AL Waiver Wire:  Week 7

Manny Ramirez| Oakland A’s| OF| ESPN: 1.3 percent ownership, Yahoo! : 4 percent ownership
YTD: .250/.357/.250 (Triple-A)
Oliver rest of season: .269/.372/.441

Will Manny be Manny when he joins the A’s active roster on May 30?

He’s a wild card, something I addressed at Fantasy Baseball 365 last week, but one with some upside. Anyone dreaming on Ramirez turning back the clock to his glory days needs to wake up, but gamers that look at his 2010 end-of-season line and see a player who could provide value to their roster should take note of his impending return. His atrocious 17-plate-appearance stay with the Rays last season may cast some doubt in the minds of many, but they are nothing more than 17 plate appearances. Weighing them too heavily would be a mistake.

What could prove more telling is what he was able to do in his last extended run of playing time, which came the season before as a member of the Dodgers and White Sox. In 2010 he showed superb plate discipline, and displayed the ability to barrel the ball up. His line drive rate that year was 22.7 percent, and actually jumped from 21.1 percent with the Dodgers to 28.3 percent with the White Sox, in spite of a 50-point drop in batting average. The culprit for the drop in average was a jump in pop-ups—his infield flyball rate skied to 21.4 percent. Things got worse with the Rays; that rate more than doubled to 50 percent. Perhaps this is an indicator that he is done being a productive hitter, but 105 plate appearances of a high pop-up rate are far too few for me to feel comfortable making that declaration.

One thing fairly safe to guess is that his home run output will be down. He’ll be playing his home games in a ballpark that is pitcher friendly, though it is much tougher on left-handed power than right-handed pop. Even with a dip in power expected, if he is able to spray line drives around the field, he should help fantasy squads in batting average. Factor in that he is projected to be the club’s primary designated hitter, and that he may hit cleanup, and he could bring run production stats to the table.

His stats in Triple-A don’t jump off the page, but given his layoff, they aren’t embarrassing, either. Feel free to take a flier on Ramirez if you are an owner in need of offensive production in deeper leagues where the pickings are slim.
Recommendation: Should be owned in some large mixed leagues starting five outfielders as well as some AL-only leagues.

Coco Crisp| Oakland A’s| OF| ESPN: 29.8 percent, Yahoo! : 28 percent ownership
YTD: .175/.233/.188
Oliver ROS: .263/.321/.390

There are three things in life you can count on: death, taxes, and Crisp missing parts of seasons with injuries and ailments.

Recycled unfunny joke aside, when Crisp is on the diamond, he is a worthy player of fantasy owners’ attention due to his elite stolen base ability. Between 2010 and 2011, Crisp stole 81 bases, placing him sixth in the majors in that time frame. He was one stolen base behind Ichiro Suzuki, but received 542 fewer plate appearances.

A big part of the reason he has less than 1,000 plate appearances over the last two seasons is his propensity to miss time with injuries. This season hasn’t been much different, but Crisp has not been injured in 2012—he has missed time with a sinus infection and an inner ear infection. The inner ear infection resulted in a trip to the disabled list in early May. He was recently activated, and should be in the A’s lineup on a near-daily basis.

His sub-Mendoza line batting average makes him a cheap target in leagues in which he is owned, and his low ownership rate suggests he’s available for free in many others. Crisp won’t fill up the stat sheet, but he has enough pop to hit a handful of home runs, and he hits well enough to finish with a passable batting average. His ability to thieve bags is why he should be owned in most leagues, though, and anything else he does should be considered nothing more than gravy. Owners who could use a jolt to their stolen base bottom line need to invest in Crisp.
Recommendation: Should be owned in all but shallow leagues.

Gordon Beckham| Chicago White Sox| 2B| ESPN: 8.1 percent ownership, Yahoo! : 8 percent ownership
YTD: .204/.268/.359
Oliver ROS: .244/.305/.380

Beckham’s solid debut in 2009 feels like a distant memory, and to some degree, for good reason. He has stunk up the joint, and it appears he has failed to make adjustments to big league pitchers adjusting to him. It looked like much of the same broken Beckham through April, but something funny has happened in May: He has looked like a competent hitter once again. May didn’t only bring showers this year, but also brought back memories of a promising young hitter.

He has hit for power this month, ripping five home runs and sporting a .229 ISO in 92 plate appearances. He has cut down on strikeouts without sacrificing walks. In fact, his walk rate has gone up ever so slightly in May.

More encouraging still is that he has stopped popping the ball up at an absurd rate. In April, he had an infield flyball rate of 30.0 percent. That mark is down to 11.5 percent in May. Pop-ups were a problem last season as well, and any change to his batted ball data that includes a reduction to them is a positive.

He is also hitting more line drives, providing yet another reason for guarded optimism. His .241 batting average this month needs to be mentioned, as it does put into perspective that not all is great in the world of Beckham. However, he was talented enough to warrant a first-round selection in the 2008 amateur draft, and he should be monitored going forward. Owners in large mixed leagues using a middle infield position, and those in AL-only formats, should add Beckham now and see what this glimmer of hope leads to.
Recommendation: Should be owned in most large mixed leagues that use a middle infield position and most AL-only leagues.

