AL Waiver Wire:  Week 17

Colby Rasmus| Toronto| OF| 79 percent Yahoo! ownership
YTD: .246/.332/.420
Oliver ROS: .251/.332/.423

Already owned in most leagues, Rasmus finds his way into the article this week based on his changing of leagues. Those in AL-only leagues should be prepared to spend their entire FAAB budget on him, as a better player may not cross the line from the Senior Circuit to the Junior Circuit.

Lost in looking at Rasmus’ slash line this year is that he’s been a better hitter, in spite of the “step back.” He has managed to retain his strong walk rate while cutting back on strikeouts by 7.8 percent. The biggest difference between this season and last is his drop in BABIP from .353 to .286 (a number closer to his 2009 rate of .282), and a reduction in his home run-per-fly ball rate from 14.8 percent to 9.3 percent (his 2009 rate was 9.4 percent). His batted ball profile is nearly a carbon copy year-to-year with the most notable change being an increase in pop-ups from 5.3 percent in 2009 and 5.2 percent in 2010 to 13.6 percent this year. Knowing his record, I’d expect to see his pop-up rate regress to his previous percentages.

While Jeffrey Gross does a fantastic job of looking at Rasmus, I chose to look at David Gassko’s park factors from this season as opposed to Bill James indices. The change from playing his home games in Busch Stadium to the Rogers Centre certainly would have been more substantial for a right-handed hitter, but it is hardly insignificant. The home run park factor for left-handed batters this season at Rogers Centre is 114 (100 is neutral), while the park factor is 82 at Busch Stadium, a difference of 32 percentage points. Over his first two season’s Rasmus had a noteworthy platoon split, which he made strides in changing last year. However, this is the first year that he’s hit for a higher average and a better ISO against southpaws than right handers. If he’s able to retain the growth against left handers that he’s shown this year, while reverting back to a player who hits right handers hard, Rasmus best days are to come.

Recommendation: Should be owned in all but the shallowest of leagues.

Leonys Martin| Texas| OF| Not available in Yahoo!
YTD: .332/.407/.500 (Minor league totals across three levels)
Oliver ROS: No projection

The Texas Rangers this spring added yet another talented player to their farm system: Cuban defector Leonys Martin. Since I’m not a scout, I’ll defer to John Sickels and suggest reading a brief write-up of his from early June. What I do know is that Martin’s stats have been impressive for any player, let alone one playing professional baseball in the United States for the first time. His major league equivalent for the season is .306/.359/.455, a line that would look real nice in the Rangers lineup from a center fielder. Endy Chavez has been playing above his head, so when he cools down, expect whispers of a Martin promotion to grow to a fever pitch with the Rangers well on their way to another postseason. To be eligible for the postseason he’d have to be on the active roster by Aug. 31. I’ll venture a guess that means we’ll see Martin sometime in August.

His power is showing itself in the form of gap doubles and triples as opposed to home runs, and his above average speed hasn’t resulted in great stolen base success, but Martin can be helpful this year thanks to his average and the lineup he’d be playing in. For those in keeper leagues and dynasty formats, his outlook for further development is good.

One of the most promising numbers in his minor league stat line is his strikeout total of just 21 in 184 at bats. His walk total is identical, and when paired with his batting average makes him a prototypical leadoff hitter with a top-notch on-base percentage and above average speed. If he’s called up in August, Martin is a nice option in large mixed-leagues and AL-only formats for head-to-head owners looking for some batting average help. It will be much more difficult for him to make a difference in roto leagues as it is difficult to move the average needle so late in the season. Nonetheless, owners who are nearly deadlocked in average have a chance to get a boost as well. It’s hard to believe that the Rangers will plop him in the leadoff role out of the gate, so temper run and RBI expectations.

Recommendation: Should be monitored, but not added yet in non-Yahoo! leagues that he’s available in.

Wily Mo Pena| Seattle| Util| 0 percent Yahoo! ownership
YTD: .196/.196/.522
Oliver ROS: No projection

News of mammoth man Wily Mo Pena signing a minor league contract, and perhaps finding his way to the Mariners roster this summer to help a struggling offense, is no longer a laughable footnote these days with power at such a premium.

The book is unchanged on Pena: He still punishes fastballs and embarrasses himself against breaking balls. The Mariners brass has previously been unfazed by high strikeout rates with Russell Branyan and Jack Cust serving as prime examples. That doesn’t mean fantasy owners should ignore it, but it does mean that those in need of some power with wiggle room in batting average should monitor Pena’s situation. If he receives semi-regular at bats, he’s capable of giving team home runs a slight jolt.

