Fantasy Baseball Week 5 Waiver Wire: 3 to Cut, 3 to Catch, 3 to Keep
Welcome as always to 3×3. This week, we’re cutting J.P. Arencibia, keeping Carlos Gomez, and catching Nolan Arenado and Jose Veras. I’m also introducing a new wrinkle, a list of add/drop/trade options as points of comparison for each player on the list.
3 TO CUT
J.P. Arencibia, Toronto Blue Jays C
If you drafted J.P. Arencibia, you knew exactly what you were getting: one of the best power hitters at his position, and not much else. So far, he’s delivered exactly that, hitting eight home runs through his first 96 plate appearances to go along with a sub-.250 batting average and a microscopic walk rate. It’s a best case scenario, but unfortunately, it’s not going to last.
Arencibia is one of the more aggressive (and perhaps misguided) hitters in baseball. So far this season, he’s one of only nine hitters to swing at more than half of the pitchers he sees, but whiff on more than 15% of his swings.
Since Arencibia broke into the majors in 2010, only five hitters have struck out in a greater percentage of their plate appearances. Yet somehow, the Jays catcher has managed to outdo himself, raising his strikeout rate to 38.5% this season, almost a full ten percentage points above his career average.
If he keeps this up, pitchers are just going to stop throwing him strikes. Of the 15 players who have whiffed on more than 15% of their swings this season, only five have seen more strikes than Arencibia.
He wasn’t likely to keep up his current 25% HR/FB rate anyway; seeing fewer strikes certainly won’t help.
Arencibia might end up with 30 homers by the time October rolls around, but now that you’ve locked down about a third of that production (in about a fifth of his season), it’s time to move on. Trade him to a power hungry owner, preferably one with with a struggling catcher.
Wandy Rodriguez, Pittsburgh Pirates SP
Wandy Rodriguez has had a renaissance April during his first full season in Pittsburgh, winning two of his first four starts and posting a 1.66 ERA. His strikeouts are up from last year, and he’s walking fewer batters than ever before.
Unfortunately, it’s all a mirage.
Prior to a slight uptick this season, Rodriguez’ strikeout rate has been on a steady downward trend since 2008. His swinging strike rate has followed a similar pattern, only without the bounceback this Spring. His current 6.7% mark is a career low and ranks him behind pitch-to-contact all stars like Zach McAllister, Mark Buehrle, and Brett Myers.
Rodriguez’ zone percentage is also up significantly, which, along with his lowered walk rate, indicates he’s pitching to more contact. It’s obviously worked well so far, but once his BABIP (.200) and strand rate (86%) experience the unfavorable regression for which they are undoubtedly destined, his lack of swing-and-miss stuff is going to result in quite a few more runners crossing the plate.
You won’t be able to pull off a deal with Wandy as the centerpiece, but if a prospective trade partner needs a little bit of an extra push, throw him in. It’ll make your offer seem sweeter, even though you’ll likely be able to grab a starter of comparable value off the waiver wire as soon as the deal is done.
Chris Johnson, Atlanta Braves 3B
Chris Johnson has finally snagged an everyday gig in Atlanta, which makes it the perfect time to trade him.
As I type, Johnson is hitting .385, a full 105 points above his career average and good enough to lead the National League. Unsurprisingly, he’s been a bit lucky on balls in play, posting an outrageous .458 BABIP through his first 20 games. Even with a line drive rate hovering around 25%, that’s not going to continue.
Most of his underlying numbers are right in line with his career averages. You know, the same career averages that ZiPS uses to project Johnson for a .266 average and 12 home runs the rest of the way.
Johnson has always been a bit mismatched as the right-handed half of a platoon; the fact that he’s hit better against righties than lefties for his career actually bodes well for his prospects to hold the third base job long term. Still, there’s a good reason he wasn’t given the job outright prior to this season, and he’s never going to be a more desirable commodity than he is right now.
3 TO CATCH
Nolan Arenado, Colorado Rockies 3B
Wow. Nolan Arenado’s 2013 line is stunning. His walk rate is 25%, his strikeout rate is 0%, and he’s been criminally unlucky, suffering from a .000 BABIP.
Oh, right, he’s only played one game in the majors.
Although Arenado just recently turned 22 years old, that fact is a little bit surprising. I mean, there were rumors that Arenado would break camp as Colorado’s starting third baseman last year.
Back then, he was Keith Law’s 26th ranked prospect. After his good, not great 2012 season in AA was overshadowed by questions about his maturity, Arenado dropped out of Law’s Top 100 and off the radar for most fantasy leagues.
Those lingering questions about Arenado’s makeup and commitment surely had a hand in delaying Arenado’s promotion, but after the .364/.392/.667 line he posted through his first 75 AAA plate appearances, the Rockies couldn’t deny him a chance in the big leagues any longer.
Arenado isn’t likely to be a superstar right away, but he’s a solid, well-rounded hitter. Those sorts of hitters can be quite helpful to a fantasy team, especially when they get to play half of their games at Coors Field. Most importantly, unlike last week’s most hyped call-up, Nationals prospect Anthony Rendon, Arenado has a great chance to hold an everyday job the rest of the way.
He should be added in all but the shallowest of formats.
To pick him up, I’d drop: Anthony Rendon, Mike Moustakas, Chris Johnson
Andrew Cashner, San Diego Padres SP
Cashner has been nothing short of overpowering so far this season, chucking 95 mile-per-hour heat on two thirds of his offerings and generating whiffs on over 12% of those fastballs.
