2013 Fantasy Baseball Week 19 Waiver Wire: 3 to Catch, 3 to Cut, 3 to Keep
Sorry for the delay on this week’s edition, I spent the weekend in Vegas for a buddy’s bachelor party and was in absolutely no condition to write, reason, or put together any kind of cogent thought. Good thing I was gambling instead.
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
The departure of Jose Iglesias in the Jake Peavy trade has opened a hole in the left side of the Boston Red Sox infield. Like a really big, gaping sinkhole, the kind cars fall into. Other than Iglesias, no Red Sox third baseman has registered more than 50 plate appearances worth of a wOBA better than .286. Will Middlebrooks, who got the majority of the playing time at the hot corner before Iglesias took over the job, did manage to smack nine home runs, but he did so with a batting average stuck on the interstate (.192). Brandon Snyder and Brock Holt have both tried their hand at the position recently, but neither has a pedigree befitting a long term solution.
Enter top prospect Xander Bogaerts.
At first, calling up a 20-year old shortstop to play a brand new position for a team in the middle of a playoff race seems ridiculous, but then, things worked out pretty ok for Manny Machado and the Baltimore Orioles last season. So here we are, with Bogaerts alternating with Will Middlebrooks at third base in Pawtucket.
Bogaerts has spent his summer haunting the dreams of International League pitching staffs, slashing .282/.378/.477 with eight homers and a pair of steals in 201 triple-A plate appearances. With spectacular plate discipline (0.74 BB/K) backing up those numbers, there’s strong reason to believe that he’ll hit immediately at the next level. The Red Sox have been noncommittal about a possible call up, but unless Holt or Snyder are unexpectedly effective or Middlebrooks suddenly starts making contact like Tony Gwynn, they might not have a choice. A team embroiled in a playoff race this tight can’t afford to take a negative at any position.
Bogaerts isn’t worth it yet in shallow leagues, but he’s a great speculative bench add in deeper formats.
To pick him up, I’d drop: Didi Gregorius, Yunel Escobar, Junior Lake
Craig Gentry | Texas Rangers | OF
This isn’t one of those times.
This is a time when Nelson Cruz’ arrogance, stupidity, and eventually, pragmatism, created opportunity. Now that Cruz has decided to take his medicine (to put himself in better position for a multi-million dollar payday next summer), there’s an open spot in the Texas Rangers outfield, a spot that Craig Gentry will get the first crack to fill. The team knew that Cruz would be suspended before last week’s trade deadline, but chose not to add a bat, owing to a market that didn’t provide “the same caliber of player to free agency that [it] once did,” according to GM Jon Daniels. That market isn’t likely to get any better now that the deadline has passed; I’d be floored if the Rangers added a replacement outfielder through a waiver deal in August.
That leaves Gentry with clear sailing to an everyday gig. He’s an outstanding defender in centerfield and there’s no reason to think he can’t hit enough to hang on to the job. His batting average has so far been sunk by a BABIP 30 points below his career average, but he’s nearly doubled his walk rate from last season and is running often and effectively. Gentry has absolutely no power, but his career-low 23.8% flyball rate ensures that very little of the contact he makes (and he makes a ton of contact) is wasted on balls in the air. The Rangers as a whole are committed to more of a “scratch and kick” approach without Cruz, which likely means they’ll be running even more often; Gentry’s a great bet for some cheap steals over the final two months of the season.
To pick him up, I’d drop: Dustin Ackley, Juan Pierre, Denard Span
Among relievers who’ve thrown at least 30 innings, only Greg Holland, Aroldis Chapman, Craig Kimbrel, Jason Grilli, Kenley Jansen, and Koji Uehara can boast a better strikeout rate than Danny Farquhar’s 36.1%. He hasn’t been officially tagged as the Seattle Mariners’ closer, but Farquhar’s position on that list, along with the fact that he’s received and converted his team’s last two save chances would seem to make that designation inevitable. Tom Wilhelmsen has been a disaster of late and with nothing left to play for this season, Seattle would be wise to focus on developing Farquhar into as valuable an asset as possible.
