Much like in real baseball, in fantasy, timing can be everything. On Monday, Grey mentioned that he’d like to find a term for a guy who does what Tommy Pham did this past Sunday – that is, a guy who goes off on Sunday afternoon, driving up his Sunday night FAAB price. I need a slightly different way to describe this phenomenon in my deepest NL and AL-only leagues, as both have weekly waivers that get processed on Saturday night. I’ve been in one of the leagues for years now, and I’m still not used to it. I don’t know why the founding fathers of this league thought it was a good idea to run waivers on Saturday when everyone and their dog knows that Sunday evening is the proper time to be thinking about one’s FAAB budget (hell, I half expected my computer to auto-correct when I typed the phrase “waivers on Saturday.”) I can only assume it’s to put those of us who might be extra busy/drunk/etc. on Saturday at a disadvantage, and I’m afraid that this particular strategy works on occasion. The week in 2014 that Jacob DeGrom and Anthony DeSclafani were called up, it was hardly my fault that I wasn’t sober enough to rank DeGrom ahead of Disco in my waiver claim list! It haunts me to this day, as it’s a keeper league where I would still have DeGrom at a bargain-basement price… as opposed to the three weeks of bargain-basement pitching I received before I unceremoniously dropped DeSclafani.
Getting back to my original point (if I actually had one, and I may not have now that I think about it), the Saturday night waivers lead to another issue — the frustration of picking the player up when you desperately need to fill a hole in your lineup, but not being able to start him until Monday. I swear I’ve lost count of the times I’ve helplessly watched a player have a career day for my bench (as Pham did on Sunday, with 4 hits including 2 home runs… I honestly didn’t remember that he also stole a base that day until I just looked it up, so I guess I must have successfully blocked that part out since I am beyond desperate for steals in that league). Then again, I’m not sure if losing a great day of production is worse when you can’t control it, or when you can. Please don’t get me started on the daily-change league where I somehow ended up with too much depth and have to decide each morning whether to play Mark Reynolds or Jay Bruce at utility… somehow I think I have 4 homers out of that spot in my lineup, when I should have like 19. All I know is that the timing isn’t always going to work out, and sometimes in a game of inches, that can be excruciating… last year in this league, one RBI literally made the difference between second and third place. If nothing else, the loss of a home run or two that could possibly alter the final standings at the end of the year is a reminder that it does pay to keep on top of every roster spot, and to do your best not to let any production go to waste. And with that being said, let’s peruse a few names that might prove to be worthy adds in an NL or AL-only league.
Tommy Pham. Well, why not start with today’s titular (hee hee) player? Since we’ve already covered my assumption/fear that 75-plus percent of Pham’s 2017 production is probably behind us, is there chance he’ll actually be of value? Dexter Fowler is already pinch hitting, and it doesn’t sound like Stephen Piscotty is too far behind him, so the number of starts Pham sees going forward may be severely limited. But I have to imagine he’ll be staying in St. Louis even when they’re back, with Jose Martinez hurt and Magneuris Sierra having been bumped up to what I assume is a quickie appearance in the show, all the way from high A ball. If Pham hits at all and sticks as their fourth outfielder, he could still be of use in a deeper NL-only league. This would be especially true if Matheny is having anywhere near as much trouble as I am forgetting Pham’s monster Sunday and gets tempted to keep throwing him in the starting lineup.
Tyler Anderson. I invested in Anderson at the end of several NL-only drafts this year, and he repaid me by making me look like the dreamy-eyed fool that I was, thinking that he was going to get off to anything other than a horrendous start pitching in Colorado (turns out he was pitching horrendously outside of Colorado, too, and his ownership numbers have been plummeting). His numbers last year were solid if not spectacular, and I found his K/BB ratio particularly appealing (he had 99 strikeouts/28 walks in 114 innings). I’ve noticed that on occasion an MLB team’s local announcers will drop a fantasy-helpful nugget that I haven’t heard or read anywhere else. While I was watching the Rockies game Saturday, the announcers mentioned that Anderson had made an adjustment to his cutter, which they seemed to think was going to be a big key towards fixing his early-season issues. He went on to hold the Diamondbacks to one run over 6 innings (in Coors), with a mouthwatering 10 strikeouts versus 1 walk. I’m not just going to throw him in all of my active lineups, but I am holding him in a few leagues to see if he turns things around.
