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Waiver Wire: Crazy for Kazmir

Senior Fantasy Writer
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Back in 2007, James Loney, the 23-year-old first baseman for the Dodgers, hit 15 home runs, 18 doubles, and produced a .331 batting average in 344 at-bats.

Everything kind of went downhill from there.

In 2008, Loney hit .289 with 13 home runs. His average would never get that high again. His power whittled away, as well, eventually bottoming out with four home runs in 434 at-bats last season. Loney had some bright spots here and there -- 10 steals and 41 doubles in 2010, 70 walks in 2009 -- but he eventually morphed into a one-dimensional, maybe-he'll-get-you-a-good-average Fantasy afterthought.

Loney's unsustainably-high .381 average right now is a bit of a misdirection. While everyone is shouting that it's due to go down, they're missing the fact that he's already hit three home runs, stolen two bases, and doubled 12 times. He's on pace for 60 doubles, and could set career highs in home runs and steals, if he can keep those rather modest rates up. His current OPS (.997) is the highest of his career, and there isn't a real threat on the team to his playing time.

The point is, while everyone else is expressing obvious disbelief in Loney's inflated average, owners in AL-only or deeper leagues -- especially in Head-to-Head formats -- may want to ask if a first baseman with 12-15 home runs, 40 doubles, and a shot at 10 steals is worth taking a gamble on, especially if the average ends up being around .270. It's not the prettiest line for a position that usually boasts big bats, but Loney could probably be had for a nice bargain in the proper format.

The Big Leaps

Scott Kazmir, SP, Indians (65 percent ownership, up from 11 percent)

From 2005 to 2008, Kazmir had a 3.51 ERA and 1.35 WHIP in 689 2/3 innings, striking out 742 batters. Over the next two seasons, Kazmir looked lost, with a 5.54 ERA and 1.52 WHIP in 299 innings, watching his K/9 rate plummet to 6.3. With the Atlantic League Sugar Land Skeeters last year, Kazmir went 3-6, with a 5.34 ERA, 1.67 WHIP, and a 7.2 K/9. So far this season, Kazmir is 2-2, with a 5.33 ERA, 1.46 WHIP, and 28 strikeouts in 25 1/3 innings pitched.

If you've read Danny Knobler's profile of Kazmir, you find it kind of hard not to believe that Kazmir is capable of returning to his glory years (he's still, after all, just 29 -- younger than John Axford, Justin Verlander, and Sergio Romo). Pair Kazmir's struggles with Rich Harden's recollection of trying to pitch through injury over the course of a few years, and there is an excuse for Kazmir's downswing -- pitching through pain leads to poor results. Kazmir's increased velocity this season (he's hit 95-96 mph, but his average fastball velocity, while climbing slightly every game, is still just 92.5, which is right around his 2009 and 2010 numbers) is a good sign, but it has to come with some sustained success before making him even a recommended add in any format outside of American League-only.

Most Added Players (as of 5/15)
Player Name % change
1. Scott Kazmir, SP, Indians 53
2. Mitch Moreland, 1B, Rangers 37
3. James Loney, 1B, Rays 36
4. Kelly Johnson, 2B, Rays 31
5. Heath Bell, RP, D-Backs 29
6. Francisco Liriano, SP, Pirates 26
7. Ryan Doumit, DH, Twins 21
8. Jeff Locke, SP, Pirates 20
9. Oswaldo Arcia, OF, Twins 20
10. Gerardo Parra, OF, D-Backs 18

The roadblock to embracing Kazmir is that there are -- despite all the good vibrations coming from Cleveland -- several layers of risk involved. First and foremost, the chance of another injury. Followed by Kazmir's velocity possibly stalling out at 92. And then the idea that maybe he just isn't that good anymore. Even in that 2005-2008 run, Kazmir sported a pretty high WHIP.

On the flip side to all of that, however, is the idea that this is just a very good pitcher who was hurt, trying to work his way back, armed with the sagacity of age and experience.

I wish there was an easy answer here, but there isn't. And because of that, I can't feel confident adding Kazmir to my pitching staffs. He may have a good season, or the bottom may come out. Without having much to go on either way, my plan is to stay away and watch it play out on someone else's team.

Over/under on ERA (season): 4.10
Over/under on K/9 (season): 8.0
Over/under on starts (season): 24

Mitch Moreland, 1B, Rangers (57 percent, up from 24)

The biggest worry with Moreland coming into the season was playing time. And it was just a hypothetical threat at playing time, at that. With Jurickson Profar looking major league ready in spring training, there was a theory floating around that Profar would play second base, Ian Kinsler would move to first, and Moreland would have to scrap for at-bats with Lance Berkman at DH and David Murphy in the outfield. A second theory also imagined a world where Mike Olt played well enough to win the first base job outright from Moreland.

