Waiver Wire: NL

Edwin Encarnacion | Cincinnati | 3B
YTD: .209/.341/.365
True Talent: .271/.355/.466
Next Week Forecast: 1.3 HR, 4 Runs, 5 RBI, .276 BA, 0.3 SB
You didn’t think Encarnacion would slug .365 the entire season, did you? Neither does True Talent. He was slowed by a wrist injury that held him to a .127/.286/.190 in April, but he’s hit .308/.410/.577 since returning. Much of that was due to a recent hot streak against the Brewers when he hit .583/.688/1.083 in a four-game series. He’s always hurt the Brewers (.273/.355/.521 career); in the five games since that explosion, he’s hit .071/.316/.071. Still, his OBP shows he’s not falling apart, and he should continue to improve. That home run projection is awfully juicy, making Encarnacion a sweet pickup in many leagues. He’s likely off the table in NL-only leagues, but grab him if he’s not, along with mixed leagues deeper than 14 teams.

Seth Smith | Colorado | OF
YTD: .292/.395 /.489
True Talent: .284/.364/.470
Next Week Forecast: 0.7 HR, 3 Runs, 3 RBI, .286 BA, 0.3 SB
Colorado fans have been screaming for Tracy to give Smith the starting gig in left, but he wanted to give once-top prospect Carlos Gonzalez a shot first. Tracy finally agreed with the fans on Wednesday, naming Smith his starter after he’d hit .333/.353/.515 in eight straight starts. Smith has hit very well in the minors (.313/.379/.506) and has worked on refining his batting eye (.58 BB/K career in the minors, .65 in the majors in 2008, and .94 in 2009). His .80 contact rate in the majors (.82 in the minors) shows that his BA is strong, too. With a starting role, Smith becomes an instant add in all NL leagues and mixed leagues, as his True Talent OPS projects him in the top 30 of all OFs, with peripherals to match.

Ryan Hanigan | Cincinnati | C
YTD: .313/.406 /.375
True Talent: .268/.350/.367
Next Week Forecast: 0.4 HR, 3 Runs, 3 RBI, .273 BA, 0.1 SB
Ramon Hernandez is undergoing surgery to clean out his knee and will miss at least a month, making Hanigan the starter. True Talent shows how little power he offers, but that OBP tells you how strong his batting eye is, supported by his BB/K rate in the majors (1.24) and minors (.99). He spent six years in the minors, in part because of that light-hitting batting average, and his BA won’t hold up under full-time action. But he’s still going to hit well enough to make him a good option in 12-team NL-only leagues and for mixed leagues 24 teams and deeper, unless you’re desperate for BA.

Troy Glaus | St. Louis | 3B/OF
YTD: N/A
True Talent: N/A
Next Week Forecast: N/A
Glaus is already overdue from rehab on his January shoulder surgery, and a recent bout of back spasms suggests he’s not completely healthy just yet. Despite his fragility, Glaus has put up excellent numbers at the hot corner, like the .270/.372/.483 line he put up in 2008. The Cards have been trying him in the outfield at AAA, giving him position versatility and perhaps preventing further injury. If he comes back at the end of the month as planned, he could produce decent stats at a corner infield spot, as 3B has become a scarce position once again. Definitely stash him in your DL spot if you need the help and have the room, and pay close attention to how he stands up under everyday use; he may end up in a part-time role, at least at first. He’s not worth a pickup onto your active roster, but consider this a flag on him for you to watch him, especially if you’re in an NL-only league.

Jason Schmidt | Los Angeles | SP
YTD: 3.6 K/9, 0.7 K/BB, 5.40 ERA
True Talent: N/A
Next Week Forecast: N/A
Another guy who gets attention because of his All-Star name, Schmidt hasn’t pitched since mid-2007, and even then, he didn’t do so well (1.4 HR/9, 4.9 BB/9, 6.31 ERA). The skills are there for him to continue to strike guys out—even in that poor 2007 showing, he managed 7.7 K/9—and he’s shown some good signs he’s regained some of his skills. In seven starts at two minor-league levels this year, his ratios (7.5 K/9, 2.8 BB/9, 2.6 K/BB and 0.6 HR/9) are all strong, but not dominant. You’d like to see a guy ready to excel in the bigs dominate the minors, but he’s ready for at least above-average performance. Deeper NL leagues can take a flyer on him right now, since pitching for the Dodgers will net even an average pitcher a few wins, and he’ll bring the Ks. The rest of us need to watch him for a start or two more, to see if his struggles in his 2009 debut were an adjustment to big-league talent, or an indication of diminished skills.

