By Matthew De Lima
Let’s go with a classic Fantasy Baseball article this week: Waiver wire pickups! Timeless.
At this stage of the season, you know where your team stands. You’re either a contender or a pretender. For the former, this article probably isn’t for you. So really, what are you doing here, you overachiever? No need to rub your team’s domination in your competitors’ faces. For those towards the bottom of the standings, don’t make excuses. It’s time to face facts. Your team is no good. It’s time to hit the self-destruct button and bring in some new blood.
Let’s put it this way, regardless of what your strategy was to start the season, it isn’t working. Time to start a new and overhaul the roster with this list, which includes one player from each position.
(Note: Player ownership percentages from Yahoo! List only includes players owned in less than 50 per cent of leagues.)
C Ramon Hernandez, CIN (Y! owned: 25 per cent)
Hernandez doesn’t play terribly often, but in his limited time, he’s effective. He’s on pace to finish the year with 20 HRs and 50 RBIs. He’s swinging far more aggressively at the plate. Through 56 games this season, he’s hacking at 35.1 per cent of pitches outside the strike zone. That number is 13.2 per cent higher than his career average.
His .206 ISO would be a career-high, so this power may be more than you’d expect. The key here is that when he plays, he plays well. If you’re the type of owner who plays with a daily lineup, he’s a great fit. You can swap him in and out at your leisure. If you’re the type of owner who checks his teams sporadically, he may sit too many games to make much of an impact on your team.
For those who need an everyday catcher, consider Jonathan Lucroy out of Milwaukee. His numbers won’t overwhelm but he plays in a dynamite offence.
1B Mark Trumbo, LAA (Y! owned: 43 per cent)
Trumbo may have needed five years of seasoning in the minor leagues, but all that work has finally paid off. The 25-year-old rookie has 18 HRs, 43 RBIs and a respectable eight steals this season. Since July 4, he’s hitting .310 (far better than his .259 season total) and you can add five homers, eight driven in and one steal.
Unfortunately, manager Mike Scioscia has him hitting in the seventh or eighth spot in the order. This likely has to do with his low walk rate (5.3 per cent) and poor OBP (.306). However, if he keeps hitting at his July pace, Scioscia may be forced to move him up and get him more opportunities to drive in runs.
2B Jemele Weeks, OAK (Y! owned: 20 per cent)
For teams who need power, stay away. Weeks is an above average contact hitter for his position and he’ll never set the world ablaze with his power numbers. For the Fantasy owners who merely need hits, runs and steals, Weeks is a natural. Through 36 games, he already has 10 steals.
The key to his long-term Major League success will likely come from whether he can be more patient at the plate. His walk rate is a career-low (when compared to his minor league stats) 5.2 per cent. The A’s play small ball and need him to get on base as often as possible. There’s still enough games left for him to correct that problem but he may not bring his talents all together until next season.
3B Pedro Alvarez, PIT (Y! owned: 15 per cent)
Yes, really. In 12 Triple-A games, Alvarez is hitting .310 with two bombs and nine RBIs. He’s scored seven times and has doubled his ISO number when compared to his 36 Major League games this year.
Now, does this mean he is back? Does this mean he’s legit? Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. The strikeout rate is still ugly in Triple-A (26 per cent) but he’s already walked seven times in 12 games. This is statistically meaningful since he only walked 12 times in 36 games when in the bigs. When, not if, he gets called up, he’s worth a speculative add.
SS Jose Altuve, HOU (Y! owned: 0 per cent)
Nary a soul has added Altuve, but the Astros brought him up for good reason. He’s been in the minors since 2007 (he was only 17 then). In 87 games at Single-A and Double-A this season, Altuve is hitting .389 with 10 HRs and 59 RBIs. Oh, did I mention 24 steals as well? Naturally, making the leap from Double-A to the big show will take some adjustment, but this is the Astros we’re talking about. They need all the help they can muster.
Altuve has improved incrementally from year to year. By adding a dimension to his game in each year, he’s seen his power increase while maintaining solid sabermetric percentages in plate discipline. His strikeout rate is only 9.2 per cent at Double-A and he’s maintained an OPS of 1.000-plus in 2011. The options are thin and not particularly sexy at shortstop so any high ceiling prospect is worth the risk.
OF Josh Reddick, BOS (Y! owned: 7 per cent)
For those owners who acted quickly on Reddick, they’ve been handsomely rewarded. His .397 Batting average on balls in play is troublesome, but in limited playing time, he’s shown power and speed on the basepaths. All of his numbers are exaggerated right now, most notably his .304 ISO, but consider this; Reddick has 13 extra-base hits in 79 at-bats. That’s very good.
Reddick has been filling-in for J.D. Drew. How long will this last? It hasn’t been made official but it should be considered. Drew isn’t hitting for power or contact and his .630 OPS is tragically bad. As long as Reddick is healthy, expect Terry Francona to work to him into the lineup.
SP Josh Collmenter, ARI (Y! owned: 30 per cent)
Collmenter’s four consecutive losses beginning in mid-June hasn’t helped his overall numbers. In spite of that rough patch, he maintains a very good 2.65 ERA and 0.94 WHIP. In his last two starts, Collmenter has pitched 14 innings, allowed no earned runs, only six hits and one walk.
The strikeout numbers are weak (6.14 K/9) and not good enough to keep up with most Fantasy teams, but, his other numbers are so strong that it doesn’t matter. As the season progresses, expect his ERA to creep up above 3.00, which is still solid for a lightly-owned player. This observation comes from his 3.77 xFIP (Expected fielding independent pitching). What this tells you when compared to his ERA is that he’s been a bit lucky. He’s not terribly lucky, a better word would be fortunate. Bottom line, he’s good, but don’t expect a sub-3.00 ERA and sub-1.00 WHIP to last forever.
RP David Hernandez, ARI (Y! owned: 47 per cent)
Forget J.J. Putz for a second. Let’s say a reliever is asked to come out of the bullpen to start a game on short notice. After little to no preparation, this pitcher throws 6.1 near-perfect innings, allowing no hits and only one walk. Do you pull him if he shows no signs of derailing?
For whatever reason, it’s been assumed by the majority of Fantasy gurus that Putz will get his job back. MLB.com goes as far as to call Hernandez an “interim” closer. That’s a fair assessment only if you’ve been ignoring his performance. Hernandez on the other hand is only 26 years old and is sporting an impressive 9.97 K/9 and only 0.21(!) HR/9.
Putz has struggled with trips to the disabled list over the years and is anything but a lock to remain healthy. The only way he gets his job back is if Hernandez hands it to him with multiple awful showings.
(Stats updated through Tuesday, July 19.)
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