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Waiver Wire: Time to start acting quickly

Michael Hurcomb
Fantasy Writer
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Prior to last Thursday's podcast (click here to subscribe), I was asked to provide a list of buy-low and sell-high candidates. When I first compiled the list, Pirates second baseman Neil Walker appeared to be easy pickings for a sell-high candidate. However, I started hemming and hawing after branding Walker with this distinction, and I'm still undecided about my rest-of-season expectations for him.

I started reconsidering my stance after stumbling upon a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review story that outlined why Walker is off to a fast start. Walker, who is a switch hitter, had struggled the last two seasons batting right-handed, leaving some to suggest he should consider strictly hitting left-handed. Walker gave no thought to the notion and went to work this offseason fixing the flaw in his right-handed swing.

Most added players on CBSSports.com
Player Own %
1. Kyle Gibson, SP, Twins 61 (+48)
2. Wily Peralta, SP, Brewers 73 (+39)
3. Kyle Farnsworth, RP, Mets 40 (+39)
4. Devin Mesoraco, C, Reds 84 (+32)
5. Marcell Ozuna, OF, Marlins 65 (+32)
6. Martin Perez, SP, Rangers 84 (+28)
7. Justin Morneau, 1B, Rockies 80 (+27)
8. Eric Young, OF, Mets 60 (+27)
9. Alfredo Simon, RP, Reds 57 (+27)
10. Edinson Volquez, SP, Pirates 50 (+25)

Walker raised his hands to more closely resemble the starting point of his left-handed swing, which helped shorten the bat path. He took countless reps this offseason to develop muscle memory, and the early results have been positive.

Walker is batting .429 (6 for 14) with a .714 slugging percentage, 1.181 OPS, one double, one home run and two RBI against left-handed pitchers in 2014. It's a huge improvement after batting .246 with a .288 slugging percentage in 2012 and a .225 average and .238 slugging percentage in 2013 against lefties.

Walker has six home runs and is slugging .525 through 19 games. His career slugging percentage is .427 and he's never had more than 16 home runs in a season, so it's easy to see why my initial instinct was to say sell high. But I started to change my perspective when I realized Walker is only 28 years old and still in his prime. Also, you can connect the dots between Walker's offseason work and his early season success -- indicating it could be more than just a hot start or dumb luck.

Fantasy owners are slowly buying into Walker's surge. His ownership has climbed from 64 percent in at the beginning of the season to 81 percent. It seems the bullish view on Walker is growing.

Kyle Gibson, SP, Twins


Ownership in CBSSports.com leagues: 61 percent (up 48 percent)
This is a big week for Gibson. He makes starts against the Rays and Tigers, which could provide a good glimpse into whether his hot start is the real deal or an aberration. While Gibson didn't pitch well in his first taste of the majors last season, don't forget it was still his first full season back after Tommy John surgery. Now that he's two full years past the surgery, Gibson is beginning to showcase the potential he flashed as a top prospect prior to getting hurt. Gibson is a contact pitcher, but when his fastball and sinker are working, he has the ability to be dominant. Gibson hasn't been a strong strikeout pitcher in his young MLB career, but he did post a 8.0 K/9 rate in the minors, so there's some untapped potential there. As long as Gibson is winning, while posting a low ERA and WHIP, he's still a serviceable Fantasy arm.
Leagues worth adding him: 12-team Head-to-Head and Rotisserie

Marcell Ozuna, OF, Marlins


Ownership in CBSSports.com leagues: 65 percent (up 32 percent)
It's good to see Fantasy owners are beginning to buy into Ozuna's surge because he certainly has the ability and is in a good position to keep producing. It's no surprise Ozuna is doing his best work batting in front of slugger Giancarlo Stanton. In seven games batting second, Ozuna is hitting .364 (12 for 33) with a .515 slugging percentage and .936 OPS. Ozuna has the pedigree to keep producing. He slugged .487 and had three seasons with 20-plus homers in the minors. Don't forget he also slugged .488 in his first 33 games last season before hitting a rookie wall. Ozuna had a pretty bad spring while working on his timing, but it seems he got all of his bad habits and at-bats out of the way during the exhibition schedule.
Leagues worth adding him: 12-team Head-to-Head and Rotisserie

