Fantasy Waiver Wire: Week 26, Vol. I

Well, friends, I’m spent. Kaput. Tapped out. Running on empty.

You get the idea. These will be my last waiver picks of the season, and they’re with an eye towards next spring. Later this week and into next week, I will recap my selections this year and tally up a win-loss record, and that will be my last Waiver Wire-related work of the season.

Before we dive in today, I would like to say thank you for reading this year, and thank you to the brain trust at THT Enterprises for letting me spin some baseball yarn here every week. It’s truly been a pleasure, and at times a safe harbor during difficult times. So thanks, everyone. You rule, and I hope to join you again next year.

Now let’s dig in.

Mike Zunino | Seattle Mariners | C
YTD: .211/.299/.299 in 167 plate appearances
ZiPS updated: N/A

Selected third overall in the 2012 draft, Zunino was sold as a player on the cusp of being ready for the big leagues with strong fundamentals. True to those reports, he made his way to Seattle in just his second professional season. He performed admirably, if not Mike Trout-ily.

In his first 45 games, Zunino walked at an impressive rate (9.6 percent) and managed to strike out in fewer than 30 percent of his plate appearances (24.6 to be exact). His power was lower than some had hoped—he posted an ISO of just .088—but there’s hope on that front from Zunino’s minor league sample.

In his 229 plate appearances this season at Triple-A, Zunino posted a .251 ISO, which was more than 100 percentage points better than the Pacific Coast League average.

Additionally, there’s this, from Baseball America‘s preseason scouting report in its annual Prospect Handbook:

From a pure tools standpoint, Zunino doesn’t have a single attribute that really wows evaluators. Power is his best tool and it’s his only one that scouts grade as plus.

Zunino played just well enough in his major league debut to warrant a strong shot at the full-time gig next spring. His ownership levels never surpassed 37 percent on CBS this year, so it’s entirely possible he’ll fly just below the hype radar and be a value pick next year.

Matt Joyce | Tampa Bay Rays | OF
YTD: .240/.335/.424 in 460 plate appearances
ZiPS updated: .240/.335/.425 in 484 plate appearances

It seems easy to be an anonymously good player in Tampa Bay. Yunel Escobar. Ben Zobrist. Desmond Jennings. Wil Myers. Chris Archer. Alex Cobb. All good players, none of whom meet the household-name threshold. Add Matt Joyce to that list.

The 29-year-old Rays outfielder might be a more valuable fantasy asset than he is in real life, but that hardly matters here. Poor defense has kept his WAR under two for the year, but offensively, Joyce is an undervalued player. He walks (career rate of 12.4 percent), doesn’t strike out too much (18.5 percent career rate), hits for power (career .206 ISO), and won’t sink you with an Adam Dunn-level batting average (career .251).

His home digs are not exactly hitter-friendly, unfortunately, but he is under team control for two more seasons, and he’s exactly the kind of cheap, useful player that Tampa Bay covets.

So, there are pros and cons. But if Joyce seems like he’s in the Rays’ plans next spring (if they can stomach his defense, or decide to pencil him in at DH), then he’s a player fantasy owners should know. He won’t be drafted high or cost a lot of money, but when he’s in the lineup, he will hit. This we know.

Corey Kluber | Cleveland Indians | SP
YTD: 9-5, 3.62 ERA in 136.2 innings pitched (22 starts)
ZiPS updated: 9-5, 3.68 ERA in 143 innings pitched (23 starts)

Baseball may have an offseason, but the Corey Kluber Society does not.

Kluber was possibly my best waiver pick of the year, right up until the time he hurt his middle finger and missed a month of play. His numbers this season speak for themselves: a 22.2 percent strikeout rate, 5.5 walk rate, 3.62 ERA, 3.22 FIP, and 3.13 xFIP.

His BABIP of .319 is anything but lucky, just as his HR/FB rate of 11.4 percent and strand rate of 73.5 percent both are fair. He induced groundballs at a good clip (45.7 percent). Basically what I said in May is still true:

If you did not know anything about Corey Kluber and then looked up his stats, you would probably think he’s a player fantasy owners drool over. Instead, he’s Corey Kluber.

Despite his excellent numbers, Kluber’s CBS ownership rate topped out at 64 percent. He may receive Marco Estrada type hype before drafts next spring, but it’s also possible his injury and lack of name recognition will cause Kluber to fall. He is exactly the kind of undervalued starting pitcher who makes the strategy of drafting bats early and waiting on arms an advisable plan.

Draft him late next year, and smile knowingly when someone asks you, “Who?!?”

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Next: AL Central: state of the division as the season ends »


  1. Belle of the League said...

    Thanks, Jack. I’ve enjoyed your insights.
    Re: Matt Joyce The problem I’ve found with him for the past few seasons is that he’s a platoon player.  With Myers now full time, he may have have less playing time next season.
    He does have value in a rotoleague if you are available daily to see if he’s playing and have enough bench spots to stash him, but in the rotoleagues I play there are very few bench positions and in the H2H points league, he hasn’t had enough AB’s each week to warrant keeping him over a full time player.
    Re: Corey Kluber-What you said. I’m also keeping an eye on Joe Kelly (even with his peripherals) to see what the Cardinals decide to do with him next season.

  2. Jack Weiland said...

    @Belle – Thank you for the kind words!

    Re: Joyce – You make a good point. In fact, it might be better for his fantasy value if he latched on somewhere that didn’t value his defensive shortcomings as the Rays do. But with two more years under control, it’s hard to see them parting with a good bat they can plug in where they need it, when they need it. An interesting player to watch, for sure.

    I owe you an email, by the way. I have not forgotten, I promise.

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