Tim Stauffer | San Diego | SP
YTD: 7.6 K/9, 3.7 K/BB, 2.08 ERA
True Talent: 5.5 K/9, 1.6 K/BB, 6.28 ERA
Next Week Forecast: 5.0 IP, 0.3 Wins, 3 K, 5.87 ERA
It’s the time of the year for teams to gamble on prospects or guys returning from injury, and Stauffer is a little bit of both. The first-round pick of the Pads in 2003, Stauffer fessed up to some shoulder weakness after he was drafted, ultimately leading to the labrum surgery that’s kept him out since 2007. He finally worked his way back this season and has started twice, putting up two quality starts without collecting a win. That’s the problem with the Padres, of course—the best pitchers still need an offense behind them to win. True Talent sees him slipping back, but don’t be surprised if Stauffer beats that projection, even if he’s not going to do it by the margins he’s got right now. All but the deepest of mixed leagues should take a pass on Stauffer for now, but NL-only leagues deeper than 12 teams can gamble on Stauffer to see if he can bring them moderate Ks and a handful of wins.

Jonathon Niese | New York | SP
YTD: 8.4 K/9, 5.0 K/BB, 5.91 ERA
True Talent: 6.4 K/9, 1.6 K/BB, 5.12 ERA
Next Week Forecast: 5.1 IP, 0.3 Wins, 4 K, 5.55 ERA
It doesn’t take much to make the Mets rotation these days, not with names like Livan Hernandez (4.93 ERA, 4.7 K/9) and Oliver Perez (7.68 ERA, 8.8 BB/9) still taking regular turns on the bump. But Niese has the distinction of being the Mets’ top pitching prospect, so he got the call when Fernando Nieve tore a leg muscle. The label got Niese promoted last season a little ahead of schedule, and he struggled in his first and third starts, while holding the Braves scoreless in between. This year in the minors, he’s done a good job of cutting back his walks (2.5 BB/9) while still putting up some good strikeout numbers (7.8 K/9). His major-league success will depend on smart pitching, however, not strikeouts, as his stuff isn’t overpowering. Being the Mets’ best pitching prospect isn’t that amazing an honor—his ceiling is as a mid-rotation starter—but he’s still talented. So keeper leagues shouldn’t overbid, but NL leagues deeper than 14 teams can do a lot worse on the waiver wire. All other leagues should give him another start or two before acting, but he should be on everyone’s radar to see what he does.

Rick Vandenhurk | Florida | SP
YTD: 6.0 K/9, 2.0 K/BB, 3.00 ERA
True Talent: N/A
Next Week Forecast: N/A
Vandenhurk will be the Marlins’ fourth starter now that Andrew Miller has been demoted, and with good reason. In nine starts with Triple-A New Orleans, Vandenhurk had a 4-1 record, with a 2.77 ERA, 0.925 WHIP and extremely strong peripherals (7.6 K/9, 3.42 K/BB, 0.6 HR/9). He’s been in the majors twice before in the past two years, with good strikeout numbers (9.6 K/9) but poor control (1.76 K/BB) and a subpar 1.5 HR/9; these all dragged his ERA and WHIP down to 6.96 and 1.80. He did very well in his first start in 2009, and his breaking ball—a problem in the past—appears sharper and more accurate. He’s nobody’s prospect, but has enough ability for the Marlins to keep giving him chances, so they see something good in his stuff. Keep your expectations low in any league, but NL-only owners in 12-team leagues should find some good value in his Ks if he can maintain his control, while he’s not worth much for mixed-league owners just yet.

True Talent and Next Week Forecasts courtesy of Heater Magazine.

