November 23, 2014

Fantasy Baseball: Scouting the Waiver Wire — Week 8

I feel as though all I do all week is watch closers get demoted, promoted, released or choose to retire. Another week of upheaval in the closer ranks accompanied a week where injuries ruled the day. It was certainly sad to see Kerry Wood retire, but I’m not sure I’ve seen a better way to go out. Injuries robbed Wood of the chance to live up to his potential.

Let’s see how we can avoid injuries so your fantasy team can live up to its potential.

American League Waiver Wire

Catcher

Ryan Doumit was put on the DL and then he wasn’t. He is certainly injury prone so he should be monitored and could be a candidate to be placed on the DL at a later date. He’s more than 450 PAs only twice in his career. If you need a fill-in for him, the pickings are slim in the AL. Jarrod Saltalmacchia is an option – he’ll strikeout a lot, but has some power. He was injured Friday night. Beyond Salty, keep an eye on Gerald Laird for the Detroit Tigers. Tigers starting catcher Alex Avila has missed some games in the past couple of weeks due to knee issues. Should Avila hit the DL, Laird will be there to pick up the starter’s at bats.

Corner Infielder

Some owners of Albert Pujols of the Anaheim Angels have grown restless. Pujols has hit a couple of HRs this week and looks to be heading back on track. It does seem that Pujols has lost a step. But, he was a few steps ahead of everyone else as a player. If you can get him for 90 cents on the dollar, I’d do it. It’s still only the middle of May and there is a lot of time for Pujols to be a top 20 player overall. Were I a Pujols owner, I’d wait until June 1 before making a move. You will still have an owner or two that will believe in Pujols if you wait two more weeks and should be able to extract the same value in two weeks as you can now.

The Toronto Blue Jays demoted Adam Lind this week and called up Yan Gomes. Gomes may be catcher eligible in your league so he could be intriguing if he stays up and gets semi-regular playing time. He’s hit in his first two games at the major league level and started at 3B. However, the speculation is that Gomes will return to AAA when Brett Lawrie is back from his suspension.

More importantly, who gets Lind’s playing time going forward? The answer is David Cooper. We can expect Cooper to be recalled when Lawrie’s suspension ends. Cooper has a short MLB track record consisting of 81 PAs last year He recorded a .678 OPS during that span. He hit 20 HRs at AA in 2010, but hasn’t shown the power necessary for a first baseman. He will probably hit for a decent average (.275) and get on base, but he won’t have the power you’d like out of your first baseman.

Middle Infielder

The Minnesota Twins seem to have found their starting shortstop in Brian Dozier. However, he is not as good as his early returns have shown. He is a .300+ hitter in the minors, but that is likely the only spot he’ll contribute. He doesn’t have much speed or power. He looks like a “Gardenhire guy” but he’s only your guy if you are in a deep AL-only league.

Elliot Johnson has a .444 OBP over the last 14 days for the Tampa Bay Rays. He will likely go down as the man who was placed on the 40-man roster over Josh Hamilton the year prior to the loss of Hamilton by the Rays via the Rule V draft. However, it looks like he has taken his opportunity and run with it. He will continue to be a solid SB contributor, but we should see a precipitous fall in this batting average and OBP.

Outfielder

For some reason, Bryce Harper is owned in more leagues than Mike Trout currently. The reverse should be true. Trout has really shown himself to be ready for the major leagues. He’s got 3 HR, 9 RBIs, 12 runs scored and 3 SBs over the last 14 days. Only owned in 67% of Yahoo! leagues, he needs to be much closer to 85%. He’s a shallow mixed league option for the rest of the season.

The Chicago White Sox Dayan Viciedo has been on fire lately. And with Paul Konerko out a few days, he may have inherited the cleanup spot. He’s hitting .375 with 3 HRs and 7 RBIs over the last 7 days. He is a streaky hitter, but hop on the train for now and enjoy the ride.

Oh, yes, one last thing. It seems that Manny Ramirez will return to the Oakland Athletics on May 30th. I do not believe he is fantasy relevant in anything but the deepest of leagues. Stay away and let someone else waste a roster spot on him.

