A.J. Burnett (recommended Week 2, when his ownership was 10 percent Yahoo!, 1 percent ESPN)
As an avid Yankees fan, I suffered through several years of A.J. Burnett’s antics: blow-ups, media awkwardness, ugly tattoos and fat globules of dip spit. He carried a bad attitude, it seemed, but at times, his performance left me with more pity than anger. The guy was not fit to pitch under the scrutiny of the New York press, no matter how tough and fearless his outward appearance made him seem.
Still, I knew the man was talented—why else would he have commanded such a fat contract from Brian Cashman—and was quick to recommend him in February as a worthy dollar end-gamer. After all, he’d gotten unlucky and mentally unstable (as far as this fan could tell) in New York, but his talent still existed in a vacuum: as I wrote, “Bad luck in several forms—BABIP in 2010 and home run rate in 2011—has kept Burnett in the fantasy dumpster, but I’ll bet my final dollar he returns to respectability (or better).”
Sure enough, Burnett’s turned around his fortunes, and his walk rate has dipped along with his home run rate. Surprising even to me is his wins total (nine), which nearly matches his 11 last year with the hard-hitting boys from New York. I’m guilty of dropping Burnett in at least one league after his 12-earned run-implosion on May 2, but I commend owners who were stronger than I. I wouldn’t expect 18 wins for Burnett, but he’s already more than carry his weight.
Clayton Richard (recommended Week 7, when his ownership was 2 percent Yahoo!, 0.3 percent ESPN)
Play the splits. I’ve been saying it for a while; when you have a pitcher or hitter who has glaring platoon splits (whether home/away, LHP/RHP, day/night), why not play them? The adage holds true especially for Padres. Don’t believe me? See Cameron Maybin in 2011, when he posted a .618 OPS at home compared to a lustier .806 on the road.
And while Clayton Richard is just one man, his PETCO numbers over his career (3.27 ERA, 1.23 WHIP) will play in any league. This year’s been no different, as Richard’s 2.91 ERA at PETCO is elite and his 1.12 WHIP isn’t far behind. He’s managed to stay respectable on the road, too, and his June numbers were otherworldly for a waiver-wire pickup: 2.21 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, and a 3.43 strikeout to walk ratio. I have no problem with owners riding the rest of Richard’s hot streak, and while he, like any league average pitcher, is prone to blowups, he’s always worth a start at his cavernous home ballpark.
Michael Fiers (recommended Week 8, when his ownership was 0.0 percent Yahoo!, 0.2 percent ESPN)
Yes, please, and thank you. Fiers is 26 and has gone generally unheralded through the Brewers system; he was hardly the first name that came to mind when injury replacements were being considered in Milwaukee (remember Willy Peralta?). And while I was wrong in suggesting Fiers’ stint would be a short one, anyone who listened is reaping the benefits. Most recently, Fiers twirled a 10-strikeout gem against the hard-hitting Diamondbacks, and while his flyball tendencies might turn out to haunt him (he has yet to feel the wrath, surrendering only two home runs), even a league average home run rate (adjusted to 10.5 percent) has him at a 3.26 xFIP.
We won’t degrade the special thing he has going so far too much, but he has stranded far too many runners and could be in for a Lance Lynn-like correction. Even so, if you’ve been starting Fiers, you’ve gotten some value out of him. Yes, yes. I love you, too.
Andrew Cashner (recommended Week 9, when his ownership was 4 percent Yahoo!, 0.8 percent ESPN)
Maybe this is tainted a bit in light of Cashner’s injury (which will cost him at least three weeks), but I think this was a keen suggestion. For every 10 mediocre, mid-level pitchers who thrive at PETCO, there comes along one rare top-flight talent. Rarely, in other words, do budding stars get to chance to pitch in pitcher’s heaven. And while the most recent ultra-talent to come out of San Diego (Mat Latos, since departed) suffered through growing pains in his first year, Cashner had three weeks to show the talent he has to absolutely dominate in the NL West. His strikeout rate is flat-out elite (at 11+, it can safely be expected to drop; still, it’ll remain in the top percentile of starters), he throws the ball with much force (averages 98.6 on his fastball, though he’ll likely tone that down as he or the organization tries to save his arm), and he generates a ton of ground-balls (a 50+ percent career mark is impressive).
All this is to say that Cashner has the makings of an elite pitcher (one who’s injury prone, as he’ll often remind you), and you picked him up off the Waiver Wire (if you listened). So follow my directions and stash hom on your DL spot. Please.
