Hello NL Waiver Wire readers. I’m pinch-hitting for Jeff Gross this week. While Jeff often pours extensive statistical analysis into these columns, which we all appreciate, I’ve focused my comments a bit more on the circumstantial realities surrounding this week’s slate of players, as role and opportunity are worth buying as well as skill set.
Daniel Murphy | Mets | 1B, 2B, 3B, OF | 28 percent Yahoo ownership
Oliver ROS: .287/.339/.450
Every year a few super utility men emerge. Daniel Murphy’s 2011 fantasy value is in the tradition of Mark DeRosa and Omar Infante. Murphy is a Swiss army knife positioned in the middle of the Mets order and he’s been raging hot over the past week and a half: .454, seven runs, a homer, 11 RBI over his last eight games.
With middle-infield eligibility, Murphy deserves a look at second base or as a fourth or fifth outfielder in all standard 12 team leagues and even some shallower leagues. One of the understated advantages of owning a player like Murphy is that he gives his owner added roster flexibility for trading purposes.
Recommendation: If you need middle-infield or outfield help in standard depth to slightly shallow leagues, Murphy is your man. If you need pieces and have a solid but not spectacular middle infielder you think you can cash for your needs, pick up Murph, move your middle infielder, and watch as your team barely skips a beat.
Javy Guerra | Dodgers | RP | 6 percent Yahoo ownership
YTD: 2.35 ERA, 1.37 WHIP, 5.29 K/9, 1.8 K/BB
Oliver ROS: 4.87 ERA, 1.61 WHIP, 6.9 K/9, .9 HR/9
Oliver doesn’t like Guerra much, and I can’t say that I do either, but with news that Jonathan Broxton is shut down for three weeks and possibly more, the financial mess that the Dodgers are in, and the fact that Hong-Chih Kuo doing nothing to distinguish himself since his return, Guerra looks like the best bet to gobble the few save opportunities the Dodgers generate over the next month and possibly beyond. Of course, there may be threats from his own team, but Guerra has sort of defaulted himself into a closing job for the time being.
Recommendation: As much as it pains me to say it, Guerra should be owned in all leagues. We have no idea how this situation will shake out, but obscure players with sketchy track records and questionable skills emerging as closers is not exactly foreign to the world of baseball.
Freddie Freeman | 1B | 30 percent Yahoo ownership
Oliver ROS: .271/.328/.439
The Braves prospect has posted a totally respectable rookie slash line. Oliver sees much of the same to come but is optimistic about an increase in counting stats. Freeman has batted in several different spots in the order but has been given some starts in the clean-up spot recently. All in all, there are few players with his ownership rate who hit in the middle of competent offenses.
Freeman has also seen his line drive rate rise over the course of the season and I expect his to finish with number similar to Gaby Sanchez’s from last season.
Recommendation: Freeman deserves to be owned in standard 12-team mixed leagues
Cody Ross | Giants | OF | 9 percent Yahoo ownership
Oliver ROS: .270/.326/.461
After getting off to a horrendous start, 2010 postseason hero Cody Ross, has quietly turned in a .848 OPS May, followed by a .850 OPS June. Locked into the fifth spot in the order, Ross has the opportunity to be a legitimate run-producer the rest of the way. Ross’s resume boasts back-to-back 20+ homer seasons in Florida in ’08 and ’09 and a history of being completely rosterable in 12-team mixed formats.
This season, Ross is also sporting his highest walk rate and BB/K ratio of his career. Further, the power dip we saw in 2010 (regular season) may have been a product of a change in approach. A career flyball hitter, Ross began hitting considerably more balls on the ground. In 2009, when Ross hit 24 homers roughly one in nine of his fly balls went for homers. In 2010, that number fell only to roughly one in 10. This would have meant a difference of 24 to 20 homers from 2009 to 2010 had Ross hit fly balls at the same rate. Instead, the increased grounder frequency left Ross with only 14 round-trippers.
This year, Ross’s flyball rates are back around his career peak. The homer rate has dipped a bit, partially due to his home park, but the indicators of fantasy value are moving in the right direction.
Recommendation: Ross should absolutely be owned in NL-only leagues and is worth a look in leagues that roster 50 or more outfielders.
David Hernandez | Diamondbacks| RP | 6 percent Yahoo ownership
YTD: 3.65 ERA, 1.38 WHIP, 10 K/9, 1.86 K/BB
Oliver ROS: 4.79 ERA, 1.46 WHIP, 7.8 K/9, .1.74 K/BB
Okay, raise your hand if you actually believe in the Arizona Diamondbacks?
I don’t really have a whole lot to say about David Hernandez because his inclusion here is based largely on circumstance. If the D-backs fall back to Earth and disappear from the NL West race (okay, Rockies, feel free to turn it on at any time now), J.J Putz is one of the closers with the best chance of being traded to a “buyer” due to his performance and the fact that he’s only on a single year deal.
By default, Hernandez would most likely assume the role of closer should Putz be traded. Putz is also a constant injury risk and any time he starts getting roughed up a few outings in a row (he’s been scored upon in five of his last nine outings) one can’t help but wonder if there is arm pain that may boil over into an actual injury at some point.
Recommendation: NL-only leaguers should monitor Arizona’s situation closely. Hernandez is especially worth stashing for NL-only Putz owners
Buy-low candidate of the week:
Chase Utley | Phillies | 2B | 96 percent Yahoo ownership
Oliver ROS: .281/.380/.492
After spending a week in May getting his sea legs back, Utley spent June being something bordering on Chase Utley, putting up a .875 OPS and a combined 24 runs and RBI in 23 games. While those are not vintage Utley numbers and there is no guarantee we will see the 2005-2009 Utley this year, he is a top 15 middle infielder pretty much at his worst.
Utley is playing regularly and seems ready to keep his motor running. His first full month back didn’t generate a huge buzz, but he’s quietly revving his engine. If he turns the corner and puts up a one five-homer week, your chances of acquiring him will disappear. So, if you’re interesting in acquiring, the time to get him is now.
The blemishes to be wary of regarding Utley are a decreased line drive rate and a career high flyball rate. The problem with the increased flyball rate is that his HR/FB rate is down severely when compared with his career norm. How much of this is Utley still getting acclimated to major league pitching and how much of this is his body’s response to injury? That remains to be seen, and that is part of the gamble one takes when acquiring Utley.
However, I don’t want to overstate the role of potential power in Utley as a fantasy asset. The power potential is what made him able to compete for first round selections with the likes of Miguel Cabrera and Ryan Braun, but Utley will have ample opportunities to rack up runs and RBIs regardless.
I guess Utley does not exactly represent a buy-low candidate, as it’s uncertain whether he’ll get better than what we’ve seen so far. I’d say he represents a buy-now candidate; the uncertainty is your opportunity to roll the dice if you’re so inclined (as I’d be).