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Waiver Wire: Valuable pieces worth considering

Michael Hurcomb
Fantasy Writer
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I have to hand it to the marketing gurus who came up with the blind taste test. They took out all the prejudice and preconceived notions, and it just comes down to making a decision in the heat of the moment.

It got me thinking about doing a Fantasy Baseball version of the blind taste test. Below are stat lines for two pitchers. Their names have been removed, so you have to make a choice based solely on stats -- Player A or Player B?

Player A: 4-2, 3.44 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 8.3 H/9, 0.7 HR/9, 2.2 BB/9, 7.8 SO/9
Player B: 3-2, 3.51 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 8.4 H/9, 0.3 HR/9, 3.5 BB/9, 6.5 SO/9

At first glance, the numbers are pretty comparable. It seems like splitting hairs between Player A and Player B. However, if you had to choose, I would guess Player A would be the likely choice since he has a lower WHIP along with better walk and strikeout rates.

Well, if you chose Player A, then you agree with the masses. Player A is Blue Jays starting pitcher Marcus Stroman, who is owned in 71 percent of CBSSports.com leagues. Player B is Orioles starting pitcher Kevin Gausman, who is owned in 45 percent of leagues. Again, both players have fairly comparable numbers, but there is a huge gap in ownership percentages.

Most added players on CBSSports.com
Player Own %
1. Steve Pearce, OF, BAL 74 (+37)
2. Chris Young, SP, SEA 59 (+31)
3. Tom Koehler, SP, MIA 69 (+23)
4. Joe Smith, RP, LAA 60 (+19)
5. Vance Worley, SP, PIT 34 (+15)
6. Mike Zunino, C, SEA 66 (+14)
7. Clay Buchholz, SP, BOS 65 (+14)
8. Carlos Martinez, RP, STL 55 (+14)
9. Santiago Casilla, RP, SF 34 (+13)
10. Arismendy Alcantara, SS, CHC 21 (+13)

We debated this topic on Monday's podcast. My colleague Scott White felt Stroman was underowned, while I explained why I felt his ownership was right about where it should be. I felt Gausman was underowned and I would rather have him on my roster, especially in points leagues, because of his relief-pitcher eligibility.

I definitely understand why Gausman's ownership is below 50 percent. He keeps bouncing between the majors and minors, and his spot in the rotation is less secure than Stroman's. But it seems the Orioles are making an effort to find a rotation spot for the young hurler, who is 3-1 with a 2.45 ERA and .236 opponents' batting average in his last five starts.

Stroman has been very good as of late, going 3-2 with a 2.08 ERA and .208 opponents' batting average in his last seven starts. It seems I'm not giving Stroman enough credit for what he's done lately, and I'm too focused on remembering the pitcher that struggled in spring training and in his first stint in the majors this season. He's been a completely different pitcher since returning to Toronto in late May, and he deserves credit for his turnaround.

While I do feel both players need to be on rosters in standard formats, my concern with both young pitchers is how are they going to hold up in the dog days of summer and as the pennant race heats up?

I'm far less concerned about can they handle the pressure of clutch situations, as much as I'm concerned about if they are going to be able to hold up down the stretch. The most innings Stroman has logged in one season as professional is 111 2/3 innings in 2013, and Gausman's career best was 129 2/3 innings last season. Stroman is already at 85 1/3 innings (including minors), while Gausman is at 78 2/3 innings (including minors).

There's definitely sleeper potential with both pitchers in the second half, but choosing which one you want on your roster is going to take a little more homework than blindly picking one.

