Waiver Wire: NL, Week 6

Jose Contreras | Philadelphia | SP/RP
YTD:11.57 K/9, 15.00 K/BB, 0.77 ERA
True Talent:6.60 K/9, 2.06 K/BB, 4.15 ERA

Jose Contreras is currently in line to close games for the Phillies thanks to Brad Lidge‘s elbow soreness (no structural damage according an MRI taken on Thursday), and Ryan Madson landing on the 60-day DL thanks to kicking a chair and breaking his toe. The job appears to be temporary, but given Lidge’s recent history of injuries, and last year’s ineffectiveness, it wouldn’t be shocking to see temporary last longer than expected. Beyond just save opportunities, there is a lot to like about Contreras this season. In shifting from starter to reliever, Contreras has seen a significant uptick in radar gun readings. Contreras’ average fastball is registering 94.7 mph this season as opposed to a 91.7 mph career mark. In addition to his fastball seeing an increase in velocity, his slider and splitter have also taken a bump up as his slider’s average velocity has gone up from a career mark of 84.6 mph to 88.5 mph and his splitter from 78.0 mph to 81.5 mph. As expected, Contreras’ improved stuff has resulted in a higher strikeouts per nine innings, 11.57 K/9, than his career mark of 6.80 K/9. In addition to Contreras posting an eye-popping strikeout rate, he’s also limited free passes (0.77 BB/9) and induced a ton of ground balls (54.2 percent GB). The total package that Contreras has displayed thus far (admittedly in a small sample) is that of an elite reliever. Working in your favor to own him is that many remember his mediocre/bad results in recent years as a starter, and are simply writing off his hot start as a fluke. While I am not suggesting that his numbers will remain at this elite a level, I do believe his improved stuff supports the boost in strikeouts, he’s always posted decent walk rates and induced a bunch of ground balls, so he should continue to succeed. In leagues he hasn’t been gobbled up by owners looking for vulture saves, the window to add him will likely close quickly with news quickly spreading about Contreras being the interim closer, so nab him now.

Recommendation: Should be owned in most 12-team mixed leagues, all 14-team mixed leagues or larger, and all NL-only leagues.

Johnny Cueto | Cincinnati | SP
YTD:7.07 K/9, 2.75 K/BB, 4.07 ERA
True Talent:7.30 K/9, 2.23 K/BB, 4.92 ERA

Johnny Cueto has been a maddening player to own since bursting onto the fantasy landscape with a seven-inning, one-hit, 10-strikeout debut. Cueto took some steps forward last season, seeing an improvement in his groundball rate and his walk rate, but it came at the expense of his strikeout rate. While the season is young, he appears to be taking further steps forward. Some of Cueto’s stats should be taken with a grain of salt given his dominance in his last start against the Pirates; however, his GB rate remains acceptable at just above 40 percent (though still a tad lower than one would like), and his walk rate has taken a further step forward as he has a 2.57 BB/9. The most promising stat on the season is Cueto’s slightly improved K/9 which sits at 7.07, and is even better than that in his two most recent starts. Given his home ballpark, his manager, and his age, Cueto is more of a matchup play at this point, but one with more upside than your average starter largely available in fantasy leagues (current Yahoo! ownership is 38 percent).

Recommendation: Should be owned in some 12-team mixed leagues, all 14-team mixed leagues or larger, and all NL-only leagues.

Mat Latos | San Diego | SP
YTD:6.64 K/9, 3.56 K/BB, 3.32 ERA
True Talent:7.2 K/9, 2.59 K/BB, 3.49 ERA

Mat Latos has pitched lights out since a disastrous start on April 26 in which he allowed seven earned runs in just 2.2 innings pitched. In his last two starts, Latos has tossed a combined 17 innings of three-hit, 15-strikeout, zero-earned-run baseball, including a shutout against the Giants on Thursday. There is a ton to like about Latos, such as things in his control like his walk rate and groundball rate, things out of his control like his favorable home ballpark, and finally his electric stuff. The one major drawback on Latos, at least in 2010, is that his innings are going to be closely monitored by the Padres and he will undoubtedly be shut down early. That said, the good far outweighs the bad and Latos is a player that should be of interest in all leagues.

