Fantasy Waiver Wire: Week 16, Vol. I

Presented in honor of tonight’s home run derby, without pretext:

“Do you want to know the terrifying truth? Or do you want to see me sock a few dingers?!” – Mark McGwire, voice actor

image

(Photo credit to 90feetofperfection.com, which is a cool site I found searching for that image. You should check it out. A clip of that scene can be found on YouTube here. You should watch it if you like funny things.)

I really dislike the All-Star break, on account of there being a distinct lack of baseball games to obsess over. But the home run derby is fun, I guess. We could worry all day about the terrifying truth, or we could watch dudes sock a few dingers. I’ll choose the latter nine times out of ten.

It’s been a minute or two since we checked in on some recent Waiver Wire subjects, so let’s take a quick tour of recently written about players before diving into today’s goodness.

I expressed frustration earlier this year about Logan Morrison‘s constant injuries, because he could have value if he managed to stay on the field. That’s happened in recent weeks, and Morrison has been excellent for the Marlins and fantasy owners. He’s hitting for average, hitting for power, and walking. Lots to love there.

Johnny Giavotella has not done much at the plate (well, besides make tons of outs; he certainly is doing that). Couple that with a time share at second between Giavotella, Elliot Johnson, and Miguel Tejada, and there’s not much fantasy value there. That one is looking like a whiff on my part.

Juan Francisco: still hitting.

Raul Ibanez: still socking dingers, but I’m still selling there. The bottom could/should fall out there at any moment, and if I have a chance to cash him in now, I’m taking it.

Today’s Waiver journey takes us to two NL Central starting pitchers and one Dodgers outfielder nobody seems to be talking about these days.

Chris Carpenter | St. Louis Cardinals | SP | ESPN: 5.4 percent ownership; Yahoo!: 14 percent; CBS: 22 percent
YTD: N/A
ZiPS projection: 5-3, 3.37 ERA in 13 starts

This is all too crazy. The fact that Carpenter’s name appears in this column is nothing short of amazing.

Last February, it seemed everyone, even his own general manager, wrote off the veteran hurler for the 2013 season (if not longer, including forever). Carpenter made a sooner-than-expected return from thoracic outlet syndrome last September, pitched for the Cardinals in the playoffs, and then had a setback in his rehabilitation over the winter. At that time, nobody—and I mean nobody—thought we would be talking about Carpenter pitching in meaningful games before August.

And yet, that’s where we find ourselves.

Carpenter reportedly will begin his Double-A rehab stint Monday. It’s impossible to say what kind of pitcher he’ll be upon returning, if he does indeed make it back this year, and this soon. He very clearly has it within himself to return from injury early, and to return from major injuries with almost unbelievable effectiveness.

In the brief sample of his 2012 work, Carpenter looked mostly like the same guy he has been for years. His strikeouts were down a tad, and his walks were down as well, but otherwise he was an effective major league pitcher. Again. Against incredible odds.

A few weeks back, I speculated about Roy Oswalt‘s return to the major leagues, saying it was time to jump in before his ownership rates spiked up. That time has come now for Carpenter, as insane as that may seem to everyone who remembers five months ago.

Recommendation: You’re not going to find waiver filler capable of providing a higher ceiling than Carpenter. It might all be for naught, he might get hurt again, and he might not be the same guy he once was, but this is a chance worth taking. If Carpenter is himself again—and anything is possible with this guy and his incredible ability to return from injury—then you’re adding a potential bona fide ace for no cost at all. I take that trade every time.

Edwin Jackson | Chicago Cubs | SP | ESPN: 18.6 percent ownership; Yahoo!: 26 percent; CBS: 22 percent
YTD: 6-10, 5.11 ERA in 18 starts
ZiPS projection: 11-15, 4.60 ERA in 31 starts

We’ll be staying in the NL Central for a moment. The Cubs made news last offseason when they came this close to signing Anibal Sanchez and instead ended up settling for EJax on a four-year, $52 million contract. It was interesting to see the Cubs involved with pitchers of that ability, and in that age range, and many saw this as a sign the team believes it can compete as soon as 2015, maybe even sooner.

On a surface level, the Jackson signing has not worked out at all. His ERA is putrid. His win-loss record is not pretty. There has been talk of him being available at the trade deadline just six months after signing a four-year contract. But there’s reason to believe all of this (okay some of this) will turn around.

His BABIP is 42 percentage points higher than it was last year and 13 points higher than his career average. His strand rate is nine points lower than last year and eight points lower than his career average. These aren’t drastic differences, but in concert they create a bad formula. There might be more poor luck hiding in Jackson’s profile than we think, though.

