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Waiver Wire: Speed, power and Ks for all

Senior Fantasy Writer
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Rangers pitcher Martin Perez is red-hot right now. In our standard Head-to-Head format, he has two straight weeks of 24-point performances. And he's sporting a 2.37 ERA and 1.26 WHIP so far this season. So it makes perfect sense that he's seen a big jump in ownership, from 15 percent to 36 percent.

Still, Perez remains a bit of an enigma. The 22-year-old has been a perennial top prospect, ranking in the top 100 (according to Baseball America) every year since 2009. But that lofty status seems at odds with his numbers -- three seasons of 4.25-plus ERA in his six minor league campaigns, which contributed to a 4.16 overall ERA and 1.46 WHIP. Additionally, Perez had a very hard-to-track strikeout rate throughout his minor league career -- while he had a 7.6 K/9 overall, his rate fluctuated between 4.9 and 9.3 over those six years.

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So this leaves us at a virtual fork in the road. On one hand, Perez is a young player who has been scouted and judged, and ultimately deemed to be a very good pitcher (ever since he was 18). We've seen some younger pitchers -- Mike Leake this year, for instance -- hit some rough patches before eventually corralling their talent and finding success. On the other hand, Perez's numbers don't exactly bear out all this high praise. Even with his very nice three-game run this season, Perez still has a somewhat-high WHIP and has struck out just eight batters in 19 innings.

So what to do? Trust the five years of top prospect status? Or the numbers that he's put up so far? I'd personally be inclined to not take the risk because of the low strikeout numbers. But if you're playing in an AL-only league or deep (14-16 teams) mixed format, Perez could be worth the gamble, on the promise that he keeps providing low ratios.

The Big Leaps

Jhoulys Chacin, SP, Rockies (64 percent ownership, up from 38 percent)

Of all the failures in Colorado's rotation the last several years, it's easy to forget that Jhoulys Chacin has a career 3.66 ERA. Yes, it's somewhat disheartening that he's dropped his strikeout rate every year since he made his debut -- it has tumbled all the way down to 5.1 K/9 this season, a career-worst -- but his ERA is currently the second-best of his career and Chacin has been pretty much brilliant lately, going 4-0 with a 1.26 ERA and 0.95 WHIP in his last four starts.

This may not be a total mirage. Chacin has met success before in his career, and the numbers support some degree of sustainability. Chacin's strand rate is actually below his career level, his ground ball rate is at a normal level, and his fastball velocity is right where it has always been. The only thing that may be a little worrisome is his HR/FB rate, which is currently at 2.4 percent. Even if he keeps his groundball rate up, he's probably due for a correction, but nothing wild – his career HR/FB rate is still just 9.3 percent.

All in all, Chacin is a bit of a gamble, because you cannot be sure the strikeouts will return and we know he's due to give up a few more home runs in the second half. But he should be able to provide enough in the way of low ratio to have some value in deeper (14-team) leagues.

Over/under on ERA (season): 3.80
Over/under on K/9 (season): 6.1
If Martin Perez is owned in 50 percent of leagues, Chacin should be owned in: 56 percent

Raul Ibanez, OF, Mariners (57 percent, up from 31)

Most Added Players (as of 7/4)
Player % added
1. Jhoulys Chacin, SP, Rockies 26
2. Raul Ibanez, OF, Mariners 26
3. Martin Perez, SP, Rangers 23
4. Tony Cingrani, SP, Reds 21
5. Rajai Davis, OF, Blue Jays 21
6. Jacob Turner, SP, Marlins 17
7. Leonys Martin, OF, Rangers 16
8. Miguel Gonzalez, SP, Orioles 16
9. Jose Iglesias, SS, Red Sox 14
10. Brad Miller, SS, Mariners 14

Ibanez is 41 years old and is playing in a park that still has to be considered pitcher-friendly. I have no idea how he's doing this. I remember when I was working on Fantasyland doing research on him and discovering Ibanez was really into karate, so I can actually understand if he's just taking really good care of his body and maybe diving into previously-unexplored areas to prolong his career through balance and stretching hobbies outside of the game.

Here's how I'm looking at Ibanez: he hit .274 with 23 home runs per year over the past nine seasons, when his power surge really started. And he's averaged 518 at-bats in that span, with the only real drag on his playing time being a platoon situation last year with the Yankees.

So Ibanez has power, he can probably raise his average another 20-30 points from where it is right now, and he doesn't get injured. Outside of just saying he's old, I really see no reason to leave him on waiver wires in 12-team leagues.

Over/under on average (season): .265
Over/under on home runs (season): 32
Would I drop Kyle Blanks for him?: No.

