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Waiver Wire: Is Wacha worth the risk?

Senior Fantasy Writer
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The Mariners made a surprise move on the heels of last week's Jesus Montero demotion, calling up Nick Franklin from the minors and demoting former top prospect Dustin Ackley.

It's easy to get excited about Franklin. The 2009 first-round pick was hitting .324 with a .912 OPS in 39 minor league games this year. He's stolen 15 or more bases twice in a season (and was on pace to hit that mark again this year). He hit 32 doubles in 2012, had a 3:2 BB/K ratio this season and was on pace for his third double-digit home run campaign.

Franklin, 22, is pretty much assured a starting role for the rest of the year, short of being totally disastrous at the plate or in the field. He's not exactly Bryce Harper (Franklin is older and wasn't as highly regarded as a prospect), but consider him this year's equivalent for the purposes of this parallel -- a young player who was recalled somewhat early in the season and is likely to stick around for the entire year. If Ackley tears it up in Triple-A and forces his recall, Franklin can take his newly acquired second base eligibility, slide over to shortstop -- where he played the majority of his minor league games -- and the duo can play side-by-side.

If I had to choose between Franklin and last week's big-name callup -- Jurickson Profar -- I would go with Franklin. While Profar may eventually prove to have more keeper value, he will likely be sent back down to the minors when Kinsler returns (assuming there are no other injuries in Texas). Franklin, meanwhile, has the entire season ahead of him and should make a nice impact in the middle infield.

The Big Leaps

Michael Wacha, SP, Cardinals (55 percent ownership, up from 14 percent)

Michael Wacha, the 19th selection in the 2012 draft, is set to make his debut Thursday for the Cardinals. Ranked as one of the top 100 prospects in the game by both MLB.com and Baseball America, Wacha is already causing Fantasy owners to drop Wade Mileys and Dan Strailys to pick up the 21-year-old. And for good reason -- Wacha has a 1.71 ERA and 0.84 WHIP in 73 2/3 professional innings.

Most Added Players (5/30)
Player % change
1. Michael Wacha, SP, Cardinals +44
2. Francisco Rodriguez, RP, Brewers +31
3. Jason Castro, C, Astros +29
4. John Lackey, SP, Red Sox +25
5. Tyler Lyons, SP, Cardinals +25
6. Michael Brantley, OF, Indians +22
7. Tyler Chatwood, SP, Rockies +22
8. Dan Straily, SP, Athletics +19
9. Nick Franklin, SS, Mariners +19
10. Matt Dominguez, 3B, Astros +19

If this sounds familiar, it's because another highly regarded youngster taken in the first round of the 2012 draft crashed the scene last week with a ton of hype and fewer than 75 minor league innings -- Kevin Gausman. After two starts for the Orioles, Gausman now sports an 11.00 ERA and 2.00 WHIP, with four home runs allowed.

While Gausman and Wacha do have a good deal of similarities, they tend to diverge at certain points. Gausman strikes out more batters (as a starter) and walks fewer than Wacha. But Wacha had a better minor league ERA (1.71 to Gausman's 3.23), despite their WHIPs not being too far apart (0.84 for Wacha, 1.00 for Gausman). We can do this silly little dance for 300 words if you like, but there are two views to take here:

1. If you are excited for Wacha, it might be wise to also give a discarded Gausman another chance and chalk up his first two games to jitters, bad luck, etc. In short, use your Wacha excitement to remind you of the love you once had for Gausman.
2. If you view Gausman as a cautionary tale -- a young pitcher with fewer than 75 professional innings pitched getting slapped around by major league batters and dashing the aspirations of overly hopeful Fantasy prospectors, who proudly gobbled up the latest chic free agent and bragged about it to the league -- then you may be better served not wasting the FAAB dollars or waiver priority on Wacha.

