Fantasy Waiver Wire: Week 27, Vol.III

Part two of my second half scorecard, folks. See Part One here, and see my first half recap here.

WEEK 16:

Edwin Jackson, Henderson Alvarez, Chris Carpenter, Yasiel Puig, Randall Delgado

EJax said it best himself, so I’ll let him tell you how this recommendation went:

“Started off shaky, ended shaky,” Jackson told ESPN’s Jesse Rodgers. “S—-y year, to sum it up.”

Yep, pretty much. I suggested Jackson here because of what appeared to be poor luck. At the time, his batting average on balls in play and strand rate had strayed from his career averages, both in the wrong direction, and his FIP and xFIP were both more than a run lower than his ERA. There was also reason to believe the Cubs had been unlucky in general, and that this could have contributed to Jackson’s woes.

His FIP and xFIP remained well south of his ERA (3.79 and 3.86 vs.4.98) but his luck never did turn around. He finished the year with a BABIP above his career average, a strand rate below his career average, fewer strikesouts than he had last year, and more walks than he allowed in 2012. It wasn’t a good season for Jackson any way you slice it. Whether or not any of this will change next season is a chapter that’s yet to be written. His FIP and xFIP can be a cause for optimism, but this was a bad pick by me, based on the actual on field results.

Even without his no-hitter, Alvarez was a strong choice by me. Delgado was solid, Carpenter never ended up making it back, and I covered Puig on Monday. A real mixed bag here.

Week 16 record: 2-3

WEEK 17:

Charlie Morton, Colby Lewis, Avisail Garcia

What a fine season Charlie Morton had, especially for a guy completely lacking in hype.

Morton posted a sub-4 ERA, FIP, and xFIP in his 20 starts for the playoff bound Pirates. He struck out 17.2 percent of the batters he faced, and walked just 7.3 percent. He drew an absurd 62.9 percent ground balls, tops in the major leagues among pitchers who threw at least 110 innings. Neither his BABIP, nor his strand rate, nor his home run rate show a luck driven profile, and yet Morton’s ownership rates on CBS never topped 50 percent. Go figure.

Based on all of these factors, Morton may be a good player to pursue next spring, assuming he has a starting gig locked up in Pittsburgh or elsewhere.

Lewis never made it back to the major leagues this season, and while Garcia did (and was decent) he didn’t exactly set the world on fire, either, just as I predicted.

Week 17 record: 2-1

WEEK 18:

Alex Rodriguez, Tyson Ross, Nate Schierholtz, Dayan Viciedo

One of my favorite things about baseball (and fantasy baseball) is the challenge of separating the noise surrounding a player from what to actually expect from that player going forward. Sometimes we fail horribly (like Puig, who I’ve taken two losses on) and sometimes it works out really well, like here with A-Rod.

At the time that I made this pick, it was an ultimate “zig where others zag” move. Almost every story about A-Rod was about how he was going to be suspended forever and how other players involved in the Biogenesis scandal were going to accept their fate rather than fight it. This was the short version of my take:

The suspension talk is dominating the headlines right now, but what’s lost in that is that A-Rod might actually come back this year. And he still might have something left in the tank. Or not. Either way, it’s worth a shot, and his ownership rates are criminally low for a guy with 647 career home runs still on the right side of 40 years old.

Those ownership rates soon skyrocketed when others realized A-Rod would fight his suspension, and play out the season awaiting appeal. He certainly was not the same guy who hit all those home runs, but he was pretty darn valuable for a guy available for free on the wire.

Ross made 11 more starts and was excellent for the Padres and for fantasy owners. Schierholtz continued his excellent hitting, and was essentially an everyday player for the Cubs. Mesoraco posted a sub .300 OBP for the Reds, so that’s a loss, but Viciedo was sub-replacement level for the White Sox, but he provided basically what I said he would provide. Help in the counting stats, and a little power.

Week 18 record: 4-1

WEEK 19:

Danny Farquhar, Tom Wilhelmsen, Ryan Ludwick

Farquhar presents a problem.

