*THE FOLLOWING ARTICLE PERTAINS SPECIFICALLY TO 10-16 TEAM ROTISSERIE AND HEAD-TO-HEAD FANTASY LEAGUES*
Every week, I’ll provide a list of current waiver-wire players who are widely available (no more than 50% owned in ESPN standard leagues), and break them down with a detailed analysis. Said analysis is to explain why each player would be worth considering when you’re aiming to add a particular player to your fantasy team. Mostly all positions will be covered in some capacity each week, so be sure to stay tuned!
Ahh, the first week of baseball. Green grass, jet fighters flying over packed stadiums, and pesky adolescents skipping school. Couple that with the emergence of the Spring season and some immediately warm weather and you can make the case that these past seven days were quite refreshing. Unfortunately, most of us can’t bask in the sun forever, especially since the start of the baseball season also means the commencement of our fantasy season. Managing our lineups and keeping them in tip-top shape can seem just as maddeningly exhausting as watching Jose Valverde close out ballgames, so thankfully we’ve got baseball stats and a whole lot of available online information to rely on. I truly believe that research and a firm understanding of who you own are keys to winning it all come September, and suffice to say that marriage of knowledge starts with working the waiver wire.
Since this post is only following the first 5-6 games of the regular season, it’s important to take anything and everything with a grain of salt. Plenty of owners in my public leagues have already ran into “Panic” mode, and have dropped nearly half their team (for example, David Wright, Pedro Alvarez, and Hunter Pence were all on waivers in one of them yesterday.) You just need to remember that baseball players are still human beings like the rest of us – even Clayton Kershaw, who currently owns a 5.84 ERA, and Giancarlo Stanton, who’s currently slugging .211. With that in mind, let’s go shopping and try to find a player out there who just might be capable of filling in a hole in your team that’s just been exposed.
Anthony Gose, OF (45.7%) and Jose Iglesias, SS (47.7%,) Detroit Tigers
The Detroit Tigers are partying like it’s 1984, and they’re sure as hell hitting like it, too. They lead the Majors right now with 47 runs scored (7.8 per game!), with a .355/.433/.550 team slash line and .983 OPS. It’s no surprise that they’ve kicked off the year with a 6-0 start. However, one would find it hard to believe that Anthony Gose and Jose Iglesias played bigger parts in the team’s overall offensive output than Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez.
Anthony Gose: .450 avg, .450 OBP, .800 SLG., 1.250 OPS, 6 R, 1 HR, 5 RBI, 1 SB
Jose Iglesias: .526 avg, .550 OBP, .579 SLG., 1.129 OPS, 4 R, 2 SB, 0% K rate
Miguel Cabrera: .520 avg, .586 OBP, .840 SLG., 1.426 OPS, 4 R, 2 HR, 8 RBI, 1 SB
Victor Martinez: .286 avg, .444 OBP, .286 SLG., .730 OPS, 0 R, 3 RBI
There are two things you must consider as I run this comparison: 1) Even in a small sample size, one simply cannot keep up with Miguel Cabrera’s production, and 2) Gose and Iglesias are both performing way, way, way over their heads right now.
That last part will probably have you begging to wonder why I’d even consider them as worthwhile waiver-wire options. The answer for which is simple: small sample sizes could help you win now. The Tigers are obviously running on all cylinders at the moment, and both guys are immediately cashing in. Especially Gose, who has the distinct advantage of leading off ahead of Kinsler, Miggy, and V-Mart. So long as they stay hot (which won’t matter much, because all three are great hitters on a regular basis,) Gose will score runs quite literally all the time. He also has a lot of speed, as evidenced by both his minor league track record (45+ stolen bases in 4 of his 5 seasons between A-AAA ball) and his relatively small Major League rap sheet (15 swipes in 94 GS for Toronto in 2014.) Between him and Iglesias, I’d most certainly rather have Gose, particularly because he is capable of getting on base with his eyes (9.1 BB rate last season,) and has lived off of a .300+ BABIP for practically his entire professional career. Pick him up immediately, ride the hot streak, and hope that he can sustain relevance past the end of April. Chances are, he can.
