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Waiver Wire: Don't stop paying attention

Michael Hurcomb
Fantasy Writer
  •  

Hellllooooooooooooooo! Is anyone out there? Can anyone hear me?

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know. We have reached that time of year again where the Fantasy sports audience shifts its attention from baseball to football, especially if you are no longer in the hunt for a championship. However, I urge you to not totally give up on at least casually following what happens over the final weeks of the baseball season.

For instance, if you were paying attention late last season, you would have noticed Todd Frazier finished the 2013 season on a high note. He had a .261/.523/.839 slash line in September, while totaling five doubles, six home runs, 13 runs and 13 RBI in 24 games.

Most added players on CBSSports.com
Player Own %
1. Carlos Carrasco, SP/RP, CLE 57 (+33)
2. Matt Shoemaker, SP, LAA 83 (+29)
3. Kennys Vargas, 1B, MIN 59 (+25)
4. Steve Pearce, 1B/OF, BAL 45 (+23)
5. Jake Peavy, SP, SF 62 (+17)
6. Oswaldo Arcia, OF, MIN 39 (+17)
7. Russell Martin, C, PIT 67 (+15)
8. Hector Rondon, RP, CHC 56 (+15)
9. Joe Panik, 2B/SS, SF 18 (+15)
10. Eric O'Flaherty, RP, OAK 16 (+15)

Frazier was able to parlay his strong finish into an All-Star campaign in 2014 and turned into one of the biggest Fantasy surprises of the season. Heck, he is arguably one of the biggest steals of the draft since his Average Draft Position was 200, which breaks out to around a 17th-round pick in 12-team formats. Kudos to those Fantasy owners who pegged Frazier as a late-round sleeper based on his September run last year.

Though, for every Frazier you also find the likes of Justin Smoak and Juan Uribe, who also played well down the stretch in last season, but couldn't keep the momentum rolling in in 2014. Still, they had their purpose in Fantasy leagues and probably contributed to more than one Fantasy championship thanks to their late-season hot streaks.

I'm not saying you shouldn't be focused on Fantasy Football, since after all this is draft season. All I'm saying is that even if you don't have a horse in the race this Fantasy Baseball season, a little added homework in the fall could go a long way toward building a contender in the spring.

Oswaldo Arcia, OF, Twins

Ownership in CBSSports.com leagues: 39 percent (up 17 percent)
If you listened to the podcast or read this column, then you know I've been a staunch advocate of rostering Arcia. Even when he struggled, I still saw sleeper potential. Alas, I'll admit I finally started to lose faith in the 23-year-old outfielder in late July. Well, it seems I should have kept the faith a little longer. Arcia is having a pretty good run in August, slugging .603 with a .898 OPS, five doubles, seven home runs and 20 RBI in 19 games. Twins hitting coach Tom Brunasky has worked with Arcia on moving away from a complete uppercut swing so he puts a little backspin on the baseball. Brunasky said Arcia was putting top spin on the baseball before and that was preventing him from hitting home runs, per the Pioneer Press. While Arcia's power numbers have been great in August, he is still batting just .247 and has 24 strikeouts in 19 games. Needless to say, he had a much better batting average in the minors and not nearly as high of a strikeout rate, so he's not quite at the level he was as an elite prospect. Still, over the last five scoring periods he's averaging 17.2 Fantasy points, and over the last 28 days he's been a top 30 bat in Rotisserie formats. He is still producing despite his shortcomings.
Leagues worth owning him: 10-team Rotisserie, 14-team Head-to-Head

Dan Haren, SP, Dodgers

Ownership in CBSSports.com leagues: 63 percent (up 2 percent)
Haren seems to have developed a reputation as a late-season pitcher. He actually doesn't usually pitch well this time of year, as he has a career-worst 4.35 ERA in August. However, Haren has been very good over the final month of the season in recent years, and it seems he's headed back toward that trend in 2014. In 2010, Haren went 3-0 with a 2.03 ERA in his last six starts; he went 3-2 with a 3.25 ERA in his last five starts in 2011; he posted a 3-3 record and 3.31 ERA in his final six starts in 2012; and he finished 2-2 with a 2.89 ERA in his last five starts in 2013. Haren had an ugly run this season from July 5-Aug. 1, going 0-5 with a 10.03 ERA. However, he's bounced back nicely over his last four starts, going 3-1 with a 2.70 ERA. Haren has benefitted by not giving up as many home runs over his last four starts, and also getting batters to miss more on his curveball and sinker this month. Haren is no longer the ace pitcher he once was and his strikeout rate isn't great, but he's pitching for a contender and seems to step up late in the season, so don't just pass over Haren if you are looking for an arm off waivers.
Leagues worth owning him: 14-team Head-to-Head and Rotisserie

