Okay, so Denard Span and Will Venable have done basically nothing in the days since we had them on the waiver wire, though I remain optimistic that both will see their ownership levels rise as the next few weeks unfold. Meanwhile, our old friend Patrick Corbin continues his ridiculously hot start to the season, even if a major market correction looms, while Yonder Alonso has seen his ownership levels droop slightly despite maintaining a decent batting average.
But that’s in the past. Let’s talk about some fresh faces as we kick off Week 8 on the waiver wire.
David Phelps | New York Yankees | SP | 10 percent Yahoo ownership; 4 percent ESPN; 38 percent CBS
YTD: 42.1 IP / 3.64 FIP / 9.78 K/9 / 3.83 BB/9
ZiPS updated: 134 IP / 4.06 FIP / 8.33 K/9 / 3.45 BB/9
Every team should be as fortunate to have a Phelps among its pitching corps, and no, I’m not being facetious. Having aided the team’s October run late last summer, Phelps, 26, now finds himself a member of the starting rotation, having posted a 1-1 record with a 2.84 ERA and 1.22 WHIP over four starts. On Saturday, Phelps neutralized the (albeit struggling) Blue Jays, allowing just one earned run over seven strong innings.
That performance continued what’s been a strong major league career so far for Phelps, who’s been a strikeout-per-inning pitcher since his debut last year and has been stingy yielding free passes throughout his professional tenure.
Granted, his current strikeout penchant is not supported by an ability to generate swinging strikes, which portends a drop there, and the career 4.12 FIP is probably closer to Phelps’ future as a back-of-the-rotation guy rather than the savior he’s been over his past few outings. But why carp? A guy who can pitch competently on a first-place team is a no-brainer add in mixed leagues, right?
Not so fast, because the question about Phelps’ fantasy value has less to do with his ability to be a decent major league starter than it does whether he’s the best option at the Yankees’ disposal when Ivan Nova and Michael Pineda get back.
We’ll start with Nova, who looked primed to return last week from a triceps injury, only to suffer a setback with an injury to his side during an extended spring training game, and it’s currently unclear when he’ll return to active duty.
Pineda, of course, is still recovering from that awful labrum injury he suffered last year, and although he’s throwing again (and reportedly hit 95 mph on the radar gun earlier this month), the Yankees don’t expect him back until mid-June at the earliest.
Long story short, neither Nova or Pineda is coming back soon enough to prevent Phelps from making at least a few more starts, and frankly, their return might not be enough to squeeze him out of the rotation anyway. We’ll find out for sure as they get healthy, but in the meantime, I think Phelps will provide solid fantasy help across the board, making him a worthy pickup in deeper leagues.
Recommendation: Can contribute in standard mixed leagues.
Jake Odorizzi | Tampa Bay Rays | SP | 7 percent Yahoo ownership; .1 percent ESPN; 24 percent CBS
ZiPS updated: N/A
The fantasy world held its breath last week when Rays ace and reigning Cy Young Award winner David Price went down with what’s being described as a right triceps injury. On the surface, that doesn’t sound too bad, but his fastball had lost velocity from last year, and there’s speculation that the company line is merely a cover for a far more serious ailment. Time will ultimately tell, but in the meantime, it’s probably prudent to wave bye-bye to Price for at least the next few weeks.
In his place comes 23-year-old Odorizzi, a key part of both the 2010 trade that sent Zack Greinke to Milwaukee and the offseason James Shields/Wil Myers deal last year. Boasting a fastball, curve, slider and changeup, Odorizzi appeared on Baseball America’s top 100 prospects list in each of the past three years, and came up for two starts last year in Kansas City.
He’s considered a good, not great, prospect, though he was off to a nice start in Triple-A this year, posting a 4-0 record over eight starts with a 3.83 ERA, 1.10 WHIP and a 9.5 K/9. A former first-round draft pick, Odorizzi seems primed for a solid major league career, even if his ceiling has more in common with a mid-rotation role than an ace’s responsibility.
That being said, it seems he’ll have an opportunity to make his mark as Joe Maddon says Odorizzi will gobble up Price’s starts while he’s on the shelf. In Week 8, that makes him a two-start option as Odorizzi prepares to face the hapless Blue Jays in Toronto this afternoon, and, barring disaster, the Yankees at home on Sunday.
Those aren’t impossible matchups for the neophyte, but they’re not exactly charitable foes, either, so while I’m interested to see how Odorizzi does this week, I’m not sure a sense of urgency surrounds him outside of the deepest mixed leagues in which his two starts are absolutely necessary.
Recommendation: Pass in mixed leagues until he pads his resume.
Raul Ibanez | Seattle Mariners | OF/DH | 8 percent Yahoo ownership; 8 percent ESPN; 12 percent CBS
YTD: 94 PA / .236 / .277 / .562 with 8 HR and 0 SB
ZiPS updated: 404 PA / .237 / .287 / .456 with 20 HR and 1 SB
By the time May dawned, the soon-to-be 41-year-old Ibanez, hitting just .158 at the time, was a fantasy corpse, an afterthought in all but the deepest AL-only leagues. But as the weather heated up, so did Ibanez’s bat, and after helping the Mariners tie up Saturday’s game with a home run against the Indians’ Chris Perez, Ibanez has suddenly seen his ownership pick up thanks to a month that, entering Sunday’s action, had him bashing to a .375 average with six home runs and a ridiculous 1.425 OPS.
Anyone who tuned in to the ALDS between the Yankees and Orioles knows that Ibanez still can provide help on a baseball diamond, and he managed to hammer 19 home runs with 62 RBIs last year. But while the past few weeks have reminded us that Ibanez can still provide fantasy help, it’s important to remember that he’s basically a platoon player in Seattle, splitting time with Jason Bay.
In Week 8, the Mariners will face no fewer than three lefties (Scott Kazmir, C.J. Wilson and Derek Holland), which more or less neutralizes Ibanez’s bat fantasy-wise in the immediate future. Players like Ibanez are definitely useful while they’re hot, and I have nothing against salvaging old parts to help the fantasy war effort (right, Travis Hafner?). But I’m going to pass on picking him up right now.
Recommendation: Strictly AL-only league material.