The first week on the waiver wire is real tough because we have limited info to make our decision. On draft day, we invested in players we believe in so it’s difficult to cut someone when we see another option in the free agent pool with a small sample size. If you have a borderline backend bat, it makes sense to move to another player that is hitting in a more favorable part of the batting order. A starting pitcher may have struggled in week one due to pitching in cold weather where he had a poor grip on the baseball. When holding a possible closer in waiting, it’s important to see him pitching in the 8th inning.
The Kyle Schwarber owners will be shopping for 25 cents on the dollar this week in the free agent pool. In a 12 team format, there is a possibility that Robinson Chirinos is still available. Over his first 13 at-bats, he has one HR and two RBI while hitting .308. I expect him to see at least two-thirds of the catching action for the Rangers. If you are looking for a spark from in a split situation, Jarrod Saltalamacchia has a HR and four RBI in five at-bats. Salty has five double-digit HR seasons on his resume highlighted by 25 in 2012 with Boston.
In most formats, Ryan Howard was left for dead on draft day. I even picked him up in the 30th round in one of my high stakes. He is still batting cleanup when in the lineup. Ryan banged out his first HR this week vs. the Reds while hitting .250 with two RBI in 12 at-bats. With Tampa releasing James Loney before the start of the season, Logan Morrison gets a bump in opportunity. He’s started four of the first five games while batting second in the batting on multiple days. So far, Logan only has one hit in 14 at-bats. Both players have limited upside, but they could have value if/when your team has an injury or two.
The hot pickup in many leagues at second base will probably be Brock Holt. The Red Sox decided to name him the starting left fielder and Brock rewarded their confidence with a great first week of the year (six hits in 12 at-bats with two HRs and eight RBI). Scooter Gennett was disrespected in many drafts in 2016. He launched a pair of HRs in his first 13 at-bats (.385 with four runs and two RBI). With Howie Kendrick on the DL, Chase Utley earned the starting second base job plus the Dodgers have let him hit leadoff. His resume is long, and his skill set may have one last run in him. Based on the opportunity, Chase makes sense as a buy and hold.
The Pirates have switched up their batting order in 2016 leading to David Freese batting in the middle of the lineup while starting at third base. Over 17 at-bats, David is hitting .353 with three runs. Freese tends to hit too many ground balls, but he does have some clutch ability. If you missed the late spring training rise of Tyler White, you have to look no further than the Astros box score to see his upside. Tyler already has two HRs and seven RBI in 13 at-bats while hitting .692. In his minor league career, White hit .311 with 35 HRs and 215 RBI in 1031 at-bats.
It looks like the White Sox will bat Jimmy Rollins second in the batting order in most games. He has a long resume of success, and he played well in spring training (.353 with 12 runs, four HRs, 13 RBI in 51 at-bats). Over his first 16 at-bats, Rollins has three runs, one HR, and three RBI while only hitting .125. He has a favorable opportunity, and I expect a solid year in 2016 when you consider his price point. The only other shortstop off to a hot start that was undrafted in 12 leagues is Nick Ahmed. He’s hitting .353 over his 17 at-bats with four runs, one HR, and three RBI. Nick will hit at the bottom of the lineup for the Diamondbacks, so he doesn’t have an impact opportunity plus the upside of his skill set is questionable.
Probably the most attractive flier in the outfield on the waiver wire in most leagues is Joey Rickard. It looks like he will get a chance to play every day and the Orioles have allowed him to bat leadoff over the last couple of days with Adam Jones banged up. Over 15 at-bats, Joey hit .467 with two runs, one HR, and two RBI. In his minor league career, Rickard hit .283 with 13 HRs, 149 RBI, and 73 SBs in 1237 at-bats with a solid walk rate (12.7) and a respectable K rate (16.3). If your team needs a player with a potential 10/30 skill set, Joey could be a nice hit on the waiver wire.
Desmond Jennings went undrafted in many shallow leagues. His game has never lived up to Fantasy owner expectation. He’s started every game while hitting around 5th in the batting order. He’s hitting .278 after 18 at-bats with three runs and one SB. Just like Rickard, Jennings has a possible 10/30 skill set while offering probably more upside in power.
With Carl Crawford landing the DL with a sore back and Andre Ethier out for a good portion of the year, Trace Thompson may get a chance to get a bump in playing time in left field. Over 122 at-bats with the White Sox in 2015, he hit. 295 with five HRs, 16 RBI, and one SB. In his minor league career, Trayce hit only .241 with 101 HRs, 395 RBI, and 94 SBs in 2765 at-bats. His downside is his high K rate (26.0) in his minor league career.
The fallback plan for LA in left will be the slugging Scott Van Slyke, who tends to crush left-handed pitching (.315 in 2014 with eight HRs and 17 RBI in 108 at-bats).