B.J. Upton, OF, Braves

Ownership in CBSSports.com leagues: 35 percent (up 5 percent)
Upton has been a much improved player since he was moved into the leadoff spot June 24. However, it's not like he's lighting the world on fire offensively. He has just a .260/.288/.420/.708 slash line in 12 games since moving to the top of the order. He's improved, but he still has just one home run and four RBI in that span, while striking out 15 times. The hits are beginning to fall, but it's not like his OBP is way up from where it was before he moved to the leadoff spot. Perhaps if his strikeout rate came down and his walk rate went up, then there would be reason to start touting Upton as an add because he could get more opportunities to steal bases. He does have three stolen bases in his last 12 games, so it seems he's being a bit more aggressive on the base paths out of the leadoff spot. But if that OBP doesn't rise or he doesn't start hitting for more power, then this is not the hot streak that's going to put Upton back on the map.
Leagues worth owning him: Deep formats

Andrelton Simmons, SS, Braves

Ownership in CBSSports.com leagues: 74 percent (up 7 percent)
Upton hasn't been the only Braves player to benefit from a lineup change. Simmons moved to the second spot in the order June 27, and since then he's batting .341 (14 for 41) with five multi-hit games, seven RBI and two stolen bases. But I might be the only person not really buying into Simmons' hot streak. I get the idea that he's going to see better pitches hitting in front of Freddie Freeman, Justin Upton and eventually Evan Gattis. Though, I'm not convinced he will be able to sustain it. He was due for a positive market correction after what has been a pretty bad first half. But it's not like Simmons' current slash line (.265/.303/.368/.671) is far off from what he's done in his career (.259/.304/.391/.695). In the minors, he had just a .299/.352/.397/.749 slash line. I understand he was very young in the minors and is still only 24 years old. Also, he hasn't yet shown the power he displayed last season, but I just don't know if I'm buying a move up the lineup as the spark for his breakout run. If this was more like J.D. Martinez or Steve Pearce, who made tweaks to their approaches and had the minor-league track record, then I'd be more willing to back Simmons.
Leagues worth owning him: Deep formats

Odrisamer Despaigne, SP, Padres

Ownership in CBSSports.com leagues: 18 percent (up 5 percent)
I can't remember any player getting less respect in Fantasy for a 2-0 record, 0.92 ERA and 0.97 WHIP through three starts than Despaigne. I hope the hesitation isn't because you feel like you have to pronounce his name correctly to own him in Fantasy. If that was the case, then I would never win. However, I can't really fault Fantasy owners here for opting against adding the Cuban pitcher off waivers. When you have more walks (eight) than strikeouts (five), you have to figure the wheels are bound to come off soon. The Padres are doing their best to explain Despaigne's success. Manager Bud Black said he's just rising to the competition. Cameron Maybin, who gets a pretty good view of what hitters are seeing at the plate from center field, said Despaigne's pitches are showing good movement and keeping hitters off balance. There's not much of a scouting report on the right-hander, who was sped through the minors after signing with the Padres in early May. Clearly, Despaigne's ERA and WHIP are pretty low, so a course correction seems inevitable.
Leagues worth owning him: Deep formats

Justin Ruggiano, OF, Cubs

Ownership in CBSSports.com leagues: 9 percent (up 7 percent)
Ruggiano has been dialed in the last few weeks, batting .457 (16 for 35) with two home runs, four doubles, six runs and nine RBI in his last nine games. He's basically played his way into regular playing time because of his hot bat. I know Fantasy owners want to buy into this being the real Ruggiano because of the player we saw in 2012, when he hit .313 with a .535 slugging percentage and .909 OPS with the Marlins. But Ruggiano is just not that good. There's a reason why he didn't have a breakthrough in the majors until he was 30 years old. He didn't perform all that well for the Marlins in 2013, which is why the team had no problems trading him to Chicago in the offseason. While his PT has increased, he's still not playing full time and does sit on back-to-back days fairly regularly. Also, his home/road splits have been polar opposites, and it's not what you think either. He's actually struggling at Wrigley Field and hitting well on the road. I've got no issue if you are looking to play the hot streak, but Ruggiano is mostly just a stopgap or deep-league option.
Leagues worth owning him: Deep formats

