AL Waiver Wire:  Week 9

Russell Branyan| Los Angeles (American League)| 1B| 1 percent Yahoo! ownership
YTD: .183/.244/.280
Oliver ROS: No projection

Three-true-outcomes cult hero Russell Branyan makes his return to the American League, though he’s yet to make his presence felt. There is one reason, and only one reason to own Branyan, and that’s his home run contributions. In somewhat limited plate appearances in both Cleveland and Seattle last year, he managed to club 25 home runs, and just the year before he smacked 31 in a full season with Seattle.

Now Branyan finds himself donning an Angels uniform and hoping to showcase his pop seeing duty as designated hitter and occasionally spelling Mark Trumbo at first base. Expect the Angels to sit Branyan against left-handers; his career batting average is just .199 against them. Monitor his playing time situation, as he’s an expendable veteran who may not have much of a leash. Should he retain a job the remainder of the year, Branyan should be a cheap source of power for those who can stomach the average in deep mixed-leagues and AL-only formats.

Recommendation: Should be owned by power-starved owners in deep mixed-leagues using a corner infielder and AL-only formats.

Tsuyoshi Nishioka| Minnesota| 2B/SS| 16 percent Yahoo! ownership
YTD: .208/.269/.250
Oliver ROS: .293/.354/.415

Nishioka played a full nine-inning game in extended spring training on Thursday and should begin a rehab assignment in affiliated ball soon. The Twins would like him to play at least 10 rehab games, so a late June return to the parent club is possible.

With just 26 plate appearance in the majors, it’s entirely too early to draw any conclusions from his underwhelming slash line. A career .304 hitter in Japan, and a .346 hitter last year, he has a chance to be helpful in average should his game translate well to major league baseball. He also displayed moderate pop and some stolen base ability, though he did get caught stealing more often than one would like to see. The Twins plan on playing him at shortstop when he returns, but for those in Yahoo! leagues, that means little as he already holds positional eligibility there in addition to second base. With the dearth of talent at the middle infield positions, Nishioka could prove a worthwhile DL stash and gamble for those in need of help at the position.

Recommendation: Should be monitored while rehabbing, and added by owners in deep mixed-leagues and AL-only formats in need of help at middle infielder if all goes well on the assignment.

Sean Rodriguez| Tampa Bay| 2B/3B/SS/OF| 15 percent Yahoo! ownership
YTD: .227/.325/.436
Oliver ROS: .244/317/.437

While having a four-position eligible player is great for roster flexibility, it does little good if the hitter is contributing little to nothing to your team’s bottom line. In Rodriguez’ case, his eligibility has been more novelty than useful thus far this year, but that appears to be changing. Rodriguez has posted solid numbers against left handers, but struggled against right handers both this year and last. At the end of May it was reported that he worked with Rays hitting coach Derek Shelton to help correct his flaws against right-handed pitching. Shelton suggested Rodriguez use a leg kick as a timing mechanism against righties, and the early results have been favorable.

The Rays have gotten little offensive contributions from Reid Brignac and Elliot Johnson at shortstop, opening the door for Rodriguez to see some extensive playing time there. He’s a free swinger, so it is likely Rodriguez will be a detriment to batting average. However, he offers enough power and speed upside to be a useful fantasy commodity to deep leaguers. Deep mixed-leaguers and AL-only gamers may wish to speculate on Rodriguez being able to sustain his new-found success against righties.

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

Alex Gordon| Kansas City| 3B/OF| 85 percent Yahoo! ownership
YTD: .285/.351/.489
Oliver ROS: .252/.344/.434

More than a third of the way through the season, Alex Gordon owners may still be trying to figure out what exactly they have on their hands. One game in March, plus all of April saw Gordon hit .339 thanks in large part to an unsustainable .407 BABIP. May swung the pendulum in the opposite direction as his BABIP dropped to a miserable .263 mark. Some owners may look at his .234 average in May and wonder if Gordon is reverting back to the underachieving former prospect of seasons past, and cursing themselves for missing out on a selling opportunity. Those are the owners to exploit, as Gordon appears to have turned the corner this season.

Prior to this season, it was looking more and more like Gordon may be best suited in a platoon, sitting against southpaws. This season, albeit in just 78 plate appearances, he’s shown significant progress against them. His May line may not be pretty, but it is encouraging to see him taking to the air with his batted balls. He has solid power potential, but only if he’s lofting the ball. As you’d expect, more fly balls yielded more home runs for Gordon in the month of May. Finding a happy medium between the two months in batted ball distribution would be ideal, and is the next step to furthering Gordon’s value. For now, he appears to be a post-hype sleeper figuring it out as he goes, and one worth investing in if he can be had at a reasonable cost.

Recommendation: Should be universally owned.

Aaron Crow| Kansas City| SP/RP| 46 percent Yahoo! ownership
YTD: 1.33 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 8.61 K/9, 3.00 BB/9, 52.9 percent GB
Oliver ROS: 5.34 ERA, 1.55 WHIP, 6.5 K/9, 4.1 BB/9

Almost certainly long gone in most competitive leagues, Crow has been inserted into the Royals closer role after Joakim Soria removed himself this week. Because he’s still unowned in 54 percent of Yahoo! leagues though, he bears mentioning. Already helpful in the ratios and strikeouts department, Crow will now be able to contribute in saves so long as the Royals turn to him to close games.

Soria’s season has been messy, so it remains to be seen how long he’ll cede his closer role to Crow. If Corw’s unowned in your league, he needs to be added immediately. There is some risk in trading for him in leagues in which he’s already owned, but the upside is substantial as he does everything you could ask for from a late-game stopper striking out a healthy number of hitters, limiting walks, and inducing a ton of ground balls.

