2014 Fantasy Baseball Week 18 Waiver Wire: 3 to Catch, 3 to Cut, 3 to Keep

In the Week 18 edition of fantasy baseball 3×3, we’re rejoicing in the return of Collin McHugh, setting realistic expectations for Chris Tillman, and giving Christian Yelich his due.

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 of the most interesting players for fantasy owners, 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, trade deadline predictions? Hit me in the comments or on Twitter.

3 TO CATCH

Players to be picked up; available in most standard leagues

Collin McHugh | Houston Astros | SP

(h/t RazzBall)

Collin McHugh’s curveball is a thing of beauty, but it’s not just pretty, it’s arguably the most effective curve in the game. Only Adam Wainwright and Jesse Hahn can rival McHugh’s bender in terms of movement and bat-missing ability. He spots it well and it’s absolutely untouchable down in the zone.

Colin McHugh Curve Whiff Rate

I’m just so glad to have him back. He was due for a bit of home run regression and although I didn’t expect it to hit so hard in his first outing back, I’m fine with resetting expectations just a bit. I do believe that McHugh will outperform the 4.94 and 4.29 ERAs projected by ZiPS and Steamer, respectively; I expect he’ll maintain something closer to his 3.63 FIP. Regardless, the strikeouts are not going anywhere. McHugh remains among the best in the league when it comes to missing bats and as long as that curveball is still around, that’s not likely to change.

To pick him up, I’d drop: Chris Young, Danny Duffy, Clay Buchholz

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2014 Fantasy Baseball Week 17 Waiver Wire: 3 to Catch, 3 to Cut, 3 to Keep

In the Week 17 edition of fantasy baseball 3×3, we’re snagging Joaquin Benoit, sticking with J.J. Hardy, and waiting for reality to set in for Casey McGehee.

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 of the most interesting players for fantasy owners, 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, reports of ridiculous unwritten rules violations? Hit me in the comments or on Twitter.

Seriously, Colby Lewis is the worst.

3 TO CATCH

Players to be picked up; available in most standard leagues

Joaquin Benoit | San Diego Padres | RP

Now that Huston Street has been shipped off to Los Angeles, Joaquin Benoit slots as the closer for the San Diego Padres. He won’t get a ton of opportunities to close things down for one of the worst teams in the National League, but Benoit is one of the most consistently excellent relievers in baseball and when the Padres do get a lead, it’s usually within the confines of a save situation.

Since re-emerging with the Rays in 2010, he hasn’t posted an xFIP worse than 3.29 or a strikeout rate below 26.1% in any single season. He closed for the Tigers most of last year, locking down 24 out of 26 save chances. He had some issues with the home run ball toward the end of last season (he’s the guy staring sadly into the distance in this video), but Petco Park tends to iron those things out. So far this season, he’s converted his only save chance alongside 16 holds.

I don’t expect Benoit to underperform as a closer, but be aware that there’s a chance his time in this role for the Padres could be relatively short. Not because of any challenger in the San Diego bullpen, but because I expect the Padres to be willing to listen to trade offers for anybody on the roster. The good news is that the team most rumored to be interested in Benoit, the Detroit Tigers, would probably only trade for Benoit if they plan to boot Joe Nathan out of the ninth inning. It’s really just speculation on my part, but the Tigers had the choice between the two of them this offseason and chose to go with Nathan; I don’t expect that they’ll re-acquire Benoit (and the $8 million he’s due next season) unless it’s really an emergency.

In any case, Benoit projects to close games, and to do so with aplomb, for the rest of the season. He needs to be owned in every league.

To pick him up, I’d drop: Joe Nathan, Casey Janssen, Santiago Casilla

James Paxton | Seattle Mariners | SP

We all drooled over him earlier in the season and we all cried over his injury shortly thereafter; James Paxton is healthy and poised to return to the Seattle Mariners rotation, bringing this wonderful goodness back into our lives.

(h/t Lookout Landing)

He only threw 12 innings with the Mariners before his injury, but he was dynamite during that span, allowing only three runs and just eight baserunners. His fastball sits comfortably at 94 miles-per-hour; he backs it up with a curve that was damn near untouchable in his short MLB stint. Paxton threw the hammer 26 times; he generated whiffs on two-thirds of swings against it and allowed only one ball to be put in play. It was a routine ground ball out.