Instead, Moreland has started all but two of the Rangers' games. Profar is hitting .250 with two home runs in the PCL, while Olt got off to a rough start and is currently on the minor league DL coping with vision problems that began in spring training. The regular playing time has done wonders for Moreland, meanwhile, as he's hitting .296 with nine home runs and a .925 OPS. He also -- like Baltimore's Chris Davis -- is done bouncing to the outfield from time to time and can just focus on one position. A lot of players excel when given every day at-bats -- there's no pressure coming from competition and it's easier to get into a groove at the plate. Moreland, whose career-high in at-bats is 464, may finally be getting a chance to show what he can do in a legitimate full-time role.

Over/under on home runs (season): 24
Over/under on average (season): .275
Over/under on his ownership by May 31: 87 percent

Unadvised Drop of the Week

Ryan Vogelsong, SP, Giants (50 percent, down from 59 percent)

Vogelsong is one of baseball's greatest yo-yos. Over the first seven seasons of his career, Vogelsong had a 5.86 ERA and 1.59 WHIP. From 2007 to 2009, Vogelsong pitched in Japan, with his ERA dipping below 4.00 just once in three seasons. In 2010, he signed with the Phillies and was sent to the minors. By July, he was released and pitching in the Angels' system. In 2011, the Giants gave Vogelsong a shot, and he responded with a 2.71 ERA and 1.25 WHIP. Last season, Vogelsong had a 3.37 ERA and 1.23 WHIP. So this year, just when many of us were coming around and embracing Vogelsong, he thanked us with ... a 7.78 ERA through his first seven games.

I never thought I'd find myself in the position of defending Vogelsong -- he doesn't have a very good track record and you can't count on him for strikeouts. But it seems like owners are abandoning him with a little too much indifference, considering what he did in 2011 and 2012. In fact, there are a few reasons to look forward to a rebound:

1. BABIP: Vogelsong's BABIP is currently .367. His career BABIP is .297, and it was .282 over the last two seasons. This is due for a pretty major correction.
2. Strand rate: Vogelsong's strand rate sits at 59.2%, a very low number for a starter. But it could be related to the fact that he has a very high ...
3. HR/9 rate: At 2.06, Vogelsong is giving up home runs at a rate almost double of his career, and nearly three times his post-Japan years. And while his fly ball rate is about where it's been the last couple years (maybe even a bit lower), and his velocity is just slightly lower than 2011/12, his HR/FB rate is through the roof -- at 19.6 percent, it's up markedly from his numbers the last two years (8.2 percent) and over his career (9.0 percent).

These numbers aren't saying we should expect Vogelsong to totally turn things around and finish with a sub-3.00 ERA. But if you grab him off the wire now, chances are you'll get the benefits of his turnaround, without any of this early ugliness.

Over/under on ERA (season): 3.99
Over/under on WHIP (season): 1.29

The Flavor of Next Week

Avisail Garcia, OF, Tigers (Seven percent ownership)

Garcia entered 2013 in a weird place. Despite getting his first major league at-bat on Aug. 31 last year, Garcia made the postseason roster, playing in 12 games and hitting .261 with four RBI. But even with the departure of Delmon Young, the team had no role for him. In short, he went from playing in the World Series to being told he's headed to Toledo.

After a stint on the DL to start the season, Garcia promptly tore up minor league pitching over 14 games, hitting .426 with two home runs, two steals, and a 1.076 OPS. Called up to Detroit after Austin Jackson was injured, Garcia got his first start of the year on Wednesday and hit a three-run home run, starting in center field.

While much is made about Garcia being mentored by Miguel Cabrera -- the two are listed at the same height and weight (6-foot4, 240 ponds) -- there's a speed element to Garcia's game that may get overlooked, with some would-be owners assuming that he's more of a power threat. But Garcia has stolen 20 bases or more twice in the minors (with another season of 14), while hitting double-digit home runs just twice. And Jim Leyland has vowed to get Garcia in the lineup, slotting him in center field or at the corners.

With the home run on Wednesday, Garcia will get some "who is this guy?" curiosity. If he hits at least one more by Monday, he will become a hot commodity, as Jackson could be out for a decent amount of time with the groin injury.

