2016 Fantasy Baseball Waiver Wire: 3 to Catch, 3 to Cut, 3 to Keep (Week 10)
Thoughts, questions, whatever… you can always find me on Twitter.
DID YOU MISS ME?
Sorry about my sudden disappearance over the last couple of weeks. I’ve had some day job and family related travel that’s made it impossible for me to put in enough time to crank out quality editions of 3×3. You might notice this week’s edition is a little shorter than usual for those same reasons.
That said, I’m going to try not to take many more weeks off this season and when I do, we’ll one of the other immensely talented writers from The Fix to fill in for me, so you won’t have to go without this column again.
3 TO CATCH
Players to be picked up; available in most standard leagues
Michael Fulmer | Detroit Tigers | SP
After a shaky start, Michael Fulmer has been dynamite over his latest three starts, whiffing just under a batter per inning and logging at least seven frames in each outing. We talked about him ahead of his debut back in April and all of that still stands, but this isn’t another case of me having blind faith in a hyped young pitcher (thanks for that, Luis Severino). No, there’s real progress here.
Fulmer has made a significant change to his pitch mix in recent starts, learning to lean on his changeup. Per Brooks Baseball, his usage of the pitch spiked dramatically in his 11-strikeout hosedown of Tampa Bay and has continued ever since.
As games go on, the change gives Fulmer something else to show hitters who’ve already seen him twice. That ability to navigate multiple times through a big league batting order is often the last hurdle a young pitcher has to clear before establishing himself at the highest level.
His ownership is on the rise and ought to reach near 100% by the All-Star break. Grab him while you still can.
Byron Buxton | Minnesota Twins | OF
Once again, I’m going to refer back to something I wrote a few weeks ago. Byron Buxton has sizzled since his recall and we have no reason to be surprised. Remember this?
Jonathan Gray | Colorado Rockies | SP
After dicing up the helpless Padres for 12 strikeouts in seven innings Sunday night, Jonathan Gray now has three outings of double-digit strikeouts this season. Even in a Colorado Rockies uniform, that kind of talent ought to be owned in more than 21.2% of ESPN leagues.
Gray pumps the kind of gas needed to succeed at Coors and has excelled at limiting fly balls. His HR/FB rate is predictably exorbitant, but his 3.02 xFIP portends wonderful things if he’s able to reign it in toward league average.
There’s certainly some volatility to Gray, but for owners in need of strikeouts, there’s no more widely available solution.
3 TO CUT
Players to be traded or dropped, depending on the depth of your league
Eduardo Rodriguez | Boston Red Sox | SP
I really liked Eduardo Rodriguez last season, but he just hasn’t looked right since his injury. Even facing minor league hitters, he only managed a 5.26 FIP in his 28-inning rehab stint, allowing nearly two homers per nine innings along the way. A favorable BABIP kept his ERA respectable, but Rodriguez couldn’t even manage a 15% strikeout rate.
His slider (I’m assuming the pitches that pitchF/X is calling cutters are actually sliders) was frightfully inconsistent in his first outing back in the big leagues, so much so that PITCHf/x actually categorized it as two different pitches. Six of the seven sliders he threw in his first outing were called cutters, so let’s focus on that offering, which topped the velocity of last season’s slider, but featured significantly less movement. Combine that with a drop in fastball velocity and a jump in changeup velocity, and Rodriguez just looks out of sorts.
I don’t have the data yet, but I’d imagine the same sorts of oddities will be evident when we can take a look at how the Jays knocked him around on Sunday. He might well turn it around, but I’m not ready to buy in yet.
Jean Segura | Arizona Diamondbacks | 2B/SS
It might already be too late to trade Jean Segura for anything of value, but if you’ve got him, it’d behoove you to at least investigate your options. Segura’s fade was always inevitable, and we might already be right in the middle of it.
He hasn’t homered since May 9 and in his 110 plate appearances since then, his Texas Leaguers spray chart shows exactly one ball that made it to the warning track in the air.
