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Waiver Wire: Feeling Salty

Michael Hurcomb
Fantasy Writer
  •  

I might be in the minority, but I'm fine with Cubs manager Rick Renteria not anointing Hector Rondon his full-time closer.

I know, I know. There are plenty of frustrated Fantasy owners looking for saves on waivers, and it would make it a lot easier to add Rondon if Renteria tabbed him as the team's closer. But the fact of the matter is that Rondon doesn't have a history of being a full-time closer and trial-by-fire in the majors probably isn't the ideal way to break in a first-time closer.

There's a reason they pay Renteria the big bucks. He's there to evaluate whether or not this kid has the mental makeup for the job, and we just don't know if he does. Rondon has been solid thus far, but Renteria is probably trying to protect him a little bit because he's had some elbow issues in the past -- which have included Tommy John surgery -- and they surely don't want to mess with his confidence. It's a lot of pressure to close out games and putting Rondon in the role before he's ready could have a long-lasting impact on his career.

Rondon has been pitching really well since the end of last season. In September, he posted nine scoreless innings, while allowing one hit and two walks. He had eight strikeouts over that span. Rondon had a 5.72 ERA heading into September, so what changed?

Rondon said that last September he started to trust his command and began exuding more confidence on the mound. He also spent the offseason working on his breaking ball, which he said was the key to his success in September.

Most added players on CBSSports.com
Player Own %
1. Roenis Elias, SP, SEA 56 (+36)
2. J. Saltalamacchia, C, MIA 81 (+35)
3. C.J. Cron, 1B, LAA 32 (+27)
4. Omar Infante, 2B, KC 63 (+22)
5. Marcus Stroman, RP, TOR 47 (+21)
6. Hector Rondon, RP, CHC 37 (+21)
7. Robbie Ray, SP, DET 24 (+21)
8. Garrett Jones, 1B, MIA 42 (+19)
9. Trevor Bauer, SP, CLE 62 (+17)
10. Miguel Montero, C, ARI 91 (+16)

The numbers back up Rondon's claim. He threw his four-seam fastball just 38.2 percent of the time in April, while throwing his slider, cutter and sinker at least 16.4 percent of the time, per BrooksBaseball.net. He didn't even have that distribution in September, throwing his four-seamer at a 68.7 percent rate.

Now, don't get the wrong idea. I'm not saying avoid adding Rondon in Fantasy. Quite the opposite. I'm saying don't be afraid to add a player like Rondon just because he doesn't have the job description of "closer."

Rays manager Joe Maddon has had plenty of success in the past without naming a closer. Case in point, Fernando Rodney. During Rodney's breakout season in 2012, Maddon refrained from naming him the closer, but that didn't stop Maddon from heavily leaning on Rodney in save situations.

I stumbled across an interesting quote from Maddon about assigning bullpen roles.

"When you go through a full season, some guys are going to get into some bad spots, and you have to stick with them because that's what they are there for, and I think part of it is building confidence," Maddon said in January, per The Baltimore Sun. "So we've been able to build confidence in the Fernando Rodneys or the Joaquin Benoits and all these guys that have come through that maybe were not branded [as a closer or late-inning reliever] at the time."

Sounds like Renteria might just be following a similar blueprint.

Omar Infante, 2B, Royals

Ownership in CBSSports.com leagues: 63 percent (up 22 percent)
I feel Infante's ownership is on the rise at the wrong time. If you are adding Infante because you are in need of a replacement for Jason Kipnis, then that's understandable. But if you are looking to add a bat, then you might be a little too late to the party. Infante's recent surge was a market correction to get his numbers back up to his career level. His .267/.323/.388/.711 slash line is pretty similar to his career slash line of .279/.319/.402/.721. Infante has had just three seasons of 10-plus home runs and never had more than 55 RBI. It's hard to imagine he's going to have a monster season at 32 years old. If you are looking for a second baseman, I recommend players like Jedd Gyorko (owned 79 percent) or Marcus Semien (owned 45 percent) over Infante.
Leagues worth owning him: Short-term option in 12-team Head-to-Head and Rotisserie

Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C, Marlins

Ownership in CBSSports.com leagues: 81 percent (up 35 percent)
Saltalamacchia is seeing a lot of fastballs early in the season hitting behind the likes of Giancarlo Stanton and Casey McGehee, and he's not letting those pitches go to waste. Saltalamacchia is seeing fastballs 78 percent of the time on the first pitch, according to BrooksBaseball.net. He's hitting .324 with a .676 slugging percentage against fastballs and is batting .353 against sinkers, which is fueling his fast start. Saltalamacchia's walk percentage is even up at 15.3, which is well above his career rate (8.6 percent). All indications point to Saltalamacchia eventually going through a regression since his offensive numbers are well above the norm for him. Pitchers are probably going to start throwing him more offspeed pitches also, once they realize he's been feasting on fastballs. I did move Saltalamacchia into my top 12 catcher rankings, but that could easily change with players like Devin Mesoraco, Yan Gomes, Jason Castro and Mike Zunino right behind him.
Leagues worth owning him: 10-team Rotisserie, 12-team Head-to-Head

Erick Aybar, SS, L.A. Angels

Ownership in CBSSports.com leagues: 63 percent (up 16 percent)
Aybar has been performing well as the Angels bounce him around the lineup due to injuries and placing some of their starters on the disabled list. However, my concern is what happens when the injured players start to return to the lineup? Aybar should go back to batting ninth regularly, where he has struggled this season. He is batting just .170 hitting ninth, and .250 or better in the other spots in the lineup. Like Infante, Aybar's recent surge got him back to levels where he's been in his career. It's not even fair to look at Aybar as a viable source of steals because he has just one in 29 games and 33 since he totaled a career-high 30 stolen bases in 2011. Aybar is a decent contact hitter and doesn't strike out a lot, which is nice in Head-to-Head leagues, but there isn't a lot of upside potential here.
Leagues worth owning him: 14-team Rotisserie, 16-team Head-to-Head
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Chris Young, OF, Mets

Ownership in CBSSports.com leagues: 28 percent (up 6 percent)
Young has been on a nice surge, batting .409 (9 for 22) with one home run, three doubles, six RBI, eight runs and two stolen bases in his last six games. He's starting to look like the player early in his career with the Diamondbacks that showed a lot of promise, and it's quite the turnaround from the .200 hitter he was last season with Oakland. However, Young was pretty much the team's fourth outfielder, which he said was a tough adjustment. The Mets also have a plethora of outfielders, but Young is pretty much playing every day and will continue to do so as long as he performs. It can't be overlooked that his recent hot streak happened to coincide with a trip to hitter-friendly Coors Field. He's been OK at home. He does have two home runs and five RBI in 11 home games, but is batting just .194. You would like to see that average come up, but Young is just a career .236 hitter, so we shouldn't expect him to turn into a solid contact hitter overnight. I need to see a bigger sample size from Young before touting him as a must add.
Leagues worth owning him: Deep formats

Garrett Jones, 1B, Marlins

Ownership in CBSSports.com leagues: 41 percent (up 18percent)
The good news is that Jones' isn't in a platoon situation anymore and starting regularly, even when a left-handed pitcher is on the hill. The bad news is that Jones still can't hit left-handed pitchers. He's batting .143 in 16 games against lefties, which is even below his career .191 average against southpaws. Jones is still thriving against righties, batting .313 with a .566 slugging percentage, .932 OPS, five home runs, six doubles and 14 RBI in 28 games. Still, it limits his upside, especially in Fantasy weeks where the Marlins are set to face a few left-handed starters. He could be a cheap source of power, but there's going to be plenty of inconsistency from the left-handed slugger.
Leagues worth owning him: Deep formats