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Comments

  1. NickM said...

    I don’t mean to be stingy but Niese is not the Mets’ top pitching prospect; AA pitchers Brad Holt and Jenrry Mejia are over him. Holt and Mejia’s projections are as #1/#2 guys while Niese is projected to be a #3/#4 guy in the rotation.

  2. Michael Street said...

    NickM—

    Depends on what you mean by “top” and who you listen to. Baseball America 2009 ranks Niese #3, Holt #4, and Mejia #7 among Mets’ prospects, while Baseball Prospectus calls Niese the Mets “top-rated young arm” without mentioning either Mejia or Holt. Deric McKamey ranks Niese 37th overall among SP prospects, the only Mets pitcher who appears in the top 75.

    Those are books written by other analysts, of course, and you know what they say about opinions (particularly those of baseball analysts).

    And, as my colleague Rob pointed out in last week’s comments, pitching prospects are destined to break your heart. Year to year, they’re liable to amaze you, disappoint you, or blow out an elbow ligament. 

    What we must judge pitching prospects on is a combination of talent and how the guy’s learned to use it. Mejia and Holt may have higher expected ceilings than Niese, but (as you say) both of them have only reached AA, and both just cracked that level this year.

    Holt has struggled containing the longball this season (1.8 HR/9) part of the reason why his ERA is 5.45 at that level—his other peripherals seem OK. He’s got a good fastball, but his secondary pitches are weak.

    Mejia’s only 19 years old and has dazzled with strikeouts (10 K/9) but struggled with walks (3.7 BB/9). He’s got a brilliant fastball that scouts think might hit triple digits someday, but there’s more to pitching than throwing hard (see Matt Anderson of the Detroit Tigers). He, too, needs work on his secondary pitches and how to use them to set up batters.

    Both might rank higher in terms of their perceived skills, but Niese has done more with his skillset and has advanced higher through the organization.

    If you call a “top” prospect one who has the best abilities, then Mejia or Holt could rank higher. But if you give the “top” prospect label to a guy who’s actually learned how to use those abilities at the highest possible level, then I think you’d have to give the nod to Niese. 

    And, of course, for fantasy purposes, Niese is the only one liable to help you this season or the next. Holt and Mejia could, under the best of scenarios, reach the majors in 2010 (unless the Mets keep burning through pitchers like a chainsmoker with a carton of Virginia Slims), but Mejia is probably at least 2 years away.

    Keeper leagues with a minor-league system might opt for Mejia or Holt over Niese, but fantasy owners who need pitching now would regard Niese as the Mets’ top prospect, since he’s the one that can bring them numbers in 2009.

    Thanks for the comment!

  3. D Wrek said...

    Tough decision with Holliday this week.  I dont need hitting really, though any team would take Holliday.  I could really use pitching (Halladay).  Do I wait and hope Halladay comes over to the NL?  Do I go ahead and break the bank on Holliday and hope I can flip hitting for pitching?  People always seem to be a little hesitant to give full value for a player you just picked up off waivers, even if you did just blow a ton of FAAB. 
    Best case scenerio, someone outbids me for Holliday and that leaves one less suiter for Halladay if he comes over.
    Should be a fun week.

  4. Michael Street said...

    D Wrek—

    I think you’ve seen what Holliday can do with the Cards from his first two games. I wouldn’t expect him to keep producing at that level, but I do think he’s going to improve on his Oakland numbers.

    Betting on where Halladay goes is a tough call, since the main interest in him seems to be split between the NL (Phils) and AL (Angels). Plus there’s the outside chance that he doesn’t move at all. It’s very hard to speculate on destinations in this kind of situation, but Holliday is a known quantity at this point, and you should focus your attention there.

    So I’d agree with your assessment that the worst thing that can happen is you tank someone else’s FAAB budget. Unless you truly don’t have a spot for Holliday in your lineup, I would throw in a decent-sized bid.

    I wouldn’t break the bank unless he really represented a significant upgrade on another player. If you don’t need him as much as you need pitching, throw out a fair-sized bid that still represents a bit of a bargain for you. Then you win either way: get him at a discount or push up the bid for someone else.

    Good luck!

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