2015 Fantasy Baseball Week 13 Waiver Wire: 3 to Catch, 3 to Cut, 3 to Keep

In the Week 13 edition of fantasy baseball 3×3, we’re giving Jon Singleton a second chance, staying the course with Eduardo Rodriguez, and waving goodbye to last week’s version of Marco Estrada.

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

Jon Singleton | Houston Astros | 1B

Once again, Jon Singleton has earned a call up by obliterating Triple-A pitching, this time feasting to the tune of a .280/.387/.553 slash line in 313 plate appearances. In an even more encouraging development, he was able to reign in his strikeouts, cutting his K-rate down to 20.1%. Singleton hadn’t posted a strikeout rate better than that in a sample of at least 200 plate appearances since his first appearance in A-ball, back in 2009. All things are pointing toward a successful stint in the major leagues.

Accept that big ‘ole elephant in the room. The one that’s telling us he’s seen this movie before. And he’s right.

Just last season, Singleton rode an early .267/.397/.544 Triple-A slash line to a major league call up. And that moment was the highlight of his year. His .168/.285/.335 MLB slash line made him one of the worst players in the big leagues, but it was likely his 37.0% strikeout rate that got him sent him back to Fresno to open 2015.

So why am I buying now?

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2015 Fantasy Baseball Week 12 Waiver Wire: 3 to Catch, 3 to Cut, 3 to Keep

In the Week 12 edition of fantasy baseball 3×3, we’re admiring Preston Tucker, doubting Robbie Ray, and adjusting to the new Cameron Maybin.

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

Preston Tucker | Houston Astros | OF

Preston Tucker can hit a fastball. That’s the first box to check for a player on the path to becoming a major league power hitter, and so far, Tucker has marked it in permanent ink. Since pounding his way to a promotion to Houston, he’s hammered hard stuff for a .509 slugging percentage and .228 ISO, collecting nine extra base hits in 57 at bats that have ended with a heater. Even on 0-2, he’s ready to mash when he sees a heater.

He’s still feeling out offspeed pitches, but I’m really encouraged by the fact that half of his four homers have come against soft stuff. And he’s not just punishing mistakes, either.

Preston  Tucker Home Run

That’s a pitcher’s pitch that Tucker deposits over the centerfield wall. He’s not lucky to make contact, he’s looking for something else; he reads the speed and break in that changeup and goes with the pitch, with gusto.

Tucker isn’t a superstar, but he is a legitimately good power hitter who, assuming he maintains regular playing time, has a great shot to pop double-digit homers with a .250 average over the rest of the season. That player should be owned in more than 3% of Yahoo! leagues.

To pick him up, I’d drop: Austin Jackson, Nick Markakis, Marlon Byrd

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2015 Fantasy Baseball Week 11 Waiver Wire: 3 to Catch, 3 to Cut, 3 to Keep

In the Week 11 edition of fantasy baseball 3×3, we’re buying Trevor May, selling Addison Russell, and staying the course with Marcus Semien.

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

Trevor May | Minnesota Twins | SP

Winners of only two of their last nine, the enigmatic Minnesota Twins are beginning to unravel. The facade of cluster luck is beginning to fade. Now is a good time for fantasy owners to sell off some of the pieces that have been critical to Minnesota’s run, but there’s one Twin in particular who’s actually been on the upswing lately.

Trevor May has been dominant over the past few weeks. In his last four starts, he’s racked up a 2.77 ERA and 2.03 FIP, struck out nearly 30% of batters while walking only 4%, and kept 50% of batted balls on the ground, per FanGraphs. His FIP during that time period is better than Chris Archer’s league-leading mark. His strikeout rate during that period would be among the top ten in baseball.

It’s incredibly impressive, but it’s only four starts. If I’m going to radically change my opinion (or yours) on May, it’ll take a sign of real change or development in his arsenal.

Trevor May Location

Ah, well, there you go… The chart is kind of funky, but it’s the only measureable change I can find in in May’s slider, which has been the key to his dominance. He’s been able to bury it down the zone more consistently in recent start, which has made the pitch damn near untouchable.

Trevor  May Whiffs

Out of seemingly nothing, May has found a deadly weapon. He’s not throwing the slider significantly more often lately, but when he does throw it, hitters don’t stand a chance.

His strikeout rate won’t be top ten all season, nor will his FIP hover around 2.00, but both can be above average. With this slider in his quiver, he can perform well beyond his projections and be a valuable contributor, especially in AL-only formats.

To pick him up, I’d drop: Chris Young, Nick Martinez, Chris Tillman

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2015 Fantasy Baseball Week 10 Waiver Wire: 3 to Catch, 3 to Cut, 3 to Keep

In the Week 10 edition of fantasy baseball 3×3, we’re snagging Eduardo Rodriguez, sticking with Gio Gonzalez, and getting out early on Mark Melancon.

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

Eduardo Rodriguez | Boston Red Sox | SP

Eduardo Rodriguez has been spectacular in his first two major league starts, going at least seven innings each time and whiffing seven against just two walks on both occasions. Certainly, his BABIP (.118) and strand rate (100%) will come down, but Rodriguez’ 2.91 FIP suggests he’ll continue to be effective. He’s certainly proved that he’s got a fantastic set of tools to work with.

The whiff rates on all of his pitches are right around average, but his foul rates are sky high. Hitters can’t consistently square up against the incredible life he shows on his fastball. And though Brooks Baseball categorizes all of the heaters he’s thrown this season as fourseamers, I saw an excellent ability to mix things up with his fastball in his start last week against the Twins. Rodriguez flashed one fastball with outstanding tailing action to the outside corner against right handers, then switched up to a heater with a bit less horizontal movement to pound them inside, sawing hitters off as they swing expecting it to drift back over the heart of the plate. It’s a dangerous area; I love to see a young pitcher with such a brazen willingness to pound right-handers inside with hard stuff.

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2015 Fantasy Baseball Week 9 Waiver Wire: 3 to Catch, 3 to Cut, 3 to Keep

In the Week 9 edition of fantasy baseball 3×3, we’re giving getting in on the ground floor with Mike Foltynewicz, disbelieving the hype on Gregory Polanco, and giving Shawn Tolleson a vote of confidence.

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

Mike Foltynewicz | Atlanta Braves | SP

Mike Foltynewicz has only pitched 55 innings as a big leaguer, but it seems he’s already got a reputation. He’s easy to pigeon-hole. He’s a hard thrower (95.6 career average fourseam velocity) with a history of elevated walk rates in the minors; I’m sure at least one of his managers has tried to outfit him with a pair of these, hoping for a quick fix.

Foltynewicz is undeniably a Wild Thing type, but so far this season, he seems to be reformed. He’s taken just a bit off his fastball, though he’s still getting it up there in the mid-90s with consistency. Giving back just that much velocity has allowed him to corral his location; the Ball% on his fourseamer is down from 40% in 2014 to 31% this season, per Brooks Baseball.

Despite the slight dip in velocity, Folty is still generating a boatload of swings and misses, with a 36.5% chase rate, 10.5% swinging strike rate, and 24.4% strikeout rate. He’s been spectacular at coaxing hitters into swings at pitches in and around the edges of the zone, which both beefs up his strikeout rate and limits his walks.

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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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