NL Waiver Wire: Week 21

Stats current through Aug. 25.

Luke Gregerson | Padres | RP | 21 percent Yahoo ownership
YTD: 3.11 ERA, 1.42 WHIP, 5.83 K/9, 2.14 K/BB, 49.0% GB%
Oliver ROS: 3.59 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 7.9 K/9, 2.75 K/BB

Heath Bell was claimed off waivers earlier this week by the Giants. Reports indicate that a trade is unlikely, but in the off-chance Bell is dealt, one has to imagine that Gregerson will be the first in line for saves. Do not expect him to be effective if given the ball in the ninth inning, however—Gregerson has not been himself this year.

From 2009 to 2010, Gregerson pitched 153.1 innings, striking out 29.6 percent of batters faced (better than either Mike Adams or Heath Bell), walking a mere 8 percent (8.7 percent MLB average), and keeping the ball on the ground (47 percent groundball percentage). This year, Gregerson has just one strikeout in 10 August appearances (8.2 innings). His strikeout rate on the season (14.6 percent) is half of his peak production rate, despite a healthy swinging strike rate (12.4 percent, a career low).

Even more worrisome, perhaps, is Gregerson’s declining average fastball velocity. In 2009, his fastball averaged 91.1 mph, and last year that figure sunk to 90.6. This year, Gregerson’s velocity has continued to dip, sitting at 89.6. On the positive side, Gregerson’s walk rate (6.8 percent) has remained strong after last year’s control strides, and his walk rate is a robust 49 percent.

Still, with only 30 strikeouts in 46.1 innings in 2011, Gregerson’s xFIP (though a poor metric for relievers) is below the major league average. Gregerson’s gotten it done this year with smoke and mirrors. Strikeouts and effectiveness are strongly correlated to fastball velocity, so despite a “healthy” (though career low) swinging strike rate, one should not necessarily expect Gregerson to bounce back to peak form this season.

Chad Qualls (3.57 ERA, 3.61 xFIP, 5.29 K/9, 2.00 BB/9, 55.3 percent GB ate) has seen his peripherals erode similarly to Gregerson, but has a better walk and groundball rate, along with that “intangible closer experience” that may make him a better bet for saves in September if Bell is dealt. But as I said, that’s a big if.

Recommendation: Gregerson is an unownable non-closing reliever in even NL-only formats, but beggars can’t be choosers when it comes to saves sources. I would not be surprised if Qualls ultimately gets the ball

Logan Morrison | Marlins | OF | 27 percent Yahoo ownership
YTD: .249/.325/.468
Oliver ROS: .270/.355/.457

LoMo was demoted the other week, despite being second on the team in total home runs, to help him “concentrate on all aspects of being a major leaguer.” Reading between the lines and beyond the .249 batting average, LoMo was too “uncensored” in media interviews, was too frank about teammates, and tweeted too much. But hey, 10 days, one home run and a mere four hits over 27 plate appearances later in Triple-A, and he’s back. There are clearly no more concerns that LoMo’s can’t “hit for average.”

Commentary aside, Morrison is a productive player worth ownership in most mixed leagues down the stretch. Despite playing in fewer than 100 games this year, Morrison has 18 homers. Among all 95 outfielders with 300 or more plate appearances this year, Morrison’s .219 ISO ranks 18th overall. That’s ahead of many near-universally owned players, such as Carlos Beltran, Andrew McCutchen and Alex Gordon. Just as encouraging, LoMo’s 162-game average stat production this year is 30 home runs and 100 RBI, with a handful of stolen bases to boot. His 19.1 percent strikeout rate is solid for a power hitter, so there is .275+ batting average upside. If there’s one knock on Morrison from a fantasy perspective, its the low flyball rate (36.1 percent) and high infield flyball rate (10.4 percent), given his power potential.

I think it’s fair to peg Morrison for a .270 batting average, five or so homers, 20 RBI and a couple of stolen bases down the stretch. In his first game back to the majors, LoMo went 2-for-4 with a home run (though he went 0-for-4 in game two). Nab him before others realize he was dropped by most owners a couple of weeks ago and is sitting for free in the free agency pool.

Recommendation: Logan Morrison should be a top 50-60 outfield the rest of the season. Add accordingly.

John Mayberry | Phillies | OF | 7 percent Yahoo ownership
YTD: .269/.333/.528
Oliver ROS: .245/.294/.424

Over the past 30 days, Mayberry has 16 hits in 48 at-bats (.333 batting average) and seven home runs with 12 runs scored and 16 runs batted in. Those numbers are strong enough to make Mayberry a top 100 players over the past month (No. 81). The recent earner of a full-time position in the Phillies outfield with Domonic Brown demoted, Mayberry’s late bloom (he’s 28) is drawing comparisons to former Phillie Jayson Werth.

