StrategyJuly 20, 2011


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Wide World of Waivers: Yesterday’s Prospects

By R.J. White

It seems like ages since Emilio Bonifacio was a fantasy relevant name. Back in 2009, he shot out of the gate with a 4-for-5 performance in his first game that included three SBs. His stats then faced a war of attrition, and they lost, as the utility player would finish that season with a .252/.303/.308 line and 21 SBs in 461 at-bats. Hopefully, you sold high after that game.

Now he’s back, and he’s having a run like never before. He’s in the middle of an 18-game hitting streak, one that’s brought his average from .259 to .290 and entrenched him in the Marlins lineup. He’s running like all hell, stealing 18 bases this year including another three-SB game on the Sunday before the All-Star break. The fantasy world had taken notice, as Bonifacio went from being just about universally unowned in fantays leagues to a guy owned in half of Yahoo’s leagues over the course of his hitting streak.

Of course, as Bonifacio himself has proven, all good things must come to an end sometime. He’s not going to break Joe DiMaggio’s record, and he’s unlikely to retain starting fantasy value for the remainder of the season. That means it’s in your best interests to deal him away to an owner looking for a statistical boost in both speed and batting average and trade Bonifacio away in a package deal that could net you a true difference maker. If you accomplish that feat, think about picking up one of the players below.

First Base

Brandon Allen, ARI (1%). The Diamondbacks finally realized Russell Branyan wasn’t cutting it at the first base position and sent him packing in mid-May. It turned out his replacements weren’t much better. With two quality 1B prospects ready for The Show, Arizona recalled Allen to play first. All he’s done is hit homers in his first two starts, going 1-for-3 in each game. He struggled in his first two trips to the majors over the past two years, but after posting a career best OPS of 1.006 this season in the minors, Allen looks ready. He qualifies only in the outfield in Yahoo right now, but he should be a 1B by the end of the week. If you need CI help, he’s your guy.

Also: Mark Trumbo and Derrek Lee (shallow), Edwin Encarnacion and Casey Kotchman (medium), Brandon Belt (deep).

Second Base

Jose Altuve, HOU (0%). Here we are in July, and Houston is in the same place it’s seemingly been forever — out of contention. New ownership is looking to slash payroll, which should lead to youngsters getting plenty of playing time. In fact, the team traded Jeff Keppinger to the Giants and promoted Jose Altuve, a good looking 2B prospect that’s posted a .389/.426/.591 line over two levels this year. It’s worth nothing that his average was the highest in the minor leagues this year. He’s going to have to deal with being called “short stuff” by the Houston locker room, as Altuve measures somewhere between 5′5″ and 5′7″, but if his bat stays hot, he’ll be the one having the last laugh. He’s worth a gamble as an MI in deep leagues, and he should definitely be owned in NL-Only.

Also: Gordon Beckham and Darwin Barney (shallow), Jemile Weeks and Alexi Casilla (medium), Orlando Hudson (deep).

Shortstop

Zack Cozart, CIN (4%). Continuing our theme of prospects now on the big stage, we come to Cincinnati’s new shortstop Zack Cozart. In past years in the minors, Cozart was an intriguing power/speed combination that didn’t hit for a very good average. He improved that one troublesome part of his game this year, hitting .310 in Triple-A before his promotion to the majors. He kept it going in the ‘Nati, collecting hits in each of his first seven games before an 0-for-4 performance in Pittsburgh broke his hitting streak. Only one of his 11 hits have been for extra bases, but that was a home run. It’s also worrisome he hasn’t managed to get a walk or stolen base yet. I wouldn’t go dropping a struggling SS for Cozart today, but he’s definitely on our radar and should be employed as a bench bat in deeper leagues or NL-Only formats.

Also: Darwin Barney and Alcides Escobar (shallow), Alexi Casilla and Jeff Keppinger (medium), Yuniesky Betancourt (deep).

Third Base

Edwin Encarnacion, TOR (9%). It’s time to break up the prospect train and talk about a guy who may be on the verge of becoming fantasy relevant for the first time in a while. Encarnacion has battled through poor averages with the promise that he could deliver quality power numbers to fantasy teams. In fact, he mashed 21 HRs in just 332 at-bats last season for the Jays. Not so this year, as his slugging percentage is well on its way to being the worst of his career. However, he’s managed to morph into a batting-average threat in July, raising his average from .244 on Independence Day to .265 heading into Wednesday’s action. His last home run was on July 3, but there’s reason to be optimistic in the power department as well, as EE has smacked three doubles during his current run. Is he worth a flier as a CI in a year where so many 3Bs have disappointed? Why not? Especially given the fact that so few 3Bs are performing well right now, I’m not even bothering to include an “Also” section under this paragraph.

