2015 Fantasy Baseball Week 8 Waiver Wire: 3 to Catch, 3 to Cut, 3 to Keep

In the Week 8 edition of fantasy baseball 3×3, we’re giving appreciating Andre Ethier, pumping the brakes on Ian Kennedy, and wringing our hands over Matt Kemp.

There are plenty of waiver wire columns out there that provide an exhaustive list of the most added players in fantasy leagues. This isn’t one of them. Here, we’ll run down a few of the most interesting players for fantasy owners, with perspective on who deserves your attention, who deserves your patience, and who deserves to go straight to bed without dessert.

Any questions, thoughts? Hit me in the comments or on Twitter.

3 TO CATCH

Players to be picked up; available in most standard leagues

Andre Ethier | Los Angeles Dodgers | OF

Finally given another chance at regular playing time, Andre Ethier is having an excellent season, slashing .304/.397/.518 with five homers. Over the last 30 days (which generally corresponds with the time Either’s been an everyday player), the only outfielders to outpace his .410 wOBA are Bryce Harper, Nelson Cruz, Michael Brantley, and Ryan Braun. His walk rate sits at a career-best 12.2% and his 16.0% strikeout rate is his best since 2008. Ethier continues to spray the ball to all fields, but he’s severely cut his groundball rate and increased his ISO to .220, his best mark since 2009, when he popped 31 home runs. He hasn’t quite reached the 300-plus foot average fly ball distance he posted that season, but his 2015 mark of just over 280 feet is a positive trend; he’s been mired in the 270’s in recent seasons, per Baseball Heat Maps.

I can’t say that Either’s going to return to his prime levels, but everything he’s done this season is within the bounds of what he’s accomplished before. Nothing seems overly lucky or fluky; it has all the trimmings of a legitimate rebound. As long as he’s playing, I think he can keep up something close to this level of production. The power will come and go, but if you’re in need of batting average or OBP, he’s a fantastic addition.

To pick him up, I’d drop: Nick Markakis, Adam Eaton, Michael Cuddyer

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2015 Fantasy Baseball Week 7 Waiver Wire: 3 to Catch, 3 to Cut, 3 to Keep

In the Week 7 edition of fantasy baseball 3×3, we’re giving adding A.J. Cole and Maikel Franco to the rotation, believe in Manny Machado’s breakout, and appreciating the supernova that is Jimmy Paredes.

There are plenty of waiver wire columns out there that provide an exhaustive list of the most added players in fantasy leagues. This isn’t one of them. Here, we’ll run down a few of the most interesting players for fantasy owners, with perspective on who deserves your attention, who deserves your patience, and who deserves to go straight to bed without dessert.

Any questions, thoughts? Hit me in the comments or on Twitter.

3 TO CATCH

Players to be picked up; available in most standard leagues

Maikel Franco | Philadelphia Phillies | 3B

On Sunday afternoon, Maikel Franco showed us why the Phillies called their most MLB-ready prospect up to the big leagues, tripling on a ball that’d likely be a homer in most parks in baseball, then hammering this moonshot wallscraper for his first career major league homer.

Maikel  Franco Home Run GIF

That’s why Franco is interesting from a fantasy perspective. The kid has huge power and hits in a ballpark that plays well for hitters with that skillset. ZiPS likes Franco enough to project him for as many homers as Alex Rodriguez, Pablo Sandoval, and Nolan Arenado over the rest of the season.

Franco struggled mightily with plate discipline in his short call-up last season and wasn’t able to unleash his power, so that bears watching. Early returns are excellent though, he’s posted two walks against four strikeouts in his first three games.

To pick him up, I’d drop: Luis Valbuena, Chase Headley, Brock Holt

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2015 Fantasy Baseball Week 6 Waiver Wire: 3 to Catch, 3 to Cut, 3 to Keep

In the Week 6 edition of fantasy baseball 3×3, we’re giving Alex Guerrero regular playing time, staying patient with Carlos Martinez, and waving a sad goodbye to Yasmani Grandal.

