2014 Fantasy Baseball Week 11 Waiver Wire: 3 to Catch, 3 to Cut, 3 to Keep

In the Week 11 edition of fantasy baseball 3×3, we’re discovering Eugenio Suarez, seeing Adam Eaton for what he is, and allowing John Axford to find himself.

There are plenty of waiver wire columns out there that provide an exhaustive list of the most added players in fantasy leagues. This isn’t one of them. Here, we’ll run down a few lesser-known, lesser-considered, or lesser-owned players, with perspective on who deserves a your attention, who deserves your patience, and who deserves to go straight to bed without dessert.

Any questions, thoughts, home remedies for cramps? Hit me in the comments or on Twitter.

3 TO CATCH

Eugenio Suarez | Detroit Tigers | SS

Starting middle infielders on good offenses are a very valuable fantasy commodity, and it seems that the Detroit Tigers have just found a new one.

Baseball America ranked Eugenio Suarez as the eighth-best prospect in a shallow Tigers farm system heading into this season after he plateaued a bit at Double-A in 2013. He responded this year by hammering his way through three levels of baseball, slashing .284/.347/.503 at Double-A Erie and .302/.404/.535 at Triple-A Toledo before earning a call-up to Detroit last week. He’s kept on humming as a big leaguer, homering in his big league debut on Saturday and following that up with two run-scoring singles against the Boston Red Sox on national TV.

Suarez is talented, he’s rolling, and his path to a starting job in one of the best offenses in baseball is virtually unimpeded. He’s a good, not great defender at shortstop, but when Tigers shortstops as a unit are slugging an MLB-worst .253, good, not great defense will do just fine.

Suarez is a must-add in AL-only formats and a player to watch as a middle infield option in deeper mixed leagues.

To pick him up, I’d drop: Alcides Escobar, Derek Jeter, Danny Santana

Roenis Elias | Seattle Mariners | SP

Another unheralded prospect, Roenis Elias has elbowed his way into the Mariners rotation and proceeded to make himself quite cozy alongside studs like Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma. He’s been a bit lucky on balls in play, but Elias absolutely has enough skill to maintain long term success when regression comes calling.

A lefty with good control and a fastball that can touch 95 will always have a good chance to succeed; Elias complements that package with one of the best curveballs in baseball. His yakker has the third-best whiff/swing rate in the league and an excellent 64% ground ball rate. He’s unafraid to throw it to both righties and leftie, and it’s been effective against both. Elias has allowed only four extra base hits against 45 strikeouts on the 329 curveballs he’s thrown this season.

When evaluating a young or unproven pitcher, I always like to look at how they perform in pressure situations. Few pitchers I can recall have been able to bear down like Elias has. He’s faced 19 batters in high leverage situations this year. He’s fanned six, walked none, and generated an outrageous 67% ground ball rate.

Elias will outperform his 4.01 FIP the rest of the way with upside to provide strong strikeout production as well. He’s worth an add in most mixed leagues.

To pick him up, I’d drop: Ubaldo Jimenez, Jake Peavy, Drew Hutchison

Corey Dickerson | Colorado Rockies | OF

As long as Carlos Gonzalez is on the disabled list, Corey Dickerson should be on fantasy rosters. I liked him as the sleeper of the Colorado outfield before the season and though Charlie Blackmon’s explosion put my sleeper pick on bed rest for most of April, Dickerson is showing that he’s got the talent, all he needed was a chance to show it off.

He hasn’t disappointed in full time duty, slashing .324/.376/.600 with seven homers and three steals in 117 plate appearances. Most of those have come in the last few weeks; Dickerson has started eleven straight games, mostly in Gonzalez’ vacated left field spot.

And he’s been just as good on the road as he’s been at Coors Field. Actually, scratch that, he’s been better on the road! Dickerson’s road slugging percentage is actually 169 points higher than it is at home; five of his homers have come outside of the least confining confines in the league.

Gonzalez has never been a fast healer and finger injuries aren’t always easy to come back from. Dickerson is an add in all formats for as long as CarGo is sidelined.

