Fantasy Waiver Wire: Week 15, Vol. III

Wilson Ramos remains out there in more than enough leagues for those in need of catching help, but he’s been hitting like a house afire (.450 / .450 / .850 with two homers) since his return from the DL last week. Catchers with pop aren’t available in bunches, so grab him. Meanwhile, fantasy owners should take another look at waiver wire alumnus Ike Davis, who’s back with a full-time gig at first base for the Mets and has looked better since he returned from Triple-A. The dude was a second-half demon last year, and with his pedigree, even the most sour prognosticator should see reason for some upside. On the down side of things, I’ve noticed that owners are starting to give up on Andrew Cashner and the few strikeouts he’s provided since joining the Padres’ rotation.

But with only a handful of days before the All-Star break, let’s not waste any more time talking about the past. Here are two hurlers who are likely still available in your league who should be feeling some love on the waiver wire.

Jose Quintana | Chicago White Sox | SP | 12 percent Yahoo ownership; 6 percent ESPN; 45 percent CBS
YTD: 108 IP / 3.67 ERA / 7.1 K/9 / 2.6 BB/9 with 4 wins
ZiPS updated: 193 IP / 3.98 ERA / 6.7 K/9 / 2.8 BB/9 with 7 wins

What has gotten into Jose Quintana recently? A former guest of ours here on the waiver wire back in April, Quintana, despite a nice ERA and penchant for limiting the damage (the only outing in which he gave up five earned runs or more was in his first start of the year), was more of an AL-only option for most of the first half. That’s before he decided it would be a good idea to start vaporizing hitters to the tune of 18 strikeouts in his last two starts, including 11 against the Orioles, one of the American League’s best offenses.

What’s changed? Texas Leaguers data says Quintana has throttled back on using his four-seam fastball in favor of his change-up and two-seamer over those two solid starts, which has translated to a 12 percent swinging strike rate (compared to just 8.8 percent overall). Two starts doesn’t give us a whole lot to work with, of course, so one is completely free to believe more work is needed before believing that Quintana has grown into a solid mixed league option. But keep in mind that this is a guy whose first-strike and swinging strike rates have both taken steps forward in 2013, he continues to maintain an outstanding walk rate and flashes an average fastball velocity that has crept up since last year.

Quintana isn’t a strikeout-per-inning pitcher, but I still believe he’s capable of a 7 K/9 or better, which, when coupled with his good ERA and low (1.18) WHIP, makes him more than worthy of being owned in leagues across the board.

Recommendation: More wins would be nice, but Quintana can be owned in most mixed leagues.

Jeremy Hefner | New York Mets | SP | 24 percent Yahoo; 39 percent ESPN; 54 percent CBS
YTD: 101 IP / 3.39 ERA / 7 K/9 / 2.5 BB/9 with 4 wins
ZiPS updated: 3.97 ERA / 6.7 K/9 / 2.6 BB/9 with 7 wins

If it’s possible at all to feel sorry for a ballplayer making millions of dollars, then I do feel sorry for Shaun Marcum, who’s (surprise!) headed for surgery after suffering from thoracic outlet syndrome (I don’t know what that really means, other than Marcum’s been experiencing numbness in his fingers). For Marcum, that’s just the latest injury in a career that’s been riddled with them, and that must be tough.

But the news isn’t bad for everyone, certainly not Hefner, whose grip on the rotation, once in jeopardy pending the arrival of Zack Wheeler, is now super locked in thanks to a recent hot stretch. How hot is hot? The guy hasn’t allowed four earned runs in a start dating back to mid-May, a nine-game stretch that’s seen him post a 2.09 ERA and 7.9 K/9.

Hefner, 27, credits the success to a mechanical tweak that’s allowed him to add more rotation in his torso during his wind-up. To be sure, the change has probably helped Hefner stop issuing walks, with just 10 issued over those 56 golden innings. Whether you think Hefner is a true mid-rotation major league pitcher (I’m still undecided), it’s encouraging to note that his minor league walk (2.7) and strikeout (7.7) rates are in line with what he’s producing these days, suggesting that those numbers aren’t completely out of the blue, and with a solid job all to himself, there’s no longer any danger that the Mets would exile him to the bullpen to make way for a rookie phenom.

Point is, Hefner’s solid stretch establishes him as a decent fantasy depth hurler at this point, regardless of what his true upside may be. For my money, that makes him good enough in all NL-only leagues and probably more than that.

Recommendation: Deeper mixed leagues could use this guy.

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