Fantasy Waiver Wire: Week 9, Vol. I

As part of the Fantasy Department here at THT Enterprises, part of our job is to play fantasy baseball. (It’s a tough gig, believe me).

For me, that means having teams in ESPN, Yahoo! and CBS so I know the ins and outs of each site, and their respective mobile applications as well. CBS has long been the home of my dynasty league, because it allows for the most customization and the deepest rosters of the three major fantasy baseball providers. The site’s user interface has always lagged significantly behind, however. It wasn’t as flashy as ESPN (both in terms of aesthetic appeal and the actual use of Flash, the program), and it has never worked quite as well as Yahoo. CBS has been making strides recently though, and the company unveiled another cool feature yesterday.

Game stories.

Through the use of an application designed to cleverly mine team and player statistics, CBS now automatically posts a weekly recap after each contest. Here’s a screenshot from my league Monday (Kane County Cougars is my team name, Hanshin Tigers were my opponent in Week 8):

image

Very cool stuff, and impressive technology. The story reads like a real human wrote it, and it accurately captured what happened and the trends that matter. I can dig it. I have yet to see something like that from either ESPN or Yahoo. All of which makes me wonder: which site is your favorite? Which features are your favorite? What matters most to you as a fantasy consumer? Let us know below, or via Twitter. I’m always interested to hear what others think and prefer.

Before we get to this week’s waiver finds, a recap of some recent players we’ve featured:

Jerome Williams (the Junkyard Dog!) threw eight shutout innings against the Mariners last Wednesday.

I’m throwing Brandon Maurer in my lineup this week, mostly because I like his starts at home against San Diego and on the road against the Twins. His peripheral stats are not bad (15.5 percent strikeout rate, 8.3 percent walk rate), and his 6.80 ERA is indeed ugly, but I still like him long term, and think it’s conceivable I won’t get burned in two sheltered appearances this week. Or not.

Roy Oswalt did not have a great rehab debut at Double-A, and remains three starts away from joining the Rockies. I’m still cautiously optimistic about his return to the major leagues. My advice is to watch his next few starts in terms of velocity, strikeouts and walks and act accordingly.

Eric Chavez has continued to crush the ball at levels not seen since his prime, and while he won’t see everyday playing time in an effort to keep him healthy, he can still be a huge addition to fantasy teams in need of a bat that can help in almost all categories when he is in the lineup.

I’ve had bad luck (heh, luck) with catchers this year, as Welington Castillo, Derek Norris and John Jaso are no longer guys I can recommend using. So today let’s take a stab at three more options behind the plate.

Yan Gomes | Cleveland Indians | C/1B/DH | ESPN: 5 percent ownership; Yahoo!: 19 percent; CBS: 17 percent
YTD: .292/.309/.631 in 68 plate appearances
ZiPS Projection: .248/.286/.453 in 320 plate appearances

We write about all sorts of interesting cases here at the Waiver Wire desk, and Yan Gomes certainly fits that bill as well. The first Brazilian major league player, Gomes was briefly a flavor of the week last May when he made that historic debut for the Blue Jays. It didn’t go well, to the tune of a .204/.264/.367 triple slash line in 111 plate appearances. He was traded to the Indians over the offseason, along with Mike Aviles, and while his playing time hasn’t improved noticeably on the high-octane Indians, his performance has improved in a number of areas.

His triple slash line of .292/.309/.631 is pretty striking, even when considering he’s put up those numbers in just 68 plate appearances and he’s been on a power tear recently, hitting three of his five home runs in the past seven days. There are other reasons to like what Gomes has done this year, however.

He’s not walking much (just 2.9 percent) and that’s never been a huge part of his game, but Gomes has cut his strikeout rate considerably (from 28.8 percent with the Blue Jays to 19.1 percent). Both major league stints are incredibly small sample sizes, but Gomes’ plate discipline has been markedly improved this season. He’s swinging at way fewer pitches outside the zone (41 percent to 32.6), his contact rate is way up (from 70.1 percent to 85.3), and he’s managed to cut his swinging strike rate in half (from 15.9 percent to 7).

His biggest success this season comes in terms of power, though. His current .338 ISO would be among the league leaders if he had enough playing time to qualify. That ISO rate is indeed much higher than it’s been at any stop of his professional career, but it’s not as if his HR/FB rate is completely unsustainable, at 20.8 percent. Even anticipating a modest drop, Gomes would still have enough power to make him a useful catcher in fantasy leagues.

