NL Waiver Wire: Week 1

Surprise, surprise. Injuries have ruled the headlines for the first two weeks of the season. Whether it be David Wright‘s nagging hand injury or Michael Morse‘s uncooperative lat; Lance Berkman‘s torn calf or Drew Storen‘s fragmented elbow (and my fragmented dreams)—the story lines and roster shakeups are hard to keep track of. So what are we waiting for? Let’s see what awaits on the Waiver Wire.

J.D. Martinez | Astros | OF | 37 percent Yahoo ownership | 31 percent ESPN ownership
YTD: .364/.391/.682
Oliver ROS: .289/.342/.462

Hyped as the Astros’ savior—if you wan’t to call it that—by yours truly, Martinez has delivered in his first small-sample taste of April baseball. He impressed last year on both sides of the ball and is viewed as one of the few valuable pieces of the lowly ‘Stros roster, so Martinez should get as much burn as he can provide.

Martinez brings to the table batting average and power, supported by impressive minor league numbers and all. He’s a line-drive hitter whose small sample size mark of 27.6 percent would’ve rivaled and bested, should he have qualified, the likes of Joey Votto (27.5 percent), Michael Bourn (26.6 percent), Michael Young (26.2 percent), Placido Polanco (25.7 percent), and Andre Ethier (25.3 percent). The simple physics of baseball tell you that if you hit the ball hard on a line, it’ll give the fielder less time to position himself under the ball for an our. Simple, huh? Suffice it to say that his line-drive tendencies are for real, and could have him challenging for a .290+ batting average despite his high strikeout ways.

Minute Maid Park ain’t so bad for home-run hitters, too. It rated as the seventh best hitter’s park for home runs last year, clocking in behind only the launching pads in Arlington, Cincinnati, New York, Colorado, Toronto, and South Side Chicago. Martinez, as such, should sneak a few line drives over the tall-wall in left field at Minute Maid.

Recommendation: Run, don’t walk, to pick up Martinez in all leagues (especially if you own Michael Morse).

Allen Craig | Cardinals | OF/2B | 25 percent Yahoo ownership | 13 percent ESPN ownership
YTD: No stats accrued
Oliver ROS: .281/.334/.464

The multi-eligible, ultra-talented Craig was a bit late to the party last May at 26 years old, but carried with him into his breakout month a history of mashing at Triple-A (a .320/.379/.545 triple-slash). He bookmarked a long DL stint with a pre-All Star average of .336 and a post-All Star average of .290, and added 11 long balls in a mere 200 at-bats. So why isn’t this guy owned?

He’s a massive, massive injury question mark. Craig characteristically missed time last season with a knee injury, and opened the 2012 year on the disabled list with another knee injury—the norm for the guy who has played in no more than 129 games in any single season, minors or majors. And the Cardinals outfield is awfully crowded with Jon Jay, Matt Holliday, and Carlos Beltran.

Beltran, however, is susceptible to injury, as is shortstop Rafael Furcal. Even though Craig’s defensive returns at second base were ugly (to say the least: he would’ve cost the Cardinals 26+ runs over 150 games at second base last year), Tyler Greene would be forced to slide over to shortstop in the case of a Furcal injury, leaving Craig as the (most) logical replacement.

Regardless, Craig should spell Greene and whoever the most tired outfielder is at least a few times a week in order to get his potent bat in the lineup. He can certainly help in the batting average department and may provide good power returns, should he ever see the field.

Recommendation: Craig should be owned in all NL only formats and closely monitored or acquired as a bench player in mixed leagues.

Lance Lynn | Cardinals | SP | 31 percent Yahoo ownership | 8 percent ESPN ownership
YTD: 1.35 ERA, 0.45 WHIP, 10.80 K/9
Oliver ROS: 4.46 ERA, 1.46 WHIP, 6.9 K/9

So Oliver and I disagree on Lance Lynn, Chris Carpenter‘s rotation fill-in for an indefinite amount of time. This despite Lynn’s 10.38 K/9 last season in 34+ innings of mostly bullpen duty and his squeaky clean 2.70 xFIP, and this also despite his extensive Triple-A seasoning and pedigree (rated the number six prospect in the Cardinals’ system by Baseball America this very season).

I say trust me on this one. Lynn, in his debut outing, threw five different pitches effectively through six and two-thirds innings (I’m counting his two-seamer and change-up, the former of which he barely threw in his 2012 debut and the latter of which he barely threw last year but was valued as above-average according to FanGraphs).

