It is a tough week out on the waiver wire. Some holdovers from the last few NL Waiver Wire pieces remain on the market, but new blood is thin in the value pool.
Chase Utley | 2B | Phillies | 94% Yahoo! ownership
Oliver RoS: .281/.379/.490
This is just a friendly reminder that the former top second baseman is due to come off the disabled list on May 18. If anyone is in those six percent of leagues that don’t own him, snap him up. Others may want to attempt to trade for him. His chondromalacia is not something that heals, but the pain is now manageable for Utley. He’s a gamer so expect him to remain on the field once he returns. Be prepared for Charlie Manuel to occasionally bench him, especially right before scheduled off days.
As far as production, wipe the steals projection to zero and do not be surprised if there is a decrease in power. His contact skills and plate discipline should remain consistent with past results. Altogether, he should be one of the top second base options for the remainder of the season.
Recommendation: Acquire where possible.
Domonic Brown | RF | Phillies | 24% Yahoo! ownership
Oliver RoS: .268/.329/.453
Brown was sidelined early in spring training after an injury to his hamate bone—similar to the injury recently sustained by Pablo Sandoval. Brown is back in minor league action and mashing. Across two levels, he has posted a .358/.426/.642 slash with four home runs over 59 plate appearances.
The top prospect’s recovery couldn’t come at a better time for the Phillies, who recently entered one of the toughest stretches in their 2011 schedule. While Raul Ibanez has briefly turned around his early season woes at the plate, he is on a short leash. In the meantime, Ben Francisco seems to have stepped in as the resident slumping outfielder. Brown should be close to taking time from both veterans while starting most games in right field.
Oliver expects fairly average production out of Brown and it is tough to guess exactly how much playing time he will get or where in the order he will bat. It safe to say he will play more often than he sits and that he’ll bat somewhere toward the middle of the lineup, but narrowing things down beyond that is a fool’s errand.
Recommendation: Should be owned in all NL-only leagues and most leagues that employ more than 50 outfielders.
Will Venable | OF | Padres | 5% Yahoo! ownership
Oliver RoS: .240/.309/.395
Venable is fun to watch. He’s one of the most athletic players in the majors yet he’s also one of those guys who doesn’t have a full shed of baseball skills to go with his tools.
After slumping through much of the early going, Venable has picked up the pace, posting a solid batting average over the past two weeks while flashing his plus speed on the bases. His skill set leans heavily towards the stolen base category since his high strikeout rate guarantees a low batting average. He also gets few RBI opportunities though he should be able to post neutral numbers in the home run (expect about 10) and runs scored categories.
He’s best used by owners who have one or more elite power hitters like Joey Votto to balance out his low average and middling power. Those in linear weights based leagues can generally ignore Venable. His main skill—steals—isn’t highly prized in such formats and his on-base and slugging skills are matched by a small army of outfielders.
Recommendation: Must own in NL-only leagues due to the scarcity of stolen base threats. Consider owning him in any league with more than 60 outfielders.
Fred Lewis | OF | Reds | 1% Yahoo! ownership
YTD: .250/.250/.625 (8 PA)
Oliver RoS: .266/.343/.417
Lewis always seems to find himself involved in some kind of roster crunch despite being a perfectly adequate, roughly league average outfielder. This year is no different. Drew Stubbs and Jay Bruce have two of the Reds outfield slots locked down on most days, leaving Lewis to battle with Jonny Gomes and Chris Heisey. Like Lewis, both Gomes and Heisey are roughly league average outfielders.
Lewis has one leg up on his competition though: his lefty bat. Both Gomes and Heisey bat from the right side, so Lewis should end up seeing roughly 60 percent of the starts once they work him into the rotation. So far, Dusty Baker has given Lewis one start and four pinch-hit appearances since he was activated on May 4, so it isn’t guaranteed that he will end up with the strong side of a platoon, but those in sufficiently deep leagues may want to speculate on the possibility.
Recommendation: Should be owned in NL-only leagues with more than 45 outfielders and watched closely in mixed leagues with more than 70.
James McDonald | SP | Pirates | 7% Yahoo! ownership
YTD: 5.65 ERA, 1.53 WHIP, 6.87 K/9, 4.66 BB/9
Oliver RoS: 4.40 ERA, 1.43 WHIP, 7.4 K/9, 4.1 BB/9
This pick is for all those out there who like to ride the hot hand. McDonald got off to a terrible start this season, allowing 21 earned runs in his first 18.2 innings. Since those first four starts, he has settled down with three straight quality starts, allowing just two runs over his last 18 innings. Those starts came against three of the worst offenses in baseball, the Giants, Padres and Astros, so take those numbers with a grain of salt. Neither bucket of stats is representative of McDonald, but he has shown the ability to piece together an unexpected run of brilliance in the past.
If we get right down to true talent level, McDonald isn’t particularly good. He’s made worse for fantasy purposes by an indifferent defense and lineup. He has some room for growth in the strike out column. Currently, his swinging strike rate is at 6.3 percent, which is by far the lowest of his short career. He managed to get an 8.3 percent whiff rate in 2010. Walks are a problem with McDonald and it’s more than likely that they will come back to haunt him frequently over the season.
As a fantasy starting pitcher, McDonald simply isn’t a guy you hope to own. However, under the right conditions he could potentially help your team. Given his recent success against bad offenses, it might be worthwhile to try to pick him up for specific match ups.
Recommendation: Most NL-only leagues probably have a home for him. He can be used as a spot starter in 12-team mixed leagues but should be owned only on the day he is pitching. This holds true for all but the deepest leagues: He’s pitch-able, but not worth rostering for the four days he rests. Roto owners struggling in the WHIP column should avoid him.
If you need saves, continue to keep an eye on the closer situations in St. Louis, Houston and Los Angeles. The Dodgers situation seems the simplest, Padilla is the closer but probably won’t be used on back to back nights. Hong-Chih Kuo is the best reliever in LA but he is currently having some trouble coming all the way back from his most recent injury. In Houston, Mark Melancon seems to have a temporary firm grip, but other guys could quickly come into play. If you can make heads or tails of the Cardinals’ mess, congratulations.