Fantasy Baseball Week 1 Waiver Wire: 3 to Cut, 3 to Catch, 3 to Keep
Welcome to fantasy baseball’s answer to “Marry, Bop, Kill” – “3 to Cut, 3 to Catch, 3 to Keep”.
Each week, I’ll recommend three players to cut, whether by trade or drop, three players to catch, whether by waivers or the trade market, and three players to keep, despite any upcoming turbulence.
Let’s get it on.
3 TO CUT
Ryan Braun, Milwaukee Brewers OF
Ok, hear me out.
Rumors abound that Ryan Braun is “Public Enemy No. 1” for Major League Baseball’s steroid investigations. He’s already tested positive once for PEDs and now has been mentioned in additional PED-related reports.
I don’t think Braun will be suspended, but it’d be silly to ignore the fact that there’s a much higher than average chance that he’s going to miss some time this season. Yet somehow, fantasy owners seem content to evaluate Braun with no consideration to his outlaw status.
If Braun had incurred a slow-healing injury, say for instance, a badly sprained knee, during Spring Training, but recovered to return to the Opening Day roster, it’d be completely fair for prospective fantasy owners to devalue him just a bit, since we have hard data indicating that he’s more likely to miss significant playing than his contemporaries (Trout, Cabrera, et. al.). He’d drop a bit down draft boards and I’d probably write about how he’s worth a shot at the fourth pick, given the incredible upside potential if he does stay healthy.
Makes sense, right?
Now, explain to me how Braun’s current suspension situation is any different.
I’m not saying he’s any worse of a player. I’m not saying that he ever took or was significantly aided by PEDs. All I’m saying is that now that we know that Braun’s risk of suspension is significantly higher than it would be otherwise, shouldn’t that impact his fantasy value?
If I’ve got Braun, I’m not in a huge hurry to move him, but if I can get a good deal, now’s the time to pull the trigger.
Julio Teheran, Atlanta Braves SP
Julio Teheran established a terrific minor league pedigree and has backed that up with arguably the best Spring Training line of any pitcher in baseball, fanning 35 batters and giving up just seven hits in 26 Spring innings.
It seems like everything’s looking up, until you scroll down to see that Teheran’s career K/9 in MLB is the same as his career ERA: 5.19.
Going into this season, there are two ways to look at Teheran. He’s either a great prospect who happened to have a bad year in 2012, or he’s a formerly great prospect who’s lost the spark that propelled him to the top of the Atlanta Braves system and just so happened to excel against a bunch of crappy hitters for a few weeks in Florida.
I happen to lean slightly toward the latter, but regardless of my individual opinion, this is an undeniable case of the hype outweighing the predictable results. If you can get a a good value from Julio Teheran, move him now.
Sure, there’s a chance he’ll turn into an ace and burn you, but the much more likely outcome is that he’s a league average starter who just costs too much.
Roy Halladay, Philadelphia Phillies RP
It really pains me to put him on this list, but Roy Halladay just isn’t right.
During Spring Training in 2011 and 2012, he pitched 43.2 innings, struck out 43 and walked only nine. In 16.1 innings so far this Spring, Halladay has fanned 16, but walked nine, not to mention the 21 hits he’s surrendered in just six starts.
I’m typically not one to pay too much attention to Spring stats, but for Halladay, I must grudgingly make an exception. Especially when he says stuff like this:
Sounds great Doc!
3 TO CATCH
Emilio Bonifacio, Toronto Blue Jays 2B/OF
Emilio Bonifacio and Maicer Izturis were locked in a dogfight for the starting second base gig in Toronto until Brett Lawrie did us all a favor and landed himself on the 15-day DL. Bonifacio probably owes Lawrie’s ribs a drink.
Now Izurtis slides over to start a 3B and Bonifacio has 2B all to himself, a wonderful development for any fantasy owner in need of some speed.
Bonifacio is more than just your typical “cheap speed”; if he’s able to finagle his way to 600 plate appearances, he’s got a chance to lead the American League in stolen bases.
As a point of comparison, Michael “Expensive Speed” Bourn swiped .06 bases per plate appearance last season. Mike Trout stole .08 bases per plate appearances during his dreamy 2012.
Emilio Bonifacio stole .11 bases per plate appearance last year, snatching 30 bags in only 274 plate appearances. Given the same amount of plate appearances as Bourn logged in 2012, that’d total up to 77 steals in a single season, a number that’s been topped exactly once since the glory days of Rickey Henderson, Tim Raines, and Vince Coleman.
I’m not saying that Bonifacio is going to challenge 80 steals this season, but you won’t often find a guaranteed 40 steal player available in nearly half of Yahoo! leagues for long. Grab him now.