Mookie Betts, 2B/OF, Red Sox

Ownership in CBSSports.com leagues: 27 percent (up 2 percent)
After failing to impress following his MLB debut in late June, the Red Sox took a breather and sent the rookie back to the minors in mid-July for more seasoning. It appears to have been a wise move on the part of the Red Sox's front office because Betts has been much improved in his second MLB tour. He is batting .281 with a .410 on-base percentage and .848 OPS in 11 games since his return. The power numbers might not be there just yet, but the plate discipline is and that's extremely encouraging. He has more walks (seven) than strikeouts (four) since his return and is beginning to look like the elite prospect he was in the minors. Betts has moderate home run power, but he slugged .470 in the minors and showed plenty of gap power. Betts has been playing regularly in center field with Jackie Bradley in the minors, but his role as an everyday player could be threatened when Rusney Castillo makes his way onto the major-league roster. Betts has sleeper potential for the stretch run, but he has more value to Fantasy owners looking for a middle-infield option.
Leagues worth owning him: Deep formats

Hector Rondon, RP, Cubs

Ownership in CBSSports.com leagues: 56 percent (up 15 percent)
Cubs manager Rick Renteria continues to be hesitant to name Rondon the team's closer, but it's pretty evident who he turns to in save situations, especially as of late since the right-hander has been lights out. Rondon has allowed three runs (one earned) on 12 hits and no walks, while striking out 15 batters in his last 17 innings. He has also gone 10 for 11 in save chances over his last 17 appearances. Renteria told reporters Rondon's recent success has been due to his ability to keep hitters off balance. Renteria said Rondon ran into some trouble when hitters were sitting on his fastball, but he's been good lately at mixing in his other pitchers, particularly his slider. The numbers support Renteria's claim as Rondon has thrown his slider more than 23 percent of the time in July and August after not throwing it more than 17 percent before July, according to BrooksBaseball.net. You always worry about closers on non-contenders because of save opportunities, but I wouldn't hesitate to take a flier on Rondon because he's been so effective over a long stretch.
Leagues worth owning him: 10-team Rotisserie, 14-team Head-to-Head

Nick Castellanos, 3B/OF, Tigers

Ownership in CBSSports.com leagues: 55 percent (up 1 percent)
You might recall Castellanos as being one of the more intriguing late-round sleepers in drafts this spring. Unfortunately, he never quite lived up to his potential as a rookie, but maybe we should just take solace in the fact he's at least beginning to show some signs of life offensively late in the season. Castellanos has a .311/.525/.868 slash line over his last 17 games, which includes one triple, two doubles, three home runs and 13 RBI. That's the type of production Fantasy owners were looking for from the beginning, but Castellanos has had his rookie trials and tribulations. The hits have been falling for Castellanos in August as his line-drive rate is at 30.6 percent, per FanGraphs.com. His HR/FB rate is also at a season-best 14.3 percent this month. I've been looking at a bunch of numbers from Castellanos trying to see what has changed. It appears he has improved this month against offspeed pitches, but he is still struggling with sliders, which has been his Achilles' heel all season. Third base is a weak position, so I have no qualms with a Fantasy owner using Castellanos while he is on a hot streak. Though, I'm not sure he will be able to sustain if pitchers continue to get him out by throwing sliders.
Leagues worth owning him: Deep formats

Mike Minor, SP, Braves

Ownership in CBSSports.com leagues: 78 percent (up 6 percent)
I would have never guessed Minor would make an appearance in this column, especially since he came into the season as a top 25 Fantasy starting pitcher. Alas, his ownership is under 80 percent due to a rocky season, so he's still available in some formats for the stretch run. It would probably be wise to take a flier on the left-handed hurler because he appears to be rounding into form. He is 1-1 with a 2.53 ERA and 0.94 WHIP in his last three starts. He even took a no-hit bid into the eighth inning in his last start against the Reds. Minor blamed his struggles this season on not being able to execute his pitches, as well as aiming the baseball instead of going after hitters. Well, the Braves gave Minor a brief break from the rotation in early August to work on his mechanics, and the move is paying early dividends. The tweaks to his mechanics seems to have given life to his fastball, as he is averaging a 13.6 whiff percentage on his four-seam fastball over his last three starts after averaging 6.6 percent in his first 17 starts. If Minor truly fixed what had plagued him, then he will end up as a steal off waivers if you act before it's too late.
Leagues worth owning him: 10-team Head-to-Head and Rotisserie

