2016 Fantasy Baseball Week 2 Waiver Wire: 3 to Catch, 3 to Cut, 3 to Keep
A couple notes before we get going:
I’m going to switch up the format a little bit this year. It’s been getting a bit stale IMHO, so I’m going to play around with a few things surrounding the main 3×3 construct. In the end, I write this because it’s fun for me and (hopefully) helpful for you, so please let me know what you think or if there’s anything you’d like to see in here. I never want to disappoint you guys; I always want this to be useful and fun to read. Last season, I felt like my writing was robotic, that I’d given up a bit of my personality in order to adhere to my format. Back in 2013, I led this column with a breathless love letter to Brett Anderson. I wasn’t doing stuff like that anymore. So I’ve decided I’m going to commit to having a little more fun with it this season.
Thoughts, questions, whatever… you can always find me on Twitter.
I’M NOT GOING TO MAKE A “STORY” PUN
In the spirit of changing things up, let’s start with a little aside, a question that I’m sure is burning in the minds of many fantasy owners: “What the hell do I do with Trevor Story?”
His start is literally unprecedented, with now seven home runs in his first week as a MLB player. By FanGraphs’ numbers, Story has yet to hit a ball softly this season.
There are two ways to approach such a meteoric rise.
For the casual owner, I’d recommend just riding it out. It’s really fun to own the guy whose highlights lead the “A” block of MLB Tonight every night. It’s fun to get jealous texts from your leaguemates. It’s fun as hell to own Trevor Story, and if fun is your primary reason for playing fantasy baseball, then I can’t in good conscience tell you to deal him away.
The more calculating owner is probably leaning more toward a trade. I own him in one league and I’m not planning to trade him, but in pursuit of minimizing risk, I can’t deny that it makes a whole lot of sense to flip Story for a more predictable commodity.
So for the wheelers and dealers among you, I have this simple bit of advice. If you’re going to get value by trading Trevor Story, you’re probably going to have to be kind of a dick about it. You’re going to have to ask for more than you know you deserve and hope that somebody else does something stupid. You’re going to have to choose to ignore the fact that Story probably isn’t going to finish with MVP-level numbers, that he strikes out too much and hits an unconscionable number of fly balls, and that major league pitchers will certainly learn ways to get him out as they accumulate more experience against him. You have to ignore all of this and treat him like what he’s been, which is nothing short of the best player in baseball so far. If you can get a struggling star for him (Nolan Arenado, George Springer, and Mookie Betts were all BABIPing below .170 heading into Sunday’s action), it’s a no-brainer.
On to the normal stuff!
3 TO CATCH
Players to be picked up; available in most standard leagues
Delino DeShields | Texas Rangers | OF
I’m typically not one to make outlandish predictions, but in the spirit of changing things up, let’s make one.
Delino DeShields is going to lead MLB in stolen bases.
Had I written anything before the season (yeah, that’s my bad), I would have written that. And despite a fugly .158 batting average and a puzzling .231 BABIP, the first seven games of DeShields’ season have only made me feel better about this prediction.
His already advanced strike zone palette has somehow become even more refined. Just as he did last season, DeShields is laying off more than 82% of pitches outside the strike zone, but improved sequencing and an even more patient approach against strikes has led to a massive 20.0% walk rate through his first 25 plate appearances. When he makes contact, less than 20% of his batted balls take to the skies, a perfect profile for a player with his wheels.
DeShields’ baserunning efficiency hasn’t been quite as good (he’s 2-for-3 in steal attempts so far), but the fact that he’s already tried to burgle three bags despite safely reaching base only eight times is incredibly encouraging. Let’s not forget that while Billy Hamilton was stealing our hearts as a minor leaguer, DeShields rolled up a largely unnoticed 204 stolen bases from 2012-2014.
And unlike Hamilton, DeShields has actually proven that he can hit major league pitching.
Chris Tillman | Baltimore Orioles | SP
Early in the season, I like to use one spot at the back end of my roster (in shallower leagues) to just cycle through starting pitchers. It’s not a streaming strategy, more of a coordinated sampling program. Instead of committing to one large cheeseburger, I’m ordering a platter of assorted sliders.
And with that framework in mind, I think Chris Tillman is worth a look, even coming off the exceptionally odd start to his year.
After getting off to the best start of his life (five strikeouts through two innings), Tillman’s season debut was interrupted by a rain delay. In his second start, a presumably well-rested but slightly less impressive Tillman carved up the Rays en route to his first win of the year.
His excellent performance in those seven innings has been backed by a noticeable uptick in both the velocity and whiff rate on his fourseamer.
It’s an encouraging trend, especially since it can’t be fully explained by just early season freshness, as Tillman hasn’t shown this kind of spike at the outset of the last couple of seasons.
Jean Segura | Arizona Diamondbacks | 2B/SS
I know, I know, we’ve already seen this movie and it doesn’t end well for the earnest, excited fantasy baseball writer. Jean Segura has tantalized and titillated us in the past, always soaring briefly before ultimately deflating like a week-old helium balloon.
