AL Waiver Wire:  Week 12

Alexi Casilla| Minnesota| 2B/SS| 26 percent Yahoo! ownership
YTD: .267/.327/.376
Oliver ROS: .261/.322/.340

The full season line for Alexi Casilla may seem rather unappealing, but something has clicked since the start of May, a month in which he hit .288/.351/.424 and has bested in June hitting .329/.386/.474. His June slash doesn’t tell the whole story either, as he’s hit two home runs and stolen six bases as well. I don’t anticipate the power sticking around, as it’s not really a part of his game, but he does offer solid speed and should continue to steal bases as long as he is able to get on. Surprisingly, in spite of his hot stretch and dual eligibility at weak positions, he’s still largely unowned.

While he’s likely owned in most competitive deep mixed-leagues and American League-only formats, it’s about time those in medium sized mixed-leagues give him a look. His eligibility makes him a solid bench bat to use in daily roster change leagues, and his speed is useful enough to stick in at the end of the week in head-to-head formats where a stolen base or two can win the category. His record of poor performance at the dish makes it tough to believe he’ll continue to perform at a high level, but there is nothing wrong with riding a hot hand when it presents itself.

Recommendation: Should be owned in some medium sized mixed-leagues, and all deep mixed-leagues or AL-only formats using a middle infield position.

Alcides Escobar| Kansas City| SS| 29 percent Yahoo! ownership
YTD: .248/.284/.313
Oliver ROS: .263/.296/.349

Alcides Escobar continues the theme of the article thus far, and that’s middle infielders scalding the ball in June. He’s hit .333/.368/.472 this month, but even more importantly has stolen seven bases while getting caught just once. It’s easy to forget that Escobar, a player noted for his slick fielding, stole 42 bases at the Triple-A level in 2009. The keys to him unlocking that stolen base potential are continued opportunities awarded through reaching base, and continued success. Those keys are far from a lock to be met, but his June at least provides hope. If given the choice between Casilla and Escobar, I’d choose Casilla, but if you’re an owner in need of help at the shortstop or middle infield position in deeper formats, it wouldn’t hurt to plug Escobar in while he’s hitting well.

Recommendation: Should be owned in some medium sized mixed-leagues, and all deep mixed-leagues or AL-only formats using a middle infield position.

Casey Kotchman| Tampa Bay| 1B| 4 percent Yahoo! ownership
YTD: .337/.396/.455
Oliver ROS: .268/.330/.400

The award for player I’m most reluctant to write about this week goes to Casey Kotchman, but thanks to his hot stick, and lack of competition for playing time he gets the nod. By now, Kotchman is an established commodity and at his best can provide help in average and chip in with runs and RBI. He’s a non-threat in the home run department due to his inability, or perhaps refusal, to loft the ball (career 28.9 percent fly ball rate), but he is a decent plug-and-play for those in need of average help while he’s spraying line drives at a strong clip. Kotchman’s first base eligibility limits his value significantly, but those in deep leagues are sometimes required to leave no stone unturned when looking for contributions.

Recommendation: Should be owned in some deep mixed-leagues and some AL-only formats while he’s hot.

Andrew Miller| Boston| SP| 5 percent Yahoo! ownership
YTD: 4.76 ERA, 1.76 WHIP, 9.53 K/9, 4.76 BB/9, 58.8 percent GB
Oliver ROS: 6.01 ERA, 1.80 WHIP, 6.6 K/9, 6.3 BB/9

Because he was featured here last week, I’ll keep the write-up short on Andrew Miller. A glance at his stat line against San Diego Monday without watching the game would leave most thinking that much is the same with him, especially considering his soft opponent. I was lucky enough to have the evening off, which let me do some amateur-hour scouting.

I came away fairly impressed with his performance, as he mixed pitches well, induced ground balls at a strong rate and threw quality strikes. His overall line is hurt by not getting a fastball in enough to Orlando Hudson, who punished him by hammering a home run. He showed enough to warrant another look in his next turn, which should come over the weekend against the Pirates. At the least, he’s a stream-worthy addition; at the best he may display enough to stick on rosters.

Recommendation: Should be owned by some in deep mixed-leagues and AL-only formats, and monitored by pitching-starved owners in all but the shallowest of leagues.