Steve Pearce, OF, Orioles

Ownership in CBSSports.com leagues: 42 percent (up 19 percent)
When Pearce was mired in a lengthy slump from early July through mid-August, Orioles manager Buck Showalter never panicked, and his faith in the veteran slugger is being rewarded. Pearce has hit safely over his last eight games, posting a .343/.829/1.171 slash line. He also has four home runs, five doubles, five RBI and eight runs in that span. Even with the prolonged slump, Pearce is batting .289 with a .356 on-base percentage, .538 slugging percentage and .894 OPS on his last 55 games. As Showalter hinted, Pearce was due for a cold spell since he put up pretty gaudy numbers from June 6 through July 3 (.383/.452/.716/1.168). Pearce is back to playing regularly since Chris Davis has moved to third base in the wake of Manny Machado's season-ending knee injury. It seems Pearce might just end up being a streaky hitter, so consider him more of a stopgap option while he is on a hot another hot streak.
Leagues worth owning him: Deep formats

Jarred Cosart, SP, Marlins

Ownership in CBSSports.com leagues: 35 percent (up 5 percent)
With the way Cosart has pitched lately -- aside from the lack of strikeouts -- you would think Marlins ace Jose Fernandez was still on the mound and not recovering from Tommy John surgery. Cosart is 2-0 with a 0.87 ERA and 0.97 WHIP in his last three starts. The key for Cosart has been throwing strikes. He had a 62 percent strike rate over his first 21 starts. It has been at 67 percent in his last three starts. He threw a season-best 80 strikes on 107 pitches during Monday's win against the Angels. He threw first-pitch strikes to 26 of 31 batters he faced, per the Sun-Sentinel. The increase in strike percentage is very encouraging, especially for a pitcher that has exhibited control problems in the past. Cosart walked 5.3 batters per nine innings in 10 starts last season and had a 3.9 BB/9 rate in 24 starts this season before being traded to Miami, where he has lowered his walk rate to 2.1 per nine over four starts. Jarrod Saltalamacchia has been behind the plate for all four of Cosart's starts with the Marlins, so the veteran catcher could be playing a big part in Cosart's surge. Still, we would have a lot more confidence in Cosart if his strikeout totals were a little more favorable.
Leagues worth owning him: Deep formats

Joe Panik, 2B/SS, Giants

Ownership in CBSSports.com leagues: 18 percent (up 15 percent)
Panik has taken to his role as the Giants' starting second baseman, as the regular playing time has allowed him to settle in offensively. The rookie is batting .400 (28 for 70) in his last 19 games. However, 24 of those hits have been singles. Panik doesn't hide the fact he is not swinging for the fences. As he said in early August, "I'm not a guy who's going to hit the ball 500 feet … but my game is to get on base for the guys behind me," per SFGate.com. Manager Bruce Bochy said he is happy Panik has taken that mentality since it served him well in the minors. The lack of power hasn't been a major hindrance in Head-to-Head leagues, as Panik has averaged 17.3 Fantasy points over the previous three scoring periods. But over the last 21 days in Rotisserie formats, he's barely been a top 12 Fantasy second baseman because of the lack of home runs and RBI. There's not a lot of upside with Panik besides a decent batting average.
Leagues worth owning him: Deep formats

Yusmeiro Petit, RP, Giants

Ownership in CBSSports.com leagues: 4 percent (up 2 percent)
With the Giants choosing to skip Tim Lincecum's turn in the rotation, they will have Petit start Thursday against the Rockies. Before you rush to waivers to add the right-handed pitcher, his spot in the rotation is far from secure. Manager Bruce Bochy said the team will reassess its rotation plans following Petit's start. Also, after going 4-1 with a 3.59 ERA in seven starts last season, Petit is 1-2 with a 6.32 ERA in six starts this season. For as valuable as he has been in relief (1.84 ERA in 27 appearances), you would think the Giants will eventually want him back in the bullpen. As a pitcher on a contender with a good strikeout rate, Petit is certainly an intriguing Fantasy option, especially in Head-to-Head formats where his relief-pitcher eligibility is a factor. However, his assignment to the rotation could be temporary, so don't mortgage the farm yet to get Petit on your roster.
Leagues worth owning him: Deep formats

