Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Waiver Wire Cage Match: Jaime Garcia, Mark Reynolds

Jaime Garcia:

Garcia came out of the gate strong in 2010 with a 143 ERA+ but has put up fairly average numbers since. Over the past couple years he has battled a myriad of injuries and looks to be back up and running.

Since coming back he's had two starts one good (his most recent outing against the Reds) and one not so good outing (against the Braves). His 4.26 ERA doesn't exactly look pretty but his 0.86 WHIP and 3.45 FIP do indicate better days to come. The two questions/risk factors here are can he put up numbers similar to what he did in 2010 and can he stay healthy?

Mark Reynolds:

Since coming to the major leagues two things that Mark Reynolds has done really well is hit a bunch of home runs and strike out a bunch of times. So far, 2014 is starting to look like the same. From a fantasy perspective, he's going to be absolutely brutal on the batting average category but can help carry you in home runs on weeks like this where he is on an absolute tear. From a Brewers fan perspective, i'm happy in that even with his flaws he's a substantial upgrade over the Yuniesky Betancourt/Alex Gonzales burning dumpster fire situation at first base last year (even if the Lyle Overbay side of the platoon is absolutely brutal.


Usually, these waiver wire cage matches are as objective as possible as they typically don't involve my favorite team AND my least favorite. I know i'm being super-uber-biased but i'm giving Reynolds the nod here.


Mark Reynolds

Friday, May 23, 2014

Waiver Wire Cage Match: Ryan Vogelsong vs. Seth Smith

Ryan Vogelsong:

Along with having a pretty awesome first name, he's had an interesting career that appeared to be done by 2006. After a mostly forgettable stint with the Pirates, he came back with a couple of strong seasons in 2011 & 2012 but had a terrible 2013.

Vogelsong's numbers aren't exactly eye-popping in 2014 3.62 ERA/1.33 WHIP but he is on a pretty good stretch right now giving up 1 earned run or less and six or more strikeouts in four of his last five starts. He's not going to be dominant in every start but his ERA should stay in the slightly above 3.5 range as his opposing BABIP of .305 indicates his overall stats are close to where they will end up.

One thing  that could indicate a slightly more optimistic projection of his performance is that he's done this primarily against better teams (7 of his 9 starts are against teams above .500).

Seth Smith:

Smith has spent most of his career as a platoon player. Playing with the Rockies he had okay numbers that didn't seem to be inflated by Coors field. Playing in the hitter unfriendly O.Co Coliseum did not seem to impact things.

Signing with the Padres in the off-season made a minor impact at best. He looked to continue being a decent but unspectacular season. In his first 41 games as a Padre he's been an absolute monster .338/.419/.615 200 OPS+ 6 home runs.

Petco Park seems to hate most hitters but for whatever reason it has been good to Seth Smith so far (1.275 OPS) compared to .728 OPS away from Petco which is closer to what was expected when the season began. That may be a good sign for the future but not his .380 BABIP.

Best case scenario would be batting average going from .338 (current) to the .270-.280 range. In his career, he has crushed right hand pitching .859 OPS and has struggled against lefties .594. Based on his splits in 2014, the Padres are utilizing him VERY smartly by rarely letting him hit against lefties. This may allow for his overall numbers to stay solid but this would limit playing time in the long term which would mean less counting stats such as home runs.

His most similar player through age 30 is Eric Byrnes. In his age 31 season he had a decent season .286/.353/.460 21 Homers & 103 OPS+ while respectable, inexplicably earned him 11th place in the NL MVP voting. After that he played (poorly) in parts of three additional seasons before his career came to an end.


In one corner you have someone who is coming off a poor season and seems to have bounced back towards a middle of the pack pitcher. In the other corner, you have a player off to a scorching hot start that is utilized very efficiently by his team (which has a negative impact on plate appearances) and is likely to be more valuable to his team than fantasy owners.

Cage Match Winner:

Ryan Vogelsong

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Waiver Wire Cage Match: David Murphy vs. Sean Doolittle

David Murphy:

Murphy's fantasy value was low coming into the season as he was coming off a .220/.282/.374 season with the Texas Rangers.

So far he's found a fresh start playing for the Indians as he has ridden a recent hot streak to a .294/.360/.483 139 OPS+ and five homers. His value going forward is dependent on whether he can keep his batting average/obp relatively high and whether he continues to get opportunity to AND take advantage of RBI opportunities.

