2013 Fantasy BaseballFantasy Baseball

2013 Fantasy Baseball Week 24 Waiver Wire: 3 to Catch, 3 to Cut, 3 to Keep

photo credit: Keith Allison via photopin cc
photo credit: Keith Allison via photopin cc

It’s time to turn for the home stretch in the Week 24 fantasy baseball 3×3, where we’re riding Matt Adams and Corey Kluber, staying patient with Jacoby Ellsbury, and sending Yovani Gallardo to the glue factory.

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

Corey Kluber | Cleveland Indians | SP

As I’ve written twice before, I just can’t understand why Corey Kluber isn’t owned in more leagues. He was a relative unknown heading into this season, but he’s more than proven his worth over 20 starts, racking up a 3.54 ERA (2.98 xFIP), a 23.4% strikeout rate, and a 4.48 K/BB ratio that ranks tenth among starters with at least 100 innings pitched. I’m beginning to accept the fact this his BABIP is probably going to remain above average for the foreseeable future, but he’s still terrific at limiting baserunners and has the support of one of the better offenses in baseball.

He looked solid on Saturday in his first outing since sitting out a month with a sprained middle finger. Kluber’s results certainly benefitted from the fact that he faced a poor offense, but all of the underlying signs are there. He struck out a batter per inning, walked only one, and maintained the same velocity a he’d shown earlier in the season.

Going forward, Kluber looks to be 100% and has a terrific schedule in front of him. All of Cleveland’s remaining games are against either the Royals, White Sox, Twins, or Astros; only Kansas City doesn’t deserve to be called “punchless.”

To pick him up, I’d drop: Charlie Morton, Ryan Dempster, Bartolo Colon

Matt Adams | St. Louis Cardinals | 1B

“St. Louis Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak said he’d be happy if Allen Craig could return for the postseason.”

Oh boy, that’s not good news for the Cardinals.

It is, however, fantastic news for opportunistic fantasy owners. Craig’s backup is perhaps the most talented hitter in the National League who doesn’t have a regular starting role. Matt Adams has logged only 244 plate appearances this season, but he’s already hit 11 home runs with a 19% HR/FB rate that ranks among the top ten for MLB first basemen.

The Cardinals know exactly what they have in Adams. They know that although Craig’s presence has pushed him to the bench, Adams is a legitimate middle-of-the-order bat, and they’ve treated him accordingly. Since the beginning of August, Adams has hit between second and sixth in the order in every game he’s started. The Cardinals’ team OBP is fifth-best in baseball; Adams will have plenty of opportunities to know in runs over the season’s last couple of weeks, especially considering his upcoming schedule.

St. Louis plays 12 of its remaining 19 games at home; although Busch Stadium doesn’t profile as a hitter’s park, don’t tell Matt Adams. Adams has a .221 ISO at home, more than 40 points higher than his road mark. The Cards have only two road series remaining, in Milwaukee and Colorado, both of which rank among the most favorable parks in baseball for home run hitters.

To pick him up, I’d drop: Allen Craig, Todd Frazier, Kendrys Morales

Mitch Moreland | Texas Rangers | 1B/OF

After his hot start was interrupted by injury, Mitch Moreland seems to have finally found his sea legs again. He’s homered five times in his last 15 games, despite the fact that only three of those games have been in hitter-friendly Rangers Ballpark. He’s rediscovered his plate discipline, a sign that he’s returning to the patient approach that generated so much success for him early in the season.

I believe wholeheartedly in Moreland’s talent, and his schedule sets up very well over the next couple of weeks. The Rangers not only play the majority of their games at home, but they also face some of the weaker pitching staffs in the AL, including the Astros, Mariners, Angels, and Athletics, all of which rank among the top ten homer-friendliest staffs in baseball.

To pick him up, I’d drop: Kendrys Morales, Adam LaRoche, Michael Morse

3 TO CUT

Carlos Gonzalez | Colorado Rockies | OF

I can’t think of a player more frustrating to own right now than Carlos Gonzalez. It’s admirable that the Rockies’ injured outfielder has accepted the role of defensive super-sub, but for his fantasy owners, taking the field without an opportunity to hit is just trolling.

Gonzalez still can’t take batting practice; his injured finger prevents him from properly gripping a bat. He’s tried and tried to get back into the batter’s box, he’s been scratched from multiple rehab assignments and failed to complete multiple batting practice appointments. The Rockies don’t seem to be worried about Gonzalez doing any long-term damage to his finger, and while you can’t help but admire CarGo’s determination, he writing seems to be on the wall. Gonzalez isn’t going to hit again this season.

He’s not a good enough base stealer to have fantasy value as a pinch-runner, which means that he won’t have any fantasy value the rest of the way. He’s droppable in all redraft formats.

I’d drop him for: Darin Ruf, Will Venable, Christian Yelich

Yovani Gallardo | Milwaukee Brewers | SP

Yovani Gallardo is in the midst of an excellent stretch of pitching; he hasn’t allowed more than two earned runs in a start since July and has three wins in his last five outings. That’s fine, but we’ve seen stretches like this from him before, and those stretches haven’t ended well.

From April 18 through May 20, Gallardo had a stretch of five quality starts in seven outings. He allowed four earned in four innings in his next outing and didn’t post another quality start until June 10. Beginning with that start, Gallardo pitched three consecutive games without allowing a run. He allowed 20 runs in his next four outings.

