Waiver Wire: AL, Week 18

No poignant introduction this week. Too busy moving. Hopefully you got my late night tweet earlier this week about Jeremy Hellickson in time to add/start him.

I debated writing about Hellickson this week, but the Rays’ starting rotation is full enough already and the frugal franchise is likely to keep him in the minors as long as possible. Hellickson may re-emerge on the Rays later in 2010 to be a postseason reliever, but is very unlikely to make more than one or two spot starts down the stretch.

All stats current through at least Aug. 4.

Jose Bautista watch (07/26-08/01): .500 AVG, 5 HR, 8 R, 13 RBI, 0 SB. His ownership is up 3 percent this week, to 86 percent, in Yahoo leagues. Yet another great week for Bautista’s owners.

Alex Gordon | Kansas City | 3B, OF | 18 percent Yahoo ownership
YTD: .218/.306/425
Oliver ROS: .250/.352/.417

With a career line of .320/.437/.577 (1.014 OPS) in the minors with 48 homers and 69 doubles in 235 minor league games (1,061 plate appearances), Alex Gordon has little left to prove in the minors. However, with a career triple slash line of .248/.330/.416 (.746) in 357 major league games, he has plenty to prove to fantasy owners (and the infallible Dayton Moore).

The former top prospect has destroyed Triple-A for his career (.315/.441/.560) and it should come as no surprise that he smashed its pitching to the tune of .315/.442/.577 upon a demotion earlier this year. Per Minor League Splits that kind of performance is worth a .258/.361/.444 (.805 OPS) major league equivalent line. Fittingly, since his re-reinstatement with the Royals on July 23, Gordon has an .808 OPS.

Gordon’s positives outweigh the negatives. Though neither Oliver nor MLS thinks that Gordon will hit for average, (despite a 4.7 career speed score, a 20 percent MLE line drive rate and a 19.5 percent career LD razte in the majors), Gordon knows how to draw a walk (14.6 percent minor league BB rate) and hist for decent power (.180 major league equivalent minor league ISO). With Alberto Callaspo shipped to the Angels, Gordon should get plenty of playing time and a chance to prove himself once and for all in 2010.

Gordon, formerly a third baseman, has been playing left field since his demotion and call-up. One of the Royals’ top prospects, Mike Moustakas (hitting .328/.380/.635 split between Double-A and Triple-A this year), is a third baseman and quickly on the rise through the Royals farm system.

The Royals also have prospect Eric Hosmer (hitting .347/.418/.572 cumulatively between High-A and Double-A this season) training to play first and Billy Butler currently occupying time at 1B/DH. Plus, the Kila Whale, Kila Ka’aihue, is hitting .319/.463/.598 in Triple-A this season and has a first base/DH body type (though Kila may never be a playing time threat with Dayton Moore around). Hence, Gordon’s future may be blocked at the hot corner (3B), the slow corner (1B) and everywhere in between (left field/DH, if Hosmer moves to the outfield).

This means that Gordon’s opportunity to prove himself in the majors is now (at least in Kansas City). Who knows what kind of incentive such an intangible can bring… especially when you are incredibly talented. Over the past seven days, Gordon has absolutely mashed, hitting .318/.375/.773 with three homers, five runs and six 6 RBI over 24 plate appearances. Given his minor league upside (.805 OPS!), Gordon is likely worth a roster spot considering the lack of depth at third base this season. (The league average third baseman has an OPS of .751 this season). Heck, he’s even OF eligible.

Recommendation: Gordon should be owned in all formats.

Matt Capps | Twins | RP | 87 percent Yahoo ownership
YTD: 2.64 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, 7.36 K/9, 2.08 BB/9
Oliver ROS: 3.90 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 7.2 K/9, 2.0 BB/9

For the hefty price of expendable catching prospect Wilson Ramos (see Mauer, Joe), Matt Capps is the new Twins closer. Though Jon Rauch had pitched well enough as the Twins’ first half closer (2.97 ERA, 21/25 in saves opportunities), his peripherals tell a darker story (4.34 xFIP). xFIP of course is not the best metric to measure relievers—unlike starters, relievers get used in variable leverage situations and appear for limited innings against any given team in any given game, giving them an added layer of statistical noise. However, the 1.50 xFIP-ERA differential is too big to ignore.

After a down season in 2009 (see HR/FB percentage), Capps has been strong in 2010. HIs 2.64 ERA is sexy, his 3.53 xFIP is enticing, and despite a 1.34 WHIP, Capps is 27-for-31 in save opportunities in high leverage situations (1.63 gmLI, top 25 among all MLB relievers with 20-plus innings pitched this season). In a Joe Nathan-less time for Minnesota, Capps is worth the FAAB bid by owners in need of saves this season in AL-only formats. However, due to the Nathan’s expected return in 2011, Capps’ post-2010 value in keeper leagues will be severely limited unless he’s traded in the offseason. If you planned on keeping a reliever this offseason, Capps is not your man.