There are plenty of waiver wire columns out there that provide an exhaustive list of the most added players in fantasy leagues. This isn’t one of them. Here, we’ll run down a few of the most interesting players for fantasy owners, with perspective on who deserves your attention, who deserves your patience, and who deserves to go straight to bed without dessert.

Any questions, thoughts? Hit me in the comments or on Twitter.

3 TO CATCH

Players to be picked up; available in most standard leagues

Alex Guerrero | Los Angeles Dodgers | 3B/OF

Carving out playing time in the Dodgers outfield means reaching a pretty high bar of production, but after posting a .333/.380/.800 (!!!) slash line through his first 50 plate appearances, I can’t imagine what Alex Guerrero left to do. And after spending April using Guerrero mostly as a pinch hitter, I think Don Mattingly is starting to agree; Guerrero has been a starter in his last five appearances for LA.

By just about any measure, a Guerrero swing has done as much damage as any cut in the game. Are you a fan of batted ball distance? He’s third in the league in that, outpacing homer-happy teammates Joc Pederson and Adrian Gonzalez, per Baseball Heat Maps. Or do you prefer hard contact rate? Guerrero ranks in the top 20 in baseball, per FanGraphs. And, for the saber-traditionalist, his .500 ISO led the league entering Sunday’s games.

The scary part is, this might actually be somewhat sustainable. The fact that his batted ball distance, hard contact rate, and ISO are all outstanding shows that his extra-base hit production hasn’t been a fluke. This helps too:

Alex  Guerrero Home Run GIF

But even more than that, it’s his plate discipline and plate coverage that gives me the warm fuzzies. His chase rate is a manageable 33.%, which will help to keep his strikeout rate under control, and you just don’t see many power hitters who can maintain a 91% contact rate.

Guerrero’s performance over these first five weeks has proven that he’s got the talent to excel in the major leagues, but in that loaded Dodger outfield, the biggest boon to his fantasy value has been the injuries to his teammates. Carl Crawford has a torn oblique and Yasiel Puig has re-aggravated his hamstring. Puig will eventually regain his place in right field, but even then, if the only thing standing in Guerrero’s way is the ability to earn playing time ahead of the likes of Scott Van Slyke, Andre Ethier, Justin Turner, and Juan Uribe, I’ll bet on Guerrero finding his way to 300-plus PAs over the rest of the season.

To pick him up, I’d drop: Shin-Soo Choo, Curtis Granderson, Yasmany Tomas

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2015 Fantasy Baseball: Week 5 Waiver Wire — 3 to Catch, 3 to Cut, 3 to Keep

In the Week 5 edition of fantasy baseball 3×3, we’re cutting Jordan Zimmermann some slack, straight up cutting Marlon Byrd, and changing the outlook for Jeff Locke.

There are plenty of waiver wire columns out there that provide an exhaustive list of the most added players in fantasy leagues. This isn’t one of them. Here, we’ll run down a few of the most interesting players for fantasy owners, with perspective on who deserves a your attention, who deserves your patience, and who deserves to go straight to bed without dessert.

Any questions, thoughts, suggestions? Hit me in the comments or on Twitter.

3 TO CATCH

Players to be picked up; available in most standard leagues

Jeff Locke | Pittsburgh Pirates | SP

In the past, Jeff Locke has been a bit of a whipping boy in this space, but there’s no benefit to holding grudges in player evaluation, and I’m feeling particularly magnanimous after writing all of those nice things about Edinson Volquez last week, so let’s take a fresh look at ole’ Mr. Locke.

Through four starts in 2015, his line is strikingly un-Lockeian. After out-pitching his FIP by half a run in back-to-back seasons, Locke’s 4.76 ERA this year nearly doubles his 2.49 FIP. For the first time in his fantasy-relevant career, his BABIP and strand rates are no longer suspiciously favorable. However, let’s also not ignore that for the first time in his fantasy-relevant career, he’s pairing an above-average strikeout rate (20.4%) with an above-average walk rate (7.1%).

