Fantasy Baseball Edge: Category Pickups
By Matt Cott & Moe Koltun of Roto Analysis
We have reached the point in the season where every fantasy owner should know the strengths and deficiencies of their fantasy team. In rotisserie leagues, if owners are placed last in a category, now is the time to make the conscious choice to either bail out on that category, or make a move to try to make a push up the list. In head to head leagues, it’s pretty easy to tell what categories your team loses nearly every week, and now is the time to make a change before teams start to fall out of playoff contention. This week, the RotoAnalysis.com crew has decided to give ten waiver wire pickups that could change your fortune in one of the ten standard fantasy baseball categories.
All Ownership Data taken from CBS Leagues.
Batting Average: Alcides Escobar, Royals SS (55% Owned)
When looking for help with team batting average, it’s always good to find a slap-hitter with plenty of at-bats to weigh heavily into your team’s performance. Shortstop is really shallow this year, so it makes sense to use a guy like Alcides Escobar in the spot to buoy your roster with his hitting skills and his speed.
Home Runs: Pedro Alvarez, Pirates 3B (43% Owned)
I want to preface this by saying: I do not think Pedro Alvarez is a very good baseball player, nor a very good fantasy player. However, home runs are by far the hardest thing to find on the waiver wire, so I suppose beggars can’t be choosers. For all his deficiencies, Alvarez certainly has power, slugging 12 homers so far this year in just 59 games. The biggest problem with Alvarez is his batting average. It currently sits at .212 and won’t get much higher than .225 at best. Fantasy owners should think of Alvarez as the new Mark Reynolds: if you can swallow or counter-balance his batting average, he could have huge value to your fantasy team, but if you don’t, he could absolutely tank your batting average, and ruin an otherwise great team. I’d use Alvarez with extreme caution, but if you really need power off the wire (the waiver wire, not the TV show The Wire. Getting power in the show is much, much more complicated), look no further than Pedro Alvarez.
Runs: Jon Jay, Cardinals OF (35% Owned)
While runs are a tough category to single-handedly plan for, looking for a player in an above-average offense with a strong on-base percentage is a great place to start. Jay is just that, with a .395 OBP on the season for a Cardinals team that ranks 4th in the majors in runs scored. He is about to come back from a shoulder injury, so now is the perfect time to nab him and reap the benefits before someone else in your league grabs him first.
Runs Batted In: Raul Ibanez, Yankees OF (53% Owned)
Like runs, RBIs are a tough stat to prognosticate. Generally speaking, waiver wire RBI guys are on good offenses, with good home ballparks, and lots of doubles and home run power, but not great on-base skills. Ibanez fits the bill in every single one of those categories, and batting immediately after the trio of Alex Rodriguez, Robinson Cano, and Mark Teixera certainly won’t hurt his RBI chances.
Stolen Bases: Ben Revere, Twins OF (32% Owned)
As I wrote about earlier this week, Revere could have also fit under the ‘batting average’ or even ‘runs’ category, but he’s going to bring help in steals more than anything else. So far in his career, Revere has played in 151 major league games, garnering 630 plate appearances, and in that time he’s stolen 46 bases. 46 steals in a full year would actually be low projection for him, because last season as a rookie Revere took a long time adjusting to major league pitching, thus leaving him with a .267 average and .310 on base percentage, neither of which is good. As he has adjusted to major league pitching, Revere has raised his OBP to .338 this season, which will give him many more steal opportunities going forward. Right now, I would be hard-pressed to find a better pickup than Ben Revere.
Wins: Roy Oswalt, Rangers SP (71% Owned)
I know his ownership percentage is relatively high, but Oswalt should be much closer to 90% owned than 71%. He is reportedly being called up today, and even if Oswalt is only 80% back to his old self, that should be more than enough to get an above average amount of wins with run support from Major League Baseball’s best offense. I might not start Oswalt in his home ballpark right away, but if he shows any signs of being back to himself in even his first start back, I’d have no issue starting him from here on out, and I’d start him in nearly all of his road starts.
Saves: Tom Wilhelmsen, Mariners RP (43% Owned)
While he and Brandon League are still battling for the job, Wilhelmsen looks to be the best closing option that is still available in most CBS leagues. He has really broken out this season into a dominant reliever, and his 44 K’s in 36 innings back up his strong stuff. He’s not the trendiest name out there, but Wilhelmsen could get the job done the rest of the way if he is able to keep the job.
Strikeouts: Jonathon Niese, Mets SP (73% Owned)
R.A. Dickey isn’t the only pitcher on the Mets who has shined lately. Niese is traditionally underrated in our opinion, as he is a guy with very little name recognition, but is also a guy whose stats can help any fantasy team. This season he has decided to be more aggressive than usual and really go at hitters, which has led to both more strikeouts and more walks. If your team is in need of some K’s, Niese has gotten just under a strikeout per inning so far this year and has the stuff to maintain that rate in the second half of the season.
ERA: Scott Diamond, Twins SP (56% Owned)
I have made the conscious decision not to make the nearly obligatory ‘Diamond in the rough’ joke during this section. But seriously, Scott Diamond is really good, and the only reason people don’t know about him is that he pitches for the subpar (to put it kindly) Twins. In his nine starts so far this season, Diamond has truly shined (sorry, I had too) and showed his polish (okay, I promise I’m done with the puns now), sporting a 2.57 ERA, and he has yet to earn more than 4 runs in a start. The main issue with Diamond is his lack of traditional ‘power pitcher’ stuff, as his fastball sits in the 88-91 MPH range, and he strikes out very few batters (4.82 K/9). The good news is, he also walks nearly nobody (1.29 BB/9), and he pitches in a very good pitchers ballpark, as well as a below average division. Overall, Diamond should keep his ERA under the 3.5 mark, and be an underrated weapon for fantasy owners all season long.
WHIP: Joe Blanton, Phillies SP (38% Owned)
With WHIP, it is much easier to target a control pitcher who will not walk many batters, rather than aiming to get lucky with a pitcher seemingly controlling every hit against him. Blanton may always seem like the last banana in the Phillies rotation, but he actually ranks third in the majors this season among qualified starters with a BB/9 rate of just 1.29. This immediately helps him have an above-average WHIP, and we believe that Blanton can sustain this performan
Agree? Disagree? Questions? Tweet @RotoAnalysis and be sure to follow Moe @MoeProblems and Matt @KidCotti21. Check out their work on RotoAnalysis.com, as well as The RotoAnalysis Fantasy Sports Podcast.