MLB Barometer: All the Right Moves
Playing the waiver wire can be a tricky thing. Last season, right around this time, those who were diligently watching found players like Fernando Rodney, Edwin Encarnacion, Kris Medlen and Mike Trout, all of whom went on to have amazing seasons and probably helped numerous owners to their league championship. But for every one waiver claim that lands you a high-quality player, there are probably a dozen that make almost zero impact. That's why, especially in leagues that use a FAAB budget or have a finite number of moves per week or per year, making waiver claims is about being smart and calculating rather than just subscribing to the "throw it against the wall and see what sticks" philosophy.
Being proactive with waiver pick-ups is important, but you have to be smart. You have to make moves that suit your team. Haphazardly making moves because you just read something about some flash-in-the-pan, flavor-of-the-week type player is going to, ultimately, burn you in the end. Obviously you don't want some potential beast to slip through the cracks and fall into somebody else's lap, but if adding some unproven hopeful means blowing your waiver priority, wasting your free agent dollars or cutting an already proven fantasy commodity, he better be worth it. If he isn't, there's a good chance you've done more harm than good.
Take the ever-revolving door of relievers we see every year. Right now, people are making it rain at Club Waivers, looking to party with the likes of Phil Coke and Joaquin Benoit. But have either of them actually been named the team's closer? No. We've got speculation and assumption to follow, but nothing concrete. Yet, still, people in need of closers are overturning their rosters trying to land one of them while people who don't still seem to be doing the same thing trying to block them and get the upper hand on the trade market. The result is a number of players dropped who could actually prove to have much more value in the long run.
Talk to the guy in your league last year who gave up on Jimmy Rollins who was batting just .235 by the end of April. Or how about the guy who dropped Ben Zobrist and his .203 average? Rickie Weeks? Danny Espinosa? Dayan Viciedo? Ike Davis? Surprisingly, many of these guys found themselves on the scrap heap thanks to slow starts and people's impatience and it was the slick, savvy GM who picked each of them up for a song and built himself a championship squad.
We're certainly not saying to avoid playing the wire early. We're just saying to be smart about it. If you have three closers on your team already, focus your search on someone else rather than pick up a fourth. If you're light in the middle infield, then don't drop your struggling shortstop for some outfielder hitting .430 over the first week of the season. Make picks based on what your team really needs. And if you don't have any needs, but still feel compelled, just be smart about who you're dropping. Is that second handcuff to your closer really necessary right now or are you better served holding onto Cameron Maybin, Mike Napoli, Carlos Gomez or any other legit player who just happens to be struggling right now? Play the wire if you must, but do it with intelligence and foresight.
Stock on the Rise
Tommy Hanson, SP LAA - Shoulder issues, a move to the American League, and a terrible spring had Hanson's stock down lower than ever. He slipped dramatically in drafts and few people were willing to even take a shot on the 26-year old right-hander. But while his first outing of the season wasn't the most dynamic we've seen, it was strong enough to give us hope for a much better season than originally anticipated. He had all his pitches working, did not walk a single batter and really only made two mistakes which landed in the outfield seats. With the light-hitting Astros up next, Hanson should be active in numerous rotations.
Brian Dozier, 2B MIN - Not only did the 25-year old run land himself the second base job this spring, but now there's talk again of moving him back up to the two-hole in the order, the original plan that was in place prior to the season. Dozier isn't exactly tearing the cover off the ball right now, but he is starting to heat up a little and with Joe Mauer staying cold, manager Ron Gardenhire has mentioned a possible change. While a spot near the top of the order would be huge for Dozier's value, the likelihood of a move like that ever being permanent is low. Still, it gives a nice vote of confidence for Dozier who could be a useful option in your middle infield as he also qualifies at shortstop.
Kelvin Herrera, RP KC - There were plenty of warning signs this spring that told you Herrera's value could take a quick jump early on in the season so hopefully you were paying attention. Royals closer Greg Holland struggled early and reports came in that his velocity had dipped anywhere from two to four miles per hour. Now, two save chances into the season, Holland seems to still be in the same place he was a month ago. He escaped his first chance, but in his most recent opportunity, he walked the based loaded and then finally gave up a bases-clearing double to lose the game. Depending on the depth of your league and the competitiveness of its owners, this might not be a move you need to make right now, but it could be one to make very soon. Monitor the situation and get your trigger finger ready.
