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Waiver Wire: Pumping the brakes on Profar

Senior Fantasy Writer
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About three months ago, Jurickson Profar had the world in the palm of his hand. His assured emergence in spring training would push three-time All-Star Ian Kinsler to either the outfield or first base. Or maybe the team would trade Elvis Andrus to accommodate the 20-year-old. Or, perhaps, they'd trade Profar to the Diamondbacks for Justin Upton.

None of this came to pass. Profar ended up hitting .216 in 51 spring at-bats, stealing two bases and managing just two extra-base hits. He was sent to the minors, tabbed as baseball's top prospect by both MLB.com and Baseball America, and promptly hit .278 with four home runs and six steals in 37 PCL games. A Kinsler injury hastened his recall, and a nation of Fantasy players went nutty over Profar, adding him in 29 percent of leagues -- driving his ownership up to 78 percent. Even Ron Washington's insistence that Profar would split time at second base with Leury Garcia couldn't slow down the frenzy, and with Profar starting two games in a row before Wednesday's day off, it seemed like a bit of a hollow promise from the manager.

Through two games, Profar has one hit and two RBI. When Kinsler returns, there's no guarantee Profar will stick with the Rangers. In fact, Profar's value is tied to a series of unknowns; the best we can do is map out logical scenarios:

1. Profar plays. We must first assume that the talk of a Garcia/Profar split is just Washington talking, and Profar will get at least 75 percent of the at-bats.
2. Profar plays well. Say Profar gets the at-bats. He still has to play well in order for the Rangers to consider keeping him on the roster. There's always a chance he's hitting .220 when Kinsler returns.
3. Something else happens to a Ranger. So Profar plays and he plays well. You still need to make room for him. The most likely scenario would be another infielder (or Lance Berkman) getting hurt, which would/could give us any number of ensuing unlikely combinations (Adrian Beltre gets hurt, Andrus/Kinsler/Profar plays third; Nelson Cruz is hurt, Moreland goes to the outfield and Kinsler plays first). This is assuming that Jeff Baker and/or Garcia don't leapfrog Profar in the pecking order for at-bats at third, a position which the middle infielders have never played. A less-likely scenario is that Profar/Andrus/Kinsler get traded for a pitcher. But more on that later.

In short, things all have to break just the right way for Profar to stick around past Kinsler's return. So I am passing on the gamble and going after someone like Dayan Viciedo (owned in 58 percent of leagues) instead. It may come back to haunt me if everything breaks for Profar, but the downside is just a little too large and looming for comfort.

The Big Leaps

Scott Feldman, SP, Cubs (60 ownership, up from 35 percent)

Feldman's velocity is about a mile and a half lower than his career average. His 7.1 K/9 is the highest of his career, but still below a point where he would be worth the ERA and WHIP risk. And his BABIP is an unsustainably-low .236. Yet, to quote the ageless Angela Lansbury, it seems there's something there that wasn't there before.

Maybe it's the switch to the National League, where Feldman doesn't have to face the DH every nine batters. Perhaps it's a 1.45 GB/FB rate, which is helping to keep the ball in the park (despite his HR/FB ratio sitting at about his career level). At 30 and not having to worry about bouncing between the rotation and bullpen, maybe it's just the ease of knowing he's going to be a starter this season. Whatever it is, Feldman looks very good right now, with a 2.19 ERA and 1.16 WHIP. While nearly every number to this point in his career suggests he's due for a correction -- a 4.64 career ERA (including a 4.67 ERA against National League teams in interleague play) and little difference in splits between starting and relieving -- there's a chance that Feldman has simply figured things out later in his career (like Kyle Lohse and Ryan Vogelsong prior to this year). I'm not willing to drop a Mike Minor to find out, but if I had a Brandon McCarthy sitting on the edge of my bench, I might consider rolling the dice with Feldman.

Over/under on ERA (season): 3.95
Over/under on K/9 (season): 7.0
Over/under on starts (season): 28

Kevin Gausman, SP, Orioles (34 percent, up from 15)

After spending much of Tuesday trying to figure out whether Jake Arrieta or T.J. McFarland would make Thursday's start for the Orioles, the Fantasy world got a nice surprise when Buck Showalter announced that it would be prospect Kevin Gausman taking the ball instead.