Locke has engineered these improvements on the back of better breaking stuff and a slightly different mix of pitches. He’s getting hitters to chase his curveball and changeup significantly more often and has increased the whiff rate on his curve to an excellent 41.7%, per Brooks Baseball. His whiff rate hasn’t budged much on the changeup, but it has has been much more appetizing to opposing hitters this year than in past seasons, despite the fact that Locke is throwing outside the strike zone significantly more often. It’s likely due to the improved vertical drop he’s getting on the pitch, which allows Locke to start it up in the zone before burying it with late movement.

His sinker has been the same effective pitch it’s been in past seasons, once again generating a groundball rate better than 50%. But Locke is slightly changing up the way he uses it, tossing it more often late in counts against righties, which has undoubtedly helped to curtail his previously problematic walk rate.

The improved K/BB rate hasn’t made a dent in his run prevention yet, but based on what we’ve seen in the past, I think we’ll see the improvements trickle down to his ERA very soon. The Pirates’ aggressive defensive philosophies have been a big part of why Locke has been able to consistently manage a better-than-expected BABIP in recent seasons; it’s only a matter of time before he feels those some impacts again. Unfortunately, the best defensive play Locke’s seen behind him this season wasn’t made by somebody on the Pirates’ 25-man roster.

In deeper leagues, Locke is worth a speculative add.

To pick him up, I’d drop: Nathan Eovaldi, Matt Garza, Jimmy Nelson

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2015 Fantasy Baseball Week 4 Waiver Wire: 3 to Catch, 3 to Cut, 3 to Keep

In the Week 4 edition of fantasy baseball 3×3, we’re celebrating the return of Joey Votto, cutting Danny Santana, and believing in Edinson Volquez.

There are plenty of waiver wire columns out there that provide an exhaustive list of the most added players in fantasy leagues. This isn’t one of them. Here, we’ll run down a few of the most interesting players for fantasy owners, with perspective on who deserves a your attention, who deserves your patience, and who deserves to go straight to bed without dessert.

Any questions, thoughts, long-promised podcast links?

GOT ONE!!!

For anything else, hit me in the comments or on Twitter.

3 TO CATCH

Players to be picked up; available in most standard leagues

Edinson Volquez | Kansas City Royals | SP

Aside from possibly San Diego, I don’t think there’s a safer place for pitchers than Kansas City. Not only do Kauffman Stadium’s broad expanses limit any home run problems, the Royals’ seemingly never-ending lineup of outstanding defenders turn just about everything that does stay in the yard into an out. Hell, they’ll do it for balls that leave the field of play, too.

With that kind of support behind him, it’s no wonder that Edinson Volquez might just be at the outset of the best season of his career. He’s always had the stuff, it’s apparently just taken until a few months shy of his 32nd birthday for him to learn how to harness it.

Volquez’ walk rate, which was over ten percent in each of the first eight seasons of his career, has sunk to 3.6% this season, which isn’t just the lowest of Volquez’ career, but also one of the best walk rates in baseball. It’s a small sample, yes, but it doesn’t look like a mirage. Whether it’s a new pitching coach, a connection with new catcher Salvador Perez, or just the confidence that comes from pitching in front of the best defense in baseball, Volquez is suddenly unafraid to throw strike one; his 69.1% F-Strike% ranked 15th in the league coming into Sunday’s start, per FanGraphs. A rate like that is typically a harbinger of an excellent walk rate. Last season’s leaders in F-Strike% were all among the best in baseball at limiting free passes.

The key for Volquez is maintaining that control without losing the explosive stuff that makes him such an exciting pitcher in the first place. So far this season, he’s done that and more. He’s getting more depth and movement on all of his pitches; his overall swinging strike rate is his best since 2011, when his strikeout rate was back up at 21%. His changeup, in particular, has been devastating, racking up whiffs on over a quarter of the swings against it.

It’s very early, but it looks like Volquez is able to find the zone without losing any sharpness in his pitches. It’d be an incredible improvement for a pitcher so late on in his career, but it’s not totally impossible. At the very least, he’s worth a pickup.

To pick him up, I’d drop: Jered Weaver, Shelby Miller, Rick Porcello

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2015 Fantasy Baseball Week 3 Waiver Wire: 3 to Catch, 3 to Cut, 3 to Keep

In the Week 3 edition of fantasy baseball 3×3, we’re circling Archie Bradley, doubting Kendrys Morales, and keeping faith in, ahem, Alex Rodriguez.

