2015 Fantasy Baseball Week 24 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 of the most interesting players for fantasy owners, with perspective on who deserves your attention, who deserves your patience, and who deserves to go straight to bed without dessert.
Any questions, thoughts? Hit me in the comments or on Twitter.
3 TO CATCH
Players to be picked up; available in most standard leagues
Michael Conforto | New York Mets | OF
I wrote about Michael Conforto earlier this season, right around his debut. I wasn’t optimistic.
After spending a little over two weeks making me look quite smart (he hit .200/.313/.350 in his first 13 games), Conforto settled in and went about the surprisingly easy task of making me look like a complete idiot.
I knew I should have doubled-checked my projections against my Magic 8 Ball.
Over the last month, he’s been the best young hitter in the game, slashing .333/.396/.605 with seven doubles and five home runs in his last 26 games. Over those last 30 days, he ranks tenth among qualified hitters with a 46.3% hard contact rate and ninth-from-last with a 9.0% soft contact rate, per FanGraphs. Aside from David Ortiz and Joey Votto, nobody’s consistently squaring the ball up better than Conforto right now.
He is pounding the ball to all fields, showing doubles power to both gaps and the ability to pop homers down either line.
And I really don’t see any reason why this would stop. His ability to consistently make hard contact shows he’s not at all troubled by major league pitching and his plate discipline hasn’t dropped off at all from the excellent numbers he showed in Triple-A. Since his shaky start, Conforto has nine walks against just 13 strikeouts in 81 plate appearances.
Chris Coghlan | Chicago Cubs | 2B/OF
Though all counting stats are always in demand, the ability to move up the standings with a late-season waiver acquisition is usually limited to home runs and stolen bases. It’s not that runs and RBI can’t cluster over a short period of time, rather that prominence in those stats doesn’t tend to be compartmentalized in the same was as homers or steals. There are plenty of otherwise crappy hitters who feature a bit of pop or a dash of speed, but hitters who score or drive in a lot of runs are usually just really talented hitters who hit in really favorable positions in really good lineups.
So, then, it shouldn’t come as any kind of a surprise that just about every hitter projected to score double-digit runs by FanGraphs Depth Charts is essentially universally owned. Chris Coghlan is only projected to cross the plate nine times before the end of the season, but I could see him easily outpacing that number. And he’s available in more than 90% of Yahoo! leagues.
He’s been more patient than ever this season, with a career-low O-Swing% leading to a career-best 11.2% walk rate. Generally, this would be the sentence where I’d follow up by pointing out a personal record in on-base percentage, but a .280 BABIP (34 points below his career average despite a career-best hard contact rate) has constrained Coghlan to an unimpressive .338 OBP. He’s actually projected for a number significantly worse than that over the rest of the season, but with his excellent underlying plate discipline and consistent ability to make solid contact, I’m thinking that projection undersells his potential.
And when he gets on base, he’s going to score. Run production and scoring are as much about opportunity as talent, and Coghlan’s third spot in the Cubs lineup makes him the meat in arguably the tastiest offensive sandwich in the league, with Dexter Fowler and Kyle Schwarber getting on ahead of him and Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant waiting to drive him in. Among NL teams, only the white-hot Mets have scored more runs over the last month than the Cubbies.
Marcus Stroman | Toronto Blue Jays | SP
This is why we love baseball. After a devastating knee injury shelved one of baseball’s most promising young starters before his breakout sophomore campaign could even going, and after his manager called a possible return within the 2015 season “fantasy”, Marcus Stroman started for the Toronto Blue Jays on Saturday night, allowing three runs and six baserunners in five redemptive innings at Yankee Stadium. His velocity was predictably down a bit, but the fact that he was still able to touch 95 miles-per-hour, just five months removed from tearing his ACL, is remarkable.
There will undoubtedly be a bit of a transition period, but with the Yanks nipping at the Blue Jays’ tail feathers in the AL East, Toronto can’t afford not to use all of its assets down the stretch. Stroman is going to get work, and if this year’s version looks anything like what we saw during his rookie season, when he posted a 2.84 FIP in 26 starts, that work will be quite productive for his fantasy owners.
3 TO CUT
Players to be traded or dropped, depending on the depth of your league
Hector Olivera | Atlanta Braves | 3B
Usually, a recently risen prospect on a $62 million contract is exactly the type of player to grab in the dying embers of a fantasy season. Usually, those types of players are the sorts of high-risk, high-reward talents that can swing the last few points or eke out a playoff matchup.
Hector Olivera isn’t a usual sort of prospect though.
He was at the center of an epic bidding war during this offseason, the belle of the ball surrounded by suitors elbowing over each other to earn his favor, right up until the Dodgers rolled in like Prince Charming. With younger, more talented options (Corey Seager, Alex Guerrero, etc.) already offering considerably more upside and longevity at Olivera’s preferred positions, the Dodgers still signed Olivera, essentially just because they could.
Olivera was freed at the trade deadline when LA dangled its underutilized asset in the face of the team that they outbid for him, the Atlanta Braves. One ridiculously complex trade later, Olivera has been liberated and is now starting for Atlanta.
