2013 Fantasy Baseball Week 23 Waiver Wire: 3 to Catch, 3 to Cut, 3 to Keep
September brings the Week 23 edition of fantasy baseball 3×3, where we’re settling for Starlin Castro, giving up on Derek Jeter, and grabbing a couple of Kansas City speedsters.
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. Since I only write about nine players each week, I try not to repeat myself too often; you can check out the previous editions of 3×3 here.
3 TO CATCH
In the proud tradition of Eric Young, Jr. and Rajai Davis before him, Jarrod Dyson leads this week’s 3×3 as a speedster whose one-category production is enough to make him an add in just about any format.
Much like Young and Davis, Dyson is just good enough as a hitter to stick in the lineup. He makes a lot of contact; not much of it is particularly hard. His BABIP is good, not great, and Dyson walks just often enough to produce a league-average OBP.
When he gets on base, he doesn’t stay there for long. As a baserunner, Dyson is as efficient as he is aggressive. He’s attempted 12 steals in his last 20 games and he’s been successful all 12 times, including two occasions when he entered the game as a late-inning pinch runner, ostensibly announcing to the opposing battery that he would take off at the first opportunity.
His aggressiveness isn’t surprising; no team in baseball has swiped more bags over the last month than the Kansas City Royals. In fact, the Royals lead baseball with 126 team steals on the season.
Dyson won’t get on base a ton, but he’ll keep running when he does. The Royals seem committed to giving him everyday playing time, and the fact that Dyson is also a plus defender in centerfield will help him remain in the lineup. He’s a great add for any owner with points to gain in stolen bases.
To pick him up, I’d drop: Michael Bourn, Nate McLouth, B.J. Upton
In perhaps the greatest irony of the 2013 season, Emilio Bonifacio has joined the Kansas City Royals and suddenly learned how to take a walk. Somehow, Bonifacio has defeated the irresistible forces of Kaufmann Stadium to watch his way to a 12.2% walk rate in his first 74 plate appearances as a Royal. He’s used those on-base opportunities to steal 11 bases since moving to KC, only one less than the 12 bags he swiped in 282 plate appearances as a Toronto Blue Jay.
I certainly can’t claim there was any sort of prescience in my early season Bonifacio–touting, but I did have one thing right: When Bonifacio gets on base often enough to give himself a chance, he’s one of the best pure base stealers in baseball. I mistakenly chose to ignore some of his more detrimental characteristics (notably, that he’s a below-average hitter and a horrific defender), but as long as the Royals choose to ignore those characteristics too, Bonifacio will have plenty of opportunities to keep on running.
Be ready to bail at the first sign of trouble, but for now, Bonifacio is a useful add in just about any format.
To pick him up, I’d drop: Neil Walker, Dan Uggla, Marco Scutaro
Featuring a heater that routinely tops 95 mph and a changeup that does this, Danny Salazar is well on his way to supplanting Corey Kluber as the most undervalued Cleveland Indians fantasy starter.
Through six big league starts, Salazar has a 28.7% strikeout rate and a 7.0% walk rate. He’s posted an even 3.00 ERA despite facing Top-11 offenses in five of his six starts, including two matchups against the best offense in baseball, the Detroit Tigers.
The Indians will be careful with Salazar’s golden arm, but won’t impose a hard innings limit. As long as Salazar continues to pitch well, I don’t expect that he’ll be shut down early.
To pick him up, I’d drop: Andy Pettite, Roy Halladay, Mike Leake
3 TO CUT
I know you’ve thought about it. You’ve got a crappy middle infielder who’s stuck in a slump, and one of the all-time greats at the position is just sitting out there on the waiver wire. One little pickup can’t hurt, right?
Yes, it can. Don’t do it. Just don’t.
Even in his prime, Derek Jeter wasn’t the type of player who could make a huge fantasy impact in just a couple of weeks. Homers and steals and the easiest categories in which to make up ground this late in the season, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Jeter went the rest of the year without homering or swiping a bag.
Batting average and run-scoring have always been his best qualities, but his current circumstances don’t portend much success in either category. Age and injuries have eroded his previously spectacular BABIP; Jeter hasn’t managed a BABIP better than his career average since 2009. Unsurprisingly, his OBP has lagged below his career average in each of the last four seasons as well.
In those past few seasons, even a below-average Jeter could still score runs in bunches from his position atop one of the better lineups in baseball, but so far this season, only six offenses have been worse than the Yankees in wOBA. It’s a group that’s improved significantly since the returns of Alex Rodriguez and Alfonso Soriano, but it’s still not anything close to what we’ve come to expect from the Bronx Bombers.
In much the same way, this version of the Yankee captain isn’t close to what we’ve come to expect and certainly doesn’t deserve a spot on your fantasy roster.
I would drop him for: Brian Dozier, Stephen Drew, Nick Franklin
Roy Halladay may be back, but he isn’t back.
After a disastrous start to his season and a subsequent shutdown, Halladay has valiantly worked his way back to the Philadelphia Phillies’ rotation, returning with a deceptively ineffective win over the Arizona Diamondbacks and a straightforwardly terrible meldown against the Chicago Cubs.
Velocity had been an issue for Halladay during the first two months of the season; since then, things have only gotten worse.
Halladay has been able to pitch successfully without peak velocity over the past few seasons, but this latest loss of zip has dropped his heater into batting practice territory. Without any hard stuff to keep hitters honest, they’re hammering Halladay’s offspeed stuff, particularly his splitter.
