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The Waiver Wire: Jon Jay

Posted on 21 August 2012 by Daniel Aubain

As we head into the final weeks of the fantasy baseball season, staying active on the waiver wire could be the difference between finishing the season in the money spots or being just another also-ran. If you’re in a head-to-head league, your playoffs may have already started this week. And it’s very possible some of your fellow owners are already focusing on fantasy football (what’s that?). This edition of The Waiver Wire will point out the names of some players making an impact right now and who are available in a majority of ESPN, Yahoo! and/or CBS leagues. Feel free to send me a slice of your winnings. I accept PayPal.

Outfielder Jon Jay of the St. Louis Cardinals came out of the gates on fire this season, going 22-for-55 (.400 BA) in 15 April games with two doubles, two home runs, eight RBI, seven runs and a .986 OPS for a virtually undrafted player (ESPN ADP: ~260.0; Y! ADP 244.3; CBS ADP 268.02).

May, June and July were less favorable to Jay as he dealt with right shoulder issues which landed him on the DL for 36 games from mid-May to late-June. In 45 games played over those three months, Jay hit just .247 with no home runs and a .305 slugging percentage.  Fantasy baseball owners who felt smart for grabbing him in April bailed in droves as his fantasy numbers continued to fade.

The dog days of August have been anything but that for Jay as he’s heating up as the temperature continues to rise. In 17 games, he’s produced a robust 5×5 line of .365/10/2/8/3 and should be owned in all formats. As of now, he’s only owned in 47.4% of ESPN leagues, 25% of Yahoo! leagues and 37% of CBS leagues. The Cardinals are only two games back in the NL Wild Card race and you can expect Jay to be a fixture at the top of the lineup going forward.

Here are some other fantasy baseball players worth a look who may still be available on your league’s waiver wire:

SS Erick Aybar, Los Angeles Angels – Aybar returned from a recent stint on the DL on August 6th and has gone 20-for-50 (.400 BA) with a double, a triple, three home runs, seven RBI, 11 runs scored and four stolen bases in 13 games since. His ownership numbers are a bit high (58.3% ESPN; 41% Y!; 62% CBS) to be available on the waiver wire in any league worth a damn but make no assumptions. The Angels are only 4.5 games out of the AL Wild Card race and Aybar should get the majority of the starts at shortstop.

1B Brandon Belt, San Francisco Giants – Belt is finally seeing regular playing time and making the most of it. Since July 25th, when his average was at a season low .229, he’s hitting .378 with seven RBI, 11 runs scored and three stolen bases but lacks a single home run. If you don’t have a need for home runs, Belt could be a nice pick up as a corner infielder, infielder, utility or DH player (depending on your league’s depth) for the stretch run. Could a playoff run be enough to wake his power stroke up? I’m willing to take a chance on that. He’s only owned in 16.8% of ESPN leagues, 19% of Y! leagues and 29% of CBS leagues.

OF David Murphy, Texas RangersSince July 20th, Murphy is hitting .368 (35-for-95) with 12 doubles, two home runs, 14 RBI, 13 runs scored and a .971 OPS. He should continue to see the majority of starts in left field as long as his bat stays hot. With relatively low ownership numbers (13.3% ESPN; 13% Y!; 45% CBS), Murphy could provide some nice offensive numbers for a team looking to add some outfield depth.

OF Anthony Gose, Toronto Blue Jays – I’ll admit, my fantasy baseball credibility may be shot for recommending a player who’s hitting .203 in 74 at bats since his July 17th debut but there is a method to my madness. Over his last 13 games (10 GS), Gose is hitting .235 with eight stolen bases and just one caught stealing. If your team needs stolen bases and can absorb the hit against your team’s overall batting average, he may be the short-term fix you’re looking for. Owned in just 2.1% of ESPN leagues, 2% of Y! leagues and 11% of CBS leagues, Gose is proving to be a one-dimensional player (speed!). Be sure to check out our own T.J. McDonald‘s assessment of Gose’s future in the big leagues.

SP Jaime Garcia, St. Louis Cardinals – In his first game back from a lengthy stint on the DL due to a shoulder injury, Garcia pitched eight innings of five-hit ball, walking none and striking out 10 batters. I’d say he’s healthy and ready to contribute to the Cardinals run at the playoffs. He’s owned in 42.8% of ESPN leagues, 50% of Y! leagues and 74% of CBS leagues. Act now if he happens to be available on waivers. He won’t be there much longer.