Paxton is in the midst of a rehab assignment now. He’s been pain free throughout and should be back up in the big leagues in a week or so. Snag him now while you can.

To pick him up, I’d drop: Drew Smyly, Jake Odorizzi, Ubaldo Jimenez

Chris Dickerson | Cleveland Indians | OF

Chris Dickerson announced his presence with authority on Saturday night, slugging two homers against Max Scherzer and seizing his opportunity in a wide open Cleveland Indians outfield.

Dickerson was initially acquired to replace the injured Michael Bourn, but he could easily hit his way into something very close to an everyday job. He struggles against lefties, but he’s hit well against righties in his career, posting .782 OPS alongside a nice combination of speed and pop. That, combined with Dickerson’s excellent defensive reputation, makes the future look awfully murky for David Murphy, who’s currently occupying the nominal role of righty-mashing outfielder in the Cleveland lineup.

I added “nominal” in there because Murphy’s been just about as bad as the left-handed half of a platoon can possibly be. He’s slashed .237/.305/.362 against righties so far, well below his career .275/.342/.458 line, but strikingly similar to last season’s .219/.286/.399 effort. His meltdown will only smooth the path for Dickerson to establish himself as a regular in Cleveland.

Dickerson’s projections are a bit hard to wrangle (nobody expected him to work his way into significant playing time), but based on his short sample expectations and the volume of plate appearances he could earn with everyday work, he’s capable of chipping in a handful each of homers and steals alongside a palatable batting average and OBP. Dickerson’s ceiling isn’t quite high enough to make him a consideration in shallow mixed leagues, but I’d give him a look in AL-only for sure.

To pick him up, I’d drop: David Murphy, Dustin Ackley, Josh Willingham

3 TO CUT

Players to be traded or dropped, depending on the depth of your league

Casey McGehee | Miami Marlins | 1B/3B

The pre-ASB time period isn’t always enough of a sample to draw accurate conclusions about a player, but it’s not an insignificant one either. Casey McGehee had a great first half and performed at an exceptionally high level, and he deserves praise for that. But he also benefitted from more good fortune and any other cleanup hitter in baseball, even excepting the fact that he gets to hit behind one of the most feared offensive forces in baseball, Giancarlo Stanton.

Only Albert Pujols and Ryan Howard have come up more often with men on base and only Lorenzo Cain can outpace McGehee’s .411 BABIP in those situations. It’s not wholly unusual for players to have more success when defenders are pulled toward checking runners and covering bases, but this year’s mark is way out of character for McGehee. In 2012, his BABIP with men on was .301. In 2011, it was .237. In 2010, it was .313.

Though his BABIP, which currently sits at .369 overall, is doomed to regress, McGehee’s improved plate discipline will help him maintain a strong OBP. His power is bound to bounce back a bit (his homer on Sunday doubled his season total), but the RBIs are going to dry up, taking much of his fantasy value with them.  He’s currently tied for 25th in baseball in that category; it wouldn’t surprise me at all if he finished outside the top 50.

I’d trade/drop him for: Steve Pearce, Billy Butler, Lonnie Chisenhall

Odrisamer Despaigne | San Diego Padres | SP

We discussed last week how Jesse Hahn is breaking the mold of the typical flash in the Petco pan by actually being, you know, a good pitcher. The flip side of that coin is adorned with the smiling face of Odrisamer Despaigne. Riding a sub-.200 BABIP and near 90% strand rate to instant fantasy relevance, Despaigne is the picture of how San Diego can turn the stat lines of mediocre pitchers from frumpy to fabulous.

Despaigne’s very minor league track record actually shows some strikeout upside, but to this point in his big league career, he’s barely managed one punchout in every other inning. Even when he flirted with a no-hitter on Sunday, he managed only five strikeouts against three walks. Only his sinker has generated above average whiffs against MLB hitters, and at just over 13% whiffs per swing, it’s not good enough to generate any kind of strikeout volume. Despaigne is 27 years old and experienced in the Cuban League; his minor league strikeout rates were likely the result of a craftiness and guile that just doesn’t work against better hitters. His below average chase rate proves that he’s not fooling anybody.