Rajai Davis, OF, Blue Jays (36 percent, up from 17)

This one's simple: It's all speed here. Over the last four seasons, Davis has averaged 43 steals per season, despite getting only about 420 at-bats each year. Now that he's playing regularly for the Blue Jays, Davis is again a hot speed commodity. His average fluctuates and you can't depend on him for power (although he did hit eight home runs last year), but there's a near-guarantee of steals here.

Let's not waste the holiday weekend with unnecessary paragraphs. If you need steals, go get Davis!

Over/under on steals (season): 38
Over/under on home runs (season): 5
Is there a chance Davis could remain in the outfield after Melky Cabrera's return, and Jose Bautista could see some time at third base?: Yes

The Flavor of Next Week

Juan Francisco, Brewers (16 percent ownership)

Let's just forget about Francisco's batting average for a minute; it's never been especially good and if he manages to hit .260, we'll consider it a bonus. You don't want Francisco for his average. You want him for his power.

Since he was traded to Milwaukee a month ago, Francisco has hit five home runs, including four in his last seven games. With Corey Hart out for the season and Aramis Ramirez not in the best shape, Francisco -- who can play both first and third -- should see regular playing time the rest of the season. This recent seven-game run (which also includes two doubles and a 1.298 OPS) give a glimpse of his potential, which could be 30-homer power in a hitter-friendly park like Miller.

Francisco isn't going to rank in the top 12 when the season is through, but he will benefit enough from the regular playing time to be a useful third baseman in most formats.

Over/under on average (season): .255
Over/under on home runs (season): 29
Which other third baseman does Francisco remind us (a little bit) of?: Pedro Alvarez

American League-only fun

Ricky Romero, SP, Blue Jays (4 percent ownership)

If you look at Romero's overall numbers in the minors this season, you'll cringe: a 6.89 ERA with a 1.80 WHIP, with 31 strikeouts in 57 innings. But since he ditched his new mechanics a few weeks ago, Romero looks like he's turned a corner. Over the last five games, Romero has a 3.54 ERA and 1.43 WHIP, striking out 21 in 28 innings. It's not the most impressive of stat lines, but it does give a little bit of hope that Romero may be on the verge of figuring out his issues. And for a pitcher who had improved for three straight seasons (before hitting an injury-riddled wall in 2012), that could be a useful set of circumstances in AL-only formats.

This isn't a call to add him in all AL-only leagues, but consider it a heads up that he might be closer than we think, especially with Chien-Ming Wang being DFA'd. I look at Romero as a gamble that might be worth taking if there's a shortage of starters in your league.

Over/under on starts (season): 14
Over/under on ERA (season): 3.85
Could this end up being a very bad move?: Absolutely, but it's worth the risk

National League-only fun

Pedro Strop, RP, Cubs (owned in 2 percent of leagues)

Strop was traded from the Orioles to the Cubs on Tuesday, as part of the deal that sent Scott Feldman to Baltimore. With Kevin Gregg a likely trade candidate, the Cubs may end up turning to Strop to close out games.

Before falling apart this year (he has a 7.25 ERA), Strop put together two seasons of near-dominant pitching, with a 2.34 ERA in 2011 and 2012. He also served as the backup closer for Baltimore last year.

Strop may still have some issues to work out -- manager Dale Sveum suggested a balky back may have to do with Strop's struggles this season -- but if Gregg is traded, Strop suddenly seems like the next in line to serve as the team's closer.

Over/under on saves (season): 11
Over/under on ERA (season): 3.85
How much are you bidding on him in the CBSSports.com Experts NL-only league?: $8 (out of 100)

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us on Twitter @CBSFantasyBB or Nando Di Fino at @NandoCBS .

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Player News
Indians' Gavin Floyd sidelined due to soreness unrelated to elbow
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(12:04 pm ET) Indians starting pitcher Gavin Floyd said Friday his live batting practice session Wednesday was shut down after seven pitches due to "general soreness," per MLB.com. Manager Terry Francona said Floyd's general soreness is unrelated to the fractured elbow he suffered in June.

Floyd said he is not concerned about a setback. Pitching coach Mickey Callaway said the next step in Floyd's progression is still to be determined

Francona said he told Floyd not to focus on deadlines, such as opening day. Francona added it is important to have Floyd at 100 percent -- no matter the date.


Mariners SP James Paxton feels good after 30-pitch bullpen session
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(11:57 am ET) Mariners starting pitcher James Paxton (forearm) threw a 30-pitch bullpen session Friday. He reported no soreness and will throw another bullpen session in a few days, per the Tacoma News Tribune.

