Welcome to this week’s version of the waiver wire report. This will be a weekly report that spotlights players that are still widely available in most leagues (defined as being owned in less than 50% of leagues) but have recently gained momentum in ownership. We will take a close look at the numbers to investigate whether they are worth picking up in your league or whether you should look into closer options.
For the first part of the season, we will rotate through the divisions and focus on one division at a time (today the emphasis is on the AL East). As the season moves on, this focus will eventually shift in focus towards teams competing in the various pennant races. With that in mind, here is the 4-21-16 Waiver Wire Report.
J.J. Hardy, SS, Baltimore Orioles (12.9%)
There was a time where Hardy was a good source of power at the shortstop position as he has had five seasons with at least 22 HR. However, his fantasy value hit rock bottom last year as he hit .219 and had a 49 wRC+ last season.
The Orioles have started out better than expected and Hardy has helped in this process hitting .256 with two HR. While it will take more than two weeks to overcome the last two unproductive seasons, there are some encouraging signs indicating that this season could be better than the last couple of seasons.
To start off with, his walk rate is in line with career averages (i.e. an improvement from last year) and his .256 batting average is not the byproduct of a BABIP related spike (.265). While his HR/FB rate is well above his career rate, one encouraging thing about the early returns is that he has seen a healthy improvement in hard contact.
Hardy is still owned in only 12.9% of leagues indicating there is time to decide whether to take a gamble on him. Unless you are in a deeper league or in dire need of a shortstop, it would be best to see if this strong start holds up over the next few weeks.
Christian Vazquez, C, Boston Red Sox (6.1%)
It appears that Vasquez will be getting additional playing time as the Red Sox starting Catcher. While the playing time is there, the offense hasn’t really been there (3 for 14 with two runs scored). While playing time helps, personally I would need to see some performance at the plate before giving him even modest fantasy consideration. While his defensive metrics were strong he put up below average wRC+ totals at both the AAA & MLB levels last season.
Carlos Beltran, OF, New York Yankees (45.5%)
While Beltran is well past his peak (he turns 39 on the 24th), he has still been productive lat in his career as he did hit .276 with 19 HR last season. In 2016, he has gotten off to a blistering start, hitting .327 with four HR in 13 games. Even with these strong numbers, there are plenty of concerns. While his .353 BABIP is going to lead to some regression in batting average, one other thing to keep an eye on as sample size increases is what happens to his walk rate which is currently at 2.0%. If this holds up deeper into the season, this could turn into a bigger concern
Matt Moore, SP, Tampa Bay Rays (47.5%)
Moore made 12 starts last season after coming back and it is safe to say that this stretch was a bit of a disaster (5.43 ERA/4.82 FIP). Things have gone much better to start this season as he is 1-0 with a 2.95 ERA/3.01 FIP). While it is still early, it is encouraging that there have been strong improvements in his K/9 and BB/9 rate. However, one area to be concerned with is that the percentage of hard contact allowed is actually higher than it was last season.
Marco Estrada, SP, Toronto Blue Jays (44.9%)
While Estrada did have a good season on the surface last year (13-8 3.13 ERA), I wasn’t sold on him repeating the performance due to a 4.40 FIP and K/9 & BB/9 rates moving in the wrong direction. At least for the first two starts, he has proven this estimate wrong as he’s put up a 2.77 ERA/3.07 FIP while improving his K/9 and BB/9 rates. Looking at things deeper, he has also improved his ground ball rate and seen a substantial decrease in the amount of hard contact allowed which may make his success look more sustainable than previously thought.
Ownership numbers based on ESPN and as of morning of 4/21/16
Stats used based on Fangraphs and through 4/20/16