Recommendation: Should be owned in most 12-team mixed leagues, all 14-team mixed leagues or larger, and all NL-only leagues.

Carlos Ruiz | Philadelphia | C
YTD:.345/.472/.476
True Talent:.259/.355/.396

Unfortunately for those competing in most two-catcher leagues, and all two-catcher leagues of any kind of depth, Carlos Ruiz has been owned since draft day. However, for those in single-catcher formats, it is surprising and alarming to see Ruiz unowned in so many leagues (currently only owned in 20 percent of Yahoo! leagues). Dating back to August 2009, Ruiz has been on a tear, posting a walk rate well over 12 percent (which bodes well for scoring runs in the juggernaut Philadelphia lineup), a batting average over .300 and even chipped in some home runs for good measure. While he’ll be stuck at the bottom of the Phillies lineup, that doesn’t necessarily hurt his value as much as it would to be stuck in the bottom of most other lineups. By posting an obscene OBP (.472), Ruiz sets himself up to be driven in when the lineup turns over. On top of being driven in, even hitting at the bottom of such a vaunted lineup allows Ruiz opportunities to drive in runs. While Ruiz won’t be a premium HR threat, the fact he’ll likely chip in 10-15 HRs is useful, especially when taken with the rest of his statistics. It appears Ruiz has a legitimate shot to finish in the top eight to 10 catcher range, making him ownable in even relatively shallow single-catcher leagues.

Recommendation: Should be owned in all 12-team mixed single-catcher leagues as well as all 2-catcher mixed leagues, and all NL-only leagues

Troy Glaus | Atlanta | 1B
YTD:.267/.358/.397
True Talent:.259/.354/.437

It appears Troy Glaus has awoken from an early season power slumber. For the month of April (72 at-bats) Glaus slugged a minuscule .292, but he has redeemed himself in the month of May by boosting that slugging percentage to .568 (42 at-bats). Equally impressive to his slugging in May has been his walk-to-strikeout, which stands at five-to-seven for the month as well. In the past Glaus has been a low average slugger with 30-plus home run pop. While 30 home runs may be tough for Glaus to reach given his age, recent injury history, and the likelihood he’ll miss time or see days off to rest as the season progresses, 25-plus home runs seems attainable. If he’s able to maintain a strikeout rate close to the one he’s posting in May for the remainder of the season, Glaus won’t necessarily be quite the batting average liability he has been in previous seasons. A batting average in the .260-.265 range coupled with 25 HRs is certainly of interest in some leagues, and with his current lineup spot (fourth some nights, fifth most) he should be able to post a useful RBI total as well.

Recommendation: Should be owned in most 12-team mixed leagues using a CI, all 14-team mixed leagues or larger using a CI, and all NL-only leagues.

Ike Davis | New York (NL) | 1B
YTD:.290/.405/.478
True Talent:.254/.326/.405

The Mike Jacobs 1B platoon era for the Mets appears to be over thanks to Ike Davis. Davis has done a fantastic job of taking over the 1B duties on a full-time basis since being promoted from Triple-A. Because Davis strikes out out a lot (27.5 percent) and has limited major league exposure, it’s likely he’ll have some rough spots going forward. Working in his favor, however, is his solid walk rate (16.7 percent) and his early display of power (.478 slugging including three home runs). Davis has raked against lefties .478/.526/.882, albeit in only 17 at-bats, so he may have bought himself a bit of a leash in the event he shows some struggles against his same-handed pitching counterparts. Those in need of a player to contribute 15-20 HRs or so from a CI or UTIL spot while not hurting their team batting average should have their man in Davis in 2010.

Recommendation: Should be owned in most 12-team mixed leagues using a CI, all 14-team mixed leagues or larger using a CI, and all NL-only leagues.

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