Over/under on average (season): .269
Over/under on home runs (season): 12
Over/under on at-bats (season): 370

American League-only fun

Tommy Hunter, RP, Orioles (Seven percent ownership)

Hunter's fastball this year is averaging 96.24 mph. For his career, it has averaged about 92.23. Hunter has been re-born in the Baltimore bullpen, with an ERA three runs lower than his career number, a markedly improved strikeout rate, and a WHIP that sits below 1.00.

Hunter has also lucked into three wins from the bullpen, giving him a boost in Head-to-Head leagues (note: while we normally would suggest that Hunter will stall out at three wins for the season because these were all based on luck, the Orioles seem to find themselves in plenty of close late games, which actually give Hunter a shot at more wins). But there's also some value here in Hunter pretty much supplanting Pedro Strop to become Jim Johnson's backup for saves. And as good as Johnson has been, there are any number of things that can sink a closer -- injury, managerial whims, ugly stretches of games. Hunter has been throwing extraordinarily hard, has performed well, and seems to have found a niche in the bullpen. Don't be surprised if he finds his way into a handful more saves before the season is through, even if nothing happens to Johnson.

Over/under on ERA (season): 2.15
Over/under on saves (season): eight

National League-only fun

Kyle Blanks, OF, Padres (Two percent ownership)

Blanks, 26, has a career .304 average in the minors and has hit 20 or more home runs in each of the two seasons in which he got more than 350 at-bats. He has a career .905 OPS. And these numbers can't all be attributed to the PCL, as Blanks only saw 19 percent of his minor league at-bats in the hitter-happy league. The downside to Blanks' potential is that he's in a playing time squeeze, with Carlos Quentin, Will Venable, Chris Denorfia, and even the occasional Alexi Amarista/Jesus Guzman combo clogging up the outfield. This situation will get even more complicated when Cameron Maybin eventually returns from the DL (although it's been pretty quiet on that front for a while).

But there's no denying that, if he can stay healthy, Blanks could make a major impact with his bat. And while the team does have some power hitters (Chase Headley, Quentin, Jedd Gyorko), the Padres have scored the seventh-fewest runs in the majors. Blanks could slug his way into more regular at-bats with the Padres, and can bring some nice home run and batting average help to teams in NL-only formats, even when initially playing just three or four days a week.

Over/under on at-bats (season): 390
Over/under on home runs (season): 17

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us on Twitter @CBSFantasyBB or Nando Di Fino at @NandoCBS . You can also send our staff an e-mail at fantasybaseball@cbsinteractive.com .

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Player News
Angels pitcher Mike Morin tagged for three-run homer Saturday
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(1:14 am ET) Angels pitcher Mike Morin lasted just 1/3 of an inning Saturday in Los Angeles' 4-0 loss to the Astros. Morin served up a three-run home run to Robbie Grossman on a 1-0 pitch in the seventh, leading to the Angels' loss.

"We know the dimensions of the ballpark," Morin said. "I didn't execute the pitch -- bottom line."

Morin has posted a 4.91 ERA in 3 2/3 innings this season and may be fighting for a role with his struggles.

"I trust Sosh completely," said Morin. "It has nothing to do with that. I'll be ready day in and day out, whether it's the second inning or the 10th or the seventh. It's not weighing on my mind at all."


Rockies surprising 2B LeMahieu cranks first homer Saturday
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(12:45 am ET) Rockies second baseman DJ LeMahieu had his nine-game hitting streak to start the season snapped Friday night. He apparently didn't take too kindly to it.

LeMahieu, a hot hitter on a hot-hitting team, provided most of the offense in a loss to the Dodgers with a two-run homer in the seventh inning off standout right-hander Zack Greinke. The RBI give him eight on the year and the performance improved his slash line to an impressive .463/.476/.585.


Blue Jays second baseman Devon Travis thriving early this season
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(12:43 am ET) Blue Jays second baseman Devon Travis has ripped through the first two weeks of the season with a bang, hitting .333 in 45 at-bats. Manager John Gibbons loves the way the rookie is playing this season.

"He's got the complete game, he really does," Gibbons said. "He was such a good hitter in spring training I thought to myself: 'This kid will hit some home runs in his career.' But he's shown a lot more power than I expected."

Gibbons is handling things at the plate like an old veteran, according to Gibbons.

"One thing he's got that's advanced for a young guy is he's got a great approach at the plate, he doesn't chase out of the zone much. He's got the ability to foul off tough pitches to stay alive and a lot of guys can't do that. And he handles breaking balls, at least fouls them off, and that's a big part of it. He stays alive and if they make a mistake he doesn't miss it. He's been very productive."