Chris Young (recommended Week 10, when his ownership was 3 percent Yahoo!, 0.1 percent ESPN)
I understand why people do it, but it doesn’t forgive. Chris Young gets no love because Chris Young is always injured, but the fact that Chris Young is always injured doesn’t mean that Chris Young isn’t good. You follow?
Look, I get that he’s started eight games in the years of 2010 and 2011, and that’s precisely why he ended up on the Waiver Wire to begin the year. But Young owns a 1.21 career WHIP, and has put together a 1.00 mark in the previous two seasons. This year? Things are looking up, until the inevitable injury bug strikes. As I write this, Young is pitching a fine tune against the Philadelphia Phillies (though exploding in the seventh inning), and has compiled excellent ratio stats. So what I’m saying is what you should’ve known all along: grab Chris Young when he’s healthy, and run when he goes on the DL with his annual injury.
Jason Marquis (recommended Week 10, when his ownership was 0 percent Yahoo!, 0.1 percent ESPN)
Rarely does one with a 8.47 ERA warrant a pickup. Marquis seemed like an exception. I won’t gush too much more about PETCO Park, but for pete’s sake, it turned Jason Marquis into a pitcher with this triple-slash: 3.49 ERA / 3.07 FIP / 3.12 xFIP. That’s over 32 innings, which is a reliable enough sample for me. His home-run rate is plenty high still, and he’s even struggling against the factors of nature (a high BABIP and low LOB percentage). It is Jason Marquis/So this is crazy/But I would trade for him/Seriously? Maybe…
Chris Schwinden (recommended Week 3, when his ownership was 0 percent Yahoo!, 0.0 percent ESPN)
I pegged Schwinden as a “match-up and splits play” because of his struggles with ratio stats, but he failed to even provide that value. In fact, if you picked him up, you probably had two tumultuous days that you can directly blame on me. I apologize profusely. Schwinden doesn’t have the stuff for The Show, at least not at this juncture. He doesn’t have pinpoint control and served up four bean balls in nearly nine innings along with 15 hits while managing only a single strikeout, meaning his stuff was entirely hittable. For every Fiers (an unknown prospect with mixed showings in the pedigree or minor-league performance departments), there’s a Schwinden, and for every Schwinden, there’s a Fiers.
Juan Nicasio (recommended Week 3, when his ownership was 7 percent Yahoo!, 1.4 percent ESPN)
Lady Luck hasn’t been kind to Nicasio, which is disappointing when you consider how well he’s pitched. To wit: his fWAR/200 innings of 3.44 is better than those of Edwin Jackson, Dan Haren, Mat Latos and Matt Moore, to name a few. Still, a fat ERA upwards of 5.00 and a WHIP similarly ugly haven’t helped anyone, and his 54 strikeouts are hardly a silver lining.
Perhaps there’s a lesson in dealing with Colorado pitchers (if Dan O’Dowd can re-think his rotation radically because of his unforgiving home park, we can restructure our approach as fantasy players, no?): Don’t start them at home… ever (or avoid the headache and don’t draft them). In Nicasio’s case, he gave up six homers at Coors Field and posted an inflated, stomach-churning 7.24 ERA. That won’t fly.
Christian Friedrich (recommended Week 5, when his ownership was 2 percent Yahoo!, 1.3 percent ESPN)
Different name, same story. Good looking young pitcher is tossed around in the tornado that is Coors Field. Friedrich’s home/away split is even worse, as he posted a 9.62 ERA and six homers at home while he’s posted a 2.75 mark with only four dingers allowed on the road. Another lesson, this one less extreme and in line with my sunny-day thinking: why not platoon these talented, strikeout-tossing Colorado products? If you’re smarter than me, you’ve already pulled a Clayton Richard, as they, too, can be platoon-worthy without a sexy home park. Liken Friedrich to an ugly, vulnerable monster at Coors and a top prospect on the road, and grant me a reprieve for my recommendation.
Nathan Eovaldi (recommended Week 8, when his ownership was 2 percent Yahoo!, 0.8 percent ESPN)
When I recommended Eovaldi as a “worthy add in most NL-only leagues,” I forgot he wasn’t a very talented pitcher. Home parks can’t save those with little talent, and somehow I looked past the fact that the youngster has never posted a walk rate south of 3.38 at any level prior to this year’s 3.07 mark in the majors. Some can escape with those numbers, but they need a strikeout rate upwards of 4.61 to survive. And to spite me further, Eovaldi hasn’t even picked up a win, which have made duds like Friedrich bearable. I’d have no hesitation dropping him if you haven’t already; he’s not looking at a big turnaround until his skill set develops or he gracefully falls into a swingman role.