Drew Hutchison, SP, Blue Jays

Ownership in CBSSports.com leagues: 58 percent (up 4 percent)
Hutchison parlayed a strong spring into a spot in the Toronto rotation. He's been hot and cold to start the season, but for the most part has done an admirable job. He has a 3.82 ERA and 10.4 K/9 rate. He hasn't made a splash yet in Fantasy because he has just one win and his WHIP (1.27) is a little on the high side. Still, there's potential here. Hutchison has talked about the development of his changeup being key to his success. He got a career-high 10 misses and averaged a career-high 86.7 mph on his changeup in April, per BrooksBaseball.net. The changeup can be a very effective pitch if mastered -- just ask Johan Santana. The changeup was his bread-and-butter pitch for years. Hutchison was a pretty good pitching prospect, posting a 2.80 ERA, 1.09 WHIP and 9.6 K/9 rate in the minors, so if the wins ever start to roll in, his Fantasy value could rise quickly.
Leagues worth owning him: 12-team Head-to-Head and Rotisserie

Rick Porcello, SP, Tigers

Ownership in CBSSports.com leagues: 69 percent (up 12 percent)
Is this the year Porcello finally breaks out? It seems like we've been asking that question for years, but maybe finally Porcello has the formula to be a breakout success at the major-league level. The Tigers brought Porcello to the majors at a young age (20 years old), so he's gone the trial-by-fire route. He's won at least 10 games in each of his first five seasons and already has four wins in five starts. Porcello is still not a great strikeout pitcher and remains inconsistent, but he's allowing a career-low 7.9 hits per nine innings and walking a career-low 1.1 batters per nine. He's doing a good job getting ahead of hitters, throwing first-pitch strikes 64.5 percent of the time, per FanGraphs.com. If you are looking for back-of-the-rotation help, Porcello isn't a bad option. Just don't expect him to compete with Justin Verlander or Max Scherzer for role of Tigers' ace.
Leagues worth owning him: 12-team Head-to-Head and Rotisserie

Marlon Byrd, OF, Phillies

Ownership in CBSSports.com leagues: 57 percent (up 8 percent)
Byrd had plenty of skeptics coming into the season following one of the best seasons of his career at 35 years old in 2013. Most people overlooked Byrd on Draft Day feeling last season was a fluke. However, don't be so quick to write off Byrd. He is slugging .478 with 22 RBI in 30 games. He didn't get off to a great start this season, but he's heating up, batting .367 with a .633 slugging percentage and 1.025 OPS in his last 13 games. Don't forget Byrd hit only .232 with a .377 slugging percentage in the first month last season before heating up in the summer months. It followed a trend we've seen before from Byrd. If you are one of the unfortunate Fantasy owners to have lost Josh Hamilton, Bryce Harper, Jay Bruce or Ryan Braun, Byrd might be a suitable replacement.
Leagues worth owning him: 12-team Rotisserie, 14-team Head-to-Head

Welington Castillo, C, Cubs

Ownership in CBSSports.com leagues: 25 percent (up 8 percent)
Castillo is not a household name, which is why Fantasy owners are a bit hesitant to clear a roster spot for him. I don't even have him that high in my rankings, but I might have to change that since I see sleeper potential in Castillo. He had a strong finish last season, batting .346 with five doubles, four home runs and 10 RBI in his last 15 games, and he's carried that hot start over into 2014. Castillo hit when he got to Triple-A. In 175 games at the minors' highest level, Castillo hit .267 with a .488 slugging percentage and .831 OPS. Granted, it was in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League, but Castillo is the Cubs' starting catcher and in the prime of his career, so a breakout season is possible.
Leagues worth owning him: Deep formats

