Fantasy Waiver Wire: Week 10, Vol. II

A couple of months ago, I pledged to not write about players on my beloved Mets here in this column too much, because (a) who wants to read about players on the same team each week, and (b) the truth, of course, is that there are only so many players on the Mets who do anything right, let alone are fantasy-worthy.

Besides, after watching Collin Cowgill and Jordany Valdespin do a whole lot of nothing since I wrote about them in April, it’s not as if I’m working off some super track record that suggests the Mets are some fantasy goldmine simply waiting to be explored.

But like a wino who’s just been released from the local police drunk tank, I’m back on the streets and thirsting for a new bottle of Mad Dog. And since THT scribe Scott Strandberg has already taken on Yasiel Puig and Michael Wacha, you don’t need me to echo his outstanding analysis. Instead, here are two Metropolitans who might be able to provide a fantasy boost in the near-term—and yeah, one rookie left-hander you may have heard about.

Dillon Gee | New York Mets | SP | 6 percent Yahoo ownership; .9 percent ESPN; 23 percent CBS
YTD: 64 IP / 5.20 ERA / 7.9 K/9 / 2.5 BB/9 with 4 wins
ZiPS updated: 160 IP / 4.78 ERA / 7.6 K/9 / 2.8 BB/9 with 10 wins

It turns out Gee isn’t unlike the rest of us working stiffs: When our job security is at stake, we magically turn up the productivity at work. For Gee, perhaps, the prospect of Zack Wheeler’s imminent call-up to the Mets rotation has sparked a renewed urgency that’s behind two excellent starts away against the Yankees and Nationals, wins that have seen him produce a welcome 19-to-1 K/BB ratio.

As you may recall, Gee, 27, was pitching pretty decently last year (3.54 xFIP, 3.34 K/BB ratio, 1.25 WHIP) before he was hospitalized with a blood clot in his right shoulder. The injury shut down his 2012 season, and certainly relegated him to afterthought status in all but the deepest of NL-only leagues entering this year. And he hasn’t done a whole lot to impress this season, surrendering four earned runs or more in half of his 12 starts so far.

Has anything changed in just two starts? For one thing, Gee has cut down on his mediocre change-up, a pitch that accounted for nearly a quarter of the balls that left his hand through his first 10 starts, in favor of more fastballs and curves, according to Texas Leaguers data. That’s helped lead to an increased swinging strike rate (11 percent, up from 8) and has contributed to a 2013 first-strike percentage that’s above his career mark.

His BABIP probably stands to drop a bit from its .360 level, since his 21.6 percent line drive rate, while not good, isn’t unmanageably terrible. Meanwhile, despite the mediocre two months, he’s still getting ground balls and hasn’t hurt himself with walks.

As for Wheeler taking his rotation spot, it’s hard to see the team at this point sending Gee in place of Jeremy Hefner to the bullpen, especially with Jon Niese missing a start due to a shoulder injury and the ever-injured Shaun Marcum waiting to jump onto the disabled list at a moment’s notice.

I doubt I’ll ever be a huge Gee fan, but he’s a serviceable arm who calls a bona fide pitcher’s park home. We’ll need more than two starts if we’re truly going to believe a breakout is on the way, but he’s probably a better pitcher than most people give him credit for.

Recommendation: Solid add in all NL-only leagues, though standard mixed league owners can afford to wait at least another start before picking him up.

Ike Davis | New York Mets | 1B | 38 percent Yahoo ownership; 28 percent ESPN; 43 percent CBS
YTD: 201 PA / .166 / .244 / .265 with 5 HR and 0 SB
ZiPS updated: 529 PA / .203 / .284 / .353 with 18 HR and 1 SB

If I had to guess, you’re probably thinking two things right now: One, doesn’t Davis suck at life? Two, isn’t he an established player? Why would he be waiver wire fodder?

Well, yes, he’s been gawdawful so far in 2013, to the point where his ownership—which should be at least 90 percent in a moral universe—has steadily plummeted to platoon-like levels. But we remember how the dude smacked 32 homers and 90 RBIs last year at age 25 while playing half his games in scary Citi Field, and as a former first-round pick, Davis, the son of 11-year major league veteran Ron Davis, has the pedigree to be a star.

The question is when he’ll turn it on. The good news, at least I hope, is that we’re starting to see some signs of a turnaround.

Let’s review the recent rays of light for Davis. The good times began a couple Sundays ago against the Braves, when Ike’s two-run single on national television in the eighth inning gave the Mets an emotional win. After being told a couple of days later that he had to produce or face imminent demotion to the minors, Davis came up big for the Mets in their astounding sweep of the Yankees, providing a two-run kill shot in the first inning against David Phelps that locked up the series’ third game. On Sunday, Davis connected for a moonshot in Miami, his first home run since April 25.