As for Iglesias, we are definitely looking at a streaker who’s mainly getting so much attention right now because he’s positioned at a relatively shallow position. As I run through his numbers again and again, I fail to ignore his meager 4.8% BB rate and .526 BABIP (which is “coincidentally” identical to his batting average.) This means he’s bound to fall off the table soon. On top of that, Iglesias has NO power (.079 career ISO in 486 PA) and hasn’t flashed much speed (8 career MLB stolen bases.)Hopefully, those 2 bags he’s swiped so far will be the start of a 10-15 steal campaign – the kind that he hinted at in the minors. But even so, we’re looking at an 8-hole hitter with no one to drive him in, and not much more than the promise of a .300 average beyond maybe 40-50 RBI (In other words, Marco Scutaro from 2-3 years ago.) Again however, you might as well enjoy the wave he’s surfing on before the tide comes in. Just understand that he’s more of a cortisone shot to the hip than the full surgery and recovery.
Pretty Much the Entire Oakland Athletics Lineup
The most ironic ballclub in Major League Baseball continues to make people scratch their heads, as the Oakland Athletics rank 2nd in the Majors in runs scored, despite starting Opening Day with Josh Donaldson traded away, Brandon Moss in Cleveland, and Coco Crisp on the DL. Their hot start can be attributed to a motley crew of no-bodies who’ve come from out of left field, and have promoted a considerable degree of fantasy relevance.
The first of which is Ike Davis (0.3%,) who has got to be striving to prove something out there with the green-and-gold. with 4 runs scored, 4 runs driven in and a .316 batting clip, he’s hit the ground running. I expect this level of production to fade a tad, but not to the point where you can’t roster him anywhere. He draws plenty of walks, and has a 10%+ walk rate in every one of his professional baseball seasons, so any sudden rise in BABIP (like the .429 mark he has right now) will make him a top-15 first baseman by season’s end – especially when you factor in his 25-homer power. All the guy really needs is a little bit of luck.
Same thing goes for Brett Lawrie (25.3%,) though I doubt the change in scenery will instantly turn his career around. Like Davis, he’s had the misfortune of battling a poor career BABIP for what seems like forever now, but also like Davis he carries the batted ball skills necessary to post a solid stat line if his .311 mark from 2011 rears its head again. His career 11.3 HR/FB rate and .159 ISO also leaves some optimism for another breakout season, and that could happen at any given moment. Unfortunately for him, though, he’s still not walking enough (6.5 BB rate) and striking out too much (25.8% K rate), so his upside remains capped in a 12 ounce soda bottle. If you absolutely need a middle or corner infielder, you could do better, but you could also do much worse.
There are three other Athletic hitters who’ve contributed handsomely this week (well, two did, one just came back,) and I have reason to believe that they’ll be the most valuable of the overall bunch by the end of the season. Say hello to Mark Canha (9.2%,) a power bat with some neat minor league stats. Although he’s yet to register a walk in the Majors this season, he has managed to limit the strikeouts (8% K rate) and his 10%+ career minor league walk entails that he’s pretty good at taking pitches. He’s also the recipient of 6 RBI already, with a homer and a .560 SLG.; signs that his performance in AAA last season (20 homeruns, 82 RBI, .505 SLG.) could transfer over to the Bigs. This is an exciting player to watch in deeper leagues, because his career numbers suggest a sleeper is in the making; from batting average and on-base percentage, to batted ball profile and power numbers. The only thing potentially holding him back is playing time, with the A’s featuring a crowded outfield even without Crisp playing right now, and a infield consisting of Billy Butler, Stephen Vogt, and Ike Davis who I mentioned earlier. However, he found his way into the starting lineup yesterday, even despite the fact that Josh Reddick came back from the DL and Oakland was facing Felix Hernandez, a dominant right-handed starting pitcher. Nonetheless, Canha’s gonna have to hit until the cows come home if he expects to play everyday, but I think for right now he’s worth an add in knee-deep mixed leaguers and all AL-Only regardless of what role he has down the line.