Nick Markakis, OF, Orioles

Ownership in CBSSports.com leagues: 79 percent (up 13 percent)
Some of you might remember the days when Markakis was a top 30 Fantasy outfielder and highly owned. Declining power and injuries have hurt Markakis' Fantasy value over the last few years, but just maybe he's on the verge of returning to the Fantasy option he once was. Markakis is batting .359 with a .516 slugging percentage and .962 OPS in his last 16 games. Primarily batting leadoff likely means Markakis isn't going to have a great RBI total and probably won't be swinging for the fences a lot. However, he hasn't had less than 10 points in a week and is averaging 16.4 Fantasy points per week in Head-to-Head formats. Markakis is quietly creeping back up to that top 30 status.
Leagues worth owning him: 12-team Head-to-Head and Rotisserie

American League options

Derek Norris, C, Athletics

Ownership in CBSSports.com leagues: 18 percent (up 11 percent)
In his third season in the majors, Norris is finally hitting like the top 100 prospect he was in the minors. The only problem is that A's manager Bob Melvin is still a fan of platooning him with John Jaso, and that's a situation that might never change since the A's are having success with it. The thing is, however, Norris usually starts against lefties, but he's raking against righties this season as well. He is batting .400 with a .633 slugging percentage and both of his home runs have come off righties. If there was a hint of Melvin turning the full-time job over to Norris, then he would be a must-add. But for now he's best left for deep formats and two-catcher leagues.
Leagues worth owning him: Deep formats

National League options

Jake Arrieta, SP, Cubs

Ownership in CBSSports.com leagues: 11 percent (up 6 percent)
Arrieta had a strong season debut after missing the first month due to shoulder soreness. He's been pretty good overall since landing in the Windy City last season. He is 4-2 with a 3.32 ERA in 10 starts, as opposed to 20-25 with a 5.46 ERA in 69 appearances (63 starts) with Baltimore. However, I'm still very leery about Arrieta's high walk rate. He walked 4.2 batters per nine innings in nine starts last season for Chicago and had a 3.4 BB/9 rate in his first start this season. He got hurt by a high walk rate with the Orioles, and it could catch up with him in Chicago since major-league hitters make you pay for free passes. It's not comforting either that Arrieta is yielding 1.2 home runs per nine innings in his career, which is a bad home run rate.
Leagues worth owning him: Deep formats

Player you might reconsider dropping

Ernesto Frieri, RP, Angels

Ownership in CBSSports.com leagues: 56 percent (up 4 percent)
Frieri's ownership had been on decline for several weeks and really took a nosedive when he was replaced as closer. But it's slowly creeping back up after Angels manager Mike Scoiscia said Sunday he wants to move Frieri back into the closer's role since he values Joe Smith's versatility to pitch in multiple situations. Frieri got off to a bad start this season, but he's been solid for Fantasy owners the last few years. He was the 13th-highest scoring Fantasy reliever in Head-to-Head formats last season. Even without a full season closing games in 2012, he was the 18th-highest scoring reliever. He has top 12 Fantasy reliever potential, so if you have a bench spot, then consider using it on Frieri, especially if you are in dire need of saves.
Leagues worth owning him: 12-team Head-to-Head and Rotisserie

Q&A

You said on the Monday podcast that Royals starting pitcher Jason Vargas is droppable. What about Mets starting pitcher Jenrry Mejia? --@JustinBMoss

MH: Mejia was on my sleeper list coming into the season and got off to a promising start before falling apart in his last two outings. There is also some concern the Mets might convert him back to a reliever. Mejia seems to fade as the game progresses. He has a .160 opponents' batting average the first time through the lineup before it increases to .239 the second time and .438 the third time. Mejia has proven he's capable of being an upside starter, but with arms like Noah Syndergaard and Rafael Montero knocking down the door to the majors, moving Mejia to the bullpen is a viable option. Therefore, he's droppable in shallow formats (10-12 team), especially since he's mostly a back-of-the-rotation Fantasy arm. We aren't talking about a potential Fantasy ace even at his best.

In an on-base/slugging percentage league, is it insane to drop Everth Cabrera for Jonathan Villar or Neil Walker? I drafted Cabrera for steals and he isn't getting them on top of hurting me in the other categories. Also, why so low on Villar? It's a small sample, but he's looked good so far. --Thomas B.

