Zach Braddock | Milwaukee | RP
YTD: 9.00 K/9, 2.00 K/BB, 0.00 ERA (two innings pitched)
True Talent: 8.9 K/9, 2.00 K/BB, 4.95 ERA
If the name Zach Braddock sounds familiar to regular readers of the NL Waiver Wire column, that’s because commenter Greg Tellis mentioned him in the Week 2 edition. While I was familiar with Braddock from reading about him in the 2010 Baseball America Prospect Handbook, Tellis’ commentary caused me to follow take a closer look at Braddock’s numbers early in the 2010 season. Taking a look at his season line would likely cause pause for most given his 4.50 ERA in 16.0 Triple-A innings pitched. Looking at the game log shows that all eight of his earned runs came in an ugly 0.2 innings pitched performance, or lack thereof, on May 9. Braddock’s strikeout rate in Triple-A was exceptional (15.75 K/9), and was fantastic in 2009 as well, which leads me to believe he may be the “closer in waiting,” so to speak, in Milwaukee, which given Hoffman’s struggles, may mean he’s only waiting temporarily.
Working against Braddock is that he is left-handed, which means the Brewers may prefer to use him in high-leverage situations against left-handed-heavy portions of the opponent’s lineups late in games. Regardless, Braddock’s potential for saves and his almost certain contributions in strikeouts make him a reliever worth owning in deeper leagues, and also make him an immediate person of interest in leagues that use holds.
Recommendation: Should be owned in some 14-team or larger mixed leagues, owned in all NL-only leagues, and watched closely in all leagues as a potential source of saves.
Aaron Heilman | Arizona | RP
YTD: 7.45 K/9, 2.67 K/BB, 3.26 ERA
True Talent: 7.8 K/9, 1.83 K/BB, 4.62 ERA
A few weeks ago I discussed Juan Gutierrez as a potential saves vulture in Arizona and appear to have missed terribly on that prediction, so I’ll take a second crack at it with Aaron Heilman this time. The Arizona bullpen has been a train wreck for essentially all of the 2010 season, and that includes Chad Qualls (although he’s been killed by a high BABIP and poor luck in general). AJ Hinch recently stated that the Diamondbacks’ bullpen roles are uncertain but has essentially stuck by Chad Qualls as his closer thus far. That said, relief pitching displays statistical volatility at its greatest, and a run of a few poor outings (whether by poor performance or poor luck) may be just enough to allow Heilman, the team’s best high-leverage reliever using ERA (not advocating that’s the right way to look at performance, but it may be what Hinch judges his relievers by), some save opportunities.
In deeper leagues where every save matters, sometimes you have to jump the gun and anticipate/gamble that a closer loses his gig, and Heilman would appear to be a good speculative pickup at this point in the season for those owners looking to secure saves on a weekly basis in Head-to-Head leagues, or those looking to gain some points in roto leagues. Heilman’s statistics paint the picture of a pretty meh reliever thus far this season as he’s been a bit lucky with a 7.1 percent HR/FB and a .252 BABIP, and his GB rate has been poor at just 25.9 percent, but on the positive side of the ledger his career GB rate is 43.9 percent and roughly 41 percent the last two years, meaning regression to the norm should be expected. I’d expect Heilman, with a bit of luck, to post an ERA in the 3.80-4.00 range with a K/9 that falls about in line with what he’s done so far this season, meaning that he’s really only valuable if he’s snaking (pun intended) saves from Qualls.
Recommendation: Should be owned in some 14-team or larger mixed leagues, owned in all NL-only leagues, and watched in all 12-team mixed or larger leagues as a potential source of saves.
Edinson Volquez | Cincinnati | SP
True Talent: 8.7 K/9, 1.91 K/BB, 4.20 ERA
The 2010 season has already been an eventful one for Edinson Volquez as he failed a drug test for Major League Baseball and was suspended for 50 games. Fortunately for Volquez, the only thing it’s going to cost him is money, as his suspension coincides with his rehab from Tommy John surgery in 2009 and by the time he is ready to return to the hill his 50 games will have been served. Current reports state that Volquez has thrown a simulated game and could begin pitching in extended Spring Training, according to Mark Sheldon of MLB.com. At his current pace, Volquez should be ready sometime after the All-Star break, which could be perfect timing as it seems likely the Reds will have to monitor Mike Leake‘s innings, this being his first season of professional baseball.