Mike Montgomery. He doesn’t have a rotation spot, and will continue to pitch out of the bullpen if the Cubs bypass him and replace the injured Brett Anderson with Eddie Butler. Montgomery is definitely a guy to watch if he does end up in the rotation, but in a deep league, you could do worse with one of your last pitching spots even if he remains in middle-relief limbo in the pen (and the Cubs may be on to something if they ultimately decide that he is actually more valuable there). It’d be nice if he pumped up the strikeouts and cut down on the walks, but he’s been looking great after a shaky start to the season – his last three appearances were all multiple innings (3.2, 3, and 2) and he hasn’t allowed a run since April 17th.
T.J. Rivera. Unless I was dreaming, Grey told you to buy him on Friday (and come on, who here among us hasn’t had a dream involving Grey and T.J. Rivera). I’m going to mention him again because he keeps playing – and hitting – he has
5 (6 now!) RBI since then. Lucas Duda could return within the week, but if he has a setback or gets hurt again (Magic 8-Ball says Signs Point To Yes), Rivera should see more time at first base. If T.J. keeps hitting, he might stay in the mix even with Duda back.
Colby Rasmus. Came off the DL Saturday and promptly picked up his first homer and 3 RBI. He has averaged batting .225 over the last three years, which is very, very bad. He has also averaged hitting 19 home runs over that same time span, which is not so bad at all if you’re desperate for power (which you might be, especially if Yonder Alonso was available in your league a few weeks ago when I suggested you pick him up, but you didn’t). If you watch Colby play and squint really hard, you might just see a glimpse of the fresh-faced 23-year old that hit .276 and went 23/12 for the Cardinals in 2010, who we all thought was a budding superstar. Or you might see a guy who strikes out almost 4 times as much as he walks, who on most days will leave you with a sad little 0-for-4 piece of poop. That same creature, though, will occasionally surprise you with a bundle of love in the form of a 3-run bomb, just when you’re ready to return him to the animal shelter-like confines of the deep league waiver wire. (Yo, Rasmus already went deep again since I wrote this!)
Luis Valbuena. Another recent returnee from the DL, he should start regularly against righties. His production at the major league level over the last several years has been uneven to say the least, and his career batting average is down to .232. But we’re looking at another potential cheap source of home runs for the power-starved – his 3-year average is 18, buoyed by a career-high 25 just 2 years ago. (And now Valbuena too has homered again since I wrote this.)
Kennys Vargas. Started the year at AAA, called up to Minnesota on April 23rd, and began making an impact immediately – he’s now hitting .294 with 3 homers and 8 RBI in just 10 games. He’s a switch hitter who has been much better against righties so far this year, but did damage on both fronts in 2016 (5 homers in 45 at bats against lefties, plus 5 homers in 107 at bats against righties). Whether he’s splitting DH time with Robbie Grossman or backing up Joe Mauer at first, it appears the Twins will try to keep finding ways to get him up to bat from both sides of the plate. (Okay, this is getting ridiculous — Vargas literally hit a 2-run shot as I was in the process of submitting this… why on earth don’t men in real life take my suggestions and do exactly what I tell them to like this??!!)
Joe Biagini. A former Rule 5 guy, he was moved out of the Toronto bullpen to make his first major league start against the Rays after Mat Latos was DFA’d. Biagini (a starter in the minors) was on a pretty strict pitch count, but went four innings (52 pitches) with 2 hits, no walks, 4 Ks, 0 earned. He now has 3 walks and 22 strikeouts on the season… even though his ratios in the minors were nowhere close to this good, just looking at those numbers gives me little warm fuzzies inside. He also gets a lot of ground balls and can make a hitter swing at pitches out of the zone. It sounds like he’ll get at least one more start and will have his pitch count upped to the 70’s, so we’ll see what happens.