Waiver Wire: American League (Week 6)

Before we get started, I wanted to clarify something I might not have explained thoroughly enough yet. When talking about a player’s production, I’ll often say something to the effect of “he could hit .270 with 20 home runs and 20 steals given 500 at-bats.” This is not my way of saying that I think this player will receive 500 at-bats going forward. I might say this about a platoon player who may get only 200.

I do this because it is a fool’s errand to try to predict an exact number of at-bats that a player will receive. Plus, it would be changing every week and there would be little week-to-week consistency in this regard. Instead, I give a baseline number (usually 500 at-bats or 550 or 600 plate appearances) that can be used for comparative purposes. I think this gives an indication of a player’s skills that can be compared to other players on the list each week.

Feel free to scale these numbers to the number of actual at-bats or plate appearances you think a player will get. Around midseason, I might switch up the traditional baseline to 250 at-bats or something like that, so at least we’re in the ballpark of the number of at-bats an average starter might receive.

That being said, let’s look at this week’s American League pickups!

American League

Vicente Padilla | TEX | SP: The 5.86 K/9 and 3.20 BB/9 make Padilla an automatic “no” for most leagues. His ERA is being inflated by an unsustainable 80 percent LOB rate. Stay far away.
Recommendation: Should be avoided in mixed leagues. Should be owned in 12-team AL-only leagues.

Scott Kazmir | TB | SP: This one should be pretty obvious, but Kazmir is No. 2 on CBS’ “Most Added Players” list. If he’s available in your league, get him.
Recommendation: Should be owned in all leagues.

Gavin Floyd | CHW | SP: Floyd took a no-hitter into the ninth this week, but I still won’t be buying. He’s a slight fly ball pitcher in a hitters’ park and is walking (4.08 per nine) almost as many batters as he is striking out (4.31 per nine). Yeah, he’s doing good with not allowing hits, but do you honestly think he—or anyone else for that matter—can sustain a .147 BABIP? The answer is a resounding “no.” Throw in a lucky 6.3 percent HR/FB for good measure.
Recommendation: Should be avoided in mixed leagues. Should be owned in 12-team AL-only leagues.

Garrett Olson | BAL | SP: I talked about Olson last week, and now he’s getting picked up in droves. My opinion remains the same. Good pitcher, has the upside to potentially have some value in shallower leagues than those listed.
Recommendation: Should be owned in 14-team mixed leagues. Should be owned in all but the shallowest AL-only leagues.

Sidney Ponson | TEX | SP: Ponson has poor skills and probably will likely be sent down once Jason Jennings and Luis Mendoza get healthy. Not a guy you want to buy into, although his current 1.77 BB/9 and 58 percent ground ball rate are good. He still strikes out very few batters and has never shown this kind of control before (not even in Triple-A to start the year), so it’s kind of ridiculous to assume he’ll continue after three starts. Stay away.
Recommendation: Should be avoided in mixed leagues. Should be owned in 12-team AL-only leagues, for now.

Aaron Laffey | CLE | SP: Laffey will stay on until Jake Westbrook returns from injury and might be worth a pickup in some leagues. He is an extreme ground ball pitcher with good control and could approach a league-average strikeout rate. He won’t dominate, but he’ll be a solid pitcher on a good offensive team, even if the Indians aren’t exactly playing like one now.
Recommendation: Should be strongly considered in 14-team mixed leagues. Should be considered in eight-team and owned in 10-team AL-only leagues, for now.

Jon Lester | BOS | SP: On a different team, Lester isn’t considered as good a pitcher as he currently is. His skills just aren’t there. Career 40 percent ground ball rate to go with a 5.32 K/9 and 5.12 BB/9 this year. No thank you. He’ll get some wins, but it won’t be pretty.
Recommendation: Should be avoided in mixed leagues. Should be owned in 12-team AL-only leagues.

Daniel Cabrera | BAL | SP: Cabrera loves to tempt fantasy owners. He’ll look great one start and awful the next. He has four starts thus far with two or fewer walks, although his overall BB/9 is 4.05. His strikeout rate is also severely depressed this year at 5.74, and his 226 batters faced has surpassed the mark set by Pizza Cutter for statistical significance. This could come back up, but his ERA is currently being kept down by a .226 BABIP and 79 percent LOB rate. Some have suggested playing the matchups with him, but I wouldn’t; he really is just too unpredictable. If you pick him up, just trot him out there each time he’s on the mound and hope for the best.
Recommendation: Should be avoided in mixed leagues. Should be owned in 12-team AL-only leagues.

Kevin Slowey | MIN | SP: Back from the DL, Slowey is a solid pickup. He has fantastic control and should post a roughly league average strikeout rate (though he might have the potential to do a bit better), so he’s definitely worth owning if he’s himself again. Only owned in 0.6 percent of ESPN leagues, so in deeper leagues he might actually be the best option available right now.
Recommendation: Should be owned in 12-team mixed leagues. Should be owned in all AL-only leagues.