There are plenty of waiver wire columns out there that provide an exhaustive list of the most added players in fantasy leagues. This isn’t one of them. Here, we’ll run down a few of the most interesting players for fantasy owners, with perspective on who deserves a your attention, who deserves your patience, and who deserves to go straight to bed without dessert.

Any questions, thoughts, preemptive links to your yet-to-be-recorded podcast?

I’ve got one of those (again)! Ryan and I had some scheduling issues last week, but we should be good to go for our first ep this week, which will tentatively be up on the site and iTunes on Wednesday. I’ll drop a link here once it’s up.

For anything else, hit me in the comments or on Twitter.

And if you haven’t tried daily fantasy baseball at DraftKings just yet, use this link and we’ll help you get started and provide you access to our #FrontOffice research/analysis for a month, free!

3 TO CATCH

Players to be picked up; available in most standard leagues

Archie Bradley | Arizona Diamondbacks | SP

It’s not often that a young pitcher can face Clayton Kershaw in his first start of a season, square off with Madison Bumgarner in his second, and come out as arguably the most impressive pitcher in both outings. Sure, Archie Bradley has benefitted from some BABIP and strand rate luck, but he’s also begun to realize the potential that made him one of the top pitching prospects in baseball.

[Read more…]

2015 Fantasy Baseball Week 2 Waiver Wire: 3 to Catch, 3 to Cut, 3 to Keep

In the Week 2 edition of fantasy baseball 3×3, we’re grabbing Drew Pomeranz, preaching patience for Clay Buchholz, and selling high on Adrian Gonzalez.

There are plenty of waiver wire columns out there that provide an exhaustive list of the most added players in fantasy leagues. This isn’t one of them. Here, we’ll run down a few of the most interesting players for fantasy owners, with perspective on who deserves a your attention, who deserves your patience, and who deserves to go straight to bed without dessert.

Any questions, thoughts, preemptive links to your yet-to-be-recorded podcast?

I’ve got one of those! Ryan Noonan and I will be recording a weekly podcast, starting this week. You’ll be able to find it here on the site and on iTunes. I’ll drop a link here once it’s up.

For anything else, hit me in the comments or on Twitter.

3 TO CATCH

Players to be picked up; available in most standard leagues

Drew Pomeranz | Oakland Athletics | SP

Drew Pomeranz was terrific in his initial start of the season, using a pattern that never could have worked in his old home at Coors Field, but couldn’t be better suited to his new digs in Oakland. He’s succeeding by leaning on his fastball and using it more and more up in the zone.

Drew  Pomeranz Pitch Location

His flyball rate spiked up to 50% in his first start, but most of those were non-threatening; Pomeranz’ infield flyball rate jumped to 38%! That particular statistic is not sustainable (it’s almost double Jordan Zimmermann’s league leading 14.2% rate from last season) the approach that created it certainly is. Pomeranz battled some longball issues earlier in his career, but I’m going to write that off to the combination of youth and Coors. Since joining the A’s at the beginning of last season, Pomeranz’s fourseamer has been consistently excellent when thrown up in the zone, missing bats and allowing very little power.

Drew  Pomeranz Zone ISO

As “keep it down, keep it on the ground” approach becomes more and more pervasive throughout MLB, the A’s seem to be cutting against the grain once again. Based on what we’ve seen during his time in Oakland, Pomeranz has a great chance for continued success using his fastball up in the zone. He’s in a great park for it, flanked by acres of foul territory and supported by a cadre of terrific outfield defenders.

He’s a top pickup for anybody seeking starting pitching help.

To pick him up, I’d drop: Matt Garza, Jesse Hahn, Matt Latos

[Read more…]

2015 Fantasy Baseball Week 1 Waiver Wire: 3 to Catch, 3 to Cut, 3 to Keep

In the Week 1 edition of fantasy baseball 3×3, we’re chasing down Micah Johnson, holding tight with Andrew Miller, and giving Joaquin Benoit a great big hug.