Even in 2012, a subpar season for Halladay, the splitter generated whiffs on a third of hitters’ swings against it, induced grounders on 53% of balls in play, and limited hitters to a .144 ISO. Through Halladay’s two most recent starts, it has allowed a whiff/swing rate of just 21%, a GB/BIP of 45%, and a .417 ISO.
I know, I know, it’s a tiny sample size, but it’s the only illustration we have of post-injury Halladay. Perhaps he’ll use the offseason to develop an arsenal that can succeed at an even lower velocity, but at this point, he isn’t useable in any format.
I would drop him for: Gerrit Cole, A.J. Griffin, Mark Buehrle
This recommendation obviously doesn’t apply for deeper keeper leagues, but in just about every other format, Taijuan Walker is a spot starter at best.
Walker has plenty of positive momentum after blanking the Houston Astros for five innings and allowing only three baserunners in his major league debut; you’d expect him to rack up more than just two strikeouts, but as Gerrit Cole has shown, strikeout stuff sometimes takes a few starts to materialize for young pitchers. It’s a seemingly impressive start to what will probably be a long and successful career, but in the short term, it’s a red herring.
See, blanking the Astros over five-plus innings isn’t exactly an uncommon feat. In fact, two of Walker’s Seattle teammates have done it this season. Joe Saunders whiffed six in 6.1 scoreless innings at Safeco Field back in April; Aaron Harang twirled a two-hit shutout, fanning ten in a 4-0 win over the ‘Stros in June.
A lot of good it’s done them.
Saunders needed another five innings of shutout ball against the Astros on Saturday to push his ERA below 5.00; Harang’s season ERA sits at a robust 5.76.
Walker clearly has the potential to be a much better pitcher than both Saunders and Harang, but their performances (and subsequent lack of success against actual MLB competition) serve as a reminder that shutting out the Astros proves nothing. I’m much more worried by Walker’s lack of strikeouts than I am encouraged by his run prevention.
I know it’s just one start, but with an innings limit looming, his fantasy value is dependent on his ability to make a huge impact in just a couple of starts. He’s already missed a chance to do that against the worst offense in baseball; why should we expect his results to improve against better competition?
I would drop him for: Eric Stults, Danny Salazar, Hector Santiago
3 TO KEEP
In roto leagues, there’s no better time in the season to own a non-elite closer than right now. The positive impact of the saves they deliver can be massive and the fact that your entire staff has likely already logged 1,000 innings or more greatly mitigates the negative impact of any meltdowns. As long as a pitcher continues to get save chances, he deserves a slot on your roster, almost regardless of how poorly he pitches.
Knowing that, it seems rather odd that Arizona Diamondbacks closer Brad Ziegler has been among the ten most dropped players in ESPN leagues, sinking to just over 62% ownership as of Monday night. Sure, he’s blown his last two save chances (which came two weeks apart), but Kirk Gibson hasn’t said anything about Ziegler losing his job, and it’s not like any other Arizona reliever is making a compelling case to land the gig. Heath Bell has continued to be a chubby disaster and though J.J. Putz has looked better lately, his successes can be attributed more to spectacular BABIP luck than to overpowering pitching.
Unless Gibson says anything about changing roles in his bullpen, there’s no reason to drop Ziegler in any roto format.
I wouldn’t drop him for: Any non-closer
Nobody’s happier than Desmond Jennings to see the calendar flip to September. Jennings had a frighteningly bad August; the best plate discipline of his career (exactly as many walks as strikeouts) was overrun by a .184 BABIP. That BABIP seems like a completely illogical outcome for a speedy hitter who hits more than half of his balls in play on the ground, but we all know how baseball likes to produce results that spit in the face of logic and reason, especially over relatively short periods of time.
The 8% line drive rate that Jennings posted during his terrible, horrible, no good, very bad month is a bit troubling, but I’ll put my trust in the fact that he’s posted an LD% better than 18% in three of the other four months of this season and say that his BABIP will rebound in September.
Even when it does, he won’t produce a great batting average, but I care a lot more about homers and steals than I do about batting average at this point in the season. Jennings is capable of producing in both categories; hitters with that skillset aren’t easy to find.
I wouldn’t drop him for: Carl Crawford, Nate McLouth, Michael Bourn
Starlin Castro has clearly been a worse player this season than he was last year, but I can’t seem to figure out why. His plate discipline is significantly worse, but he’s chasing fewer pitches outside the zone and swinging-and-missing only slightly more often that last season. His BABIP is down, but his batted ball profile remains strikingly similar to last year’s distribution. His power numbers have declined, but his average fly ball/home run distance has actually increased by three feet.
Sure, Castro’s been bad, but I’m not sure he’s been quite bad enough to deserve that dreadful .242/.282/.344 slash line.
I’d typically advocate dropping any player performing this poorly, but in Castro’s case, there just aren’t many better options. Jimmy Rollins is in the midst of one of the worst slumps of his career, Asdrubal Cabrera only gotten worse since I wrote about how terrible he’s been, and common waiver wire options Erick Aybar, Andrelton Simmons, and Marco Scutaro have combined for a grand total of one homer and four steals in the last month.
Castro is a more promising offensive talent than any of those players; as bad as he’s been, I’d wager he’s got a better chance to produce in September than any of the shortstops listed above
I wouldn’t drop him for: All of the above
Agree, disagree, need advice? Hit me in the comments or on Twitter @gerardowrites.