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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
Steve Pearce could be in line for occasional break
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(11:39 am ET) The promotion of prospect Christian Walker could mean a bit of rest for blossoming Orioles first baseman Steve Pearce downt the stretch after the team clinched the American League East title Tuesday night, per the Baltimore Sun.

Pearce has received more significant playing time than at any point in his major league career. He has been particularly hot lately with eight hits, including two home runs, in the last 17 at-bats. Despite having made his debut in 2007, his 320 at-bats this year nearly doubles his previous single-season high.


Yonder Alonso seeking return to Padres next year
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(11:32 am ET) Padres shelved first baseman Yonder Alonso is hoping he will be asked back in 2015 after losing the last seven weeks of this season to a wrist injury that required surgery.

"I don't deal with the business side of it, but I think we have really good people here, really good guys that make really good decisions (as far as) the guys that came in," Alonso told the San Diego Union-Tribune. "They know the game, they know baseball and they know what I can bring."

What Alonso brought this year was a stat line of .240/.285/.397 and seven home runs in 267 at-bats. He finished with a flourish with 11 hits in his last 17 at-bats, including two taters.

Alonso could be non-tendered next season in his first year of arbitration eligibility.


Rusney Castillo not much help this year
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(11:31 am ET) Rusney Castillo's debut for the Red Sox Wednesday night in Pittsburgh shouldn't create the mad dash to the waiver we're used to seeing for midseason callups. If you play in a traditional weekly league, you have just one more opportunity to set a lineup, and nothing he does in the next five days would compel you to switch from what you already have (outside of AL-only leagues, of course, where he's probably been owned since the day he signed).

And I suspect it won't be so noteworthy anyway. Other than the 22 at-bats he got during the minor-league playoffs, he hasn't played competitive baseball in over a year. And now, he's competing against the best the world has to offer.

But his arrival is still welcome news in Fantasy. Often, the most difficult players to assess going into a new season are the ones imported from overseas, where the competition is questionable and the available scouting reports are limited. The Red Sox are removing much of the mystery by giving us this sneak peak.

So what would be a successful debut for Castillo? My latest post to the Fantasy Baseball Today blog discusses just that. Be sure to give it a look.


Offseason back surgery an option for Angel Pagan
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(11:22 am ET) The bulging disk that has plagued Giants center fielder Angel Pagan much of the year could require offseason surgery, per the San Francisco Chronicle.

That, however, is one of several options.

Pagan missed his second straight game Tuesday with the back issue. Bruce Bochy is hoping to plug him back in Wednesday as the team continues its fight for a playoff spot. Pagan has been one of the team's most dependable players when healthy. He owns a stat line of .302/.342/.391 with 56 runs scored in 381 at-bats.


Start schedule down stretch undecided for Chris Sale
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(11:09 am ET) Robin Ventura has yet to decide if White Sox super southpaw Chris Sale will make two or three starts before the season ends, per the Chicago Tribune.

Sale is set to pitch Wednesday night in Kansas City. He is also slatedt to start next week in Detroit, but it has yet to be decided if he will pitch again. The White Sox could go with a six-man rotation down the stretch.

The ace lefty is 12-3 with a 1.99 ERA and could use every win possible to give him the best shot to win the American League Cy Young Award.


Blake Treinen in, Gio Gonzalez out as Wednesday starter
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(10:58 am ET) The clinching of a division title Tuesday night could result in sweeping changes in the Nationals lineup Wednesday in Atlanta. Starting pitcher Gio Gonzalez has already been scratched in favor of Blake Treinen.

Treinen started five games in May and June with great success. He yielded just eight runs in 26 2/3 innings and owns a 2.35 ERA on the year despite a 1-3 record.


Wilmer Flores blasts off twice in Tuesday win
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(10:52 am ET) Mets shortstop Wilmer Flores has been tearing it up at the plate recently, but went downright hog-wild Tuesday night.

Flores achieved the first two-homer game of his career in a rout of Miami. He began his big night with an RBI double in the fourth inning, socked a three-run blast in the fifth and added a two-run shot in the seventh for six RBI. He is 8 for 15 with two homers and 10 RBI in the last four games combined.


Ian Desmond dominates in defeat of Braves
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(10:45 am ET) Shortstop Ian Desmond was pretty much the entire offense for the Nationals in their shutout win Tuesday night in Atlanta.

Desmond slammed a two-run homer in the sixth to break a scoreless tie, then doubled in the ninth and tallied on a wild pitch as he had his hand in all of his team's runs. He improved his stat line to .252/.308/.423 in the process.


Chase Anderson to be chased from rotation after Friday
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(10:38 am ET) Diamondbacks right-hander Chase Anderson will be shut down after his Friday start in Colorado, per azcentralsports.com.

Anderson has been impressive recently with five earned runs allowed in his last 17 innings pitched covering three starts. He is 9-6 with a 3.70 ERA on the season with 100 strikeouts in 109 1/3 innings.


Report: Christian Walker promoted by Orioles
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(10:32 am ET) The Orioles have summoned first baseman Christian Walker from their training center in Sarasota, according to a tweet from University of South Carolina athletic director Ray Tanner. Buck Showalter claimed Tuesday night that the team would be bringing up a player from Sarasota, per MLB.com.

The 23-year-old Walker has yet to play in a major league game.


 
 
 
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