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Waiver Wire: A reason to believe

Senior Fantasy Writer
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A trio of pitchers started to emerge from a fog of obscurity/slump/not enough respect/disappointment just before the break, and are being added in plenty of leagues heading into the post-All-Star break portion of the season. Ivan Nova, Chris Archer and Danny Salazar all turned the heads of Fantasy players who hadn't dialed out between July 4 and the break. Each comes from a different place and has different prospects for the rest of the season.

We've seen Nova do this before. He tends to have spurts of greatness spoiled by bouts of frustration. When the dust has settled, Fantasy owners end up dropping him, with the bad parts outweighing the good. But the promise of those low-ratio and high-strikeout stretches keeps us coming back. I personally tend to stay away from Nova and the rollercoaster of feelings I must ride yearly with him, but his propensity for decent starts makes him attractive enough where I won't actively shout for owners to stay away. But approach with caution!

Archer was a top prospect in each of the last three years. We've seen this coming for a while. But after a bumpy debut (five runs in four innings) was magnified by the threat of him losing his rotation spot to a returning Alex Cobb, Archer was essentially forgotten. In his next eight starts, Archer put up a 2.27 ERA. So far this month, he has a 0.86 ERA and 0.62 WHIP. While it appears he's gone the way of the Hellickson and lost most of the strikeout potential that was on display in the minors (9.0 K/9 vs. 7.0 K/9 this season), it would be foolish to complain about that in light of the low ratios. Cobb's return is still far away, and even when he does come back he could just supplant another member (Roberto Hernandez?) of the rotation instead.

Salazar is the most intriguing of these three. Limited with his pitch count in the minors, he has tantalizing stuff, but just doesn't last deep into games. Additionally, the Indians have other options for the fifth spot, including a soon-to-return Zach McAllister and the ever-present Trevor Bauer. But Salazar is coming off a stellar debut, has a good amount of skill and if he only pitches six innings a game -- who cares? He can still strike out eight batters and offer a low ERA and WHIP.

If I'm staring down a waiver wire featuring all three of these pitchers, I pick up Archer first, then Salazar, then search for more options elsewhere, then shrug my shoulders and go with Nova.

The Big Leaps

Victor Martinez, DH, Tigers (84 percent ownership, up from 77)

I'm a fairly big believer in the "players don't lose their skills" supposition. Victor Martinez is the prime example of this. From 2004 to 2011, Martinez hit .304 with an average of 18 home runs and 34 doubles per season. He had a .372 OBP over that span and drove in 90 runs each year.

After missing all of 2012 with a knee injury (and the ensuing surgery and recovery), Martinez returned this year and fell flat. By the end of May, he was hitting .228 with two home runs, nine doubles, a .273 OBP and 25 RBI over 52 games. But Martinez had a lot of rust to shake off -- he hadn't played in the majors in 18 months, if you go back to the end of the 2011 season. And the old Martinez eventually came through -- he hit .240 with four homers and a .322 OPS in June. And in 14 July games, Martinez has a .393 average with a .443 OBP, two home runs, 10 RBI and six doubles in 14 games.

Is it safe to say he's back? Probably. Martinez has proven, throughout his career, that he is a .300 hitter who can accrue a lot of doubles, drive in runs and contribute home runs. It may have taken a few months to get into that groove, but he is back to where he used to be and can be started in most Fantasy formats.

Over/under on average (season): .288
Over/under on doubles (season): 31.5

Might-as-well-grab-him of the Week

Brad Ziegler, RP, Diamondbacks (13 percent ownership, up from 3 percent)

Arizona's bullpen is a bit of a mess right now, with no fewer than four pitchers in the mix for saves:

J.J. Putz is a former All-Star who has saved 30 or more games four times in his career, including an average of 38.5 over the last two seasons. He has missed a good portion of the season with elbow problems and the expectation is that he returns to the closer role at that vague date when he has his full arm strength back.
Heath Bell has served as the closer in Putz's absence. He had three straight seasons of 40-plus saves from 2009-2011 before flaming out with the Marlins last year. Bell has 15 saves this season, but has accrued nearly all of them in high-wire fashion, giving up a run here, two runs there and going through a stretch of five straight appearances with a home run allowed (saving two of those games).
David Hernandez had emerged as a solid presence out of the bullpen the last two seasons, but has taken a step back in 2013, sporting a 4.57 ERA through 40 games. In a case of very bad timing, Hernandez has been at his worst recently -- a 6.27 ERA since June 1, when Bell started giving up home runs and Putz was pulled back to work on his arm strength.
Brad Ziegler has a 2.44 ERA and has appeared in a league-leading 50 games this season. He doesn't strike a lot of batters out, but he does have three of the team's last four saves heading into the break.