Recommendation: Should be universally owned.

Felipe Paulino| Kansas City| SP/RP| 0 percent Yahoo! ownership
YTD: 4.50 ERA, 1.46 WHIP, 7.88 K/9, 2.63 BB/9, 52.9 percent GB
Oliver ROS: 4.60 ERA, 1.47 WHIP, 7.6 K/9, 4.2 BB/9

Traditionally more of a thrower than a pitcher, Paulino gets a fresh start with the Royals, who hope to get more out of him than his previous employers, the Rockies and Astros. So far so good in 9.1 innings spread between one relief appearance and one start for his new ball club: He’s allowed zero earned runs and, most importantly, walked no hitters.

Blessed with a blazing heater, and a wipeout slider, he’ll need to effectively use either, or both, his curveball and change-up if he hopes to have long-term success replacing Nathan Adcock in the Royals rotation. Fortunate to have most of Wednesday afternoon off, I watched a bit of his turn against the Angels and came away impressed with the way he mixed his pitches to keep hitters off balance. He’s still a work in progress, but Paulino’s strong career strikeout rate, and stuff to support it, make him worth keeping tabs on in deep mixed-leagues and AL-only leagues.

Recommendation: Should be monitored in deep mixed-leagues and AL-only formats.

Justin Masterson| SP/RP| Cleveland| 80 percent Yahoo! ownership
YTD: 3.07 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 6.26 K/9, 3.19 BB/9, 55.7 percent GB
Oliver ROS: 4.60 ERA, 1.47 WHIP, 7.6 K/9, 4.2 BB/9

Masterson is a rare player who may be sellable to statistically inclined fantasy owners. Not overly lucky, Masterson’s FIP, xFIP and tERA all sit within reasonable range of his ERA. They also don’t tell the whole story with him, though. Masterson has traded some strikeouts for a reduced walk rate, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it leaves something to be desired in the strikeout department. His groundball rate remains fantastic, but his biggest problem remains the same: He still struggles against left handers. Hell on right-handed batters, Masterson’s pitch repertoire simply doesn’t lend itself well to getting southpaws out. Until he adopts a pitch that he can neutralize left-handers with, he’ll remain a pitcher who teases with good starts against right-handed heavy lineups but isn’t consistent enough to rely heavily on in a start-to-start basis.

Recommendation: Should be owned in some medium-sized mixed-leagues, all large mixed-leagues, and all AL-only formats, but benched against strong left-handed lineups.

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Comments

  1. Jeffrey Gross said...

    I think Masterson’s a trade candidate at this point, if possible.

    His xWHIP is 1.38 (though extreme GB pitchers tend to have higher xWHIPs), and his eFIP is much higher than his xFIP/ERA….

  2. Josh Shepardson said...

    @ Jeffrey

    I was really banking on you posting his xWHIP and eFIP, glad you didn’t disappoint, haha.  I have no Microsoft Office and need to re-download Open Office so I’ve yet to be able to play around with your new gadget.

  3. Will Hatheway said...

    Funny that the Nats have Storen as a supplementary pick for Crow not signing with them as the 9th overall the year before…

  4. jon said...

    Is there an easy way to figure out the handedness of a team’s lineup? I don’t want to look at each individual batter in the lineup my pitcher’s facing.

  5. Josh Shepardson said...

    @jon

    I would imagine opening the team’s roster page their team website or on the site you play fantasy baseball at it ahold show each player’s handedness.  Not 100 percent certain and I’m posting from my phone so I haven’t looked.  Hopefully that’s of some help.

  6. jeffrey gross said...

    “If Corw’s unowned in your league, he needs to be added immediately”

    hehe spelling.

  7. carter said...

    Hi Josh, how goes it?

    Thoughts on Volstad, please? Baseball HQ thinks the signs are favorable. Thanks a lot.

  8. Jos Shepardson said...

    @carter

    Interesting name drop.  I hadn’t looked at ERA/xFIP differential over at FanGraphs in a while, but his is over 2 runs, which is hiding some substantial skills growth.  His strikeout rate isn’t spectacular, but it is respectable, and supported by more swinging strikes this year.  He also has cut back on the walks, which is tremendous, and he’s still inducing a ton of groundballs.  He’s had some poor HR/FB luck as well as poor luck on his strand rate.  His WHIP is unlikely to be better than average-ish because of his ground ball slant (Jeffrey Gross points that out in discussing his xWHIP tool), but you still take the trade off as ground balls are less damaging. 

    Baseball HQ is correct in pointing out favorable signs, Volstad could be helpful in deep mixed leagues and NL-only leagues and is worth monitoring.  Could be an okay option as a pitch-and-ditch in medium sized mixed leagues as well.

  9. Chad said...

    Why list someone like Gordon in a WW review when he’s nearly universally owned?  He was drafted in deeper leagues and has likely never been on the WW in them.

  10. Josh Shepardson said...

    @Chad

    Sorry I didn’t do a better job pointing this out, but beginning last week both myself and Jeffrey decided to include a player worth trading for and one worth shopping as part of the article.  With a significant chunk of the season in the books, a lot of owners are likely looking to deal for players to help shore up statistical categories.  Thus, in addition to our typical coverage of free agents we wanted to add a little something to the column for the time being.  If you (the readers) don’t like the change,  please e-mail us or let us know in the commentary.  Ultimately we aim to please you guys, so feedback is always encouraged.

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