Waiver Wire Offseason: AL

Julio Lugo | Baltimore | 2B/SS
2009 Final Stats: .280/.352/.405
Composite Projection (in STL): .251/.323/.354 ($1 in NL league – from lastplayerpicked.com)

Julio Lugo has had a somewhat underappreciated career. From batting 3rd in Lou Piniella‘s lineup with the woeful Devil Rays, to signing with Boston and being called “the 3rd-best shortstop in all baseball” by a Red Sox staffer at the time, to being fodder for Ned Colletti antagonism as the he was traded for “megaprospect” Joel Guzman during the Dodgers playoff push of 2006. Well, he had his knee rebuilt last year, and his career-long history of being an average defensive shortstop who could hit a little bit came to an end. He still hit – anytime a middle infielder can post a .350 OBP and steal some bases, that’s an asset – but at 34, his ability to again perform at the elite level required of a major-league middle infielder is very much in question.

For fantasy purposes, all that matters is how much he’ll play. Obviously, the big factor here will be whether gritty Brian Roberts is too damaged to play 155+ games, as he has each of the past three seasons. And Lugo – questionable knee and all – will likely see time at shortstop. Cesar Izturis hasn’t shown the ability to play a lot of games, and he can’t hit, and the Orioles will be trailing a lot, opening up opportunities for Lugo to pinch hit and stay in the game. This writer is in two AL-only leagues, and will be placing a claim on him in one (futile, since we go in reverse order of 2009 finish), and dedicating some valuable FAAB dollars to him in the league which was written up two weeks ago. The composite batting projection above is flawed in that Lugo has always hit when healthy – not like Derek Jeter, but well enough – and the $1 value increases in the 12-of-14 context in the AL, compared to 12-of-16 in the NL. Oh, and it’s entirely reasonable to expect some of his speed skills to rebound as the injury is further behind him.

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Will Michael Brantley Steal A Job? … (Icon/SMI)

Fausto Carmona | Cleveland | SP
2009 Final Stats: 5.7 K/9, 1.13 K:BB, 6.32 ERA
LIPS ERAs (2006-2009): 4.75, 4.27, 5.64, 5.42
2010 Composite Projections: (bad)

Like Francisco Liriano a few weeks ago, Carmona is a player who needs to be evaluated on scouting reports, not on stats. There’s no way to make his 2008-2009 performance into anything good. It was utter [anagram for “hits”], and hits were something he was familiar with. But in spring training, he’s looked like his devastating 2007 self again – walking just 2 batters in 26.0 innings, and watching grounder after grounder turn into outs with Jhonny Peralta no longer playing shortstop. The LIPS scores may slightly under-rate his 2007 performance, but it’s good to keep in mind that his 3.06 ERA that season did involve significant luck, and he’s probably closer to a 4.00 ERA pitcher at his best. Cleveland should put enough runs on the board to get lots of wins for a guy like that, since he also piles up innings with his efficient style. Again, a reminder that these are best-case scenarios, and his 2008 and 2009 seasons did happen, and it’s not unlikely that whatever haunted him the past two years will again undermine his present success. But for a waiver-wire or late-round pickup, he has the potential to pay enormous dividends.

In a flashback, two players who were called up last September and reviewed in this space, one of whom just made the squad, and should make a great waiver wire pickup, the other who was certainly taken on draft day, but might be cheap in a trade. From 9/4/2009:

Michael Brantley | Cleveland | OF
YTD: .400/.455/.400
True Talent: n/a
Next Week Forecast: n/a
Brantley was 46-5 in stolen base attempts at AAA. Essentially, that’s all that needs to be said about him, but it’s also nice that he doesn’t strike out, with a Ct% near 90% in Triple-A. Just pretend his Triple-A batting average says .310, since there’s no way his stats support a continued .288 BABIP. He has a GB% of 49%, LD% of 21%, bats lefty, has speed to burn, and the aforementioned Ct%. His great speed reportedly hasn’t translated into good defense, which could take a bite out of his playing time going forward, but we expect Eric Wedge to get a long look for himself in September. Should be worth 1-1.5 SB/week.