Kei Igawa | NYY | SP: Igawa is such an interesting guy. He struggled a bit in the majors last year (namely with his control, though his strikeout rate wasn’t fantastic and his 14 percent HR/FB was unlucky) but excelled at Triple-A when he was demoted: 9.08 K/9 and 2.72 BB/9. His numbers were very similar to start 2008. Now he’s been called up to the majors, and expectations seem to be pretty low. He is a fly ball pitcher, but I think he could be better than most give him credit for. Definitely worth speculating on.
Recommendation: Should be owned in 12-team mixed leagues, for now. Should be owned in all AL-only leagues, for now.

Darrell Rasner | NYY | SP: Probably not as good a pickup as Igawa, though he does seem to be getting more adds. I think Igawa left a lot of people with a bad taste in their mouths last year. Rasner didn’t pitch much last year and was utterly ineffective when he did, but a 7.21 K/9 and 1.69 BB/9 in 58.2 Triple-A innings in 2006 show that he has promise. He put up nearly identical numbers in 31 Triple-A innings to start 2008. He is more of a ground ball pitcher than fly baller and could be mildly effective, if uninteresting.
Recommendation: Should be strongly considered in 14-team mixed leagues. Should be considered in eight-team and owned in 10-team AL-only leagues, for now.

Mike Napoli | TEX | C – We’ve discussed Napoli before, but his ownership in ESPN leagues is still just 36.6 percent and he’s seeing some adds this week. He won’t hit for a high batting average, but not a lot of catchers do, and he has great power to make up for it. Jeff Mathis is getting a little annoying, but Napoli has the skills to be a very good fantasy catcher.
Recommendation: Should be owned in all leagues.

Marco Scutaro | TOR | IF: With David Eckstein and John McDonald on the disabled list, Scutaro becomes the starting shortstop for the next couple of weeks. He’s batting ninth, but he could hit .265 with just a little bit of power. Playing every day, in and of itself, gives him some value in AL-only leagues.
Recommendation: Should be avoided in mixed leagues. Should be owned in 12-team AL-only leagues.

Ben Francisco | CLE | OF: With Jason Michaels gone, Francisco only needs to worry about David Dellucci and Franklin Gutierrez for playing time. He’ll likely split time with Dellucci. Francisco isn’t particularly great at anything, but he is good at a lot of things. He puts up pretty good contact rates (83 percent and 86 percent in Triple-A in 2006 and 2007, though 73 percent in 92 at-bats this year) and walks a decent bit (8 percent and 9 percent). His Triple-A BABIPs have been both great (.361 in 2007) and mediocre (.297 in 2006) though he hits a good portion of line drives (20 percent and 22 percent).

He has decent power, although perhaps his best trait is his speed. He has an overall Triple-A steals success rate of 79 percent and an attempt rate of 23 percent. In the majors, at least initially, expect maybe a .260-.265 batting average (though with the potential for much better) with 12 homers and 20 steals (assuming a baseline of 550 plate appearances).
Recommendation: Should be owned in 14-team mixed leagues. Should be owned in all but shallow AL-only leagues.

Nick Swisher | CHW | OF: Swisher should not be getting dropped. The majority of his skills appear to be intact, and his .247 BABIP should improve. His fly ball rate (39 percent) is down from the previous two years (46 and 48 percent) as his line drive rate has increased to 23 percent from 18 percent last year. It’s possible that, batting leadoff on a team managed by Ozzie Guillen, this was done intentionally. That would not be good for Swisher’s fantasy value, but this is just conjecture and not drop-worthy. Also, he hasn’t hit leadoff in five games because of his struggles, so batting lower in the order he might not start hitting fly balls again. Watch this, but he still needs to be owned.
Recommendation: Should be owned in all but the shallowest leagues.

Evan Longoria | TB | 3B: Longoria is getting dropped too. He’s not playing poorly, although his contact rate is pretty low (as I said could happen) and his batting average is suffering. His power looks good enough (38 percent fly ball rate, 14 percent HR/FB, decent HitTracker profile), though, and with his potential, 80 at-bats is not nearly enough to warrant dropping him if you thought he was worth picking up in the first place. If you want to pick him up in shallower leagues than I have listed, he definitely could have value this year.
Recommendation: Should be owned in 10-team mixed leagues. Should be owned in all AL-only leagues.

David DeJesus | KC | OF: His skills are mostly the same as they have been, although HitTracker shows that his raw power is looking better than last year. 13 percent HR/FB is likely too high, but at age 28, it’s possible he has improved this part of his game. Over 500 at-bats, DeJesus could hit a dozen or so homers, swipe a handful of bags, and hit around .290. Hitting mostly leadoff with his solid speed and walk rates should allow him to score a bunch of runs.
Recommendation: Should be considered in 10-team and owned in 12-team mixed leagues. Should be owned in all AL-only leagues.

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