Monday, May 13, 2013

IN EXILE: Waiver Wire Help for Your OF

Felipe M

We attempted to help those owners in need of a First Baseman back in late April and I've seen a rise in ownership for both James Loney (from 7% to 51%) and Mitch Moreland (16% to 49%).  Of the six players that were owned in less than 35% of CBS leagues, only Loney and Moreland deserved strong consideration to be owned on your team.  The baseball world has been waiting for them to come back down to Earth, but they're still producing respectable numbers, heretofore.  

We try to take that same approach for those owners looking for OF help.  We look at a few select players that are available in less than 70% of CBS leagues (all stats are as of May 11, 2013.  Ownership figures are accurate at the time article was published).  

Jon Jay--St. Louis Cardinals (CF)--47%: One of my favorite, unsung players from last season, Jay's calling card included great contact skills, great on-base%, and the potential to steal 20+ stolen bases.  However, question marks loomed about possible playing time, fluky  numbers, and lack of pop.  Well, this season, Jay has somehow redesigned his game this season.  His approach is a lot better this year, than last season, but he's much more aggressive as well, striking out at a faster clip than in 2012.  This more aggressive approach has seen mixed results:

  • His on-base% of .338 is the lowest we've seen from Jay.
  • He is making a concerted effort to lift the ball in the air with more frequency this season.
    • This has increased his line-drive rate to 30%.
    • He now has a Homerun/Flyball rate of 6.1%, almost tripling his 2012 rate.
He is swinging at more strikes compared to last season and although it hasn't equaled a good batting average or OPS, it's worth noting that his increase in pop has come with a .284 BABIP.  So you can evaluate Jay in two ways:
  1. More flyballs limits his best asset--his speed--for only a slight increase in pop.
  2. If he can get a bit more lucky, perhaps the pop, along with his ability to make contact with the ball, will equal more extra base-hits and his batting average and OPS will increase with the improving results.
Hard to not give a guy with a 30% line-drive rate a second look, especially if you're in need for an OF.  Jay may turn out to be a long-term solution.

Michael Saunders--Seattle Mariners (LF, CF, RF)--62%: Saunders came into the 2013 season with plenty of hype.  He was projected to be a 20-20 guy, they were going to move the fences in at Safeco Field, and he was coming off a successful campaign for Team Canada in this year's World Baseball Classic.  And then he was placed on the Disabled List with a shoulder injury after getting off to a hot start.  Well, he's back now, hitting .280, with 2 homeruns, 3 stolen bases, and has drawn 5 walks in the month of May (through May 10, 2013).  

So is he for real or is this all luck?  One thing we tend to forget is that at one time, Saunders was a highly-touted prospect for the Mariners.  He struggled to find a permanent spot on the Big League club, but 2012, he showed some flashes of his potential, finishing with 19 homeruns and 21 stolen bases.  So he does have pedigree on his side.

He's always had a decent plate approach in the Minors, but has failed to streamline that ability to the Majors.  He has shown that capability this season as his strikeout rate has decreased to a record low and his walk rate is a career high (20.3% and 12.2% respectively).  However, this improved approach is very impressive when you consider how aggressive he is at the plate.  He swings at the first pitch, 30% of the time and has yet to see a 3-0 count this season.  Also, he goes up to the plate looking to always put the ball in the air and the increase in flyballs has seen an increase in his HR/FB to 14.3%.  His .859 OPS is helped by a line-drive rate of 28%.  When you consider that he's still posting good numbers despite a BABIP of .267 and it all leads one to believe that Saunders' breakout campaign in 2013 is absolutely real.  

Gerardo Parra--Arizona Diamondbacks (LF, CF, RF)--69%: Parra has been holding his own as he has not only taken over CF duties for the D'backs, but is also the team's leadoff hitter.  With an OPS of .831 and a BB/K of 0.70, Parra seems to be the prime example of what a good plate approach can do for a player's number.  However, there's a few holes in Parra's game that is worth warning about: 

  • His Extra Base-Hit% of 10.1% and Line-Drive% of 24% are both career highs.  
  • He owns a BABIP of .345
  • He has 4 stolen bases, but has been caught stealing 5 times.  This is bad for fantasy leaguers in points' leagues that penalizes players for being caught stealing.  Roto-leaguers probably don't care about the poor stolen base rate, but should be interesting to see if Arizona will continue to give him the green light on the basepaths.
Parra is also looking to drive the ball more in the air and this year, he's shown to be more selective at the plate as he's seeing his strikeout rate decrease, while his walk rate increases (both career bests).  The new approach might be the explanation why he's able to drive the ball better than in year's past.  However, plenty of luck can also be attributed to his success, but the discipline at the plate should be reason enough to take a chance on Parra as he is a relatively safe choice in the OF.  