The Orioles have a recent string of bad luck with their high-profile pitching prospects. You can get lost in the string of would-be awesomeness that has come up, gotten hammered, sent back down, turned out to be stellar in the minors, called back up, and then promptly gotten hammered again. Arrieta, Brian Matusz, Zach Britton, and even Chris Tillman (to a lesser degree) have all gotten hopes up, then failed to carry over their minor league success to the majors. Gausman has leap-frogged uber-prospect Dylan Bundy (thanks in part to a Bundy injury), but has a tough minor league track record to glean anything from. Gausman doesn't have that dominating sub-3.00 ERA, but he does have a sparkling 1.00 WHIP, with 62 strikeouts in 61 1/3 innings. He's only started 13 games -- with eight of those coming above High-A -- but he's already 22 years old and was a spectacular college pitcher.

The fourth overall pick in the 2010 draft, Gausman is a top prospect, but nobody's sure what to expect from him in his debut. And once you push aside all the related jitters and debut-related intangible factors, you're going to need a second start to get a feel for what Gausman can really do. Once that's all said and done, a would-be owner has to figure out how long Gausman can stay in the rotation, and just how deep into the season he can go, considering he only has 13 starts in his professional career.

Add it all up, and it seems like Gausman has a ton of potential, but just enough question marks to want to hold onto that Tony Cingrani stash and pass on the Orioles youngster (Note: my colleagues probably totally disagree with this sentiment). Gausman has a ton of talent and a bright future, but dumping the wrong player to add him could backfire in a mixed Fantasy league.

Over/under on ERA (season): 3.75
Over/under on starts (season): 17
Over/under on his ownership by May 31: 80 percent

Unadvised Drop of the Week

Mike Moustakas, 3B, Royals (68 percent, down from 76 percent)

Most Added Players (as of 5/23)
Player Name % change
1. Kevin Gausman, SP, Orioles 37
2. Jerome Williams, SP, Angels 36
3. Jurickson Profar, SS, Rangers 29
4. Scott Feldman, SP, Cubs 25
5. Rick Porcello, SP, Tigers 24
6. Brandon McCarthy, SP, D-Backs 23
7. Mitch Moreland, 1B, Rangers 21
8. Jake Odorizzi, SP, Rays 21
9. David Phelps, RP, Yankees 20
10. Francisco Liriano, SP, Pirates 18

At 24 years old, Moustakas was heading into 2013 on the heels of a 20 home run season. A perennial top-20 prospect, Moustakas had shown big power potential in the minors (once all the math is said and done, he'd average about 30 home runs in a 600 at-bat season), with a fluctuating average (it was .282 over his minor league career), and some relatively low strikeout totals for a power hitter.

This season, Moustakas, who hit .242 last year, lowered his strikeout rate and raised his walk rate. The result? A .180 batting average, .561 OPS, and the wrath of many a Fantasy owner. His performance does have a silver lining, as it eventually led to an awesome Ned Yost rant in response to questions about Moustakas' job, which included the epic line, "Maybe when we get home, I can go to the third base tree and pick another third baseman."

Moustakas has no real change in most of his peripherals -- he's not swinging at pitches outside of the zone and isn't hitting more ground balls than he normally would. His BABIP is .183, which is well below league average. If he can normalize that to .290, he's due for a very big correction in his average. The power should follow.

Say, for instance, that Moustakas starts to turn it around on Thursday, and gets his average up to .248 by the All-Star break. I'll just double his at-bats, for the sake of this experiment, and say he's at 278 by early July (he has 139 right now). For Moustakas to get his average up to last year's level, he'd have to go 44-for-139 (a batting average of .317 between now and July). Moustakas had 25 hits in his first 139 at-bats, so this is an increase of just 19 hits over his next 39 games. In other words, if Moustakas had one extra hit in every other game over his first 39 games (this is over-simplifying things, but it makes it easy to appreciate how close things really are to changing fortunes this early in the season), he'd be hitting .316 right now. If Moustakas can do that over his next 39 games, he'll be looking far prettier than he is right now. And if he can go on a good, old fashioned "tear" (let's say a .395 average -- or 55-for-139 -- between now and the All-Star break), you're looking at a .288 hitter in July.

Over/under on average (season): .265
Over/under on home runs (season): 24

The Flavor of Next Week

Leonys Martin, OF, Rangers (31 percent ownership)

The major downside to Martin early in the season was his platoon role with Craig Gentry. Through the team's first 26 games, Martin started 13, hitting .250 with one home run and no steals. But once May came around, Martin suddenly became the playing time favorite, starting 12 of the next 20 games, hitting .318 with a home run and five steals. And he's gotten hotter as of late, with a .345 average, a 1.000 OPS, and all five steals coming in his last 10 games.

