Waiver Wire Offseason: NL

While everyone else is done for the season and watching the playoffs, Waiver Wire keeps on going! It’s time take a look at some guys who finished 2009 strong and whose 2010 value will be greatly affected by offseason moves.

Chris Coghlan | Florida | OF
2009 Final Stats: 321/.390/.460

I almost listed Chris among my Hits for 2009, since I’d given him a thumbs-up way back on May 15, noting his awesome batting eye in the minors and his 80% SB rate. “Expect doubles power and stolen bases,” I said. “Good keeper pickup.”

Coghlan came through for me in all ways except the SBs and only got stronger as the year went on. He had one of the best second halves in baseball—.372/.423/.543, with 21 doubles, 54 R and 32 RBI, along with 40 multi-hit games (including two separate streaks of six straight multi-hit games). He’s one of my ROY faves, though he gets little chatter from the big-market focused commentators out there. Overall, his .321/.390/.460 was incredibly impressive, with 31 2B, 84 R and 47 RBI, an 85% contact rate and a .69 batting eye.

He really came alive after the Marlins put him in the leadoff spot in late May; he hit .336/.397/.473 as the No. 1 hitter, and he stuck there even when speedy (but struggling) Cameron Maybin returned in September. Coghlan profiles more as a No. 2 or No. 3 hitter, but his flexibility to hit in that difficult spot bodes well for his future.

Another bright spot in his future—as far as fantasy owners are concerned, anyway—is the fate of Dan Uggla. Widely considered trade bait, Uggla and his ever-heftier price tag shouldn’t be with Florida next year, opening up a spot at 2B. Coghlan played at the keystone in the minors as well as at 3B, another question mark in the Marlins’ future, and either spot should boost Coghlan’s fantasy value even further.

If he doesn’t win ROY, it will be because of the name on the front of the jersey, not the one on the back (it could also be because of the next guy I’m gonna write about, but hold your horses already!). Coghlan’s a bright star who’s only going to grow brighter, particularly if he moves out of the outfield. Keeper owners ought to have this guy rostered already, while other owners should watch the Marlins’ offseason plans and keep Coghlan in mind come Draft Day.

Casey McGehee | Milwaukee | 3B/2B
2009 Final Stats: .301/.360/.499

Another ROY candidate, McGehee took advantage of the injury to Rickie Weeks and lack of production by Bill Hall and Mat Gamel to become a 2B/3B qualifier in most leagues, and a starter for Milwaukee. His .300+ BA is a teeny bit hollow, as manager Macha yanked him after his first AB in game 162 in order to preserve it (he’d been hitting .299 before the start of play).

McGehee battled knee tendinitis most of the season and took a while to work his way into the starting lineup, so he accumulated only 355 ABs, albeit productive ones. In that slightly-more-than-half-season, he cranked 16 dingers, 20 2Bs and 66 RBI, largely providing protection to the large Prince Fielder. Over 600 ABs, that projects to 34 2Bs, 27 HRs and 111 RBI—not a bad year at all, and one which would have placed him squarely in the ROY discussion.

The question for fantasy owners, however, is whether he’ll get those 600 ABs or not. Rickie Weeks should be back next year, while Mat Gamel is considered the Brewers’ 3B of the future. McGehee has played at 1B, but Prince shouldn’t be going anywhere anytime soon, either. McGehee played C in the minors, but Milwaukee’s well-stocked there, too. It’s possible that Gamel gets shifted to the OF, but otherwise it’s hard imagining McGehee holding Gamel down at Triple-A for another season. This gives Milwaukee some tough decisions to make in the offseason. They’ve admitted that they’ll trade offense for starting pitching, meaning Gamel, Corey Hart, or even Weeks or McGehee could be gone.

This is another situation to keep a close eye on, since McGehee’s value is certainly tied to his playing time in 2010, as well as where he plays. It’s hard to see any team benching him after this kind of debut, but anything’s possible. Not a solid keeper due to these issues, but absolutely someone who could be way up or down by your draft day in 2010.

Randy Wolf | Los Angeles | SP
2009 Final Stats: 6.7 K/9, 2.8 K/BB, 3.20 ERA

Wolf put together his best overall season since 2002, when you look at his ERA, 214 IP, and 1.10 WHIP (the latter was a career high for him) and his 11-7 record is not only his second-highest win total in his career, it represents his second-best winning percentage ever.

Down the stretch, he was also one of Los Angeles’ best arms in September—though both Padilla (3-0, 3.15 ERA) and Garland (3-2, 2.72 ERA) did better than Wolf’s 2-1, 3.16 ERA, his 1.02 WHIP was one of the best in baseball for the last month of the season, as was the .207 BAA. Sixteen of his final 18 starts were Quality Starts, showing the groove he got into after the All-Star break, part of a year when he notched a career-high 24 QS.

Has the 32-year-old, injury-prone lefty finally put it together? Should he be on your radar screen for 2010?

Well, the injury question is only available to those with a crystal ball, but let’s focus on Wolf’s underlying skills. From a strikeout standpoint, his K/9 is his lowest since 2004, but so is his 2.4 BB/9, and his 7.5 H/9 (lowest since 2002) kept his ratios stable. His .227 BAA and .256 BABIP are also his best year in those categories since 2002. And his 129 ERA+ was a career high.

THT’s stats will tell you he was helped by the Dodgers’ defense, with a .749 DER that was his best for as long as they’ve been keeping that stat for him. Interestingly, however, Chavez Ravine (generally regarded as a good pitcher’s park) didn’t help him, as he was better on the road in virtually every area, from BA to HR surrendered. Dave Gassko’s Pitcher’s Runs Created tells you that his 97 was amazingly high for him, his best in PRC’s recorded history (since 2004).

This all means that Wolf benefited from a team that helped him on defense in a year when his control was very good and his strikeouts were down. That’s consistent with the profile of an aging pitcher playing for a good defensive team.

His wins and career-high IP tell you he’s playing for a good offensive team, too, since he threw deeper in games (his 6.3 IP/G was his best since 2002) and had the offense behind him to help collect those wins. That’s further emphasized by the seven losses the Dodgers erased from his ledger by coming back (the most a team’s helped him since 2000) while the bullpen only lost four of his 24 QS.

What does this mean for 2010? Plenty, depending on where he ends up. The Dodgers have plenty of young arms and could re-sign Wolf as a veteran presence. If Wolf is smart, he’ll take what they offer him, even if it’s less than he thinks he’ll find elsewhere. He could reproduce 2009 somewhere else, but those peripherals scream (1) career year, and (2) team play behind him.

Sure, Wolf could continue to mature and improve those ratios with another team, but my gut—and the stats—say to bet against it. As a Dodger starter, he becomes a Draft Day sleeper; with another team, he is downgraded to a late-round gamble. Keep watching to see which one he becomes.

Are there NL players you’d like to see written up? Let me know in your comments and I’ll write ‘em up for next week!

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Comments

  1. nick said...

    How about Eric Young, Jr and Seth Smith?  Any ideas what’s going on in Colorado, or if Young really is an outfielder now?

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