2013 Fantasy Baseball Week 16 Waiver Wire: 3 to Catch, 3 to Cut, 3 to Keep
It’s better late than never for the Week 16 edition of fantasy baseball 3×3, where we’re resisting the urge to move Ricky Nolasco (but sending his teammate Hyun-Jin Ryu to the trading block) and finally appreciating Eric Young, Jr.
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 lesser-known, lesser-considered, or lesser-owned players, with perspective on who deserves a your attention, who deserves your patience, and who deserves to go straight to bed without dessert.
3 TO CATCH
Eric Young, Jr. has attempted at least one steal in nine of the Mets’ last ten games, sliding in successfully on seven of those attempts. He also started and hit leadoff in every one of those games; he’s done that in just about every game since the team acquired him back in June.
Both of the preceding facts are great signs for his fantasy value, but the root of the struggles of scrawny basestealers is often the whole “you can’t steal first base (unless you’re Jean Segura)” thing. Young landed on the major league waiver wire partly due to an inability to consistently reach base throughout his career in Colorado, but since joining the Mets, he’s adapted his approach that the plate to make the most of his speed, riding a preposterously low fly ball rate and a near career best walk rate to a .379 OBP. His .365 BABIP might seem bloated, but with elite speed and a batted ball profile that couldn’t possibly fit that speed better, there’s no reason Young can’t maintain it.
If you can tolerate his complete lack of power, Young has as good a chance as anybody to swipe 20-plus bags after the break.
To pick him up, I’d drop: Ben Revere, Michael Brantley, Juan Pierre
Every single time Justin Ruggiano has been given 500 plate appearances in a single season, regardless of the level, he’s hit at least 15 home runs, stolen at least 20 bases, and posted a batting average better than .250. I’m going back a few years, but that’s a damn impressive record of consistently delivering on opportunity. If you extrapolate the 13 homers he hit and 14 bags he swiped in last season’s 320 major league PAs to a full season’s worth of chances, it comes out to, you guessed it, better than 15/20. Ohbytheway… he hit .313.
Last season, just eight outfielders accomplished the 15/20/.250 combination. It’s a pretty impressive list (Trout, Gomez, Braun, Rios, Heyward, Choo, Gonzalez, McCutchen) and not a group of players who are typically available on fantasy waiver wires.
A massive correction in last season’s favorable BABIP has knee-capped his batting average this season, but he’s still stealing bags and denting the empty chairs that surround the outfield at Marlins Park, putting up 12 homers and 12 steals in the first half. He’s also walking more often than any Marlin not named Giancarlo Stanton, making him a perfect fit for the everyday leadoff role that he’s recently settled in to. He’s still stuck in a horrific offense, but he’s got to be the favorite to lead his team in run-scoring the rest of the way, alongside the double-digit totals in homers and steals that he’ll predictably reach in the second half.
To pick him up, I’d drop: Josh Reddick, Marlon Byrd, Jason Kubel
What’s that? 3×3 hasn’t been covering the Marlins enough? Well, have I got a second baseman for you!
Ok, nobody asked me for more Marlins coverage, but Dan Uggla 2.0 is coming of age in Miami and nobody seems to be noticing. Derek Dietrich’s .203 ISO is second on his team, just .005 points behind Stanton and better than all but four qualified second basemen.
So far, Dietrich looks like a carbon copy of Uggla, cranking nine home runs in only 220 plate appearances and sporting a .218 batting average, but that average won’t remain Uggla-esque for much longer. Between the Rays and Marlins organizations, Dietrich never had a minor league BABIP lower than .329; his current BABIP is .245. His power will slow down a bit, but the inevitably rising BABIP tide will not only lift his batting average to a more palatable level, but also support improvements in run scoring and run production.
He’s not necessarily right for every team, but we’re fast approaching the point in the season at which fantasy owners really need to start focusing on grabbing players that can generate the most roto points, rather than just the best overall contributors. If you’ve got room to grow in homers, Dietrich could be a big upgrade in your middle infield.
To pick him up, I’d drop: Rickie Weeks, Josh Rutledge, Dustin Ackley
3 TO CUT
If he had enough plate appearances to qualify, Gordon Beckham’s .377 BABIP on grounders would be the highest in baseball. Call me crazy, but I have a hard time believing Beckham will continue to turn ground balls into hits more effectively than Miguel Cabrera, Mike Trout, Michael Bourn, or anyone else at the top of this leaderboard.
Beckham’s career BABIP on grounders (including this season) sits at a robust .248.
When his batting average inevitably fades, Beckham will have almost no fantasy value. He hardly ever walks, has neither above average power nor above average speed, and hits (typically near the bottom of the order) in a horrific lineup.
Don’t buy into his hot streak. If you can trade him for anything of value, do it. Like, it doesn’t even have to be another baseball player, I’d give him up for an extra helping of pancakes or something.