MH: If slugging percentage is valued over steals, then dropping Cabrera for Villar or Walker is a viable option. A few weeks ago, I would have said pick up Walker, but now Villar has more steals and a higher slugging percentage, so he's the guy to target. Cabrera obviously has upside in steals, but he doesn't do much else. I don't think you can afford to wait much longer for him to turn it around, and it's time for me to reassess my rankings in regards to Cabrera and Villar.

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Player News
Mets' Jacob deGrom working on perfecting his curveball
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(1:42 am ET) Mets pitcher Jacob deGrom is working on perfecting his curveball this spring, according to the New York Post

"This spring is so different," deGrom said. "I can really come in here and work on things. Last year when I was over on the big league side, I didn’t throw my curveball one time because I was trying to make the team and prove I could get outs in spring training."

After experiencing some success in the majors, deGrom said he is more willing to work on stuff this time around. While he actually started using his curve more late last season, it seems like deGrom is going to work on perfecting the pitch during camp. 

"It’s a great pitch whether it be strike one or a strikeout pitch," deGrom said. "Talking to Gee, Wheeler and all those guys and see how they throw theirs and taking little bits of information from them and trying it in bullpens. Sometimes I throw it at 78 (mph) and that’s a big difference from the slider. It gets the hitter off balance."

deGrom, 26, posted a 2.69 ERA over 140 1/3 innings last season.


Rockies' Charlie Blackmon hoping for more consistency
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(1:15 am ET) Rockies outfielder Charlie Blackmon is hoping for more consistency in 2015, according to the Denver Post

Blackmon had a breakout season in 2014, but admits it's hard to be on every single game. "Last year, I swung the bat really well at certain times," he said. "But you go through a lot of ups and downs over 162 games, and that was a learning experience. I think that's going to help me this year."

Blackmon said his strong start made him a target for other teams, and that may have contributed to a slight slump during the season. Blackmon added that he's hoping to hit the ball to all fields this season.

Manager Walt Weiss is hoping Blackmon can deliver more of the same. "I don't know if he necessarily has to have an encore. I'm thinking more of the same," Weiss said. "I think Charlie would say that he wants to be more consistent."

The 28-year-old Blackmon hit .288/.335/.440 over 593 at-bats last year. 


Twins' Gibson feels 'a little more comfortable' with curveball
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:29 am ET) Twins pitcher Kyle Gibson surrendered one run on two hits and one walk in two innings while striking out two in his spring debut Thursday, using the outing to work on his curveball, the Associated Press reports.

"I felt really good," Gibson said. "I'm working on some stuff, and some stuff worked out that I was working on. I threw more curveballs than normal. That's what spring training's for. It's just fun to be able to work on a particular pitch. I feel a little more comfortable."

Gibson, who underwent Tommy John surgery in 2011, completed his first full major-league deal in 2014, going 13-12 with a 4.47 ERA and 107:57 K:BB ratio in 179 1/3 innings.


Blue Jays' Barton hoping his glove wins him a spot
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12:28 am ET) Blue Jays first baseman Daric Barton is hoping his glove can win him a spot on the 25-man roster, according to the Toronto Sun.

Barton isn't much of a power hitter, but gets strong marks for his defense at first. Manager John Gibbons is well aware of Barton's skills. "One thing that put Daric on the map was that he was such a disciplined hitter and a great defender," Gibbons said. He added that the first baseman is involved in a large chunk of plays, so defense at the position is probably more important than people realize.

With that said, Barton may need a trade to make the opening day roster. As currently constructed, the Blue Jays may carry three catchers. If the team retains Dioner Navarro, Barton could find himself in the minors.

The 29-year-old Barton hit .158 over 57 at-bats last year.


Pirates' Pedro Alvarez feeling comfortable at first
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12:21 am ET) Pirates infielder Pedro Alvarez is feeling comfortable at first base, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

After playing third the past couple of seasons, Alvarez will transition to first base full-time in 2015. The 28-year-old is still getting used to the position, but he seems comfortable with the change.

