Fantasy Waiver Wire: Week 20, Vol. I

With Karl de Vries away on vacation, I’ll do my best to fill in this Monday. So… how about those Mets? Just when Ike Davis recovered from his early-season coma, David Wright strains his hamstring and may miss the rest of the season. They sure are hapless.

Now that I’ve established my lack of threat to Karl’s and Jack’s job security, let’s just move on to the wire.

Josh Willingham | Minnesota Twins | OF | 40 percent Yahoo ownership; 33 percent ESPN; 54 percent CBS
YTD: 313 PA | .220/.351/.402 with 11 HR and 1 SB
ZiPS updated: 457 PA | .226/.351/.448 with 17 HR and 2 SB

Josh Willingham was dropped in many leagues during his DL stint, and on Friday, he made it back to the Twins. In the first half, Willingham’s production was down from his previous two seasons. He is hitting just .220 this season and is on pace for close to 20 home runs rather than the 29-plus he had the previous two seasons. Still, Willingham joins the short list of available players who could hit 10 home runs the rest of the way, which means he should be owned in almost every league.

The biggest culprit for Willingham’s struggles this season is a spike in his infield flyball rate. He actually leads baseball at 22.6 percent, but otherwise, his walk, strikeout and flyball rates look similar to recent seasons. Willingham has never finished a full season over 15.1 percent infield flyballs, so I’m willing to write the increase off as a small sample size anomaly, even though it is a bit disconcerting to see him share that leader board with fantasy disasters including B.J. Upton, Mike Moustakas and Ike Davis.

Recommendation: Willingham should be added in even shallow mixed leagues.

Will Middlebrooks | Boston Red Sox | 3B | 27 percent Yahoo ownership; 20 percent ESPN; 41 percent CBS
YTD: 220 PA | .198/.233/.391 with 9 HR and 0 SB
ZiPS updated: 334 PA | .213/.248/.424 with 13 HR and 1 SB

Speaking of power, the Red Sox recalled Will Middlebrooks to take over third base, which was recently vacated by Jose Iglesias because of the Jake Peavy trade. Middlebrooks’ .198/.233/.391 triple slash makes Willingham’s season look good, but his 8.2 percent walk rate and 19.4 percent strikeout rate in Triple-A showed marked improvements from his numbers in Boston and are cause for optimism.

The Red Sox debuted Middlebrooks at ninth in their batting order, which is good and bad for owners. The bad is the decrease in opportunities for runs and RBIs, even in so potent a lineup. The good is the decrease in damage his likely low-.200s batting average will do to you in fewer at-bats. Really, home runs are the only reason to consider Middlebrooks in shallow leagues. For owners who just lost Mark Reynolds when he was designated for assignment, Middlebrooks can put up similar numbers. David Wright owners are not as fortunate.

Recommendation: Viable option for teams that need home runs in mixed leagues.

Jarrod Dyson | Kansas City Royals | OF | 1 percent Yahoo ownership; 0.4 percent ESPN; 5 percent CBS
YTD: 120 PA | .257/.319/.413 with 2 HR and 16 SB
ZiPS updated: 220 PA | .252/.312/.375

With Lorenzo Cain on the 15-day DL, Jarrod Dyson could be in line for some temporary additional playing time. For owners in need of steals, that is excellent news. Dyson has 16 stolen bases in 120 plate appearances. His 13.3 steals per 100 plate appearances trails only Rajai Davis among players with at least 100 plate appearances, and Jacoby Ellsbury at 8.1 steals per 100 plate appearances is the closest active player behind him. Even as a part-time player, Dyson can make a tremendous impact on your stolen base totals, and with a .257/.319/.413 triple slash, he won’t do much damage to your other categories.

Recommendation: Temporary viable option for teams that need steals in mixed leagues.

Sonny Gray | Oakland Athletics | SP | 4 percent Yahoo ownership; 3 percent ESPN; 14 percent CBS
YTD: 10.0 IP | 1.80 ERA | 9.9 K/9 | 3.6 BB/9 with 0 wins

Of the recent prospect call-ups, Sonny Gray of the A’s seems most likely to stick in the rotation for the rest of the season. With Tommy Milone struggling with his normally elite command, he could be in the minors for a little while. Gray, meanwhile, struck out just under a batter per inning in 20 starts in the minors this season, and with only 128.1 innings between Triple-A and Oakland this season, Gray does not seem like a major threat to be shut down in September.

Gray should be a source of strikeouts in all of his outings, but Oakland presents its always-enticing option to spot-start Gray in his home games. In particular, Gray appears due to face the Astros and Mariners, both at home, in his next two starts, so you definitely want to pick him up and deploy him now. If he does well in those starts, it may be an opportune time to sell him, if you can still make August trades in your leagues. The Athletics follow those series with ones against the Orioles, Rangers, Rays and Rangers.

Recommendation: Short-term spot starter in mixed leagues.

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  1. Scott Spratt said...

    Re: Gray,
    It’s just because of his schedule. If you’re in a league where pitchers of his quality aren’t freely available on the wire, then you can keep him and enjoy the strikeouts.

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