Al Alburquerque, Detroit Tigers RP
The Detroit Tigers bullpen is a mess.
Bruce Rondon can’t find the strike zone, nobody seems to trust Joaquin Benoit, and Phil Coke is Phil Coke. Jim Leyland has said he “might call on anybody,” but he’s an old school guy who likes to have clear roles in his bullpen. He’ll call on anybody for now, but if a Tigers reliever separates himself, that man has a great chance to hold the job long term.
In cases like this, I’ll take the guy with the best stuff. In this case, that guy is Al Alburquerque.
You might remember Alburquerque from that time he challenged the all-time K/9 record, fanning a shade under 14 batters per nine innings during his 2011 debut. One Tommy John surgery later, Alburquerque returned last season to post a 0.68 ERA and punch out 35% of the batters he faced.
He seems to have his game on point heading into this season, fanning 18 in 13 Spring innings.
I can’t promise he’ll get the first save chance for Detroit, but I do think he’s the best value for your fantasy team over the long term.
Mitchell Boggs, St. Louis Cardinals RP
Jason Motte is a terrific pitcher, but in a world where job title outweighs skill set and every outing is a small sample, I’m not counting on Mitchell Boggs kindly keeping his chair warm for him while he’s gone. On top of that, “forearm tightness” isn’t exactly a comforting phrase to hear associated with a pitcher.
Motte fanned more and walked less than Boggs last season, but Boggs’ penchant for limiting offensive damage lends itself well to the closer gig; he allowed only .61 HR/9 last season and limited the opposition to one or fewer hits in 38 of his final 41 appearances.
Mike Matheny is a very smart guy, the kind of smart guy who might realize that it’s silly to confine his best high leverage reliever to the ninth inning just so a few beat writers can call him “closer”. He’s exactly the kind of smart guy who might use this injury to his advantage, letting Boggs settle in to the closer role and sliding Motte into a “fireman” role when he returns.
Of course, with all that in mind, there’s no guarantee that Boggs will register any more than the two or three saves he might pick up in the week before Motte comes back. Still, even that is worth enough to warrant a pickup in just about any format.
3 TO KEEP
Jackie Bradley, Jr., Boston Red Sox OF
Jackie Bradley’s Spring stat line is outrageous (.419/.507/.613), but that’s not why he’s on this list. Anybody who’s owned Jake Fox or Chris Shelton can tell you that Spring stats often do more harm than good when it comes to choosing fantasy teams.
Bradley finds his way into the “Keep” category because he has one valuable, consistent, and completely translatable skill: plate discipline.
In high-A last season, Bradley walked more often than he struck out. In AA, regressed a bit, but still posted 35 walks against just 49 strikeouts. Against (mostly) big league pitching this Spring, he’s walked ten times and struck out ten times.
The void created by David Ortiz’ injury won’t last forever, but even when he’s back, all Bradley has to do is beat out Jonny Gomes, a man whose plate discipline and defense leave quite a bit to be desired.
He may not hit for power or average right away, but Bradley is going to get on base. With a full season’s worth of plate appearances, Bradley will make a strong run at 15/15, along with the 90 or so runs commensurate with having a .350+ OBP in a well-rounded lineup.
Kenley Jansen, Los Angeles Dodgers RP
Remember that thing about Al Alburquerque challenging the all-time K/9 record? Kenley Jansen was even better that year, striking out 44% of the batters he faced, good for a K/9 of 16.1. Just for some perspective, that’s more than double the 6.71 rate that Brandon League has posted over his MLB career.
League isn’t a bad pitcher, he’s just not nearly as talented as Jansen. He’s bound to blow a couple of saves here or there, and as soon as he slips up twice in a week, Don Mattingly will be hounded by an army of Bill Plaschkes calling for him to slot his portly fireballer into the closer role and make all of the Dodgers’ problems go away.
On a team in pursuit of short-term success, led by a manager without the security of a long-term contract, the words of those Bill Plaschkes tend to have a greater impact than we’d all care to admit.
Be patient with Jansen, it’s probably going to happen.
Michael Pineda, New York Yankees SP
I can’t agree with Hal Steinbrenner’s assertion that he’d still make the Pineda-for-Montero deal, knowing what he knows now, however, I’d absolutely snatch up Pineda if I’ve got an open DL slot.
He probably won’t be back until June, but he’s already throwing in the bullpen, which makes me think there won’t be a huge adjustment period. He won’t be the ace that Steinbrenner and the Yankees thought they were getting last winter, but a waiver-wire player who’s struck out more than a batter per inning at every level above A-ball deserves your attention.
Grab and stash Pineda, and monitor his progress during rehab. If he’s able to get his velocity back into the 90’s, he’ll be a great source of strikeouts and WHIP during the second half of the year.
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