Jean Segura, SS MIL - Nothing beats a hot start when it's coming from such an unexpected source. Segura was on very few people's radar this spring and for those who did have him pegged, it was for stolen bases. But while he has no steals to date (although they will come soon enough), Segura is doing his fair share to contribute early. Through the first five games, he is batting .500 (9-for-18) with one home run and a pair of RBI. The numbers aren't eye-popping by any stretch of the imagination, but they are certainly helping those who have struggling superstars right now. Obviously the average will level off, but as that begins to happen, he will hopefully be kicking in those steals for which he was drafted.
Jed Lowrie, SS OAK - Based on everything the A's were saying this spring, Lowrie was never supposed to be anything more than just a super-utility guy who would be useful for plug-and-play purposes. But an injury to Hiroyuki Nakajima has left the door open for Lowrie who has not only walked right through, but is very much making himself at home. Again, it's crazy early here, but I'd rather have Lowrie's .462-5-2-4 than another line of zeroes. There doesn't seem to be any sort of a timetable for Nakajima and his hamstring problems, so feel free to ride Lowrie….at least until his much-anticipated trip to the DL as well.
Value in Decline
Carlos Marmol, RP CHC - Well, it's official on the North Side, although no one should be surprised as the handwriting had been on the wall for some time. The Cubs have removed Marmol from the closer's role and replaced him with Kyuji Fujikawa for the time being. The reason we say "for the time being" is because manager Dale Sveum didn't sound too convinced when discussing things on Friday, mentioning Shawn Camp and James Russell as potential candidates in the wake of Fujikawa's three-run meltdown in the same game that seemed to seal Marmol's fate. Fujikawa is, obviously, the guy to own, but breaking the bank to acquire his services might not be the most sensible course of action right now.
Aaron Hicks, OF MIN - Before Jackie Bradley, Jr. there was Hicks, the first surprise of the spring who was winning a starting job and would provide some nice speed totals to the select few who were smart enough to pay attention to his spring performance. But as we've seen with so many springtime heroes, the grandeur is short-lived. Hicks is currently 1-for-22 (.046) through the first five games and once Darin Mastroianni comes back from his time on the day-to-day list, Hicks is going to see a decline in the number of at-bats he sees. He'll still probably see the lion's share of at-bats for now, but unless he catches fire soon, he could find himself with some serious bench time or a trip down to Triple-A.
Travis Snider, OF PIT - When spring training first began, the 25-year old Snider was expected to be the Pirates' starting right fielder when they were facing a right-hander on the mound. However, an unproductive spring left the team with little choice but to go with Gaby Sanchez at first and move Garrett Jones out to right. They went with that for the first few games, hoping it might light a fire under Snider, but when he got his opportunity, he went hitless in his three at-bats and is currently 0-for-6 through five games. He hasn't quite blown his opportunity yet, but the team isn't handing him much in the way of playing time until he shows them something … anything.
John Axford, RP MIL - It's like deja vu all over again, eh Yogi? Axford has basically picked right up where he left off last year and is sitting on a bloated 21.60 ERA after two blown outings in which he's allowed four runs through 1.2 innings. The leash is probably a little longer than most would like to see, as he did win his job back once already last season, but people should probably begin to queue up Jim Henderson if they're looking for early saves help. Axford needs to right the ship and right the ship quickly; otherwise, we're looking at a stint in middle relief until he is needed again. And based on how well Henderson has been throwing lately, he could be the guy to own sooner than later.
Phil Coke/Joaquin Benoit, RP DET - While there was a bit of encouragement early on what with Coke getting the save chances early and Benoit getting a sudden vote of confidence from Jim Leyland that could land him in a save chance much sooner than expected, that value could be very short-lived as the Tigers have caved in an signed former closer Jose Valverde to a minor league deal. Valverde will start at extended spring training and move onto Triple-A from there. Should he pitch well for the Mud Hens, he would likely be added to the 40-man roster with an imminent call-up pending. Given the struggles the Tigers have now had late in games and the fact that Valverde has an opt-out clause that kicks in May 5, fantasy owners won't have long to see how this situation unfolds.