Eric Young, OF, Mets


Ownership in CBSSports.com leagues: 60 percent (up 27 percent)
Young has had quite the turnaround in a short amount of time. After opening the season with a .105 average in his first five games, Young has hit .260 with a .403 on-base percentage, 10 stolen bases and 16 runs in his last 13 games. Mets manager Terry Collins said Young's early struggles stemmed from focusing on making better contact and eliminating strikeouts. However, Collins said he's now "back to his regular swing" and the results are definitely benefitting Fantasy owners. Young totaled 29 Fantasy points in Week 2 and 27 Fantasy points in Week 3. He also entered Monday as the third-highest scoring Fantasy outfielder in Rotisserie formats the last two weeks. The eventual return of Juan Lagares will create a logjam in the Mets' outfield, but if Young keeps producing, then the Mets will find ways to keep his bat and speed in the lineup.
Leagues worth adding him: 10-team Head-to-Head and Rotisserie

Juan Uribe, 3B, Dodgers


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Ownership in CBSSports.com leagues: 48 percent (up 24 percent)
While most Fantasy owners turned their attention to Fantasy Football last fall, Uribe was one of the hottest hitters toward the end of the season. He hit .326 with a .539 slugging percentage and .897 OPS in his final 42 games, then kept the momentum going in the playoffs, which included belting two home runs in the NLDS against Atlanta. Uribe parlayed his strong finish into a new contract with the Dodgers. Like many, I assumed Uribe turned it on late last season with free agency looming, but his promising start in 2014 at least gives some debate as to whether Uribe is really this good of a hitter at this stage of his career. I'd be more convinced if Uribe was in his prime and not his mid-30s and the fact that he has just a .422 career slugging percentage. There's plenty of room for Uribe to regress, so don't be afraid to dump him back onto waivers when he starts to cool off.
Leagues worth adding him: 14-team Head-to-Head and Rotisserie

Kevin Kouzmanoff, 3B, Rangers


Ownership in CBSSports.com leagues: 28 percent (up 25 percent)
Kouzmanoff is finally producing at a high level in the majors. It's just too bad it came many years after the baseball world thought it would happen. It might be a distant memory, but once upon a time Kouzmanoff was one of the more promising prospects in baseball. But after productive years in 2007-08 with the Padres, Kouzmanoff began to decline offensively and disappeared from the majors for a few years before finally resurfacing when Adrian Beltre went on the disabled list. Kouzmanoff has been stellar in Beltre's absence, even winning American League player of the week honors last week. However, despite his strong run, his playing time is going to dwindle once Beltre returns, which is likely later this week. Don't get too attached to Kouzmanoff. Good short-term option, but be ready to cut bait as soon as his production and playing time turns south.
Leagues worth adding him: Stopgap option

Wily Peralta, SP, Brewers


Ownership in CBSSports.com leagues: 73 percent (up 39 percent)
A third straight win Monday sent Peralta's Fantasy value skyrocketing. If you have listened to our podcast then you've heard me tell the story about how Peralta isn't letting his emotions get the best of him and is staying under control even when things don't go his way. Peralta always had the stuff to be a solid pitcher and now that he's coupled that with composure on the hill, the results have been outstanding. Peralta pitched pretty well over the final months last season, going 6-6 with a 3.15 ERA in his last 15 starts. The big thing for him this season has been cutting down on the walks and his slider being effective. Peralta is worth the investment for Fantasy owners, and hopefully we will see his ownership head north of 90 percent in the near future, which would mean he's continuing to get the job done.
Leagues worth adding him: 10-team Head-to-Head and Rotisserie formats