People have been asking me about Marcus Semien lately, but since I haven’t been able to see him hit yet in 2015, I don’t know what kind of conclusion I could draw up from his current .296 batting average and 6 RBI. What I can do, however, is perhaps provide a template of what value he could have to your fantasy team. ZiPS and Steamer project about a .240 batting average. 15-17 homers, and 60-75 RBI. For a guy who registers as both a second baseman and a shortstop, that’s a steal. Better yet is the fact that his minor league numbers reflect those projections, including his 19-homer, 60-RBI campaign back in 2013. Since he upped his performance in AAA last season with 20+ homers and 80+ RBI, we just might have ourselves the next Ian Desmond in a couple of years. Semien is not the be-all and end-all for those looking for infield help, but if that’s your weakness you have to try him out for the next couple of weeks.
Josh Reddick is the one guy in Oakland I’d feel comfortable picking up without hesitation. No matter what the skeptics will make of his oblique strain in Spring Training, or his poor overall output in 2014, Reddick seems primed to return to his 30-homer, 90-RBI ceiling – remember that he was shelved last year for a knee injury before putting together a .299/.337/.533 slash line with 8 homers after the All-Star Break. If his knee is in the same shape now as it was then, there’s no reason to bet against a bounce-back campaign from the 28-year old. Since the outfield position is incredibly deep, however, I’d wait and see with him a bit before pouncing. But that’s only if your outfield is already well taken care of.
Adam Lind, 1B, Milwaukee Brewers (46.4%)
I’ll keep this one short. Adam Lind is a value play in daily leagues with his ability to mash right-handed pitching like nobody’s business. He also came into the season for a rather cheap price, as hardly anyone drafted him in most leagues due to a disappoint 94 games played and 6 home runs last year. This makes him a sneaky first baseman to pick up in deeper leagues, and I think that his 7.3% HR/FB rate from last year will be corrected with a healthy dose of dingers in Milwaukee. He’ll be a boost in batting average (.300 batting average over the last two seasons), hit for above-average power, and find himself sandwiched between Ryan Braun and Aramis Ramirez basically everytime he’s in the lineup (which is usually against righties, and only righties.)
Mike Moustakas, 3B, Kansas City Royals (37.7%)
For reasons I can’t truly explain, the Royals have been slotting Mike Moustakas into the two-hole, and for the most part it’s been a huge success. His two homers and 6 RBI can attain to that. What impresses me so far about Moustakas, though, is that he’s continued to improve his plate discipline. Although we’re still talking about a small sample size, he’s walked just below 7% of the time (which is almost higher than any other mark he’s ever put up in the Majors so far,) and has only struck out 10% of the time (which is lower than any other mark he’s ever put up in the Majors so far.) Anyone who cuts down on Ks and sees more pitches is bound to see their batting average go up, and in the Moose’s case, he’s currently enjoying a .333 clip and a solid .313 BABIP as a result. Now, no one knows whether or not this is a forecast of the breakout we’ve all been waiting for, but I think he’s both seeing and hitting the ball well right now, which makes him worth a look in most leagues until he cools down.
Kevin Keirmaier, OF, Tampa Bay Rays (18.8%)
Oh, the curious case of Kevin Keirmaier. What we have here is a guy whose Major League track record far supersedes his Minor League numbers in just about every counting stat possible. For example: Keirmaier, since being called up last season, has nearly as many homers in his 378 career plate appearances than in his 1300+ Minor League at-bats combined. Capable of stealing over 25 bases, he has the potential of finishing the year with Carl Crawford-type of numbers, all with a solid average and ample number of runs scored from the leadoff spot. The opportunity is there, with Tampa Bay clearing the way for both him and Steven Souza, Jr. to strut their stuff everyday, so keep a keen eye on him in whatever league you’re playing in.
Other hitters to consider: Angel Pagan, OF, San Francisco Giants (58.3%,) Derek Norris, C, San Diego Padres (36.8%,) Devon Travis, 2B, Toronto Blue Jays (18.7%,) Kendrys Morales, 1B, Kansas City Royals (15.3%,) DJ LeMahieu, 2B, Colorado Rockies (14.2%,) Jake Lamb, 3B, Arizona Diamondbacks (12.6%,) Stephen Vogt, 1B, Oakland Athletics (10.6%,) Travis Snider, OF, Baltimore Orioles (11.9%,) Dalton Pompey, OF, Toronto Blue Jays (10.6%,) Dustin Ackley, 2B, Seattle Mariners (6.3%,) Seth Smith, OF, Seattle Mariners (3.3%)