Blue Jays manager just fine with Kevin Pillar's aggressive style of play
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(12:38 am ET) Blue Jays manager John Gibbons has no issue with how outfielder Kevin Pillar attacks the game head on, reports the Toronto Sun. He will deal with the slight issues that comes with his aggressiveness.

"I love the fact that he's aggressive, he can pull off some catches that a lot of guys don't make," Gibbons said. "It depends on the situation, some balls you can't get to, them back off. But he's always had that mindset (to go get it) and that's what allows him to be so good and make those plays. A lot of guys don't. But he's smart enough too to know there's certain times he's got to back off too."

Pillar doesn't think he's overly aggressive.

"He believes he's going to make it, that's why he makes a lot of them," Gibbons added. "There's no hesitation with him at all. He's got a ton of confidence when he's playing that outfield, really in his whole game. When he's on the bases he's a confident kid too."


Adrian Gonzalez drives in three more for Dodgers on Saturday
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(12:37 am ET) The 2015 RBI Machine, otherwise known as Adrian Gonzalez, was at it again Saturday night.

The Dodgers slugger not only boasts a ridiculous batting average of .523, which actually went down in the game but he added three RBI to his total, giving him 14 in 11 games. He brought home a run with a fielder's choice in the third and singled in two in the fifth. Gonzalez owns an eye-popping slugging percentage of 1.045.

He has struck out just three times in 44 at-bats on the year.


Dodgers closer Peralta overcomes pain in neck to be pain in neck to Rockies
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(12:30 am ET) For a guy considered questionable to pitch with a neck issue, Dodgers closer Joel Peralta was certainly impressive Saturday night.

Peralta was a pain in the neck to the Rockies. He closed them down with a shutout inning, yielding only a walk along the way to notch his third save.

The right-hander has yet to surrender a run in six outings as he holds down the role for the injured Kenley Jansen.


Rockies starter Lyles can't compete against Greinke in defeat
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(12:24 am ET) Opposing pitchers must be sharp when matched up against Dodgers stud Zack Greinke. Rockies right-hander Jordan Lyles was not sharp Saturday night. The result was his first loss of the season.

Lyles walked five in six innings. He also gave up five hits and four earned runs. He was hanging in there until a two-run single by Adrian Gonazalez in the fifth stretched the Los Angeles lead to 4-1.

His ERA jumped more than a point to 3.50, but he will have a chance to lower it Thursday against San Diego.


Mariners catcher Mike Zunino rips first home run of the year
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(12:17 am ET) Mariners catcher Mike Zunino went 1 for 3 at the plate in Seattle's 3-1 win over the Rangers Saturday. Zunino did his damage in the fifth when he smacked the first pitch he saw from Colby Lewis over the left center field wall for a solo home run, his first of the year.

Zunino, who also struck out twice, boosted his average to .139 in 36 at-bats this season.


Dodgers RHP Greinke good enough for second win Saturday
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(12:16 am ET) Good was good enough Saturday night for Dodgers right-hander Zack Greinke.

Greinke was dominant in his first two starts this season. He was merely good against the hot-hitting Rockies and that earned him his second win.

Only a two-run homer by DJ LeMahieu in the seventh inning really marred his performance. He finished having yielded three earned runs on five hits in 6 2/3 inning with one walk and three strikeouts. His ERA nearly doubled to a still-wonderful 1.83.

Greinke has now allowed just 12 hits and two walks in 19 2/3 innings. He will try to continue his fine start Thursday in San Francisco.


Rangers pitcher Colby Lewis knocked around for 10 hits in loss
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(12:14 am ET) Rangers pitcher Colby Lewis allowed three runs on 10 hits in Texas' 3-1 loss to the Mariners Saturday. 

Lewis worked efficiently through the first three innings before running into issues in the fourth. Lewis allowed a sacrifice fly to Seth Smith, allowing Robinson Cano to score. Then in the fifth, Lewis surrendered a leadoff home run to Mike Zunino.

"I thought he settled in nicely and pitched a heckuva game," Rangers manager Jeff Banister said to MLB.com. "He made pitches and he mixed pitches. I felt good with the way Colby was throwing."

Brad Miller then tripled in the sixth, driving in Kyle Seager, before getting pulled.

"There wasn't one inning that was easy," Lewis said. "I didn't get any quick innings. I was always working out of the stretch. I was just trying to keep it close like I always do."

Lewis, now 1-1, boasts a 3.79 ERA and will look to get back on track Saturday against the Angels.


 
 
 
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