Fantasy Corner: Scanning The Waiver Wire Ahead Of Opening Day

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I’d love to start this column off with a cliche like, “it’s never too early to hit the waiver wire!”, but the reality is, it just might be too early. While there’s nothing better than grabbing a breakout star on waivers, there’s also few things worse than giving up on a guy you drafted too quickly.

Two seasons ago, a guy in my league dropped a starting pitcher who boasted a 4.45 ERA five starts into the season. That pitcher turned out to be the eventual Cy Young winner, R.A. Dickey, who posted an ERA of 2.73 on the season with 20 wins.

The same guy also dropped a hitter about a month into the season thanks to his .193 average in April. Fortunately for me, that waiver-wire snag turned into Paul Goldschmidt (in a keeper league, no less) and his eventual .286 average.

Moral of the story: if you believed in a guy enough to draft him, don’t pull the plug too quickly on him.

With that said, however, what should you do if you’ve already freed up a roster spot for a guy now on the disabled list? Or if you need a particular position to fill in your lineup?

Every week here, we’ll take a look at the waiver wire and give you a heads up on guys worth checking out. Now, it’d be easy to say, “you should check out this guy named Miguel Cabrera” — but that’s not of any use to you. We’ll focus on guys owned in a low percentage of leagues (I’ll be using Yahoo! since that’s the site I happen to play on).

Without further ado, here are some guys to keep an eye on:

Dee Gordon (available in 78% of leagues)

Dodger site, Dodger player — WHAT A HOMER, right?

Here’s the thing with Gordon (which I referenced before the Australia trip on my twitter, @DNFantasySpiegs): if he gets enough playing time, he’s a poor man’s Billy Hamilton — and Hamilton is going in the sixth round of drafts! With Gordon, the upside is obviously his speed, and if he can get an on-base percentage of around .320, it’s safe to assume he could steal upwards of 35 bags this season.

On the flip side, the concern with Gordon is playing time, so this isn’t a guy to add for short-term returns. If Gordon wins the starting job (which isn’t a sure thing, especially with Alex Guerrero in the wings), he’s a steal. If not, he shouldn’t last on your roster too much longer.

Joe Kelly (available in 79% of leagues)

I was actually shocked to see Kelly on the waiver wire — especially as a Dodger fan who remembered how easily he went through our lineup last season. But even before the playoffs, Kelly was 10-5 with a 2.70 ERA in 15 starts (and he had a 3.53 ERA the season before).

Now, obviously the concern is that Kelly was just a flash in the pan, but with news that he has earned the final rotation spot in St. Louis, Kelly is a great addition if you’re looking for another pitcher. He won’t get you a lot of strikeouts, but he should put up a good ERA and get you some wins from a solid Cardinals squad.

Peter Bourjos (available in 92% of leagues)

In the only season Bourjos got more than 200 at bats, the center fielder hit .270 with 12 home runs, 22 steals and an OPS of .765. With a starting spot in a loaded St. Louis offense, it’s not unreasonable to guess that Bourjos could put up similar numbers this season, and while outfielders are a dime a dozen, a guy with those numbers won’t last long on the waiver wire.

Of course, Bourjos is a lifetime .250 hitter in a backup role, but there is reason for hope now that he’s back in a starting lineup every day.

Bronson Arroyo (available in 79% of leagues)

If you follow this column all season, you’ll notice there are a few stats I use as “indicators” to gauge whether to pick a guy up or not. One of those is WHIP — basically, how many base runners a pitcher allows per inning. A great WHIP hovers around 1.00, a bad WHIP is closer to 1.40. The reason I use this instead of ERA is twofold — first, it helps me identify players other guys in my league are ignoring (because we’re looking at different stats), secondly, it can indicate how lucky or unlucky a pitcher is getting.

If a guy has a WHIP of 1.40 and an ERA of 3.00, I can assume he’s probably experiencing a lot of luck — putting a lot of guys on base and then getting out of jams. On the flip side, if a guy has a great WHIP and a bad ERA, it likely means he’s getting unlucky (allowing a high percentage of base runners to score). Of course, it could also mean he allows a lot of home runs, but for the most part, I like WHIP as a simple indicator.

All this to say, Arroyo is a guy who had a really good WHIP last season (1.15) — 23rd in MLB in fact — and posted a 3.79 ERA — 58th in MLB. If Arroyo can post a similar WHIP, it’s not unreasonable to assume he can bring that ERA down below 3.50. It’s also important to note that while Arroyo is currently listed as day-to-day, the righty has made 32 or more starts in every season since 2005.


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