Cubs' Olt on first spring HR: One of the best at-bats I've had in a while
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(11:52 am ET) Cubs third baseman Mike Olt clubbed a two-run homer off Athletics starting pitcher Barry Zito during Thursday's spring game. He connected on an 0-2 changeup.

“It’s one of the best at-bats I’ve had in a while,” Olt said, per MLB.com. 

Olt spent some time this offseason working on refining his swing.

“I feel like it’s night and day,” Olt said of his swing now compared to last season. “Last year, I said I felt my swing was there, but secretly I knew in my head I was swinging at pitches I wasn’t supposed to. I’m feeling like I’m tracking the ball a lot better this year and a lot of the changes we’ve made to my swing are the reason why.”


Red Sox ready to consider Matt Barnes as option for bullpen?
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(11:45 am ET) The Red Sox have maintained they consider prospect Matt Barnes a starting pitcher. However, his performance Thursday against the Twins has opened the door for Boston to potentially consider Barnes as a bullpen option.

Barnes struck out three batters in two scoreless relief innings Thursday. His fastball reached 97 mph and he featured a tight breaking ball, per WEEI.com.

The Red Sox likely have just two spots in the bullpen open, but Barnes could change their plans. Barnes did make five relief appearances for Boston last season.

“If everyone was healthy, we probably viewed two spots in competition among a group of four or five,” manager John Farrell said. “Does an outing like last night increase the pool? I don’t know that we need to anoint that yet, but that was a really good outing to watch.

“I don’??t have a whole lot of history with Matt Barnes, but that was a different guy than even what we saw in September. Sometimes you look for silver linings in an otherwise frustrating year and talking with Matt Barnes, he has a better understanding of who he is as a pitcher, what’??s required at the major-league level and the constant focus and concentration needed, all those were talked openly by him. And he went out last night and demonstrated some of the things he learned last year. Breaking balls much tighter. I’??ve never seen that kind of velocity from him. He was a different guy last night.”


Blue Jays' Saunders amazed with how quick recovery from surgery is going
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(11:38 am ET) Blue Jays outfielder Michael Saunders, who underwent surgery last week to remove 60 percent of the cartilage from his left knee, threw from flat ground for a second straight day Friday, according to the National Post

“When they told me I was going to walk out of surgery, I basically called B.S., considering the way I felt two days prior to it,” Saunders said. “But I walked out of surgery and I’ve felt amazed at the way my knee feels, considering everything. It’s an amazing thing.”

Saunders expects to hit off a tee within a few days. He could also start running in about a week.

“So far, so good,” he said. “The training staff are pushing me, but we’re pushing each other. At the end of the day, I’ve got to listen to my knee, but we’re headed in a good direction.”


A's catcher Stephen Vogt getting closer to DHing in spring game
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(11:33 am ET) Athletics catcher Stephen Vogt, who is coming off foot surgery, will run the bases either Friday or Saturday, per MLB.com. If all goes well, he will soon get into a spring game as the DH.

Nationals 1B Mike Carp scratched Friday due to toe injury
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(11:29 am ET) Nationals first baseman Mike Carp was scratched from Friday's spring lineup against the Braves after taking a pitch off his pinkie toe Thursday, per CSNwashington.com. His toe swelled up overnight.

Rockies' Jorge De La Rosa to miss start due to groin tightness
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(11:10 am ET) Rockies starting pitcher Jorge De La Rosa will miss his spring debut Saturday against the Cubs due to left groin tightness, per The Denver Post.

He plans to play catch Friday and throw a bullpen Saturday. De La Rosa also expects to be ready for his next turn through the rotation.

The left-handed pitcher has been one of the Rockies' best pitchers the last two seasons. He is 30-17 with a 3.81 ERA since 2013.


Mariners trying to gauge playing status of Franklin Gutierrez
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(10:59 am ET) Mariners outfielder Franklin Gutierrez is slated to play consecutive spring games Friday and Saturday as the team gauges where he is at after sitting out last season due to health issues, per MLB.com.

“We need to find out what he’s capable of doing,” manager Lloyd McClendon said. “He actually looks pretty good. He’s moving around pretty good, swinging the bat well. We all know he’s a very talented young man. His biggest problem is just staying on the field and we need to find out if he can do that.”


Royals 2B Omar Infante scratched Friday due to elbow soreness
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(10:53 am ET) Royals second baseman Omar Infante was scratched from Friday's spring game against the Indians due to elbow soreness, per MLB.com. However, he is tentatively penciled in to DH on Saturday against the Reds.

Infante added he is scheduled to have an MRI on his elbow Friday afternoon.


 
 
 
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