Which of these paths should you take? I honestly have no clue. It's a crazy juggling act of expectations, projections and historical performance (with little history to run with). Personally, I will probably take a chance with the former scenario, and look to add both Wacha and Gausman in leagues with 14 teams or more, because the waiver wire is ugly enough to not say, "I'd rather have [Pitcher X] instead." There's enough potential in both of these pitchers where they can be added to a roster, but enough risk involved where you want to add them with extreme caution. I do believe Gausman can right the ship and that optimism gives me hope for Wacha.

Over/under on ERA (season): 4.10
Over/under on K/9 (season): 6.5
Over/under on starts (season): 20

DJ LeMahieu, 2B, Rockies (24 percent, up from 1 percent)

DJ LeMahieu had a very underrated 2012 campaign with the Rockies, hitting .297 with 12 doubles and a stolen base. In fact, from August 1 on, when he saw the most consistent playing time subbing in for Troy Tulowitzki (as Josh Rutledge took over at shortstop), LeMahieu hit .316 with two home runs and eight of his doubles in that span. He was rewarded for his efforts with a trip to the minors to start the 2013 campaign.

LeMahieu responded to the demotion by hitting .364, stealing eight bases and hitting five doubles in 33 games. While this was a major step up from his usual production, LeMahieu has proven to be a solid hitter in the minors -- not only does he have a career average of .321, LeMahieu has never finished below .314 in any of his five seasons. He's had eight or more steals four times, despite only getting more than 450 at-bats once.

Add it all up, and you have the perfect hitter to slot in at second base while your benched Rickie Weeks is figuring things out. In a worst-case scenario, LeMahieu is sent back down or moved to a utility role if Rutledge returns. At best, LeMahieu hits .300, steals some bases, gets your team some doubles and becomes the 2013 version of Marco Scutaro.

Over/under on average (season): .291
Over/under on steals (season): 10

Unadvised Drop of the Week

Jesus Montero, C, Mariners (37 percent, down from 58 percent)

After hitting an ugly .208 with three home runs and nine RBI in just 101 at-bats, Jesus Montero was relieved of his catching duties and optioned to Triple-A to work on learning first base. This came after a 2012 season in which Montero appeared to break out, with a .260 average, 15 home runs and 20 doubles as a 22-year-old rookie.

Montero was a top-six prospect in 2010, 2011 and 2012. And he carried a .308 average over five minor league seasons, hitting 17 or more home runs four times and 25 or more doubles twice. In short, Montero can hit and I'm willing to believe the theory that maybe all of Montero's troubles behind the plate led to him shifting attention away from his hitting and onto his defense. I'm temporarily calling this the Edwin Encarnacion Theory. In 2012, when the man known as "E5" (because of his misfortunes defensively at the hot corner) was moved off of third base, he responded with a 42-home run season -- his biggest power output since hitting 26 home runs in 2008. Take the pressure of the position off and you may open up the player to start hitting better.

I'm not sure where Montero will fit when he comes back up -- Justin Smoak and Kendrys Morales seem pretty locked in at first base and DH. But things happen in baseball -- injuries, trades and huge drop-offs in production -- so I'm going to hold onto Montero and maybe even trade for him in deeper leagues. He will be back (good sign: he's errorless in his first five games at first base in the minors) and he will start hitting at a high level once again.

Over/under on average (season): .265
Over/under on home runs (season): 15

The Flavor of Next Week

Jason Kubel, OF, Diamondbacks (Owned in 38 percent of leagues)

Jason Kubel is a pretty well-known commodity. But since he's been limited to just 27 games this season, Fantasy owners have dropped him down to NL-only territory. Maybe it's a sense of exhaustion, or the fear of Cody Ross, Gerardo Parra and A.J. Pollock clogging the outfield at-bats, but with news that Adam Eaton hit a snag in his rehab, Kubel's playing time outlook just got a little sunnier.