Santiago Casilla, RP, Giants

Ownership in CBSSports.com leagues: 34 percent (up 13 percent)
I'm warming up to the idea that Sergio Romo might not return to the closer's role for San Francisco. I say that because Casilla is a pretty darn good reliever and might keep the job, even if Romo bounces back. Since joining San Francisco in 2010, Casilla is 24-13 with a 2.06 ERA, 1.16 WHIP and 38 saves. He might not have a great strikeout rate, which hurts him in Fantasy, but as long as he gets the job done, what reason would manager Bruce Bochy have for removing Casilla from the closer's role? It's the if-it's-not-broken-then-why-fix-it approach. Casilla is going to jump up in my rankings. I'll probably rank him anywhere from No. 22-30 among relievers, which means I feel he's already capable of serving as a low-end No. 2 Fantasy reliever. Also, there's certainly potential for him to gain even more value because the Giants have the reputation for getting their closers plenty of save opportunities.
Leagues worth owning him: 10-team Rotisserie, 12-team Head-to-Head

Kevin Kiermaier, OF, Rays

Ownership in CBSSports.com leagues: 18 percent (up 11 percent)
It seems we might have final reached the end of Kiermaier's hot streak. After batting .330 with a .633 slugging percentage and 1.006 OPS in 35 games from May 17-June 30, he's mired in a 3-for-24 slump to begin July. It's not like we weren't anticipating a market correction. While Kiermaier got off to a great start this season in the minors, which triggered his promotion to the majors, he still produced just a .278/.352/.398/.750 slash line over five seasons down on the farm. The home run outburst was really unexpected since Kiermaier never had more than six in one season in the minors. He's proven to be a good contact hitter, OBP guy and a threat for 20-plus stolen bases, but it's the home run power that really made Kiermaier a standout player since mid-May. Kiermaier had good gap power in the minors and had enough speed to leg out 38 triples in 410 games. I still believe Kiermaier can be useful in Fantasy, but I view him more as a slightly better version of Gerardo Parra, who is owned in 41 percent of leagues.
Leagues worth owning him: Deep formats

Jed Lowrie, SS, Athletics

Ownership in CBSSports.com leagues: 69 percent (down 1 percent)
There's no denying Lowrie has been one of the more disappointing Fantasy options this season, but now is the time to start adding him back to rosters as he's showing signs of turning his season around. I know you've probably heard on more than one occasion to be patient with Lowrie because he's been a victim of bad luck. His contact rate has been on par through the first three months, but his BABIP was a little low, so if he stayed the course, then he was due to bounce back. Well, he's batting .289 with five multi-hit games, four doubles, six runs and six RBI in his last nine games. Lowrie had a pretty bad first half, even by his standards, and the last two times he's been healthy down the stretch, he's turned in pretty good second halves. In 2010, he hit .287 with nine home runs, 14 doubles and 24 RBI in 55 second-half games, and last season he hit .284 with eight home runs, 22 doubles and 38 RBI in 65 games after the All-Star break. Lowrie is shaping up to be a good buy-low middle infielder.
Leagues worth owning him: 10-team Rotisserie, 12-team Head-to-Head

Logan Morrison, 1B, Mariners

Ownership in CBSSports.com leagues: 24 percent (up 11 percent)
Morrison is batting .313 with a .493 slugging percentage, .849 OPS, three home runs and 12 RBI in his last 17 games. His hot streak has been good enough for manager Lloyd McClendon to hand him starting job at first base and demote Justin Smoak to the minors. Morrison has been on a run since smashing his bat against the dugout wall in frustration June 15, which opened a cut above his eye that required five stitches. Morrison admits the moment of weakness served as a wake-up call. He's taken a more relaxed approach at the plate, which has allowed him to implement the tweaks he made to his swing during a rehab assignment prior to coming off the disabled list in mid-June. Morrison hit .308 with a .477 slugging percentage and .893 OPS in 18 games with Triple-A Tacoma. Those numbers look eerily similar to what's he done the last few weeks. There's always injury concerns regarding Morrison and first base is a deep Fantasy position, but there's no issue chasing the hot streak if you don't have to mortgage the farm to get him on your roster.
Leagues worth owning him: Deep formats