Perhaps most encouraging is the improvement in the strikeout area. Overall, Davis’ K rate is an awful 31.3 percent, unsightly for anyone, let alone a first baseman with such pitiful power numbers. But since Davis deployed a new batting stance last Wednesday, he’s struck out only four times in 24 plate appearances.

Baby steps, I know. But let’s not forget that Davis was similarly terrible to begin last year, when he posted a .524 OPS with just five homers through the first two months, and still finished with counting stats to be proud of. If you want to remind me that Davis’ average at no point this season has peaked above .180, go ahead. But I believe Davis is capable of being a major league power hitter, one who’s not afraid of playing in a pitcher’s park, and he’s going to pay off fantasy dividends in his career. I happen to think that could begin sooner rather than later.

Recommendation: I’m hanging onto him in NL-only leagues and keeping tabs on him in deeper mixed leagues.

Tyler Skaggs | Arizona Diamondbacks | SP | 16 percent Yahoo ownership; 9.7 percent ESPN; 51 percent CBS
YTD: 11.2 IP / 3.86 ERA / 10 K/9 / 2.3 BB/9 with 1 win
ZiPS updated: 87 IP / 4.70 ERA / 8.1 K/9 / 3.4 BB/9 with 4 wins

If you’ve read this far and haven’t thrown down your laptop in disgust over the idea that not one, but perhaps two Mets could be useful in anything deep fantasy leagues, then I should at least reward you with some talk about one of fantasy’s bright new jewels in Skaggs. But since you don’t need to travel far to read about the southpaw’s ace potential, let me pose a different question: How long will Skaggs stay in the rotation?

The background: Skaggs, 21, has already turned the minor leagues into his own personal playground and has made 18 starts in Triple-A. After making his debut last year, Skaggs in 2013 has turned in one great start (six innings, nine strikeouts, no runs) and one not-great start (five earned runs in a no-decision Tuesday against the Cardinals). I’m not clairvoyant, but I’ll assume we’d see similar fluctuation stretched out over the season, with the usual talk about an innings limit at some point, as Skaggs embarks on what everyone thinks will be a successful major league career.

Right now, owners needn’t worry about Skaggs’ job security, since he’s starting in place of Brandon McCarthy, who was placed on the DL earlier this week with shoulder inflammation. Even if McCarthy had a reputation for being healthy—that’s now nine DL trips McCarthy has made in an eight-year career—there doesn’t seem to be a timetable for his return. At the same time, McCarthy doesn’t have any structural damage in his right arm, so that suggests he could be back before the month is over.

If that were the case, and if were McCarthy were to pitch well, things could get tricky for Skaggs. Patrick Corbin has been magical since the season began, Trevor Cahill and Ian Kennedy aren’t going anywhere and despite a down start from Wade Miley, he’s probably pitched better than his lofty ERA indicates. As for Daniel Hudson, I’m not too worried about him kicking out Skaggs given that he just left a rehab start due to elbow stiffness.

But yeah, even though I’m not expecting instant dominance from Skaggs, I’d say he’s got a very decent chance to hang around the rotation going forward, and we’ll worry about an innings limit later. Given his upside, there’s no reason to ignore him in anything but the shallowest mixed leagues.

Recommendation: Green light across the board.

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Comments

  1. Wtf said...

    Ike Davis doesn’t suck at life, or even baseball. He’s just not hitting at a major-league level right now. I’m trying not to take you to literally, but that barb is a bit much.

  2. Karl de Vries said...

    Wtf,

    I kid because I love! Well, not love, but I’ve been a big fan of Davis’ since he arrived in 2010. And I’m sure he doesn’t suck at life—he’s just sucked at posting league-average batting stats thus far in 2013. But I still think he’s going to turn it around in 2013.

    Thanks,

    Karl

  3. Karl de Vries said...

    jkell—

    Maholm is an easy one—he doesn’t wow in the K department, but gets grounders, doesn’t walk people and has a nice situation in Atlanta. Besides him, I’d take Garza, who’s pitched well (albeit in just four starts) since his belated opening to 2013. I wouldn’t disagree if you didn’t trust Garza because of his arm problems that cost him six weeks, but he has a higher ceiling than Timmy the Hud, Pettitte or Ogando.

    As for Janssen vs. Valverde, I’ll probably take Janssen; his strikeout numbers are better thus far, and call me crazy, but I have more faith in his ability to stay healthy going forward than I do Valverde, even if both options provide low-end No. 1 reliever help.

    Thanks,

    Karl

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