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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
White Sox OF Avisail Garcia dropped weight during offseason
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(1:02 am ET) White Sox outfielder Avisail Garcia dropped roughly 15 pounds during the offseason, according to MLB.com.

"I've been eating healthy, working real hard at the gym, Garcia said. "I have to be ready for spring training. I can't go there and be fat." With the weight loss, Garcia is hoping to keep his power potential. "I don't want to lose speed, I don't want to lose power," Garcia said. "I want to be in the middle. I know I can do a little bit of everything, so that's why I've been working really hard on speed, power, hitting and defense, so I can help my team win."

Garcia hit .244/.305/.413 over 172 at-bats last year.


Athletics' Billy Butler would welcome return to Royals
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12:35 am ET) Athletics designated hitter Billy Butler said he would love to return to the Royals later in his career, according to the Kansas City Star.

After spending the first eight seasons of his career in Kansas City, Butler signed a three-year deal with Oakland during the offseason. Though he left the Royals, Butler said there is no hard feelings. "It’s disappointing, but you understand that the game’s a business and I didn’t leave on bad terms," Butler said. "I’d be more than happy to come back. That’s home for me. I’ll always be forever tied to the Royals organization and the community there."

The 28-year-old hit .271/.323/.379 over 549 at-bats last year.


Indians to consider multi-year extension for Corey Kluber
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(1/25/2015) The Indians will consider a multi-year extension for pitcher Corey Kluber, according to MLB.com.

General manager Mark Shapiro didn't indicate that the two sides were close to a deal, but said Kluber has all the aspects the team looks for when considering a long-term deal. "Corey represents all of the things we look for in players: dependable, reliable person, committed to his work ethic, talented." Shapiro added, "it's something we'll probably look at over the next couple of months. He has all the precursors that we would look for to enter into a multiyear agreement."

The 28-year-old Kluber is set to make the league-minimum next season, and won't be available for arbitration until 2016. He's under team control through 2018, so there's no hurry for either side to agree to a new deal. 

Kluber posted a 2.44 ERA over 235 2/3 innings last year.


Twins' Glen Perkins says he's 100 percent
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(1/25/2015) Twins reliever Glen Perkins said he's 100 percent heading into the season, according to MLB.com.

Perkins missed the last two weeks of the regular season due to a forearm injury, but said that's no longer a problem. He took two weeks off once the season concluded, and went for a precautionary MRI just to make sure the injury wasn't serious. "I took two weeks off and started doing shoulder stuff as part of the rehab to strengthen it and everything went well," Perkins said. "I started throwing again in mid-December. The way I've been able to ramp up throwing, everything has been good."

The 31-year-old Perkins posted a 3.65 ERA over 61 2/3 innings last season.


Tigers' Miguel Cabrera not expected to miss much time with injury
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(1/25/2015) Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera is not expected to miss much time with his ankle injury, according to the Detroit Free Press

Cabrera had ankle surgery to remove bone spurs shortly after the season, and has been recovering during the offseason. He was recently cleared to ditch his walking boot, and will be re-evaluated by team doctors on Feb. 15. General manager Dave Dombrowski told reporters Cabrera shouldn't miss much time due to the injury. "We're hopeful at that point he gets turned loose," Dombrowski said. "If he's not ready for Opening Day, it's going to be very, very close."

The 31-year-old Cabrera hit .313/.371/.524 over 611 at-bats last year. 


Twins' Joe Mauer says his legs feel strong heading into 2015
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(1/25/2015) Twins first baseman Joe Mauer said his legs feel strong heading into 2015, according to the Star Tribune.

Mauer was able to fully participate in an offseason training program after injuries prevented him from doing so last year. Mauer said his left knee, which has given him trouble in the past, feels strong now. :It’s tough to hit when the knee I’ve had problems with isn’t right," Mauer said. "That’s where you get your power from and the ball jumps. I feel good. I’m excited to get out there."

The 31-year-old Mauer is coming off a season in which he hit .277/.361/.371 over 455 at-bats.


Report: Yankees looking to void milestone bonuses for A-Rod
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(1/25/2015) The Yankees are looking to void milestone bonuses in Alex Rodriguez 's contract, according to the New York Daily News.

When Rodriguez signed his deal with the club in 2007, it contained bonuses as Rodriguez tied or passed the top home run hitters. Rodriguez, who has 654 career home runs, is just six away from tying Willie Mays, which would trigger a $6 million bonus. He is also set to receive an additional $6 million once he ties Babe Ruth, and another $6 milliion if he ties Hank Aaron.

The team, however, now views those bonuses as worthless due to his 2014 suspension. The team will argue that these bonuses were signed under false pretenses. The club is apparently willing to fight the player's union over the decision should Rodriguez file a grievance. 

Rodriguez, who hasn't played since 2013, has already found it difficult to mend the fences with his team. Rodriguez proposed a meeting with the club where he would publicly apologize for his actions last season, but the team declined the offer. "This is a relationship that is never going to be repaired," one source told the Daily News.


Orioles, Ryan Flaherty avoid arbitration
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(1/25/2015) The Orioles have avoided arbitration with infielder Ryan Flaherty, according to CBSSports.com Baseball Insider Jon Heyman. 

Flaherty will make $1.075 million next season. He can make an additional $25,000 if he receives 400 plate appearances. The 28-year-old Flaherty hit .221/.288/.356 over 281 at-bats last year.


Angels' Josh Hamilton setting lofty goals for 2015
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(1/25/2015) Angels outfielder Josh Hamilton is ready to set some lofty goals for 2015, according to MLB.com.

Hamilton said he's aiming to hit .300, with 30 home runs and 100 RBI this year. After struggling through injuries in 2014, Hamilton said his offseason has been mostly normal. The 33-year-old hit .263/.331/.414 over 338 at-bats last year. 


Angels' Jered Weaver bulked up during offseason
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(1/25/2015) Angels pitcher Jered Weaver decided to bulk up during the offseason, according to MLB.com.

Weaver went from 199 pounds to 224 pounds during the offseason. He said the goal was to get bigger and stronger so that he can pitch deeper into games next year. The 32-year-old Weaver posted a 3.59 ERA over 213 1/3 innings. 


 
 
 
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