Dayan Viciedo, OF, White Sox

Ownership in CBSSports.com leagues: 38 percent (up 5 percent)
Viciedo has quietly put up good numbers the last few weeks, batting .273 with a .561 slugging percentage, .885 OPS, five home runs and 10 RBI in his last 19 games. But his Fantasy ownership has only risen slightly. I can't really blame owners for that. We've figured out Viciedo as a streaky hitter, so Fantasy owners really don't want to make a big investment in a player that can go cold as quickly as he can get hot. There are rumors that Viciedo might move to a contender by the July 31 trade deadline, which could help boost his Fantasy value. But I would rather wait to see if that happens before using a speculative waiver claim on the 25-year-old outfielder. Viciedo contends his recent surge is because the hits are starting to fall. I bought into his early season hot streak to only be burned by a significant slump that dropped his average to .244 on June 15. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.
Leagues worth owning him: Deep formats

Lucas Duda, 1B, Mets

Ownership in CBSSports.com leagues: 52 percent (up 49 percent)
It's time to start giving Duda his due credit. He's been pretty solid since the Mets changed hitting coaches in late May. He is batting .279 with a .390 on-base percentage, .582 slugging percentage and .972 OPS in his last 37 games. He also has eight home runs, 13 doubles, 25 RBI, 22 walks and 29 strikeouts in that span. If it was a smaller sample size, then maybe we could just call this another Duda hot streak, but it's been several weeks, so it's time to start buying into Duda as more than a deep-league option. Sure, he's still not great against left-handed pitchers, but he is doing enough damage against righties to overcome that. Kole Calhoun isn't great against left-handed pitchers either, but Fantasy owners are willing to give him more of a chance than Duda. I know we've been burned by Duda in the past, but he's looking a lot like the batter he was in the minors and during his rookie season in 2011. Duda is averaging 20 Fantasy points over the last six scoring periods, and over the last 28 days he's the No. 6 ranked first baseman and No. 7 ranked outfielder in Rotisserie formats.
Leagues worth owning him: 10-team Rotisserie, 14-team Head-to-Head

American League options

Logan Forsythe, 2B, Rays

Ownership in CBSSports.com leagues: 57 percent (up 36 percent)
As of June 15, Forsythe was batting .178 with no home runs and five RBI in 49 games. Since June 16, he is batting .393 with three home runs and eight RBI in his last 15 games. Whatever has lit a fire under Forsythe seems to be working. However, this is probably just going to be a short-lived hot streak for Fantasy owners to enjoy. Forsythe has seen an increase in playing time recently as Ben Zobrist has moved to shortstop with Yunel Escobar on the disabled list. Escobar is close to returning, which likely means a decrease in playing time for Forsythe. Rays manager Joe Maddon has been known to play the hot hand, but Forsythe really doesn't have staying power. He is a career .242 hitter with a .349 slugging percentage in the majors. In the minors, Forsythe was a good contact hitter and great OBP guy, but he had marginal power. He's mostly a bench player, so get ready to drop him as soon as the trail goes cold.
Leagues worth owning him: AL-only

National League options

Tsuyoshi Wada, SP, Cubs

Ownership in CBSSports.com leagues: 15 percent (up 13 percent)
Wada arrived stateside in 2012 after a very productive career in Japan. Unfortunately, he never stepped on a major-league mound in his two years with Baltimore because of a slow recovery from Tommy John surgery. Wada latched on with the Cubs this season and has been toiling in the minors until now, as he's set to make his MLB debut Tuesday against the Reds. He's been pitching very well for Triple-A Iowa, going 9-5 with a 2.66 ERA, 1.16 WHIP and 9.3 K/9 rate in 17 outings (16 starts). He looks a lot like the pitcher he was in Japan, when he posted a 3.13 ERA, 1.15 WHIP and 8.3 K/9 rate over nine seasons. What's even more encouraging is that Wada was able to post pretty impressive numbers in the hitter-friendly PCL. He did have a bit of a high home-run rate (0.9 HR/9), but he didn't compound the problem with a high walk rate (2.3 BB/9) or give up a ton of hits (8.1 H/9). Wada's biggest problem could be getting run support, but he's an intriguing enough option to take an initial flier on in NL-only leagues.
Leagues worth owning him: NL-only