Volquez was likely largely forgotten on draft day and most likely is available on the wire as his current Yahoo! ownership only sits at 4 percent. Depending on the depth of your bench or the number of DL spots your league has, Volquez appears to be a good speculative stash for strikeouts in the second half. For those in Head-to-Head leagues, Volquez could pay even bigger dividends as with some luck he may be rounding into form come playoff time.
Recommendation: Should be owned in all 12-team or larger mixed leagues with numerous DL spots, some 14-team or larger mixed leagues with shallow DL spots, and most NL-only leagues.
Neil Walker | Pittsburgh | 3B
YTD: .375/.375/.500 (eight plate appearances)
True Talent: No projection
After being drafted in the first round by the Pittsburgh Pirates as a catcher, Neil Walker eventually found his home at 3B in the organization. Just sneaking into the top 30 prospects of the Pirates organization according to the 2010 Baseball America Prospect Handbook, Walker may only have a short window of time to prove his worth to the team given Pedro Alvarez nipping at his heels and his playing time currently being a result of Andy LaRoche suffering from back pain/spasms. Working in Walker’s favor is that the Pirates’ offense has been awful in 2010, and they will likely be looking for any production they can get, so if he hits, he’ll stick.
Walker hasn’t displayed great power in the minors to date, but he did open up the season hitting six home runs in 168 Triple-A at bats and slugging .560 and is just 24 years old, so he’s working his way toward his power prime. Those in need of help at 3B in deep leagues, or those just hoping to catch lightning in a bottle, may want to give a long hard look at Walker and see how his playing time shakes out in the next week to two weeks.
Recommendation: Should be owned in a few 14-team or larger mixed leagues that use a CI, and deep NL-only leagues.
George Kottaras | Milwaukee | C
True Talent: .211/.309/.380
An injury to Gregg Zaun‘s labrum has opened the door for regular playing time for George Kottaras for the remainder of the 2010 season. Not much to get excited about for those in shallow leagues or one catcher leagues, but for those in deep two catcher leagues playing time is sometimes enough to cause a stir. Kottaras current OBP and SLG are almost certainly going to fall back to earth, but some of the power may be for real as he did slug 22 HRs in 462 plate appearances for Triple-A Pawtucket in 2008.
Currently Kottaras’ batted balls read 8.9 percent LD, 40.0 GB, and 51.1 FB, so his low average and low BABIP (.214) should come as no surprise. What is promising is the fact he is lofting the ball and giving himself a shot to hit home runs, and his LD rate is almost certain to go up some as 8.9 percent is quite low. It’s also likely that as Kottaras sees some correction to his LD rate, his BABIP rises from .214 as well, but remember, he is a catcher and catchers do typically post a lower than league average BABIP, so it may not jump all the way up to league average even with more LDs. I recently added Kottaras as my second catcher in a 14-team blogger league over at Yahoo! and that seems about the right size and roster structure for Kottaras to be owned in.
Recommendation: Should be owned in all 14-team or larger two-catcher mixed leagues, and all two-catcher NL-only leagues.
Juan Uribe | San Francisco | 2B/SS/3B
While Juan Uribe is rostered in more leagues than all the other players I’ve recommended this week, it is possible that with the return of Freddy Sanchez and Edgar Renteria to the Giants active roster some deep leaguers may have cut bait with Uribe. Fortunately for those who have held on to him, Renteria has already found his way back to the DL, and talks were of the Giants shifting Aubrey Huff to the OF, moving Pablo Sandoval to 1B and finding playing for Uribe at 3B even before Renteria’s most recent DL trip.
Even though Uribe’s greatest value may be his positional versatility as he’s a solid option to shift around your fantasy diamond when others receive a day off, Uribe has some value as a starter in his own right. Currently Uribe is sporting a 9.9 percent walk rate and a respectable .175 ISO as well as a completely sustainable .296 BABIP for a lineup that sorely needs any offensive production it can get. Last year, Uribe was able to slug 16 HRs in just 432 plate appearances. This season, Uribe has six home runs in just 162 plate appearances and appears to be well on his way to meeting or exceeding last year’s total. Given the fragility of both Edgar Renteria and Freddy Sanchez, and the Giants’ clear desire to keep Uribe in the lineup even when both are healthy, it would appear 600 or greater plate appearances, and 20 home runs are a possibility in 2010 for Uribe. While RBI are a near-impossible stat to project, it is likely Uribe will hit in an RBI-friendly spot in the lineup due to the putridity of the Giants’ current lineup, so 80-plus RBI may be a real possibility.
Recommendation: Should be owned in most 12-team or larger mixed leagues using a MI, should be owned in all 14-team or larger mixed leagues using a MI and owned in all NL-only leagues.