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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
Alex Avila leaves with lightheadedness
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(10:10 pm ET) Tigers catcher Alex Avila, who missed time with a concussion earlier this month, had to be removed in the eighth inning Sunday against the Indians because of lightheadedness.

"He took one off the mask earlier in the day, but at the time, he didn't show the reaction that is normally associated with someone that's been concussed," manager Brad Ausmus said. "He kind of went about his business. And it wasn't until he actually went to hit his last plate appearance that someone said to me that he didn't seem right on the bench."

Avila struck out on three pitches and, when questioned upon his return to the dugout, complained of a headache. He went 1 for 3 with a walk and two strikeouts in the contest.

Avila traveled with the team to Minnesota after the game, but Ausmus told mLive.com he likely wouldn't play Monday against the Twins.


David Ortiz leaves for family issue
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(10:03 pm ET) Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz had to leave Sunday's game at Kansas City because of a family emergency, according to the Boston Herald. Ortiz went 0 for 3 with two strikeouts before being replaced by Christian Vazquez.

"He's fine. He got called away from this game," manager John Farrell said. "There was a family emergency that he had to attend to and he jumped on a flight late this afternoon."

Farrell added that Ortiz should rejoin the team Tuesday at Pittsburgh.


Michael Choice's big game ends early
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(9:57 pm ET) Rangers outfielder Michael Choice, who has been getting regular at-bats with Shin-Soo Choo sidelined by bone spurs in his left elbow, broke out of a 1-for-15 slump Sunday against the Braves, going 2 for 3 with a double, a triple and three RBI. Unfortunately, he hobbled into second base on the double and had to be removed from the game in the fifth inning.

His status going forward is unknown. He'll have an MRI on Monday.


Miles Mikolas probably done for 2014
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(9:51 pm ET) Rangers starting pitcher Miles Mikolas, who hasn't pitched since Aug. 25 because of right shoulder fatigue, felt more discomfort in his shoulder the last time he played catch and is likely out for the season, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

Michael Wacha still thinks he can return
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(9:49 pm ET) Cardinals starting pitcher Michael Wacha, who was scratched from Saturday's start because he didn't feel right, threw about 30 pitches in a bullpen session Sunday and felt great, according to Fox Sports Midwest. He still hopes to return to the rotation before season's end, but manager Mike Matheny isn't so sure.

"This is a young player where we had something going, missed a couple of months and all those are reasons for us to once again pause and just kind of take our time, make sure everything looks right before moving forward," Matheny said.

Wacha has made two starts in September after missing all of July and August with a stress fracture in his right shoulder.


Mark Reynolds delivers in rare start
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(9:39 pm ET) Brewers first baseman Mark Reynolds, who hadn't started in five games, got a start at third base Sunday against the Reds and delivered a home run -- a solo shot in the eighth inning. He finished the game 1 for 2 with a walk, a strikeout and two runs scored.

Reynolds entered the game mired in a 4-for-44 (.091) slump, causing manager Ron Roenicke to split first base between rookie Matt Clark and usual catcher Jonathan Lucroy in recent days.

"We know he's a streaky guy; we know that he needs to be out there playing to get it back," Roenicke told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Saturday. "We're in a situation where we have to make some decisions and try to play the hottest guy. That's what I've been doing."


Matt Clark making an impact
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(9:34 pm ET) After yielding the spot to catcher Jonathan Lucroy the previous two days, Brewers first baseman Matt Clark was back in the lineup Sunday against the Reds. The rookie went 1 for 5 with a three-run homer, his third in his last three games.

Clark, 27, spent last season in Japan before returning to hit .304 with 26 homers and a .924 OPS in 414 at-bats between Double- and Triple-A this year. Manager Ron Roenicke told MLB.com he'll continue to find at-bats for him as long as he continues to produce.

"That's why we brought him up here, was with the idea that if the matchups were good and he did well, I'd be able to put him back out there," Roenicke said prior to Sunday's game. "With him continuing to swing the bat well, he's going to play a little bit more."


Clint Coulter may not stay at catcher
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(9:23 pm ET) According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Brewers catcher prospect Clint Coulter will get a look at third base and the outfield in the instructional league this fall after playing more games at designated hitter (64) than catcher (61) in 2014. He hit .287 with 22 home runs, a .410 on-base percentage and a .930 OPS for low Class A Wisconsin.

"Right now, I'm a catcher," Coulter said. "I'm comfortable wherever they stick me. I just want to get to the big leagues."


Odrisamer Despaigne's losing streak reaches four
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(8:30 pm ET) Padres pitcher Odrisamer Despaigne struggled yet again Sunday, in an 8-6 loss to the Diamondbacks.

Despaigne didn't get much help from the defense, as he allowed five runs -- three earned -- in 5 2/3 innings. He scattered six hits and three walks in the outing, while striking out two batters on 92 pitches.

Despaigne has allowed nine runs in 10 innings over his last two starts, raising his ERA to 3.63. He carries a six-start winless streak into his next outing, set for Friday against the Giants.  


Chris Young pitches well in defeat
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(8:28 pm ET) Mariners pitcher Chris Young allowed two runs, both on solo homers, over six innings Sunday against the Athletics, but took the loss as Seattle fell 4-0. Young (12-8) allowed four hits and two walks while fanning five.

Young faces the Astros in Houston on Friday.


 
 
 
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