Nonetheless, given Minnesota’s history of longer-than-average leashes, Capps should make a strong splash for AL-only teams down the stretch. Sorry Rauch owners, but you knew that experiment was uncertain when you signed up.

Recommendation: Capps should be owned in all formats. He is a top-15 closer.

Coco Crisp | Oakland | OF | 6 percent Yahoo ownership
YTD: .237/.309/.405
Oliver ROS: .255/.325/.377

Despite hitting only .191/.270/.292 in July, Coco Crisp was nonetheless quite valuable for fantasy owners (top 150 player in fantasy) last month. Why, you ask? Largely because he went 10-for-11 in stolen base attempts with 14 runs. Crisp was hurt most of the first half and came off the DL only June 22, so it is understandable that he’s been flying under the radar the last 30 or so games. However, I am putting you on notice.

Despite a less-than-inspiring .713 OPS, there are signs of inspiration in Crisp’s limited 2010 showing. For one, he is currently posting a career high mark in ISO at .168. The statistically relevant plate appearance threshold of ISO for hitters is approximately 500 PA, so one should not read too much into Crisp’s current power output. However, it indicates that he is hitting the ball well enough, despite the poor average.

Crisp has a career BABIP of .305, which is well above his current .280 mark on the season. However, he has a career line drive rate around 19 percent, and he’s clipping clippers at only 13.9 percent through his first 150 PA of 2010. LD percentage also becomes statistically significant for hitters around the 150 PA mark, so perhaps there are some concerns about Crisp’s game. However, with a 9.5 speed score and increased 52.5 percent GB rate, Crisp is taking full advantage of his skill set. Per the THT xBABIP calculator, Crisp’s current batted ball profile is worth a .327 xBABIP. Adjusting Crisp’s current triple slash line (.237/.309/.405) to reflect his xBABIP, all the while pessimistically assuming that all additional hits would be singles, we get a much prettier .273/.340/.440 (.781 OPS) fantasy/real life line.

Crisp has only a moderate steals history (career high mark of 28 set in 2007), but he’s been running much more often and much more efficiently in the last few seasons. This is evidenced by two statistics. First, since 2008, Crisp has attempted a stolen base 32.15 percent of the time he’s been on base, versus the 17.25 percent mark for his career. Second, he has been successful in 81 percent of his attempts since 2008, much higher than the 75 percent mark for his career.

Though Crisp is hardly a spring chicken at age 31, he’s been refining his speed-based game over the past few (injury riddled) seasons. If he can stay healthy, few players in the majors can rival Crisp’s surprising wheels (9.5 speed score on the season). If Crisp can swipe 14 bags on the season with a .309 on-base percentage, just imagine his SB potential with a 34 percent OBP. His stolen base potential could be a difference maker down the stretch (again, assuming health).

Recommendation: Crisp should be owned in all AL-only and fove-outfielder mixed league formats. He is a bench-worthy player (spot starter on Mondays/Thursdays) in 12-team, three-outfielder mixed leagues.

Edwin Jackson | Chicago (AL) | SP | 52 percent Yahoo ownership
YTD: 4.97 ERA, 1.49 WHIP, 7.00 K/9, 3.88 BB/9
Oliver ROS: 4.59 ERA, 1.44 WHIP, 6.6 K/9, 3.7 BB/9

Despite a relatively successful 2009 campaign, I was quite bearish on Edwin Jackson the fantasy (and real life) pitcher this offseason. At best, I pegged Jackson’s upside at a 4.06 ERA mark with a 7.36 K/9 and horrible WHIP (in the 1.50 range). For the most part, he hasn’t disproved my prediction. Over 141.1 innings pitched this season, Jackson has accrued a K/9 of 7.00 with a WHIP of 1.49. Of course the 4.97 ERA is well above my 4.06 projection, but that preseason ERA projection was Jackson’s ceiling in my estimation. However, he has not been nearly as bad as his numbers might indicate.

Jackson’s poor luck has not come on the fly ball. His HR/FB mark of 10.5 percenty is not particularly unlucky, especially at Chase Field, which inflates the average HR/FB rate of its pitchers to 11.64 percent. Where Jackson has been unlucky has been on his percentage of runners scored.