Kubel has hit 20 or more home runs four times in the last five seasons (he hit 12 in 99 games in 2011). After moving to Arizona's cozier home park in 2012, Kubel set a career-high with 30 home runs. He has a career .268 average. He's hit 30 doubles three times since 2007 and was hitting .333 with a .975 OPS before being shelved in late April with a quad injury (which recently popped back up on a more minor level).

Kubel is currently on a stretch of games in Texas and Chicago -- both hitter-friendly parks and places where Kubel can start to catch fire and show off some power, while resting his quad as the team's DH in the first two games against the Rangers (if they so choose -- if not, that should signal his quad being fine). Kubel isn't going to offer much in the way of speed, but he makes for a nice add in most Roto leagues. And things will only get better as he moves away from the quad issues.

Over/under on average (season): .260
Over/under on home runs (season): 20
Over/under on steals (season): One

AL-only fun

Pedro Ciriaco, 3B, Red Sox (2 percent ownership)

When Will Middlebrooks was put on the DL, it looked like Pedro Ciriaco and Jose Iglesias would split time at third base. While Ciriaco was the main fill-in when Middlebrooks went down last year, his seven errors in 2013 made it kind of tough to fully embrace him.

However, three of those errors came while Ciriaco was playing shortstop, a tougher position to defend than third base, and, keep in mind, Ciricao is a better hitter than Iglesias. But since we're talking AL-only leagues right now, with decimated rosters and bare waiver wires, Ciriaco will have value even in a time share, especially for the Middlebrooks owner. Ciriaco can hit .300 while stealing a decent amount of bases (he had 16 in 259 at-bats last year). He won't offer a lot in the way of power, but he does have the ability to get some doubles. And adding a little more fun into the mix was Wednesday's revelation that Dustin Pedroia has been playing with a torn ligament in his thumb. If Pedroia needs the occasional day off, Ciriaco can fill in there, too.

Still, for now, this is a short-term play for a team badly in need of anything at third base. Ciriaco won't hurt your average and can offer some counting stats to help tread water while Middlebrooks is sidelined.

Over/under on steals (season): Eight
Over/under on average (season): .280

NL-only fun

Nate Eovaldi, SP, Marlins (4 percent ownership)

When I go looking for pitching replacements in most of my deeper leagues, I like to first sort by strikeouts, then by innings pitched. Nate Eovaldi has neither right now for the Marlins, as he's been out since spring with a shoulder injury, so it's easy to just pass over him without realizing he's available.

Eovaldi doesn't have the greatest track record in the majors -- a 4.15 ERA and 1.48 WHIP -- but he's just 23 years old and throws a 94-95 mph fastball. He had improved his minor league numbers considerably in 2011 (2.62 ERA/1.18 WHIP) and 2012 (3.09 ERA/1.23 WHIP), while striking out almost a batter per inning. There isn't one thing here that I can point to and definitively tell you that I've cracked the Eovaldi Code, urging you to pick him up. But in the deep landscape of NL-only, Eovaldi has a few things going for him: he's young and still maturing as a pitcher, he's probably going to have that rotation spot with the Marlins for the entire season (and they play in a pitcher-friendly park) and waiver wire vultures probably aren't aware he's even available yet because of free agent search habits. Eovaldi could just end up being a decent pitcher this year, with a few wins and some strikeouts. But in NL-only leagues, those are relatively valuable assets compared to the other choices, and that is probably the baseline of what he can offer, considering Eovaldi's potential.

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

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
Yankees closer Andrew Miller turns lights out on Braves
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(1:47 am ET) Yankees closer Andrew Miller achieved something Saturday he had only achieved once since Aug. 2. That is, he retired the side in order to nail down a save.

His victim was Atlanta, which Miller disposed of quickly in the ninth. He fanned Pedro Ciriaco and Nick Markakis along the way to raise his save total to 28.

Miller has not allowed a run over his last six appearances.


Braves SP Matt Wisler denied run support in Saturday loss
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(1:42 am ET) Braves starter Matt Wisler needed to be near-perfect Saturday against the Yankees. He was merely good - and that wasn't good enough.