Tom Koehler, SP, Marlins


Ownership in CBSSports.com leagues: 28 percent (up 22 percent)
Koehler was never considered a top pitching prospect, and his numbers in his first two years in the majors were nothing to write home about, which leaves plenty of doubt surrounding his impressive start in 2014. However, I'm ready to buy into Koehler's turnaround. The Marlins keep talking about Koehler maturing as a pitcher and learning from his past mistakes. They also talk about how he is better working both sides of the plate, and he's developing a changeup, which complements his fastball and curveball. But perhaps Koehler's key to success thus far has been the improvement with his fastball. The Marlins said he got in trouble last season because he repeatedly left his fastball up in the strike zone, but it's become a more-effective pitch this season. In 2013, the strike rate on his four-seamer was 21.5 percent and whiff rate was 4.7 percent, per BrooksBaseball.net. Batters also hit .338 off Koehler's fastball. This year, they are hitting just .220, while his strike rate is at 26.7 percent and his whiff rate is at 8.3 percent.
Leagues worth adding him: 12-team Head-to-Head and Rotisserie

LaTroy Hawkins, RP, Rockies


Ownership in CBSSports.com leagues: 54 percent (up 17 percent)
I bet you can still remember your reaction when you heard the news this offseason the Rockies had signed Hawkins to be their closer. You wondered how Colorado could do this with the electric Rex Brothers in its bullpen. Even on Draft Day, Fantasy owners were still avoiding Hawkins like the plague because everyone felt he would be just be keeping the seat warm until Brothers was ready. Well, we're a few weeks into the season, and it's looking like Hawkins might have this job to keep, especially if Brothers can't harness his control problems. Just maybe Hawkins is turning into the next ageless wonder. He pitched pretty well down the stretch last season after taking over as the Mets' closer, going 13 of 14 in save situations and posting a 2.82 ERA in his last 23 appearances. Hawkins might not have a great strikeout rate, but he's getting the job done and that makes him useful in leagues that reward for saves.
Leagues worth adding him: 12-team Head-to-Head and Rotisserie

Dayan Viciedo, OF, White Sox


Ownership in CBSSports.com leagues: 25 percent (up 4 percent)
Perhaps losing Avisail Garcia won't be as painful as the White Sox had hoped. Not if Viciedo keeps producing like he has to begin the 2014 season. Viciedo is generally a slow starter, but he's reversed the trend in '14 and a lot has to do with how well he's hitting against right-handed pitchers. Viciedo, who has a .247 average and .394 slugging percentage in his career against righties, is batting .350 with a .525 slugging percentage in 14 games against righties this season. Viciedo credits his early season success to his maturation as a hitter. He said he's more patient at the plate and he's getting better with pitch recognition. It's still not an impressive number, but Viciedo's walk percentage (8.5) is up this season compared to his career rate (5.3 percent, per FanGraphs.com). Viciedo was once a top 100 prospect and slugged .486 at Triple-A, so don't overlook him as a sleeper addition off the wire. I'm pretty sure I'm ready to jump on the bandwagon.
Leagues worth adding him: 12-team Head-to-Head and Rotisserie

Derek Dietrich, 2B, Marlins


Ownership in CBSSports.com leagues: 14 percent (up 7 percent)
I know the Marlins brought Rafael Furcal in this offseason to play second base, but he's already proven he can't stay healthy and Dietrich has shown to be more than a serviceable replacement. I hope Marlins manager Mike Redmond strongly considers keeping Dietrich as the starter upon Furcal's return and move Furcal to the backup option in case Dietrich falters. Dietrich can hit. He batted .277 with a .476 slugging percentage and .824 OPS in the minors. He's got some pop in his bat and is only 24 years old. Furcal is an aging option past his prime, and the only thing he has over Dietrich is veteran savvy. However, the Marlins aren't built to win now despite a better-than-expected start, and as long as Furcal is in the clubhouse, it just seems more beneficial for Miami to see if Dietrich is the second baseman of the future. I wouldn't be so quick to give up on Dietrich once Furcal returns.
Leagues worth adding him: NL-only and 14-team formats

