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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
Indians expected to pick up Mike Aviles' option
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12:36 am ET) The Indians are expected to pick up Mike Aviles' option for next season, according to the Northeast Ohio Media Group. 

The team has until shortly after the World Series to decide whether to pick up a $3.5 million club option on Aviles. It's expected the club will exercise that option. Aviles hit .247/.273/.343 over 344 at-bats. 


Tigers expected to keep Joakim Soria
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12:32 am ET) The Tigers are expected to exercise their option on pitcher Joakim Soria, according to MLB.com.

Soria has a $7 million club option for next season. The team will need to make a decision on the option shortly after the end of the World Series. While general manager Dave Dombrowski said the final decision hasn't been made yet, he hinted at the club picking up Soria's contract. "It's a situation where we look at him as being an important acquisition toward this [coming] year also," Soria said. 

Soria posted a 3.25 ERA over 44 1/3 innings split between Texas and Detroit. 


Giants will know more about Tim Lincecum Thursday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12:29 am ET) The Giants will have more information on pitcher Tim Lincecum Thursday, according to Bleacher Report.

Lincecum left after his back tightened up in the eighth inning. The club expects him to be OK, but will have a better idea about the severity of his injury Thursday. Lincecum was able to pitch 1 2/3 innings before departing. 


Royals' Lorenzo Cain won't stop hitting
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12:06 am ET) Royals outfielder Lorenzo Cain continued to assault baseballs Wednesday against the Giants.

Cain has been on a tear during the postseason, and that didn't stop Wednesday. After doubling in his first at-bat, Cain would come around to score the team's first run of the night. He would later single to lead off the sixth inning, and would come around to score again later in the frame. Cain finished 2 for 4, with two runs scored and no RBI. 


Royals' Omar Infante comes up big Wednesday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(10/22/2014) Royals infielder Omar Infante came up big Wednesday against the Giants.

Infante wasted no time getting to work, doubling in his first at-bat. He would come around to score during the frame, giving the Royals a 2-1 lead. Infante would strike again in the bottom of the sixth. With a man on base, Infante belted a 98 mph fastball out to left for the two-run shot. He finished 2 for 3, with two runs scored and two RBI. 


Royals' Billy Butler drives in two Wednesday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(10/22/2014) Royals designated hitter Billy Butler drove in two runs Wednesday against the Giants.

Butler struck in his first at-bat. With men on first and second, Butler managed to tie the game on a single to the left fielder. He would find himself in the exact same situation in the sixth inning, and responded in the same fashion. Butler again singled in a run on a hit to left field. He would finish 2 for 3, with no runs scored and two RBI. 


Royals' Yordano Ventura gives up two runs Wednesday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(10/22/2014) Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura allowed two runs Wednesday against the Giants.

Ventura gave up two runs on eight hits over 5 1/3 innings. He struck out two and did not issue any walks during the outing. Ventura got himself into trouble immediately. To lead off the game, Gregor Blanco deposited a 98 mph fastball out to right for a solo home run. Ventura would settle in over the next two innings before giving up another run in the fourth. With a man on second, Ventura allowed an RBI double against Brandon Belt. Ventura would pitch into the sixth inning, but was pulled after giving up two singles. He threw 87 pitches during the outing and did not factor into the decision.


Giants SP Jake Peavy gives up four runs in World Series Game 2 loss
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(10/22/2014) Giants pitcher Jake Peavy was saddled with a loss in Game of the World Series Wednesday, allowing four earned runs on six hits and two walks in five-plus innings while striking out one in his team's 7-2 defeat against the Royals.

Peavy (1-1) ran in to trouble immediately Wednesday, giving up a run on three hits and a walk in the first inning after the offense had given him a 1-0 lead in the top of the first. He surrendered another run on an RBI double in the second, but the offense evened the game in the fourth. Peavy opened the sixth inning by giving up a single and a walk before being removed, and the Royals went on to post five runs in the inning en route to running out to an insurmountable lead.

Peavy has posted a 3.68 ERA and 6:8 K:BB ratio in 14 2/3 innings over three postseason starts. The two teams head into Friday's Game 3 tied 1-1 in the series.


Giants OF Gregor Blanco slugs leadoff HR in World Series Game 2
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(10/22/2014) Giants outfielder Gregor Blanco went 1 for 4 with a walk and a solo home run in his team's 7-2 loss in Game 2 of the World Series against the Royals.

Blanco opened the game by running Royals starter Yordano Ventura to a full count before crushing a ball over the right-field fence to give the Giants an early lead, but the Royals evened the score in the bottom half of the first and didn't trail for the rest of the night. Blanco has hit just .176/.276/.255 in 51 postseason at-bats but has turned it up since Game 3 of the NLCS, going 5 for 15 with three walks, the home run and three RBI. The two teams head to San Francisco Friday tied 1-1 in the series.


Giants pitcher Tim Lincecum leaves due to lower back issue
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(10/22/2014) Giants pitcher Tim Lincecum left Wednesday's game against the Royals due to a lower back injury.

Lincecum tossed 1 2/3 innings before leaving the contest. After going 2-2 against Salvador Perez, Lincecum called the trainer out to the mound. He appeared to slip on the mound during the pitch. After some discussion, Lincecum was removed from the game. Following the game, the team announced Lincecum is dealing with a lower back injury.


 
 
 
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