Fantasy Waiver Wire: Week 3, Vol II

The space at the top of this column is generally reserved for something topical about what’s happening in baseball at the moment, usually with a handful of my trademark stupid jokes™ peppered in. But I’m not going to do that today, because my city was attacked Monday.

My city? No, that’s not good enough. My country. My world. My home. My everything.

Lots of amazing words have been poured across the internet since 2:50 Monday, including here, here, and here. I’m not going to try to compete with those, because I cannot. That last one was written, by the way, by my fiance, a contributing editor at WalkJogRun.net.

I was in New Orleans for my bachelor party all weekend and landed at Logan Airport around 3:30. I instantly saw breaking news alerts about the bombing, and realized the last thing she told me was that she was planning to take photos for WJR at the finish line around 3. That was the single worst moment of my entire life. I came from cloud nine straight into the pit of hell. But I’m one of the lucky ones, because she didn’t end up going.

The fact that an 8-year-old boy was not one of the lucky ones is impossible to understand. I also coach youth hockey for a city team, and if Martin Richard had lived four more years there’s a solid chance I would have coached against him. I would have given him a high five after and said “Good game.” But now I never will, and the reasons for that will never, ever, ever make sense. They cannot possibly.

That’s the thing about Boston, though. My story is not unique. Boston is a big city that has the size and feel of a small town. Everyone I know could have been at the race Monday, or has gone in the past, or goes every year, and each of them have been in the very spots where the bombs went off. Many, many times. Everyone I know is similarly flattened by this. Everyone I know feels connected to this, because everyone I know is connected to this.

It’s hard to fully express how much the marathon means to the city of Boston, but it’s our pride and joy. For a city mostly known as New York’s Little Brother, it’s one of the few times the entire world focuses its attention on us. You may have heard that Bostonians are fiercely proud people, and you heard right. But they’re also fiercely loyal, caring, and fun. The marathon combines all of these attributes on one gloriously unique day every year, the unofficial emergence from what are usually brutal winters.

To have that stomped on, instead of jogged over, is an impossible pill to swallow right now. Except we must, because evil can never be allowed to triumph. The world is a big, beautiful place, but sometimes it is immeasurably bad. Boston’s story is sadly not unique either, as you are undoubtedly aware. Tragedies unfold every hour of every day, in every nook and cranny of the world. It’s part of the deal we make to live in it.

I’m here to write about fantasy baseball because that’s what I do. To unwind. To relax. To escape. To have fun. And that’s why I’m here today. I urge each of you Internet People (IPs) to do the same. Play fantasy baseball. Take your kids to the park. High five a stranger. Laugh. Cry. Live.

You can, I promise, and you must.

Welington Castillo | C | Chicago Cubs | Yahoo!: 11 percent ownership; ESPN: 1.2 percent; CBS: 19 percent
YTD: .364/.382/.515 in 35 plate appearances
ZiPS updated projection: .260/.320/.414 in 101 games

Waiver wire: catchers edition.

Castillo has been a favorite of mine for awhile, but particularly for fantasy purposes since last year, when it became very clear there was little chance of Geovany Soto remaining in Chicago after the season, and that the rebuilding Cubs would probably give Castillo a nice, long look rather than sign a veteran to be the starter. This was not quite the popular opinion at the time, however. John Sickels (who I am a fan of) said this prior to last season:

9) Welington Castillo, C, Grade C+: .272/.380/.426 for Triple-A Iowa, .206/.270/.353 in the majors. Still has the good defensive tools, likely have a career as a backup.

It’s easy to go back more than a year after someone writes something and nitpick, but this to me seems to be a bit unfair. For starters, the major league stats above consisted of 21 plate appearances in 2010 and 13 in 2011. So, yes, Castillo’s numbers in the big leagues were terrible, but they were from way too small a sample to pull any meaning out of.

Sickels’ does point out Castillo’s defensive prowess (he was named the best defensive catcher in the Cubs’ system after 2007 and 2011 by Baseball America, and the best defensive catcher in the Midwest League by BA in 2007), and that’s something that matters because it will help keep him in the lineup. Or, at the very least, it won’t pull him out of the lineup in favor of a more well-rounded player. But looking at those triple slash lines I’m struck by another one of Castillo’s best qualities: his ability to hit for power. The minor league sample Sickels notes (from Triple-A) is hiding a solid ISO of .154. His major league triple slash line shows a similarly strong .147, despite his horrible numbers overall.

Castillo entered this season still fairly unclear about what his role would be, but it is clear now that the starting catcher role in Chicago is his until further notice. Of the last seven games for the Cubs, Castillo has started six. He’s due for some stiff regression due to his currently sky-high BABIP of .458, so he’s not going to keep hitting anywhere close to .364, but he also has not walked yet this season, and that will likely help balance some of his OBP drop.

Recommendation: Solid add in all leagues, and a great one in NL-only leagues, ones with two catchers, very deep mixed leagues, or dynasty leagues.

Francisco Cervelli | C | New York Yankees | Yahoo!: 3 percent ownership; ESPN: 1 percent; CBS: 17 percent
YTD: .360/.500/.520
ZiPS updated: .250/.338.340

Our friend Mike Axisa featured Cervelli yesterday at Fangraphs, so there’s not a ton to add here, other than the fact that I don’t quite agree. Axisa notes some of the reasons Cervelli won’t keep up his current production, but a couple of others include:

1. His .348 BABIP is going to drop, which will pull his .360 batting average back to Earth.
2. His 37.5 percent line drive rate will drop a ton, like in half, and that will likely drag down his other numbers.