Alberto Callaspo, INF, Athletics


Ownership in CBSSports.com leagues: 22 percent (up 12 percent)
There are plenty of things to like about Callaspo's game, particularly his plate discipline. He doesn't have a high strikeout rate and his walk total is pretty close to his strikeout total. So far early on in 2014, Callaspo is showing a high batting average and surprising pop. However, we shouldn't expect his slugging percentage to remain around .500. Not for a guy that has a career .383 slugging percentage. The numbers indicate the hits are falling for Callaspo (.340 BABIP compared to a .287 career rate), and he's making good contact when he chases pitches outside the strike zone. He has a 94.1 percent contact rate when he swings at pitches outside the strike zone, which is well above his 84.5 percent career rate (FanGraphs.com). Callaspo's multi-position eligibility is a bonus in Fantasy, but don't view Callaspo as a savior off waivers.
Leagues worth adding him: AL-only and 16-team formats

Josmil Pinto, C, Twins


Ownership in CBSSports.com leagues: 25 percent (up 7 percent)
It's going to be very interesting to see what the Twins do when outfielders Oswaldo Arcia and Josh Willingham return from the DL. Right now, their absence has created regular at-bats for Pinto, who is seeing plenty of time at DH. Pinto is cashing in on the extra at-bats with four home runs and a .535 slugging percentage in 14 games. Manager Ron Gardenhire could have trouble finding playing time for everyone since Jason Kubel and Chris Colabello have also gotten off to good starts. At some point, however, the Twins have to strongly consider bumping Pinto to the starting role at catcher if he proves too valuable to keep on the bench and they can no longer get him regular at-bats at DH. Right now, his biggest weakness is hitting lefties, which is keeping Pinto from being a must-add catcher. But if he irons that out, it could be a mad dash to waivers to add him.
Leagues worth adding him: AL-only and 14-team Rotisserie formats as a No. 2 catcher

Player you might reconsider dropping

Kyle Seager, 3B, Mariners


Ownership in CBSSports.com leagues: 86 percent (down 7 percent)
If you are an advantageous Fantasy owner and looking to stash a player on your bench, then head to waivers to see if an owner in your league has dropped Seager. Seager's start hasn't been inspiring, but the numbers show he's below the norm in many areas and is likely due for a course correction. Some of the more notable numbers that stand out are Seager's .222 BABIP, which is below his .287 career average; his 11.1 percent line-drive rate, which is below his career 21.7 percent rate; and Seager is seeing a career-high 67.6 percent first-pitch strikes, which is well above his career rate (58.5 percent) and the league rate (59.9 percent, per FanGraphs.com). It seems once Seager's luck starts to turn in his favor and he irons out his swing, he should start to make up for his slow start.
Leagues worth adding him: 10-team Head-to-Head and Rotisserie

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Player News
Mariners pitcher J.A. Happ hit hard again in start Sunday
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(3/29/2015) Mariners pitcher J.A. Happ gave five runs on 11 hits in five innings of work Sunday against the Padres in his second consecutive rough outing.

"I was being way too tentative early on," Happ said to MLB.com. "I just wasn't finishing and as aggressive as I was later in the game. Maybe trying to be a little too fine after the previous outing. I think if I throw like I did the second part of that game, I'll be OK."

Happ, who is expected to be the fourth starter in Seattle's rotation, is now 1-3 this spring with a 7.90 ERA.


Rangers release outfielder Ryan Ludwick from minor league deal
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(3/29/2015) The Rangers have released outfielder Ryan Ludwick from his minor league contract, the team announced Sunday.

Ludwick hit .200 with one home run and three RBI in 30 plate appearances during spring training.


Report: Yankees' Domingo German may need Tommy John surgery
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(3/29/2015) Yankees pitching prospect Domingo German may be on the shelf for awhile. German may reportedly need Tommy John surgery for his injured elbow, according to MLB.com.

The team is yet to confirm the report. German went 9-3 in 25 starts with a 2.48 ERA in Class-A Greensboro in 2014.


Indians pitcher Austin Adams still in contention for roster spot
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(3/29/2015) Indians relief pitcher Austin Adams still has a chance to make the final roster, reports MLB.com.

Adams, who was a non-roster invitee to camp, has posted a 5.87 ERA in eight appearances this spring with nine strikeouts and 11 hits allowed.

"We wanted to tell him he'd done a really good job," manager Terry Francona said of his morning conversation with Adams, "but we still don't know."