Looking at this as a whole, my guess is that Ziegler gets a few more chances, but Putz eventually takes the job back over. That being said, it's smart to add Ziegler in leagues where saves are scarce. There's a chance that any number of things happen to knock that timeline off its course -- Putz aggravates his elbow, Bell keeps giving up home runs, Hernandez's struggles continue -- and Ziegler simply holds on to the job. I don't think that's the likeliest scenario, but it definitely has a decent enough chance of happening.

Over/under on saves (season): 9.5
Over/under on ERA (season): 2.32

Stash of the Week

Chris Carpenter, SP, Cardinals (Owned in 31 percent of leagues)

Here's my main argument for picking up and stashing Chris Carpenter in nearly every format: he did this last year, kind of. Against all odds and pretty much left for dead, Carpenter returned for three regular season (and three postseason) games in 2012. He produced a 3.71 ERA and 1.19 WHIP.

I realize there are other factors and slightly different circumstances this season, but I remember Carpenter saying something last year about hyper-preparing for a comeback by doing conditioning and lifting before the surgery, so he would be a bit ahead of schedule when it was time to return. I'm going to apply everything I learned about him last year to his possible value this year. Work ethic, skill and the ability to come back late in the season and be effective.

Carpenter is owned in just 31 percent of leagues, a number I find to be about half of what it should be. And now would be the time to add him -- there's not as much attention being paid during the All-Star break, so not only should you be able to grab Carpenter in most leagues, you might also be able to quietly drop and then re-add whichever end-of-the-bench player you needed to push aside to make room for Carpenter after you DL him.

Over/under on ERA (season): 3.80
Over/under on WHIP (season): 1.21

Flavor of Next Week

John Axford, RP, Brewers (Owned in 20 percent of leagues)

Here's how I came back to loving John Axford:

1. Milwaukee is 38-56 and 14 1/2 games out of a wild card spot.
2. This record and relatively hopeless playoff position leads me to believe they will sell off assets for prospects.
3. One of their most tradeable assets is Francisco Rodriguez, their 31-year-old closer who has a 1.19 ERA, nine saves, and 25 strikeouts in 22 2/3 innings -- and who will be a free agent after this season.
3a. Rodriguez is third among active pitchers with 303 career saves.
4. If Rodriguez is traded, the Brewers are left with two choices to close the rest of the season: Axford or Jim Henderson.
5. Henderson was brilliant before a DL stint. When he returned June 9, though, he started to falter a bit, to the tune of a 4.50 ERA with three blown saves in 15 games.
6. Axford, meanwhile, had a 10.32 ERA on May 1 after 13 appearances. Since then, he's 3-0 with eight holds and a 0.99 ERA, striking out a batter per inning.
7. Just looking at recent performance and Ned Yost's affinity for Axford, I am simply guessing that all of the above leads to Axford closing games for the Brewers if Rodriguez is traded.

Over/under on saves (season): 14 (fun side note: Axford actually has zero saves this season)
Over/under on ERA (season): 2.91

AL-only fun

Most Added Players (as of 7/18)
Player % change
1. Chris Archer, SP, Rays 20
2. Corey Kluber, SP, Indians 15
3. Jeremy Hefner, SP, Mets 14
4. Ivan Nova, SP, Yankees 14
5. Felix Doubront, SP, Red Sox 14
6. Chris Carpenter, SP, Cardinals 14
7. Joe Saunders, SP, Mariners 14
8. Danny Salazar, SP, Indians 14
9. Marlon Byrd, OF, Mets 13
10. Jarred Cosart, SP, Astros 12

Chris Colabello, OF, Twins (1 percent ownership)

The Twins quietly made some relatively big moves right before the All-Star break, sending down Chris Parmelee, Eduardo Escobar and Oswaldo Arcia and recalling Doug Bernier, Chris Herrmann and ... Player X.

Player X is expected to be Chris Colabello, who participated in the Triple-A All-Star game Wednesday and is expected to be officially recalled Thursday. Colabello failed to impress in a series of stints that totaled seven games earlier this season (he started three games and played sparingly in the others), but could see a good amount of playing time in the outfield or at DH this time around, having to only push aside either Herrmann or Clete Thomas for one of the regular corner spots.

For those unfamiliar with Colabello, he spent seven years playing in the independent leagues (mostly with the Worcester Tornadoes in the Can-Am League) before the Twins gave him a shot in 2012. Colabello hit 19 home runs in 134 games in Double-A. This season, he's been even better. In 322 Triple-A at-bats, Colabello is hitting .354 with 24 home runs, 24 doubles and a 1.084 OPS.