To pick him up, I’d drop: Norichika Aoki, B.J. Upton, Adam Eaton

3 TO CUT

Adam Eaton | Chicago White Sox | OF

Prior to his initial call up back in 2012, Adam Eaton looked like a guy with upside for very strong production in batting average, run scoring, and stolen bases. In the equivalent of about one big league season, spread over three years, very little of that upside has translated to production.

His .303 BABIP this season seems a bit low for a guy with a high ground ball rate and so much (purported) speed, but it’s been consistent throughout each of his big league stops. And it’s not as though Eaton is getting robbed on hot shots in the hole. Most of his outs are balls he rolls over on to the right side.

Adam  Eaton Spray Chart

It’s nice to see a few base hits the other way, but Eaton has shown absolutely no capability to pull the ball with authority. Even for a guy who wasn’t expecting to produce much power, that’s troubling.

Adam  Eaton Spray Angle

Eaton can hook an offspeed pitch, but he looks an awful lot like a hitter who’s struggling to catch up with big league quality fastballs. His speed and low hit trajectory allow him to maintain a decent batting average, but he’s not fast enough or good enough at making contact to succeed as just a slap hitter. If he had enough plate appearances to qualify, his 88.8% career contact rate wouldn’t even be among the top 60 in baseball over the last three seasons.

When he does get on base, he’s not attempting steals particularly frequently, nor is he succeeding when he does. For his MLB career, Eaton has swiped a thoroughly unimpressive 12 bases in 22 attempts. This season, he’s swiped five bags in ten attempts. Both ZiPS and Steamer project him to snag 12 bags the rest of the way. That seems awfully optimistic to me, especially since he’s just recently returned from the DL after suffering a speed-sapping hamstring injury.

In shallower leagues, there’s almost definitely a better option available on the wire.

I’d trade/drop him for: Dexter Fowler, Kole Calhoun, Corey Dickerson

Tanner Roark | Washington Nationals | SP

Much like my recommendation on Garrett Richards a few weeks ago, this is less a call to drop Roark outright and more a call to aggressively shop him around. He’s pitched well, but he’s been exceptionally fortunate at times when good fortune can be most valuable for a pitcher: against opposite-handed hitters and with men on base.

Roark had a very successful season overall last year, but he was significantly worse against opposite-handed hitters. This season, without a significant change in pitch mix, he’s suddenly limiting them to a .189/.268/.366 slash line and a  .196 BABIP that’s more than 100 points lower than his BABIP against right-handed hitters. Seems fishy…

He handles righties well with a sinker that limits their power and both a curveball and slider that can put them away. Lefties, on the other hand, can hit Roark’s sinker for at least a little bit of power (.172 ISO so far this season) and aren’t nearly as susceptible to his slider and curve. Roark turns to his changeup instead, a pitch that has been effective, if not particularly impressive. It gets whiffs at a slightly above average rate and has limited lefties to a .178 batting average and .311 slugging percentage. It’d be just fine if Roark’s changeup could consistently generate weak contact, but with a line drive rate over 27%, these results seem more like luck than anything else. As Roark makes his way around the league, he’ll see more and more lefties and have to prove over and over that his magical changeup can consistently induce line drives hit right at his fielders.

Perhaps he can do it. He seems to have found similar magic with men on base; his BABIP drops to .236 with men on base and sinks to .200 with those runners move into scoring position. It’s a risky strategy, but I suppose Roark is better off allowing batters to put the ball in play in those situations; his strikeout rate craters and his walk rate skyrockets with men on base. He limits line drives, but his fly ball rate jumps to over 50% and his home run rate doubles, not exactly positive signs for a sinker baller.

Roark’s trade value should be soaring after his dominant outing in San Diego last week. Take advantage and rid yourself of his smoke and mirrors.

