Well, baseball is back and the All Star break already feels like a distant memory, but it seems like there’s not really a lot going on in terms of the NL or AL-only waiver wire. With Jose Quintana, Sean Doolittle, Ryan Madson, we’ve had one biggish-name and two possibly impactful crossover players head to the NL, so depending on how your waivers work that may have produced a flurry of activity. Beyond those names, though, I feel like the waiver wire has been even thinner than normal in both the NL and AL only world. Perhaps a moment of calm before the storm as more trades/promotions go down, and it can be awfully difficult to predict how much real-life trading action there will be — and how it should impact one’s approach on using waiver priority, FAAB dollars, or whatever other method your league NL or AL-only league might use to acquire crossover players. (By the way, I should mention that I’m writing this on Monday and will not have a chance to edit it before it gets published, so if crazy flurries of trades, injuries, and assorted moments of baseball wackiness occur on Tuesday, well, that’ll have to be addressed next week).
Personally, I prefer using FAAB dollars, the bigger budget the better, over either a worst-to-first or any other straight waiver claim set up in an NL or AL-only league. Trying to out-think other owners in terms of bid amounts is a maddening but incredibly entertaining game-within-the fantasy game, as far as I’m concerned. And whether waiver claim or FAAB bid, there’s also the fun-but-frustrating task of trying to figure out if I should blow my wad (SUCH an unladylike term for me to be using!) on the kinda dull-but-probably-helpful-to-my-current-lineup Jose Quintana standing behind Door Number 1… or should I wait to see what’s behind Door Number 2. You never know — it might be Sonny Gray or Yu Darvish and I’m a major winner… or it might be a complete clunker like Marco Estrada, ready to drive me straight to Loserville.
As for Doolittle and Madson, I have two NL-only leagues (both use FAAB) where I could use a closer, where waivers for these guys will go through tonight, as I write this. I made a conscious decision to avoid the Nats’ bullpen at all costs in even my deepest leagues a while back, but desperation breeds FAAB bids. I don’t suspect I’ll end up with either of these guys in either league though, because I’m pretty sure I’ll get outbid on presumptive-closer Madson, and I’m not really interested in spending precious FAAB money speculating on Doolittle. I may regret it — or I may not, if the Nats trade for another reliever and Dusty does that thing again where he decides not to tell anyone, including his own players, who the closer is. This all reminds me why I decided to avoid the Nats pen in the first place – why on earth have we all put ourselves in a position to predict what the crazy toothpick man and his overlords are going to do??! Okay, time to take a breath, and look at some names that might be available in deep leagues…
Luke Voit. Here’s a guy I didn’t get the chance to mention a few weeks ago because I wasn’t sure he’d be around after the all star break, but for now he’s still holding his own with the big club. Actually I was going to write about him like a month ago ‘cause I thought his name was Luke Volt, which sounded really kick-ass, and made me want to learn a lot more about him. Then I looked again, saw his name was Luke Voit, and got bored. Turns out he’s a 26-year old who was more of a contact hitter in his first few minor league seasons, found some power in AAA at age 25 with a career high 19 homers in 2016, and is now hitting .302 with 3 homers in 17 games for the Cardinals. I’d say that puts him somewhere between the ultra-dull guy I assumed Luke Voit was, and the super-dreamy stud I imagined Luke Volt was. He will probably ultimately disappoint, but I’d own him in NL-only until he gives me reason not to.
Brent Suter. Speaking of guys I haven’t mentioned before because I didn’t think they’d be in the bigs this long… But Suter is still getting starts for the Brew Crew and his 2017 numbers have been quite pleasing to the fantasy owner: 27 innings, 2.96 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 25 K/8 BB. But he’s a pitch-to-contact kind of guy, and I’m just not buying those stats continuing – it’s hard not to get suspicious when a guy’s current major league numbers are better than his minor league career stats (3.44 ERA, 1.29 WHIP in 609 innings, with 477 Ks/166 BBs). I’d prefer he not be in any of my lineups when he comes back down to earth. Update after Monday’s start: Suter went 4 innings against the Pirates, looked great to start the game, but ended up with a line of 4.2 IP, 7 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 2 K. Yuck.
Albert Almora Jr.. I’d forgotten all about Almora, and how would you not with that crowded Cubbies outfield? But when Jason Heyward was disabled, Almora started nine of eleven games, and he’s now hitting .280 on the year, with 4 homers, 24 runs, and 17 RBI. That’s not a ton of production for 175 at bats, and with Heyward back and Kyle Schwarber re-promoted, Almora’s starts may be few and far between. Also, his real value as a real-life major leaguer is probably destined to be on the defensive side of the ball. Yet, he’s the kind of guy I would stash in a deep NL-only league, even a redraft, if he was available and I had the room… he just seems like the type that could be a random deep-league difference-maker come August or September if other (real-life) players’ injuries or ineffectiveness break in Almora’s direction.