RP Dale Thayer, San Diego Padres – If there is a save to be had for the Padres, one can assume Thayer will get the first crack at it. Huston Street is eligible to come off the DL on August 26th, so any pickup of Thayer should be considered a very short-term solution unless your league utilizes Holds, too. He’s owned in 34.8% of ESPN leagues, 22% of Y! leagues and 19% of CBS leagues.

Other than Thayer and Gose, all of the other players I suggested you give serious attention to picking up off waivers are on teams involved in the playoff race. These teams are going to stay committed to the players who’ve proven they can handle the stress and strain of a playoff race. As teams begin dropping out of the playoff race and start calling up players from the minors in September, a whole new batch of waiver wire options should start appearing as those teams begin preparing for 2013. Did someone say “keepers”?

Be sure to leave a comment about which players you’re targeting for your playoff run or race to the finish line in rotisserie formats. Are you targeting specific players for specific categories? PS, you should be! Connect with me on Twitter @DJAubain to continue talking all things baseball (mostly) as the 2012 fantasy baseball season winds down. Good luck!

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The Waiver Wire: Small Sample Size

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The Waiver Wire: Small Sample Size

Posted on 11 April 2012 by Daniel Aubain

Most teams have played about five games so far in this young season and most fantasy owners are already chomping at the bit to make changes to their rosters. But here’s a bit of free advice; slow down and take a deep breath. Don’t go blowing up your entire roster or destroying a perfectly good draft strategy to pick up a player who is off to a fast start unless you’re dealing with an unexpected injury or bailing on a late-round pick or “sleeper” who isn’t going to pan out any time soon. You’ll surely regret making a huge mistake this early in the season.

Here’s a look at some players widely available in most fantasy baseball leagues who may be worth targeting if you already find yourself with an early season need:

  • 2B Omar Infante, Marlins – Infante has gone 6-for-18 with a double, triple, three home runs, four RBI and five runs in his first five games of the season. He’s stuck in the bottom third of the batting order for now but a continued hot streak could see him move the top third sooner than later. He’s a career .276 hitter but hit .305 in 2009 and .321 in 2010. He’s only owned in 58.1% of ESPN leagues, 35% of Yahoo! leagues and 52% of CBS leagues.
  • SS Zack Cozart, Reds – Cozart was mentioned on many “sleeper” lists this offseason and his hot start is showing why. He’s gone 8-for-17 with five extra-base hits (two doubles, two triples, one home run), two RBI and five runs scored. He’s currently batting second in front of Joey Votto and reaping the benefits early. He’s only owned in 35.6% of ESPN leagues, 48% of Yahoo! leagues and oddly, 80% of CBS leagues.
  • 1B Adam LaRoche, Nationals – A career .215 hitter in March/April, LaRoche’s hot start is a welcomed surprise for fantasy owners. He’s gone 8-for-20 with two home runs and six RBI. He could be a nice filler on a roster utilizing a corner infield, infielder or multiple DH/utility spots. He’s only owned in 22% of ESPN leagues, 24% of Yahoo! leagues and 50% of CBS leagues.
  • OF David Murphy, Rangers – It wasn’t clear what Murphy’s role in the Rangers outfield was going to be heading into the season but a hot start should keep him in the lineup against all righties and even some hittable lefties. He’s opened the season going 8-for-15 with a home run and only owned in 12% of ESPN leagues, 14% of Yahoo! leagues and 25% of CBS leagues. He may not be worth the pickup in shallower leagues but mixed and AL-only owners should be paying attention at this point.
  • SS Rafael Furcal, Cardinals – Furcal is off to a 10-for-23 (.435 BA) start with three RBI, three runs scored and two stolen bases batting atop the Cardinals lineup. A career .283 hitter with a .348 OBP, if healthy, he could steal 20 to 30 bases. He’s owned in 65.6% of ESPN leagues, 55% of Yahoo! leagues and 63% of CBS leagues so check your league’s waivers now because he may not be available much longer.
  • 3B Chone Figgins, Mariners – Okay, we’ve all been burned by Figgins in the past but he seems to have figured something out here in the early goings of 2012. He’s 8-for-24 with three runs, four RBI and a stolen base and working on outfield eligibility with five games played already due to the Mike Carp injury. He’s 21.6% owned in ESPN leagues, 34% owned in Yahoo! leagues and 42% owned in CBS leagues. Tread wisely, my friends. Tread wisely.
  • RP Hector Santiago, White Sox – So, guess who’s emerged as the White Sox closer? Yep, not Matt Thornton. Santiago has recorded two saves so far and will likely keep the job until he proves unworthy. He’s only owned in 29.8% of ESPN leagues, 54% of Yahoo! leagues and 54% of CBS leagues. If you’re the “trolling for saves on waivers” type, give Santiago a look.
  • RP Jonathan Broxton, Royals – Broxton recorded his first save as the Royals closer by striking out the side. Both positive signs if you are still looking for saves. He’s owned in 59% of ESPN leagues, 63% of Yahoo! leagues and 63% of CBS leagues.
  • RP Fernando Rodney, Rays – Still looking for saves? Rodney has recorded two and the Rays are the kind of team that would play matchups for saves (um, closer by committee?) while Kyle Farnsworth is out. Rodney’s owned in 20.8% of ESPN leagues, 48% of  Yahoo! leagues and 47% of CBS leagues. UPDATE: Rodney just recorded a save against the Tigers is now 3-for-3 in save chances.

