Fantasy Waiver Wire: Week 14, Vol. II

I’m happy to report that recent waiver wire alumnus Lonnie Chisenhall has played decently since rejoining the Tribe a couple weeks ago, compiling a .749 OPS and perhaps laying the groundwork for a productive second half. Meanwhile, Nathan Eovaldi put together a masterful performance against the Padres on Sunday (albeit without any strikeouts, mystifying us in the comments section), though Eric Young Jr., while contributing hits for his new squad in New York, hasn’t yet delivered on the stolen bases I’m confident he’ll produce in the upcoming weeks.

Anyway, that’s old business. Time to look at three new waiver wire candidates this week.

Jhoulys Chacin | Colorado Rockies | SP | 25 percent Yahoo ownership; 27 percent ESPN; 61 percent CBS
YTD: 95.1 IP / 3.59 ERA / 5.1 K/9 / 2.6 BB/9 with 7 wins
ZiPS updated: 167 IP / 3.80 ERA / 5.8 K/9 / 3 BB/9 with 11 wins

I like Chacin, and it has nothing to do with his baseball aptitude. I just like saying his name: Yo-leese Sha-seen. Yo-leese Sha-seen. Yo-leese Sha-seen. It just rolls off the tongue, don’t you think?

Okay, we’re moving on.

But seriously, the Venezuelan with the smooth-sounding surname has been a hot fantasy commodity recently, as a four-start string has produced a 4-0 record with a 1.26 ERA and .942 WHIP. We know that Coors Field is about as scary a place there is for a major league pitcher to receive his fan mail, but on the other hand, results are results—and this is an, ahem, results business.

First things first: Chacin is by no means a newcomer to major league circles, having first appeared in 2009. A former top prospect in the Rockies system, right-hander Chacin exploded in his first full season in 2010 posting a 3.28 ERA while gunning down hitters at a strikeout-per-inning rate. With a very manageable 0.7 HR/9 rate, Chacin seemed like a rare jewel in the Colorado mountains, a pitcher able to overcome the thin air to produce fantasy goodness for his owners.

Well, the fairy tale never really took off after that. His K/BB ratio, which wasn’t terribly pretty to begin with, closed even further in 2011, and a pectoral injury last year blew apart three and a half months of his season. By the time 2013 began, Chacin’s fantasy stock was that of a mediocre NL-only depth starter pitching in a ballpark that scared away waiver wire scavengers. It’s safe to say that by the time mid-June rolled around, he looked every bit of the 4.59 ERA and meh 5.8 K/9 that his stat line carried until his four-start return to prominence.

How legit are those four wins? Not to pour cold water here, but the teams he faced—two starts against the Nationals, one apiece versus the Phillies and Giants—feature average or below average lineups, as far as wRC+ is concerned. The strikeouts, meanwhile, completely disappeared over that time (3.5 K/9), helping plunge his 2013 punch-out clip to a point where he’s a Tim Hudson-like liability in category leagues.

Zooming out, a few other red flags become apparent. For starters, there’s the 66.8 percent strand rate that, while not unsustainable, is well below his career mark, suggesting an equalization is just around the corner. He’s relied a bit more on his two-seam fastball at the expense of his breaking pitches over his recent success, Texas Leaguers’ data tells us, but not to the extent where a Rick Porcello-like evolution is apparent. And while his FIP backs up his solid ERA, his xFIP (4.10) thinks he’s been lucking out on fly balls—precisely the kind of bad news one doesn’t want to hear about a Coors Field starter.

In the waiver wire business, such complaints are not necessarily enough to prevent a pitching-hungry owner from snatching up Chacin, particularly in NL-only leagues, since a hot hand is a hot hand. But I gave up believing that Chacin would make good on his once high-end promise a couple years ago, and four good starts isn’t enough to make me change my mind.

Recommendation: Pass in most mixed leagues.

Rajai Davis | Toronto Blue Jays | OF | 27 percent Yahoo ownership; 55 percent ESPN; 35 percent CBS
YTD: 141 PA / .321 / .357 / .405 with 1 HR and 21 steals
ZiPS updated: 344 PA / .291 / .331 / .387 with 3 HR and 40 steals

What would a waiver wire column from me be without at least one advertisement for Stolen Base Helper of the Week? That’s right, fantasy sports fans: speed demon Rajai Davis is not only still alive but now has full-time playing time on his hands, thanks to knee tendinitis that landed Melky Cabrera on the disabled list a few days ago. Not that anyone who pretends to play fantasy baseball isn’t aware of Rajai’s basepath kleptomania, but I would like to alert you to the seven swipes and .890 OPS he compiled over the past week entering Tuesday’s action.

As a hitter, Davis and his career .319 OBP have never qualified him as a complete top-of-the-order package, so until we get a larger sample size, we’d do best to ignore ZiPS’ rosy projections and assume that he’s just enjoying a hot streak at the plate to go along with his speed. As for his regular PT, the well might dry up sooner rather than later, assuming Melky’s injury isn’t serious, because Jose Bautista and Colby Rasmus occupy the other two outfield slots, and Adam Lind has returned to fantasy decency this year at DH.

But this isn’t complicated. Davis steals bases. Need ‘em? Pick him up.

Recommendation: Now is the time to pounce on Davis across the board.

Martin Perez | Texas Rangers | SP | 7 percent Yahoo ownership; 2 percent ESPN; 34 percent CBS
YTD: 19 IP / 2.37 ERA / 3.8 K/9 / 1.9 BB/9 with 2 wins
ZiPS updated: 73 IP / 4.66 ERA / 4.4 K/9 / 3.5 BB/9 with 4 wins

There aren’t too many guys who I get to write about who have appeared on Baseball America’s Top 100 prospects list five times. But that’s exactly the customer we have today, a 22-year-old lefty who happens to pitch for a contender featuring the fifth-highest ultimate zone rating in baseball and potent offensive potential. Factor in back-to-back solid starts against two good teams in the Cardinals and the Reds and you have a prime candidate for waiver wire targeting.

So far, he’s yet to give up more than three earned runs in a start, and with Alexi Ogando out of commission until after the All-Star break—while Neftali Feliz and Colby Lewis remain MIA—Perez has done nothing to make Ron Washington look for a replacement starter as the Rangers fight for a playoff spot.

Of course, being spotlighted in BA’s list so many times also reflects a player who’s yet to establish himself at the big league level, and that’s been true for Perez, who got pushed around in 12 appearances (six starts) last year, with a 5.45 ERA and 1.632 WHIP to show for it. This year, the strikeouts have not materialized, though a very good 10.2 percent swinging strike rate gives hope for a turnaround, especially since he’s surrendered only four walks.

Is Perez ready to make good on his promise? I’d like to think so, though he might have to go on a tear to protect his rotation spot when the injured arms return. Also, he may have little say in the matter if the Rangers were to import a big name starter for the stretch run. And perhaps more than anything, any owner willing to buy into Perez for even the short term must be wary of the typical ups and downs that accompany a young man’s early forays into major league playing time (see: Zack Wheeler, Tyler Skaggs, Michael Wacha, Kevin Gausman … must I continue?).

But hey, I’m a fan of upside. In AL-only leagues, I’d say Perez’s potential and supporting cast justify the risk if you can find a spot on your bench.

Recommendation: Worth a flier in deeper mixed leagues.

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