SMALL SAMPLE SIZE ALERT!
Over his last four outings, Farquhar has allowed one hit and no runs, struck out twelve without surrendering a walk, and nailed down two saves and a hold in 7.1 innings.
If those innings had been pitched consecutively, it’d result in a game score of 86, something has only been topped by a few handfuls of starters this season. Farquhar isn’t quite that good, but he’ll miss enough bats to keep this job.
To pick him up, I’d drop: Tom Wilhelmsen, Rex Brothers, Chris Perez
3 TO CUT
I lauded Jose Veras in this space earlier this season and while he’s still one of the more underrated relief pitchers in baseball, his fantasy value is all but gone. I’ve always been a fan of using high strikeout relievers to fill out a fantasy pitching staff, but Veras isn’t that guy.
The strategy of using those high-K relievers is most effective in leagues with an innings or starts cap; it allows an owner to accumulate bunches of strikeouts on the cheap, knowing that even if the relievers have weaker ratios, they won’t pitch enough cumulative innings to do much damage. It works great for strikeouts, but using those innings on non-starters limits an owner’s chances to accumulate wins. Only super-elite strikeout pitchers make the tradeoff worthwhile.
There are 36 relief pitchers who’ve thrown at least 40 innings with a better strikeout rate than Jose Veras’ 25.7%; 20 of those pitchers aren’t closers.
Veras is ownable, but only as insurance against an injury to Joaquin Benoit. Unless Benoit goes down, there’s no reason for the Tigers to give Veras more than the occasional save chance as a respite for their regular closer. Benoit has been the better pitcher this season by just about any measure.
I’d trade/drop him for: Any current closer, Drew Smyly, Trevor Rosenthal
Carl Crawford | Los Angeles Dodgers | OF
Carl Crawford is owned in 75% of Yahoo! leagues. Over the last 30 days (which is almost exactly the same amount of time he’s been back since his hamstring injury), Carl Crawford has been the 105th-best fantasy outfielder, according to ESPN’s Player Rater. That’s more than 40 spots behind Aaron Hicks, who was just shipped back to triple-A to make room for Clete Thomas, who, coincidentally, also ranks above Crawford on the Player Rater.
A strong first third of the season is still propping up Crawford’s overall numbers, but he has absolutely faceplanted over the last month. His groundball rate has climbed above 60%, driving his BABIP below .300 and his average below .250. His strikeout rate is rising and his walk rate is declining. He hasn’t hit a single home run since his return and has attempted just two stolen bases, converting on only one of those attempts. Despite being the regular leadoff hitter for the surging Dodgers, Crawford has scored only seven runs in the last month; 182 players have scored more.
Maybe he’s still hurt, or maybe he’s just not the player he used to be. Scratch that, he’s definitely not the player he used to be. He hasn’t come close to matching his previous numbers at any stop since he left Tampa Bay. Injuries have put a governor on the previously elite speed that made him a valuable fantasy commodity; what was once a turboboosted roadster has been reduced to an electric golf cart. At this point, he’s little more than a name, and certainly not a name that belongs anywhere near your fantasy roster.
I’d trade/drop him for: Norichika Aoki, Eric Young, Jr., Michael Brantley
Evan Gattis | Atlanta Braves | C/OF
After taking baseball by storm over the first couple months of the season, Evan Gattis has predictably fizzled. Hopefully, you were able to sell him earlier in the season, but if you’re still stuck with him on your roster, it’s probably time to drop him outright.
Gattis has exactly two extra base hits since July 10th. During the month of July, he walked more than ten times as often as he struck out. Gattis’ home run rate has dropped from 23% in the first half to just 5.6% since the All-Star break, which isn’t all that surprising when you take a look at the average distance of his flyballs and homers, which plummeted from more than 302 feet prior to the ASB to only 255 feet since. On top of that, the return of B.J. Upton from this disabled list has dislodged Gattis from the left field spot he’d ineptly occupied for the past couple of weeks. With Brian McCann doing his best first half Gattis impression since his return from injury, there’s no way to get Gattis into the everyday lineup.
