I should have known. I absolutely should have known. As soon as I saw Dioner Navarro (again, just to be clear, DIONER NAVARRO) hit his third home run Wednesday, I should have known something was up. Baseball was going to be weird again. And I should have (probably) taken to Twitter to alert the masses that it was going to be an absolutely off-the-wall day of crazy.
Instead? Well, I did this:
— Jack Weiland (@jackweiland) May 29, 2013
Just to recap, your optimal fantasy lineup from Wednesday’s games went like this:
No one else had more than one, so say you had Neil Walker, Marlon Byrd, Carlos Pena, and Jason Bay, who also hit home runs, your fantasy team would have parked 16 dingers Wednesday alone. I know someone out there, somewhere, had this lineup. Right? Someone? If you did, please email me so I can send you a virtual high-five, because, man, well done. Seriously.
This got me thinking about “the best optimal fantasy day,” and it’s an idea I’ll probably flesh out later in a separate article, but doing research yesterday I was hard pressed to find a better single day fantasy lineup. Have you ever had a day like the one above? What’s the best single day you’ve ever had? Or had against you? Do you still think of those days wistfully/with great heartache? Let us know in the comments or via Twitter (@jackweiland, @karl_de_vries).
As always, let’s recap some recent waiver wire subjects before we get to today’s featured players.
John Lackey is the subject of many waiver wire pieces on the interwebs lately, and for good reason. His sub-3 ERA and strong strikeout and walk rates make him an attractive option. If you’re a Hardball Times Waiver Wire reader you made this pickup when I first suggested it a month ago. Just saying.
Sit down for this one; Eric Chavez is injured again. It was fun while it lasted, I suppose.
More disappointing news: the Braves have designated former waiver wire recommendation Juan Francisco (the hombre with two first nombres!) for assignment. I still like him as a cheap source of power, so I’ll be interested to see where he lands. If he can get playing time, he could still be a solid waiver find. Or maybe I’m just hoping against hope. Chris Johnson will likely see the lion’s share of the playing time at the hot corner for the Bravos going forward.
Rafael Betancourt fended off a nagging groin injury and avoided a stint on the disabled list, but did suffer his first blown save of the year this week. I still find his peripheral stats troubling, and I’m still looking to trade him. Any takers?
On the plus side, Scott Feldman has continued to excel for the Cubs, and has more job security than when we first discussed him here.
My man Karl de Vries wrote some excellent and entertaining things last week about Bryan Shaw and Cody Allen, and you should read it immediately. Seriously, skip the rest of this column and go back to that one (just kidding, don’t leave me!).
Today let’s look at a pair of pitchers who made their major league debuts in 2011, and are pitching well at the moment.
Tyler Chatwood | Colorado Rockies | SP | ESPN: 18.8 percent ownership; Yahoo!: 10 percent; CBS: 27 percent
YTD: 3-0 in 29.2 innings pitched (five starts), with a 2.12 ERA, a 2.32 FIP, and a 3.19 xFIP
ZiPS Projection: 6-6 in 111 innings pitched (21 starts) with a 4.41 ERA
It’s easy to forget how highly regarded Chatwood once was. After the 2010 season, in its 2011 Prospect Handbook, Chatwood was the second ranked prospect in the Angels system*, and the BA had this to say about his future:
If he commands his pitches better, he profiles as a front-end starter. If not, he could thrive in a bullpen role.
His stock as a prospect never got any higher, as he posted an ERA+ of 79 with the Angels in 2011 and then 86 after being traded to the Rockies prior to the 2012 campaign.
This year the Rockies have turned him into a human yo-yo, bouncing between the majors and Triple-A as injuries have made his services needed on the big club. He’s been nothing short of incredible, as his ERA, FIP, and xFIP attest. He’s striking out batters at a rate well above his career average (21.3 percent vs. 13.4 percent) and he’s walking fewer batters as well (7.4 percent vs. 10.8 percent). Seeing as those career averages are based on 236 innings (and his first 236 innings as a major league player), it’s worth looking at how his strikeouts and walks rate against his minor league body of work.
