Fantasy Waiver Wire: Week 24, Vol. II

Friends, the end is upon us. The 2013 fantasy season is gasping its final breaths, as the playoffs have arrived and most teams are either eliminated from competition or sliding their last rounds into a proverbial fantasy pump-action shotgun in a Scarface-like last stand. But even as we approach mid-September, there are still a couple of players left whom we can scrape off the bottom of the barrel as we look to catch magic in a bottle (and press multiple cliches into one sentence).

We’ll be back next week to review some of 2013’s golden oldies and take a look ahead to 2014. With that, I give you two more names who might merit consideration in your league.

Josh Rutledge | Colorado Rockies | SS / 2B | 25 percent Yahoo ownership; 20 percent ESPN; 25 percent CBS
YTD: 271 PA / .233 / .292 / .347 with 7 HR and 10 SB
ZiPS updated: 326 PA / .239 / .295 / .360 with 8 HR and 12 SB

Call me sentimental, but the end of a fantasy season isn’t unlike the end of a long-running television series, in that old stars come back for cameo appearances for the final few episodes. That’s how I look at Rutledge, a hot sleeper entering 2013 who then became infamous as one of this season’s most notorious busts. But there’s good news here: Rutledge is back, and might be making good on his promise just as the season winds down.

It’s a tiny sample size (20 plate appearances), but Rutledge is smacking the ball to the tune of a 1.328 OPS, hammering a home run and adding two steals since being recalled on Sept. 1. That’s after he abused Pacific Coast League pitching over the past six weeks with a .371/.444 /.587 line.

Before we get carried away, however, let’s keep in mind that the Rockies already have some guy name Troy something or other at shortstop, and DJ LeMahieu has provided the Rockies (and fantasy owners) with a near-.290 batting average and a nice amount of steals. Around the rest of the infield, Nolan Arenado isn’t going to ride the pine as the Rockies assess talent for 2014, and neither is Todd Helton as he ends his storied Rockies career. All this helps explain why in the seven games in which he’s appeared since being recalled, Rutledge has started only four.

The playing time issue mostly kills Rutledge’s fantasy value in the immediate term, but if he’s swinging a hot bat, he might still be a useful play in NL-only leagues. And if Tulowitzki gets injured—what are the odds, right?—Rutledge could suddenly find himself in serious fantasy demand.

Recommendation: Middle infielders are never a bad thing to have, so if you’re in a deep league, perhaps Rutledge might have some value.

Michael Wacha | St. Louis Cardinals | SP | 34 percent Yahoo ownership; 23 percent ESPN; 49 percent CBS
YTD: 46.1 IP / 2.72 ERA / 8.2 K/9 / 2.5 BB/9 with 3 wins
ZiPS updated: 53 IP / 2.81 ERA / 8.2 K/9 / 2.6 BB/9 with 3 wins

I’m probably a bit late to the dance on this one, since owners in deep leagues who are starving for pitching (and two-start options in Week 24) have likely already scooped up Wacha. But his ownership levels are still low enough for a guy who’s in the starting rotation of a playoff-bound team and who’s been money (0.00 ERA, four walks over two starts) since rejoining the team’s rotation a week ago.

What’s especially impressive about Wacha—who, as you may recall, was the 19th overall pick just one year ago—is that those 13 innings were against the Pirates and Reds, two teams who have no plans to throw in the towel for 2013. The strikeouts haven’t been there since his return to the rotation (just five of them), but he was able to balance that with just five hits, keeping his WHIP at an excellent .692 in that span.

He has just 131.1 innings thus far between the majors and minors in 2013. That means the Cardinals, who made it clear earlier in the season that they planned to conserve the young man’s innings for September baseball, seem ready to let Wacha make around 100 pitches per start. That’s a great sign for fantasy owners.

Next up, he’s scheduled to face the sorry Mariners on Saturday at home, where he’s pitched better than he has on the road. And although he’ll have to contend with Colorado’s thin air next week (assuming he stays on schedule), a fantasy owner should have confidence using him after he performed well in two high-pressure match-ups.

Wacha was frustratingly uneven earlier this year in his first stint in the rotation, as most rookies are, and it’s perfectly reasonable for one to have reservations about whether Wacha can keep the magic going throughout the rest of the month. But this guy has a terrific ceiling, the Cardinals are in first place, and we’re seeing tangible results. If you need an arm for the playoffs, Wacha might be the best available guy hanging around your waiver wire.

Recommendation: Start him with confidence in all leagues.

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