Gorkys Hernandez. When I looked him up, I saw the number 75 and thought that’s how many at bats he’d had for the Giants this year, then realized he’s played in 75 GAMES… who knew?? That’s like, 82% of all the games the Giants have played this year. It takes a special player to play in most of a major league baseball team’s games and still be listed as 0% owned in CBS fantasy leagues, but Gorkys is that kind of special. He does have 7 steals, though, so if a handful of steals could make the difference for you in a crazy deep league, he could be your kind of special guy.
T.J. Rivera. I know I mentioned him before, but I feel like it’s time to do it again. Not because he’s so great, but because he’s so ignored. He’s so boring that even if he’s available in a deep NL-only league you may not notice him, but he’s the exact kind of guy you need at the end of a deep roster. He keeps finding his way into the Mets lineups while the rest of the team battles all kinds of injuries and disappointing performances, and he’s been solid if not spectacular all season long. He also probably qualifies at 2B and 3B in your league, and quite possibly 1B (18 games this year) as well.
Parker Bridwell. Back in March, the kids at Fangraphs summed up Bridwell as a 25-year old bullpen piece, but here he is four months later in a major league rotation. Well, the Angels rotation, but still. Let’s see.. damn, this guy has a long minor league page! To sum it all up, minors career: 33-47, 4.74 ERA, 1.42 WHIP, 626 Ks/311 BBs in 693 innings. Wow, that sucks. His major league numbers this year: 3.18 ERA, 1.36 WHIP, 27 Ks/11 BBs in 40 innings. Still not great, but suspiciously better than they should be. I’m not going to go near him, but as I may have mentioned, he seems to be in a major league rotation at the moment. If you’re chasing wins, or innings, or really need some Ks and have absolutely nothing to lose in the ratio categories, then I suppose he could come in handy.
Anibal Sanchez. I was surprised to see him listed as one of the most-added players in fantasy over the last week; he’s up to 28% owned in CBS leagues. What am I missing? How desperate for starts are these people? I guess Sanchez put together three quality starts in a row before giving up a 5-spot to the Blue Jays the other day, but his ERA is still over 6, for goodness sake. I guess I should mention that his K/BB numbers actually aren’t bad: 47/13 in 50 innings. If you squint and pretend you’re looking at 2013 Anibal (wow, that was an even better year than I remembered) I guess I can see taking a chance… I keep starting these posts thinking I wouldn’t add any of these guys under any circumstances, and the remembering how horrible and/or injured almost every starter in baseball has been this year, and suddenly taking a flier on a guy like Sanchez doesn’t seem quite so crazy.
Brad Boxberger. He returned from his back injury on the last day on June, and has been lights-out in his 6 appearances – he hasn’t allowed a run and has seven strikeouts (also three walks, but who’s counting. Well, we are, but still, he’s looked darn good). He’s already being used in eighth-inning/high-leverage situations and should be owned in any league where you could use a decent middle reliever/holds guy, or you’re speculating for saves (yes, 2016 was a lost year for Boxberger on that front, but don’t forget he had 41 of them in 2015).
Chad Green. It says a lot about how lame starting pitching has been this year, that I keep getting more excited by middle relievers. Or maybe it says something about my judgment in men. Did you know that the preferred spelling of judgment is without the “e” in the middle? Just a little nugget to impress your next dinner date with. Hmm, the fact that back in the day, a guy discussing spelling on a date actually would have impressed me probably says more about my judgment in men than the starter/reliever thing… namely that it’s actually pretty good, albeit boring in real life, and that I’m glad I’ve saved most of my horrible relationship decisions for fantasy baseball. Have I mentioned recently how glad I am to be free of Jason Heyward, despite the fact that I truly enjoyed much of our time together? Okay, moving back to this Green fella, he’s been pitching beautifully in the Yankees bullpen (1.75 ERA, 0.72 WHIP, 49 K/10 BB in 36 innings), taking advantage of Tyler Clippard’s suckitude to pretty much claim the 7th inning. I’d definitely recommend a fantasy relationship with him if you have an opening for a gentleman who provides those kinds of services.
Garrett Cooper. Who are all these young strangers the New York Yankees keep throwing into their lineup? Seeing a pin-striped team of fresh-faced kids making the major league minimum in the Bronx is off-putting and disconcerting for many of us, especially when most of them seem appealing and easy to root for! Cooper is already 26, so not all that fresh-faced in baseball terms, and he’s also 6’6” and 230 pounds. He has 1552 career minor league at bats, with a lovely .305 average/.370 OBP. He’s got 44 total homers in those at bats, but 17 of those have come this season. You have to think the Yankees will look outside the organization for some first base help sooner rather than later, but in the meantime Cooper will be silently fluttering out on the edge of my radar. Even as a part-timer, he’s the type we in the AL-only crowd need to be aware of just in case he manages to translate his 2017 AAA success over to the big leagues.