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Waiver Wire: Walker was worth the wait

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These days, we think it tests a Fantasy owner's patience to have to wait until late May to use a highly touted prospect we've been stashing. After waiting out a two months-plus stay on the disabled list with shoulder issues and a minor league demotion, Taijuan Walker finally made his 2014 debut on the last day of June, and his long-suffering owners deserve a round of applause.

Walker began the season with an 84 percent ownership rate in CBSSports.com leagues, but once his DL visit encroached into mid-May, owners started to bail on him. As of last week, Walker still had a home in 73 percent of our leagues, so for the most part, his owners stood by him. Now that he is back, Walker's ownership rate has soared to a new season-high, as he headed into Fantasy Week 14 (June 30-July 6) having a roster spot in 86 percent of our leagues.

Most added players on CBSSports.com
Player Own %
1. Mookie Betts, 2B, BOS 55 (+37)
2. Jesse Hahn, SP, SD 71 (+30)
3. Steve Pearce, 1B/OF, BAL 43 (+22)
4. Mike Zunino, C, SEA 55 (+20)
5. C.J. Cron, 1B, LAA 54 (+20)
6. Brad Miller, SS, SEA 59 (+19)
7. Jarred Cosart, SP, HOU 52 (+17)
8. J.D. Martinez, OF, DET 84 (+16)
9. Mike Leake, SP, CIN 75 (+16)
10. Jake McGee, RP, TB 38 (+16)

Surely, some of that surge in ownership was due to the fact that Walker was slated to make two starts in Week 14, but as a consensus top 10 prospect in all of baseball, it would be surprising if many owners ditched him after this pair of outings. And that's how it should be, but whether you're an owner who drafted Walker, one who just picked him up or one who is thinking about adding him, realize that even more patience may be required.

Even coming into this season, there were some signs that Walker might not thrive right away upon claiming a spot in the Mariners' rotation. Control has never been a strong suit for him, and when he climbed the ladder to Triple-A Tacoma last season, his walk rate soared to 4.2 BB/9. Walker also had a tougher time getting swings and misses, as his whiff rate was a good, but not great, 10.7 percent, according to StatCorner.com. Over his three September starts for the Mariners, Walker walked just four batters in 15 innings, but he had an even tougher time throwing strikes and getting whiffs.

In Monday's season debut, Walker showed some of his vulnerability, throwing just 58 of his 94 pitches for strikes and allowing a pair of home runs, but the bottom line is that he walked away with a win, a quality start and six strikeouts in his six innings. Though owners shouldn't expect a Jose Fernandez-like romp through his rookie campaign, Walker is worth owning in nearly all formats and stashing when the times get rough.

Note: All current season stats are for games played through Monday, June 30.

Mookie Betts, 2B, Red Sox

Ownership in CBSSports.com leagues: 55 percent (up 37 percent)
Betts' meteoric rise through the Red Sox's system culminated with his callup to the majors over the weekend, and from the early returns, it appears he will get regular playing time in the outfield. Whether that will continue whenever Shane Victorino (hamstring, back) returns from the disabled list remains to be seen, but that's tomorrow's problem. The question for now is whether Betts has enough to offer in the short term for owners in standard mixed leagues as a potential upgrade or injury replacement. It helps that Betts is eligible at second base, and he has enough potential for power, batting average and stolen bases to be worth pursuing as an MI option in Roto leagues. However, his power didn't translate enough from Double-A to Triple-A (two home runs, three doubles and a triple in 90 at-bats at Pawtucket) to make him a safe bet to use as an outfielder or to start at all in shallower formats.
Leagues worth owning him: 12-team mixed Roto leagues, deeper mixed and AL-only Head-to-Head points leagues

Jarred Cosart, SP, Astros

Ownership in CBSSports.com leagues: 52 percent (up 17 percent)
Some of Cosart's waiver appeal comes from making two starts this week, but it would be unfair to ignore the 12-game roll that the second-year pitcher is on. Over those dozen starts, Cosart is 7-3 with a 2.70 ERA and 1.23 WHIP. The WHIP is especially impressive for someone who not only pitches to contact but has a history of serious control issues. The key to Cosart's success has been his curveball, which he has been throwing with more movement and, in turn, getting more swings. He's been especially effective in the past month, and he is getting batters to chase pitches out of the strike zone at a rate (32.8 percent, per FanGraphs.com) well above the major league average (30.3 percent). Cosart doesn't miss enough bats to be a reliable strikeout producer, but he has reduced his walks enough to be worth streaming in standard mixed leagues in two-start weeks like this one.
Leagues worth owning him: 12-team mixed leagues