American League options

Carlos Sanchez, SS, White Sox

Ownership in CBSSports.com leagues: 2 percent (up 1 percent)
With the trade of Gordon Beckham, the White Sox called up Carlos Sanchez to take over at second base. Thus far, the experiment has worked well, as Sanchez is batting .316 (6 for 19) through his first four games. He was having arguably his best all-around season offensively in the minors prior to his recall, producing a .293/.349/.412/.761 slash line in 110 games for Triple-A Charlotte. He came into the season as the team's 12th-best prospect, according to Baseball America, but it's not like he was considered a high-upside player. In fact, some feel he might be destined for a utility role in the majors. For now, he has a starting spot, but don't expect a lot of power from the 22-year-old infielder. He might hit for a decent average and steal some bases, but it would be shocking if he makes a Danny Santana-like impact.
Leagues worth owning him: AL-only

National League options

Travis Ishikawa, 1B, Giants

Ownership in CBSSports.com leagues: 1 percent (up 1 percent)
Ishikawa has made some noise in Fantasy circles lately, batting .467 (7 for 15) with one home run, three doubles and seven RBI in his last six games. Alas, he has started just three times in that span and the Giants are doing their best to make sure Ishikawa doesn't face a lot of lefties. In fact, he's made just three plate appearances against a left-handed pitcher this season. Though, he has done pretty well, producing two hits, including one double, and two RBI. Brandon Belt (concussion) isn't expected back for a few weeks, so Ishikawa might get at least semi-regularly playing time until Belt returns. But it is unlikely Ishikawa's recent run is the beginning of a prolonged hot streak, so continue to look elsewhere in mixed leagues for corner-infield help.
Leagues worth owning him: NL-only

Player you might reconsider dropping

David Peralta, OF, Diamondbacks

Ownership in CBSSports.com leagues: 31 percent (down 2 percent)
After boasting a .321 average through his first 56 games, Peralta has been mired in a bit of a cold spell since mid-August, batting .169 with 18 strikeouts in his last 14 games. As manager Kirk Gibson said, pitchers are starting to adjust to Peralta, and the opposition has done a better job by throwing inside and a lot of offspeed pitches. Though, I'm still encouraged because Peralta isn't enduring a ton of hitless games. In fact, he's recorded a hit in nine of his last 11 games. He even produced 19 Fantasy points in Fantasy Week 21 (Aug. 18-24), despite hitting .250 (7 for 28) in that span. Peralta has managed less than 10 Fantasy points just three times in the last 12 scoring periods. He's not a Fantasy Baseball superstar, but Peralta is a lot more reliable than he gets credited.
Leagues worth owning him: 12-team Rotisserie, 14-team Head-to-Head

Q &A

I need to pick one first baseman for the rest of year: Kennys Vargas, Ryan Howard, Billy Butler or Jon Singleton --@TeddyRobinson17

MH:This is a tough one. I thought Vargas would be the easy choice, but it's hard to overlook what Butler has done since late July, when he started seeing playing time at first base. He has a .318/.348/.545/.893 slash line over his last 29 games. In most instances, you would probably go with the wily veteran over the surging rookie. And to tell you the truth, it really is a coin-flip. I feel you will be fine with Butler or Vargas the rest of the season. It's like splitting hairs. But since I have to choose, I think I would go Vargas for the fact Butler might be headed back to the DH role, if Eric Hosmer returns this season. Butler has said playing first base has lightened the mental burden of just focusing on offense. I just have a little bit of worry about what might happen if Butler returns to being the Royals' primary DH.

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Player News
Mariners sign catcher John Baker to minor-league contract
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(11:51 am ET) The Mariners signed catcher John Baker to a minor-league contract Wednesday, reports CBSSports.com Baseball Insider Jon Heyman.

The deal includes an invite to spring training. Baker will be given an opportunity to compete for the backup catching position. In 2014, Baker hit .192 with no home runs and 15 RBI in 182 at-bats.