Drew Smyly| Detroit Tigers| SP| ESPN: 40.6 percent ownership, Yahoo!: 33 percent ownership
YTD: 2.89 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 2.68 BB/9, 9.07 K/9, 37.6 percent ownership
Oliver ROS: 4.17 ERA, 1.36 WHIP, 3.4 BB/9, 7.2 K/9

As a prospect, Smyly got higher marks on his pitching intellect and polish than his stuff. He used his brain, and his ability to locate the baseball, to mow down High-A and Double-A batters last season. This year he came into spring training with an opportunity to win a spot in the Tigers rotation, and he did just that. He has rewarded the club for putting him in the rotation, and he has showcased a more intriguing repertoire than I would have expected given his scouting reports.

According to his Brooks Baseball player card, his four-seam fastball is averaging 92.13 mph, plenty of velocity for a southpaw. He also mixes in a cutter, a slider, a change-up, and infrequently a curveball or sinker for good measure. His four-seam fastball demonstrates a slightly above average whiff/swing rate, and his change-up and cutter a slightly below average whiff/swing rate. His slider and curveball, though, result in well above average empty swings.

He has had some good fortune with stranding runners, and is likely to see regression to his ERA, but there are reasons to believe he can be a useful pitcher in large mixed leagues and AL-only leagues. The optimist in me believes he’ll outplay his Oliver rest of season projection slightly.
Recommendation: He should be owned in most large mixed leagues and all AL-only leagues.

Andy Pettitte| New York Yankees| SP| ESPN: 44.2, Yahoo! : 36 percent ownership
YTD: 2.53 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 2.11 BB/9, 8.02 K/9, 56.1 percent GB
Oliver ROS: 3.92 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 2.9 BB/9, 6.8 K/9

I indicated above that Man-Ram won’t be turning back the clock, but Pettitte is doing just that. Coming into the season, the Yankees appeared to have too many capable starters for just five spots in the rotation, and now, Pettitte finds himself filling a need for the Bronx Bombers. He is pounding the strike zone, inducing ground balls, and most surprisingly, missing bats with regularity.

Pettitte’s fastball doesn’t have as much giddy-up as it once did—he’s 39 years old—but he was never a pitcher who got by on velocity. At his best, he filled up the strike zone and was able to coax batters into hitting the ball into the ground. That formula is working once again, in spite of his loss of velocity. He is using a five-pitch mix to befuddle and tie up opposing hitters. He is throwing three varieties of fastballs. His four-seam heater is getting the most use, but is backed by a cutter and sinker as well.

He is further keeping batters off balance by sprinkling in his curveball, 11 percent usage, and his change-up, six percent. His four-seam fastball has resulted in a whiff/swing rate of nearly a league average pitchIQ score, while his sinker and cutter are well above the norm. His curveball is missing bats at a poor rate, but he is making up for that fact by getting called strikes with the offering 46.88 percent of the time.

Pettitte is making the most of what he’s got. He isn’t going to continue to post a sub-3.00 ERA or strike out more than eight batters per-nine innings. Even still, Oliver’s projection is reasonable, and as such, he looks like a fantastic option to round out fantasy staffs in large mixed leagues and AL-only formats. It remains to be seen how he’ll hold up to the rigors of a full season’s worth of work after sitting out the entire 2011 campaign, but backed by a top 10 scoring offense, and the owner of sparkling controllable stats, he is worth gambling on.
Recommendation: Should be owned in most large mixed leagues and AL-only formats.

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Comments

  1. Perry said...

    Aside from ManRam, what leagues are any of the others actually available in? Not free agents in any of the dozen leagues I see……

  2. Josh Shepardson said...

    @ Perry

    Sorry this particular Waiver Wire isn’t helpful to you, but as you can see from the ownership percentages, all are available in the majority of Yahoo! and ESPN leagues (or were at the time of publishing this).  Most weeks this column slants in favor of larger league formats, but the article is meant to cater to folks in leagues of varying sizes.  Those in shallower leagues will get little value out of the suggestions of adding Manny Ramirez and Gordon Beckham.  Conversely, large mixed league and AL-only league gamers won’t find Drew Smyly, Andy Pettitte, and Coco Crisp available on the wire.

  3. John Adams said...

    A peek over to fangraphs and we see that Andy has an almost 98% strand rate and a .255 BAPIP.  Does this point to some serious regression?

    Also, from 2007-2009 he was at best an end-of-rotation SP in my 12 team leagues.  2010 and this year seem like outliers. Thus a question regarding your discussion of his pitch selection:

    Has he changed his repertoire & does this account for his recent success?

  4. Josh Shepardson said...

    @ John Adams

    There is definitely going to be regression for Pettitte.  That strand rate is crazy high, and the BABIP will go up.  However, there should also be big regression to his 25% HR/FB rate as well.  I could see him settling in as a mid-3.00’s-to-low-4.00’s ERA type.  His groundball rate is promising in helping avoid the pitfalls of pitching at Yankee Stadium. 

    His repertoire hasn’t really changed.  His Brooks Baseball Player card tracks back to 2007, and shows him throwing the same three fastballs (4-seam, sinker, cutter) as well as a curveball and change-up.  The usage of each pitch has changed a bit from season to season, but nothing stands out as being a dramatic change.  He is a tough pitcher to figure out.  Look at his FanGraphs player card and you’ll see his GB rate fluctuate season to season.  The same can be said of his walk and strikeout rates.  For now, I’d ride him while he is hot and see where it goes.  He’s pitched well enough to earn more than one bad start, but his leash probably shouldn’t be too long either.

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