He'll likely keep the batting average relatively high (.276 career average) and a .308 BABIP indicates he is performing to his actual ability. While I think the batting average is going to stay relatively the same, i'm not quite sold on him being uber-high value going forward as he seems headed towards okay power (~15 home runs) and stolen bases are very rare for him these days.

His most similar player through age 31 is Todd Hollandsworth. Its safe to say that Murphy's age 32 season is going to turn out much better than it did for the 1996 NL Rookie of the Year as Hollandsworth had a 72 OPS+.

Sean Doolittle:

Doolittle's value is rising as he seems to be settling into the role of designated ninth inning pitcher for the Athletics. The last couple years he has pitched in relative anonymity but those days could be over for fantasy owners. Although he has a decent ERA (3.13), his underlying numbers indicate that he has a chance to be much better than decent.

His FIP this season is at 1.54 (2.31 for his career), he barely walks anyone and has rung up 9.8 SO/9 in his career. His primary value is of course going to be in saves but he does look to provide likely incremental value for strikeouts, ERA & WHIP.


In one corner, you have an outfielder who hits for a decent average and will give you some (but not excessive amounts of power) that could be good as a fill-in. In the other corner you have someone who just picked up a closer jobs that looks to contribute in saves and has some under-lying statistics indicating that he's even better than what he's shown so far.


Sean Doolittle

Friday, May 16, 2014

Waiver Wire Cage Match: Zach Britton vs. Jordan Lyles

Zach Britton:

Going into this year, Britton had pitched primarily as a starter but was barely above replacement level. He was moved to the bullpen this year and he has rewarded the Orioles with a very strong performance. With Tommy Hunter struggling as closer, Britton got a chance to close at least for a night and he rewarded them with a save.

While there's no way his ERA stays below 1 this year (.180 opposing BABIP) I still think Britton has value going forward (assuming he takes over the closer job at some point). His FIP is at 3.41 (compared to 4.80 for last year), and he has reduced the number of walks he's allowed so far. The only area that appears to be stagnant is strikeouts per 9 innings.

My feeling is that Britton has turned the corner enough that if given the closer job in Baltimore he can hold on to it for at least this season and get you some saves.

Jordan Lyles:

Like Britton, Lyles has been in the major leagues since 2011 but produced sub-replacement level results over the last few years. In his first season with the Rockies (some would argue his first with a major league ball club), he has gotten off to a fast start.

While his opposing BABIP is relatively low (.255), its not low enough to indicate that his strong start is all smoke and mirrors. So far this year, he has seen his FIP decrease by a run (4.57 to 3.55) so with Lyles I think its a matter of him starting to figure out how to get major league hitters out (he's only 23). I think he'll end up having a solid but unspectacular year in 2014 but there is definitely potential for him to become a very good starting pitcher over the next few years.

His most similar pitcher through age 22 is Javier Vasquez. At age 23, he had an ERA+ of 119, the first of eight seasons where he had above average production and had a nice career as a solid but not spectacular starting pitcher. If this is any indicator, its likely that Lyles is set up to have a productive career.


In both cases, we have players who have been in the majors for three years during which they have struggled and between making solid improvements and varying levels of luck, they find themselves off to solid starts to their seasons. Since Britton's value is tied to whether or not he actually becomes their closer and he's going to get less counting stats (Wins, Strikeouts, etc.) due to not being a starter, Lyles gets the nod here.


Jordan Lyles

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Waiver Wire Cage Match: Yangervis Solarte vs. Chris Young

Yangervis Solarte:

Solarte has seen his value go up in recent days due to an extended hot streak & also with the bonus of multi-position eligibility (second base, third base & shortstop). The results have been very strong so far but can he keep it up?

Before this season, he wasn't a highly heralded prospect and he had spent eight years in the minors before being signed as a free agent with the Yankees. His minor league numbers aren't overly imposing (.736 career OPS & .727 OPS last year with the Rangers AAA affiliate in Round Rock (in comparison the Pacific Coast League average OPS last year was .756).

He did show some indication of power with double figure home run totals the last couple years. Off the bat, I already have a healthy dose of skepticism.

One thing going in his favor is that this start is not merely the product of getting to play at Yankee stadium as he actually has a much better performance on the road.  His BABIP is a bit high (.364) so he is due for regression there.

