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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
Steve Pearce swats 13th home run Wednesday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:36 am ET) Orioles first baseman Steve Pearce went 1 for 4 with a solo home run in his team's 4-3 win over the White Sox Wednesday.

Pearce has started to heat back up over the last four games, going 7 for 18 with four doubles and two home runs. He hadn't managed a multi-hit performance since July 19 before his current stretch. Pearce owns a .289/.353/.520 line with 13 home runs and 34 RBI in 256 at-bats.


Kevin Quackenbush earns first save Wednesday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:30 am ET) Padres pitcher Kevin Quackenbush picked up his first career save Wednesday, giving up a hit but pitching a scoreless ninth inning in his team's 4-1 win over the Dodgers.

Regular closer Joaquin Benoit is dealing with a shoulder issue, opening the door for Quackenbush to enter the game in a save opportunity. He owns a 2.29 ERA, 0.97 WHIP and 37:13 K:BB ratio in 39 1/3 innings.


Eric Stults tosses five one-run innings vs. Dodgers
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:26 am ET) Padres pitcher Eric Stults earned a win Wednesday, allowing just one earned run on four hits and one walk in five innings while striking out five in his team's 4-1 victory over the Dodgers.

Stults (6-13) moved to 3-0 over his last four starts, and he's only allowed four earned runs in 24 2/3 innings during that stretch. Wednesday's sole run came on a third-inning sacrifice fly, and the San Diego starter also managed to deliver his own RBI single in the second inning. Stults owns a 4.53 ERA and 86:34 K:BB ratio in 135 innings. He's scheduled to face the Brewers Monday.


Roberto Hernandez lasts five innings in loss vs. Padres
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:25 am ET) Dodgers pitcher Roberto Hernandez took a loss Wednesday, allowing four runs (three earned) on eight hits and two walks in five innings and striking out two in his team's 4-1 defeat against the Padres.

Hernandez (7-9) surrendered just three hits in six innings in each of his first two starts with the Dodgers, but he couldn't find that groove Wednesday, though all eight hits allowed were singles. He owns a 3.78 ERA and 87:61 K:BB ratio in 138 innings. Hernandez is scheduled to face the Diamondbacks Tuesday.


Edwin Jackson could be destined for bullpen role
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:16 am ET) Cubs pitcher Edwin Jackson may be headed to the bullpen after giving up seven runs in 2 2/3 innings in his latest start Wednesday, ESPNChicago.com reports.

"We're going to assess and evaluate and see where we go," manager Rick Renteria said.

Jackson has turned in just two quality starts in his last nine outings, going 1-6 during that stretch and watching his ERA rise from 4.99 to 6.09.

"No one wants to be moved," Jackson said Wednesday. "The only thing you can do if you don't like it is go out there and pitch out of jams. I have to get back to having fun. Tonight was an example of absolutely not doing that. Just being uptight and battling yourself."




Zach Walters goes deep again
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12:52 am ET) Indians infielder Zach Walters hit his sixth home run Wednesday against the Twins.

Walters went deep in his first at-bat of the game. He belted an 82 mph splitter on the first pitch he saw from Ricky Nolasco. Walters finished 1 for 4, with one run scored and one RBI. Walters has now homered in three of his last seven games. 


Mike Aviles reaches three times Wednesday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12:40 am ET) Indians infielder Mike Aviles reached base three times Wednesday against the Twins.

Aviles added two singles early in the game before going deep in the ninth inning. Aviles unloaded on an 89 mph cutter for the solo shot to start the ninth. He finished 3 for 4, with one run scored and two RBI. 


Carlos Contreras allows two runs, leaves with apparent injury
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:35 am ET) Reds pitcher Carlos Contreras was removed from Wednesday's game against the Cardinals with an apparent injury.

Contreras allowed two earned runs on two hits and two walks in two-thirds of an inning, but appeared to misstep on a pitch and was taken out. Manager Mike Matheny didn't give an update on the pitcher's status after the game.


Stephen Drew belts a home run
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12:29 am ET) Yankees shortstop Stephen Drew belted his fifth home run Wedneday against the Astros. 

Drew struck in the fourth inning. With the bases empty, Drew took an 86 mph cutter out to right center for the solo shot. He also walked during the contest. Drew finished 1 for 3, with one run scored and one RBI.


Brennan Boesch optioned to Triple-A
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12:26 am ET) The Angels have optioned outfielder Brennan Boesch to Triple-A Wednesday.

Boesch was sent down so that the team could add a pitcher. With Garrett Richards expected to miss time, the club could promote a replacement. Boesch hit .129 over 31 at-bats.


 
 
 
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