Since joining the big leagues (to exceptionally little fanfare), the 30-year old Cuban export has been… eh, fine. In 12 games for the Braves, he’s popped one homer, driven in seven, and slashed .243/.300/.351. It’s far too small a sample on which to make any determinations, but even below the surface, there’s really not anything that gets your heart racing. And with trips to New York and Miami preceding a closing stretch against the Nationals and Cardinals, his schedule doesn’t engender much excitement either.
Drew Hutchison | Toronto Blue Jays | SP
With Stroman returning, something’s got to give in the Toronto rotation. Although Mark Buehrle looks to be the one ceding his rotation spot next, I’d bet on the longer term version of that something being Drew Hutchison.
For the season, Hutchison’s FIP still lags well below his 5.33 ERA, which would seem to be cause for at least a small shred of optimism. But no matter how rational or analytically minded a front office may be, it’s awfully hard to run out a pitcher coming off back-to-back six-run skewerings in the midst of a playoff race. Especially when over his last nine starts, that pitcher’s 5.33 ERA almost perfectly matches his 5.31 FIP. That’ll happen with your fastball is tagged for a slugging percentage above .500 nearly every time out.
If the Jays can’t trust him, you shouldn’t either.
Troy Tulowitzki | Toronto Blue Jays | SS
Same shit, different country, eh?
Troy Tulowitzki has gone down yet again, injuring his shoulder in a seemingly innocuous collision with Toronto centerfielder Kevin Pillar. The Blue Jays are hopeful that their brittle shortstop can return sometime this season, but knowing what we know about Tulo’s injury record, there’s absolutely no reason for optimism.
And with rosters expanded, the Jays have absolutely no incentive to stash Tulo on the DL, which just feels like a cruel joke on his fantasy owners. But really, the Jays are doing us a favor. They’re just making it easier for us to do what we know we need to do. Tulowitzki is not coming back in the regular season; there’s no sense in wasting a roster spot on false hope.
It’s sad, but necessary. Now come on, Troy, there’s something out back behind the shed that I need to show you.
3 TO KEEP
Players to hold or trade for; owned in most standard leagues
A.J. Burnett | Pittsburgh Pirates | SP
When A.J. Burnett returned from an elbow injury to make Thursday night’s start against the Brewers, Pittsburgh found a pretty awesome way to welcome back its grizzled ace:
Baseball’s other Dark Knight has certainly entered the twilight of his baseball career (no word on whether his crime-fighting skills have dwindled at all), but even without the knockout stuff he had earlier in his career, Burnett can be an excellent source of strikeouts down the stretch. Even with an aggregate 19.7% strikeout rate that’s his lowest since 2010, he’s still managed nine starts this season with at least one strikeout per inning.
His fastball has lost a few ticks, but Burnett’s curve remains a dangerous weapon. Per Brooks Baseball, 2015 marks the fifth consecutive season in which Burnett’s primary breaking ball has tallied a whiff/swing rate better than 39%.
And coming down the stretch, it certainly won’t hurt that he’s scheduled for two starts against the Cubs, who lead the major leagues in strikeout rate this season (and that’s without having Javier Baez up with the big club until September).
Arodys Vizcaino | Atlanta Braves | RP
It’s been a rough month for Arodys Vizcaino. After blwing his most recent save chance (all the way back on September 4), he’s surrendered five runs in 0.2 innings over his last two outings. Vizcaino has faced 24 batters in the month of September and 12 of them have reached base safely.
He has all the markings of a closer about to lose his job.
But it’s not that simple. Vizcaino has been criminally unlucky in recent weeks, suffering through a BABIP of .500 or higher in four of his last five outings. And he’s essentially the only regularly-used pitcher in the Atlanta bullpen who’s been any good lately. Not a single Braves reliever has thrown more than seven innings of relief this month with an ERA (or FIP) lower than 4.00.
And with absolutely nothing to play for this season, the Braves don’t have any incentive to demote Vizcaino anyway. Gaining valuable experience for young players is paramount right now, and speed bumps along the road to that experience are essentially meaningless.
This season is lost and Vizcaino is a 24-year old who throws a 97 mph fastball. That’s what matters.
He’ll close out whatever save chances his team provides over the rest of the season.
Corey Dickerson | Colorado Rockies | OF
Corey Dickerson is a bit too widely owned to be featured in the “3 To Cut” section of this column, but if you happen to be in a league where he was dropped while injured, scoop him up now. Dickerson is healthy, and he’s exactly the type of player who can rack up counting stats in a hurry. This has been a lost year for him, but let’s not forget that Dickerson entered 2015 as a deservingly sizzling fantasy commodity.
Prior to the season, FanGraphs Depth Charts projected Dickerson to pop as many homers as Albert Pujols while stealing more bases than Bryce Harper and hitting for a better batting average than Freddie Freeman. That kind of talent doesn’t end up on waivers very often. And with 11 of his next 14 games at home in Colorado, Dickerson is primed to explode down the stretch. If he’s already doing this in San Diego, imagine the damage he can do at Coors.
Dickerson should be the top priority in any league in which he’s available; even if you’re not in the running for your league title this season, he makes a spectacular stash-and-keep option.