Starting Pitcher

Jeff Niemann of the Tampa Bay Rays was placed on the DL and assumed to be out 4-6 weeks with a broken fibula. He was later transferred to the 60-day DL. The Rays will recall Alex Cobb to replace Niemann in the rotation. Cobb has an outstanding K/9 rate in the minors, but his walk rate has snuck up in the minors this year. I would take time and see if his control issues in the minors manifest themselves in the majors before jumping in with both feet. He had a solid MLB debut last year, but I don’t see him more than a league average starter.

The Rays are happy with Wade Davis in the bullpen role, so if Cobb should falter, they would likely dip back into their minors for Chris Archer. Archer’s acquisition was seen as a coup by Tampa Bay. However, he is not pitching well in AAA this year walking just over six batters per nine innings. I’d avoid Archer in all leagues.

The Minnesota Twins are running out of starting pitchers. They called Scott Diamond up and he has been very good in his first three starts. He has improved his control in the minors this year, but I believe Diamond is mostly smoke and mirrors.

It looks like the Boston Red Sox do not believe Daisuke Matsuzaka is ready to contribute at the major league level when his rehab assignment concludes next week. If you have him in a DL spot and there is a more attractive option out there, I’d drop Daisuke and let another owner wait for him to return.

Relief Pitcher

Jose Valverde is struggling in his role as closer for the Detroit Tigers. If Valverde is pulled, the logical choice to replace him is Joaquin Benoit. Benoit could be successful in the role if given the opportunity. I imagine that every closer will lose his job at some point this year based on the number of guys who have so far. Therefore, Benoit is a good speculative add in deeper leagues or as a handcuff for Valverde owners.  I do not believe Octavio Dotel would be in the mix as his lefty/righty splits have turned him into a specialist who would struggle if given the chance to close again.

For those in holds leagues, the Orioles bullpen has been a good place to find them lately. Pedro Strop (the Jim Johnson handcuff) has four in the last 14 days and Luis Ayala has two. As long as the O’s keep winning, expect those holds to continue.

Casey Janssen has three saves since being named the closer. It looks like he will hold onto the job until Sergio Santos returns for the Toronto Blue Jays in three weeks or so. Bid accordingly.

National League Waiver Wire

Catcher

The Chicago Cubs have put Geovany Soto on the DL with a meniscus tear. He will be out for more than the minimum 15 days. In the short term, Welington Castillo (owned in less than 1% of Yahoo! leagues) will don the not don the tools of ignorance as he will be out for a week. The 25-year old Castillo is a defensive specialist with a career .267 average in the minors. When Steve Clevenger (0% of Yahoo! leagues) returns from the DL in a couple of weeks, he will likely be the starter and could earn the role even when Soto returns.. Clevenger is a more attractive fantasy player and his best case scenario is an A.J. Ellis season – high batting average and on base percentage with little to no other contribution unless he moves to the top of the lineup.

The Washington Nationals lost two catchers in the past week – Wilson Ramos and Sandy “almost Moonlight GrahamLeon. The starter (health willing) for the remainder of the season will be Jesus Flores (1% of leagues). Flores has shown flashes at the major league level, but he is a big step down from Ramos. The Nationals have nothing else interesting in the minors (Derek Norris is now with the Oakland Athletics) and their backup from last year, Ivan Rodriguez, is sunning on a beach in Puerto Rico.

Ellis is a good option to replace Soto as his high batting average will help. Rod Barajas from the Pittsburgh Pirates has been hot over the last two weeks hitting .333 with 3 HRs. He will damage your batting average in the long run, but his power is legitimate (15+ HRs the last three years).

Corner Infielder

The Miami Marlins All-Star first baseman Gaby Sanchez was sent to AAA on Saturday. He has struggled mightily since his All-Star appearance last year and will be given time at AAA to figure out his swing. The depth chart behind him in unclear. There has been some thought given to putting Logan Morrison at first base thus opening up playing time for Austin Kearns. The Marlins could also play Greg Dobbs at first. Chris Coghlan was recalled, but I do not see him making an impact. Also in the outfield mix is Bryan Petersen . It is a bit of a mess with Sanchez and Bonifcaio leaving the lineup. The way I see it playing out is Morrison moves to first and Bryan Peterson starting in center field for Bonifacio and Kearns and Coghlan splitting time in left field. None of these players need to be acquired except in deep NL only leagues where playing time is key. Kearns has some pop, but is a batting average risk, Peterson offers little to fantasy players and Dobbs is a bench bat with some pop.