Mayberry does not show huge splits (.393 wOBA versus lefties, .356 wOBA versus righties), so he could easily stick with increased playing time as Raul Ibanez continues to struggle (.161/.213/.232 triple-slash line in August, no home runs) and Brown works on his offensive capabilities in the minors.

Mayberry’s 162-game production average rates out to 25-30 home runs, double digit stolen bases, and near 100 runs batted in. The only thing truly keeping him back from being a Werth clone is the ability to walk (career 6.9 percent walk rate, 7.9 percent in 2011). As a productive player on a contending team, Mayberry could provide great, safe source of value for owners in September when rosters expand.

Recommendation: Mayberry should be owned in any mixed format that uses 50 or more outfielders.

Javier Vazquez | Marlins | SP | 40 percent Yahoo ownership percentage
YTD: 4.63 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, 7.31 K/9, 2.61 K/BB, 32.4 GB%
Oliver ROS: 4.11 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 7.3 K/9, 2.75 K/BB

Since mid-June, I have been advocating that fantasy owners take a renewed look at Vazquez. He’s been pretty great since then, particularly since I highlighted him as a second half breakout candidate, but his ownership percentage has risen by only 15 percent. As I will explain below, he should not be available in 60 percent of fantasy leagues.

In the second half, over 51.1 innings (eight starts), he has struck out 54 batters while walking only 12 (10 unintentionally), good for a 4.50 K/BB. Meanwhile, his velocity has sat at 91+ since late May/early June. Even with a seemingly high six home runs surrendered in the second half, Javi’s FIP since the All-Star break is a strong 3.19. Over the past 30 days, Vazquez has been particularly strong, pitching 40 innings of 2.70 ERA, 1.00 WHIP baseball (with 38 K to boot). Those numbers make Vazquez a top 100 overall player this past month.

If you don’t own him yet, and he’s available in your league, acquire Vazquez’s services immediately.

Recommendation: Vazquez is a safe pitcher to own and start regularly now that he’s rekindled his vintage fastball and strikeout rates.

Mike Minor | Braves | SP | 18 percent Yahoo ownership
YTD: 4.37 ERA, 1.49 WHIP, 8.41 K/9, 2.74 K/BB, 39.4% GB%
Oliver ROS: 4.85 ERA, 1.44 WHIP, 7.7 K/9, 2.29 K/BB

I feel like a broken record at this point in the season, but Minor, like Vazquez, is an elite pitcher who needs to be owned in more leagues despite his poor season ERA and WHIP. Over the past four turns since getting recalled at the beginning of August, Minor has pitched 22.1 innings with a 26 strikeouts to four walks, with three wins. Those numbers are good for a 27.1 percent strikeout rate, a 6.50 K/BB ratio, and a 2.61 xFIP/3.61 tERA/2.54 SIERRA.

The results of those peripherals (4.03 ERA, 1.34 WHIP) have not been great, but they’ve been good enough to make Minor a top 200 overall fantasy player those past 30 days. He’s available in more than 80 percent of fantasy leagues. Check his card; this kid’s legit.

Recommendation: Provided he gets a consistent innings load, Minor should make a strong third or fourth starting pitcher down the stretch in mixed leagues. He should at least be spot started the rest of the way, particularly this weekend against the Mets.

Kyle Blanks | Padres | OF | 11 percent Yahoo ownership
YTD: .260/.330/.510
Oliver ROS: .256/.337/.467

Before Anthony Rizzo, Kyle Blanks was the Padres’ promising first baseman (slash periodically misplaced outfielder) who tore up the minors. From 2007 to 2009, Blanks blasted 56 home runs and 63 doubles in 317 games spread across Single-A, Double-A and Triple-A. If not for a medley of injuries, the latest of which resulted in elbow reconstruction surgery last season, who knows what Blanks, still only 25, may have done over the past few seasons for the Padres.

As fate would have it, however, he’s stuck with “only” a career .305/.392/.513 line with a home run per every 22.9 at bats. At Triple-A, Blanks has played 102 games with 23 home runs and a .971 OPS. Oliver likes Blanks’ minor league production as capable of a low-.800s OPS at the major league level with 25 home run potential and a .270 batting average. Those are strong numbers, particularly as offensive production at the major league level has nose-dived over the past couple of seasons.

So far this season, Blanks has blasted six home runs in 31 games (112 plate appearances) while hitting .260. Petco Park’s evil effects upon hitters largely affect lefties, hampering right-handed hitters by only about 10 percent. This means that Blanks’ bat should not be too dampened by his home park. Blanks could easily be as productive as fellow teammate Cameron Maybin, swapping steals for homers and runs for RBIs, as the season winds down. OPS and OBP leagues should take special notice of Blanks, as he knows how to walk (10.1 percent minor league career walk rate). If you are in need of cheap power, Blanks is your man.

