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Bats & Balls: Scanning the Wire

David Regan

David Regan

David Regan is a five-time Fantasy Sports Writers Association award winner, and was named the 2010 Fantasy Baseball Writer of the Year.

This week, I thought I'd go waiver wire hunting and highlight a few players who may be worth an addition in your league. This is a relatively shallow league (10-team mixed), so many of these players may be taken in your league, so I will attempt to dive a bit deeper in some cases.

Number in parentheses represents Yahoo's percentage ownership.

Mike Zunino (C-SEA, 15%) -
With a career 25.4 AB/HR rate in 279 big league at-bats, Zunino is already proving to be a potential 25-homer catcher, but he's also improved his average 41 points over last year, entering Tuesday's action batting .255/.296/.491. On the downside, Zunino is striking out in 28.7 percent of his plate appearances (25.4 percent last year) and his walk rate has plummeted from 8.3 to 4.3 percent this year. He's not going to hit .300, but .260 with 20-25 home runs is a valuable fantasy catcher. Zunino is batting .289 with three home runs over the last two weeks and warrants a look in 12-team mixed leagues if your catcher is struggling.

C.J. Cron (1B-LAA 15%) -
I was recently asked whether I'd prefer Ryan Howard over Cron, and after having to think about it for a bit, I responded with "Cron." While Howard appears to have regained some of his lost power with seven homers in 137 at-bats, he's still clearly a shell of his former self while Cron is 24 and just getting started. Cron will eventually slide over to first base once Albert Pujols reaches the DH phase of his career, but for now, Cron should see the majority of the DH at-bats ahead of Raul Ibanez, who is batting .139/.248/.267. Cron has started his career batting .393/.414/.714 through 28 at-bats, and though it's early, it is of some concern that he's yet to draw a walk. In Double-A a year ago, Cron managed just a 4.1 percent walk rate, so that sort of lack of discipline can quickly drag one's BA down. That said, he's a good hitter and he's off to a nice start.

Gordon Beckham (2B-CHW, 3%) -
Beckham batted a promising .270/.347/.460 as a rookie in 2009, but he's disappointed since. A broken wrist appeared to sap Beckham of his 15-plus HR power last year, but he appears healthy now, and over the last two weeks is batting .296 with a pair of home runs. He's also fanned just once in his last seven games, so Beckham is clearly seeing the ball well. The White Sox also have Marcus Semien as a possible second baseman, but he's seeing some time at third, and given Semien is batting just .220/.286/.348, Beckham's job is secure. If he can just stay healthy, his age 27 season could be a turning point in a disappointing career.

Asdrubal Cabrera (SS-CLE, 64%) -
He's available in my 10-team league, but I have Dee Gordon in that slot, so not use for Cabrera. After a .273-25-92 season in 2011, Cabrera has steadily declined, winding up with just a .701 OPS a year ago. We're seeing a bit of a turnaround this year, as Cabrera's K and BB rates have turned around somewhat:

2011 17.8 6.6
2012 16.1 8.4
2013 20.3 6.2
2014 16.9 7.8

He's also hot, having notched 10 hits, including two home runs, over his last five games to take his AVG from .205 to .246. We don't know whether Cabrera can return to his 2011 form, but he's still just 28 and perhaps the idea of having top prospect Francisco Lindor take his job will motivate. It's possible that 2014 winds up being the second best year of Cabrera's career.

Casey McGehee (1B/3B-MIA, 27%) -
Hurry, he's hot again. McGehee was a popular waiver-wire pickup the first half of April, as he batted .450 with 10 RBI in his first six games. McGehee then hit .259 with six RBI the rest of April before starting with five multi-hit games in his first six games of May. Overall, he's batting .297/.367/.392 with just one home run, but a surprising 25 RBI. The K:BB sits at a solid 30:17. The multi-position eligibility is nice, but one home run? McGehee hit a career-high 23 in 2010 before notching 28 last year in Japan, so we have to figure he'll be good for 10-15 this year right? Just 2.6 percent of McGehee's flyballs have gone for home runs versus a career mark of 10.7 percent, so all signs point to a few home runs coming soon. He's a nice player to have on your bench as a 1B/3B/UT fill-in when your regulars have off days.

Cameron Maybin (OF-SD, 2%) -
If you want to tell me I'm nuts for even bothering to write about Cameron Maybin, I'd be OK with that. He's burned me - many times. That said, in this column, it's really no fun to write that Jose Abreu has a lot of power or that I think Mike Trout will turn his average around soon. Maybin is batting .341/.386/.463 in 12 games since returning from an arm injury. He's yet to hit a home run, but he does have five doubles and a stolen base. The average is propped up by a .400 BABIP, and his career AVG is just .250, but is there still some untapped talent in the 27-year-old? Could be. I'd be on board with a buy-low in NL-only leagues, though when a player is hitting .341, you have to wonder what "low" really means. Either way, Maybin has stolen as many as 40 bases in a big league season, so there's still some value here, especially when he's this hot.

