Dear Waiver Wire Pals (hey, that’s you!),
I am writing today’s column on my birthday, Aug. 13. Birthdays are generally good times to take stock of your life, reflect on where you are and where you’re going, blah blah blah. I must say, however, as I sit here writing some stuff on baseball to be read by you cool ladies and gents, that I am very appreciative of my opportunity to do so. I have a generally incredible life, despite whatever self-deprecating humor I may employ to imply otherwise, and you’re all a big part of that.
So thank you for being here, thank you for making The Hardball Times an awesome place to hang out and talk about baseball, and thank you for having me. It’s pretty rad that I get to do this, and that never really escapes me.
Enough sap. More waiver wire please!
Welington Castillo | Chicago Cubs | C | ESPN: 1.4 percent ownership; Yahoo!: 10 percent; CBS: 21 percent
YTD: .278/.359/.380 in 335 plate appearances
ZiPS projection: .272/.352/.382 in 448 plate appearances
I know, I know, Castillo has appeared here before. A few times. I can’t help myself.
The Cubs’ backstop is on my mind again (wait, he left at some point?) because he’s quietly been putting together a very good season. Before we dive into that, a brief recap of his time here in the Waiver Wire:
The love I once shared with Welington Castillo, a special brand of love you have never truly experienced, a brand of love I will likely never share again … that love is gone, my friends, and it is never coming back.
Well, actually, about that last part. The love being gone, yada yada, not coming back, etc., etc. The thing is, I can’t stay mad at Castillo, and I wouldn’t want to. Life is too short for such animosity. And Castillo quietly has been posting the kind of good-but-not-great season he was capable of all along.
Among catchers with at least 300 plate appearances this season, Castillo has the 10th-highest wOBA. His walk rate (8.3 percent) is particularly remarkable when considering the fact that he didn’t draw his first free pass until April 29 and didn’t draw his second walk until May 23. Since that point, he’s ripped off (ripped off?) 25, including a span of six consecutive games drawing a base on balls.
The biggest glaring weakness for Castillo right now, in fact, is his lack of power. That’s a very strange thing for a player who was billed as a catcher with a big arm and good pop as he rose through the professional ranks. Because of that, and because fly balls are leaving the yard at half the rate that seems reasonable (just 5.2 percent), I’m bullish on his chance to tick his ISO higher than his current mark of .101.
It’s possible he’s sacrificed power in favor of the walks, and it’s possible he just doesn’t have the kind of muscle we once thought he would have, but it’s equally possible (and perhaps more likely) that he’s been unlucky in that facet and will improve the only area of his offensive profile holding him back from elite status.
When he does, watch out. I’m going to be an emotional mess.
Recommendation: Playing time won’t be an issue, and he’s been sneakily good this season (despite the roller coaster of emotion he’s put me through). He’s owned far less than players he’s performing better than, and is worth a shot in mixed leagues and certainly in NL-only formats.
Scooter Gennett | Milwaukee Brewers | 2B | ESPN: 0.2 percent ownership; Yahoo!: 1 percent; CBS: 3 percent
YTD: .270/.313/.460 in 68 plate appearances
ZiPS projection: .274/.309/.415 in 190 plate appearances
There are things Scooter Gennett is, and things Scooter Gennett is not. Things he is:
1. A professional baseball player.
2. A professional baseball player who happens to be rather short, at just 5-foot-9 (by professional baseball standards, that is; this particular fantasy baseball writer also happens to be 5-foot-9, and that is in no way unusual for his line of work).
3. A human with an unusual, quirky nickname. Scooter. Ha, I wonder how he got that name! Bet that’s a story!
4. A guy who is kind of tearing the cover off the ball right now.
Things he is not, but may have led you to believe he could be:
1. A power hitter.
2. The publishing magnate behind Scooter Geek.
Gennett made his major league debut last month, and the results have been mostly impressive in the 25 games he’s played for the Brewers. His wOBA among players with at least 60 plate appearances (and admittedly made-up number whose sole purpose is to include Gennett in this sample) would be tenth among all players who qualify. Still, that’s just behind Neil Walker and just ahead of Ben Zobrist, and that’s kind of impressive.
The problem, of course, is that this is
completely mostly arbitrary, that Gennett has seen fewer than 100 major league plate appearances, and that his power to date is greater (much higher) than he had at any stop in the minor leagues.
Prior to this current run at the game’s highest level, in which he’s posted an impressive ISO of .190, Gennett’s top mark in the minor leagues was the .154 he tossed up as a 20-year-old in Single-A ball for the Brewers in 2010. He posted a .144 mark in the Arizona Fall League in 2011 but since then has hovered around .100 in stops at High-A, Double-A, and Triple-A. Believing that he has all of a sudden discovered his power stroke now, in the major leagues, seems foolish.
Gennett doesn’t walk much, either, as his 5.9 percent walk rate with the Brewers is more or less in line with his minor league marks. And his defense doesn’t appear to win many fans, either. So why in the world is he being written about here?
Well, he can hit, and he doesn’t strike out much. And the Brewers probably will ride him a lot the rest of the way, both to see what they have and because with Rickie Weeks done for the season, they simply have no better alternative at the moment.
Gennett has shown an ability to make contact at all of the minor league stops where he proved he wasn’t a power hitter. He hit .311 in 2010, .411 during the Fall League, .299 at High-A in 2011, .293 at Double-A in 2012, and .280 at Triple-A to start this season. He also never struck out in more than 17.3 percent of at-bats at any of those stops.
He can play, and he can be useful, but we need to be clear about what he is and what he is not, because unfair expectations are the surest path to disappointment.
Recommendation: Don’t buy in on Gennett expecting him to be what he’s shown during his initial 25-game foray into the major leagues. But if you’re looking for a guy who will play a lot the rest of the season, put up a decent average, and get as many opportunities for counting stats as a guy playing on this awful Brewers team can get, Gennett is your guy. (See what I did there? Can get + Gennett? This is exactly why I get paid to write.)