Odrisamer  Despaigne Swing Rate

Smart hitters are attacking Despaigne when he does come into the strike zone. The fact that all five of his starts so far have come in pitcher’s parks (San Diego, Los Angeles, and San Francisco) has helped to limit the damage, but as the season goes on, his ERA will likely draw closer to his 4.39 xFIP.

I’d trade/drop him for: Kevin Gausman, Ryan Vogelsong, Jorge de la Rosa

Edinson Volquez | Pittsburgh Pirates | SP

Good news, Edinson Volquez has finally slayed his command demons and cut his walk rate to almost league average! Over the last 30 days, he’s ridden that newfound control to the third-best ERA in baseball. He’s surrendered no more than one run in five of his last six outings.

Bad news, his improved control has seemingly come at the expense of the life that used to make his stuff overpowering. His walk rate is a career low at 8.0%, but his strikeout rate, swinging strike rate, and contact rate are all career lows as well. Oh, and that start when he didn’t allow one run or fewer? He couldn’t make it out of the third inning after surrendering nine baserunners and eight runs to Cincinnati.

Still, that’s just one start. It’s possible that the change in profile means that Volquez has finally figured out how to effectively tap into his immense talent. Let’s not forget, this dude was traded pretty much straight-up for Josh Hamilton back in 2007. If he’s figured out a way to rein things in, he could be a major fantasy asset.

Edinson  Volquez New vs Old

Nope.

Granted, the stats I picked above don’t account for his improved control, but almost every single one of his pitches has gotten significantly worse this season. It’s not surprising to see the declines in whiff rate and velocity, but without generating more ground balls, I’m not really sure what Volquez could possibly be improving. Yes, the command has gotten better, but his walk rate is still below league average.

It’s encouraging to see a veteran player willing to change his approach in order to earn a place in the big leagues, but Volquez hasn’t turned himself into a better pitcher, he’s just caught a wave of good luck. Outside of the deepest NL-only formats, he shouldn’t be a consideration for fantasy players.

I’d trade/drop him for: Jacob DeGrom, Marcus Stroman, Brandon McCarthy

3 TO KEEP

Players to hold or trade for; owned in most standard leagues

J.J. Hardy | Baltimore Orioles | SS

Much like the argument I made two weeks ago in favor of his teammate, Chris Davis, this is a bet on a player returning to the form he’s consistently maintained throughout his career. J.J. Hardy is on pace to log just over 600 plate appearances this season; through 359 trips to the plate, he’s hit just four home runs. On the four occasions on which he’s eclipsed the 600 plate appearance mark in the past, he’s never hit fewer than 22 homers, and that’s not counting the year when he hit a career high 30 bombs in only 537 plate appearances.

It’s quite an oddity, one that’s just as difficult to explain as it would’ve been to project. Other than the frightening drop in power production, there’s been little change in Hardy’s game this season. His plate discipline has been slightly worse than normal, but his batted ball rates are nearly identical to his career averages. His 280-foot average fly ball distance matches last year’s figure almost exactly.

It’d be silly to project Hardy into a monster second half in which he catches up to his career norm, but it’d be just as silly to expect his underperformance to continue. The right answer, as it often does, lies somewhere in the middle. ZiPS and Steamer both project Hardy to crank seven dingers the rest of the way. Among shortstops, only Troy Tulowitzki, Hanley Ramirez, and Ian Desmond are projected to find the seats more often.

I wouldn’t trade/drop him for: Asdrubal Cabrera, Jean Segura, Jimmy Rollins

Phil Hughes | Minnesota Twins | SP

In his last nine starts, Phil Hughes has 5.16 ERA.

A chorus of Yankee fans mutters, “I told you so.”

In four of his last nine starts, Phil Hughes has pitched in Colorado, Texas, Boston, and Toronto. He’s been burned by a .382 BABIP and a couple of bouts of the homeritis that plagued him earlier in his career, though two of the six homers he allowed during that span qualified as “Just Enough”, per ESPN’s Home Run Tracker.