In just 46 plate appearances with the Diamondbacks, he popped five home runs, only one of which came at the launching pad that is Chase Field. That somewhat lessens the concern of moving to a home ballpark that is death on right-handed power. A one-trick pony, Pena won’t appeal to most, but specialists have their place in this game.

Recommendation: Should be monitored, and added by owners in desperate need of power in large mixed leagues and AL-only formats if he plays semi-regularly for the Mariners.

Rich Harden| Oakland| SP| 10 percent Yahoo! ownership
YTD: 4.63 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 8.87 K/9, 3.09 BB/9, 36.4 percent GB rate
Oliver ROS: 4.32 ERA, 1.36 WHIP, 9.3 K/9, 4.2 BB/9

His ERA may not inspire much confidence in gamers looking for pitching help, but Harden is back to striking out hitters at a high clip, and he’s doing it while keeping his walk rate in check. The numbers that best support Harden’s strikeout rate are his better than league average swinging strike rate and his outside the strike zone swing (o-swing) rate.

The number one key to Harden being a fantasy asset the rest of this year is staying healthy. That could obviously be said about any player, but most players don’t own the lengthy injury history of Harden, making it far from a sure thing. Harden is an extreme fly ball pitcher, so there are times it would behoove owners to sit him, but playing his home games at spacious McAfee Coliseum will help. It’s surprising to see a name brand player like Harden available in so many leagues. Those in need of pitching help should add Harden and reap the benefits of his bountiful strikeout rate until the wheels fall off the bus.

Recommendation: Should be owned in all but the shallowest of leagues.

Alex Cobb| Tampa Bay| SP| 7 percent Yahoo! ownership
YTD: 2.57 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 5.14 K/9, 3.43 BB/9, 56.0 percent GB rate
Oliver ROS: 4.54 ERA, 1.37 WHIP, 6.2 K/9, 3.1 BB/9

It’s difficult for me to strongly endorse a player with such a low strikeout rate and such an unimpressive walk rate (his walk rate has improved greatly since May), but Cobb’s success in the majors and high minors success make him worth mentioning. His stuff isn’t overwhelming, but it is good enough that, combined with his pitching polish, allowed him rack up better than a strikeout per inning in the high minors this year and last.

That success hasn’t carried over to the majors, but suggests he might be able to add to his paltry current rate as he settles in. His ability to induce ground balls at a high rate lends hope he’ll be able to compete against American League East offensive behemoths like the Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees and Toronto Blue Jays. For now, Cobb is a pitch and ditch option when the match-up is right, but he has potential to be more if he’s able to recapture some of his minor league strikeout success.

Recommendation: Should be started against weak offenses in large mixed leagues and AL-only leagues.

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Comments

  1. DZ said...

    Wondering if it makes sense to drop James McDonald for Harden.  McDonald hasn’t allowed more than 3 ER in a game in eons and his BB/K rates are better than Harden.  Plus i think his team is offering more run support than the A’s.

    Gavin Floyd’s also about to come off waivers.

    Thoughts?

  2. Davie said...

    Wondering your thoughts on Fukudome as an Indian.  How much of your FAAB would you spend to have him for the rest of the year in an AL only league?  How does he compare to someone like David DeJesus?

  3. Josh Shepardson said...

    @ DZ,

    I would personally rather have Harden than McDonald.  The biggest knock on Harden is his ability to stay healthy, when he’s healthy he’s usually a solid strikeout option.  With McDonald, the question is consistancy, and I wouldn’t feel comfortable trotting him out start to start.  He has been really good in July, but walked more hitters than he struck out in June.  Before that he was very good in May.  Tough to know what you are going to get from McDonald.

    Gavin Floyd absolutely baffles me.  I loved him early in the season, but his groundball rate has slid significantly from what it was in the early going.  His strikeout rate has fluctuated, and was at its worst in June.  His walk rate has been exceptional in July, and he’s on quite the run, but the strikeouts are still lacking a bit.  I’m on the fence as to whether I like he or Harden more.  The thing that puzzles me the most about Floyd is that looking at his velocity by month, thinking that perhaps it was down during his awful June, maybe hiding an injury or something, it was actually at its highest of any point this season.  I can’t figure him out.

  4. Josh Shepardson said...

    @ Davie

    I’m not overly impressed with Fukodome.  Obviously in an AL-only league, just getting regular PT is worth something, but he’s pounding the ball into the dirt more so than usual this year.  His ISO is sub .100 which is embarrassing.  Maybe a change of scenery will do him good, and perhaps the Indians won’t shield him from lefties like the Cubs did (his AVG and numbers against them have been passable this year and last), but I don’t see him being much better than DeJesus.  It really wouldn’t surprise me at all to see DeJesus out perform him going forward for a matter of fact.

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