Axisa wouldn’t dispute any of that, but he does think that Cervelli can be useful given his solid minor league walk rates (8 percent in the majors and 8.5 percent in Triple-A), and his spot on the Yankees’ roster (he’s started five of the team’s last seven games) means he’ll be able to cheaply add some counting stats for fantasy owners. That is true, but what I would ask is this: When Cervelli drops back down to Earth, will his modest walk rate be able to keep him starting this many games? Yes, his competition is Chris Stewart, but it’s entirely possible the Yankees add a catcher via trade, or split Cervelli and Stewart more evenly. At that point, he’s mostly useless.

Recommendation: I’d avoid him long-term, and would consider using him only in a pinch over the next couple of weeks, where he’ll still likely get a number of starts.

John Jaso | C | Oakland Athletics | Yahoo!: 8 percent ownership; ESPN: 1.2 percent; CBS: 24 percent
YTD: .278/.350/.389
ZiPS updated: .262/.361.401

Derek Norris | C | Oakland Athletics | Yahoo!: 1 percent ownership; ESPN: 0.2 percent; CBS: 9 percent
YTD: .417/.516/.583
ZiPS updated: .219/.331/.360

Last week, I mentioned that I like Seth Smith in part because he’s a platoon player for which there is no guesswork involved.

Well, that is not the case here. The frustrating part of that is that both Jaso and Norris could be useful fantasy catchers if either could guarantee the lion’s share of playing time.

Jaso had the sixth highest wOBA among catchers with at least 300 plate appearances last year, behind just Buster Posey, Carlos Ruiz, Jonathan Lucroy (!), Joe Mauer, and Yadier Molina. That put him ahead of Miguel Montero, Carlos Santana, and Matt Wieters. He posts consistently strong walk rates (above 9 percent in the majors every season since 2010, has decent power (ISOs over .100 during those same seasons) and doesn’t strike out a ton (less than 20 percent annually). He’s a good, unsexy hitter, who could be a great find. If it weren’t for Derek Norris, that is.

It’s interesting that ZiPS hates Norris, but that may be reflective of his lack of a track record at the major league level. He has an absurd .500 BABIP right now, so his OPS is going to suffer a massive free fall, and probably soon. Norris can walk, and he can hit, though. As a 22-year-old with the Nationals, the former top prospect walked 18.2 percent of the time, and crushed his way to a .237 ISO in 104 games. The talent is there.

The talent is there for both of these guys, actually, and that is exactly what is causing fantasy owners grief.

Recommendation: Unless you’re in a daily league and own both (a situation I am actually in) then it’s probably best to avoid until either of these guys separate from each other, or one of them gets hurt. If that happens, they can be nice finds for mixed-league owners.

Note: This column is actually the second Waiver Wire of Week 3. When we changed schedules some nincompoop (me!) labelled the first one wrong. So we’re back on track—honest—and Friday’s column will correctly be titled: Waiver Wire: Week 3, Vol III.

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Comments

  1. Jack Weiland said...

    Two things:

    1. Thank you for allowing me to digress a bit at the top of this column, it mattered to me, and I couldn’t possibly write about anything else before I did so.

    2. I should have specified that Norris’ numbers I mention with the Nationals were at Double-A. Slipped my mind, but still impressive stats that point to considerable talent.

  2. Jack Weiland said...

    Also – many thanks to my Bash Bro* Karl for crushing it while I was down in NOLA.

    *Bash Bro/Fantasy Nerds … basically the same thing.

  3. Jason Richland said...

    I can’t believe anyone would take fantasy advice from someone who has never won a championship.

    Also, I didn’t see John Buck in the conversation about catchers. I can only presume it is a mistake.

  4. Jack Weiland said...

    @Jason – They didn’t ask about that in the interview. Thanks for stopping by, your team is terrible.

  5. Jason Richland said...

    Happy to show my support. Keep up the good work.

    Next week you can do a John Buck triple crown preview.

  6. But said...

    Digression over imbecilic aggression, yes please.

    Since catchers cover the board.  Salvador Perez is about to start raking, eh?

    If Buck wins the triple crown, I will eat his horse’s feed.  30000/1 odds on AteTooManyOats.

  7. Chuck said...

    I have been a fan of Wellinton Castillo for a few years now—great to see him finally get recognized.  I think your write-up was spot on too.  Keep up the good work!

  8. Jack Weiland said...

    @But – I’m not so sure. He’s certainly due for some fly balls to actually leave the yard, but he’s putting half his balls in play on the ground, striking out quite a bit, and not walking at all. And his BABIP is not low at all … still way early, but not a ton of indications that his struggles are all luck based.

    I do like him, though. And 13 games is nothing. If you have him, stick with him (for now).

  9. Jack Weiland said...

    @Chuck – Thanks for the kind words. I started digging Castillo when I realized Geo Soto was never going to “regain the form” he had when he came up. It’s too bad, too, because he was freaking very good in 2010.

    Oh well? Oh well.

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