Wade Davis | Tampa Bay | SP
YTD: 7.9 K/9, 2.3 K/BB, 3.40 ERA (AAA)
True Talent: n/a
Next Week Forecast: n/a
If you lost track along the way, this is Entry No. 932 in the Rays’ Endless Stream of Studly Starters. Davis will get the ball Sunday, and should be claimed in formats where young players can be kept. As far as how good he’ll be, he’s probably on a par with Tillman and Matusz of Baltimore, but has the advantage of facing the O’s instead of the Rays. Only mess with him for 2009 if you are desperate, and/or you have an awful pitcher active who needs to be replaced.

Michael Brantley | Cleveland | OF
2009 Final Stats: .280/.352/.405
Composite Projection: .271/.345/.346 266 AB ($9 in AL-only)

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… or will he come up short?(Icon/SMI)

As MLB.com notes, “GOODYEAR, Ariz. — The Indians purchased Michael Brantley‘s ticket to Triple-A Columbus the day they signed Russell Branyan to a one-year, $2 million contract last month. The plan was to have Matt LaPorta in left field, Branyan at first and Brantley doing his time with the Clippers. “ Brantley posted a terrific .431 OBP in spring training, though he was just 2-3 on stolen base attempts. He has top-tier speed, and as long as he’s in the majors, it’s unlikely he’ll be riding the bench. This is one of the highest-risk players in the AL right now, due to the question marks about his playing time. But he’ll be a legitimate fantasy force if and when he manages to secure full-time work. As a natural center-fielder, he may not be a great fit for Cleveland, but if Juan Pierre can earn a starting LF job, anything is possible.

Wade Davis is only mentioned as a reminder. With his less-than-stellar spring and daunting divisional rivals, it may be easy to write him off entirely, but he could be an above-average starting pitcher this year, though it may take him a couple months to settle in.

Chris Getz | Kansas City | 2B
2009 Final Stats: ..261/.324/.347
Composite Projection: .277/..339/.370, 405 AB ($10 in AL-only)

Getz is another light-hitting player whose fantasy value is tied up in his speed. When the trade was made to KC, it appeared he was buried behind the much harder-hitting Alberto Callaspo. But the inscrutable Trey Hillman announced that Getz was his second baseman at the beginning of spring training, and Callaspo’s injuries have just solidified the role for the speedy Getz. As posted at Baseball Daily Digest on February 14 (As Good as it Getz – http://www.baseballdailydigest.com/2010/02/14/as-good-as-it-getz/ ), it seems reasonable to expect Getz to post Juan Pierre numbers and play average defense at second base. With marginal hitters like Getz, there’s always the danger that he’ll slip out of the starting job, but if he stays somewhere around .340/.370, as projected, he should be fine. It’s not like the Royals have Gordon Beckham looking to take his position away.

C.J. Wilson | Texas | SP
2009 Final Stats: 10.3 K/9, 2.63 K:BB, 2.81 ERA
LIPS ERAs (2006-2009): 4.03, 4.36, 4.81, 3.46
2010 Composite Projections: 3.79 ERA, 1.36 WHIP, $9.

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C.J. Wilson Delivers for the Rangers (Icon/SMI)

When he threw strikes in 2009, C.J. Wilson was utterly dominant, holding opposing hitters to a meager .234/.325/.326 batting line. He continued his career-long trend of being much better against lefty batters (.195/.291/.286 in his career, an outstanding line, compared to an ugly .281/.367/.430 line vs. righties in his career), but was so good overall that he was still effective (.249/.329/.373 vsR). All this is especially important for him, as he embarks on a journey into the treacherous waters known as “Rangers starting pitching”. We’re going to advise much caution with C.J. Expect shorter outings than most SP, and less-than-typical run support, especially with Kinsler being dinged. That will make him only marginally more valuable than a great setup reliever, and in facing more righties his ratios can be expected to rise to levels which are barely helpful.

I am not one for long goodbyes, but I’d be remiss to not thank the great folks at The Hardball Times for the opportunity to participate in THT Fantasy. Most especially, however, I’d like to thank you, the readers. Knowing that there are people out there who love the games of baseball and fantasy baseball as much as I do and are willing to spend part of their week reading my work is what motivates me. I’m humbled and thankful to you all!

Rob McQuown is a lifetime Cubs fan, longtime SABR member, and former STATS, Inc. employee. He also writes for Baseball Daily Digest and other sites and can be reached via email (
; baseball email is always welcome) and followed on Twitter (robmcquown).