Catcher

Wilson Ramos, WAS (15%). Veteran Ivan Rodriguez has had his name tossed about as a potential trade candidate for a championship contender as a second catcher and clubhouse presence. That may happen, but even if it doesn’t, the days of him taking away playing time from the younger, more exciting Ramos are over. Turning 24 years old in August, Ramos is starting to blossom as a major-league hitter, posting a .310/.370/.619 line in 42 July at-bats thus far. His splits say he’s much better at home, which is where he’ll return for nine games after a three-game series in L.A. this week. Now is the time to pounce on the youngster, who could hit .270 with 8-10 HRs the rest of the way.

Also: John Buck (shallow), Ramon Hernandez (medium), Michael McKenry (deep).

Outfield

Alex Presley, PIT (11%). Back to the main vein of the column. Presley didn’t get much of a chance to shine in his first exposure to the big leagues, garnering just 23 at-bats in 19 games for last year’s Pirates. This year’s team is, of course, a much bigger deal, and Presley has found a way to become a key part in Pittsburgh’s exciting postseason push. His debut on June 28 went about as well as one could hope, with the almost-26-year-old outfielder smacking a two-run homer and picking up another RBI on a single in a 7-6 win. He hasn’t cooled off much, getting hits in 14 of his 18 games as well as stealing four bases along the way. He posted a .336/.389/.500 line in Triple-A this season before his callup, so his hot MLB start is just an extension of how his season’s gone thus far. At this point he should be entrenched in the Pirates lineup, making him a must-own guy in NL-Only leagues and a quality fifth outfielder in standard leagues.

Also: Juan Pierre, Rajai Davis, Raul Ibanez, Logan Morrison and Michael Brantley (shallow); Travis Snider, Josh Willingham, Roger Bernadina and Nate Schierholtz (medium); Jon Jay, Josh Reddick, Brandon Allen, Tony Gwynn Jr., Endy Chavez and Ezequiel Carrera (deep).

Starting Pitcher

Cory Luebke, SD (37%). You’re probably sick of hearing me spit the virtues of Luebke, but I don’t care. I’m going to keep doing it. He’s made four starts so far, and all he’s done in those games is go 2-1 with a 1.50 ERA and 26:4 K:BB ratio in 24 innings. That’s not just good, that’s elite. I just traded him in a dynasty league for Mike Morse and Kyle Farnsworth, and even though I needed 1B help desperately in the midst of a potential championship run, I was very sad to see him go. That’s a deal that could wind up biting me in the butt next year and for the next 5-6 years. Luebke’s ownership rating has climbed significantly in Yahoo, but he’s still outowned by such SPs as Carlos Zambrano, Bartolo Colon, Jake Peavy, the out-for-the-year Brett Anderson, A.J. Burnett and Kyle Lohse. I’d obviously drop any of those guys for Luebke immediately. Quick aside: you’ll find Felipe Paulino’s name listed last in the next paragraph, but do yourself a favor and check out his K:BB ratios over the last four starts. Yowza.

Also: John Danks, Javier Vazquez (?!?) and Aaron Harang (shallow); Jason Vargas, Vance Worley, Mike Leake, Doug Fister, Chris Capuano and Jeff Niemann (medium); Rubby de la Rosa, Rich Harden, Guillermo Moscoso, Juan Nicasio, Felipe Paulio (deep).

Relief Pitcher

Mike Adams, SD (37%). Tick tock, tick tock, tick tock.

Also: Mark Melancon, Aroldis Chapman and Matt Thornton (shallow); Jon Rauch, Jason Isringhausen, Koji Uehara, Javy Guerra, Sean Marshall and Bobby Parnell (medium); Matt Lindstrom, Octavio Dotel, Vinnie Pestano, Kenley Jansen, Mike Dunn, Steve Cishek and Jake McGee (deep).

 
R.J. White is the head editor at the Cafe, writes for FanDuel and Razzball and has previously written for FanHouse. Catch up with him in the forums under the name daullaz. Follow him on Twitter; don't follow him in real life.
 
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