His ERA never dwindled down closer to his FIP and xFIP, but he maintained his excellent pitching the rest of the way for the Mariners, and record 12 more saves in the process. His absurd strikeout rate (34.7 percent) and acceptable walk rate (9.7 percent) make him an attractive relief option for next season. His ERA may have been 4.20 this season, but it seems likely owners can expect something closer to his 1.86 FIP and 2.40 xFIP going as long as his K/BB remains stable. The Mariners may not be much better next season, and he’s not a name brand yet, but Farquhar could prove to be one of the more valuable closers drafted in later rounds next spring.

It is said here often that relievers come and go in an instant. Wilhelmsen came in an instant, and it appears he dropped off in one as well. He never regained the form that made him one of the AL’s best relievers in 2012, and his future as a fantasy asset seems questionable at best. Ludwick managed to get 140 plate appearances for the Reds, but didn’t resemble anything close to a useful fantasy asset.

Week 19 record: 2-1

WEEK 20:

Will Venable, Welington Castillo, Scooter Gennett, L.J. Hoes

Venable had been swinging a hot bat when I decided to dig into his profile, and he not only maintained that pace the rest of the way, he actually actually improved his production down the stretch. This is what I had to say at the time:

In essence we have a double platoon fantasy player. He’s best used on the road against right-handed pitching. That’s tough to navigate, even for the most dedicated owners, and it essentially squashes his value. It’s rather strange, then, to see Venable’s 2013 splits, which are complete opposites from his previous career marks. He’s hitting lefties better than righties (.843 OPS vs. .766) and he’s hitting better at home than he is on the road (.835 OPS vs. .728).

Those splits did not change the rest of the way. Venable still hit lefties better than righties (.833 OPS vs. .786) and he hit better at home than he did on the road (.860 vs. .734). So while I was sure to say these career reversals were probably the result of some small sample hijinks, it’s interesting that Venable’s splits continued to betray his career norms the rest of the season. He’s an intriguing outfielder going into 2014.

I’ve covered Castillo, like, a billion times. I like him. Gennett was excellent for the Brewers. I’m not sure I would expect that production next year, but he was great in 2013, and that counts. Hoes got on base a bit, and stole seven bases, but his anemic power is simply unacceptable for a fantasy outfielder.

Week 20 record: 3-1

WEEKS 21-24:

Emilio Bonifacio, Donnie Murphy, Taijuan Walker, Marco Estrada, Yusmeiro Petit, James Paxton

Rapid fire now as we wrap up the last few weeks.

Bonifacio was essentially himself. Which is to say, not very good. But he did steal 28 bases this year, and therefore qualifies as fantasy valuable in certain formats. Unfortunately for the Blue Jays and Royals, Major League Baseball does not use one of those formats. Better luck next time?

Donnie Murphy’s slugging percentage dropped 300 points after I wrote about him, and still ended up at .530. So, yeah, his numbers before then had been somewhat inflated.

Walker made three good starts for the Mariners, and although his time was brief, he came as advertised.

Estrada ended up making 21 starts for the Brewers, and finished with a sub-4 ERA for the second year in a row. If he could put together a complete, healthy season, he could be a monster. At this point, that’s the dream. After getting tons of preseason hype this season, he may be a post-hype guy next spring, and an excellent buy. He struck out 23.1 percent of the batters he faced this year, and walked just 5.7 after striking out 25.4 percent and walking 5.2 percent in 2012. The guy is a good pitcher.

Speaking of good pitchers, did Yusmeiro Petit turn in to one all of a sudden? He only made seven starts for the Giants this year, and pitched a grand total of 48 innings, but his sub-3 FIP of 2.86 ought to make you pause. It still seems incredibly unlikely that Petit has morphed into something different after all this time, but crazier things have happened.

Paxton’s actual production outpaced his FIP and xFIP, so pick your poison there.

Weeks 21-24 record: 4-2

Total season record: 58-32

Hey, it’s unscientific as hell, and I’m probably being easy on myself here and there, but it’s a line drive in the box score, as they say, and I’ll take it. It’s been a fun season to spend with you fine folks, and I can’t wait for pitchers and catchers to report next season so I can start mining the depths of the undervalued again. Until then, this is me, signing off.

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