All of this boils down to one thing: Gomes could be of great use with increased playing time. He’s going to struggle to get that in Cleveland, splitting time behind the dish with Carlos Santana, and at first with Nick Swisher, and getting some at-bats as designated hitter. His career numbers don’t suggest a lefty/righty platoon split is very necessary, so a case could be made that Gomes could be a good fantasy player with full-time at-bats. It remains to be seen if he will get that chance.

Recommendation: Gomes bears watching closely. An increase in playing time could make him very useful in mixed leagues. As is, he’s well worth rostering in AL-only leagues where owners can manage his playing time.

Jason Castro | Houston Astros | C | ESPN: 5.4 percent ownership; Yahoo!: 13 percent; CBS: 40 percent
YTD: .283/.327/.478
ZiPS Projection: .262/.322/.416 in 458 plate appearances

This is going to be a controversial statement, but things have not gone well in Houston this year. Some might even say the 14-36 Astros are not even watchable at this point, being that their incompetence is rivaled only by that of the Marlins.

This has been generally true in fantasy baseball as well, but one unheralded bright spot could be crouched behind the plate.

In his third season in the majors, Castro is getting a majority of the playing time at catcher, and he’s been hitting third to boot. He’s already matched his 2012 home run total and has put up generally good numbers across the board.

His ISO of .195 is very useful, particularly from this position, and his healthy line drive rate of 26.1 percent indicates he’s been making hard contact consistently this year. His home run rate might be a tad high at 14.6 percent, but not overly so. He could be due for a dip in BABIP, which is currently at .358, but if he maintains such a high line drive rate it’s plausible that he can maintain an elevated average on balls in play. He’s been a tad under the radar for now, but that changed on CBS this week, as his ownership jumped from 18 percent to 40.

Recommendation: He can be a low-end mixed league option, and a stellar find in AL-only leagues.

Yasmani Grandal | San Diego Padres | C | ESPN: 0.5 percent ownership; Yahoo!: 4 percent; CBS: 27 percent
YTD: N/A
ZiPS Projection: .255/.353/.396 in 498 plate appearances

PED suspension return alert! Padres catcher Yasmani Grandal will return to major league action this week.

Of catchers with at least 200 plate appearances last season, Grandal had the fourth highest wOBA. His .376 mark was better than that of Joe Mauer, Yadier Molina, Miguel Montero and Carlos Santana. The dude can swing it. Or at least he could, before his PED suspension this past offseason.

It remains to be seen what kind of effect that had on Grandal’s skill, and last year’s impressive stat line, but this is a player who should be owned more than he is. As Dan Wade pointed out last week, “unlike most of the chaff on the wire, Grandal has a high ceiling and a decent shot of hitting it.”

Wade’s concern with Grandal is playing time, as he sees an initial platoon pitting Nick Hundley against right-handed pitching, and Grandal against lefties. That’s a plausible scenario, particular as Grandal eases back into the lineup, but at the same time there’s no reason Grandal should be out of shape, given that he wasn’t sidelined with an injury, and in theory has been hitting this entire time (albeit not in major league game conditions). There also isn’t a lot to suggest to me that Grandal needs to be platooned strictly, and plenty to suggest to me that Nick Hundley just is not that good (career platoon splits of .257/.308/.422 against RHP, and that’s by far his good side).

If Grandal comes up and starts punishing left-handed pitching, and holding his own against righties, my guess is he’ll get the lion’s share of the workload behind the plate, and Hundley will steal fewer and fewer at-bats against righties to spell him.

Recommendation: Worth picking up in mixed leagues now.

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Comments

  1. Clifford said...

    ive been playing on mainly ESPN for about 10-12 years now. as most of my leagues are keeper/dynasty, I cant really switch to Yahoo or another website. however, if I could, I would. ESPN is not only the worst at customer service/responding to complaints, there player pool is the absolute worst, especially for baseball. they have guys that retired 2-3 years ago available, but guys like Dan Straily or Burch Smith didn’t become available until after they pitched their first game in the majors. Im sorry, but that’s just terrible for a website that proclaims to be the World Wide Leader in sports.

  2. Jack Weiland said...

    @Tim C- I can neither confirm nor deny reports about last year’s title.

    It’s interesting, the example above reads really well. Like I say, almost like it was written by a real human. But I had someone reach out on twitter that said his league hated it for two reasons:

    1. Someone didn’t understand it was a bot and thought a fellow league member was talking trash.
    2. It choose stupid stats to highlight. Ex: “X had trouble getting holds this week.” Perhaps it works better for points leagues?

