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Riding the Waive

Hi folks. I’ll be coming at you in this space each week with my waiver wire suggestions heading into the weekend. With the season still a few weeks away, it’s likely anyone hitting the wire this early will be looking to replace players who have suffered severe injuries. Let’s start there this week with some starting-pitcher recommendations.

Who to Drop?

SPs Yu Darvish, Cliff Lee, Zach Wheeler, Marcus Stroman, Gavin Floyd

Darvish and Stroman can safely be ruled out for the entire year. Floyd, who was nothing more than an AL-only option, hasn’t specifically been ruled out for the year but can be let go as well. Wheeler is still seeking additional opinions on his elbow but figures to be headed for Tommy John surgery. Lee is heading to 60-day disabled list and may be worth stashing on your DL if possible, but I wouldn’t hold my breath for a return to fantasy relevance.

True story: Right after Darvish, my dynasty team’s ace, was ruled out for the season, I placed one more free-agency bid on Lee, the best pitcher left on the market in my league. When news of his issues broke, no one else topped my bid, leaving my team’s highest-priced acquisition (and my presumed replacement for Darvish) as a new hole to fill. I then flipped my second highest-priced signing, Matt Kemp, for Alex Cobb, before it was revealed that he was dealing with forearm tightness that may end up sidelining him for an extended period of time. I feel like I should get two trophies if I win the league this year.

Waiver Targets

The Guy

SP Taijuan Walker, SEA

Remember this guy? Considered one of the league’s premier pitching prospects heading into last season, Walker missed time last season while recovering from a shoulder injury and was limited to just 38 innings with the Mariners over five starts and three relief appearances, over which he posted a 2.61 ERA and 34:18 K:BB ratio in 38 innings. He was plagued by the long ball in Triple-A, finishing with a 4.81 ERA in 14 starts at Tacoma despite delivering a quality 74:25 K:BB ratio in 73 innings.

Competing for a rotation spot this spring, Walker has dazzled, tossing eight scoreless innings while striking out eight batters and surrendering just two hits and one walk. The Mariners clearly made moves this offseason with the intent to compete for a World Series, and that means bringing the team’s five best pitchers north for the start of the regular season.

Walker has emphatically shown he deserves an extended shot in the majors, but he’s flying just enough under the radar that he may be available in shallower formats. Daily fantasy players will want to note his April starts, as he’ll likely be undervalued early and the Mariners have a relatively easy schedule over the first few weeks, with four of their six series coming at home against the Angels, Rangers, Astros and Twins.

The Other Guys

SP Jason Hammel, CHC

Hammel is coming off the best season of his career, and he was particularly effective with the Cubs before being traded to Oakland, posting a 2.98 ERA, 8.6 K/9, 1.9 BB/9 and 0.8 HR/9. His FIP was nearly two runs greater after the trade, jumping from 3.19 with the Cubs to 5.10 with the A’s. It’s possible his half-season in Chicago was a fluke, but with the right-hander re-signing with the Cubs this offseason, it’s certainly worth scooping him up to see if he can rediscover the magic.

SP CC Sabathia, NYY

An elite fantasy commodity in his prime, Sabathia’s 9.4 K/9 in 2014 would have been the highest mark of his career had he maintained it over a full season. However, the pitcher was felled by a knee injury that required arthroscopic surgery and limited him to just eight starts. He had thrown 200 innings or more in seven consecutive seasons before last year’s abbreviated run, which was his first time throwing less than 180 innings. His arm is fine, so if the knee holds up, we can’t count out a throwback performance similar to that of 2012, when he racked up 15 wins and 197 strikeouts while posting a 3.38 ERA in 200 innings.

SP Bud Norris, BAL

Full disclosure: Norris has been awful this spring, giving up 10 earned runs on 13 hits and five walks in 7 2/3 innings. Is poor spring performance indicative of a rough season ahead? Of course not. Do you know which pitcher, out of 90 who would have qualified for the ERA title had it been a “full” regular season, finished last in ERA last spring? Clayton Kershaw. The other Cy Young winner, Corey Kluber, finished the spring with a 5.60 ERA. However, Norris is more than a bad spring; he was able to take a chunk out of his walk rate in 2014 and post new career highs in wins (15), ERA (3.65), WHIP (1.22) and K/BB (2.67). He overcame a rough August last season to go 4-0 with a 2.08 ERA and 34 strikeouts in 30 1/3 innings in September. He’s the perfect low-risk, high-upside replacement for a fallen fantasy ace.

AL-Only Picks

SP Shane Greene, DET; RP/SP Kendall Graveman, OAK; SP Nathan Karns, TB

NL-Only Picks

SP Jimmy Nelson, MIL; SP Rasiel Iglesias, CIN; SP Chase Anderson, ARI