Injuries for the St. Louis Cardinals have opened up playing time again for Matt Carpenter (7% of leagues). Lance Berkman was injured late Saturday night. He is likely eligible at 1B and 3B in your league. He doesn’t have the power of a usual corner man, but he can contribute in batting average and has a chance to help out in runs and RBIs in the powerful Cardinals lineup. Grab him now as he’s going to get regular playing time for the foreseeable future.

There is also news that Cardinals prospect Matt Adams was pulled from his game at AAA and could be headed to the major leagues. The 23-year old would be making his major league debut and has power to spare. The Cardinals will want him to see regular time so he’s a definite add in most leagues.

Adam Kennedy is batting fifth for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Fifth!?! Really? Oddly, it seems to be working and for deeper leagues, he is now a viable option in deeper leagues who is eligible at first, second and third base. He’s got a little bit of pop and should drive in some runs from the five spot in the lineup. He won’t stay in that spot for more than a couple of weeks, but he’s a stopgap solution in deeper leagues.

News out of the Cincinnati Reds is that Scott Rolen may not return to the field at all this year. This means Todd Frazier is a much more attractive option in shallower leagues.

And get excited Washington Nationals’ fans, Mike Morse looks to be ahead of schedule in his rehab and could be back by June 1st.

Middle Infielder

There is talk that the Los Angeles Dodgers could demote Dee Gordon should he continue to struggle. He’s just 2 for his last 20. I’m not sure which way the Dodgers would go to replace him. They have three options in Justin Sellers, Elian Herrera and Ivan De Jesus. Sellers has power, but no speed. Herrera has no power, but a ton of speed (sounds like Dee Gordon, no?) De Jesus has the genes on his side, but seems to have stalled at AAA – playing in his third season there in 2012.  Should they dump Gordon, I think they will go with Sellers especially given Mark Ellis’ recent injury and De Jesus’ move to fill Ellis’ position. Herrera has a lot of positional flexibility so the Dodgers will likely want to keep him on the bench.

Ozzie Guillen noted that a DL stint is likely for Emilio Bonifacio (I include him here because I assume most players have him at SS). Bonifacio has been a terror on the base paths for the Miami Marlins and his production will be difficult to replace. As I noted above, there isn’t anyone that is falling into playing time in Miami who is worth getting too excited over. There are other places to look.

However, as I mentioned in Week 6’s column, the Padres were growing tired of Orlando Hudson. With his release (and keystone partner Jason Bartlett’s DL trip) new opportunities have opened for Alexi Amarista and Everth Cabrera. Amarista was covered in week 6 – a potential help in batting average and speed, but nothing else. Cabrera was a Rule V choice of the Padres prior to the 2009 season. In that season he finished 8th in the Rookie of the Year balloting, stole 25 bases and had a .703 OPS. He is not a good hitter, but when he gets on base he runs. If he is given the job for the rest of the season, 25 SBs are certainly within reach with a .250 batting average to go along with it.

I think both Hudson and Bartlett have something left in the tank (note: Peter Gammons is reporting that Hudson could sign with the Chicago White Sox. I assume he could push Gordon Beckham out of a job) and could contribute in the right situation.

Outfielder

If you are looking for some speed to make up for Emilio Bonifacio’s absence, look no further than the new San Francisco Giants lead off man Gregor Blanco. Blanco is 28 years old so he’s not quite the gray beard that Bruce Bochy prefers, but he is old off to be trusted I imagine. As a lead off man, Blanco has been sensation for the Giants. He has a career .362 OBP in the majors (.367 in the minors). He has a good shot to keep the job for the rest of the season. He’s never gotten a full time shot in the major leagues so this looks like this may be his last shot. He could be a 25 stolen base player and score 60 runs for the remainder of the year.

While we are still in the city by the bay, Blanco’s outfield-mate Angel Pagan has been even hotter. He’s got speed as well, but hasn’t put up the counting statistics you’d like to see. Owned in only 48% of leagues, he’s a good target for the rest of the season as well.

Sadly for fantasy players, Allen Craig is heading to the DL for the St. Louis Cardinals following behind fellow Cardinal outfielder Jon Jay. I discussed Matt Carpenter above, but who will fill in for Jay in CF? There has been some talk of Carlos Beltran getting some playing time there, but with his recent knee soreness, I do not see that as the platoon (and may also be eligible at second base) and is a player to get in deeper leagues. He will likely bat .290 and could pick up a few counting statistics if he stays near the top of the lineup.