Again, I’m not recommending you blow up your roster to chase any of these players. These are small sample sizes but each player may provide a short-term benefit to your roster, so be sure to weigh the player being dropped, accordingly. Most are going to be useful in your deeper mixed leagues or a league-only version. Shallow leagues are already playing out as All-Star teams and, in my opinion, hardly even worth joining unless you are new to the game and are trying to get a feel for the process.

What moves have you made that have benefited your team already? Have you grabbed a “star” off of waivers that some owner dumped as a knee-jerk reaction to fill a need? I was able to pick up B.J. Upton off waivers the day after he was placed on the DL and he’s a player I actively avoided in my drafts. I wasn’t interested in him at his 80.3 ESPN ADP but for free off waivers, yes please.

Be sure to connect with me on Twitter @DJAubain to continue the fantasy baseball discussion and more all season long.

NOTE: All statistics and ownership numbers quoted are as of games played through April 10th, 2012 unless otherwise noted.

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The Roster Report – February 8, 2012

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The Roster Report – February 8, 2012

Posted on 08 February 2012 by Bryan Grosnick

Hello there, hardball fans! Just when you thought the past four days would give you absolutely nothing on the transaction wire, Dan Duquette and Dan O’Dowd made a deal. While not the most exciting move in the baseball world, it at least gives us something else to talk about while teams gather minor league depth and wait for pitchers and catchers to report. We’ve got coverage and analysis of all the big and little moves right here, in this edition of the Roster Report.

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The Baltimore Orioles trade SP Jeremy Guthrie to the Colorado Rockies for SP / RP Jason Hammel and RP Matt Lindstrom.

I was surprised (not shocked, but surprised), when the word came through that the Orioles had traded Jeremy Guthrie away, and received just two average-to-below-average major league veterans in return. The Orioles were in the midst of some expensive arbitration proceedings with their one long-term rotation stalwart when they decided to deal him to Colorado for two other, ostensibly inferior pitchers. But this deal wasn’t a salary dump, as the pitchers that Baltimore added cost roughly the same amount as the Orioles would have had to pay Guthrie, who signed a one-year deal for $8.2MM after the trade to Colorado.

Jeremy Guthrie, over the past five years with the Orioles, has been the very definition of average. Guthrie’s ERA has always outpaced his FIP, which means that luck has played a bit of a role in his success, but he is doggedly consistent from year to year. Once again, in 2011 Guthrie struck out about five and a half batters per nine, walked about two and three quarters per nine, and gave up a little more than one home run per nine. All of this added up to a 4.48 FIP, and an ERA nearby at 4.33. He only won nine games, but that’s because he played for the Orioles. Those numbers on a team like the Red Sox or Yankees would have been good for 13 or so wins. Though these numbers make him only a two-win starter, we’re talking about a guy who has taken the ball for nearly a thousand innings over the past five years. There’s a great deal of value in that fact, which probably drove his high arbitration number.

Going to Colorado, however, is probably going to hurt Guthrie’s performance. Guthrie gives up far too many homers at Camden Yards, so you’d have to believe that he’ll give up even more in Colorado. The good news, though, is that Guthrie is out of the AL East, and we’ll get to face the Giant and Padre offenses instead of the Red Sox and Yankees. Moving to the easier league with his career xFIP of 4.61 and career SIERA of 4.60 should be good enough to still be a solid #3 or #4 starter, due to his reliability. But if the HR spike, then he could go downhill in a real hurry. And in fantasy, I’d avoid him…he gives up too many hits, and doesn’t rack up enough strikeouts.