Player you might reconsider dropping

Oswaldo Arcia, OF, Twins

Ownership in CBSSports.com leagues: 23 percent (down 3 percent)
This is probably not a popular opinion, especially after the cold spell Arcia was mired in for most of June, but he seems to be maturing as a hitter right in front of our eyes. He has just one homer in his last 12 games, but over that span he has a .263 batting average, .429 on-base percentage and .823 OPS. The reason I'm so confident in Arcia is that his plate discipline is improving. He's walked eight times in his last 49 plate appearances, as opposed to six times in his first 115 plate appearances. Granted, Arcia had four home runs over that span, but he slugged just .377. He's slugging .395 in his last 12 games and as long as he's swinging at good pitches, the power should come. Arcia's problem during his slump was plate discipline. He was being aggressive and seemed to be swinging at anything near the plate. He's still striking out a lot, but the plate discipline is improving and he continues to start regularly for Minnesota. You know Arcia can rake, which is evident by his .314 average and .542 slugging percentage in the minors. With a little patience, he could end up being a second-half sleeper.
Leagues worth owning him: Deep formats

Q &A

I feel like Dallas Keuchel is trending downward. Should I drop him for Tyson Ross? --@Jeevz79

MH: I can't say that the same thought hasn't crossed my mind. But, maybe Keuchel gets a pass for the time being because he's been battling a wrist injury, which probably has a lot to do with his recent struggles. Perhaps the All-Star break has come at an opportune time, and the extra days to rest will be of benefit. While I'm still a proponent of stashing Keuchel, I would make this move because I value Ross over Keuchel. In my starting pitcher rankings, I have Ross ranked 35th and Keuchel 49th. In most formats, though, I'd give Keuchel a few more starts after the All-Star break to assess his second-half value before making any rash decisions.

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Player News
Report: Athletics OF Coco Crisp expected to need elbow surgery
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:35 am ET) Athletics outfielder Coco Crisp is expected to require surgery to remove a bone spur and chips from his right elbow, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. The outfielder would be out for six-to-eight weeks after undergoing the procedure.

Crisp has dealt with elbow issues for much of the spring. Without his presence in the lineup, the A's will need to replace the outfielder in the leadoff spot at least until mid-May. With Crisp set to open the season on the disabled list, the A's will likely carry outfielder Billy Burns on the team's initial 25-man roster.


Mets' Collins: Daniel Murphy looks 'tremendous' Wednesday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:22 am ET) Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy (hamstring) played five innings, took five at-bats and ran the bases in a minor-league game Wednesday, and while the team will leave him behind to see minor-league work this weekend, there's still a chance he could join the team to play on Opening Day, the New York Daily News reports.

"Dan looked tremendous. He looks great at the plate, but it’s the daily grind (we worry about)," manager Terry Collins said about Murphy's action Wednesday. "We certainly have to be monitoring his workload, but we’re hoping that the next couple of days he gets a little extra work in, then we’ll look up this weekend and he joins us after."

Murphy said he has yet to push the hamstring by trying to run at 100 percent.

"I like the way I am progressing," Murphy said Wednesday, "but we’ll see how I feel tomorrow."


Astros option OF L.J. Hoes to Triple-A Fresno
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(4/1/2015) The Astros have optioned outfielder L.J. Hoes to Triple-A Fresno.

Hoes was competing for a bench spot but dealt with a wrist issue recently after being hit by a pitch over the weekend. He went 7 for 25 this spring before being sent down.


