Just two weeks into the season, a swirl of injuries, suspensions and playing-time challenges are making for some interesting prospects on the waiver wire.
Since we last checked in, Nick Tepesch couldn’t hold onto the lead against the Mariners on Sunday, and Chris Heisey and Justin Ruggiano have yet to take off despite being handed starting jobs. Travis Hafner added another home run, and Trevor Rosenthal and Kelvin Herrera have yet to unseat their teams’ respective closers.
With an early last call today thanks to the 11:00 a.m. start of the Patriot’s Day game between the Red Sox and Rays, here’s a look at three players who might have some under-the-radar value in deeper leagues.
Marwin Gonzalez | SS | Houston Astros | 13 percent Yahoo ownership; 14.9 ESPN ownership; 16 percent CBS ownership
YTD: 29 PA / .333 / .429 / .625 with 2 HR and 0 SB
Oliver: 483 PA / .257 / .307 / .356 — with 6 HR and 8 SB
Yes, the Astros are terrible, and there’s only so much fantasy value to be squeezed out of this team. But Gonzalez, 24, offers manager Bo Porter a defensive upgrade over Ronny Cedeno at shortstop and has earned more playing time thanks to his hot start.
Of course, the two home runs he mashed in Week 2 equal the same amount he produced in 219 plate appearances last year, and with a career .355 slugging percentage in more than 2,000 minor league plate appearances, I think it’s fair to say that power will not be one of Gonzalez’s fantasy attributes. Steals probably won’t be a big part of his game, either, with just 47 swipes in the minors.
Still, Gonzalez was able to maintain a decent 13.8 percent strikeout rate down on the farm, and he might be able to produce a batting average that’s respectable enough to merit fantasy attention. The question with Gonzalez is how well he’ll hold on to a starting job when his hot streak runs out. (Which may already be the case; he was hitless in his last two games before sitting out Sunday’s contest against the Angels.)
While I don’t think he’s much of a long-term option for fantasy owners in 2013, Gonzalez might be worthwhile as a short-term tourniquet for teams that need help at shortstop right now.
Recommendation: Strictly AL-only leagues.
Andrew Bailey | RP | Boston Red Sox | 26 percent Yahoo ownership; 13.1 percent ESPN ownership; 25 percent CBS ownership
YTD: 4.1 IP / 1.19 FIP / 14.54 K/9 / 4.15 BB/9
Oliver: 35 IP / 3.12 FIP / 8.06 K/9 / 3.12 BB/9
Who doesn’t like cheap saves, especially when they’re coming from a former Rookie of the Year who has authored three seasons of 24 or more saves? Joel Hanrahan is being bothered by a sore hamstring and likely will give way to Bailey in Week 3 as the Red Sox’s master of the ninth inning. That alone gives the Jersey boy immediate value, and with his background, raises the question of whether this cameo could turn into a larger role.
Hanrahan said the injury surfaced back on April 3 against the Yankees, and that might explain his dreadful past two outings—a five-run blown save and loss against the Orioles on Wednesday, and Saturday’s game against the Rays, in which he was pulled in the ninth inning after walking the only two batters he faced.
There’s no set timetable for Hanrahan’s return, and a trip to the disabled list has not been ruled out, but it’s just as possible he could be back in time to earn saves this weekend. Hanrahan obviously will be given more time to settle in as Boston’s closer, and if this injury is similar to the hamstring ailment that cost him five games early last year, he still could be a 35-save fantasy beast with a locked-in role all season long.
In the meantime, saves-hungry fantasy owners—especially those who just lost Kyuji Fujikawa to the DL—should give Bailey a ride in Week 3, especially with a full seven games on the BoSox schedule, including three each against the Indians and Royals.
Recommendation: Worth adding in deeper mixed leagues.
Jake Westbrook | SP | St. Louis Cardinals | 9 percent Yahoo ownership; 8.5 percent ESPN ownership; 42 percent CBS ownership
YTD: 15.2 IP / 4.63 FIP / 2.3 K/9 / 5.74 BB/9
Oliver: 186 IP / 3.95 FIP / 5.02 K/9 / 3.04 BB/9
I get it: Westbrook, with his mediocre career numbers (5.06 K/9, 1.39 WHIP, 4.14 FIP), is no one’s idea of a perfect fantasy pitcher, and two good starts to begin 2013 aren’t going to change that. But he did shut out a good Reds lineup on Wednesday, and with two starts on the docket in Week 3, probably deserves to be rostered in at least a few more leagues.
Westbrook, 35, has largely shed the injury history that gutted a good portion of his career, as he’s made at least 28 starts in each of the past three seasons. Pitching for the Cardinals, the team with the third-most runs scored in baseball entering Sunday’s action, he’s certainly a strong start on Tuesday when he faces Jonathan Sanchez at Pittsburgh, and a decent option later in the week against the Phillies.
Westbrook offers low expectations long-term, to be sure, but he’s someone who probably can justify a roster spot in more than a few mixed leagues.
Recommendation: Worth a flier in deeper mixed leagues.