Baseball is funny. Fantasy baseball is especially funny.
Sometimes you’re a quarter of the way into the season, all of your teams are in first place, all is right with the world, the sun in shining, the gods are smiling upon you, you’re walking tall and feel like a million bucks, and then you happen to notice on twitter that David Price (a key cog on your dynasty team) felt something in his triceps, and then felt it again, and then came out of the game. And then seemingly all at once you think to yourself:
Oh god this is the worst thing that has ever happened to me, how could this happen to me? And to David? Poor, sweet David. I wonder if there’s anything I can do to help. Would chicken noodle soup help? I have no idea, I’m not a doctor. It always makes me feel better, I guess. How would I even get chicken noodle soup to him? The mail? Delivery? Is he a spaghetti man? Egg noodles? Fusilli? THIS IS A COMPLETE DISASTER. TAKE ANYONE BUT POOR, SWEET DAVID. TAKE ME! TAKE. ME.
Like I said, baseball is funny.
Unfortunately for certain fantasy baseball writers (hey, that’s me!) injuries are a part of the game, and they’re part of what bring us together here. Dumpster diving is necessary because you always need a Plan B. Even if Plan A is David Price, who has been really durable and just plain great the entire time you’ve had him on your team. Plan B. You need one. Before we look at some potential Plan B guys today, let’s recap a few of our past subjects.
Recent Waiver Wire honorees Mitch Moreland, James Loney, and Will Venable were all among the most added players on CBS this week. Each can provide value in the right circumstances (those circumstances being that you need help, and not a savior).
John Lackey continues to be a very useful pitcher, despite his tough start against the Rays this week, and is still owned in just 34 percent of CBS leagues. He’s out there, and he’s undervalued.
Matt Garza is making potentially his last rehab start as this is being written, and could rejoin the Cubs early next week.
Let’s start today’s coverage with Scott Kazmir, since nobody seems to be doing much of that these days.
Scott Kazmir | Cleveland Indians| SP | ESPN: 20.1 percent ownership; Yahoo!: 23 percent; CBS: 65 percent
YTD: 2-2, 5.33 ERA, 5.58 FIP, 3.87 xFIP in 25.1 innings pitched
ZiPS Projection: 4-7, 5.80 ERA in 73 innings pitched
Kazmir received all kinds of press last week after he spun a pair of gems against Minnesota and Oakland, and as a result was CBS’ most added players last week, jumping from 22 percent to 64 percent. I’m not here to recommend him, though, for a few reasons:
1. He’s still a pretty extreme flyball pitcher (getting just 36.5 percent groundballs right now) and one who has seen a career rate of 9.5 percent of them leave the yard. It’s worth noting that his home run rate is more than twice his career average right now, so a likely drop in that will improve his 5.53 ERA and 5.58 FIP close to his xFIP of 3.87. But still, those are not great numbers.
2. His control has been better, but we’re still just looking at a sample of 25.1 innings pitched, and I’m not ready to buy that he’s made significant strides there.
3. Because he gets a lot of strikeouts and a lot of walks, and because that gets his pitchcount high early, he has a tough time pitching deep into ballgames. In points leagues, this is a real problem.
4. His strand rate right now (82.2 percent) is high, even for a guy who strikes out as many batters as he does.
Recommendation: He’s one of the hot topics this week, and his strikeout totals might be pretty at times, but my hunch is his ERA, walks, and lack of innings will make him much less useful to fantasy owners than he will be in real life to the Indians. There are better options available in your league right now. Pass.
Eric Chavez | Arizona Diamondbacks | 3B | ESPN: 1.8 percent ownership; Yahoo!: 5 percent; CBS: 7 percent
YTD: .310/.376/.536 in 94 plate appearances
ZiPS Projection: .284/.347/.480 in 262 plate appearances
Hey, remember this guy? Would you believe me if I told you he was still just 35 years old? (Yes? Okay, well, good. It wasn’t a trick statement or anything, he’s 35 years old).
Chavez has to be on everyone’s short list for “most frustrating/sad career paths.” From 2001-2006, in his Age 23-28 seasons, he racked up 29.1 wins above replacement, combing stellar defense with an offensive profile you dream about. He hit for average, he walked, he hit for power. He accrued plenty of runs and RBI and was just generally a fantasy monster. Then injuries set in. He missed half of 2007 and then played just 122 games combined over the following four seasons. Last year he got his health more or less in order (certainly by his standards, at least) and was able to play in 133 games for the Yankees. He wasn’t the monster he once was, but Chavez was sneakily good for New York, putting up a .360 wOBA while posting a strong batting average, walk rate, and ISO.
This year, Chavez has been able to play in 29 of the Diamondbacks 41 games, and is mostly just sitting against lefties. When he’s in the lineup, he’s been hitting cleanup, and producing at the plate just like the good old days. He is quite literally the biggest injury wild card you could ever have, but his .387 wOBA is worth the gamble. If he stays healthy, this pickup could solidify a championship run. If he adds another in a long line of injuries, well, at least you gave it your best shot.
Recommendation: It’s hard to believe a guy with an OPS north of .900 is so widely available at this point of the season, but it’s likely the fantasy market isn’t buying what Chavez is selling because it’s been burned so many times before. Add him now and ride the wave.
Munenori Kawasaki | Toronto Blue Jays | 2B/SS | ESPN: 0.1 percent ownership; Yahoo!: 1 percent; CBS: 3 percent
YTD: .235/.337/.279 in 83 plate appearances
ZiPS Projection: .257/.311/.311 in 402 plate appearances
Let’s be clear, this is pretty deep digging for fantasy purposes, and Kawasaki is not going to help you (like, at all) in terms of batting average or power. Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s talk about what he can do, which is walk, steal bases, and potentially score runs when he’s in the lineup (against right-handed pitching, mostly) while Jose Reyes is on the shelf.
In 83 plate appearances this year, Kawasaki has a very strong walk rate of 13.3 percent. There’s a lot to like about his plate discipline numbers, including a very low O-Swing% of 18.7 percent, and an incredible contact rate of 94.4 percent. Essentially, he’s not swinging at anything outside the zone, and is making contact with pretty much everything he does offer at. With the amount he’s getting on base, he’s been able to steal five bases, and has only been caught once.
Recommendation: Kawasaki is not a game breaker by any means, and his value will probably evaporate completely when Reyes returns, but in the short term he can provide some value to teams desperately needing middle infield help.