I’d trade/drop him for: Brian Dozier, Mike Aviles, Derek Dietrich
Mike Leake been quite successful when batters make contact with his pitches. Over the last month, his .161 BABIP is the lowest in baseball. That number obviously has a lot to do with the 2.55 ERA he’s racked up, especially since he’s induced contact on a greater percentage of opposing batters’ swings than all but five qualified starters. I’m sure there’s an argument to be made in favor of Leake’s ability to generate weak contact, but I just can’t get behind a guy who hasn’t been able to generate more whiffs than Bartolo Colon, Kevin Correia or my personal favorite punching bag, Jeff Locke. Leake has pitched at least seven innings in four of his five starts over the time period, but couldn’t manage more than four strikeouts in any one outing. His true talent level is better than that, but he’s never going to be a better-than-average strikeout pitcher.
Maybe Mike Leake is just “over” strikeouts. Maybe he’s just being contrarian. Whatever the reason, I don’t have high hopes for his future results and without Ks to boost his value, there’s no better time to move him than when is run prevention stats are artificially low. Just in case you haven’t noticed, that’s right now.
I’d trade/drop him for: Jeremy Hellickson, John Lackey, Eric Stults
It’s time to move on from Hyun-Jin Ryu, before things get out of hand. His results on the surface haven’t really shown it yet (eight quality starts in his last nine outings), but it looks like the league may be starting to get a book on the Dodgers rookie.
The first two things I tend to look at when evaluating a pitcher are his ability to hit the strike zone and his ability to miss opposing bats. Ryu was excellent at both early in this season, but since then, his walk rate has consistently risen and his strikeout rate has consistently dropped. In April, his K/BB was 4.60. In June, it was 1.67. So far in July, it’s 1.20.
His ERAs haven’t followed suit yet, but his 4.00-plus FIPs in June and July portend a coming dip in run prevention. Both Steamer and ZiPS projected Ryu for an ERA around 3.90, which feels about right as a prediction for the second half. My biggest concern is his strikeouts, which already haven’t lived up to projections and are only getting worse. He’ll continue to be a useful, average-ish starter the rest of the way, don’t expect a return to his first month form..
I’d trade/drop him for: Julio Teheran, Jose Fernandez, Jeremy Hellickson
3 TO KEEP
In many cases, the real-life trade of a non-elite player often signals a great opportunity for fantasy owners to sell, but I don’t think that’s the case for Ricky Nolasco. FIP and xFIP have consistently viewed his run prevention skills with rose-colored glasses, but not this year. HIs 3.76 ERA is his best in five years and three quarters of a run better than any number he’s put up in the last four seasons. It’s slightly out of character, but I believe he can keep it up.
Eno Sarris wrote a great piece last week at FanGraphs focusing on Nolasco’s mediocre fastball, but I’d like to take a look at his breaking and offspeed stuff. The whiff rates on his curve, slider, and splitter are all peaking this July; it’s no surprise to see that his overall swinging strike rate has jumped to 10.3%, his best rate since 2010.
Nolasco isn’t hammering the strike zone with the same frequency he has in the past, but his walk rate remains stellar. It seems that his newfound unpredictability has helped to keep opposing hitters off balance; his contact rate has dropped to a career low.
There are real improvements in stuff backing up his improvement this season. The ERA probably won’t get any better than 3.76, but he’ll continue to be a solid source or strikeouts and WHIP (and perhaps a few wins, now that he’s on a team that actually tries to do that sort of thing).
I wouldn’t trade/drop him for: Dan Haren, Ryan Dempster, Paul Maholm
Normally if I point out a player having a .443 BABIP over the last 30 days, he’d be placed in a far less positive category, but in the case of Jayson Werth, it’s just some garden variety regression. Werth’s fortunate month has bumped his full-season BABIP to .351, just a hair lower than last year’s figure, and only a few hairs higher than his career mark of .326. On top of that, he’s boosted his average fly ball distance to 288 feet, a mark that bests the average distances of power hitters like Jose Bautista, Anthony Rizzo, and Adrian Beltre, and one that certainly backs up the ten homers he’s cranked in his first 259 plate appearances.
The Nationals lineup has been a profound disappointment in the first half, but assuming things round into form in August and September, there’s no better spot for run production than Werth’s number-five hole, immediately preceded by Ian Desmond, Bryce Harper, Ryan Zimmerman, and perpetual second-half stud Adam LaRoche.
I wouldn’t trade/drop him for: Gerardo Parra, Raul Ibanez, Norichika Aoki
Over the last month, Mat Latos has been the most valuable pitcher in baseball, by fWAR.
Over the last month, Mat Latos has a 4.91 ERA, the 26th-worst figure among qualified starters.
Stats are fun, aren’t they??
I don’t suppose that any even minimally informed fantasy owner would entertain the idea of dropping Latos, but if you were considering a trade, stop it.
While he’s spent the last month allowing runs with startling ease, he’s also lapped the major leagues in strikeout rate, posting a ridiculous 15.03 K/9, and led the majors in BABIP, with a .431 mark that oupaces second place by a full 10%.
Latos has had a fascinatingly fluky month, but he remains one of the best fantasy pitchers around.
I wouldn’t trade/drop him for: Hisashi Iwakuma, Hiroki Kuroda, Justin Masterson