Dear readers, it’s important that you know one of the best parts of our work here at the Waiver Wire desk is our interaction with you. One exchange got me thinking this week, courtesy of reader Fabio, who thanked us for the tips we give. This led me to wonder how often our tips are acted on, how often those tips are successful, and how horribly they fail sometimes (heh, sometimes).
So, friends, feel free to let Karl and I know how we’ve led you to glory, or how you’ve followed our help straight into the clutches of defeat. The only way for us to improve our work is to get feedback, both positive and negative.
Now that we’re a quarter of the way into the season, our sample of suggestions and warnings is sufficient to vet our work here. In the meantime, let’s take a look at some players we’ve featured here and how they’ve performed recently.
Felix Doubront was one of the most dropped players at CBS this week, going from 52 percent ownership to 37 percent after being demoted to the bullpen briefly for Allen Webster, who got hit around by the Twins and was then sent back to Triple-A.
Doubront is now back in the rotation, and with an ERA that is 3.58 higher than his FIP (6.40 vs. 2.82) there’s a chance to capitalize on a short-term blip in ownership rates. He’s a better and more valuable player than the current ownership rates would suggest.
Luis Valbuena has continued his strong play and is still very available in fantasy leagues. He “suffered” a pinkie injury last week, but the team believes (for now) that he’ll avoid a stint on the disabled list. The really good news here (for Valbuena and his owners) is that the Cubs also outrighted Ian Stewart to Triple-A and removed him from their 40-man roster, so it appears as though he’s further than ever from reclaiming the third base job in Chicago.
Valbuena’s stock, therefore, is higher than ever, and the fact that he qualifies at second base as well in many leagues only adds to that value. He’s underowned right now, and those seeking help at third or second should take a look.
Kevin Slowey continues to excel, and although his ownership rate is approaching 50 percent on CBS, he’s still undervalued by fantasy leagues. Roberto Hernandez also continues to pitch well, and his ownership rate is still down at just 13 percent. That needs to change.
This week we look at a pair of Chicago starting pitchers set to return soon, and a pair of American League first basemen who have been quietly excellent in 2013.
Matt Garza | Chicago Cubs | SP | ESPN: 26.3 percent ownership; Yahoo!: 52 percent; CBS: 70 percent
ZiPS Projection: 9-8, 3.68 ERA in 151.2 innings pitched
John Danks | Chicago White Sox | SP | ESPN: 0.0 percent ownership; Yahoo!: 1 percent; CBS: 11 percent
ZiPS Projection: 8-7, 4.50 ERA in 126 innings pitched
It’s rare that we feature such big names here in the Waiver Wire, and rarer still that a player owned by 70 percent of CBS leagues could be deemed a value to fantasy league owners. But such is the case here with Matt Garza, who made his third rehab start Saturday and second at Double-A. He looked solid in doing so, and looks to be two more rehab starts away from rejoining the Cubs. When he’s back, his ownership rates should be closer to 90 percent than 70 percent.
Garza had been very good for the Cubs prior to his injury, and assuming his stuff is back where it once was (and there’s no reason to believe it’s not), there’s no reason he can’t provide value with his solid ERA and high strikeout totals. Garza has posted ERAs under 4.00 every year since 2007 with strikeout rates over 20 percent and walk rates under 10 percent. He’s very good, and if he shows himself to be healthy, he should be owned in pretty much every league.
John Danks is another story. The last time he had a sub-4.00 ERA season was 2010, which also was the last time he was healthy all season. Since that time, his strikeouts have been down and his walks have been up.
If he’s 2012 Danks, where he walked almost as many batters as he struck out, he’s of little use for fantasy managers. But if he proves those numbers were the result of being injured and can post rates closer to his 2011 figures, he could be a diamond in the rough. Time will tell.
Recommendation: Let this serve as a reminder that two players who should be on your radar are nearing return. Garza should be added now in all leagues. With Danks, I’m inclined to wait until he shows me the Danks of old before I buy in.
James Loney | Tampa Bay Rays | 1B | ESPN: 26.2 percent ownership; Yahoo!: 18 percent; CBS: 31 percent
YTD: .371/.426/.533 in 116 plate appearances
ZiPS Updated Projection: .293/.348/.420 in 545 plate appearances
Mitch Moreland | Texas Rangers | 1B | ESPN: 24.9 percent ownership; Yahoo!: 13 percent; CBS: 38 percent
YTD: .293/.343/.528 in 134 plate appearances
ZiPS Updated Projection: .275/.330/.467 in 535 plate appearances
It’s important to note right off the bat what James Loney will not do. Namely, he’s not going to hit for power, and he’s not going to fare well against left-handed pitching. Still, it’s equally important to state that he has the 13th-highest wOBA in Major League Baseball right now. No, I am not kidding.
After putting up a paltry .272 mark last year, Loney currently is at .414. Mike Petriello took a look at Loney last week and pointed out that part of the reason he’s succeeding is because he’s swinging at fewer pitches outside the zone, making more contact with the pitches he is swinging at, and the Rays have sheltered him against lefties.
Loney is due for a drop across the board because of his unsustainable BABIP of .402, but he is still a player who walks a bunch, can make consistent contact, and plays strong defense that will help keep him in the lineup. Against right-handed opponents, he’s not a bad play.
A play I like even more, though, is Mitch Moreland. The Rangers’ first baseman doesn’t walk as much as Loney and strikes out more, but he does have more power, having put up an ISO of .236 this year and a career ISO of .184.
It’s interesting to note that Tampa Bay’s offense actually has been better than the Rangers’ to this point, although given both lineups and the park effects of their respective home parks, I’m not sure I would expect that to continue all season.
Recommendation: Neither of these guys is going to be Joey Votto for you, but you could do worse, especially while both continue to be penciled into their respective lineups on a daily basis. In deeper leagues and AL-only ones, they’re worth pursuing if you have a need at first base or corner infielder.