Every pitcher is going to have bad stretches and good stretches, but few pitchers’ bad stretches are as bad as Gallardo’s. I generally wouldn’t touch him with a ten-foot pole, but considering his upcoming schedule, I think I oughta step back a few more feet. The Brewers will play 12 of their final 19 games against three of the four best offenses in the National League, the St. Louis Cardinals, Cincinnati Reds, and Atlanta Braves.

I’d drop him for: Gerrit Cole, A.J. Griffin, Tyson Ross

Avisail Garcia | Chicago White Sox | OF

Avisail Garcia swings at everything (his 58.6% swing rate as a member of the White Sox would be the second-highest in baseball if he had enough plate appearances to qualify), but he’s been hugely successful since relocating to Chicago, riding an outrageous .423 BABIP to a .320/.358/.440 slash line.

Don’t expect it to continue.

Garcia hits a good amount of line drives and has decent speed, but even accounting for that, his BABIP is at least 70 points higher than it should be.

What you should expect is for pitchers to stop challenging Garcia in the strike zone. He offers at 44.1% of pitches outside the zone, yet for some reason, pitchers still throw him strikes 45.5% of the time. As the season continues, he’s likely to see fewer and fewer strikes.

Garcia is an exciting player and a fascinating long term prospect, but over the next few weeks, he’s probably not worth a spot on your fantasy roster. He doesn’t have overwhelming power or overwhelming speed; it wouldn’t be at all surprising if he didn’t record a homer or a steal the rest of this season. There are better options out there.

I’d drop him for: Lorenzo Cain, Jon Jay, Darin Ruf

3 TO KEEP

Jacoby Ellsbury | Boston Red Sox | OF

Unlike CarGo, Jacoby Ellsbury still merits a spot on your roster. We know that his fractured foot is expected to keep him out of the lineup for at least the next couple of weeks, but the Red Sox have vociferously maintained the Ellsbury will return before the end of the regular season. The question for fantasy owners really isn’t whether or not he returns, it’s whether or not he’ll be healthy enough to run.

Ellsbury leads the major leagues with 52 steals this season. At first blush, a fractured foot seems like a nail in the coffin for his fantasy relevance, but this isn’t a debilitating injury. Ellsbury injured himself when he fouled a pitch off his foot on August 28th, but he played in seven games before the team shut him down last Friday and stole three bases in those games. He stole two bases in the game in which he broke his foot, then swiped another bag the next day!

Ellsbury will be in a walking boot for at least the next few days; keep an eye on his progress. If the boot is off within the next week or so, there’s a great chance he’ll be back in time to chip in a few steals in the head-to-head fantasy playoffs. Until then, consult the past few editions of 3×3 for fill-in speedsters.

I wouldn’t drop him for: Norichika Aoki, Michael Brantley, Ichiro Suzuki

Darin Ruf | Philadelphia Phillies | 1B/OF

I’m quite happy to see that Brandon Moss has found himself a home on so many fantasy rosters; he was a favorite of mine heading into this season. He’s not exactly a well-rounded player, but he’s got terrific power and enough supplementary skill to keep himself in the lineup most days. It warms my heart to see that he’s has risen to nearly 100% ownership in ESPN leagues.

Yet, it confuses me to no end to see that Darin Ruf’s ownership has dropped below 50%. Moss and Ruf are essentially the same player. Moss has a longer track record and more at bats this season, but there’s not much in Ruf’s profile that would indicate he can’t keep up his power production.

Ruf slugged 41 homers between Double-A and the big leagues last season, and he’s already popped 13 in just over 200 plate appearances in the majors this year. Even before he slugged his 13th homer on Sunday afternoon, his 24% HR/FB rate ranked seventh among hitters with at least 200 plate appearances, ahead of sluggers like Paul Goldschmidt, Adam Dunn, and Ruf’s teammate, Domonic Brown. According to ESPN’s Home Run Tracker, nine of his homers have travelled at least 380 feet and four of his last seven bombs would have reached the seats in every single major league ballpark.

If you’re trailing in homers in the roto league, Ruf is a fantastic pickup.

I wouldn’t drop him for: Paul Konerko, Kendrys Morales, Todd Frazier

Tyson Ross | San Diego Padres | SP

At this point in the regular season, your starting pitcher acquisitions should be based just as much on matchups as skills. Lucky for you, Tyson Ross has both working in his favor. Well, not yet, but he will. I’ll explain.

You see, this is kind of a pre-emptive placement in “3 to Keep.” I mentioned Ross as a pickup a few weeks ago; he’s had a couple of rough results since then, but he’s actually pitching better now than he was when I first recommended him. Ross surrendered a total of 11 runs (8 earned) in 12.1 innings against the Pirates and Diamondbacks, but, more importantly for me, he also fanned 12 against just four walks in those two starts, then followed it up with ten Ks (and only one walk) in five innings on the road against the Dodgers.

Good pitchers occasionally put up bad results. I’m much more encouraged by Ross’ improved control than I am discouraged by the runs he allowed.

Ross’ next few matchups aren’t great, but if you’re setting up for head-to-head playoffs, the last few turns on his schedule couldn’t be better. The Padres’ last 10 games are either in San Diego or in San Francisco, two of the three best hitters parks in baseball.

I wouldn’t drop him for: Ryan Dempster, Jorge de la Rosa, Joe Kelly

Thanks as always to FanGraphsBrooks BaseballTexas Leaguers, and Baseball Heat Maps for the data.

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