Logically, the more baserunners a pitcher gives up, the more runs he is likely to forfeit. Nonetheless, a pitcher’s left-on-base rate tends to neutralize around 71.5 percent over time, fluctuating based on the defensive posture behind him. Jackson’s 2010 mark is below the league average mark of 71.9 percent this season, at 68.3 percent, although the Diamondbacks are a top-five defensive team in baseball (per both team UZR/150 and collective UZR). Hence, Jackson’s likely had some bad luck with some big innings.

Further, he’s had some bad luck on balls in play. While his career BABIP is .311, his BABIP this season is higher at .322. Per my updated xWHIP calculator formula (on version 1.3 now), Jackson’s xWHIP is much lower than his actual season WHIP, at 1.39.

Of course, this xWHIP projection is based on pitching in Chase Field in front of the Diamondbacks’ elite defense. Following July 31, Jackson now pitches in the Cell (1.213 HR/FB park factor index, which is worse for pitchers than Chase Field’s 1.058 mark) in front of the White Sox (negative team UZR). Needless to say, Jackson’s xWHIP for the White Sox will be higher than 1.40 and likely closer to the 1.50 mark he’s been posting thus far this season.

Jackson’s had a decent season buried under his bad luck. He’s improved his groundball rate to his 2005-2006 level at 50.9 percent. Though he’s regressed somewhat in control (3.03 mBB/9 [(BB-IBB+HBP)/IP*9] last season, 4.08 mark this season), he’s still inducing plenty of strikeouts (18 percent in 2009 and 2010) with an above-average swinging strike rate (9.6 percent). The results, however, a 4.23 xFIP, are still below the major league average (4.15). The move to the Sox does little to improve Jackson’s value.

Hence, just as in the offseason, I cannot give the stamp of approval for Jackson. He’s not even much of a spec pick or back-of-the-rotation guy for a fantasy team (at least in my book). It baffles me why Kenny Williams got him, unless misled by the Nationals’ supposed interest in him. Jackson is no John Danks or Gavin Floyd. Alas, that topic of conversation is for another day.

Recommendation: Avoid Edwin Jackson in all formats (even AL-only).

Clay Buchholz | Boston | SP | 82 percent Yahoo ownership
YTD: 2.59 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 6.32 K/9, 3.73 BB/9
Oliver ROS: 3.71 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 7.0 K/9, 3.6 BB/9

Of all the pitchers in the junior circuit, Clay Buchholz is the one whose true ability I have the most difficulty assessing. When he debuted in 2007, his stuff was simply electric. Though he was pretty wild (3.97 BB/9) and did not induce many ground balls in his minute 22.2-inning stin, Buchholz struck out 25 percent of the batters he faced and tossed a no-hitter. He was likewise in 2008, punching out 20-plus percent of the batters he faced in 76 innings of work, though free passes were a problem (4.86 BB/9). Buchholz flashed an additional talent in 2008, one he had shown plenty oa f in the minors: worm burning (47.7 percent GB rate.

In 2008 and 2009, Justin Masterson and Buchholz dominated the Red Sox farm system with plentiful strikeouts and ground balls to offset their walking ways. For his minor league career, Buchholz has a K/9 north of 10 and a groundball rate of 47.7 percent. Per Minor League Splits, his minor league record is worth a major league equivalent K/9 of 7.78 and a groundball rate of 47.3 percent. Those numbers seem solid enough to offset an MLB-equivalent 3.80 BB/9.

In 2010, Buchholz seems to have put it all together. He has a 2.59 ERA, plenty of wins (11) and 1.23 WHIP. However, there are deeper signs of concern which indicate he is a sell high candidate.

For one, Buchholz is continuing a trend of declining strikeouts in the majors. His swinging strike rate has been constant around 10 percent for his career (8.5 percent is the major league average), but he has whiffed barely 17 percent of the hitters he has faced over the past two seasons. Buchholz’s strikeout rate has been below the major league average (~7) for two seasons running, with a 6.65 mark in 2009 and a 6.32 mark in 2010.

The sabermetrician in me thinks Buchholz will regain his strikeouts long term—after all, SwStr% and K/9 are highly correlated. However, considering that we are now in August, I have my concerns about how Buchholz will perform for the rest of the season. His current xFIP is an Edwin Jackson-like 4.26, but the Red Sox have an elite defense (at least when healthy). Hence, I think that Buchholz can continue to post a high 3 ERA the rest of the way out. Though that kind of an ERA is well enough, given his hefty xFIP-ERA split (>1.50), I would consider moving Buchholz for a better player for your final run at the fantasy title as we approach September (and your league’s trading deadline).

I would not trade him in a keeper league, however. To the contrary, I would use the declining strikeouts and poor walk rate as leverage to buy low on him for future seasons.

