Welcome to this week’s version of the waiver wire report. This is 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 5-20-16 Waiver Wire Report, our focus will be on the NL Central.
5-20-16 Waiver Wire Report
Javier Baez, 2B, 3B, Chicago Cubs 22.1%
While Baez has shown plenty of potential in the minor leagues, there have been barriers in the way that have constricted his fantasy value. In 2014, he hit for decent power but only hit .169 and had a K% of 41.5. Last year, he spent much of the season in the minors but is finally getting an opportunity for additional playing time. While the surface numbers he has put up are modest (.254 AVG, 83 wRC+ and 2 HR in 75 PA), there are some encouraging signs. The first is that he has improved in the not striking out category as his K% is down to 21.3. Also, his HR/FB ratio is pretty close to where it was in 2014 indicating that double digit power totals are not out of question.
Jonathan Villar, SS, Milwaukee Brewers 48.1%
Villar may be playing for a different team but is in the similar situation where he is the starting shortstop but only until someone else is ready to take his job. With the Astros, that someone was Carlos Correa, with the Brewers that someone is Orlando Arcia who is currently in Triple-A.
In his first 36 games with the Brewers, Villar has shown some encouraging signs such as stealing 13 bases and having a career high BB% of 13.7. In addition, he is hitting .284 but it would be a lot to ask for this to continue in the long term. This season, his BABIP is at an absurd .398. While he does have an above-average career BABIP of .337, the batting average is bound to regress at some point. When that is done, all that will be left is contributions exclusive to the stolen base category.
Mike Leake, SP, St. Louis Cardinals 33.7%
Leake got off to a disappointing start this season as he had a 5.83 ERA in April but has rebounded during the month of May as he has a 2.84 ERA this month. Even with the slight rebound his numbers for this season are not good (4.66 ERA/4.68 FIP). His FIP is on pace to be the highest in his career and his K/9 rate is steady with where it was last year (not a good thing). One other thing (not in a good way) standing out this year is that the percentage of hard contact allowed is at 37.9% which is well above his career high of 32.2%.
Zack Cozart, SS, Cincinnati Reds 44%
Cozart’s 2014 season was a disaster from a fantasy perspective as he hit .221 with 4 HR and a 55 wRC+ with the only thing keeping him in the lineup being his glove. Last year was looking to be an excellent bounce-back as he was hitting .258 with 9 HR in 53 games before seeing his season be cut short due to injury.
While the 2016 season has seen things start strong (.328 AVG, 4 HR in 33 games), there are some disclaimers to take a look at before picking him up. While his power should at least make it into double figures (his hard% is actually on pace to be his career high), his BABIP is currently 64 points above his career total and his BB% is a paltry 2.3%. Even if his batting average regresses close to his .248 career total, his power should give him at least some value, however if his trend of rarely drawing any walks continues, there could be a disastrous stretch down the road.
Jonathan Niese, SP, Pittsburgh Pirates 11.2%
While the last couple of starts from Niese have been solid, his overall season has been anything but as he has a 5.28 ERA/5.99 FIP. One thing driving up these numbers that should turn over to positive regression is that the HR/FB rate for opposing batters is 24.4% which is roughly twice his career total. While his ERA should see some improvement assuming the HR/FB rate regresses closer to his career total of 11.7%, his ceiling his still limited as he’s never had a very high K/9 rate and as it stands, this is the third consecutive season that his FIP is on pace to increase.
Ownership Rates based on ESPN.com and as of 5-20
Numbers referenced based on Fangraphs.com and through 5/19