It looks like the Milwaukee Brewers will welcome back Carlos Gomez from the DL. Gomez is a one trick pony at this point, but if you need SBs he should get semi-regular playing time while causing some damage to your BA upon his planned return next week.

With Matt Kemp’s move the DL the Los Angeles Dodgers have moved Tony Gwynn into the starting lineup in the 8- hole. Gwynn also possesses stolen base acumen (he swiped 22 last year) and could pick up a few steals while Kemp is out for the next couple of weeks.

Finally, the Pittsburgh Pirates demoted Alex Presley this week. I would ignore Nate McLouth and the recently recalled Gorkys Hernandez. McLouth hasn’t been able to put up any numbers for years and Hernandez is a great defensive player, but has never been able to hit enough to make him a viable everyday player in center field.

Starting Pitcher

The Chicago Cubs’ patience with Chris Volstad has run out. However, it doesn’t look like the Cubs have many attractive options to replace him. The leading candidate is Travis Wood who is striking out nearly a batter per inning at AAA this year. The problem is that ratio hasn’t turned into positive results. He has been a better pitcher away from Cincinnati, but I don’t see him being another more than league average for the Cubs.

Other candidates to start for the Cubs include Randy Wells who had one good year in 2009 and has struggled since. I’d pass on him. I’d also pass on Casey Coleman who could be converted from the long man in the bullpen to start. He’s still just 24 years old, but his strikeout rates are too low to be an effective starter.

Bud Norris (owned in 52% of leagues) has been lights out over the last two weeks with three wins, 21 Ks over 19 IP and an ERA and WHIP below 1.00. He has always had the skills to be a near elite starter, but his control has gotten in the way. However, his BB/9 IP ratio is on a three year downward trend – 4.5, 3.7 and 2.7 this year. Norris makes a great trade target or waiver wire pickup if he is available. It looks like Norris is maturing this year.

Trevor Bauer was recently promoted from AA to AAA. He’s performed well, but his walk rate still brings some concern. I can see him up for the Arizona Diamondbacks if he performs at AAA similarly to AA. His role may be like Matt Moore‘s was with the Tampa Bay Rays last year.

The Colorado Rockies are expected to welcome Jorge De La Rosa back to the rotation on June 2 DL. This means that Christian Friedrich and Alex White will continue in the rotation as long as they can perform.

Tim Stauffer went back on the DL with a recurrence of his elbow issues. I have a feeling that a visit to Dr. James Andrews may be in his future. Cut bait on Stauffer. The San Diego Padres have replaced him with recent waiver claim Eric Stults. Stults has never shown much, but could be a streaming option when he starts at Petco Park.

Relief Pitcher

Depending on the makeup of your team, you may be mildly excited or wildly excited that the Cincinnati Reds are considering Aroldis Chapman for the closer’s role. Sean Marshall has performed relatively well in the role, but his ERA and WHIP are ugly. He was pulled from an opportunity on Saturday after getting only one out. Jose Arredondo closed out the game, but after the game, Dusty Baker noted that Chapman would be under consideration. The concern from this writer is that Dusty begins to use Chapman in one inning stints thus lowering his strikeout total. I would rather see Chapman in the rotation, but his value certainly spikes with the closer’s role. The switches in the bullpen could also mean an increased role for Logan Ondrusek who has been good so far this year.

Dale Thayer is solidifying his hold on the closer role with Huston Street still out for the San Diego Padres. There is no clear time table for Street’s return so Thayer could have the role for the next month.

Thanks for taking the time. I hope I can offer a little help for your teams.

- Chris

About Chris Garosi

Chris Garosi is a Contributor to District Sports Page. Chris is a diehard Maryland Terrapins fan in all sports and a fan of things New England sports-related (except for football). Chris has played fantasy sports since the pre-Internet days and participates in any league for any sport to which he’s invited. He also writes for The Fantasy Fix. You can follow Chris on Twitter at @chrisgarosi.

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  1. […] Fantasy Baseball: Scouting the Waiver Wire — Week 8 He hit 20 HRs at AA in 2010, but hasn't shown the power necessary for a first baseman. He will probably hit for a decent average (.275) and get on base, but he won't have the power you'd like out of your first baseman. The Minnesota Twins seem to have … Read more on District Sports Page […]

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