The return that the Orioles received is anything but exciting. Matt Lindstrom is a reliever with a blistering fastball, one that averages 96.1 mph according to PITCHf/x data available at FanGraphs. The only thing is, Lindstrom doesn’t use that heater to strike very many people out. In 2011, Lindstrom only managed a 6.0 K/9 ratio, far inferior to pitchers with worse speed and stuff. Though his K/9 rate has decreased consistently over his five seasons in the majors, Lindstrom stays effective by limiting HR and walks. With 45 saves in his major league career, as well as a respectable (but not excellent) 3.48 career FIP, Lindstrom is a perfectly adequate and slightly above-average reliever. But Lindstrom also has little-to-no upside, and will be a free agent after making $3.6MM in 2012. He’ll have fantasy value if the Orioles dub him the team’s closer, but beyond that, he’s probably a pass unless you’re in a holds league.

Jason Hammel is the other piece that the Orioles received in the deal. After two sneaky-good seasons in 2009 and 2010 with Colorado, Hammel pitched poorly in 2011, eventually getting dropped from the Rockies’ rotation late in the season. In his first two seasons with Colorado, Hammel was worth 7.8 Wins Above Replacement according to FanGraphs. To put that in perspective, he was better than Roy Oswalt, Cole Hamels, and Yovani Gallardo over that span. But 2011 was a down year, as his strikeout rate (4.97 per nine) and walk rate (3.59 per nine) regressed badly, and he was only able to put up a single Win Above Replacement. Eventually, Hammel was banished to the bullpen in favor of younger, higher-upside pitchers.

What little analysis I’ve seen of this deal has been straightforward: since the Orioles didn’t save any money and didn’t add any players with long-term team control, it was a bad deal on their end. And as for the Rockies, well, they added a guy who will give them 200 solid innings, and at no premium cost. Allow me to take a dissenting opinion. Jason Hammel saw his strikeout rate go down, and his walk and homer rates go up in 2011. If this was an abberation and could even regress to his career averages, not just his pretty-good 2009-2010 form, then I’d argue that Hammel is a better pitcher in 2012 than Jeremy Guthrie is. But the AL East is a harsh place to pitch, and Hammel could wind up replicating his 2007 season with the Devil Rays. There’s a much wider range of outcomes than there was with Guthrie. The other issue in play is Matt Lindstrom’s value as a mid-season trade piece. If the O’s do use Lindstrom as a closer, they may be able to flip him mid-season for a middling prospect or a lottery ticket, which would increase the value of this deal. Again, this is a lot of moving pieces, but after taking a deeper look, there’s potential in this trade for the Orioles. Given that Guthrie probably wasn’t long for Baltimore anyways, giving up a little surety may not be the worst thing in the world for the O’s.

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The Washington Nationals sign OF Rick Ankiel to a minor league contract with an invitation to Spring Training.

By know, you know the story about Rick Ankiel. A stud pitcher loses his control and moves to the outfield, proceeds to hit for power and not much else. Well, in 2011, Rick Ankiel stopped hitting for power too, managing just an .124 isolated slugging and nine homers. Ankiel hits left-handed, and has become a platoon-only bat, doing nearly all of his damage against right-handed pitchers, but he no longer does enough damage against them. Let’s put it this way, even when he faced righties, Ankiel only managed an 86 wRC+. In layman’s terms, this means that Ankiel was 14% below league-average against righties…and those are the guys he’s supposed to be able to hit!

Ankiel does have redeeming factors, though. Namely, he can play all three outfield positions, and he acquits himself fairly well in the field. Aside from his well-documented cannon of a left arm, he showed good range in center for the Nats last season, posting an 11.6 UZR/150. Though that’s too small of a sample size to make a blanket statement of excellence, Ankiel has a history of solid outfield defense that scouting reports can back up. He’s also about average as a baserunner, nabbing 10 steals in 2011 against three times being caught.

The thing is, Washington already has several capable outfielders ready to play. Jayson Werth and Mike Morse are locked in to two of the outfield spots, and there are plenty of players competing for the third starting slot. Roger Bernadina is ready to go, and though he’s a bad hitter as well, he still out-hit Ankiel in his limited duty in 2011. That’s not saying much, however…Bernadina was merely 11% worse than league average, according to wRC+. Bernadina offers more speed on the basepaths than Ankiel, hit better against righties, and could be close to Ankiel’s capabilities defensively. Mike Cameron was also added, albeit on a minor-league deal. Cameron could be the right-handed hitting part of a platoon, as he’s always mashed lefties. Well, except for last year, when he couldn’t hit water if he fell out of a boat. Oh, and then there’s also uber-prospect Bryce Harper waiting in the wings, and either he or Werth could slide into center field at any point if management deems him ready for the big leagues.