But before we do all that, let’s go through a quick introduction, since this is the first 3×3 of the season.

You’ll see this column in this place at (approximately) the same time every week. There are plenty of waiver wire columns out there that provide an exhaustive list of the most added players in fantasy leagues. This isn’t one of them. Here, we’ll run down a few of the most interesting players for fantasy owners, with perspective on who deserves your attention, who deserves your patience, and who deserves to go straight to bed without dessert.

There are three categories:

3 TO CATCH

These are guys who are available in most leagues are should be picked up, when their skills match your needs. This is the most traditional waiver wire column-y part of the article.

3 TO CUT

This is where things start to get a little different. These are players who are owned in most leagues, but players that I recommend moving on from, by trade if you can, but outright cutting in some cases. If they end up in this space, I don’t expect their current rate of production to continue.

3 TO KEEP

These are players who are owned in most leagues, but are looking like candidates to be cut or traded. If they end up in this space, I’m advocating patience, or if you don’t own them, a buy-low opportunity.

I’ll give you three players in each category, along with three possible replacements (or not, depending on the category) for each player. The idea is to give you the information in as useful a format as possible. Any questions or suggestions, hit me on Twitter @gerardowrites.

Let’s get it on.

3 TO CATCH

Players to be picked up; available in most standard leagues

Micah Johnson | Chicago White Sox | 2B

It’s been evident for quite a while, but finally, the Chicago White Sox have officially named Micah Johnson as their starting second baseman. Unfortunately, not nearly enough fantasy owners have done the same.

As Ryan Noonan and I discussed on our Second Base Preview podcast earlier this month, the position has a lot of solid players, but few stars. There aren’t many lower tier players who can make a meaningful contribution to any particular category. Except, of course, for Johnson.

He swiped 22 bases in just over 400 minor league plate appearances last season; ZiPS likes him to snag 31 bags with a full season’s worth of MLB playing time. That might be a bit aggressive, but even if he only makes it to 25, he’ll provide top-level speed for his position. Among second basemen, only Dee Gordon, Jose Altuve, and Emilio Bonifacio reached that level of production last season.

To pick him up, I’d drop: Asdrubal Cabrera, Rougned Odor, Brandon Phillips

[Read more…]

2015 Fantasy Baseball Draft Guide: Old Faces, New Places

Fantasy baseball players will have to wade through the dealings of a fantastically busy MLB offseason as they prepare for their 2015 drafts. Here, I’ll run down the impact and outlook for 30ish of the top players who changed teams over the winter.

Get your CTRL+Fs ready!

The Crown Jewels

Max Scherzer | Washington Nationals | SP

Scherzer has every reason to smile. Not only did he snag a seven-year, $210 million contract in his first try at free agency, he gets to move from a waning Detroit Tigers squad in an uber-competitive AL Central to a loaded Washington Nationals team poised to stroll through the weak National League East division. The Mets are improving, but remain an offensive mess, the Braves are bottoming out, and the Phillies just lost to the University of Tampa. Things couldn’t have worked out much better for ‘ole Max.

Scherzer is still very much in his prime. He finished fourth in baseball with a 27.9% strikeout rate last season. He ranks among the top 20 starters in whiffs per swing for both his fastball and slider, and that’s not including the near-30% whiff rate he gets on his excellent changeup. Oh, and he’s adding a cutter.

After Clayton Kershaw, there’s no pitcher I’d rather have.

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2015 Fantasy Baseball: 30 Prospects in 30 Days — Alex Meyer

Profile

Alex Meyer certainly looks the part. He towers over the mound at a lanky 6’9” and sports an electric heater that has touched 100 and routinely sits in the mid-90’s. There’s certainly effort in his delivery and his mechanics aren’t exactly tight, but it’s a natural motion with an arm slot that uses his height to get excellent downward leverage and sink on all of his pitches. Meyer complements his anvil of a fastball with a sharp slider that he snaps off to right-handed hitters. He’s developing a changeup to attack lefties, but it still lags behind his top two offerings. It’s an overwhelming arsenal, but one that Meyer doesn’t show an ability to command consistently.

[Read more…]