First, it was Josh Shepardson. Then it was Paul Singman. Now, I’m taking over THT’s AL Waiver Wire column, looking at some less notable names lurking on the scrap heap of fantasy baseball leagues the nation over. As we look ahead toward August, here are a few names that might be overlooked in your league.
Zach McAllister | Cleveland Indians | SP | ESPN: 8.9 percent ownership; Yahoo: 14 percent ownership
YTD: 3.21 ERA / 1.179 WHIP / 8.4 K/9
Oliver ROS: 4.60 ERA / 1.37 WHIP / 6.1 K/9
Note: Deadlines being what they are, I’m writing this article before McAllister’s Thursday night start against the Tigers, so both the stats listed and, perhaps, my thoughts on this kid could be in dire need of updating by the time you read this. If he threw a no-hitter last night, I’m a genius. If he got torched, I’m an idiot. So this disclaimer is a way of hedging my bets so I can save face in the morning, ya dig?
I look at McAllister’s ownership percentages and something doesn’t seem right.
He’s got a sturdy job in Cleveland’s rotation at a time of the year when pitchers start to fade from overuse or wind up on the DL with various bumps and bruises. He’s boasting solid peripherals and a very good strikeout rate. And yet, for whatever reason, this guy isn’t being picked up in more leagues.
Someone needs to help me out here.
OK, so his strikeout rate isn’t completely backed up by a minor league track record of strikeout-per-inning consistency, though he’s added a half mile to his average fastball velocity over the past year. His 8.5 percent HR/FB rate has room to grow, but ESPN’s Park Factors finds that Progressive Field has basically punished would-be home run hitters this season. And what’s not up for debate is how solid that 2.7 BB/9 mark looks, since that’s right in line with his minor league career.
These reasons alone would round out a convincing argument for McAllister’s appeal. But consider this: Although 2012 (sort of) marks McAllister’s first real major league season, he’s not really on pace to zoom past the 172.1 innings (29 total starts) he pitched last year, so I’m not too worried about him fading down the stretch. Besides, at 6-foot-6, 240 pounds, we’re talking about a big boy here, a 24-year-old who should physically be able to continue pitching at a decent rate throughout the stretch run.
Even if the strikeout rate regresses and the ERA and WHIP tick up, this is a guy who has plenty of value in plenty of formats, Oliver’s pessimism be damned. All he needs is some ownership love to help legitimize him in fantasy.
Recommendation: McAllister needs to be picked up in everything resembling an AL-only league, and probably most mixed leagues, too.
A.J. Griffin | Oakland A’s | SP | ESPN: 13.2 percent ownership; Yahoo: 13 percent ownership
YTD: 2.25 ERA / .972 WHIP / 7.3 K/9
Oliver ROS: N/A
I’m a Mets fan, and thus, a National League kind of guy (perhaps one of questionable taste in organizations), so forgive me if I was unfamiliar with Griffin up until a couple of weeks ago. But as the white-hot A’s keep climbing over the .500 mark, I and the rest of fantasy baseball nation have paid attention to the 24-year-old right-hander who’s been such an integral part of the team’s recent success.
And why shouldn’t we take notice? Besides the stats listed above, he’s posted a 3-0 record, has a 2 BB/9 rate over his six starts (36 innings), pitches in an extremely favorable home ballpark, and, so far, features home/away splits that are fairly similar. His minor league numbers (3.10 ERA, 1.012 WHIP, a nearly strikeout per inning rate and better than 5 K/BB ratio) only provide fuel for his supporters, and before long, I suspect he’ll be among the most trendy pickups in mixed leagues.
But as long as we’re talking up this guy, we might as well point out the negatives: a ridiculous 88.4 percent strand rate and a .230 BABIP more befitting Justin Verlander than, say, a guy dipping his toes into the major league waters for the first time. He’s also featuring a better than 35 percent O-Swing rate which would rank near the top of the American League were he to qualify in innings pitched.
For better or for worse, six starts does not a fantasy stallion make, and yes, he’s faced the hapless Twins and Jose Bautista-less Blue Jays in two of those games (with his squad scoring 16 runs during his start against the latter). But although I think this guy is a legit prospect and assured of a regular job for the rest of the season, something tells me those peripherals are going to be calibrated before the season is through—perhaps in the form of an ugly start or two. That doesn’t mean you should shy away, especially as the A’s claw through the American League, but it doesn’t mean you should regard him as the second coming of Cy Young, either.