I’d trade/drop him for: Drew Pomeranz, Nathan Eovaldi, Marcus Stroman

Tommy Hunter | Baltimore Orioles | RP

My take on Tommy Hunter is more rooted in what I haven’t heard that what I have. The Orioles brought Hunter back off the DL on Sunday, but they didn’t say anything about what his role would be going forward. For me, that’s as good as a formal vote of confidence for interim closer Zach Britton. Hunter didn’t have much of a track record as a closer before this season and he didn’t do much to prove he deserved the role before he was injured (hello, 6.06 ERA!).

It’s probably too late to flip him to an uninformed owner who assumes he’ll return to business as usual, but it’s never a bad time to drop him outright for a reliever with more upside.

I’d trade/drop him for: John Axford, Dellin Betances, Jenrry Mejia

3 TO KEEP

John Axford | Cleveland Indians | SP

While the Cleveland committee has been quite successful at closing out games for the Indians, manager Terry Francona continues to insist that his preference, as it has been since he initially made a change to his ninth inning strategy, is to re-install John Axford as the full time closer.

So far, it looks like the time off has done Axford good. Wildness has always been his biggest issue and he’s shown excellent command of late. Axford hasn’t walked a batter since May 21 and has failed to issue a free pass in nine of his last 11 outings. He’s  been around the strike zone with much greater consistency, letting his effectively wild stuff do the work.

John  Axford Location

Over the last two weeks, Axford has the best FIP (and xFIP) of any Cleveland reliever.

I suppose it’s possible that Axford just doesn’t have the stones to take the pressure of closing out games (although he certainly has the facial hair for it), but over the long haul, the numbers just don’t back it up. For his career, Axford’s been just as good, if not better, when the pressure is on.

K%

BB%

K%-BB%

FIP

xFIP

Low Leverage

25.50%

11.40%

14.10%

3.21

3.42

Medium Leverage

27.50%

8.70%

18.80%

3.54

3.02

High Leverage

30.10%

12.10%

18.00%

3.38

3.27

Francona wants Axford back in the closer’s role, and he’s well on his way to earning the gig. He’s worth a bench slot if you’re chasing saves.

I wouldn’t trade/drop him for: LaTroy Hawkins, Ernesto Frieri, Grant Balfour

Starling Marte | Pittsburgh Pirates | OF

Starling Marte has been beyond awful in the last two weeks, slashing .083/.214/.111 in 42 plate appearances with only three runs scored and one stolen base. He’s plopped down at rock bottom of what’s been a disappointing year overall for Marte. His BABIP has sunk to a much more human .322 as pitchers have adjusted their approach to exacerbate Marte’s growing pains.

For instance, opposing pitchers consistently pitched Marte down-and-away last season, aiming for the lower outside quadrant of the strike zone. It’s an approach that works well against most big league hitters, but Marte showed the ability to punish pitches in the strike zone down-and-away, posting some of his best slugging percentages on pitches in that area of the zone.

Starling  Marte 2013 Zone Profile

This season, pitchers have adjusted. They’re still pitching down-and-away against Marte, they’re just not doing it in the strike zone.

Starling  Marte 2014 Zone Profile

Marte hasn’t been able to feast on the pitches he saw last year, but he has responded by cutting his chase rate on pitches outside the zone down-and-away by about five percentage points from last season, which has helped to increase his overall walk rate by two percentage points.

He may not live up to the boundless upside many hoped for heading into this season, but his capability to adjust makes me confident that he’ll still be a 10/30 player at the very least.

I wouldn’t trade/drop him for: Brett Gardner, Martin Prado, Desmond Jennings

Jon Lester | Boston Red Sox | SP

Aside from a seven-inning, twelve-strikeout gem against what looked like a late-90s version of the Tampa Bay (Devil) Rays, it’s been a rough couple of weeks for Jon Lester. He’s allowed 15 earned runs and five homers in his last four starts; he’d surrendered just 18 earned runs and three homers in his previous nine outings. He was pounded at the hands of two of the three best offenses in the American League, allowing five runs on the road against the Tigers and seven at home against the Blue Jays.