  3. Jack Weiland said...

    @Fabio – I tend to agree with you, although the CBS app is MUCH improved this year. Setting your lineup with it last year was nearly impossible, I ended up having to go to the full site (not even the mobile site!) to get anything done. This year, it’s much better. But the UI on the main page is still quite clunky.

    I think Yahoo offers the cleanest interface, and most solid depth. It’s not as deep as CBS, but it’s not as horrible as ESPN. Which leads me to …

    @Clifford – Have to say I agree. More flash than substance. Why can’t you move over to another site? Too much manual labor to do so? Or you need that historical archive? CBS has had terrible aesthetic appeal for years, but it’s unmatched in terms of customization and player pool depth (especially considering you can add unlisted players, which makes the player pool infinitely deep). But man the UI is gross.

  4. Jack Weiland said...

    @lee – Probably. I rode the Gattis train in my ESPN league this year, and was cautiously optimistic that the Braves would get his bat in the lineup even when McCann returned, which they’ve done to an extent, and he’s still producing BUT … he’s just not in the lineup enough to warrant owning that much.

    Are there other comparable catchers on the wire? If so I might take a wait-and-see approach on Grandal’s PT. Otherwise if it’s barren, yeah, I would make that move today.

  5. Ricardo said...

    @lee; Nooooo! Grandal at best will get the same playing time as Gattis who, at this time, is clearly the superior player. Plus with interleague games this week, they are working Gattis into the lineup. Wait and see; Gattis is one injury away from full time gig. The guys just hits homeruns. Grandal will struggle after the long layoff and lack of seasoning overall.

    Gattis is magic in a bottle.

  6. Jack Weiland said...

    @Ricardo – Haha I appreciate your passion for Gattis. I’ve enjoyed having him as well, and still do. But I’m getting to the point where I need someone who is going to play more.

    I’ll agree wait and see would be best for now, especially with interleague play ongoing (something I hadn’t considered, good call).

    But I do think if nothing changes from this point forward, Grandal will play more than Gattis, and probably be more valuable. Waiting for an injury to another player seems like a less safe bet than picking up a PED returnee who has hit pretty well in his brief ML sample.

  7. Karl de Vries said...

    Honestly, I can’t stand CBS’s recaps, mostly because a) I’m such a huge nerd that I write weekly recaps for my league, and b) the prose is written like something that belongs in a high school newspaper.

    Having said that, I’m a huge CBS booster for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is their live game interface and chat room, both of which have immeasurably helped my league (now in its 6th year) achieve long-lasting success.

    —Karl

  8. Jack Weiland said...

    @KdV – Hahha WELL, we’ve always wanted to write game recaps, but have always been far too lazy. So this solution just dropped out of the sky, and as it doesn’t tax any of us with extra work, it’s perfect.

    The prose could be better, but it at least sounds like English, and the points they’re picking out are legitimate (at least in my case – Kershaw ruled again, Holland bounced back well).

    For us CBS is it because of the player pool, and the fact that we can add players if need be. I picked up Tyler Glasnow last week and without the ability to add placeholders that wouldn’t really be possible. If Yahoo or ESPN added that functionality I think we would consider a move, but until then it’s CBS or bust.

    That and the fact that it allows us to customize our rules more than ESPN or Yahoo. Seems like CBS has cornered the market on hosting really deep leagues.

  9. J.Henry Waugh said...

    Been w/ CBS for several years, didn’t like their last minute total home page make over just after the season began. Still find too much nonsense on your own players, plus it’s like in Font 22 w/ pictures. Though new feature of top players being added/dropped or looked at is sort of nice.
    I think this new “smack down” feature is CBS’ way of trying to make up for the re-design that initially wasn’t recieved very well.  Our league did our own write-ups/polls. New format doesn’t let that stand out like it did in the past. On the whole I think would rather just have league members writing “stories” than CBS’ attempts.  Otherwise, the rest of the site works well.

  10. Johnny Guitar said...

    Should I drop V. Martinez for Grandal in a 10-team mixed H2H league with the Ottoneu point system?

  11. Tim C said...

    You just had to make that legit good victory public, huh? This doesn’t change the fact that Hanshin Tigers rode a true group effort to beat Kane County Cougars for the title last year.

    I think Yahoo uses something like this in fantasy football, by the way. Kinda hidden and relied more on bullet points, though.

    -Tim

  12. Fabio said...

    I am more a Yahoo fan, I really love their iphone and android apps, very useful for last minute roster changes.

  13. Jack Weiland said...

    @J.Henry Waugh – I could not agree more. I’m kind of surprised how many people actually write their own stories … is my league the only one filled with lazy bones?

    @Tim C – Still pretty narrow.

    @Johnny Guitar – I would.

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