Danny Duffy, SP, Royals

Ownership in CBSSports.com leagues: 68 percent (up 15 percent)
As with Cosart, Duffy owes much of his newfound popularity to getting two starts in Week 14, and the first of those outings -- Monday's tilt at the Twins -- resulted in a win. In allowing one run over 5 2/3 innings, it's fair to say that Duffy has continued his run of effective starts, as this was his sixth straight turn in the rotation in which he allowed three runs or fewer. Over that stretch, though, Duffy has coaxed more than five strikeouts and six swinging strikes just once. The lefty has been only a marginally better strikeout pitcher than Cosart, and meanwhile, he presents a much greater risk, because he has strong flyball tendencies, allowing flies on 42 percent of hit balls. He's only made three appearances in good home run parks so far this season, but the Royals have some tough parks ahead on their schedule in the coming weeks. There are plenty of pitchers who can help you win without strikeouts, and many of them involve less risk. If you've picked Duffy up for this week, you're likely getting peak value out of him, but you shouldn't hesitate to drop him to get another two-start pitcher or one of the recent prospect callups, like Betts or Oscar Taveras.
Leagues worth owning him: 15-team mixed leagues or deeper

Mike Zunino, C, Mariners

Ownership in CBSSports.com leagues: 55 percent (up 20 percent)
A nine-game hot streak, in which Zunino has banged out five home runs and two doubles, has earned the Mariners' backstop a place among the Most Added players on CBSSports.com. Given that Zunino hit for power at each stop along his quick tour through Seattle's minor-league system, there is little reason to think that this will be his last power binge of the season. Zunino seems destined to finish with at least 20 homers this season, but even during his recent streak, he has struck out 15 times in 35 at-bats with only two walks. Plate discipline has been an issue for Zunino ever since he was in Triple-A, and without improvement on that front, he won't be close to relevant in standard Head-to-Head points leagues. Zunino clearly has some Roto appeal, given that those formats usually have two catcher slots and no direct penalty for a poor BB-to-K ratio. He does currently rank 10th among catchers in our standard Roto rankings, but it's hard to imagine he won't get passed by Carlos Santana, Joe Mauer and Wilin Rosario, who got off to slow starts. Worse yet, if he can't sustain a 26 percent line drive rate -- and I'm guessing he won't -- Zunino could see his rest-of-season batting average hover around .200 or lower. That would make him a marginal option, even in standard mixed two-catcher leagues.
Leagues worth owning him: 12-team mixed two-catcher leagues

Joe Smith, RP, Angels

Ownership in CBSSports.com leagues: 42 percent (up 13 percent)
Though Smith is having a perfectly good season, Angels manager Mike Scioscia has been reluctant to entrust him with the closer's role on a full-time basis. Now that Ernesto Frieri is out of the picture, having been shipped off to the Pirates last Friday, Smith appears to have the ninth-inning role all to himself, at least for now. Maybe Jason Grilli gives the Angels a reason to put Smith back in a setup role, or maybe they pursue outside closer help, but then again, just maybe Smith will pitch well enough to make the team reconsider their view of him. He has long had an effective sinker, and this season, Smith is throwing it with much greater control, getting strikes on it 71.5 percent of the time, according to BrooksBaseball.net. Not previously known as a strikeout pitcher, Smith has actually notched 39 strikeouts in 33 2/3 innings this year. Maybe his K-rate will regress, but even if it does, Smith does enough things right that he could stand to be owned in even more leagues. He would be an upgrade over Addison Reed and Latroy Hawkins, both of whom are far more popular.
Leagues worth owning him: 12-team mixed leagues