In truth, there’s hardly any way that Rick Ankiel opens the season as the regular center fielder for the Nationals, and may miss out even if the Nats go with a CF platoon. Perhaps he could be the fifth outfielder on the Nationals due to his flexibility, but Rick would have better been served signing with a team like the New York Mets who could use a player who can play all three outfield positions, hit righties, and doesn’t already have Roger Bernadina. Even if he does break camp with the Nats, don’t expect him to get much run, and certainly don’t pick him up in fantasy unless a major injury hits.

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The Seattle Mariners sign RP Hong-Chih Kuo to a one-year, $500K contract.

In space-time continuum terms, Hong-Chih Kuo is not too far removed from an excellent 2010. But in performance terms, Kuo is way totally far away from that year. 2011 was, to put it bluntly, a disaster. Last season, Kuo suffered from a social anxiety issue, and when he pitched, he pitched very, very poorly. Being an older reliever with no developmental upside, you might think that Kuo is a low-upside player…but you’d be wrong. In 2008 and 2010, Kuo was one of the best relievers in the majors, and has always been able to strike out more than a batter per inning. In 2011, control became a major issue, as he came close to walking a batter an inning as well. That just won’t play anywhere. Kuo also used to be able to limit his HR, and that went out the window in 2011 as well.

The fact of the matter is, Kuo might be broken beyond fixing. But for a million dollars (the amount Kuo will make if he makes the Mariner team), the Mariners are taking a risk on huge upside. If Kuo’s command, injury, and anxiety issues that damaged his performance are less than 2011, then he’ll be a very talented, very valuable reliever in 2011. But unless he unseats Brandon League as closer early in the season, he’s probably not a good bet in fantasy.

Quick Hits

  • Brad Penny, formerly of the Tigers (and Cardinals…and Giants…and Red Sox…and Dodgers…and Marlins) has agreed to a one-year deal with the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks of Nippon Professional Baseball in Japan. Penny pitched a full season with Detroit last year, but was incredibly ineffective in his 181.2 innings. Both his ERA (5.30) and FIP (5.02) were nearly 25% worse than league average, so finding work on a major league roster was going to be tough. Penny has become completely unable to strike anyone out, despite a fastball that still lives at 92.9 mph, but he could be effective in Japan.
  • The New York Yankees made their second-most important free agent signing of this offseason, inking utility player Bill Hall to a $600K deal. Hall hit for no power and played bad defense last season…but he can hit poorly and play poor defense at a number of positions, so I guess that means he has value. Even though the Yanks don’t have a lot of depth at the ML value, Hall still won’t last long as a major-leaguer in the Bronx. No fantasy value, virtually no real-world value.
  • The Nationals also signed Mark Teahen to a minor league contract, and invited him to Spring Training. Why? I’m not sure. Teahen, famous for his role in Moneyball (the book) and most recently part of the Colby Rasmus trade to Toronto, was devastatingly bad in 2011. If you like wRC+ as a metric, get this…he was about 50% worse than league average with the stick. Since Teahen’s never been a defensive whiz, and there was no indication that his performance drop was due to injury, he’s extremely unlikely to be a major-leaguer in 2012. Triple-A roster filler.
  • Conor Jackson isn’t just a picture on milk cartons anymore…he’s a Texas Ranger. Added to the franchise on a minor league deal, Jackson is a corner outfielder and first baseman who hits for no power. As you might imagine, that’s not something that draws lots of demand. But the Rangers are very left-handed, so there’s a non-zero chance he could pair as a platoon partner for Mitch Moreland or spell David Murphy…but he’s just not a very good hitter, even against lefties. Pass on him in fantasy, and don’t expect him to get more than 150 PA, if any at all, in Arlington.
  • The Mariners weren’t done adding relievers this week, signing Shawn Camp, formerly of the Blue Jays. Camp is a groundball specialist who is particularly effective against right-handed batters. Camp’s FIP has lived around 4.00 for the last three years, and though his strikeout numbers are continuing to diminish, he probably can still be effective for another year or two. But he won’t get the benefit from Safeco Field that many pitchers do, and he’ll be completely irrelevant in fantasy.
  • The Cardinals signed Alex Cora to a minor league deal, which probably says more about the state of available middle-infield players than it does about Cora. Cora’s not a particularly slick fielder and an atrocious hitter, managing just a .224/.287/.276 slash line in 2011. If he makes the major league roster, it will be as a defensive replacement, and should get very little burn.
  • Newly-minted free agent Justin Ruggiano was picked up by the Houston Astros on a minor-league deal. Though the Astros are awful, they’re actually probably set in the outfield with players like J.D. Martinez, Jason Bourgeois, Fernando Martinez, Brian Bogusevic, and Jack Cust. Ruggiano, who has been a solid hitter in Triple-A, plays good defense and could catch on as a utility outfielder…but his upside is pretty low.

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