Bloomberg Sports Anchor Rob Shaw breaks down four players who fantasy managers may want to pick up off the waiver wire this week.
Michael McKenry, C, Pirates
The Pirates are trying to stay in contention for the playoffs and they have gotten some help on offense from an unlikely source in McKenry. In 47 games, he’s batting .285 with 11 home runs and 28 RBI. He has eight homers in his last 21 games alone. If you need a catcher and McKenry is available, he is a good pickup, though it’s unlikely that he will sustain these numbers.
Grant Balfour, RP, Athletics
The A’s have had some issues in the bullpen as rookie Ryan Cook has struggled recently. This opens the door for Balfour, who last gave up a run on June 29. He is 2-2 with seven saves, a 2.60 ERA and a 1.02 WHIP. The coaching staff has acknowledged that it has to consider moves within the bullpen as the team is in contention, and Balfour is a likely option for the closer role.
Josh Vitters, 3B, Cubs
Vitters was the third pick of the 2007 draft, selected ahead of Matt Wieters, Madison Bumgarner and Jason Heyward. The top prospect made his debut for the Cubs on Sunday. In 110 games at Triple-A, he had a .304 average, 17 home runs and 68 RBI.
Erik Kratz, C, Phillies
Kratz played seven years at Triple-A and had a .288 average with 15 homers last season. He’s making the most of his opportunity with the Phillies, batting .379 with four home runs and four doubles in 15 games. Kratz should do well as a backup while Carlos Ruiz is on the disabled list.
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Bloomberg Sports Anchor Rob Shaw offers four players who can have a major impact on your fantasy baseball team.
Last year only two players in baseball had 30 or more doubles, 15 or more triples, 5 or more home runs, and 10 or more saves. One is Jose Reyes, who signed a monster deal with the Marlins. The other is Dexter Fowler, an outfielder that had been considered a bust in fantasy circles for a few years. It turns out that our focus should have been more on the extra base hits than the steals. Fowler is a power guy, who slowly but surely was growing into his 6’4 frame. This year the doubles have turned into home runs and he is now on pace for 30 round-trippers. Fowler reminds me a little of Rickie Weeks. The average won’t flirt with .300 much, but he does draw walks and the power is legit.
A strikeout machine who cranks the ball up to 100 MPH, Stephen Pryor is likely a future closer who at just 22 years old will get a look in the Mariners bullpen. Pryor has had some control issues in the past, but this year he has been in control, which explains the 0.64 ERA through 28 innings split between the higher levels of the minor leagues. With Brandon League out temporarily as the closer and with his future in doubt as a free agent this summer, it makes a lot of sense for Pryor to get a look in some high pressure situations..
The long swing of Colby Rasmus is starting to make some great contact for the Toronto Blue Jays. Rasmus is riding a seven game hit streak with three home runs and six RBI over that span. In a killer lineup and a great ballpark, Rasmus has every chance to succeed in Toronto. After early struggles in spring training and then to open the season, Rasmus is finally showing the potential that made the Blue Jays a buyer last season after he wore out his welcome with the Cardinals.
Scott Feldman, SP, Rangers (at Oakland and San Francisco)
Feldman is not one of the sexier fantasy picks. He does not get many K’s, his ERA and WHIP are only alright since he calls home to the hitter-friendly Rangers Ballpark, and then there is his lack of job security as a spot starter. On the other hand, Feldman does offer the Rangers a chance to win every time he takes the hill, which explains how he won 17 games just a few years ago. Now he gets favorable starts against the A’s and Giants on the road. This is as good as it gets for the Rangers veteran who should have plenty of run support and much friendly pitching backdrops.
The total numbers are disappointing, 2 homers, 15 runs, 17 RBI, and a .267 AVG. On the other hand, he has hits in 16 of his last 18 games, has stolen six bases, and already has 5 doubles over the last 11 games. Keep in mind that Choo took a little while to bounce back after missing a large chunk of last season. However, at his best this is a rare 20-20 talent. This is a fine time to pick him up while his fantasy managers are keeping him glued to the bench.
In the past, the only thing keep Nelson Cruz down was his health. This season he has been an iron man and while his run production is solid with 24 runs and 23 RBI and his average is respectable at .274, so far the power has been limited with just four home runs. However, a closer look at the double-digit doubles tells me that maybe some of those shots simply have not left the yard, but come the summer in Texas, I think the ball will really start to fly off his bat. I still think 30 home runs is realistic, so go ahead and make the move for Cruz, though keep in mind that he is slowing down a bit on the base paths and he does have that injury-prone label.