In his last nine starts, Phil Hughes has fanned 53 and walked only five in 59.1 innings. He’s maintained a 40.8% chase rate that would rank as the best in baseball and jumped his ground ball rate six percentage points above his career average. His 2.82 FIP over those nine outings is better than American League aces Max Scherzer and Corey Kluber.

Perspective is everything on Hughes. He burned more than a few fantasy owners after largely failing to live up to the tidal wave of hype that propelled him up to the Yankees rotation. He’s evolved since then, but fantasy owners haven’t forgotten his checkered past and been quick to jettison the struggling Twin. His ownership has sunk near 50% in Yahoo! leagues and even lower in ESPN formats. Use the bias against him to your advantage.

Hughes’ luck will turn soon and he’ll remind us all that in the present, he’s a very good pitcher who can absolutely contribute in 12-team fantasy leagues.

I wouldn’t trade/drop him for: Hiroki Kuroda, Josh Beckett, Dan Haren

Rajai Davis | Detroit Tigers |OF

Rajai Davis was always expected to be a part-time player. While J.D. Martinez’ ascendance into the everyday lineup has taken a bit of a bite out of Davis’ playing time, another recent development in the Tigers’ roster has provided a counterbalance that’ll likely keep Davis in the lineup.

Andy Dirks, who was initially expected to platoon with Davis in left field, has suffered a setback from the back injury that’s kept him out for all of this season. The Tigers are trying to string out Dirks’ rehab assignment, but if he’s not healthy enough to join the big league club in the next two weeks, they’ll have a difficult roster decision to make and may end up keeping him down in the minors.

The fact that manager Brad Ausmus has slotted Torii Hunter at DH in six of his last 13 games also works in Davis’ favor. That decision was largely driven by Victor Martinez’ injury, but it also signals Ausmus’ realization that Hunter is a minus defender in right field. By UZR, Hunter is more than that. He’s the worst defensive right fielder in the league by miles; he’s responsible for almost triple the negative impact of the second-worst right fielder. Davis isn’t a defensive ace by any stretch, but his below average output in left, plus Martinez’ average-ish defense in right represents a significant upgrade.

While all of the lineup machinations are sorted out, Davis will keep playing and keep stealing bases. He’s continued to make good contact and keep the ball largely on the ground, leading to a very solid .292 batting average. While he’s showed more pop this year than he has in the past, Davis’ bread is still buttered on the basepaths, where he’s already snagged 24 bags. He hasn’t been quite as aggressive in the past week or so, but that’s to be expected against outstanding throwers like Salvador Perez and Yan Gomes. He’ll pick up the pace as the season goes on.

I wouldn’t trade/drop him for: Adam Eaton, B.J. Upton, Shane Victorino

2014 Fantasy Baseball Week 16 Waiver Wire: 3 to Catch, 3 to Cut, 3 to Keep

In the Week 16 edition of fantasy baseball 3×3, we’re evolving Jarrod Dyson, evaluating Henderson Alvarez, and evangelizing for Jesse Hahn.

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, second half predictions?? Hit me in the comments or on Twitter.

3 TO CATCH

Players to be picked up; available in most standard leagues

Jarrod Dyson | Kansas City Royals | OF

I really like it when limited players steer into the skid, when they accept, understand, and embrace their limitations. For instance, I like that Chris Carter unabashedly swings for the fences. I like that he hits leads the major leagues in fly ball rate and ranks fifth in HR/FB rate. And I love that he doesn’t seem to care that ranks second in swinging strike rate. He knows he can’t hit for average, so he makes damn sure he’s never going to get cheated.

Chris Carter couldn’t be further from Jarrod Dyson, stylistically speaking, but I do think Dyson is starting to learn a similar lesson.

He’ll never win a home run derby, but he steals bases as well as anybody in baseball. Dyson is 17-for-21 this season after going 36-for-40 last year. All he needs to put that speed in play is a regular spot in the lineup and a decent OBP, and he’s well on his way to both this season.