But Segura’s not known as a power hitter; he’s a speed guy. Except that he hasn’t swiped a bag since May 20 and despite a .329 OBP that would match his career high, he’s only attempted ten steals all season. It’s possible that Segura’s patience on the basepaths is a strategic decision from the dugout, but his 60% success rate would suggest that he’s lost a step.
I could go on. I could list some facts here about how Segura refuses to take a walk and stands little chance of regaining the BABIP magic that made him one of the most productive players in the game during the season’s first month, but like I said, this post is going to be shorter than usual.
Marco Estrada | Toronto Blue Jays | SP
Over the last month, no starting pitcher has surrendered a BABIP lower than Marco Estrada’s .154 and only a baker’s dozen can top his tidy 2.25 ERA. After his eight-inning gem on Sunday, those numbers will only get better.
Don’t buy it. Estrada’s strikeout rate is still poor and despite his excellent overall run prevention, his dinger troubles haven’t subsided. He’s allowed six homers in his last eight starts. The low BABIP means most of those are solo shots, but in the long run, a strategy built on giving up solo home runs is one that’s bound to fail.
3 TO KEEP
Players to hold or trade for; owned in most standard leagues
Michael Conforto | New York Mets | OF
Michael Conforto is the only player in baseball to rank among the top ten in BABIP during the month of April and among the bottom ten in the month of May. His ownership has dipped a bit as a result of that cold month, but his hard hit rates aren’t substantially different between the two months; for the season, he still ranks second in baseball in hard hit rate, trailing only the ageless superhuman David Ortiz.
Conforto is still making the right kinds of contact to maintain a nice balance of power and average. He’s hitting lots of hard liners and flies alongside relatively few grounders. His rising strikeout rate is worth keeping an eye on, but that alone isn’t nearly enough to explain his month-to-month drop in production.
Both ZiPS and Steamer have him pegged for a .254 average the rest of the way, which feels way too low given the authority with which Conforto is stinging the ball. Buy low if you can.
Adam Duvall | Cincinnati Reds | OF
Adam Duvall can be in this section of the column, but with a caveat. He is not an all-around fantasy superstar. He is the best source of cheap power in the game and the subject of perhaps the most remarkable ROS projection I’ve ever seen. For that cheap power, he’s a fantastic value and certainly a player worth hanging on to.
Duvall has already socked 16 home runs and FanGraphs Depth Charts likes him to hit 24 more. That’s a relatively conservative aggregate projection system predicting a 26-year old who entered this season with 55 games’ worth of major league experience and an average hovering just a shade above the Mendoza line.
And it’s not crazy. Duvall has cranked 30 homers in a season twice before in the minors. His 305-foot average fly ball ranks 22nd in the league, per Baseball Heat Maps, ahead of proven power hitters like Miguel Cabrera and Chris Carter. Per ESPN’s Home Run Tracker, his average home run distance is better than 400 feet and 13 of his 16 bombs have traveled at least 390 feet.
These are the marks of a truly talented power hitter. Duvall’s average is going to keep dropping, but those home runs aren’t going anywhere.
Julio Urias | Los Angeles Dodgers | SP
The Dodgers aren’t giving up on Julio Urias and neither should you. He got pounded by two of the best teams in baseball; that shouldn’t be the sole referendum on any pitcher’s fantasy value, let alone a 19-year old.
Urias is still spitting fire from the left side, averaging 93.4 mph on his heater. No qualified lefty starter can match that velocity.
His elevated walk rate is concerning, mostly because of how out of character it is for a pitcher who averaged right around two walked per nine innings since the beginning of 2015, but I think it’s just jitters. The ability to throw strike one is an excellent leading indicator of control, and Urias’ 57.5% is just a couple ticks below average. It’s not great, but it’s certainly not something that should correspond to a 12.5% walk rate.
If you spent the draft or FAAB capital to acquire Urias, it’s in your best interests to give him at least a couple more starts to adjust to big league competition. He’s the best pitching prospect in the game for a reason.