Recommendation: Blanks could be a borderline top 60 outfielder the rest of the way. He should be used in all 12-team (or deeper) mixed leagues with five outfield slots. In NL-only formats, he could be a borderline second outfielder.

Casey McGehee | Brewers | 3B | 60 percent
YTD: .241/.294/.356
Oliver ROS: .274/.326/.429

After a disappointing first half (.223/.279/.315), McGehee, over his past 30 games, has finally turned in the kind of numbers fantasy owners drafted him for in the preseason. In the second half, McGehee has batted .284/.329/.455 with five home runs (matching his first half total in less than half as many games) and 25 RBI in 37 games. Those numbers look solid, rating out to 20+ home runs and 100+ RBI over a full season, but almost all of that production came against two back-to-back games against St. Louis on Aug. 2 and 3.

If you subtract McGehee’s two-day binge from his second half totals, you are left with 35 games played, a .258 batting average, a pair of home runs, and 20 RBI. Since Aug. 3, McGehee has batted only .246. In other words, McGehee’s second half has not been any good, he just had a couple of good games. A light always shines brightest before it fizzles out.

Recommendation: McGehee is not mixed-league relevant in leagues with 12 or fewer teams, and is borderline irrelevant in 14-team mixed league formats.

Orlando Hudson | Padres | 2B | 16 percent Yahoo ownership
YTD: .261/.350/.360
Oliver ROS: .285/.354/.408

O-Dog has been pretty banged up this season, barely playing in two-thirds of the Padres’ 131 games, but when he’s been on the field, he has been productive. Hudson has swiped a career-high 17 bags in 20 attempts on the heels of a career-high 12.2 percent walk rate. His current full season production pace rates out near 30 stolen bases with 75 runs and 70 RBI and seven homers. That production is not exactly electric, but middle infielders have not been very productive this year. With less productive players like Aaron Hill (47 percent Yahoo ownership) and Kelly Johnson (68 percent Yahoo ownership) so much more employed, I wonder if fantasy owners are looking too much at brand names instead of value.

Recommendation: Hudson is a serviceable middle infielder in 12-team (and deeper) mixed leagues, and a borderline starting-capable second baseman in 14- and 16-team leagues.

Chris Capuano | Mets | SP, RP | 9 percent Yahoo ownership
YTD: 4.71 ERA, 1.38 WHIP, 7.62 K/9, 2.80 K/BB, 41.5% GB%
Oliver ROS: 4.28 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, 6.9 K/9, 2.82 K/BB

For owners in deeper mixed and NL-only leagues who are in need of strikeouts, Chris Capuano can provide some, with ERA and WHIP upside, down the stretch.

Though his season results have not been pretty (4.71 ERA, 1.38 WHIP), his peripherals (3.86 xFIP, 3.68 SIERRA) say he’s pitched pretty decently, perhaps at the best level of his career. Capuano has always been an above-average source of strikeouts. For his career, he’s whiffed 19.1 percent of batters faced (7.43 K/9). This year, that figure is at 19.6 percent (7.62 K/9). Meanwhile, Capuano’s control is ever-improving, dropping from a career high 9.6 percent walks in 2004 and 2005 to 8.1 percent in 2007 to 7.6 percent last season to 7.0 percent this year (2.72 BB/9).

This, paired with a neutral groundball rate (41.5 percent) at spacious Citi Field should be a recipe for success. Peripherals do not always equal results, but Capuano’s next four starts figure to come against the Marlins, Nationals, Cubs and Nationals (again) through mid-September, so lady luck could easily lean in his favor for a few wins. After that, the Mets’ rest of season schedule features the Cardinals (away), Phillies (at home), and Reds (at home), which will prove much more of a challenge. The point here is that although Capuano will not light the world on fire with his starts, he could be a valuable fantasy pitcher for his next four or five outings. Deeper leagues take notice.

Recommendation: Capuano is a good stream option through the middle of September.

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Comments

  1. Evan said...

    Hey Jeffrey, in the Gregerson piece you mentioned that xFIP is a poor metric for relivers. I was wondering what the reasoning behind that is, and if xFIP isn’t the way to go, is there another stat for relivers I should hang my hat on?

  2. Jeffrey Gross said...

    @Evan,

    The reason xFIP is poor is that the normalization rate/statistical threshold for xFIP is rarely met by relievers. xFIP tends to become more relevant for SP faster than FIP or ERA, but for RP, it takes 2-3 yrs often to peg “true talent” which tends to fluctuate amongst the group more than with starters to begin with. For relievers, it is hard to evaluate their skill. Their FIP/ERA tends to be .5-.6 runs lower than their starter numbers, but that is all I can really say offhand without analyzing on a case-by-case basis. Relievers tend to be more variable year-to-year because a great or horrible stretch tends to have a greater impact.

    I realize thats a dance around your question, but there really is no great metric for relievers. Anyone who hangs their hat on FIP/xFIP/ERA for RPs is being awfully silly

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