Dyson has radically improved his approach at the plate, taking full advantage of his wheels by posting the lowest strikeout rate of his career and the fourth-highest ground ball rate in baseball. He’s reaped the rewards to the tune of a career-best .293 batting average. It’s nearly 30 points better than his previous career high, but I think he can maintain it. Dyson has really evolved as a hitter this season; he’d never combined this batted ball profile with this kind of excellent contact rate before. With both going strong, he’s absolutely capable of maintaining a BABIP around .340 and an average near .300.

Now, about that playing time. The Royals are so desperate for outfielders…

How desperate are they?

The Royals are so desperate for outfielders that they let Raul Ibanez do this.

Ibanez_lol_medium

Dyson has been a regular since mid-July. With only the punchless Nori Aoki as a challenger, I don’t think his place in the outfield is in jeopardy, even when Alex Gordon comes back.

To pick him up, I’d drop: Denard Span, Eric Young, Drew Stubbs

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2014 Fantasy Baseball Week 15 Waiver Wire: 3 to Catch, 3 to Cut, 3 to Keep

In the Week 15 edition of fantasy baseball 3×3, we’re keeping up with Dee Gordon, cutting ties with Chris Johnson, and tapping into Steve Pearce’s potential.

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, David Price trade rumors? Hit me in the comments or on Twitter.

3 TO CATCH

Players to be picked up; available in most standard leagues

Steve Pearce | Baltimore Orioles | 1B

I’m typically not the reactionary type. I’m typically not the type to get all excited about facts like “over the past month, only five hitters have a higher ISO than Steve Pearce’s .300”. For instance, I’m not excited to write that one of those players is J.D. Martinez. I don’t tend to buy that one mechanical adjustment overwrites a career of streaky, undisciplined hacking.

But I am buying in on Pearce, who seems less like a human hot streak and more like a talented player who’s never really gotten a consistent chance to prove himself. The Orioles are his fourth team in three seasons, but prior to that, he was regarded as a spectacular prospect. In 2008, Baseball America ranked his hit tool, power, and plate discipline as the best in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization. The same Pittsburgh Pirates organization that counted Andrew McCutchen as its best prospect. It’d be silly to much much stock in a prospect ranking from more than five years ago, but it does serve to illustrate that Pearce’s talent is real.

If I’m really going to believe that a player who’d been touted in the past has finally tapped into his potential, I’d need to see a change in approach, ability, or, ideally, both.

Well, lookie there, it’s a change in approach! Pearce’s stayed disciplined enough to lay off pitches outside the strike zone, but his overall swing rate is up to a career high level.

Yeah, you’re right, that’s probably not specific enough. We’ll need to see how that approach manifests itself in more detail. Check out the difference in Pearce’s zone profile against hard stuff over his first seven big league seasons and this season (click to enlargify):

Steve  Pearce Swing Rate

Pearce has not only been more aggressive on pitches up in the strike zone, he’s done a ridiculous amount of damage when he’s attacked those offerings:

Steve  Pearce ISO

It’s probably not possible for him to continue this pace, but there’s real improvement here. He’s settled into the cozy two-hole in a very good Baltimore batting order, where he’s tagging both lefties and righties. His average fly ball distance puts him in the right company; Pearce trails Brandon Moss, Matt Kemp, and Carlos Gomez by less than a foot. His 17.2% HR/FB rate fits in well too. It paces just a tick behind Moss and a few percentage points ahead of Kemp and Gomez. It’ll likely decline a bit over the rest of the season, but he’s got enough power to maintain something in the 14-15% range. Pearce has posted ISOs better than .200 in three separate stints in Triple-A; it just took until now for that power to translate to the major league level.

To pick him up, I’d drop: Mark Teixeira, Ryan Howard, J.D. Martinez

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2014 Fantasy Baseball Week 14 Waiver Wire: 3 to Catch, 3 to Cut, 3 to Keep

In the Week 14 edition of fantasy baseball 3×3, we’re refusing to trade Jeff Samardzija, flipping Pedro Alvarez, and giving Jake McGee the title he deserves.

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, Belgian national team scouting reports? Hit me in the comments or on Twitter.