The two obvious attractions in the starting pitching pool in some leagues this week will be Juan Nicasio and Ross Stripling. Nicasio was a big mover in drafts late in March thanks to his elite spring training (no runs in 15 innings with five walks and 24 Ks). Juan showcased a live arm in the Dodgers’ bullpen in 2015 when his average fastball (95.7) gained life, but he still walked too many batters (4.9 per nine innings). The Pirates have an excellent pitching coach who made a modification to his arm slot to help his movement within the strikes zone. After one start, Nicasio looks like a possible impact arm (one run in six innings with seven Ks).
A friend of mine asked about Ross Stripling in his major league debut. I didn’t think he was ready to make an impact in the majors over the long haul because he had never pitched above AA at the age of 26. Over three seasons in the minors, Ross went 12-10 with a 2.83 ERA and 213 Ks in 235.1 innings. For the most part, he’s been older than his competition at each level. His first game in the majors looked elite (one run and no hits in 7.1 innings with four walks and four Ks). He’s worth a swing as the Dodgers tend to produce solid starters, but I wouldn’t bet the farm on him as his window may be less than expected.
The last arm I will talk about this week is Matt Latos. Over the winter when I did my research, I thought he had a chance for a bounce back season. Here’s a look at my write-up:
It's rare for a major league pitcher to pitch for three different teams in the majors in one season, but Latos accomplished that feat in 2015. Over 16 starts with Miami, Mat had a 4.48 ERA with a winnable walk rate (2.5) and a career average K rate (8.0). He allowed fewer hits (85) than innings pitched (88.1) with his failure tied to four disaster starts (23 runs and 30 baserunners in 16 innings). Over his other 12 starts with the Marlins, Latos had 2.61 ERA and 1.11 WHIP. He landed on the DL for three weeks in late May with inflammation in his left knee. Mat struggled in his five starts with the Dodgers (6.66 ERA and 1.521 WHIP) with no real improvement in two games pitched with the Angels (4.91 ERA). Latos did a decent job vs. righties (.249) with failure risk against LH batters (.286). His AFB (91.5) was much lower than his rookie success (94.2), but it was 0.8 mph higher than his 2014 season. His slider (.314 BAA) is still his second best pitch even with a big step back in value. He also threw a split-finger fastball (.148 BAA) followed by a curveball (.278 BAA). Health has been the reason for his struggles over the last two years. I can't trust his right elbow, but his price point should be just about free in 2016. His peripherals stats weren't that far off in 2015, so I'd be willing to gamble on his upside as backend starter especially if his fastball is showing more life in spring training. The key to his success will be regaining the value of his slider (2010 - .159 BAA, 2011 - .157, 2012 - .170, 2013 - .184, 2014 - .140, and 2015 - .314). His downside is TJ surgery. If he has any negative news in spring training with his forearm or elbow, I will avoid him completely.
With each start this spring, I began to doubt my research. Mat allowed 15 runs and 29 baserunners over 13 innings in March with nine Ks. Batters hit .404 against him with two HRs. Daily Fantasy owners loaded up against him in his first start, and Latos stole all of their money by pitching six shutout innings with two Ks. As I mention in my preseason write up, his slider would be the key to him having a bounce back season. In his first start, batters hit .200 vs. his slider (18 pitches) while his fastball only averaged 89.9 mph (92.4 in 2015). His lack of a fastball would lead me to tread carefully if you decide to pick him up.
The top closer in waiting to emerge in the 9th in week one is Luke Gregerson. Before the season, it looked like Ken Giles was a lock to pitch as closer for Houston. The Astros manager decided to let Gregerson pitched his way out of the closing job. I could see him as a free agent in shallow leagues with short benches and weekly moves.
Ryan Madson picked up a pair of saves this week with Sean Doolittle working his way back from a forearm issue. In the A’s last game, Madsen pitched after Doolittle in a tight game earning his second save. Ryan may end up being the long-term answer for saves for Oakland.
If you are holding out hopes that Dalier Hinojosa will earn saves for the Phillies, you are making a big mistake due to his weak command. His arm has no real upside in the 9th inning. He struggled badly in his career in Japan (4.29 ERA and 3.4 walks per nine innings) with questionable success over two seasons in the minors (3.78 ERA and 4.2 walks per nine innings). I suggest you kick him to the curb and invest in an arm with more closing upside. It appears Jeanmar Gomez may get the next shot in the 9th inning. Jeanmar struggles to strikeout batters (5.4 K rate in his career) while offering no upside against righties in 2015 (.292). I guess the best plan of attack would be to hold tight with David Hernandez, who was bombed in his first outing (three runs and three baserunners while not recording an out). His average fastball so far in 2016 is 93.3.