Drew Stubbs (OF-COL, 6%) -
Stubbs still has to compete with guys like Corey Dickerson and Brandon Barnes for at-bats, but in going 12-for-32 over the last 14 days, he's earning a bit more playing time. overall, Stubbs is batting a solid .297/.341/.446, but if you do own him and he's playing all road games the upcoming week, bench him. These are insane home/road splits:

Home - .432/.465/.622
Road - .162/.270/.475

Coors Field effect indeed. With a .392 BABIP, Stubbs is going to see the average decline, but he's shown 20/40 ability when given regular playing time and there's obviously a lot of value in that.

A.J. Pollock (OF-ARI, 13%) -
With Mark Trumbo out until at least mid-June with a foot injury, there should be regular at-bats for Pollock, Gerardo Parra and Cody Ross in the outfield, so each is now in competition with the other to remain in the lineup come June. Pollock is the team's best center fielder, so that helps his cause, as does the fact he's batting .286/.339/.500, including .391 in his last seven games. Pollock is showing a bit of a power surge this year with four home runs (28 AB/HR) versus eight all last year (55.4 AB/HR). He's also capable of 15-20 stolen bases, and combined with his defense, Pollock should be good for 500-plus at-bats this year.

Gavin Floyd (SP-ATL, 6%) -
Floyd is really only appealing in NL-only leagues, but should shallower leagues take a look? Never doubt the magic that can happen when a lower-level starter puts on that Braves uniform. Floyd has made two starts since returning from Tommy John surgery, allowing four earned runs in 13.1 innings for a 2.70 ERA. His 13:2 K:BB is excellent and Floyd's velocity (91.7 mph) is in line with his pre-surgery marks. The Braves have pushed Alex Wood to the bullpen temporarily, but they really have six viable starters. Floyd, though, appears locked in given his early success, so it's about time to start trusting him.

Robbie Erlin (SP-SD, 4%) -
The run support may not be there, but Erlin is pitching well and has solidified his spot in the rotation. In his last three starts, Erlin is 1-0 with a 1.80 ERA, 1.05 WHIP and 12:4 K:BB. His fastball averages a couple ticks below 90 mph, but he has excellent control and his flyball tendencies are at least somewhat mitigated by Petco Park. Erlin was once a highly regarded prospect in the Rangers organization, so perhaps he's just a bit of a late bloomer.

Brad Peacock (SP-HOU, 0%) -
With a 1.4 HR/9 and 6.1 BB/9, Peacock is best left for very deep leagues, but his performance Monday was an eye-opener - 6 IP, 11:2 K:BB. Sure, he allowed four runs and two home runs, but that is a lot of missed bats and it gives Peacock a 9.2 K/9 on the year. Peacock exhibited excellent control in the minors during the beginning of his pro career, so he certainly has the skills to continue to drive down the walk rate. Peacock's xFIP sits at 4.56, so we could start to see the ERA come down, particularly if the control improves a bit.

Dallas Keuchel (SP-HOU, 12%) -
Surely this percentage spiked after Keuchel shut out the Rangers on Tuesday. After struggling with a 6.33 ERA this spring, Keuchel has flipped the switch, and in eight starts, he's 4-2 with a 3.06 ERA and 47:11 K:BB in 53 innings. Keuchel averages a modest 89.4 mph with his fastball, but he has excellent control and command of multiple pitches, and is generating 3.5 groundball rate. Based on a shaky track record prior to this year, I'm a bit skeptical, but he's become an asset now in all formats and should be owned at a higher rate.

Sean Doolittle (RP-OAK, 13%) -
A converted first baseman, Doolittle has certainly found a home in the Oakland bullpen. Signed to a five-year extension worth $10.5 million to $13.75 million this winter, Doolittle is a bargain at either rate of pay. The number that jumps off the page, in addition to his 11.7 K/9, is Doolittle's walk rate: 0.0 BB/9. Yes, that's a 26:0 K:BB in 20 innings. His ERA sits at 3.60, but half of Doolittle's earned runs came in one inexplicable performance in April; otherwise, he's be looking at a 1.80 ERA, a number more in line with his skillset. Doolittle's walk rates the prior two seasons were 2.1 and 1.7, so the control isn't a huge surprise, but no walks? With presumed and past closer Jim Johnson struggling again lately, Doolittle may be poised to be part of a closer by committee, perhaps with Luke Gregerson. Perhaps if fellow lefty Joe Savery can prove reliable, manager Bob Melvin may get more comfortable using Doolittle as the primary closer, but either way, he should be an option now in a lot of formats.

Chad Qualls (RP-HOU, 11%) -
I was a little surprised to see that Qualls is owned in just 11 percent of leagues. He's available in my 10-teamer despite the fact he is probably the favorite (some say by default) for the next save opportunity in Houston. Qualls, Josh Fields and Anthony Bass are tied for the team lead in saves with a whopping two, but Qualls notched the save Monday and in his last seven innings, Qualls has not allowed a run while posting an 8:1 K:BB. Bass has allowed six runs in his last seven innings and carries a meager 2.0 K/9 through 18 innings. Fields? He's in Triple-A now. We've seen mediocre closers on mediocre teams be solid fantasy contributors in the past, and Qualls could be poised for a nice run.