2014 Fantasy Baseball Waiver Wire: 3 to Catch, 3 to Cut, 3 to Keep
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.
Any questions, thoughts, ballpark food recommendations? Hit me in the comments or on Twitter.
3 TO CATCH
Sergio Santos | Toronto Blue Jays | RP
Janssen has produced solid results over the past couple of seasons, but in terms of raw stuff, he can’t match Santos. Santos’ heater is overpowering and his Houdini slider is untouchable, with a raw whiff rate around 30%. That was enough for Santos to win closer gigs earlier in his career, but last season, he supplemented that arsenal with a suddenly fantastic changeup. He used it exclusively against lefties, who came up empty more that 35% of the time last season.
Santos is going to run with this job. Janssen is far from a lock to return on time and when he does, the Jays won’t have any incentive, aside from possibly trying to boost the trade value of their injury-prone soft-tossing reliever. You know, the same reliever that they somewhat surprisingly chose not to trade last season while he was in the midst of one of the best seasons of his career. I don’t see it.
Brett Anderson | Colorado Rockies | SP
I formally broke up with Brett Anderson in this space last season, but damn it, it’s Opening Day. Hope springs eternal. Birds are chirping, snow is melting, and Anderson is healthy again.
He wasn’t great in the Spring, but his 5.5 K/BB ratio is just soooo Brett Andersony. He hasn’t pitched in Coors Field yet, but his career ground ball rate of 54.9% makes me feel like Coors won’t be too hard on him.
Anderson isn’t going to suddenly turn into a durable workhorse, but there’s a decent chance he gives you 100 innings of excellent production. That kind of chance doesn’t exist with most of the pitchers filling out the backs of fantasy rotations in 10 or 12-team leagues. When Anderson goes down, those guys will be there. There’s no reason to settle for mediocrity when there’s a chance for greatness, however unstable that chance may be.
Chris Owings | Arizona Diamondbacks | SS
After a spirited Spring competition, Owings beat out Didi Gregorius to win the Arizona Diamondbacks’ starting shortstop job. He clearly did something to catch manager Kirk Gibson’s attention, but whatever it was, the fantasy community didn’t notice. Owings is owned in fewer than 15% of Yahoo! leagues.
I wrote about Owings earlier this offseason. He’s not a slam dunk prospect, but he’s got enough offensive skill to have some fantasy upside and enough glove to stick at shortstop for the long haul. He’s a great middle infield option in mixed leagues.
3 TO CUT
Michael Bourn | Cleveland Indians | OF
Bourn will start the season on the DL, but I might have had him on this list even if he was healthy. I just can’t understand why a 31-year old player who derives almost all of his fantasy value from his speed, but has declined in both games played and stolen bases in three consecutive seasons, is still owned in 68% of Yahoo! leagues. Bourn has no power, doesn’t hit in a great offense, and is coming off a season in which he registered a .316 OBP, his worst since 2008. Not only that, he’s dogged by a strained hamstring, not exactly the sort of injury that disappears quickly.
So… why exactly am I supposed to want him when a guy like Rajai Davis is available in three out of every four leagues?
Bourn is cheap speed, but for some reason, he’s treated like something more valuable. I can’t quite advocate cutting him at this point, but I’d absolutely put him out there on the trade market. Trade him for a higher upside speed guy, or flip him to an owner in need of some steals, then back fill from the waiver wire.
Josh Johnson | San Diego Padres | SP
I loved Johnson as a value pick heading into this season, but successfully owning a guy like Johnson requires a certain ruthless constitution. I’ll let De Niro take over from here:
“A guy told me one time, ‘Don’t let yourself get attached to anything you are not willing to walk out on in 30 seconds flat if you feel the heat around the corner.’”
In this case, “the heat” is Johnson’s forearm strain. Tightness or pain in the forearm is a well-known harbinger of elbow problems, and Johnson’s already had Tommy John surgery once. Would anyone be surprised if he ended up going under the knife again?
Unless your league has more than two DL slots, Johnson isn’t worth saving. I’m a huge fan of stashing injured pitchers early in the season, but there are plenty of other guys who provide more predictable upside.
Nick Markakis | Baltimore Orioles | OF
This really isn’t about Markakis specifically, it’s more about early-season roster construction in shallow leagues. Markakis is the quintessential steady, unexeciting, low ceiling, high floor player. He’s incredibly valuable in deep leagues or AL-only leagues, but if you’re playing in a 10-team mixed league, he’s nothing special. In that format, at this point in the season, the last few spots in your lineup should be reserved for players with the potential to greatly outperform their projections. Markakis isn’t that kind of player.
So, drop the Markakis types for a more volatile commodity. There’s probably a 50/50 shot you’ll be back at his door with your tail between your legs in a month or so, but don’t worry, he’ll always take you back.
3 TO KEEP
Archie Bradley | Arizona Diamondbacks |SP
I hope you listened to my colleague Landon Jones and stashed Bradley before the season. If you didn’t, you’re in luck (but I’m still mad at you). Bradley is available in 17% of Yahoo! leagues and although he’s been sent down to Triple-A, guys with this kind of stuff don’t stay out of the majors for long. I won’t try to out-do Landon’s excellent profile, I’ll just say that in any league with a deep bench, Bradley is worth a spot.
Yasmani Grandal | San Diego Padres | C
Although he didn’t start the team’s opener last night, Grandal made the San Diego Padres’ Opening Day roster, assuaging any concerns that he wouldn’t be healthy enough to break camp with the team. His knee is still a bit of a concern, but he was catching full games by the end of Spring Training. Grandal didn’t show much pop with the bat during the Spring, but I’ll take my cues from the fact that he’s slugged nine homers in just over 300 big league plate appearances.
There are only a few elite catchers this season. The leftovers all taste about the same once the Poseys, Rosarios, Santanas, and McCanns are off the table; you’re really just fishing for upside. Grandal will take a bit of time to round into form, but he’s got huge upside. I love him as an investment in two-catcher leagues.
Taijuan Walker | Seattle Mariners | SP
Forgive me for having flashbacks to Michael Pineda, who occupied this slot in last year’s debut edition of 3×3. I’m really just slotting Walker in here to remind myself not to freak about the Mariners bringing him along slowly from some slight shoulder inflammation. Unfortunately, young pitchers get hurt all the time, but for a guy with Walker’s upside, it’s worth a roster spot to take that risk.
All that said, Walker will probably be fine. If he happens to be available in your league, pick him up. If you’ve already got him, hold tight.