Jake McGee, RP, Rays

Ownership in CBSSports.com leagues: 38 percent (up 16 percent)
McGee has collected 55 holds going back to 2012, so he has more than paid his dues as a setup man. This season in particular, he has done everything you'd want from a potential closer: get strikeouts, avoid walks and home runs and pitch effectively against righties and lefties alike. Left-handed McGee actually has reverse splits, so Rays manager Joe Maddon has little reason to restrict McGee to a lefty specialist role. McGee has received the last two saves for the Rays, but Maddon has been intent on spreading the ninth-inning wealth ever since he booted Grant Balfour from the closer's role in early June. McGee is Maddon's most-skilled option for the closer's role, that won't guarantee that he will bust free from the committee. Still, McGee is worth picking up and stashing in most mixed leagues in the hope that he will nail down the job in the coming weeks.
Leagues worth owning him: 12-team mixed leagues

Josh Harrison, 2B/3B/OF, Pirates

Ownership in CBSSports.com leagues: 67 percent (up 14 percent)
Harrison appears to be running out of opportunities to be a regular in the Pirates' lineup, yet he keeps on hitting well enough to earn a spot. No longer needed in right field (thanks to the arrival of Gregory Polanco), at second base (thanks to the activation of Neil Walker), or in left field (thanks to the improved health of Starling Marte), Harrison has continued to find a place to play. Andrew McCutchen and Gregory Polanco were out of the lineup on Monday and Tuesday, respectively, in order to allow Harrison to start. Manager Clint Hurdle has done his part to keep Harrison Fantasy-relevant, but can the versatile 26- year-old hold up his end of the bargain? Harrison has long been a good contact hitter with decent speed, and he has utilized his speed better than he has the last couple of seasons, notching 12 infield hits in 206 at- bats. Even so, Harrison will have a hard time maintaining a .300-plus batting average, and when that begins to sag, Hurdle will likely be less inclined to put him in the lineup every day. It's best to resist the urge to add Harrison, as his best weeks are likely behind him.
Leagues worth owning him: 15-team mixed leagues and deeper

Santiago Casilla, RP, Giants

Ownership in CBSSports.com leagues: 21 percent (up 15 percent)
The ouster of Sergio Romo as the Giants' closer has led to a surge in Casilla's popularity, as he appears to have the best chance of grabbing the largest share of save chances going forward. Lefty Jeremy Affeldt will likely be in the mix, too, but Casilla has more closing experience in recent years and has the good fortune of being a righty. Pitching home games at AT&T Park and possessing a good sinker have helped Casilla to be a good run-preventer in recent years, but poor control has made him a risky pitcher for WHIP. Casilla has recently found a knack for getting hitters to chase pitches out of the strike zone, and hopefully for the Giants and for his new Fantasy owners, he can sustain that trend. Pitchers with a long history of control problems often find that those difficulties resurface, so Casilla is a riskier closer play than either McGee or Smith, yet he may have the clearest path to consistent save opportunities. That alone makes him worth a pickup in deeper mixed leagues.
Leagues worth owning him: 14-team mixed leagues and deeper

Scooter Gennett, 2B, Brewers

Ownership in CBSSports.com leagues: 66 percent (up 11 percent)
Gennett is coming off a hot June in which he hit .397 with four home runs and 20 runs, and owners have rewarded him by nearly tripling his ownership rate over the last two weeks. Clearly, Gennett has been overperforming, as his strikeout rate over the past month (17.9 percent of at-bats) is merely pedestrian. Then again, Gennett's performance may not drop off as much as that strikeout rate would suggest, as he has proven himself to be a superb hitter on balls in play. Nearly a full season into his major league career (143 games), Gennett owns an eye-popping .365 BABIP, which is backed up by a 30 percent line drive rate. Over a smaller sample size, it would be easy to dismiss both marks, but at this point, we need to give Gennett credit for being one of the best line drive hitters in the majors. He doesn't appear to be a threat to hit for home run power, walk or steal bases, but when the dust settles from his hot streak, there's still value here. Line drive power alone has made Howie Kendrick relevant, particularly in Roto leagues, and Gennett has the same appeal.
Leagues worth owning him: 12-team mixed Roto leagues, deeper mixed and NL-only Head-to-Head points leagues

