A quick look at the hottest pickups in CBS shows that my earlier pessimism about Raul Ibanez was a bit presumptuous, even if I still regard him as little more than a hot hand to ride as opposed to a regular fantasy outfielder. Meanwhile, my boy Rick Porcello has gotten knocked around recently, including a dreadful start against the Orioles that saw him cough up seven earned runs. Fortunately for my ego, Wednesday’s guest star Leonys Martin launched two home runs that night against the Yankees, as he continues to evolve from being a pure speed option to a more well-rounded option capable of being slotted in the outfield of many standard mixed leagues.
June is ending and July is right around the corner. As we rub our eyes in disbelief, let’s continue our journey of finding fantasy gold among the depths of waiver wire world.
Jose Iglesias | Boston Red Sox | SS / 3B | 18 percent Yahoo ownership; 69.4 percent ESPN; 45 percent CBS
YTD: 130 PA / .419 / .469 / .556 with 1 HR and 1 SB
ZiPS updated: 354 PA / .330 / .379 / .420 with 2 HR and 6 SB
The Red Sox were only going to tolerate Will Middlebrooks and his .192 average at third base for so long, even after a successful rookie season that caused the team to part with Kevin Youkilis. Into the spotlight of full-time play comes Iglesias, 23, who already features shortstop eligibility and has produced an eye-opening .419 average in 130 plate appearances.
That average, bolstered by an insane .475 BABIP entering Thursday’s play, would be ticketed to come back down to earth even if he was a better hitter, but for a guy with a .257 / .307 / .314 minor league line, we’re waiting for gravity to do its thing. Still, the 12.3 percent strikeout rate and 89.3 percent contact rates have both shown improvement in Iglesias’ third season, so perhaps even a sharp regression won’t completely nix his fantasy value. He certainly leaves much to be desired in the home run and steals departments, and a look at his minor league numbers doesn’t inspire confidence that he’ll suddenly turn it around there.
To an extent, all this is immaterial, because we’re talking about a hot player who can satisfy two of the thinnest positions on the fantasy diamond, and what was likely holding back owners in many leagues from pouncing on Iglesias a few weeks ago was the lack of playing time. Middlebrooks is not nearly as awful as his average suggests, but he’s also not coming back tomorrow, and besides, with Stephen Drew forever an injury risk, there’s no reason to think that at least three or four weeks of regular playing time isn’t in the cards for Iglesias. Let’s just hope he’s gentle in gliding his batting average back to sustainable levels.
Eric Young | New York Mets | OF | 5 percent Yahoo ownership; 4.4 percent ESPN; 16 percent CBS
YTD: 212 PA / .268 / .317 / .381 with 1 HR and 9 SB
ZiPS updated: 429 PA / .254 / .314 / .358 with 3 HR and 23 SB
No, Eric Young Jr. will likely never turn into the all-star player that his dad was, but hey, athleticism is athleticism, and anyone who’s been watching Mets telecasts lately can testify that Young’s 1.020 OPS in seven games has produced a breath of fresh air atop the team’s feeble lineup. With Collin Cowgill out of the picture, Jordany Valdespin out of favor with manager Terry Collins and the Mets out of what people call competitive baseball, Young is going to get his share of at-bats, which, as far as fantasy owners are concerned, means stolen bases.
Young, 28, is already in his fifth major league season, and has a not-awful .267 / .334 / .350 line to show for it. He finished 2012 with a .316 average for the Rockies, and was earning regular playing time when an oblique injury ended his season in mid-August.
This year, Young has improved his line drive rate to a solid 21.5 percent, and is hitting the ball on the ground more compared to last year, which is a good sign for such a speedy player. (On that last note, it was wonderful to watch Young score on a shallow fly ball Tuesday against the White Sox’ Alex Rios, a daring play that most baserunners would never have dreamed of attempting.)
So far in New York, the steals haven’t arrived yet for Young, but that should change, given the Mets’ lack of offense and the presence of number-two hitter Daniel Murphy, an excellent contact man who provides solid protection for baserunners. Young isn’t a .300 hitter, but a .250-.260 average for a player who can produce steals in bunches isn’t such a drag as to nullify his fantasy usefulness. Expect his ownership levels to start climbing soon once people realize he has an everyday gig.
Recommendation: Young is just a one-category player for the time being, but he could quickly become a deeper mixed league option soon enough.
Nathan Eovaldi | Miami Marlins | SP | 3 percent Yahoo ownership; .6 percent ESPN; 11 percent CBS
YTD: 12 IP / 3.00 ERA / 7.5 K/9 / 2.6 BB/9 with 1 win
ZiPS updated: 68 IP / 4.47 ERA / 6.8 K/9 / 3.8 BB/9 with 4 wins
This might sound a bit strange, but for me, the thing that’s most encouraging about the 23-year-old Eovaldi is his build: at 6-foot-2, 215 pounds, he looks like a power pitcher, and that’s not the least bit odd, because with a fastball that screams in the mid- to upper 90s, power is the word with this guy. After missing the first two and a half months with shoulder inflammation, Eovaldi, the centerpiece of last year’s blockbuster between Miami and Los Angeles, should certainly be able to count on having a full-time gig in the Marlins’ rotation for the rest of the year.
Being on the Marlins, of course, won’t do much to help Eovaldi get wins, and his career 6.02 K/9 shows his live arm has yet to translate to big strikeout numbers. (His punchout rate is better in the minors, but not near the strikeout-per-inning level that makes fantasy owners salivate.) The walks could also be a problem, since his control wasn’t much better compared to what ZiPS has in mind for him going forward in 2013.
But he’s pitched well so far in his two starts (even if the Diamondbacks and Giants’ lineups are hardly world beaters), allowing just three walks against 10 strikeouts. Of course, that’s a tiny sample size, and judging by Eovaldi’s ownership levels, the fantasy community by and large wants to see more out of this guy before pulling the trigger. But a live arm is a live arm, and with nothing if not opportunity ahead in 2013, Eovaldi is someone who should be on the radar screens of deeper mixed league owners.
Recommendation: He’s an immediate add in all NL-only leagues, even if mixed-leaguers might want to wait for a larger sample size.