3 TO CATCH

Players to be picked up; available in most standard leagues.

Jake McGee | Tampa Bay Rays | RP

As a longtime admirer of Sean Doolittle, I couldn’t be happier to see a Doolittle clone moving toward the closer’s role in Tampa Bay. Jake McGee ranks second among all relievers in FB%, bringing his 95-plus mph heat almost 95% of the time. His fastball doesn’t get quite as many swings as Doolittle’s, but his fastball whiff rate compares favorably with the best closers in the game. He’s pitched in 38 games this season and has allowed more than one baserunner just five times.

Unquestionably, McGee has the stuff of an elite closer.

And he seems to have the stomach for the role as well. McGee has been dynamite in high leverage situations, posting a 1.29 FIP, striking out 13 of the 40 batters he’s faced, and stranding almost 90% of the inherited runners.

And forget any question of platoon splits for the lefty. McGee has obliterated right-handed hitters this season, holding them to a .177 wOBA that would make Nick Punto blush.

At this point, only Joe Maddon stands in the way of McGee becoming the closer, and I don’t know that he has any other useable options. Grant Balfour was formally fired a few weeks ago. Juan Carlos Oviedo, the other “proven closer” on the roster, has been scored upon in three of his last six outings. Joel Peralta was excellent in a save opportunity against the Astros, but followed that up by getting hammered in Baltimore.

McGee, on the other hand, has converted back-to-back save chances and hasn’t allowed a run since June 5. The fact that Maddon won’t name a closer might mean that McGee finishes the year with 15 saves instead of 25, but those 15 saves still have a ton of value, especially attached to his elite peripherals.

To pick him up, I’d drop: LaTroy Hawkins, Cody Allen, Jenrry Mejia

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2014 Fantasy Baseball Week 13 Waiver Wire: 3 to Catch, 3 to Cut, 3 to Keep

In the Week 13 edition of fantasy baseball 3×3, we’re revisiting Carlos Martinez, reinvigorating Albert Pujols, and revising expectations for Mike Moustakas.

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, anything that will help me deal from the crushing sadness I’m feeling from the Portugal game? Hit me in the comments or on Twitter.

#BeatGermany (Editor’s note: #OrTieGermany)

3 TO CATCH

Players to pick up off waivers; owned in less than half of leagues

Carlos Martinez | St. Louis Cardinals | SP/RP

Especially when it comes to pitching, fantasy baseball is as much about understanding roles as it is about evaluating talent. I advocated for Carlos Martinez earlier in the season on the strength of his talent alone. Though his results haven’t quite lived up to the billing I gave him, I’m not going to skip the chance to recommend him again now that he’s fallen into a more favorable situation. With Michael Wacha and Jaime Garcia both gone to the DL, Martinez has an ironclad lock on a rotation slot for at least the next few weeks.

Martinez is still stretching himself out, but so far, pitching additional innings hasn’t had any detrimental effect on his dynamite fastball. In his two starts (which, to be fair, lasted four and five innings, respectively) his average fastball velocity remained well above 98 miles per hour and maxed out at over 100, according to Brooks Baseball.

As he’s gone deeper into games, Martinez has leaned on his heater more and more. As a reliever, his fastball usage varied significantly from outing to outing; it’s settled in at about 60% through his first two starts. I suppose it’s not a bad thing to pump in 98 mph 60% of the time, especially when it seems to make your secondary pitches better. Martinez’ changeup and slider were very good in relief; they’ve been unhittable (literally, in the case of the changeup) in his starts.

There are still plenty of refinements to be made, but I’m betting on the fortuitous confluence of talent and role here. Martinez is an add in any and every format.

To pick him up, I’d drop: Ubaldo Jimenez, Marco Estrada, Chris Tillman

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2014 Fantasy Baseball Week 12 Waiver Wire: 3 to Catch, 3 to Cut, 3 to Keep

In the Week 12 edition of fantasy baseball 3×3, we’re trusting Alfonso Soriano’s projection, escaping Carlos Gonzalez’ tentacles, and giving due credit to Ben Revere.

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, World Cup predictions? Hit me in the comments or on Twitter.

