There If You Need Them… For Now
Finding an acceptable fantasy option on the waiver-wire can be a time-consuming and unenviable task. Often it seems like the list of available hitters contains the same unappealing names, day after day and week after week. There are veterans who no longer have full-time gigs, career bench players, unproven prospects trying to get acclimated to the big leagues and platoon bats. None of them inspire great confidence. Few are worthy of immediate adds.
But there is value to be had by the astute owner – especially late in the MLB season. Rosters are very much in a state of flux at this time of the year. Contending squads are trying to determine which players are most deserving of prominent roles come playoff time. Meanwhile, those teams out of the postseason race are looking ahead to 2013. Fantasy owners need to react accordingly to the roster and lineup moves made.
Sometimes these moves result in a proven veteran getting a chance to play every day. In other cases it means a young player receiving the opportunity to see regular at-bats for the first time in his career, or a reserve seeing considerable action to an injury to a starter. Whatever the case – you can take advantage of it all.
Let’s look at four players who have performed well as of late and determine whether they can help fantasy owners during the season’s final weeks.
Brandon Belt, 1B/OF, San Francisco (19% owned in Yahoo; 16% owned in ESPN) – His dual-eligibility (first base and outfield) and potential make him intriguing upon first glance. However, tendency to swing and miss coupled with his lack of power have prevented Belt from delivering on the promise that made him a highly-regarded sleeper in drafts the past two years. Belt has hit a total of 13 homers in 538 plate appearances over the course of his young career, and that makes him a less-than-appealing option at a power position like first base. As a potential outfielder, though? Maybe… San Francisco’s first baseman has started to cut down on the strikeouts over the course of the past several weeks, as he has just five whiffs in 16 games in the month of August. His batting average has also steadily improved as the season has gone on (from the high .220s and low .230s in late May and early June to a respectable .267 today. Belt is playing every day now and has a higher ceiling than most other waiver-wire options. All that’s missing are the homers, but Belt can still be useful if employed as a fantasy outfielder.
Rajai Davis, OF, Toronto (29% in Yahoo; 59% owned in ESPN) – Stolen bases, runs and regular appearances in the lineup; that’s what Davis can offer fantasy owners who plug him into their lineups. The 31-year-old veteran lacks the tantalizing upside of top prospects that have or may soon get a call-up, but he’s a proven option and has rebounded nicely from a rough start to the season (.188/.278/.312 with four steals in 24 games through May 12). Playing time was hard to come by early in the season due to a logjam in the outfield. Well, circumstances certainly have changed. Travis Snider and Eric Thames were traded away, call-up/quality prospect Anthony Gose has struggled in limited action, and uber-star Joe Baustista remains sidelined due to a wrist injury. Meanwhile, Davis finds himself playing every day and batting atop an injury-addled Toronto lineup. Few (if any) players are more adept at helping fantasy owners on the basepaths. Fantasy owners just need to recognize that Davis a viable, if limited, fantasy option.
Coco Crisp, OF, Oakland (32% owned in Yahoo; 45% owned in ESPN)– Speaking of low-upside, thirty-something outfielders that are currently leading off for their respective squads and swiping bases with some regularity … here’s Crisp! Injuries have always been an issue with the A’s outfielder, as he has appeared in 145 games in a season just twice since breaking into the big leagues in 2002. However, he is currently healthy and playing (almost) daily for anOakland squad that needs to go with proven lineup options as it continues to make a push for the playoffs. Crisp may get the occasional day off in favor of former prospect Michael Taylor once in a great while, but the A’s seem content to bat him first and place him in centerfield on most days. He won’t steal as many bases as the aforementioned Davis, but Crisp is useful in all but the most shallow of leagues. His sparkling track record on the basepaths (26 steals and an 89-percent success rate this year, 10 percentage points higher than his quality career mark) should allow him to keep swiping bases with some regularity… well… as long as he stays healthy.
Wilin Rosario, C, Colorado (28% owned in Yahoo; 10% owned in ESPN) – It’s difficult to blame a fantasy owner for seeing that Rosario has hit 19 home runs in 282 plate appearances in 2012 and immediately add him to the roster. After all, that’s good for third in all of baseball behind A.J. Pierzynski (?) and Jarrod Saltalamacchia (!?) and is the same number as Buster Posey has hit this year. But upon greater inspection,Rosario isn’t necessarily a worthy add at this point in the year. Consider the following:
- He’s splitting time with Ramon Hernandez at the position
- He sports a strikeout rate (22.7%) that’s more than times as great as his walk rate (6.7%)
- His on-base percentage sits at a rather pedestrian .301.
There’s a lot to like about the promising young catcher. He’s got some pop in his bat and he’s hit for better success away from hitter’s haven Coors Field. With a .237/.289/.520 line at home, it is clear to see that power is Rosario’s primary tool. His away split is much more even at .279/.319/.542. His wRC+ is still 102 at home though, so I guess I’m kind of picking nits here. The important takeaway is that Rosario already has 19 homers and his ZiPS projection for the rest of the season calls for perhaps six more. 25 home runs from the catcher position? I’ll take that everyday and twice on Sundays. It’s just a matter of plate appearances for Rosario.
The Rockies, despite their poor record, have not turned over the full-time catching gig to Rosario. Until that happens, he remains more of an interesting fantasy option than a must-own one. If you happen to play in a two catcher league and for some reason Rosario isn’t owned, do yourself a favor and grab him.
Scouring waiver wires for useful fantasy options can be a frustrating and fruitless task for fantasy owners. Fortunately, there are some players that still stand out among the multitude of replacement-level talent. The four aforementioned guys could make for useful lineup options down the stretch this season. None are slam-dunk/must-add players, but they are very much worthy of consideration.