Recommendation: In all formats, Buchholz is a sell high candidate for 2009, but a buy low candidate in keeper leagues.

J.P. Arencibia | Toronto | C | 2 percent Yahoo ownership
YTD: .304/.360/.640 (AAA)
Oliver ROS: .220/.259/.411

A few weeks ago, I took an extensive look at J.P. Arencibia. There is not much new to say about him (.242/.286/.477 MLE performance in Triple-A, per Minor League Splits), but with John Buck headed to the DL, the Blue Jays have promoted Arencibia to the majors. Fantasy teams that burst into flames when Carlos Santana went down last week (not that he was doing much, with a .232 average over the last 28 days … unless you are in an OBP league (.378 OBP) should acquire Arenciba immediately.

Recommendation: Arenciba must be owned in AL-only formats, should be owned in most mixed leagues. He has top 10 catcher upside.

Luke Scott | Baltimore | 1B, OF | 44 percent Yahoo ownership
YTD: .285/.350/.569
Oliver ROS: .256/.333/.483

Nothing about Luke Scott has changed, but he is still swinging a hot bat at the moment. Since returning from the DL on July 19, Scott has belted eight home runs while batting .333. Scott’s 17 RBI and 11 runs over this 16-game span is also impressive. If you ignored me two weeks ago when I warned you Scott was ready to go on a tear, heed me now. Scott may have some hot thunder left in his bat and a short-term gamble is well worth the risk. He should not be available on the waiver wire of two out of every three leagues, but he is. Scott’s dual eligibility is merely gravy on the mashed potatoes and owners in need of power should employ Scott’s services immediately.

Recommendation: Scott should be owned in all formats.

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Comments

  1. Jeffrey Gross said...

    @Frank:

    I love Kila and have covered him 2-3 times this summer. Personally, I wish the Cubs would offer Colvin+Vitters for Kila and Gordon, but that will likely never happen, sigh. Kila may not ever get a shot with the Royals, who have a 1B/DH logjam

  2. Frank Kim said...

    @Jeffrey:

    The logjam is gone at DH now that Guillen is gone, no?  What do you project for Kila?  His MLE OPS of .819 doesn’t seem that great but I do love his BB/K ratio.  What I don’t get is why the Royals kept him down for so long.  It makes me a little suspicious.  I know the quick answer is the Royals management is incompetent but I don’t think it’s that incompetent.

  3. Jeffrey Gross said...

    I think Kila will be an OBP machine with 25+ HR power. The logjam is obviously smaller without Guillen, but they still have Hosmer/Gordon/Butler/Kila/Moustakas for 3 positions, MAYBE 4 if you can shift Hosmer/Gordon to left (ill advised for Gordon).

    Kila’s also no spring chicken anymore. He’s old like Nelson Cruz and in his prime now

  4. Frank Kim said...

    What’s your take on Kila Ka’aihue?  His MLE OPS is .819 which is better than Gordon’s though not fantastic either.

  5. Jeffrey Gross said...

    I honestly prefer gordon. 3B eligible makes him more premium and I think he has more upside. Esp. in OBP leagues

  6. Frank Kim said...

    Another question.  Would you trade Gordon for Cuddyer or Carlos Lee?  I’m not excited about them either but would appreciate your thoughts.

  7. Jeffrey Gross said...

    I honestly would still rather have Gordon. It has been pointed out to me that I have an irrational hatred of Michael Cuddyer (and Justin Morneau), but I honestly feel Gordon has more upside. Both are capable of 20-25 HR and while Cuddyers in the better line up, Gordon has 3B eligibility. Hence, its a question of need. If you need an OF/UTIL, then I would trade for Cuddyer. Otherwise, keep Gordon.

    Carlos Lee, however, is not worth trading either for. Old people with no old people skills decline much?

  8. Frank Kim said...

    Thanks Jeff.  Yeah I am going to hold onto Gordon.  I did make one offer of Gordon and Heilmann for Jones and Leo Nunez but he probably won’t do it.

    By the way, I also picked up Kila.  Hope those two come through for me. grin

  9. mucker said...

    what do you think about a strategy tanking
    saves, filling closerslots with spot starters/middle relievers and
    fattening up on SP and offense.

    Im in a league where it seems to be working, can it work over a full season?

  10. Jeffrey Gross said...

    @Mucker, I think it works very well in H2H, though I have my doubts about it in Roto, where categories are worth 1-10 (versus 1) point.

    Personally, I load up on 1-2 top tier RPs to balance out my ratios for risky high WHIP pitchers. For instance, I had Broxton/Kuo a few yrs back rather than Saito. Or this year I have Putz/Thorton in one league and Venters/Bard in another

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