"It’s just a matter of getting used to seeing the field from that point of view, get the reps in so that the responsibilities that come with playing the position become second nature," he said. "That’s just with time and repetitions."

Alvarez hit .231/.312/.405 over 398 at-bats last season. 


Nationals' Ryan Zimmerman gets strong marks at first
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12:17 am ET) Nationals infielder Ryan Zimmerman received strong reviews after playing his first game at first base this spring, according to MLB.com.

"He is still in the stages of having to think about it out there, because it's not natural yet," manager Matt Williams said. "He looked fine. He has fantastic hands." Zimmerman was tested during the start, and had to make two scoops in order to prevent possible throwing errors. 

He's been taking extra practice at the position this spring, and was fairly happy with how his first game turned out. "You can do so many drills, exercises and things like that until you have to go out there and play," Zimmerman said. "So it's nice to have a few chances. The more I play over there, the more comfortable I will get. I feel fine."

Zimmerman, 30, hit .280/.342/.449 over 214 at-bats last year. 


Orioles' Brian Matusz tosses scoreless inning in return
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12:09 am ET) Orioles pitcher Brian Matusz tossed a scoreless inning in his return to the mound.

Matusz came into camp dealing with a shoulder issue, but said he was pretty close to 100 percent. He allowed one hit during his one inning of work, and struck out one batter. Matusz is expected to open the season in the team's bullpen. 

The 28-year-old posted a 3.48 ERA over 51 2/3 innings last year.


Red Sox's Rusney Castillo wouldn't alter plan if sent down
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12:06 am ET) Red Sox outfielder Rusney Castillo won't be upset if he winds up being sent down to the minors, according to the WEEI.

That's not a likely outcome, but with his recent oblique injury, there's a chance Castillo could fall behind the other outfielders on the roster. "To me it wouldn’t be anything that would alter my plan, or my attitude, or my perspective," he said. "If that’s what it’s got to be, that’s what it’s got to be. I’m just worrying playing and continuing to get reps and reps wherever they may come."

Castillo did note that he's feeling a lot better, and is expected to return in about a week. Castillo hit .333 over 36 at-bats in the majors last year. 


Red Sox's Jackie Bradley Jr. showing off new swing
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(3/5/2015) Red Sox outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. is showing off his new swing this spring, according to the Boston Herald

Bradley started working out at the team's facility in November, and started hitting in January. He worked with assistant hitting coach Victor Rodriguez for a good portion of the offseason. "Jackie was dedicated," Rodriguez said. "He listened, too. He was open to what we talked about."

Manager John Farrell has noticed the change in Bradley's approach. "In BP, to me, it seems like there’s more of a willingness to stay in the middle of the field and not look to lift a ball too much," Farrell said. "I think it’s more of his natural swing, which he was drafted with."

Bradley said his swing has been a "work in progress." While it doesn't appear Bradley has a starting role, his defense should make him a useful major-league asset.

The 24-year-old hit .198/.265/.266 over 384 at-bats last year. 

 


Molitor: Eduardo Escobar 'will be' important part of Twins in 2015
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(3/5/2015) Twins manager Paul Molitor marked infielder Eduardo Escobar as "an important part" of the team in 2014 and believes he will be the same this season, the Star Tribune reports.

"He was an important part of our team last year," Molitor said. "He will be this year, too."

Escobar delivered the best performance of his career in 2014, hitting .275/.315/.406 with six home runs and 37 RBI in 433 at-bats. However, he arrived at camp to learn he was in a competition for the shortstop role with last year's center fielder, Danny Santana. Breaking the news to Escobar was a delicate conversation for the manager.

"Obviously," Molitor said. "You’ve got a guy who came in and played every day for you last year, and then you’re thinking about doing something different. I’ve tried to explain it to him the best I could. His answers, at least for now, are, 'No problem. I understand.'"


 
 
 
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