But if you’re not willing to give Segura a shot now, who exactly are you choosing instead? Trevor Story’s historic rise aside, shortstop is a tire fire this season. Heading into the year, FanGraphs DepthCharts projected only two starting shortstops to hit better than .275, only two to hit at least 20 home runs, and just five (including Segura) to steal more than 20 bases. If you don’t have Story or Carlos Correa, you could probably stand to consider an upgrade.
Even if he might break your heart, Segura is the best option available for owners in need of a middle infielder.
3 TO CUT
Players to be traded or dropped, depending on the depth of your league
Steven Souza, Jr. | Tampa Bay Rays | OF
Steven Souza, Jr. is off to a sizzling start, but don’t misconstrue this as a huge step in his development curve. He’s still hacking at everything. Souza swings at three out of every four pitches in the strike zone and comes up empty on a ridiculous 21.7% of his cuts. He’ll have runs like this throughout the season, but they’ll almost certainly be balanced by a hefty helping of 0-fers. Souza’s power and speed are fantastic, but he won’t hit for average and at the bottom of a mediocre lineup, he won’t drive in or score many runs either. Now’s a great time to shop him.
Ken Giles | Houston Astros | RP
Ken Giles is a fantastic pitcher, but unfortunately, his fantasy value in shallow leagues has been torpedoed by factors completely outside his control. Because of salary arbitrators’ antiquated reliance on statistics like saves and RBI as key factors in contract negotiations, Houston has a gigantic financial incentive to keep its young fireballer out of the ninth inning.
Sam Miller of Baseball Prospectus summarizes the situation well here (the Giles talk starts at about 14:30) but suffice it to say, Giles is unlikely to be allowed to win the closer job, no matter how well he pitches.
When the Astros traded for Giles this offseason, I expect they did it knowing the team would stick with Luke Gregerson as its closer. And that’s a defensible decision, Gregerson converted 31 of his 36 save chances last season, whiffing a tidy 24.7% of opposing hitters and setting a career best with a 4.2% walk rate. There’s nothing in that line that screams “REPLACE ME!” And unless Gregerson gets injured, Giles probably won’t.
Albert Pujols | Los Angeles Angels | 1B
Albert Pujols and the Angels finally broke through on Saturday night, winning in walk-off fashion on a vintage Pujols gapper after Mike Trout was intentionally walked.
It was the first positive moment for the Halos all season, but don’t get it twisted, this is not the start of a rebound for Pujols or his team. The non-Trout components of the LA lineup still leave a ton to be desired, with Pujols leading the way.
We don’t have much history with Statcast data, but the fact that Pujols’ 92.3 mph average batted ball velocity is only a couple of ticks above MLB average makes his .150 BABIP and plus-50% groundball rate a heckuva lot more concerning. Morales is another aging, lumbering slugger facing similar struggles, but even he’s sporting a 95-plus mph batted ball velocity.
It’s very possible that I’m wrong here, but I do think it’s at least worth sampling Pujols’ trade market to see if you can unload some risk.
3 TO KEEP
Players to hold or trade for; owned in most standard leagues
Noah Syndergaard | New York Mets | SP
(h/t Amazin Avenue)
It’s already pretty easy to argue that Syndergaard is the most impressive stallion in the Mets’ stable of young arms. Pretty soon, it’ll be just as easy to argue that he’s the best pitcher in baseball. The guy who already had a fastball that peak Justin Verlander would be jealous of has now added a laser cannon slider that’s poised to break pitchF/X’s categorization algorithm.
Syndergaard is the kid you played in Goldeneye who talked you into playing “Golden Gun Mode”, then immediately found the superweapon and spent the next few minutes trotting around the Facility gleefully popping all of the other players in the forehead.
Noah, this is getting unfair.
Collin McHugh | Houston Astros | SP
It couldn’t have reasonably started any worse. Collin McHugh was tattooed by the Yankees in his season debut. Five of the seven batters he faced reached safely and in the end, McHugh was stuck with a six-run tab in only a third of an inning of work.
However, there is reason to believe that his early-season ride on the strugglebus will be short-lived. Starting around the Fourth of July in 2015, McHugh recalibrated his pitch mix, leaning more on his cutter and going to his fourseamer less often.
From July 4th through the end of last season, McHugh logged a 3.26 ERA and 3.10 FIP, with 87 strikeouts in 102 innings. In his first start this season, he threw cutters over 60% of the time; results aside, it’s at least encouraging to see the adjustment from last season carrying over.
McHugh’s strength is his putaway curveball; his hard stuff is nothing more than a setup for that excellent offering. He’ll never overpower anybody, but changes like this can help to keep the opposition off balance.
Luis Severino | New York Yankees | SP
Luis Severino’s 5.40 ERA looks ugly. His 2.00 WHIP looks worse.
In his first start in what will likely be his first full season as a big leaguer, the young Yankee gave up ten hits and a .536 BABIP in his start against the Tigers, but whiffed nine against no walks in just five innings. On a chilly day in Detroit, Severino controlled just about everything he could; he just happened to suffer from a few extra grounders leaking their way through the infield.
His potential remains as infinite as his strikeout-to-walk ratio.