Pirates OF Andrew McCutchen leaves game, says he's fine
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(4/1/2015) Pirates outfielder Andrew McCutchen didn't run out a ground ball in the eighth inning of Wednesday's game and left the field slowly before being officially replaced in the game, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports.

McCutchen, who dealt with a lower-body injury earlier this spring, said he was fine after coming out of the game. He indicated that he slipped on the plate and throttled things back just to be safe. The outfielder finished the game 1 for 4 at the plate.


Orioles' Chris Tillman strikes out eight in spring finale vs. Pirates
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(4/1/2015) Orioles pitcher Chris Tillman allowed two earned runs on three hits in five innings while racking up eight strikeouts and issuing zero walks in Wednesday's spring finale against the Pirates.

Tillman gave up both runs on a home run in the second inning by Pirates first baseman Pedro Alvarez but was excellent aside from the one mistake. He closes the spring with a 2.76 ERA and 18:2 K:BB ratio in 16 1/3 innings. Tillman will square off with the Rays Monday on Opening Day.


Pirates' Gerrit Cole tosses three scoreless innings vs. Orioles
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(4/1/2015) Pirates pitcher Gerrit Cole allowed just one hit and one walk in three scoreless innings while striking out three in Wednesday's spring finale against the Orioles.

Cole closes the spring with a 3.24 ERA and 12:4 K:BB ratio in 16 2/3 innings. He's slated to pitch the taem's second game of the season, leaving him to face the Reds next Wednesday.


Pirates' Francisco Liriano allows one run in spring finale
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(4/1/2015) Pirates pitcher Francisco Liriano surrendered one earned run on three hits in three innings while striking out two in Wednesday's spring finale against the Orioles.

Liriano hadn't surrendered a run in nine spring innings heading into Wednesday's game and finishes the spring with a 0.75 ERA and 14:4 K:BB ratio in 12 innings. His next start will come on Opening Day against the Reds Monday.


Rangers' Colby Lewis serves up three homers in spring finale
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(4/1/2015) Rangers pitcher Colby Lewis allowed four earned runs on seven hits and one walk in three innings while walking two and giving up three home runs in his team's 10-4 loss to the Rockies Wednesday.

Lewis also served up three home runs in one inning in his spring debut but kept the ball in the park while surrendering three runs in eight innings over his previous two appearances. He closes out the spring with a 9.75 ERA and 5:4 K:BB ratio in 12 innings. Lewis is slated to make his regular-season debut Tuesday against the A's.


Indians first baseman Nick Swisher goes 2 for 3 in spring debut
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(4/1/2015) Indians first baseman Nick Swisher went 2-for-3 Wednesday in his first action since undergoing surgery on both knees this offseason, reports MLB.com.

"All I really wanted to do was go out there and have some fun again, man," Swisher said. "I feel like it's been Groundhog's Day for me. It's like the same thing every day. So, to be able to come out here and actually be able to compete at this level was great. It raised my spirits a little bit, for sure."

Manager Terry Francona was happy to get Swisher back in the lineup.

"I think it was really good to get him in a game," Francona said. "I think it was really good for him -- whether he got hits or not. It was nice to see him get on base a couple times. I think it's helpful to him. I think it probably gave him another little push in the right direction. I think he had fun and it makes it feel a little bit closer to the finish line."

He remains without a timetable to return for the regular season.

"I wish I could give you a timetable. I wish I could give you a day," Swisher said. "I'm just going to come back when I feel healthy. Do I feel like I could go and DH for this team and contribute right now? Sure, but that's not all I want to do. I want to make sure I'm able to go to the outfield. I want to make sure I'm able to go to first base and make sure all my movements are fluid and smooth."


Rangers' Elvis Andrus goes hitless in return Wednesday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(4/1/2015) Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus went 0 for 3 and struck out twice in his return to the lineup Wednesday as the Rangers fell to the Rockies, 10-4.

Andrus was scratched from Monday's lineup due to stiffness in his lower back but missed little time due to the injury. He has hit .359/.381/.590 in 39 spring at-bats.


 
 
 
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