It looks ugly, but don’t panic. Though he struggled with Toronto and Detroit, he thoroughly declawed the other top three offense in the AL just a few weeks ago, blanking the Athletics and whiffing 15 in eight innings back on May 3. Overall, Lester still sports career a career-best 2.91 FIP, 27% strikeout rate, and 20.5% K%-BB%.

If you can get him on the cheap, make a move. If you already own Lester, resist the temptation to cut bait.

I wouldn’t trade/drop him for: James Shields, Matt Cain, Jered Weaver

About Gerard Martin

Gerard writes words about baseball and football for The Fantasy Fix. His turn-ons are post-hype sleepers, high-K relief pitchers, and the Oxford comma. Follow him on Twitter @gerardowrites.

Comments

  1. Hey Gerard…do you think Grant Balfour should be dropped to make room for Britton? If not…Qualls? He’s been having an extremely disappointing season so far, and I’m not sure his upside is worth it on Tampa.

    • Yep, I’d definitely drop Balfour for Britton. I’m totally with you, Balfour has been awful and Joe Maddon doesn’t seem like the type to stick with him just because he’s a “proven closer”.
      However, I like Qualls better than both. He’s got a good hold on the job and has outstanding peripherals.

      • Thanks for the help…i could afford to pick them both up if i drop Mejia too…I noticed he’s on your pickup vs Tommy Hunter. You think he can keep a hold on the job…or would Britton be safer?

  2. Mr. Martin, would you drop any of these pitchers to get Roenis Elias? Current Rotation:
    Phil Hughes
    Ryu
    Cueto
    Zimmerman
    Y. Ventura
    Bailey
    Samardzja
    Cliff Lee

    • Damn, that’s a really nice rotation. No, I wouldn’t drop any of those guys for Elias. The closest would be Phil Hughes, but I like him a little bit more than Elias at the moment.

  3. Would you pull the trigger on trading away Braun for Yu Darvish? I have Khris Davis, Granderson, Josh Hamilton, Marte, and Polanco. I also have Alexei Ramirez and Hosmer on the bench, and Neil Walker and Arenado on the DL.

    • Ooh, that’s a tough one. In a vacuum, I wouldn’t do it. But if you’ve got a need for pitching, Darvish is one of the only guys I’d take in exchange for Braun.

      Given that you’ve got some depth, I might think about trading a lower level guy for a pitcher who isn’t quite as big of a name as Darvish, but has some upside. Maybe flipping one of your other outfielders for somebody like Alex Wood, who should be back up in the majors soon as a starter. Generally, I’d try to trade from the midsection of my depth, rather than the top. I realize that may not always be possible, but that’s what I’d try first.

      Let me know how it turns out!

      • I decided against it too. I think I’m going to take my chances and see how Polanco does, then try and move him when he has a nice week or two. Worst case scenario, there’s a few mid-level pitchers still available on the wire I can grab. Thanks for the help Gerard, great weekly blog.

  4. Hey guys got this trade offer:
    Ben Zobrist AND Mat Latos FOR Jason Kipnis.
    I have the Kipnis side.
    I play in a points, h2h, mixed, 10 team league and my team is dead last at the moment so is it time to radicaly shake things up and sell off pieces, or hold tight a little longer and see if guys like Kipnis, Price, Gio,
    C. Davis, Longoria, come around ?

    Thoughts ?

    Ritch

    • I think Zobrist is only marginally less valuable than Kipnis, but I wouldn’t do that deal. Latos isn’t exactly lighting the world on fire in Triple-A; I just can’t justify dealing for him right now when I don’t really have any clue what he’s going to produce the rest of the way. The upside just isn’t there to justify it.

      In H2H, I’m inclined to stick with guys a bit longer and put more weight on having elite players because, in the end, you’re trying to build a team that’s going to perform in the playoffs. Regardless of what they’ve done earlier this season, I’m confident that guys like Davis, Longo, and Price (who I just traded for in my home league a couple of days ago) are going to be elite producers the rest of the way. Hang tight, Ritch.

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