Domingo Santana, OF, Astros

Ownership in CBSSports.com leagues: 13 percent (up 8 percent)
Santana joined Betts and Taveras as the latest impact outfield prospects to get the call, and like Betts, Santana is making his big league debut. He has some of the same attributes that teammate George Springer has: good power, an ability to draw walks and also a high strikeout rate. While Springer showed enough power and stolen base potential in the minors to be a must-add upon his callup, Santana is a notch below that level. As long as his struggles with contact aren't too severe, Santana should see regular playing time, and with everyday reps, he could give owners upwards of 10 home runs and a handful of steals. He has managed to hit over .300 in three of his last four minor league stops, as Santana doesn't pop out often, but a batting average in the .230-to-.240 range is probably more realistic for now. That will keep Santana from being a must-add in standard mixed leagues, but he's worth picking up in just about any format deeper than that.
Leagues worth owning him: 14-team mixed leagues and deeper

American League options

Miles Mikolas, RP, Rangers

Ownership in CBSSports.com leagues: 0 percent (up 0 percent)
After Joe Saunders got shelled yet again on Monday, it seemed to be only a matter of time before he got replaced in the Rangers' rotation. It was only a question of who would get the call, and it turns out that converted reliever Mikolas will fill the rotation void, as he will make his first major league start on Wednesday at the Orioles. Mikolas had been used solely as a reliever ever since Class A ball, and his major league experience consists of 27 relief appearances for the Padres over the previous two seasons, but the Rangers gave him six starts at Triple-A Round Rock. In that capacity, he went 3-1 with a 3.58 ERA, 29 strikeouts and three walks over 32 2/3 innings. Mikolas was already a pretty fair ground ball pitcher, but going back to last season, he started to become a much better control pitcher. Owners shouldn't expect Mikolas to go deep into games initially, but if his recent ratios are any indication, he should be plenty valuable in AL-only formats, at the very least.
Leagues worth owning him: AL-only

National League options

Nick Ahmed, SS, Diamondbacks


Ownership in CBSSports.com leagues: 1 percent (up 1 percent)
Ahmed got the call when the Diamondbacks placed Chris Owings (shoulder) on the 15-day disabled list, and he will split the duties at shortstop with Didi Gregorius in Owings' absence. Highly regarded for his defense, Ahmed also brings good contact skills and speed to the table, but his ability to hit with authority has been called into question. With 20 doubles in 79 games at Triple-A Reno, Ahmed just might be developing a little bit of power, but more likely, it's an artifact of having played at a home park that is highly conducive to extra base hits. In fact, Ahmed slugged just .383 on the road as opposed to .475 at Reno. It's probably safe to say that Ahmed's bat will prevent him from being relevant in mixed leagues, but as long as he is getting some playing time, he could provide some steals for owners in NL-only leagues.
Leagues worth owning him: NL-only

Player you might reconsider dropping

Trevor Bauer, SP, Indians


Ownership in CBSSports.com leagues: 60 percent (down 6 percent)
With a 2-4 record, 4.39 ERA and 1.46 WHIP, Bauer does not have the look of a stashable pitcher. The month of June was particularly unkind to Bauer, as hitters whacked him around for a .308/.353/.500 slash line. After averaging 96-97 mph on his fastball in his three May starts, Bauer's average fastball velocity has fallen more typically around 95 mph over his last five starts. Clearly, these are not encouraging developments, and owners outside of deeper leagues should not be starting Bauer right now. However, we should not lose sight of the fact that Bauer is just a month removed from not only higher velocity, but high strikeout rates with good control. That's a combination of skill that shouldn't just be tossed away, so it's worthwhile to stash Bauer for the next few weeks to see if he can regain his effectiveness, if not also his velocity.
Leagues worth owning him: 12-team mixed leagues

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us on Twitter @CBSFantasyBB or Al at @almelccbs .

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Player News
Orioles P Steve Johnson cleared to play catch
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(4:24 pm ET) Orioles pitcher Steve Johnson posted on his social media page that he's been cleared to start playing catch.

Johnson underwent surgery shortly after the end of the 2014 season to remove a large bone spur behind his right shoulder. He registered a 6.23 ERA in 47 2/3 innings at three different levels in the minors, with most of his action coming with Triple-A Norfolk. He's expected to be ready for spring training.