12% doesn’t sount particularly impressive, that is until you consider that Clayton Kershaw has generated whiffs on just 8.3% of his fastballs and Justin Verlander has induced a swing-and-miss on only 7.9% of his.
After beginning the season in the bullpen, Cashner has been solid in two starts, striking out ten against only two walks in ten innings.
In any mixed league with fewer than 14 teams, Cashner should absolutely be owned. The possible upside with a pitcher like Cashner makes him absolutely worth the risk, especially knowing that there will always be a capable replacement available in those sorts of leagues. It’s perfectly fine to drop a more consistent performer to take a chance on Cashner’s upside.
Jose Veras, Houston Astros RP
Heading into this season, Jose Veras was unquestionably the least appreciated closer in baseball; a player unproven in the role and pitching for a team not expected to generate many wins, let alone save chances.
Veras and the Astros haven’t exactly exceeded expectations in the save category (he has two so far), but the ‘Stros closer has performed well enough to deserve ownership in more than the 37% of Yahoo! leagues in which he currently occupies a roster spot.
I understand that the Astros are a historically terrible team, but still, saves are saves and Veras’ hold on the Astros’ closing gig is completely unchallenged. He leads all Astros relievers in FIP (1.86) and K/9 (9.31). He’s cut his walk rate to a career low and boosted his swinging strike rate to a career high.
Veras is a very good relief pitcher with a kung fu grip on the closer job. Yeah, he happens to be on a crappy team, but that fact isn’t nearly as important as you think.
Even if the Astros reach the 100 loss mark yet again, a full year in the closer’s gig will almost surely net somewhere between 20 and 30 saves for Veras. He should be owned in all formats.
3 TO KEEP
Carlos Gomez, Milwaukee Brewers OF
Since the second half of last season, Carlos Gomez has looked like a new man. Not only did he pull up his previously putrid batting average, he added power to his game for the first time in his career. In 274 second half plate appearances, Gomez hit .278/.321/.488 with 14 home runs and 26 steals. Simply doubling those numbers would yield an unrealistic, almost Trout-like projection, but so far this season, Gomez has proven that last fall wasn’t a fluke.
He hasn’t homered or swiped with the same frequency, but his underlying numbers support the notion that Gomez has turned a corner.
He’s never going to walk much, which will limit his value in OBP leagues, but Gomez has significantly cut back on his strikeout rate. He’ll still swing-and-miss more often than the average hitter, but the 18.3% strikeout rate he’s posted so far this year is actually a couple of points below the league average.
His HR/FB rate is exactly what it was last season (14.3%), but his overall batted ball profile has shifted to match better to his skillset. Previously a victim of Willie Mays Hayes Syndrome (when a speedy hitter hits too many fly balls), Gomez has cut his fly ball rate under 40% for the first time in three years, eschewing an elevated number of pop-ups for career-high line drive rate.
Gomez’ .390 BABIP seems primed for regression, but with this new batted ball profile and his blazing speed, I’d expect it to settle at least 30 points above his career .306 mark.
The steals and homers will come, and probably with a better batting average that you expected heading into the season. I’d pencil him in for 15/30, with an outside chance for 20/40, and a batting average around .275.
If you’re lucky enough to be in one of the 17% of Yahoo! leagues in which Gomez is still available, scoop him up now. If you’ve already got him, expect a solid season.
Casey Janssen, Toronto Blue Jays RP
Through his first eight innings of 2013, Casey Janssen has faced 27 batters. He’s struck out 11 and walked none. Of the 16 batters who have put the ball in play, nine have hit a ground ball and only three have reached base. He’s converted each of his six save chances and has allowed only one run in his eight outings.
Yes, it’s a pixel-sized sample, but good lord those are some impressive numbers.
The stats below the surface are just as impressive; Janssen is beating the career bests he set last year in both swinging strike rate and contact rate.
And by the way, he’s still not fully healthy after offseason shoulder surgery.
It’s probably misguided to make the “If he’s this good when he’s hurt, he’ll be unstoppable when he’s healthy” argument, but…
If he’s this good when he’s hurt, he’ll be unstoppable when he’s healthy!
Janssen is a legitimate top ten closer and should be treated as such.
Jean Segura, Milwaukee Brewers SS
A .400 BABIP has fueled Jean Segura’s sizzling start, but even as that fades back toward his career average, there’s plenty to be excited about.
Segura’s batted ball profile has shifted from last year; while the majority of his contact still comes on the ground, he’s hitting significantly more line drives and fly balls than last season. Nobody’s going to confuse Segura for Troy Tulowitzki, but it does appear that he’s making an effort to drive the ball, rather than just putting it in play.
Only 23, Segura’s still growing into his power, but he has shown the ability to hit double-digit homers in his minor league career. But you didn’t draft Segura for his power, you drafted him for his speed.
Segura’s seven swipes in 166 plate appearances last season put him on pace for about 25 with a full year’s worth of at bats. That’d be just fine for this year, but Segura has already tied his 2012 total, in just over half as many plate appearances. Part of this comes from his .386 OBP, a 71 point jump from last season, but even when his OBP settles in the .340 range, it’s clear he’s going to be aggressive enough on the basepaths to steal upwards of 30 bases.
When I get my fill I’m chilly chill: @gerardowrites