Recommendation: Worth a pickup in all AL-only leagues, along with deeper mixed leagues.
Jean Segura | Los Angeles Angels | SS/2B | ESPN: 0.1 percent ownership; Yahoo!: 0 percent
.000 / .000 / .000 (3 plate appearances)
Oliver ROS: N/A
You don’t have to be a fantasy genius to understand the following: When a guy gets called up after swiping 33 bases over the first three and a half months of the season, he’s going to get some attention in the waiver business. In the case of Segura, 22, his speed is accompanied by a solid .310/.364/.438 career line in the minor leagues, and, perhaps most encouraging, an impressive 12 percent strikeout rate. The Dominican shortstop was called up last week after Erick Aybar fouled a ball off his right toe, an injury that, while so far not severe enough to place him on the disabled list, is enough to keep the Angels’ starting shortstop off the diamond.
Whether he makes a splash in 2012 or beyond, Segura has some undeniable potential. No. 55 on Baseball America’s top 100 prospects entering this season, he has well-rounded tools and has proven to be a solid defensive player. On the other hand, he carries something of an injury risk after missing nearly three months last year with a strained hamstring, and is jumping from Double-A to the majors, which will only make his adjustment period that much more difficult, depending on how much playing time he receives.
And by far, that’s the biggest problem facing fantasy owners who are eyeballing Segura: whether he’ll receive enough work to make him viable. Unfortunately, the Angels have Howie Kendrick at second base and super-sub Maicer Izturis to soak up innings at shortstop, and they’ve gone ahead and plugged him in, giving him the nod in three of the four games since Aybar went down.
Where does that leave Segura? Beats me. Even if Aybar is out of action for the next, say, two weeks or so, there’s no guarantee Segura will get regular at-bats, and when Aybar returns from the minor injury, Segura will almost certainly be relegated to bench duty or another trip down to the farm to get regular ABs. Obviously, nothing is certain, and Segura is a future star. But I’m not biting on him just yet.
Recommendation: Probably worth a look in deeper AL-only leagues for owners who need steals, but his potential doesn’t merit a pickup in mixed leagues outside of the deepest dynasty formats.
Anthony Gose | Toronto Blue Jays | OF | ESPN: 0.3 percent ownership; Yahoo!: 2 percent ownership
.143 / .250 / .214
Oliver ROS: .222/.286/.345
Not to get redundant, but another American League team happened to lose a starting player due to injury last week, and, in his place, called up a promising prospect. For the Toronto Blue Jays, Jose Bautista’s wrist injury allowed the team to promote Gose, 21, to the show. Ranked as Baseball America’s 39th prospect entering the season, this guy has some serious wheels, evidenced by his 223 steals over his minor league career. He can also hit a little, as he was flashing a .292/.375/.432 mark in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League (at a hitter-friendly Las Vegas ballpark, to boot), with five home runs and 41 RBIs.
On the other hand, he was also sporting a 21.3 percent strikeout rate in Triple-A, which is just slightly better than his career mark down on the farm. And like Segura, Gose won’t offer much in the way of fantasy impact in 2012 if he can’t get his name on the lineup card on a regular basis. His chief competitors: fellow recent call-up Travis Snider, who’s knocked two home runs and six RBIs over the past week, as well as current platoon partner Rajai Davis.
As for Bautista, he’s reportedly making quick progress in his recovery, though a return date has not yet been announced.
I’m worried about Snider’s fast start, since he was crushing the ball at Triple-A and, at age 24, is both further along than Gose and someone who once sported a high ceiling of his own. If Snider performs, and Bautista returns in a couple of weeks, an outfield rounded out by Colby Rasmus won’t provide many opportunities for Gose to make his mark. But for what it’s worth, I expect him to receive more playing time than Segura, so if steals are needed, he’s probably a step ahead of the Angels’ infielder when it comes to waiver priority.
Recommendation: Worth a pickup in deeper AL-only leagues, though deeper mixed league owners can afford to sit back until he produces on a consistent basis.