Per, he generated six whiffs at his four-seamer in his debut outing this year (April 8 against Milwaukee’s potent offense) and four more on his curveball. He hit 95 miles per hour on his four-seamer and threw five change-ups, on average, about 10 miles per hour slower.

The repertoire is a recipe for success, and the home park and injury-laden rotation should only be aids in getting Lynn 25+ starts. I like him as a toned-down version of Brandon Beachy last year—under the radar ’til the last minute, slow to draw people in but surprising in his immediate success.

Recommendation: Worth an add in all NL-only leagues and deeper mixed league squads—particularly those who roster Chris Carpenter.

Casey McGehee | Pirates | 3B | 4 percent Yahoo ownership | 2 percent ESPN ownership
YTD: .417/.417/.750
Oliver ROS: .260/.312/.398

Early returns on Pedro Alvarez versus lefties: ugly. His OBP is .291, his strikeout rate is an alarming 42 percent, and he’s hit a mere three home runs in 152 at-bats. Lest you forget, that’s his game. So we know Casey McGehee, he of a lifetime .260/.322/.422 triple-slash against southpaws—merely respectable—, will vulture those at-bats.

The good news for McGehee watchers, owners, and fans is that Alvarez has shown almost equal ineptitude against righties, putting together a passable but ugly .723 OPS and a 31 percent strikeout rate. Early, and I mean very early, readings from the 2012 Alvarez Job Pressure Barometer tell me that he’s pressing because the pressure’s on, and his 1-for-9 showing with four strikeouts in three games isn’t winning him any more playing time.

McGehee was barely above the replacement level last year, but is a league-average hitter and at incredibly weak position, and can be an able fill-in for David Wright in his absence. In his heyday, which was 2010, McGehee did stuff: stuff being, of course, 23 home runs, 104 runs batted in, and a .285 average. The out-of-nowhere breakout start of 2009 followed up his half-season cameo with an even better showing. It looked like a classic case of a prospect that crawled through the cracks.

Say it ain’t so, Pedro. McGehee got 600 plate appearances for the Brewers in 2011, but did nothing with them offensively: he was 32 points below league average with the bat, putting together a .223/.280/.346 triple-slash that you would think belongs to a Paul Janish. Bad luck, however, was the main culprit, and McGehee has a change of scenery, (by all accounts weak, yet) healthy competition for a job, and a clear-cut path to a split-time at-bats…at worst. You, too, could do worse finding a replacement third baseman.

Recommendation: Worth an add in most NL-only leagues.

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  1. dmlanoue said...

    I like Lynn too and had him in my lineup vs Milwaukee, but extra caution with one start because Milwaukee is very right handed (Morgan and Gamel the only regular LHH in the lineup).  I’ll be watching closely to see how he does against a more balanced or LH heavy lineup, and left handed hitters in general.

    Although his next four or so matchups should be fairly favorable vs some combination of Cubs, Pirates, and Brewers (as he’ll probalby get to skip CIN)

  2. j mo said...

    Are these NL pickups in a mixed league? None of these players are even remotely available in our 11 team NL only league. I think if you are touting NL players, it would be of more benefit to see players available in an NL only league. Lord knows, there’s much more fodder available in a mixed league.

  3. Nick Fleder said...

    @jimbo jones: I really like Cishek and the only thing that gives me pause is Bell’s 3-year contract. I can’t imagine him losing a full-tim gig until next year. Cishek could vulture, though, and was really good when he had the job, however briefly, last year.

  4. Nick Fleder said...

    @ dmlanoue: Lynn looked pretty excellent today, too. I think he’ll stick even if Carpenter is back by mid-June.

    @j mo: I figured most would be owned in every NL only league, except, perhaps, for McGehee. I’ll dig deeper next time, as I’ll have more of a sample size to work with and it’ll be that much closer to the first wave of call-ups.

    @Moops: In a vacuum, it’s a toss-up, because Martinez will get absolutely the most burn he can handle—it’s not like the Stros are pressing to play their top OF prospects, because they don’t have any. Martinez is their fun new toy, their favorite project; whatever metaphor you want to use. But if your team needs any speed whatsoever, take Alejandro. If you could use the power boost and are very strong in speed, you’ll find J.D. the better pickup.

  5. jimbo jones said...

    Any chance of Steve Cishek showing in this list anytime soon? Especially if Bell keeps pitching this way. As for Martinez I agree. Now if he could just ask minute maid to make orange juice that didn’t suck we’d be in business.

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