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Waiver Wire: Feeling Salty

Michael Hurcomb
Fantasy Writer
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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
Athletics' Tyler Ladendorf pushing for spot on Opening Day roster
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(6:51 pm ET) Athletics utility man Tyler Ladendorf is increasing his chances by the day of making the Opening Day roster in Oakland, reports MLB.com.

Ladendorf, who was suspended for 50 games last year after testing positive for a drug of abuse, has turned heads just about every day he's been on the field.

"Tyler's really emerged this year for us," manager Bob Melvin said this week. "To me, he looks a lot more confident here. We put him on a roster for a reason. His versatility stands out, and we're all about versatility. He has a similar versatility to Ben Zobrist. He can play any of the outfield positions, any of the infield positions, and does well defensively, and his bat emerged last year as well. He's one that's stood out."

Ladendorf just hope it translates into a roster spot.

"Any time you got them talking about you," Ladendorf said, "you're doing something right."


Tigers P Bruce Rondon not a lock for the roster
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(6:49 pm ET) After spending last season recovering from Tommy John surgery, Tigers pitcher Bruce Rondon believes he'll be ready to go for the start of this season, reports MLB.com. But the pitcher is not guaranteed to make the roster.

"I know that we've been discussing it quite a bit," manager Brad Ausmus said. "I do think you have to keep in mind that he came to Spring Training and hadn't pitched in a game in a long time. Whether he makes the team or not, or whether we think he needs more development, the important thing is his strength is there, the arm strength is there. In the long term or even in the near term, you would think he's going to have some impact on the Detroit Tigers. But I think your questions are fair and they're certainly questions that we've discussed."

Rondon has yet to pitch a full season at the Major League level. This spring he has an ERA of 5.68, allowing 10 hits, two home runs while walking two batters.


Blue Jays pitcher Roberto Osuna tagged with blown save Saturday
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(6:43 pm ET) Blue Jays pitcher Roberto Osuna last just 1/3 of an inning Saturday in relief against the Braves. Osuna was tagged for one run on three hits with one walk and earned a blown save. Osuna didn't sound to worried about his struggle Saturday, reports MLB.com.

"I'll learn from today and I'm going to try to make those adjustments for the season," Osuna said. "I think it was a good day.

"That's going to happen in the season so I've got to get ready. I think everything was there. I just missed a couple fastballs a little bit up and they hit it."


Nationals' Stephen Strasburg roughed up in start Saturday
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(6:39 pm ET) Nationals pitcher Stephen Strasburg is still washing off the effects of a sprained left ankle suffered last week in the weight room. It showed Saturday as Strasburg gave up four runs on four hits, including two home runs, in four innings of work.

"It's kinda like a trust factor," Strasburg said. "You sprain your ankle really bad you're bracing for it so it's hard to get over that. I didn't really feel anything alarming so it's progress. I've just gotta keep going out there and I'm sure it'll be an afterthought soon."

Strasburg still thinks he has enough time to get his ankle right for his first start of the regular season.

"Yeah, it's going to have to be," Strasburg said. "The thing is you make 33 starts. The biggest thing is having the stamina up there, and I'm just going to go out there and give everything I have and keep plugging along."


Reds remain without plan for Cuban pitcher Raisel Iglesias
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(6:35 pm ET) Reds pitcher Raisel Iglesias is still in limbo as the final week of spring training looms, reports MLB.com. Iglesias may make the pitching staff as a bullpen arm or be sent down to the minors for some extra work, but manager Bryan Price won't say just yet.

"I imagine he might be a little of both this year, and where he does it, I just don't know yet," Price said on Saturday. "We'd be hard pressed to throw him out there for 30-plus starts at any level and think we're going to be able to control his innings to a level we're comfortable with."

Iglesias has made three starts this spring with three other appearances out of the bullpen. 

"He needed to be more effective with the location of his fastball," Price said. "That's something we did see in the [Arizona Fall League] and instructional league, better command of the fastball in the strike zone. We know it's in there. But his fastball command hasn't been as good as we have seen in the past. We're working on helping him improve."


Rockies OF Corey Dickerson leaves game due to back tightness
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(6:32 pm ET) Rockies outfielder Corey Dickerson left Saturday's game after the third inning due to lower back tightness, according to the Denver Post.

His exit was said to be precautionary and he should be back in action soon. Dickerson told the media that his scheduled play on Sunday is now a "maybe." He added that if this was the regular season he would have played through it.

The 25-year-old is batting .273 with twelve hits, one triple, one home run, four doubles and six RBI in 15 games played this spring.


Tigers optimistic Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez ready for Opening Day
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(6:25 pm ET) Tigers manager Brad Ausmus expressed optimism he will have both first baseman Miguel Cabrera and designated hitter Victor Martinez available for Opening Day, reports MLive.com.

"I'd say, as of right now, I'm optimistic that we can have them both ready for Opening Day," Ausmus said. "But I'm probably more optimistic that at this point that Miggy will be ready to play."

Cabrera, who hit his second home run of spring training Saturday, missed nearly a month after surgery to remove bone spurs in his right ankle while Martinez underwent surgery in early February for a torn meniscus in his left knee.


Mets pitcher Jacob deGrom allows one run in seven innings Saturday
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(6:20 pm ET) Mets pitcher Jacob deGrom continued his roll through spring training hitters Saturday against the Nationals, allowing just one run on four hits with four strikeouts in seven innings of work.

"That's the most stretched out I've been all spring, and I felt really good out there today," deGrom said to ESPN.com.

He needed just 81 pitches to get through his outing.

"I struggled today a little bit," said deGrom, who sliced his Grapefruit League ERA to 2.45. "I don't know if I lost concentration or something with those two four-pitch walks. That's the main thing today, but the spring has been going pretty smooth. I'm still trying to work on things. I was getting under my changeup today. And that’s what I fell behind Bryce with before he hit the home run."


Royals' Terrance Gore suffers broken jaw in minor league game
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(6:15 pm ET) Royals outfield prospect Terrance Gore suffered a broken jaw after being hit in the face by a pitch in a minor league game Friday, manager Ned Yost said according to MLB.com.

Gore, who was sent down to the minors last week, is playing in Double-A Northwest Arkansas and his timeframe for a return is unknown.


Yankees Alex Rodriguez hits third homer of spring
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(6:14 pm ET) Alex Rodriguez of the Yankees hit his third home run of the spring in a 10-2 loss against the Orioles, according to MLB.com.

"That one felt good," Rodriguez said. "I was excited about that one."

The 39-year-old has had a successful spring, batting .306 with three home runs, one double and four RBI. 

"Numbers mean nothing, but you definitely want to pass the eye test," Rodriguez said. "That means moving around better, putting balls in play, and hitting balls in the mid-90s. Those are things I haven't done in over a year and a half, so everything for me this year -- this spring, at least -- is a test."

Yankees manager Joe Girardi has been pleased with his at-bats this spring.

"He's been pretty consistent," Girardi said. "A home run today -- I think his at-bats have been really good."


 
 
 
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