NL Waiver Wire: Week 21

Recap: Brandon League appeared in three one-run victories by the Dodgers in his past five games, with two saves and a win to show for it… Ronald Belisario seems to be the superior pitcher—more ground balls, more biting sliders that League nowadays lacks, and a faster fastball—but League has the experience that Dodgers manager Don Mattinglyapparently assigns heavy weight to… Hope you picked up the former despite my recommendation… John Mayberry has been excellent in September, but unfortunately, his home runs have turned into doubles… He’ll hit a few more down the stretch run, and the plate discipline displayed this month (nine walks in 40 at-bats, compared to 20 in his previous 336 at-bats) is both unexpected and welcomed…Yasmani Grandal’s managed a single home run since we last chatted, and Jimmy Paredes only a single stolen base.

Meanwhile, Casey Kelly’s been a bona fide disaster since his debut… Two home runs surrendered at Coors Field: acceptable; three home runs surrendered at PETCO Park: inexcusable… Opponents have pounded the following pitches over the fence against Kelly: a change-up slightly up from the center of the zone that caught a good deal of the plate (Tyler Colvin), a fastball down the middle that caught a good deal of the plate (Ramon Hernandez), a fastball low and inside that still caught a good deal of the plate (Jason Kubel), a waist-high fastball that caught a good deal of the plate (Aaron Hill), and a hanging curveball that caught a good deal of the plate… I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that Casey Kelly should try to pitch more to the corners of the zone…

For this week, let’s try something new. How about we go category-by-category? No recommendations, no upside plays: you decide where you need the most help in the stretch run, and you target these guys for help.

Runs

Chris Denorfia | Padres | OF | 10 percent Yahoo ownership | 4.4 percent ESPN ownership
YTD: 48 runs in 300 at-bats
ZiPS ROS: Six runs in 14 games

Scrappy and speedy, Denorfia won’t play every day, but might be your best bet to squeak a few runs out of the waiver wire. He’s tallied a run scored in six out of his last seven starts (all coming in September), scoring multiple times in three of those games. The Padres, by the way, are managing 5.72 runs a game in the current month, and Denorfia is the benefactor as the leadoff man. When he plays, he scores.

Mark Ellis | Dodgers | 2B | 10 percent Yahoo ownership | 3.4 percent ESPN ownership
YTD: 57 runs in 351 at-bats
ZiPS ROS: Six runs in 13 games

With Dee Gordon relegated to the bench as a result of the Hanley Ramirez Experiment, Mark Ellis has assumed leadoff duties. The Dodgers offense is stagnant as can be—13 runs in their last seven games—but in the past week, the team has a batting average on balls in play of .237. Roll the dice on the luck correcting itself, and those middle-of-the-order guys in blue driving Ellis home.

Stolen bases

Justin Maxwell | Astros | OF | 10 percent Yahoo ownership | 1.3 percent ESPN ownership
YTD: Eight steals, 14 homers in 255 at-bats
ZiPS ROS: Two steals, two homers in 13 games

Maxwell is finding himself with more and more playing time as the Astros hold auditions for 2013, and his power/speed platter should help plenty of owners with just a single switch. In these messy days of the season, he might be unclaimed or ignored: don’t let it stay that way.

Home runs

Scott Hairston | Mets | OF | 10 percent Yahoo ownership | 0.9 percent ESPN ownership
YTD: 17 home runs in 318 at-bats
ZiPS ROS: Two home runs in 13 games

The notable lefty-masher should be inserted into some lineups every day: he’s hit three pinch hit home runs, 10 off of lefties, and two in his three games this week. Skill is of secondary importance in the final days; a hot masher who could hit a few more long balls by season’s end is a more valuable commodity than some realize.

Wins

Edgar Gonzalez | Astros | SP | 10 percent Yahoo ownership | 0.9 percent ESPN ownership
YTD: Two wins in two starts
ZiPS ROS: Zero wins in one start

Having an able-working body is more than three-fourths of the game at this point. Unless you’re within striking distance in the ratio categories, why not deploy every starter you can get your hands on? A blowup will hardly make a mark. Take that into consideration when using Gonzalez, who has a shoddy track record from 41 previous major league starts (a near-six ERA) but has flashed an improved slider and control in his two starts thus far with the Astros (both wins). Why not roll the dice?

Strikeouts

Jeff Francis | Rockies | SP | 10 percent Yahoo ownership | 0.6 percent ESPN ownership
YTD: 67 strikeouts in 95 innings
ZiPS ROS: Nine strikeouts in 13 innings

With the above point in mind, look at Francis, who’s upped his strikeout per nine innings ratio in each month. In September, his ERA of 7.30 is only slightly lower than his 11.68 strikeout per nine innings ratio. Such a rate won’t continue, but there’s no harm in seeing if Francis’ mixed bag won’t produce another dozen or so strikeouts amidst the runs on runs on runs.

Andrew Werner | Padres | SP | 10 percent Yahoo ownership | 5.6 percent ESPN ownership
YTD: 23 strikeouts in 24-plus innings
ZiPS ROS: N/A

A superior option to Francis, Werner isn’t likely available in many still-competitive leagues. If he is, though, pounce without hesitation; opponents have yet to figure out Werner’s tricks. He generates ground balls, pounds the strike zone early, and throws a sneaky-deceptive mix of a slider, four-seamer, curveball and changeup. Six strikeouts or more in his past three starts is eye-catching; why not see if he can continue the streak?

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