Waiver Wire Offseason
Jose Valverde | Detroit | RP
2009 Final Stats: 9.3 K/9, 2.7 K/BB, 2.33 ERA
“Papa Grande” is the sort of guy the term “closer” conjures images of. He’s a flamethrower who is so intimidating, he appears to be a fire-breather as well. He’s had a WHIP under 1.2 and a K/9 over 9 for three straight years now. He frequently hits 98, and his fastball averages almost 96 mph. The fast gun in Comerica should help him hit triple digits on occasion. His split-finger fastball ends many an at-bat with a demonstrative celebration from the emotional closer.
As a fantasy owner, it’s good to note that Comerica—and some other AL Central parks as well—should contain many of his numerous flyballs. And his arm has been very healthy for three years, with the time missed in 2009 being due to a calf injury that he showed he was over. The over-sized contract Detroit lavished on him should insure that unless he’s hurt, 100-mph-throwing Joel Zumaya won’t displace him as closer, even if Zumaya is 100%.
The only reasons to be cautious at all with Valverde are that he’ll be facing AL hitters now, which should be less of a transition for a closer than for a starter or middle reliever (since, presumably, NL teams don’t let their pitchers bat against closers), and the walks. Valverde’s control improved in 2008 but reverted back to his career norm in 2009. He’s susceptible to his emotions, and if things aren’t going well, he can get wild, leading to even more trouble. But, he’s a closer, and has a closer’s short memory. Expect him to be among the best “second-tier” closers in the AL in 2010.
Joel Zumaya | Detroit | RP
2009 Final Stats: 8.7 K/9, 1.4 K/BB, 4.94 ERA
In short, the Valverde signing reduced to almost nil the chance of having a late (or cheap) pick of Zumaya turn into something advantageous. With his shoulder going “pop” in July, and a visit to Dr. James Andrews for surgery in August, he was already a bit of a longshot. We love the talent he has, and before he “popped” his shoulder, he was exceeding 100 mph with regularity in 2009. But we’re going to keep this short and assume that even if is “healthy” in 2010, his control won’t make it back until 2011 at the earliest. Without saves to prop up his value, he has almost no fantasy significance.
Vladimir Guerrero | Texas | OF
2009 Final Stats: .295/.334/.460
You know that the bar is set very high when a player can hit almost .300, post a 106 OPS+, and people are talking about him in hushed tones as if he has some fatal disease. Well, nobody really knows what to make of Vlad’s knees, but his B-R “Similar Batters through [age] 34” list is pretty imposing, with four HOF members already, and guys like Frank “Big Hurt” Thomas, Manny, Bagwell, Juan Gonzalez, and Rafael Palmeiro on it as well.
There are some striking differences between “Big Hurt” and Vlad, but both have serious knee problems, and while Thomas wasn’t the same at ages 35+, he still managed to amass 2500 more PA with a .265/.382/.518 batting line after his age 34 season. Now, Vlad’s moving to Texas, and statistically, that doesn’t show up as a big upgrade in ballpark for him, and with Rudy Jaramillo happily in Chicago (no doubt awaiting Lou’s retirement), the “magic potion” for hitters in Texas may have lost its “magic.” But, at the very least, there should be no reason to downgrade Vlad after the move. And while it’s obviously smart to exercise caution here, don’t forget that even without the steals, Vlad has the ability to be a very good 4-category player … and he could be a huge bargain, as people are already writing him off as a goner.
Robinson Tejeda | Kansas City | SP?
2009 Final Stats: 10.6 K/9, 1.7 K/BB, 3.54 ERA
Picking up starter-eligible pitchers can be a good strategy, spending almost nothing to amass a “pitching staff” that can win three of the four “standard” categories. Anyway, back in September, we offered this “crack” about the Royals and Tejeda:
Good news for glass-half-full people in KC, in a season where they seemed to deliberately avoid debuting players while giving playing time to bad veterans. Tejeda seems to have finally found a home for his mid-90s fastball and almost Marmol-ian lack of control in the bullpen. He’s allowed just 54 hits with KC … in two seasons (92.2 IP)! But leave it to the run-amok Royals to mess with one of the few things that was working, moving him back to the rotation. At least it’s a move that has very good upside, but we’re thinking it’s more likely to leave the half-full glass cracked.
Well, the four starts he made from that date onward gave us more of the same … just 11 hits allowed in 20.1 innings, with SIXTEEN (16) walks and three homers! Using the great P-I feature at B-R, Marmol is in fact the leader in H/9 over the past two years among pitchers with 100+ innings, and No. 2 is—you guessed it—Tejeda. Clearly a guy who has walked 5.2 batters per 9 innings isn’t a prime candidate for WHIP help, and unless a league uses strange categories, it’s hard to envision him being helpful in fantasy in 2010, or beyond.
Matt Palmer | Los Angeles | SP?
2009 Final Stats: 5.1 K/9, 1.3 K/BB, 3.93 ERA
We’re sticking to our guns on this one. The peripherals are right, and his 2009 performance is the aberration. Palmer is a great story, and maybe a movie could be made, and he did have a nice K/9 rate in 2008 in Triple-A, despite his 1.5 WHIP, so he’s probably not worthless in an MLB context. But for fantasy purposes, he’s going to bring pain and suffering, and not the joy of an 11-2 season with a sub-4 ERA again. He’s currently about sixth in the Angels rotational depth, but he’s much more likely to be used in low-leverage relief work (meaning he gets left in to take a beating) and emergency starts.
Zach Miner | Detroit | SP?
2009 Final Stats: 6.0 K/9, 1.4 K/BB, 4.29 ERA
Remarkably, Tejeda, Palmer, and Miner were the next 3 ERA+ guys who are Starter-eligible relievers in 2010. Miner is another mediocre pitcher who, like Palmer, would require quite a few breaks to be a useful fantasy asset. He remained about the same against LHP in 2009, but righties solved him in a big way, teeing off for a .302/.381/.503 batting line. The BABIP can be expected to come down a little bit from the .314 he posted, but he’s somewhat of a groundball pitcher (around 47% career), and ground balls have higher BABIP implications than flies. All in all, just consider it a warning to stay away.