While Martin didn't have the lofty prospect ratings of his teammate, Jurickson Profar, he did make a case for possibly turning out to be a better player. In 533 minor league at-bats, Martin hit .323, with 16 home runs and 29 steals. With a continued increase in at-bats -- which isn't a sure thing, given Gentry's not going away, hitting .306 in May with a home run and two steals -- Martin should see an increase in production. How will these at-bats come? No clue. Maybe Gentry just loses at-bats. Maybe the team sends Gentry to the Cubs in a package deal for Matt Garza. But Martin is probably going to force his way into more at-bats as he keeps playing at a high level, and the Rangers may not want to stunt the growth of the 25-year-old Cuban in a platoon for much longer.

Over/under on average (season): .301
Over/under on home runs (season): Eight
Over/under on steals (season): 20

AL-only fun

J.B. Shuck, OF, Angels (One percent ownership)

It's a little surprising that Shuck isn't getting more respect from AL-only leaguers. Owned in just one percent of leagues, Shuck is neither exciting nor a must-add. But he is playing every day, and he's hitting .300 over a relatively large (70 at-bat) sample size. He's only struck out eight times, against six walks, and his five doubles over those 70 at-bats would stretch out to 43 total if he played an entire season.

Shuck is regularly batting ninth in the Angels lineup, but this isn't necessarily a bad thing -- by the middle of the game, one can look at it like he's batting leadoff, removed by one player (Erick Aybar) in the order from Mike Trout, Albert Pujols, Mark Trumbo, and Josh Hamilton. In an AL-only league, where the pool is diluted and at-bats come at a premium, Shuck is probably grossly undervalued (all things being relative, of course). Yes, he will go back to being a reserve when Peter Bourjos returns, but that's still a ways off. For now, you get an every day player who is hitting the ball well, can get on base, and will score more runs than your average player batting ninth.

Over/under on runs scored (season): 40
Over/under on average (season): .271

NL-only fun

Adeiny Hechavarria, SS, Marlins (Seven percent ownership)

We're all familiar with Hechavarria's seven-RBI performance on May 5. And I could probably twist some statistics to make his numbers look really awesome from that day forward ("OMG! Nine RBI and three triples over 15 games, guys!!"). But Hechavarria's play really picked up about a week later. Over his last 10 games, Hechavarria is hitting .263 (relatively solid for a player with a .200 average on the season), with a steal, a double, and three triples. In that 10-game span, however, Hechavarria has hit first or second seven times, including a current streak of six straight games hitting in the top two spots.

Miami does not have a good offense -- with a .224 average and 125 runs scored, they are last in the majors in both categories -- so Hechavarria isn't going to reap the benefits of his new lofty batting order position. But he does have eligibility at both shortstop and third base and is playing every day. He's better than a .200 hitter and even though he just got his first steal on Monday, Hechavarria should be good for some decent speed numbers going forward. He's also, very quietly, leading the majors in triples. For Head-to-Head owners, those could be some valuable numbers from an unexpected source.

Hechavarria's not going to be a hidden gem who will bat .330 and steal 40 bases, but he will continue to get everyday at-bats and can help an NL-only team with some counting stats and positional flexibility.

Over/under on average (season): .240
Over/under on steals (season): 14

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
Diamondbacks' Brad Ziegler to face hitters soon
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(3/6/2015) Diamondbacks pitcher Brad Ziegler will face hitters soon, according to FoxSports.com.

Ziegler had microfracture surgery in September, and is working his way back. He threw a bullpen session on Friday, and should face hitters pretty soon. The 35-year-old is expected to open the year in the bullpen if healthy. 

Ziegler posted a 3.49 ERA over 67 innings last season. 


Yankees' Carlos Beltran says his elbow feels fine
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(3/6/2015) Yankees outfielder Carlos Beltran said his elbow felt fine after Friday's game, according to the Journal News.

Beltran went 0-2 with a walk during the game, but didn't wear a brace on his arm. He said it's now just a matter of getting his timing down before the regular season. The 37-year-old is expected to open the season as a starter in the outfield.

Beltran hit .233/.301/.402 over 403 at-bats last season. 


Pirates' Jameson Taillon to face hitters next week
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(3/6/2015) Pirates pitcher Jameson Taillon will face hitters next week, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Taillon underwent Tommy John surgery last April, but is working his way back. Taillon tossed a 30 pitch bullpen session on Friday. He's expected to do it again on Tuesday. If his Tuesday session goes well, Taillon will throw live batting practice on Friday.