Rangers remain undecided on pitcher Keone Kela
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(3/29/2015) Rangers pitcher Keone Kela tossed one scoreless inning Sunday with no hits and two strikeouts against the Dodgers. Kela has now gone 8 1/3 innings without giving up a run this spring, but the team is undecided still on his role this season, reports MLB.com.

"I haven't said if he was or wasn't on the team," Banister said. "That decision will be made at the appropriate time. You see what he has done. He has been impressive this spring."


Indians pitcher T.J. House gives up four runs in six innings
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(3/29/2015) Indians pitcher T.J. House, who was given a spot in the starting rotation Sunday, struggled in his appearance Sunday. House gave up four runs on six hits with two walks in six innings of work against the White Sox.

"This spring it looks a little glaring, that one inning is kind of getting to me in the box scores," said House to MLB.com. "It's nice to get them out of the way now and maybe during the season we won't see them.

"My ball kind of flattened out a little bit [in the fourth]. Besides that, I felt good. I pounded the zone and got to see some guys I'm going to see during the season, so I'll make a mental note of that."


White Sox second baseman Micah Johnson has edge in position battle
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(3/29/2015) White Sox second baseman Micah Johnson appears to be in the lead for the position when the season begins, reports MLB.com. Manager Robin Ventura likes what he's seen from Johnson enough to give him a vote of confidence at the position, even though nothing has been officially set.

"He's done well enough to kind of be the leading guy," said Ventura of Johnson, who had two hits in Sunday's 4-1 win over the Indians.

Third base coach Joe McEwing likes the progress Johnson has sowed on defense this spring.

"Initially what we wanted to do was try to slow things down because everything Micah does, he does fast," McEwing said. "Everything in his game is fast. Just, defensively, try to slow him down and allow him to focus on his feet and his hands and everything working together."


Athletics pitcher Kendall Graveman posts another stellar performance
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(3/29/2015) Athletics pitcher Kendall Graveman continues to impress this spring. Sunday, he went 6 1/3 scoreless innings, allowing just three hits with three strikeouts and no walks. Manager Bob Melvin loves how the young pitcher has performed this spring, reports MLB.com.

"He doesn't blow you away, although you look at the radar gun and at times we've seen 93, 94 this spring," Melvin said. "But he's a pitcher; he's pretty cerebral in the way he does it.

"He reads swings very well. You know, it's late movement off the barrel of the bat, whether it's sink, whether it's cut, offspeed just enough. But he knows what he's doing and he's aware of what the hitters are trying to do against him."

Graveman has a minuscule 0.74 ERA in five starts this spring.

"There's a reason that he went from [Class] A-ball to the big leagues [in 2014 with Toronto], and then continued to pitch this well for us. It means he's real confident in what he's doing," Melvin said.


Nationals pitcher Doug Fister struggles again in outing Sunday
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(3/29/2015) Nationals pitcher Doug Fister surrendered six runs in four innings of work Sunday against the Marlins, pushing his spring training ERA to 7.02 in five starts. Fister gave up three more home runs in the outing.

"I can't let any of that affect me. I know I have to get the ball down regardless," Fister said to MLB.com. "I felt good today. I felt I was almost back in the swing of things. There are obviously some things I have to fine tune at the end of spring.

"I left the ball up, and it allowed the Marlins to get good contact on the ball. I don't let outside influences affect the game. It's a game I have to control and make adjustments."


Tigers targeting 200 pitches for pitcher Anibal Sanchez
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(3/29/2015) Tigers pitcher Anibal Sanchez tossed 10 strikeouts in Sunday's game against the Phillies, going 6 1/3 innings and surrendering four runs on five hits. 

"That means he's hitting his spots. It means he's locating," manager Brad Ausmus said to MLB.com. "When a guy takes a pitch, he thinks it's a ball or just off the corner and they end up getting the call. ... So he must have been locating. It looked like he was locating his fastball."

Ausmus also indicated he hopes to see Sanchez reach 200 innings this season.

"If we get 200 innings out of Sanchy, I'll be extremely happy. I think we'll be in a very good spot," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said Sunday morning. "We talk about a lot of things, but if Sanchy can stay healthy, that would be an enormous plus for us."


 
 
 
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