While he leads the AL in batting average now, I would be very surprised if he is at the end of the season (it will probably land in the .260-.270 range), there's not much to indicate that he's going to be a major home run source but he will likely end up with about a dozen homers. If your in a league that counts OBP, I think Solarte will be a bit more valuable going forward as he has shown he can draw plenty of walks against major league pitching.

Chris Young:

To clarify, this is in regards to the Chris Young that pitches for the Mariners.  For Young, having talent has never been the problem (109 Career ERA+), led the NL in hits per 9 innings in 2006 & 2007, for him the ability to stay healthy has been his problem as he hasn't made 30 starts in a year since 2007.

Not much was expected of him coming into this season as he missed all of 2013 and he's about to turn 35. In his 7 appearances (6 starts), he has been a pleasant surprise (and with his next start at Target Field this looks good to be extended for at least another start). The questions with him is how much of this can he sustain and can he actually stay healthy.

While he will have the advantage of playing his home games at Safeco field, one thing he will not have the advantage of is sustaining a .183 Opposing BABIP for the entire season. One thing that this extremely luckiness is hiding is that his FIP is at 4.81 for the season. Granted his career FIP is about 1/2 a run higher than his era (4.28 to 3.74) but the point is that he's going to regress to below average-ness sooner rather than later.


I'm not necessarily high on either of these players. For Solarte, I think he'll have a decent season but nothing that screams super-star. With Young, his luck is going to run out at some point and I wouldn't be surprised to see the ERA north of 4 this year which as a by product will keep the win count in single figures.

Cage Match Winner:

Yangervis Solarte

All numbers, comparisons, etc. found on

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Waiver Wire Cage Match: Rafael Montero vs. Derek Norris

Rafeal Montero:

Montero has yet to throw a pitch in the majors but is currently a trendy waiver wire pick up as the Mets have called him up and he is set to make his major league debut. His minor league numers are pretty solid for the most part as he's sported a 2.63 ERA, 1.031 WHIP % a 4.32 SO/BB ratio in the minors.

At the very least, I think he'll help in the strikeouts category. while his ERA was a little high in AAA (3.67 compared to 4.63 league average), this number is better than it sounds as he was pitching in the Pacific Coast League (Las Vegas) which is notoriously unfriendly to pitching and doing this in a league where he was almost four years younger than the average pitcher.

At this point, Montero is more of a wild card as it comes to fantasy. He's young, he's got lots of potential but then again he's never faced major league hitting.

Derek Norris:

I'm already familiar with Derek Norris and his very strong Sunday. Since I had Gio Gonzales starting on my team, this power spurt did play a contributing factor to losing a match up that had been pretty close culminating in a slide from 5th place to 7th.

While Norris put up acceptable stats in 308 plate appearances last year (.246/.345/.409) 9 homers/114 OPS+, he has been scorching the baseball so far in 94 plate appearances.

While his batting average is not going to be super high all year, I do think Norris is going to take a step in the right direction (.260-.270 average with an OBP north of .375 and maybe 15 homers is pretty reasonable). One positive thing that may justify an even better projection is that he has hit very well at the Coliseum which isn't exactly hitter friendly.


While both of these players have shown promise, they are also far from being household names. While Montero has lots of potential, it is still unknown how he'll handle the transition from AAA to the majors. While Norris is off to a scorching hot start, it still needs to be kept in mind that while he is a valuable pick up there is going to be regression seen from his batting average as his .394 BABIP is bound to come down sooner or later. With that said, Norris seems to have a better chance of being the best contributor going forward.

Cage Match Winner: Derek Norris

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Waiver Wire Cage Match: Juan Francisco vs. Wei-Yin Chen

Juan Francisco:

A player that I am definitely familiar with based on his time with the Brewers last year. Their broadcasters seemed uber-convinced that he was going to be a star, though I had my doubts. While he did display big time power, he also happened to swing at plenty of bad pitches and struggle in general with the concept of defense.

He ended up getting released by the Brewers at the end of Spring Training so the Brewers could make way for Lyle Overbay (who has hit better than expected so far). When I saw that the Blue Jays took a flier on him, I had this sinking feeling of "I hope this doesn't haunt the Brewers down the road" and is it possible he goes down the Jose Bautista career path where plenty of teams gave up on him until he went to the Blue Jays where he became uber-good.

He is in the American League so the whole what is defense part of his game is less of a risk factor. So fra, he appears to be more patient at the plate (8 walks in 68 plate appearances) and he already has four homers to his line. His batting average is higher than normal but he is being helped by a .364 BABIP.