Marcell Ozuna--Miami Marlins (RF)--30%: Ozuna came in this year as a top prospect (by default) for the Marlins as he's produced good power numbers in the Minors.  He has a .943 OPS and has made enough contact to hit his way on base.  With a 14.6% Extra base-hit rate and a 28% line-drive rate, Ozuna is definitely crushing the ball during his Major League debut.  Reports in the Minors showed that his approach at the plate had been improving, but that he still is prone to chase at bad pitches.  With a BABIP of .387, Ozuna might be more of a short-term solution for your fantasy team as much as the Marlins will give him a chance to cement himself in the Marlins' long-term plans.

Oswaldo Arcia--Minnesota Twins (LF, RF)--34%: Just like Ozuna, Arcia was another hyped prospect in the Twins system.  Just like Ozuna, Arcia has a propensity to swing at bad pitches.  He currently has a strikeout rate of 26% against a walk rate of 5.5%. Nevertheless, he has an OPS of .892, no doubt assisted by a line-drive rate of 22% and a HR/FB of 10.3%.  However, Arcia possesses a BABIP of .404.  Due to Arcia's reputation of being a free-swinger, his production will most likely decrease, but until then, if you can stomach his poor discipline, then continue to ride out his hot streak.

Juan Pierre--Miami Marlins (LF, CF)--38%: Just when I think that Pierre's days as a fantasy baseball, relevant name are numbered, he comes back and continues to utilize the only thing that makes him useful in fantasy and "real" baseball: his speed.  12 stolen bases and was on pace to steal 55 bases over the weekend.  It always amazes me how a guy with a low batting average and on-base% can even get on base to do damage on the basepaths.  But that has been Pierre's rep for years now.  For starters he only strikes out once every 10 at bats and he has a whopping 90% contact rate.  Pierre also knows his strengths and weaknesses: he can run very fast, but won't hit for much pop.  Therefore, Pierre goes out of his way to hit the ball on the ground in order to best utilize his speed.  His BABIP is only .275 so he busts his tail to get to first base.  

However, there are concerns: 
  • He's incapable of taking a walk with regularity so it's questionable if he can continue producing raw numbers with this style of play.  
  • Infield per Flyball rate (basically, pop ups/outs) is a career high, 17%.  So perhaps age is playing a factor on his bat speed.
  • Also a career high is the rate that he is Striking Out Looking--33%.
Presumably, roto-leaguers will sacrifice batting average and power if it means increasing their chances for more stolen bases, but for points' leaguers, there's enough red flags to prevent you from picking him up. 

Nate Schierholtz--Chicago Cubs (RF)--38%: The "other" Nate in Chicago, Schierholtz is getting playing time for a mediocre Cubs' lineup and he's making the most of it.  He's produced an OPS of .880 and has only been striking out once every 6 at bats or so, but an alarming stat is his walk rate of 5.6%--the lowest it has been since 2009.  

He's hitting a homerun once every 26 at bats or so, which approximately equals to about one homer/week.  That's a bit oversimplified, but that's the kind of year that he's having!  He's posting career highs in Line-Drive% (28%--career high), HR/FB (8.9%--career high), and Extra base-hit% of 15%.  Nonetheless, all of the good vibes come with a BABIP of .313.  It remains to be seen if he can continue to produce these power numbers once his BABIP gets closer to .300.  The poor discipline might prove to be his downfall, but he can still be a source of cheap power if your team is in need.

Michael Brantley--Cleveland Indians (LF, CF)--37%: After underwhelming owners in the last three years, Brantley's name has become relevant again after sporting a .355 on-base% and flirting with a .300 hitting average for the first time since his rookie season.  However, a BABIP of .336 might prove to be the culprit of Brantley's seemingly resurgent season.

Much of a deal was made of Brantley's numbers since April 20th last week.  Brantley was hitting .342, 6 extra-base hits, and even drove in 9 RBI in a 17-game span.  However, despite all of the hoopla surrounding his "newfound" gap power, Brantley's XBH% is a career low 6.5% (and dropping).  It gets worse as we look at other career lows for Brantley:
  • Line-Drive% of 19%
  • Walk Rate of 6.5%
  • Contact Rate of 88% (90% for his career)
So he is making less contact than ever before in his Major League career.  He's also hitting more groundballs than ever before in his career (1.21) and popping up more than usual (13% IF/FB is also a career high).  

It is quite possible that Brantley's numbers look bad due to a slow start and that he's just heating up at the right moment.  However, his high BABIP along with his other poor peripherals might be a case of Brantley's current fluky hot streak.  I would avoid if possible.

(Editor's Note: Something that I've been wanting to bring back from the days when I was working on this blog is to finish every sports' entry by sharing a bit about my non-sports life.  So without further ado....)

Currently Reading: The Investigation by Stanislaw Lem (halfway through it.  There better be some sort of punchline at the end. Fast, but tedious read).

Last Song Played on Random Playlist: "This Lying World" by Unearth

Discovered New Band: American Steel

Dusted Off the Nintendo GameCube and Playing: Metroid Prime 2

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