Stolen bases have some serious value in fantasy leagues and for that reason alone you may be able to unload Drew Stubbs. Stubbs is a low average hitter with some pop and speed. He swiped 40 bases last season, which got a lot of attention, but also we saw a decline in home runs from 22 to 15. This season he only has three in comparison to his seven stolen bases. The positive is that he does score a lot of runs, which really is amazing when you consider that he strikes out a ton and rarely reaches base. Trade Stubbs while you can to someone desperate for some steals.
I have been known to lead my leagues on annual basis in saves despite not drafting closers until the middle or late rounds. I do this by picking up the pitchers who gain the promotion into the ninth inning because of either the struggles or health woes to the player ahead of them. Often it can result in excellence, such is the case with my drafting Aroldis Chapman in the final round of my draft. On the other hand, sometimes the closer I pick up implodes and doesn’t hold the gig for long. I fear that Cubs closer Rafael Dolis is of the latter. While I do like his youth at 24 years old and his live arm, I am very much in fear of his lack of strikeouts. This will not only hurt my fantasy team in that category, but also you typically like closers that can miss bats otherwise they can find themselves in trouble. With a 3.75 ERA and 2 blown saves already, I am selling on Dolis and keep in mind that Carlos Marmol will return from the DL and could end up earning the gig once again.
In 2003, the Padres owned the fourth pick of the MLB Draft. The franchise had its choice of a few top prospects including John Danks, Nick Markakis, and Chad Billingsley. Instead, San Diego opted for Tim Stauffer, a right-hander out of Richmond.
Stauffer struggled early in his professional career, however, in 2009 he broke out with a 1.85 ERA in 82.2 innings of work as a spot-starter and long-reliever. As a result of the fine performance, Stauffer enjoyed a promotion the following year to a full-time starter. Stauffer picked up 9 wins with a 3.73 ERA and 1.25 WHIP. Of course PETCO Field played its role, as he was 6-5 at home with a 2.57 ERA and 1.13 WHIP.
The 29-year-old right-hander showed some wear and tear in August, as his strikeouts declined and his home runs soared. After missing the first month and a half of the 2012 season due to a strained elbow, Stauffer made his season debut on Monday. Against the Nationals, the Padres hurler fanned five batters in five innings of work. He was a tad wild and bit too hittable as he came away with a no-decision.
Stauffer returns to PETCO this weekend for an Interleague match-up with the Angels. Fantasy managers should consider the veteran as a solid platoon option worth starting every time he takes the hill in San Diego even though a lack of run support will limit his ability to pick up wins.
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A former first round pick in 2005, Brandon Snyder is a 25-year-old that only had 14 at bats in the Big Leagues entering last Monday. During his time in the farm system, Snyder proved to have little plate discipline, but he does have some power.
Snyder became a fantasy trend last week as he blasted a home run with six RBI in a big win against the Baltimore Orioles. Truth is, even last week it was clear that the big performance was no more than a career day than anything else. Snyder was playing third base, a position that is handled by Gold Glove winner Adrian Beltre. It’s not as if the designated hitter spot is open for Snyder either as Mike Napoli, Michael Young, and Mitch Moreland take turns in the Rangers lineup.
Since the big performance, Snyder has only had two appearances. He went 0-3 with a strikeout against the Orioles a few days later. He then managed a single in four at bats on Saturday against the Angels. With just 26 at bats this season, Snyder is little more than an insurance policy for the Rangers.
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A 24-year-old southpaw, Felix Doubront is finally getting his shot as a starter in the Big Leagues. Though he has been a strikeout artist so far this season, he has also been a bit too hittable. Fellow southpaws were hitting an all too comfortable .295 against him coming into the week. He had also has struggled at Fenway to the tune of a 6.00 ERA.
Based on his minor league statistics, one can expect Doubront’s control to improve. He was a popular fantasy option this week as he visited the Royals on Monday, then hosted the Indians on Saturday.
In the Kansas City start, Doubront was far from his best. He surrendered seven hits and five runs, but since only three were earned, it qualifies as a quality start. Doubront was much better five days later when he held the Royals to just three hits in six innings, surrendering one earned run. He picked up a second straight win, improving his record to 3-1, while the ERA fell to 4.46.
Doubront’s home ERA is now comparable to his road splits, and left-handed batters are now hitting just .278 against him. The Red Sox hurler will find an increase in strength of schedule, as he next takes on the Rays before a start against Baltimore. It will be more important for Doubront to keep the walks down against two of the best teams in the American League this season.
If you’re lucky your rival fantasy managers may have forgotten about Doug Fister and what he offered last season. The Tigers right-hander returned this week from the disabled list and was offered a dream fantasy week.