Randy Wolf (recommended Week 11, when his ownership was 3 percent Yahoo!, 2.3 percent ESPN)
This call hasn’t played long enough to be safely labeled a dud, as I did write with some caution: “Randy Wolf’s not a very good pitcher, but he’s excelled in the second half over the last year three years.” Still, in his last three starts (the only one since I posted Week 11’s Waiver Wire on June 22), he’s surrendered 18 runs, 17 earned, along with 23 hits. But not so quick: his 16/3 strikeout to walk ratio over his past two starts has Wolf’s stock pointing up!
I’m only half-kidding, which is the scary part. I seriously do think a good portion of his numbers scream “Crappy luck!” but perhaps I reek of bias. Okay, fine. Drop him. But if he has a killer second half, can I say I told you so?
Tony Campana (recommended Week 3, when his ownership was 3 percent Yahoo!, 1.2 percent ESPN)
I wrote this of Campana in the late April column: “He’ll be worth several weeks of Dee Gordon-like production at the very least, which amounts to game-changing potential considering the category at hand here. Buy now, worry later.”
Several weeks, it turned out, amounted to several months, and though Anthony Rizzo has rained on Campana’s barbecue, and though Campana’s been pretty much worthless as a starting outfield option in the game of baseball, he’s been an absolute boon to fantasy rosters. Get this: He’s nearly matched the speedy Gordon’s speed totals in nearly half the playing time, a testament to Campana’s scrappiness, Dale Sveum‘s willingness to let his players loose, and my foresight and incredible brains.
All kidding aside, Campana’s done his job, and as for the worrying part? I’d trade him if I can, dump him if not. Chances are that you’re doing all right in the speed department if you picked up half a century’s worth of steals on the waiver wire.
Garrett Jones (recommended Week 4, when his ownership was 4 percent Yahoo!, 1.1 percent ESPN)
Jones has always been good for power, and this year’s been no different: since May 4, Jones has hit nine homers. June, in particular, was kind to him, as he hit .300. All in all, he’s been a top 15 fantasy first baseman, a fine standing for a waiver find (and for someone with a 3.9 percent walk rate; and for someone who can’t hit lefties… at all). He’s flawed, but the numbers are better for Jones than they are for Mike Napoli (for example).
A.J. Ellis (recommended Week 4, when his ownership was 3 percent Yahoo!, 0.7 percent ESPN)
Thank you for being a credit to society, A.J. Ellis. I wasn’t exactly early on you: Your new-found on-base skills and high average were a trend that had been set for weeks at that point. Still, if my friends jumped, they got a fine May (.333 average, a basket of home runs) and an uglier June (.222, a lonely home run), which amounts to a pretty good mark for a catcher overall. Your batting mark right now: .276.
What I said: “The keen eye at the plate helps support Ellis’ plus batting average, which should hover around .275 when all is said and done.” I’d keep him on rosters for his plus batting average and on-base ability. There’s something to be said about backstops who take the field day in and day out: You’ve has impressed me in that and in your raw numbers, A.J. Kudos.
Everth Cabrera (recommended Week 6, when his ownership was 0 percent Yahoo!, 0.0 percent ESPN)
Recommended before his first at-bat this year, Cabrera’s totaled 15 steals and 16 runs. It worries me that he’s struggling again with his strikeouts, but his willingness to take the walk has me thinking his 2012 campaign is more like his successful rookie year (.255 average, 25 steals, 59 runs in 103 games) than his sophomore slump (.208 average, 10 steals, 22 runs in 76 games). The Padres don’t score runs, which is a bummer, but Cabrera could find himself starting at shortstop for the remainder of the year. A worthy return to glory for the minor-league standout who once stole 73 bases in Single-A ball. Run, Everth, run.
Norichika Aoki (recommended Week 9, when his ownership was 1 percent Yahoo!, 0.1 percent ESPN)
It took him a couple of months to carve out a full-time gig in Milwaukee, but the Japanese import has lived up to his reputation as an impressive hitter (he won three batting titles in his home country). He’s gone .292 with speed and some power, and best of all are his month-by-month splits: .304 in April, .301 in May .272 in June and .400 in 10 July at-bats going into Wednesday. Consistency is hard to come by, and chances are you found this consistency on the waiver wire.
Todd Frazier (recommended Week 7, when his ownership was 2 percent Yahoo!, 0.4 percent ESPN)
Apparently, people forgot how old Scott Rolen was (he went for $10 in two NL-only leagues that I know of), and forgot that Todd Frazier was a heralded, if not seasoned, prospect in the Reds system. They happily shipped Juan Francisco out of town to clear the way for Frazier as the “backup” to the brittle Rolen, and he’s responded with his trademark power. He’s up to eight homers in 55 games, which translates to a glossy 24 in a full season. An even happier surprise is the batting average, which is inflated at .273 and can be safely expected to fall.