Koji Uehara| Baltimore| RP| 21 percent Yahoo! ownership
YTD: 2.45 ERA, 0.79 WHIP, 11.45 K/9, 1.64 BB/9, 32.4 percent GB
Oliver ROS: 3.28 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 8.2 K/9, 1.6 BB/9

Exhibit “A” that the best arm in a bullpen doesn’t always get the opportunity to close games is Koji Uehara in Baltimore. In this case it is a bit more perplexing than in others, as he has that all-important prerequisite closer experience in place (13 saves last year), has a crappy, struggling journeyman closer in his way (Kevin Gregg) and is performing lights out.

A top-flight setup man with the potential to usurp the closer role, Uehara should be owned in a higher percentage of leagues. His ratios and strikeout rate are elite, but are unlikely to come in a high volume because of his fragile-as-fine china body. Regardless of his occasional bouts of missed games, he is an undervalued fantasy asset capable of propping up the strikeout shortcomings of otherwise useful starting pitchers. Those wondering if his strikeout rate is sustainable should take comfort in knowing it is fully supported by an o-swing, contact percentage, first pitch strike rate and swinging strike percentage that all dwarf the league averages.

Recommendation: Should be owned in some medium mixed-leagues and all deep mixed leagues or AL-only formats.

Phil Hughes| New York (American League)| SP| 33 percent Yahoo! ownership
YTD: 13.94 ERA, 2.23 WHIP, 2.61 K/9, 3.48 BB/9, 22.2 percent GB
Oliver ROS: 4.17 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 7.7 K/9, 3.1 BB/9

Prior to the season you’d have been hard pressed to find someone less likely to pay the Yankees markup price required to own Phil Hughes than me. That said, I’ve never questioned his upside, which is plentiful and on the cheap now judging by his ownership level. Sidelined since April 15, Hughes was fantastic in a June 19 rehab start for Short Season Class-A Staten Island and reportedly throwing his fastball consistently in the 91-93 mph range, topping out at 95 mph. His next rehab start is scheduled for tonight (June 24) at the Double-A level for the Trenton Thunder.

If he maintains his velocity and suffers no setbacks, he should be recalled from his rehab assignment shortly thereafter. As surprisingly effective as the Yankees rotation has been, it’s hard to envision them doing anything with Hughes other than re-inserting him into their rotation. With that in mind, he offers a low-risk, high-reward gamble to fantasy owners.

He still has many of the same questions he did coming into the season as well as the burden of proving he can stay healthy, but those concerns are mitigated by his reduced cost. May of last season best illustrates the type of performance Hughes is capable of when he’s clicking on all cylinders (2.98 xFIP, 9.08 K/9, 1.86 BB/9), but the remainder of 2010 shows he’s still a work in progress. Check your waiver wire to see if he’s available, as there is some added value in nabbing him now and stashing him on the disabled list as opposed to waiting until he’s activated.

Recommendation: Should be stashed on fantasy disabled lists in all but the shallowest of leagues.

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Comments

  1. Josh Shepardson said...

    @Dave

    Strikeouts match his power repertoire of fastball/slider.  Track record of bouncing around organizations and his high walk rate make him a bit of a risk.  He’s also got very little shot at culturing saves behind Valverde and likely Benoit as well.  If you have an innings cap and need some strikeouts he’s not a bad addition in deeper leagues.  Just make sure to keep an eye on his strikeout rate, if that dips his free passes have a chance to blow up in his face.

  2. Nick said...

    Yeah, I wouldn’t trust Albuquerque.  His minor league K rate was good but not great for a reliever.  (10/9 innings).  He’s also got a BABIP of .222, which means that that ERA is coming up.

  3. VR said...

    Is Uehara’s potential to take the closer role the only thing that makes him a better pickup than Tyler Clippard for someone looking for help with K’s, WHIP and ERA?

  4. Sea said...

    I have Uehara in one league and he is solid as well, particularly for holds and potential saves with impact ratios, like last year..

    But… Clippard is awesome. He puts up similar K totals to most average starters, in half the innings, and his ratios are filthy. He won 11 games last year and just earned his 1st this season – more will come. He is in another league.

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