, the knuckleball isn’t going to go exactly where he wants it to, and when that happens, he’s going to get crushed. Unfortunately, these sorts of things aren’t easy to predict; you just have to bite the bullet and trust that his excellent overall performance will smooth out any bumps in the road.

Dickey’s elevated walk rate is troubling, but outside of that, I’d chalk his bad start up mostly to bad luck. He’s allowed a BABIP 75 points higher than his career average and a HR/FB rate that more than doubles his average from the past two seasons.

Watch his next few starts closely; as long as he’s able to keep the ball in the zone, he should be fine the rest of the way.

Zack Greinke, Los Angeles Dodgers SP

Zack Greinke probably wasn’t quite as good in his first start as his numbers would suggest, but it remains a great sign from a pitcher who battled elbow soreness through the Spring. He threw 92 pitches against the Pirates, hitting the strike zone and missing bats with regularity.

We knew coming into the season that everything was lined up for Greinke to succeed in LA, but for a myriad of reasons throughout his career, he’s always been one of the toughest pitchers in baseball to project.

Greinke’s still building up his fastball velocity, but with his next three turns coming up against the Padres (twice) and the Mets, he’ll be able to work things out while still delivering quality results.

3 TO CUT

Michael Morse, Seattle Mariners OF

Michael Morse has been mashing in the Pacific Northwest, crushing an AL-leading 5 home runs in the season’s first week. It’s an impressive feat, but not something completely out of the ordinary for a guy we all knew already had plenty of pop in his bat. However, his early season stat line shows an all-or-nothing approach that doesn’t bode well for his fantasy owners over the long term.

Morse hasn’t been running much this season. When he isn’t trotting around the bases, he’s heading back to the dugout with nothing to show for his trouble. His strikeout rate has jumped to 32.3%, a full ten times greater than his 3.2% walk rate.

If Morse isn’t hitting home runs, he’s not getting on base.

Nearly half of the balls Morse puts in play are fly balls, and while over half half of those have found their way over the fence so far, the overall trend isn’t necessarily a favorable one. Morse’s HR/FB rate will regress significantly, but there’s no guarantee that his fly ball rate will follow suit. An elevated fly ball rate means a lower BABIP, bad news for a guy whose OBP relies completely on batting average.

Morse will provide power no matter what, but if his batting average slips down around .250 (where it was back in 2009), he won’t provide much else. Trade him now to a power-needy owner.

Tim Lincecum, San Francisco Giants SP

After one start this season, Tim Lincecum’s xFIP (8.09) is higher than his K/9 (7.20).

Yikes.

While Lincecum didn’t allow an earned run in his first outing, his peripheral results continue to confirm what his velocity has been shouting for the since the start of last season: Lincecum has lost it.

Without his power fastball, he struggles to induce swings and misses with his changeup and breaking ball. Hitters don’t chase when his misses the strike zone, that turns strikeouts into walks and outs into baserunners.

If you can get anything of value for Lincecum do it now.

Mike Fiers, Milwaukee Brewers SP

Mike Fiers was bad in the Spring, and things haven’t gotten much better since his trip North to Milwaukee. Without overpowering stuff to fall back on, Fiers was lit up as he struggled to find a feel for the strike zone in his first start against the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Fiers succeeded last season by living on the edge of the strike zone. He maintained a walk rate of only 6.7% while throwing only 48% of his pitches in the zone.

He kept his walk rate down in his first start, but did it by throwing nearly 70% of his pitches over the plate. Hitters weren’t biting on Fiers’ typically enticing offerings just off the edges of the plate, forcing Fiers to challenge them with his underpowering arsenal and teeing off when he did.

Unless you’re in a deep NL-only league, there’s likely a better option than Fiers available on your waiver wire.

3 TO CATCH

Jose Valverde, Detroit Tigers RP

Jose Valv…

I can’t do this. I feel dirty. Just pick him up and try not to hate yourself too much.

Chris Heisey, Cincinnati Reds OF

Opening Day seems like ages ago, but I can’t overlook how Ryan Ludwick’s separated shoulder shoved Chris Heisey into the Cincinnati Reds’ starting lineup.

Heisey was probably already owned in most NL-only leagues, but I believe he has value in mixed leagues as well.

He’s had some rough BABIP luck this first week, but past performance shows a nice combination of power and speed. Even without Ludwick, the Reds lineup is fantastic; Heisey will have plenty of opportunities to score and drive in runs.

In leagues that play five outfielders, Heisey is a great add. If he’s able to rack up 500 plate appearances this season, 15/15 is absolutely within his reach.

Kevin Youkilis, New York Yankees 1B/3B

Kevin Youkilis looks rejuvenated since joining the Yankees; I personally saw him stinging the ball around Comerica Park this past weekend, a not-so-small accomplishment considering he faced Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander on back-to-back days.

Youk’s GB/FB rate had been trending in the wrong direction of the past two seasons, but so far this year, he’s rebounded to hit almost 60% of balls in play for fly balls of line drives.

He doesn’t have the quite the same power he once did, and the Yankee lineup will limit his output in runs and RBI (hey, there’s a fun sentence to type), but Youkilis will still get on base and still take advantage of Yankee Stadium’s short porch for a few cheap home runs.

Most importantly, he looks healthy.

If you’ve got Brett Lawrie or Aramis Ramirez stranded on your DL, Youkilis is a great (and probably relatively cheap) trade target.

Check me out thang: @gerardowrites

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