I applaud you if you picked up Frazier, and I’d happily hug you if you snagged him in a keeper league. He’ll get 500 at-bats next year, I’m confident, and the projection systems love him. For that, I love him too.
Andrelton Simmons (recommended Week 8, when his ownership was 2 percent Yahoo!, 0.8 percent ESPN)
The most talented defensive shortstop in the league has exceeded all expectations at the dish, posting a not-so-ridiculously-fueled-by-luck .323/.364/.495 triple-slash (with a bonus of three homers, half his total from his minor-league career). He should be expected to run more than he has (he’s 1-for-1 in stolen base opportunities) and he has the job locked up.
J.D. Martinez (recommended Week 1, when his ownership was 37 percent Yahoo!, 31 percent ESPN)
He hardly qualified as a wire find in my inaugural column, but that notwithstanding, Martinez still managed to disappoint. Big time. The balls haven’t fallen for Martinez at the same clip, thanks to his line-drive rate that tumbled from the vicinity of league-best (27+ percent last year) to its current, ugly rate (~16 percent). Aside from hitting far too many balls into the ground, he’s made strides as a hitter (walk rate has nearly doubled, for instance), and the power is turning out to be legitimate (he’ll challenge for 20 this year if the playing time remains), but that’s hardly encouraging for fantasy owners.
I was too optimistic, and perhaps I’m being too pessimistic now: Martinez is still a fantasy asset. But he’s far more flawed than I gave him credit for.
Brian Bogusevic (recommended Week 2, when his ownership was 1 percent Yahoo!, 0 percent ESPN)
Seeing a trend here? Two recommendations of Astros, two failures. To be fair, Bougesevic was pimped as a counting stats guy, and he hath provided (six homers and nine steals). But the batting average hasn’t helped anyone. Not much to see here—his speed is cheap, though.
Taylor Green (recommended Week 5, when his ownership was 0 percent Yahoo!, 0.0 percent ESPN)
He killed it in Triple-A last year and seemed primed for a time-share in Milwaukee, between the injury histories of Aramis Ramirez and Rickie Weeks and the ineffectiveness of Alex Gonzalez. No such luck. He’s managed twice as many at-bats (81) as games played (40), and he’s pinch-hit in 18 games, which may go a long way in explaining his .637 OPS. No one’s mistaking him for Paul Molitor, but it seems ludicrous to me that the Brewers are rolling with Cody Ransom at shortstop (when Green has some minor-league seasoning at the position) and Weeks (below replacement level! terrible defensive readings!) at second.
John Mayberry Jr. (recommended
Week 6, when his ownership was 5 percent Yahoo!, 2.8 percent ESPN)
Mayberry, too, may be a victim of circumstance (or Charlie Manuel) to an extent: He’s been relegated to pinch-hitting duties 18 times, been passed over for playing time for the likes of Laynce Nix and Ty Wigginton incessantly (despite the promise of Manuel, circa spring training this year, that Mayberry would see full-time at-bats).
But despite my whines, it’s hard to see how Mayberry has earned time this year: Was his performance to blame for his slip in playing time or vice versa? I can’t help but shake from my head memories of Michael Morse‘s breakout last year, though. Morse was hyped like Mayberry (a late bloomer, people said), and was dropped like Mayberry after a terrible start to the season. Soon, Morse was a star. Unfortunately, we don’t have the luxury to find out what Mayberry could have been—the best we can do is extrapolate his last year’s stats and sulk.
Alex Castellanos (recommended Week 8, when he was not available in Yahoo! leagues, and was available in 0.0 percent of ESPN formats)
He went 3-for-21 in his taste of the majors. Still, those minor league numbers jump out at you: .319 at Double-A Springfield with 19 homers and 10 steals (93 games) and .360 at Triple-A Albuquerque (eight homers, 11 steals in 41 games). Keep him stashed in keeper leagues. Otherwise: Hope you didn’t use your waiver priority on him.
Jose Tabata (recommended Week 11, when his ownership was 21 percent Yahoo!, 3.5 percent ESPN))
I smelled turnaround, while Clint Hurdle and Neil Huntington couldn’t stand to watch Tabata jog backwards in the outfield and fail to run out grounders. He’ll be back, I think, but his big developmental step back is depressing. Take a shot on Starling Marte, who’s killing it at Triple-A right now.
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