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2015 Fantasy Baseball: Replacements for Adam Wainwright

Unless you’ve managed to spend the last few days away from Twitter, you probably already know that Adam Wainwright is likely out for the season. Before the injury, Steamer and ZiPS had him pegged for 175 and 186 innings, respectively, while racking up double digit wins. Waino has pitched at least 198 innings since the 2009 season and is a huge loss for any fantasy owner. This has forced many owners to panic as they struggle to find a replacement. Below are three pitchers that can likely be found sitting in your league’s free agent pool. In an ode to a site I wrote for last year, The Fantasy Report, this is a throwback to a series I did called the 25% and under league.  For all of the following players, their ownership rates will be shown in parenthesis, listing the Yahoo rate first, then ESPN.

Jesse Chavez (9%, 2.9%) 

There’s an enormous difference between those two figures, but regardless of your league’s format, there’s at least a 91% chance that Chavez can be picked up for free. He’s thrown just 216 innings since the start of the 2012 season but has been pretty valuable when in the rotation.

2012 2 57.1 8.63 3.14 0.47 .281 3.92 3.01 3.36
2013 8 146.0 8.38 3.02 1.05 .302 3.45 3.89 3.64
2014 0 12.2 9.24 2.84 0.71 .161 0.71 3.19 3.25

While he’s only started one game this season, Kendall Graveman was recently sent down to AAA, clearing the way for Chavez to step back into the rotation. His BABIP and ERA are undoubtedly going to rise, but for the most part, his peripherals are in line with his tenure in Oakland. For the price of absolutely nothing, Chavez may be waiting in the free agent pool ready to get the call.

Brandon Morrow (19%,13.8%)

Morrow has been injured on and off for a few seasons now, but so far he seems to be healthy. After spending all of his career in the American League, Morrow made the jump to San Diego; a move that has paid off tremendously through three starts. While his K/9 (6.75) is significantly lower than his career average (9.29), his BB/9 is at an all-time best and his peripherals are sound. Morrow currently owns an ERA of 3.15, an FIP of 2.93, and a SIERA of 3.44. His HR/9 of 0.45 is going to rise, but playing in Petco Park will undoubtedly help him. In his final season as a Blue Jay, Morrow’s home stadium yielded a HR Park Factor of 1.31, however early in 2015, Petco’s park factor is .773. If he can manage to pitch for a full season, Morrow is definitely worth a roster spot and can be a quick fix for the Wainwright problem.

Tim Lincecum (20%,15.9%)

It’s incredible just how far Lincecum has fallen in four seasons. In 2011, he was worth 4.0 fWAR, but since then, has been worth just 3.3 fWAR. There was hope that 2015 would be different, as he repaired the relationship between himself and his father. Lincecum was able to work with the man that essentially crafted him to be a major league pitcher throughout the offseason, and reports from spring training were good. While the velocity is still no where to be found, the early returns have been good and show that Lincecum may be adapting to his lowered velocity.

2012 10 186.0 9.19 4.35 1.11 .309 5.18 4.18 4.05
2013 10 197.2 8.79 3.46 0.96 .300 4.37 3.74 3.68
2014 12 155.2 7.75 3.64 1.10 .299 4.74 4.31 3.95
2015 1 18.0 7.00 3.50 0.50 .292 2.00 3.36 3.76

Simply having better results through 18 innings however isn’t a declaration of anything. If the results were without a notable change, they’d likely be nothing more than a hot streak, but Lincecum actually has two factors at play. His career ground-ball rate is 46.9%, but in 2015 is at an all-time high of 60.4%. Lincecum’s heatmaps have also changed dramatically, as his 2014 and 2015 data shows. It’s going to be hard for Big Time Timmy Jim to lose his reputation as a washed up starter, but he’s at least on the right track so far in 2015.

There are always impact players that can be picked up for nothing throughout the season, and routinely combing the free agent list will pay off in the long run. Jacob deGrom was almost an unknown on May 14th, but on November 11th was awarded the ROY award.

As an aside, Dodgers sensation Alexander Guerrero is owned in just 30% of Yahoo Leagues and only 24.8% of ESPN leagues.  While it’s far too early to make any definitive statements on his overall outlook, Guerrero is hitting .474/.476/1.211 through his first 10 games in 2015. His ISO is .737, which for context is .201 points higher than any single season that Barry Bonds produced, and will drop furiously over the next few weeks. Before that happens however, it would be foolish to let Guerrero sit in your league unowned while you could reap the benefits of his incredible streak. He’s listed as an outfielder in Yahoo but at second base in ESPN and can obviously fulfill the UTIL slot in all formats.

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