Taillon said he's feeling pretty good about his progress. "I'm feeling really strong, throwing the ball cleaner than I ever have," Taillon said. "Everything has been feeling really good. The elbow has been responding really well."

Taillon is expected to open the season in the minors, but could be promoted to the majors if he gets off to a strong start. 


Brewers' Adam Lind dealing with back injury
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(3/6/2015) Brewers first baseman Adam Lind is dealing with a back injury, according to MLB.com.

Lind's back flared up while taking grounders on Thursday. He was scratched from Friday's game, and is considered day-to-day. Lind was acquired by the club during the offseason, and is expected to see significant time at first base.

The 31-year-old Lind hit .321/.381/.479 over 290 at-bats last season. 


Report: Mets' Daniel Murphy dealing with bruised hand
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(3/6/2015) Mets infielder Daniel Murphy is dealing with a bruised right hand, according to ESPN.

X-rays reportedly came back "OK," and Murphy shouldn't miss much time. Murphy was hit in the hand during Friday's game against the Tigers. He stayed in the game to run the bases, but was replaced at the start of the next inning. 

The 29-year-old Murphy hit .289/.332/.403 over 596 at-bats last season. 


Diamondbacks' Chris Owings takes batting practice on Friday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(3/6/2015) Diamondbacks shortstop Chris Owings was able to take batting practice on Friday, according to MLB.com.

Owings is recovering from offseason shoulder surgery, and has been limited early in camp. Manager Chip Hale said he was happy with Owings progress, and noted it was a big day for the infielder.

"Everything he's done has been right on time," D-backs manager Chip Hale said. "We've slowed him down, because it's important that that swing is right. This was a huge day for him."

Owings will likely go through another round of BP before he's ready for game action. The team may also opt to give him at-bats in minor-league games before using him during actual spring training games.

The 23-year-old Owings hit .261/.300/.406 over 310 at-bats last season. He's expected to open the year as the team's starting shortstop. 


Angels' Matt Lindstrom feeling 100 percent this spring
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(3/6/2015) Angels reliever Matt Lindstrom is feeling pretty good after having ankle surgery last season, according to the Los Angeles Times

Lindstrom struggled with oblique and ankle injuries last season, but has drawn some rave reviews during camp. "Right now, his stuff is very similar to when he was throwing the ball well early last year," Manager Mike Scioscia said. "That's exciting. This guy has closer's stuff. It's just a matter of how consistent he is and if he can keep it going."

Lindstrom admitted he came back from ankle surgery too soon last year, and it impacted his numbers. He was able to rehab the injury during the offseason, though, and feels much better now. "I can tell the ball is coming out of my hand better, the way it's supposed to," Lindstrom said. "It wasn't right last year, but now, I don't have any reservations. I can concentrate on getting people out."

The 35-year-old posted a 5.03 ERA over 34 innings last season. He's competing for a role in the Angels bullpen this spring. 


Orioles sign Elih Villanueva to a minor-league deal
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(3/6/2015) The Orioles have signed pitcher Elih Villanueva to a minor-league deal, according to MLB.com.

Villanueva has played in just one game in the majors. He gave up eight runs over three innings in a start for the Marlins back in 2011. Villanueva had a strong showing in the Dominican League, leading the circuit with a 2.63 ERA.


Reds' Stephenson hoping to make an impact this season
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(3/6/2015) Reds pitcher Robert Stephenson is hoping to make an impact in the majors this season, according to MLB.com.

Stephenson may not open the year in the majors, but is hoping he arrives sooner rather than later. "My goal by the end of the year is to be in Cincinnati," Stephenson said. "It's your dream growing up as a kid. It would be awesome to be there but at the same time, I want to get to a point where I deserve to be there and belong there."

Stephenson is considered the team's top prospect. He dealt with shoulder issues earlier in camp, but is cleared for action now. 

Manager Bryan Price said Stephenson has a few things to work on, but seemed optimistic about his long-term outlook. With Robert, it's command -- not necessarily throwing strikes, but the quality of the strikes," Price said.

The 22-year-old should start the year in the minors, but could earn a promotion based on how well he pitches.


Mariners' Chris Taylor homers, triples on Friday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(3/6/2015) Mariners shortstop Chris Taylor hit a home run and tripled on Friday against the Dodgers.

Taylor came into camp competing for the team's shortstop position with Brad Miller. While Miller likely has the upper hand, he's coming off a down season. Taylor, on the other hand, played well in the minors in 2014, and hit .287 in a brief major-league debut. It's believed whoever loses out on the starting role will be sent to the minors. 


 
 
 
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