Report: Rafael Furcal to miss winter league with torn hamstring
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12/26/2014) Free-agent infielder Rafael Furcal will miss the winter league playoffs after suffering a torn hamstring, according to ESPN Deportes. 

The 37-year-old Furcal struggled with injuries last year, playing in just nine games. He hit .171 over 35 at-bats with Miami. Furcal went on the disabled list two separate times with hamstring issues last season.


Report: Wandy Rodriguez close to signing with the Phillies
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12/26/2014) Pitcher Wandy Rodriguez is traveling to Philadelphia in order to take a physical, according to Phillies Spanish play-by-play man, Angel Castillo. 

If that physical goes well, Rodriguez is expected to sign with the club. The 35-year-old had knee surgery in June, but decided to pitch in winter ball in order to show major-league teams he had something left in the tank. Rodriguez posted a 6.75 ERA over 26 2/3 innings with the Pirates before he was shut down for the season. 


Yankees pitcher Hiroki Kuroda to return to Japan
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12/26/2014) Yankees pitcher Hiroki Kuroda will return to pitch in Japan next season, confirms CBSSports.com Baseball Insider Jon Heyman. A Hiroshima newspaper was the first to have the report.

The 39-year-old Kuroda spent seven seasons in the United States. He posted a career 3.45 ERA over 1319 innings. After spending the first four seasons of his career with the Dodgers, Kuroda joined the Yankees. He remained with the organization for three seasons, but made sure his contract went year-to-year so that he could return to Japan when ready. Kuroda plans to continue his baseball career in Japan, and will pitch for the Hiroshima Carp next year. 


Report: Giants my look at Rays second baseman Ben Zobrist
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12/26/2014) The Giants may look into acquiring Rays second baseman Ben Zobrist, according to Gammons Daily. 

Gammons notes that several general managers believe the club will deal prospects to acquire the 33-year-old Zobrist. San Francisco is currently slated to start Joe Panik at second, but Zobrist can play multiple positions. It's unclear where the Giants would elect to use Zobrist the most. He hit .272/.354/.395 in 570 at-bats last season. Zobrist is entering the final year of his contract, and is due $7.5 million next season.


Report: Yankees have yet to be informed of Hiroki Kuroda's plans
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12/26/2014) The Yankees have yet to be informed of pitcher Hiroki Kuroda's plans for next year, according to the New York Times.

A Hiroshima newspaper reported Kuroda will return to Japan next season, ending a seven-year run in the United States. The 39-year-old posted a 3.71 ERA over 199 innings with New York last season. Kuroda had signed one-year deals the past couple of offseasons so that he could return to Japan when ready.


1B Clint Robinson hooks up with Nationals
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(12/26/2014) The Nationals have signed first baseman Clint Robinson to a minor league deal with an invitation to spring training.

Robinson had been in the Dodgers organization. He compiled a strong .312/.401/.535 slash line at the Triple-A level a year ago.


Report: RHP Hiroki Kuroda heading back to Japan
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(12/26/2014) Veteran right-hander Hiroki Kuroda is heading back to Japan, thereby ending his career with the Yankees, per various reports.

Kuroda, who will be 40 years old in February, pitched seven seasons in the major leagues, including the last three in the Big Apple. He finished 2014 with an 11-9 record and 3.71 ERA.


Astros LHP Downs, IF Petit heading to Fresno
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(12/26/2014) The Astros have outrighted left-hander Darin Downs to Triple-A Fresno after having cleared waivers. 

The team has also announced that infielder Gregorio Petit has accepted an assignment to Fresno. He and Downs are set to join the squad in spring training.


Nationals taking chance on 2B Dan Uggla
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(12/26/2014) Second baseman Dan Uggla, who has spent most of his recent years creating a breeze at the plate, has signed a minor league deal with the Nationals with a spring training invite.

Uggla received a career-low 141 at-bats last season with Atlanta and San Francisco. He compiled a disturbing slash line of .149/.229/.213 with 46 strikeouts. His batting average has fallen in each of the last four years.


 
 
 
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