Wisler yielded two runs on four hits in six innings with four walks and four strikeouts. That was two runs too many as his team got blanked during his stint in the game.

The lone runs against him scored on a wild pitch in the first and RBI double by Didi Gregorius in the seventh.

Wisler bounced back quite well from a horrible performance last Sunday, when he allowed seven runs in 2 2/3 innings against the Cubs.


Yankees SP Luis Severino excellent again in beating Braves
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(1:37 am ET) Yankees rookie starter Luis Severino continued to improve with every outing Saturday against Atlanta. And he had already been performing quite well.

Severino managed his first shutout effort in evening his record to 2-2. He blanked the Braves on four hits through six innings while walking three and whiffing five.

He allowed two baserunners in the fourth and sixth innings, but escaped both jams.

Severino has given up only seven runs in 29 innings through five starts. He his lowered his ERA to an impressive 2.17.


Pirates closer Mark Melancon earns shaky 43rd save
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(1:31 am ET) Pirates sizzling closer Mark Melancon was merely mortal Saturday against Colorado, but still nailed down his league-leading 43rd save.

Melancon arrived with a 4-1 lead and promptly allowed a single and two-run homer to Nick Hundley. He then surrendered a single and needed a double-play lineout to finally end the drama.

It marked the first time he has given up more than one run in an appearance since April 21.


Twins SP Mike Pelfrey gives up four runs in short outing
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(1:27 am ET) Twins starting pitcher Mike Pelfrey's outing against the Astros didn't last very long on Saturday.

Pelfrey allowed four runs on seven hits in just 3 2/3 innings of work. He struck out two batters and gave up a pair of walks.

With the loss, Pelfrey dropped to 6-8 on the year with a 4.04 ERA.


Rockies SP Chris Rusin finds groove too late in loss to Pirates
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(1:27 am ET) Mediocre was not good enough for Rockies starter Chris Rusin on Saturday night. It rarely is against Pittsburgh these days.

Rusin surrendered three runs on five hits and three walks in six innings in lowering his record to 4-7. He struck out three.

A three-run homer by Aramis Ramirez in the first got Rusin off to a terrible start, but he settled in thereafter. He retired eight of the next nine batters and allowed just two hits the rest of the way.

Rusin rebounded nicely from his last start, when he gave up 11 runs in only two innings against the Mets.


Astros closer Luke Gregerson strikes out two, picks up save
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(1:23 am ET) Astros closer Luke Gregerson recorded his 25th save of the season on Saturday against the Twins.

Gregorson strukc out two batters as he closed out the ninth inning of his team's 4-1 victory. He now has a 2.82 ERA this season.


Pirates SP J.A. Happ remains on a roll with third straight win
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(1:20 am ET) Pirates starter J.A. Happ continued to cut down on his walks Saturday against Colorado. The result was a third straight win.

Happ has found his control since arriving in Pittsburgh after struggling with it throughout his career. He walked just one in 5 2/3 innings with the Rockies in town. He allowed one run on five hits with two strikeouts.

The only tally came on a groundout in the third inning.

Happ has been on a tremendous roll with only two runs allowed in 23 innings over his last four starts.


Astros SP Mike Fiers earns seventh win of the year
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(1:17 am ET) Astros starting pitcher Mike Fiers recorded his seventh win of the season on Saturday against the Twins.

Fiers allowed only one run on three hits in six innings of work. He struck out five batters and issued three walks.

With the win, Fiers improved to 7-9 on the season with a 3.54 ERA.


White Sox SP Jeff Samardzija gives up five runs in loss
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(1:00 am ET) White Sox starter Jeff Samardzija allowed five runs in a loss to the Mariners on Saturday.

Samardzija lasted just 5 2/3 innings after giving up the five runs on eight hits. He recorded eight strikeouts while allowing three walks.

With the loss, Samardzija dropped to 8-11 on the season with a 4.85 ERA.


 
 
 
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