So what we have here is a relatively low-risk gamble. Colabello has lots of power and average potential, could easily find his way into regular playing time, and is available in pretty much all leagues. There's enough upside here to eventually have Colabello relevant in a much larger percentage of leagues, but I'd limit him to AL-only until we see what kind of playing time the Twins will give him.

Over/under on average (season): .270
Over/under on home runs (season): 12

NL-only fun

Kensuke Tanaka, 2B, Giants (1 percent ownership)

I am not ashamed to admit I have written 50 percent of the Kensuke Tanaka updates on CBSSports.com. And that's being kind and giving Igor Mello credit for his "Jeff Francoeur will join Giants Saturday" update, which was really more of a Francoeur update and only mentioned Tanaka in passing in the last sentence.

Tanaka has been a bit of an obsession of mine this season. He hit .330 and stole 20 bases in 78 minor league games before getting called up. A veteran of Japan's Pacific League, Tanaka carried a decent average his entire career, while stealing 20 or more bases five times since 2006. Once he started making all those errors at second base, though, I thought his chances of getting called up had shrunk. And then the Giants put him in left field.

A little over a week later, Tanaka was in the majors, starting in left for San Francisco and batting second in the order. Through his first six games, Tanaka is hitting .316 with a .381 OBP. More importantly, he's eligible at second base, even though he's expected to play mainly in the outfield (in a probable platoon with Francoeur). So this is a wonderful scenario for an NL-only owner: a middle infielder who can hit at the top of the order and may be in the better part of a platoon, with significant speed and decent average. If Francoeur fizzles and Tanaka takes over in a more full-time capacity, he'll get some mixed league relevance. For now, consider him the NL equivalent of someone like Dustin Ackley (with Tanaka's lack of playing time balancing out Ackley's lower average and steal potential).

Over/under on steals (season): 11
Over/under on batting average (season): .289

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
Phillies RHP Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez targets rotation spot
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(11:21 am ET) Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro has declared that Cuban import Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez will compete for a rotation spot in spring training.

Gonzalez was winless in four decisions at three different levels in the minors but performed well enough to record a 3.11 ERA. He struggled with his control with 26 walks in 46 1/3 innings.

"We're going to give him every opportunity to be in our rotation," Amaro said via MLB.com. "We have to try to create as many opportunities for starting pitching as we possibly can. We're not going to be able to go through a season with five or six pitchers. It's probably going to take seven to 10 pitchers.

"He personally feels more comfortable being in the rotation. Whether or not he can provide that remains to be seen. But after speaking with him it was very important to him to be prepared mentally and physically for this offseason to get stretched out."

Gonzalez was promoted to the Phillies in September and yielded four runs on nine hits in 5 1/3 innings.


Epstein laments Jackson deal, but still looking to improve Cubs
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(11:03 am ET) Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein has stated that he won't be satisfied adding one starting pitcher to the rotation in the offseason.

"We need impact starting pitching," he told CSNChicago.com. "If you can add a top-of-the-rotation starter to what we have with (Jake) Arrieta, et al, it becomes really, really interesting in a hurry. We also could use just another quality, stable arm to go with it. So in an ideal world, we'll add two starting pitchers."

Epstein admitted he made a mistake in his disastrous signing of Edwin Jackson to a four-year, $52 million deal, which will pale in comparison to the money destined for potential free agents Jon Lester and Max Scherzer this winter. Jackson is 14-33 with a 5.58 ERA in two years with the Cubs, who are on the hook for two more seasons. But Epstein realizes that he must return to the free agent market to sufficiently improve his staff.

"I'm very confident that we'll add impact pitching from outside the organization," he said. "It has a chance to happen this winter. But we're not going to make any guarantees."


Yankees veteran Mark Teixeira seeking strength in offseason
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(10:48 am ET) Yankees aging first baseman Mark Teixeira has lamented what he called a "bad season" and plans on improving his upper-body strength before next year.

Teixeira batted a career-low .216 (aside from 2013, when he had just 53 at-bats), though he did rack up 23 home runs and 62 RBI in 440 at-bats. He told ESPN that he was negatively affected coming off a right wrist injury. But he added that he needs to get stronger if he wants to rebound.

"I didn't realize how weak I was upper-body," he said. "I'm trying to be working a lot harder. That will be my adjustment this year."

Teixeira will turn 35 years old on April 15.