Sequencing has been a problem all season for the Cubs, and the same might be the case with Jackson. Despite being eight games under .500 as of this writing, the team has scored almost exactly as many runs as it has given up and has a Pythagorean record of of 45-47.

The Cubs have a higher run differential than the Nationals, Dodgers, Giants, and Phillies, all teams people like much better, and all teams people think are still in the playoff hunt (some more than others). It’s probably fair to say some of this has affected Jackson’s results over the season’s first half. There’s also this, the time Jackson piped one down the middle and it was called a ball.

All of these factors are reasons Jackson’s FIP and xFIP are well below his ERA (ERA: 5.11, FIP: 3.72, xFIP: 3.75). They’re also reasons Jackson makes a solid pickup in NL-only leagues and someone to watch in mixed leagues. It’s worth noting that (assuming he remains a Cub) Jackson will have a complete lock on his starting gig the rest of the way. And in some of the deepest leagues, that sure does matter.

Recommendation: He’s not as bad as he’s been. Add him and look for a second-half rebound.

Yasiel Puig | Los Angeles Dodgers | OF | ESPN: 100 percent ownership; Yahoo!: 92 percent; CBS: 98 percent
YTD: .392/.424/.622 in 158 plate appearances
ZiPS projection: N/A

I can’t help but notice that Yasiel Puig’s pace has slowed considerably. His place in this column is more of an update than anything. I wrote about Puig back on June 5, with help from THT Prospect Guru Jeff Moore, who had this to say at the time:

But sandwiched between those flashes of brilliance are just as sure to be some struggles. Puig is just 22 years old, and despite an adequate walk rate of nine percent this year, his plate discipline has dropped each time he’s moved up a level. If that trend continues into the majors and drops into the 5-6 percent range, he’ll have to hit every bit of .300 to avoid making a ton of outs.

Give that man a raise. And then give me a raise for quoting him (twice!).

Puig’s slow-down can be seen from a mile away. His BABIP of .476 is laughably high, and his HR/FB rate of 30.8 percent is also probably higher than his true talent would merit. He’s also not walking a ton (4.4 percent), and his strikeout rate is on the verge of “pretty unhealthy” (22.8 percent).

Puig’s production will not continue going forward, and that’s the result of very few people in the world being able to keep up his current pace and the fact that his true talent level is just not this high. At least, right now.

He’s still young, and there’s plenty of reason to believe PUig can improve. That being said, if you knock his BABIP down to .300, we’re talking about a guy hitting .216. If you knock his BABIP down even to just .350, which would still be very high, we’re talking about a guy hitting .266. Over the rest of the season, you should expect more of that and less of what we’ve seen so far.

I grabbed Puig in my ESPN redraft league upon his call-up and was happy to ride the surge of excitement that accompanied his hot start. The entire time, though, Moore’s words were in the back of my mind, and I was fully aware of the incredible luck propping up the torrid beginning of his major league career.

This isn’t to say Puig is going to be awful going forward, but he’s not nearly as good as the guy who has a .447 wOBA right now. So I traded him for Buster Posey (the second time I’ve acquired Posey in consecutive weeks), and I imagine over the rest of the season that trade will end up looking like a steal.

Recommendation: Puig has talent. He’s good at baseball. But he is not nearly as good as his current stats might make you believe, and if you can cash him in for a massive return, you should seriously consider doing so. Do not be the guy trading me Posey for Puig. The stats he’s accumulated so far stay with the team he was on when he accumulated them, and going forward, it is very unlikely he will continue producing at current levels. Pay for future production, not for past.

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Comments

  1. Brad Johnson said...

    More on Puig…

    He currently features a 18.6% swinging strike rate. To put that in context Pedro Alvarez has the highest swinging strike rate of qualified hitters. It’s 17.6%. He strikes out 32.6% of the time.

    Of the top 10 in that category, 6 have struck out over 30% of the time while whiffing 1-5% less frequently than Puig. Only 1 had a strikeout rate similar to Puig – that being Willin Rosario and his 14.9% whiff rate.

    Something has to give, either he should be striking out way more frequently or he should be whiffing less. I first noticed this 10 days ago and the whiff rate hasn’t budged.

    His aggression can play to his favor a bit here, but there’s plenty of downside to that point too. No walks and he’ll soon find pitchers spend a lot of time out of the strike zone. In fact, this is already happening.

  2. Jack Weiland said...

    @Brad Johnson – Excellent points, all.

    Also I failed to mention he’s kind of hurt right now. Doesn’t appear to be major, but it won’t help.

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