Slumps and spot duty do not a recipe for fantasy value make. Too bad having the best nickname in baseball isn’t worth any fantasy points.
I’d trade/drop him for: Russell Martin, Jason Castro, J.P. Arencibia
3 TO KEEP
The Los Angeles Angels have had quite a rough time in recent ninth innings, but that doesn’t mean I’m giving up on closer Ernesto Frieri. He’s been terrorized by a sky-high home run rate that’s led to a few ERA-inflating outings, but he has succeeded in lowering his overall fly ball rate over the last couple of months. Frieri still has the best strikeout rate of all Angels pitchers and still misses bats with outrageous ease; he’s one of only four closers (Holland, Uehara, and Chapman are the other three) with a swinging strike rate above 15%. Frieri still has the stuff, and despite his recent struggles, he still has the job security.
Only two other Angels have converted a save this season. One, Robert Coello, has been shut down due to elbow and shoulder soreness (perhaps from doing this), and the other, Garrett Richards, has been moved to the starting rotation. Dane de la Rosa has been the Angels’ best reliever by fWAR, but over the last two weeks, he has just as many blown saves as Frieri. Without a reliable option to replace him, I don’t see Frieri losing the job this season.
I wouldn’t trade/drop him for: Chris Perez, Huston Street, Tom Wilhelmsen
Brandon Beachy | Atlanta Braves | SP
Ok people, let’s all settle down. It’s two starts. Yes, Brandon Beachy got lit up by the Colorado Rockies for seven runs in less than four innings, and yes, he followed that outing up with a less-than-inspiring outing in which he allowed four more runs to the punchless Philadelphia Phillies, but I swear, he’s fine. His problems have mainly stemmed from the home run ball; three of the 13 fly balls he’s allowed in those two starts have cleared the fence. Roberto Hernandez’s 19.2% HR/FB rate is the worst for any qualified starter; Beachy’s rate currently sits at 23.1%, nearly triple his career average. He’s never had home run problems before, and I don’t expect that these will last any longer. His BABIP and strand rate are also much worse than his career norms, but the numbers that Beachy really controls are right on point. His swinging strike rate remains at a robust 11.5%, right in line with the 11.8% he posted during his breakout 2011 season, and his fastball velocity sits at 91.1 mph, just a bit below his career average of 91.6 mph.
Every pitcher is going to have disaster starts, Beachy just happened to have his right out of the gate. Nothing that’s happened over the past two starts changes my opinion on him at all; I still think he’ll be a solid source of wins and strikeouts down the stretch.
I wouldn’t trade/drop him for: Ryan Dempster, Jarrod Parker, Dan Haren
Edwin Jackson | Chicago Cubs | SP
Edwin Jackson is finally starting to catch some breaks. Although his 4.65 ERA still sits more than a full run above his 3.45 ERA, Jackson is actually riding the best luck he’s had all season. Prior to the start of July, he hadn’t had a stretch of three consecutive starts all season that didn’t include at least one where he allowed a BABIP over .333. Since then, hitters haven’t managed even a .300 BABIP in any of Jackson’s five starts.
While there’s no reason to believe that his trend of good luck will continue (just as there was no reason to believe that his prior trend of bad luck would continue), there is some knowledge to be gleaned here. When the luck dragons aren’t conspiring to drown Jackson’s ratios in a deluge of ducksnorts, he does deliver the strong fantasy value that I expected when I wrote about him earlier this season. According to the ESPN Player Rater, Jackson has been the 17th-most valuable pitcher in baseball over the last month, better than fellow strikeout artists Matt Harvey, Yu Darvish, and Matt Moore.
I wouldn’t trade/drop him for: Jhoulys Chacin, Andy Pettite, Jarrod Parker
Agree, disagree, need advice? Hit me in the comments.
Either way, follow me on Twitter @gerardowrites and thanks as always to FanGraphs, Brooks Baseball, Texas Leaguers, and Baseball Heat Maps for the data.