3 TO CATCH

Alfonso Soriano | New York Yankees | OF

Dave Cameron wrote a great piece earlier this week about trusting the projections. The whole article is definitely worth your time, but the gist is that in aggregate, regardless of whether a player starts fast or slow, looks lost or rejuvenated, they almost always come back to the projections.

Alfonso Soriano is an excellent test case for this approach.

Soriano has looked old this season. He’s hit only six home runs, scored only 21 runs, and driven in only 22 in 213 plate appearances. He’s only attempted one stolen base and sports a .249 OBP that ranks second-worst among major league regulars.

But ZiPS projects him for 16 homers the rest of the way, and I believe it wholeheartedly. Soriano isn’t going to suddenly start stealing bases or hitting for average, but he’s going to hit home runs. Prior to this season’s first half, he’d slugged at least 15 homers in each his last four half-seasons. He hit a total of 34 homers last season, and he’s never had a season-to-season drop of more than 13 homers in his career. That 13-homer drop happened after his career high 46 in 2006, in a 2007 season in which he registered over 100 fewer plate appearances than the previous year. Even if he repeated that drop this year, he’d finish with 21 homers, leaving 15 for him to hit the rest of the way.

Sure, he’s getting older, but his 38th birthday present wasn’t an instantaneous loss of the ability to hit baseballs long distances, it was probably some golf shirts, or a monogrammed cigar cutter, or something. Soriano isn’t the player he was, but he’s still a useful player. If you’re in need of power, scoop him up.

To pick him up, I’d drop: Curtis Granderson, Mark Teixeira, Marlon Byrd

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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

[Read more...]

2014 Fantasy Baseball Week 10 Waiver Wire: 3 to Catch, 3 to Cut, 3 to Keep

In the Week 10 edition of fantasy baseball 3×3, we’re staying the course with Zach Britton, letting reality set in for Nelson Cruz, and blindly following Domonic Brown.

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, Stanley Cup Finals predictions? Hit me in the comments or on Twitter.

3 TO CATCH

Zach Britton | Baltimore Orioles | RP [Read more...]

2014 Fantasy Baseball Week 9 Waiver Wire: 3 to Catch, 3 to Cut, 3 to Keep

In the Week 9 edition of fantasy baseball 3×3, we’re changing our tune on Marcell Ozuna, reaffirming our faith in Justin Verlander, and passing on Country Breakfast.

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, Game of Thrones predictions? Hit me in the comments or on Twitter.

3 TO CATCH

Marcell Ozuna | Miami Marlins | OF

I warned fantasy owners about Marcell Ozuna last year. I didn’t like him because his major league stat line looked like that of a different hitter than he’d been in the minors. I wrote that the Marlins rushed him through the minors and his production was propped up by an unsustainable BABIP. Ozuna was never the high average slap hitter he seemed to be early last season. His minor league profile shows that he’s happy to trade average for leverage; he slugged 22, 23, and 24 homers each in his last three full MiLB seasons, years in which Ozuna was 19, 20, and 21 years old. His power didn’t kick in at the major league level last season, but for a 22 year-old with almost no experience above High-A, immediate success is an unreasonable expectation. After nearly a full season of big league service time, however, he’s starting to tap into the skill that got him promoted in the first place.

Ozuna’s average has predictably dropped a bit, but he’s raised his fly ball rate and nearly quadrupled his HR/FB rate from last season; his 16% mark ranks 14th among outfielders and paces ahead of sluggers like Yoenis Cespedes and Carlos Gonzalez. It’s the kind of jump that would seem suspicious until you consider the fact that Ozuna has raised his average fly ball distance by more than 25 feet from last year. According to ESPN Home Run Tracker, six of his eight home runs would’ve left every yard in baseball. His 280-foot average distance isn’t yet elite, but it puts him in the right company, sandwiched on the leaderboard between Cespedes and Brian McCann.

Ozuna is still developing, but this kid’s got serious raw talent. If you’re in the market for power, he’s a great add in any format.

To pick him up, I’d drop: Curtis Granderson, Christian Yelich, Marlon Byrd

[Read more...]