The answer? Pretty well. In his minor league career, Chatwood has struck out just under 20 percent of the batters he’s faced, and walked around 11 percent. In his time at Triple-A (split across four partial seasons), he’s fanned more than 18 percent of the batters he’s faced, and walked just 8.5 percent. So, his strikeout and walk rates are not crazy, nor are they foreign to him.
This is where the human yo-yo starts to work overtime. Stay with me here.
His BABIP does seem a tad high at .337 (good news), but his strand rate of 79.5 percent seems unsustainable as well (bad news). He hasn’t allowed a single flyball to leave the yard (bad news), but his excellent groundball rate of 57.8 percent will help him limit the number of home runs he yields pitching in Coors Field (good news).
So what do we have? A pretty good pitcher, pitching at levels not far from the ones he pitched at in the minor leagues, who has some good luck in his current statistical profile, and some bad luck. Sounds like a solid bet to me.
One last concern before we move on: Chatwood’s fastball is a good pitch, but he’s currently using it 72.7 percent of the time. If his curveball and changeup aren’t good enough to use more often, I worry that hitters will start to tee off on the fastball, and we’ll see a drastic overall decline. Or (even worse from a fantasy perspective) he’ll be turned into a setup man for Rafael Betancourt.
Recommendation: Chatwood’s profile is all over the map, with parts that are quite encouraging, and parts that are quite frightening. For now, I’m advising buying here (at least when he’s in the majors). People forget he was once a highly regarded prospect, and he stalled for awhile turning into a quality major league arm, but there’s more to like than dislike in general.
Corey Kluber | Cleveland Indians | SP | ESPN: 1 percent ownership; Yahoo!: 4 percent; CBS: 16 percent
YTD: 3-3 in 41.1 innings pitched (six starts), with a 4.57 ERA, 3.21 FIP, and a 2.91 xFIP
ZiPS Projection: 8-12 in 143 innings (24 starts) with a 5.06 ERA
If Chatwood was once a highly regarded prospect who stalled out, and is now achieving a modest level of success, well, then Corey Kluber is almost nothing like that guy. Except for the success part, that is.
In the same 2011 Prospect Handbook, Baseball America had this to say about Kluber, the 26th ranked player for the Indians:
He racks up whiffs more with his deceptive short-arm delivery than with pure stuff [...] He still needs to refine his command, because he’s around the strike zone almost too much and is fairly hittable [...] Kluber doesn’t have high upside, but he has good feel for pitching and could be a back-of-the-rotation starter.
Not exactly a glowing report.
Yet if you look at his numbers today it would be tough to find fault.
He’s striking out batters—lots of them—and hardly walking any (25 percent and 4 percent, respectively). His velocity is strong (92.7 miles per hour). His strand rate is healthy, but not so much that regression is expected (70.2 percent). His groundball rate is not bad (44.9 percent). His whiff rate is on point (11.1 percent). His first strike percentage is something to marvel at (63.7 percent). His .351 BABIP is probably due for a drop.
It’s important to note that we’re still dealing with a small sample of Kluber’s major league work, and the scouting reports from his days in the minor leagues do suggest that his success there was less about filthy stuff and more about a deceptive delivery, so the sustainability of the rates above is dubious. But, man, that’s a good profile. If you did not know anything about Corey Kluber and then looked up his stats, you would probably think he’s a player fantasy owners drool over. Instead, he’s Corey Kluber.
He’s in the rotation right now because Brett Myers is injured, and now it looks like Myers return might be to the bullpen, rather than the starting five. With Scott Kazmir struggling mightily as well, Kluber’s job doesn’t seem in immediate danger, and some much due good luck could make that a forgone conclusion.
Recommendation: I’m buying here in AL-only leagues all day, and acting on a spot-start/two-start-week basis in mixed leagues. There’s a lot to like here, though. I am positively impressed.