Indians 3B Giovanny Urshela expected to be ready for spring training
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(11:15 am ET) Indians third base prospect Giovanny Urshela, who sprained a knee ligament in a Venezuelan winter league game in November, should be ready for spring training, reports the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Urshela, 23, is considered the most skilled defensive third baseman in the organization.

He likely will begin the season at Triple-A Columbus, but "could get a look" if Lonnie Chisenhall falters, the paper said.


Report: Nationals sign pitcher Casey Janssen to one-year contract
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(10:47 am ET) The Nationals agreed to a one-year, $5 million contract with pitcher Casey Janssen on Wednesday, sources told FOXSports.com.

The deal also includes a mutual option for the 2016 season and a buyout. In 2014, Janssen made 50 relief appearances and produced a 3.94 ERA.


Hector Neris considered a 'sleeper' to make Phils' bullpen
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(10:41 am ET) Coming off an outstanding performance in the Dominican Winter League, reliever Hector Neris is a "sleeper candidate" to earn a spot in the Phillies' bullpen, reports Philly.com. Neris, 25, did not give up a run in 18 innings during the league's regular season, then allowed two runs in 8 1/3 postseason innings.

“It will be interesting to see who kind of takes the bull by the horns,” Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. told the website. “We’re going to give some people opportunities to pitch, and typically what happens is the guy that’s performing the best and the guy that’s throwing the most consistently toward the end of spring, those are the guys that will make the club.”

Neris made his major-league debut last August, earning a win with one scoreless inning. That was his only appearance with the Phils.


Report: Mets not close to trading pitcher Dillon Gee
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(10:11 am ET) While various clubs have expressed interest in Mets pitcher Dillon Gee, the Mets are not in negotiations to trade him anytime soon, reports MLB.com.

In 2014, Gee went 7-8 with a 4.00 ERA. The Mets are less than a month away from spring training and are also believed to be hesitant to depart with any of their starting pitchers.


Report: Matt Albers to throw in Houston on Feb. 10
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(9:59 am ET) Wanting to prove his health, free-agent pitcher Matt Albers will hold a throwing session Feb. 10 in Houston, reports 1500ESPN.

Albers was shut down last season because of shoulder tendinitis after throwing 10 innings for the Astros. All teams were invited to the session.


Report: Angels talk extension with closer Huston Street
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(9:30 am ET) The Angels have broached the subject of a contract extension with closer Huston Street and plan to start negotiations during spring training, reports MLB.com. The team exercised its $7 million opion on Street early in the offseason and "would like to lock the 31-year-old right-hander up before he hits free agency next winter," the report said.

Street converted 41 of 44 save opportunities last year, going 2-2 with a 1.37 ERA.


Marlins announce signing of Ichiro Suzuki
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(1/27/2015) The Marlins announced Tuesday they signed outfielder Ichiro Suzuki to a one-year contract.

The deal was expected to be announced once Suzuki passed his physical. He is expected to be the Marlins fourth outfielder as well as a left-handed bat off the bench.


Rays pitcher Matt Moore begins throwing off mound
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(1/27/2015) Rays pitcher Matt Moore took a significant step forward in his receovery from Tommy John surgery when he threw off a mound Tuesday, reports the Tampa Bay Times.

"It felt pretty good," Moore said.

Moore had the surgery in April and said he is pleased with the progress he has made.

"I would have thought a while ago I would have been nervous, but I was looking forward to it," Moore said. "And I felt like I had a lot more that could have come out. That's a feeling I've had the last month or so, and that's a feeling I like to have. I think we're in a good spot right now."


Angels' Garrett Richards to begin throwing off mound in February
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(1/27/2015) Angels pitcher Garrett Richards is ahead of schedule in his return from left-knee surgery and will begin throwing off a mound in the second week of February, reports the Los Angeles Times.

General manager Jerry Dipoto said they have been pleased with the progress Richards has made from the surgery.

"Ordinarily, he'd have thrown off a mound a couple times at this point in January, so he's not too far behind where he'd be in his normal throwing preparation," Dipoto said. "It's a matter of making sure the knee is stable and his lower body is in good shape. We're very optimistic, as we have been throughout."

In 2014, Richards went 13-4 with a 2.61 ERA.


 
 
 
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