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Comments

  1. Rob McQuown said...

    I received this good question via email, and thought others might be interested:

    “[...] I think that with [Brantley’s] plate discipline skills (he walked more than he struck out at every stop in the minors) his speed and his contact skills, he can be a very productive hitter for the Indians.  I don’t see a reason why he couldn’t hit .290 – .300 with a bunch of stolen bases.

    My question is – am I overly excited about him because I like him for fantasy purposes, or should the Indians be just as excited as I am and figure out a way to keep this guy in the lineup?  I have a feeling that he’s going to perform well while Branyan’s out and the Indians are going to have to find a way to keep him in the lineup.  Am I offbase here in my thinking?”

    —Well, it’s hard to say at this point.  The problem so far has been – as noted from last year when he was first promoted – that he has yet to translate his impact speed into impact defense.  If he turns out to never “get it”, ala Joey Gathright, then it’s hard to justify playing him as a corner outfielder, IMO.  If he either becomes a plus corner defender, or finds a way to get a CF job somewhere, his bat is plenty good to merit full-time work, starting immediately (with the caveat that young players are more prone to ups and downs than vets, in general). 

    As for the Indians, they seem a dichotomy this year, split between “going for it” and “building for 2011/2012”.  Personally, with injuries slowing Branyan and Wood, I think they’d be best served by insuring that LaPorta and Brantley each gets 350 PA in the first half to give them valuable MLB exposure.  Then, assuming Marson isn’t hitting and Santana is, they could add Santana at the midpoint.  If the Twins haven’t won the division already and enough pitching emerges to give them some optimism, they could make a 2nd-half run.  Or if they are totally out of it, they could trade one of their slugging lefty first DH/1B guys, assuming that LaPorta and Brantley have held their own.  What I *think* will happen, however, is that Branyan will get enough AB to make him tradable, should the need arise, and those may come at the expense of Brantley; so he’s going to need to start out hot to have a chance to stick.

  2. Kevin Ebert said...

    I agree that Brantley will have to start out well in order to avoid losing his job and/or being sent down to the minors when Branyan comes back.  Lets just hope that the Indians don’t sour on him because of a small sample of ab’s at the beginning of the year.

    I don’t really see the point of the Branyan signing in the first place. It’s unlikely that the Indians contend for the playoffs so why not let the young guys play? LaPorta is a first baseman IMO, considering he was only asked to play left because of the presence of Prince Fielder. The Indians should have gone with LaPorta at first and Brantley in left this season. The lack of power from left field is less of a problem for the Indians with Sizemore in center. I’d imagine that there’s no way that LaPorta is better defensively than Brantley in LF.

  3. Kevin (MadMaxScherzer) said...

    This is a somewhat unrelated question but would it be advisable to drop Miguel Olivo for Jesus Montero at this point? This is my roster and I’m in a 5×5 ((R), (HR),  (RBI),  (SB),  (AVG) x (W),  (SV),  (K),  (ERA),  (WHIP)) H2H keeper league (6 keeper spots each yr).

    C Mike Napoli
    (LAA – C)
    1B Joey Votto
    (Cin – 1B)
    2B Martin Prado
    (Atl – 1B,2B,3B)
    3B Evan Longoria
    (TB – 3B)
    SS Jimmy Rollins
    (Phi – SS)
    CI Garrett Jones
    (Pit – 1B,OF)
    MI Juan Uribe
    (SF – 2B,3B,SS)
    OF Matt Kemp
    (LAD – OF)
    OF Michael Bourn
    (Hou – OF)
    OF Rajai Davis
    (Oak – OF)
    Util Nick Swisher
    (NYY – 1B,OF)
    SP Justin Verlander
    (Det – SP)
    SP Cole Hamels
    (Phi – SP)
    RP David Aardsma
    (Sea – RP)
    RP Clayton Richard
    (SD – SP,RP)
    P Tommy Hanson
    (Atl – SP)
    P Matt Cain
    (SF – SP)
    P Jair Jurrjens
    (Atl – SP)
    BN Juan Rivera
    (LAA – OF)
    BN Maicer Izturis
    (LAA – 2B,SS)
    BN Miguel Olivo
    (Col – C)
    BN Brandon Inge
    (Det – 3B)
    BN Sean Rodriguez
    (TB – OF)
    BN A.J. Burnett
    (NYY – SP)
    BN Scott Kazmir
    (LAA – SP)
    DL Jordan Zimmermann
    (Was – SP) DL

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