Report: Inquiries pouring in for Blue Jays 1B/DH Adam Lind
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(10:22 am ET) Fresh off a season in which he batted .321, Blue Jays first baseman Adam Lind is receiving plenty of attention in the trade market, according to the Toronto Sun.

Lind totaled six home runs and 40 RBI in 2014. "I hear the Blue Jays are getting a lot of interest on Lind and not just from American League teams," an executive told the Sun.

He started 47 games at first base and 36 at designated hitter this season. His limited skills as a position player makes interest from NL teams a bit of a surprise. What is not a surprise is that teams are intrigued by his contract situation. The Jays will likely pick up his 7.5 million option for 2015 and, if he performs well, his $8 million option for the following year.

The Jays also have an option on Lind for 2016 at $8 million.


Royals C Salvador Perez homers in Game 1 World Series loss
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(10/21/2014) Royals catcher Salvador Perez went 1 for 3 with a solo home run in his team's 7-1 loss to the Giants in Game 1 of the World Series Tuesday.

Perez struck the only blow the Royals could manage on offense, finally getting a run off Giants starter Madison Bumgarner after he allowed only two hits through six scoreless innings. By the time of Perez's bomb, the Royals were dug in a hole from which they couldn't escape. It's a rare sign of life from the catcher's bat, as he's hit just .135/.158/.216 in 37 postseason at-bats despite the Royals racking up win after win in the first three rounds.


Giants' Pablo Sandoval drives in two in Game 1 World Series win
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(10/21/2014) Giants third baseman Pablo Sandoval went 2 for 5 with a double and two RBI in his team's 7-1 win over the Royals in Game 1 of the World Series Tuesday.

Sandoval opened and closed the scoring for the Giants in the win, delivering an RBI double in the top of the first inning (and later scoring on a Hunter Pence home run) then adding an RBI single in the seventh to push the lead to 7-0. While he has yet to deliver a home run this October, Sandoval has been hard to conquer at the plate, hitting .333/.396/.438 in 48 postseason at-bats.


Giants OF Hunter Pence homers in Game 1 World Series win
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(10/21/2014) Giants outfielder Hunter Pence went 2 for 3 with two walks and a two-run home run in his team's 7-1 win over the Royals in Game 1 of the World Series Tuesday.

Pence delivered a monster blast to center field in the first inning to put his team up 3-0, and the Royals would have little answer for another excellent performance by Giants pitcher Madison Bumgarner. It was the first home run of October for Pence, who has hit .286/.388/.452 in 42 postseason at-bats.


Madison Bumgarner allows one run in Giants' Game 1 World Series win
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(10/21/2014) Giants pitcher Madison Bumgarner earned a win in Game 1 of the World Series Tuesday, allowing just one earned run on three hits and one walk in seven innings while striking out five in his team's 7-1 victory over the Royals.

Bumgarner (3-1) continued to look excellent fresh off winning the NLCS MVP award. He fired six scoreless innings and was up 7-0 before surrendering a solo home run in the bottom of the seventh. Bumgarner has delivered a 1.40 ERA, 0.72 WHIP and 33:6 K:BB ratio in 38 2/3 postseason innings spanning five starts. He'll get the ball in Game 5 Sunday if the Royals can avoid a sweep. Game 2 is set for Wednesday in Kansas City.


James Shields comes up short in Royals' Game 1 World Series loss
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(10/21/2014) Royals pitcher James Shields was roughed up in Game 1 of the World Series Tuesday, taking a loss after surrendering five earned runs on seven hits and one walk in three-plus innings while striking out one in his team's 7-1 defeat against the Giants.

Shields (1-1) hadn't been having a great postseason despite the Royals' impressive run of wins, giving up 10 earned runs in 16 innings heading into his Game 1 start. His night turned south immediately Tuesday, as the Giants followed up a one-out, RBI double with a two-run home run to take a 3-0 lead in the first inning. Shields retired seven straight heading into the fourth, where he opened the inning with a double, walk and RBI single to get the hook. The loss, which was the first of the postseason for the Royals, puts the AL pennant winner in a 1-0 hole going into Game 2 Wednesday in Kansas City.


Yankees SP CC Sabathia nearly '100 percent'
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(10/21/2014) Yankees starting pitcher CC Sabathia said Tuesday that he feels "pretty much back to 100 percent" and expects a full 200-inning workload in 2015, MLB.com reports.

"It's definitely a huge relief," Sabathia said. "I feel good enough to do all my workouts, to play catch and kind of have a normal offseason."

Sabathia, who underwent season-ending knee surgery in July, starting throwing off flat ground in late September and plans to report to spring training early.


 
 
 
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