Fister took on the hapless Mariners offense and the A’s offense both in big-time pitcher’s parks. Though the Tigers did not offer the run support that we expected, Fister was sensational even if his record is just 0-1.
In his return to the mound, Fister stymied the Mariners for seven innings, allowing just four hits and no walks through seven innings. The Tigers eventually lost that contest 3-2. Next, Fister went six innings against the A’s, allowing nothing more than a first inning run. The right-hander fanned eight batters, but again lacked the run support for a win.
Through 16.2 innings, Fister now boasts a 0.54 ERA and 14:3 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He has dominated in his 14 appearances since joining the Tigers. Fister’s value should only improve throughout the season as the offense should eventually awake and offer the run support that allowed the 6’8” right-hander to go 8-1 down the stretch a season ago.
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A little over a week ago, the Tigers announced that Duane Below would earn his first crack at starting this season. The southpaw had certainly earned the opportunity in his second season with the Tigers. Below had yet to issue a walk and the opposition was hitting just .167 against him in 12 scoreless innings. Alas, the opportunity never came as rain pushed the game back and Tigers manager Jim Leyland was not about to alter his rotation just to get Below a spot start.
Since then Below has continued throwing darts. He has added an additional two innings of work to his season total and the opposition has offered just a hit and walk against him without cracking the scoreboard in his last three appearances. Through 14 innings, Below now boasts a 0.00 ERA, 0.64 WHIP, and .174 average against. Simply put, he has been one of the best hurlers in baseball this season.
The big question is whether the Tigers have lucked out with this year’s version of Doug Fister? To answer that we look at Below’s stats in the minor leagues. Though he was a tad too hittable early in his professional career, the numbers have drastically improved in recent years. In fact, in 2011, Below was 9-4 in 18 starts with a 3.13 ERA in Triple-A. He does not get many strikeouts, but he has great command of the strike zone.
Despite some big prospects in the Tigers system, Below has earned the next spot start needed in Detroit. It’s about time for his fantasy managers to hope for an opportunity in Detroit.
Mets starting pitcher RA Dickey is more than just a great a story. He is a solid hurler who earned his billing as the number two pitcher in the Mets rotation. April is traditionally not a good month for the knuckleball, and yet Dickey has five brilliant performances and one disastrous outing. On that note, he is 4-1 with a 3.76 ERA and 1.20 WHIP. Though he remains susceptible to the home run (seven in six starts), Dickey is also something of a strikeout artist this season with 32 K’s in 38.1 innings of work.
Considering the knuckleball is an all-or-nothing pitch, ERA and WHIP may not be the best indicators for his performance. After all, when a knuckleballer doesn’t have his pitch, he is left with a very hittable fastball. That explains why after six starts, half of Dickey’s earned runs came in one ugly implosion.
A statistic that is better in tune with Dickey’s performance is quality start percentage. It requires six or more innings while allowing three or fewer runs to score. In his breakout 2010 season, Dickey offered a quality start in 18 of his 26 starts (69%). Last season he finished on a tear and offered a solid 68% quality start percentage. Finally, this season Dickey has taken it to a whole new level at 83%.
Dickey’s next two starts won’t be slam dunks. He faces the Marlins in Miami, then heads north for the Blue Jays in Toronto. What’s interesting is that both games could be played indoors. This could have an impact for a knuckleballer who relies on the wind to keep the ball moving. Regardless, Dickey has proven to be an every week start in fantasy baseball leagues, and now that he is also getting strikeouts there are very few holes in his game.
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After a rough opening start against the Mets, Mike Minor responded with three consecutive quality starts. Minor was suddenly a fantasy star on the rise, which was much-needed for a Braves team that had already demoted hurler Jair Jurrjens to the minor leagues.
Through four starts, Minor boasted respectable numbers including a 2-1 record with a respectable 3.42 ERA. Most impressive was the 0.99 WHIP as a result of his fine control and .233 opposing batting average. Minor had not walked a batter in the previous two games and allowed just one home run all season. Then he hit a rocky road.
The Pirates were supposed to be an easy win for Minor. Instead, the contest marked his second loss of the season, as after hurling two shutout innings he surrendered two runs in three of the next four innings and then another run in the seventh before he was removed. The good news for fantasy managers were the nine strikeouts, but he also walked three batters and allowed two home runs.
Minor’s next start might as well have been at death row. He visited the Rockies in Coors Field and while the good news was that the Braves eventually won, the bad news including 10 hits, four walks, and eight earned runs in just five innings of work. His ERA has skyrocketed to 5.97 and the once impressive WHIP has lost its luster at 1.35.
Things may get worse before they get better as Minor next takes on a very good Cardinals offense. This is a pitcher that may have a bright future, but for now should make his home on the waiver wire.