My guess is that the battering average is going to regress to somewhere around his .245 career total and he'll find a way to hit 20-25 homers (his 18 from last year was a career high). Basically, Francisco is a one-category player (home runs) but you would be assuming the risk of a lower batting average.

However, past precedent doesn't do him much favors. His most similar player through age 26 was Ryan Thompson. There is the eerily similarity where his career high of homers (18) also came in his age 26 season and the walk/strikeout numbers look very similar. The one red flag on this was that after age 26 he never had more than 300 plate appearances in a season while bouncing around to six different teams. On the same top 10 similar players list there are a couple players (Jayson Werth, Hal McRae) who did go on to have solid careers, there is some hope that he's turning it around but definitely far from guaranteed.

Get Francisco if you want to take advantage of his recent hot streak but be advised to look elsewhere once he hits the inevitable slump.

Wei-Yin Chen:

Since debuting in the major leagues in 2012, Chen has been a very average pitcher. His career ERA+ is at 103 which has surprisingly been accurately reflected in a 22-20 win-loss record.

Looking at the surface 2014 appears to be another average season with a 4.24 ERA/99 ERA+ but it is possible that he's actually taking a step forward but this is being concealed by some bad luck to start the season. His opposing BABIP is .384 and his FIP is 2.92. It is odd that usually trendy waiver wire pick ups had a lucky start to the season but look like they are in line to regress. So far, Chen has taken the opposite trajectory.

His most similar pitcher through age 27 is Jim Deshaies. While he had solid seasons  in his age 28 & 29 seasons (111 ERA+/117 ERA+) and had an 11 year career, the overall results were underwhelming as he had a 91 career ERA+ (I was a little surprised by this, for whatever reason I thought his career numbers were better).

Either way, I think that Chen is a nice under the radar pick and he appears to be in line to have a solid season (having his next start being against Houston doesn't hurt either).


With Francisco, you have promises of big power but red flags of power contact rates and unsustainable BABIP. With Chen you have someone with seemingly average numbers and bad luck hiding the fact that he's actually been pretty good so far this year.

Waiver Wire Cage Match Winner: Wei-Yin Chen

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Waiver Wire Cage Match: Drew Smyly vs. Colby Rasmus

Drew Smyly:

Drew Smyly has gone back and forth between the starting rotation and the bullpen since starting his major league career. After a slightly above average 2012 (107 ERA+), he had a very strong 2013 (176 ERA+/2.31 FIP).

Even with Smyly going going back to the starting rotation he has continued to pitch strongly so far (2.45 ERA/177 ERA+). He looks to be good help if your looking for strikeouts (8.6 per 9) and his WHIP is at an even 1.

Currently, his FIP is at 3.20 which is consistent with his career total of 3.18. While Smyly started the season under the radar, he is one of those players that I think is set up to have a successful season but you'll have to keep a heads up just in case the Tigers decide to move him back to the bullpen.

Is he set up for a long career? My initial guess is yes but history may only partially be on his side. His most similar player through age 24 is Joe Price. While he did have an 11 year career, and had four seasons with an ERA+ above 130, he seemed to move in and out of teams starting rotation and ended with a 103 career ERA+. For Smyly's career ERA+ when all is said and done, i'm going to take the over and say it will be somewhere around 120.

His opposing BABIP is at .264 so he is in line for some regression but I still think he will be a valuable starting pitcher for both this year and his career. Also, since he is playing with a good Tigers team there is the chance that this will also contribute to helping increase his win total.

Colby Rasmus:

Rasmus is getting picked up primarily due to a recent hot stretch that has seen him hit three homers over his last five games. He has already been seen as someone with a lot of potential and at the very least able to hit at least 20 homers on a few occasions.

To date, his 2014 has produced some mixed results. While his batting average and OBP have been absolutely terrible (.230/.281) he has hit with plenty of power (seven homers) when he makes contact. While he's never going to be a major asset in batting average, his BABIP is at .284 which going forward should at least push batting average to around .250 and if things go right, he could give you in the range of 25-30 homers.

His most similar player through age 26 is current Mets player Chris Young. In the years since turning 26 (he's currently 30), he has produced double figure homers but progressively decreasing batting averages. In looking at other players in his top 10 similar lists, there are a few players on there that went on to have fairly long careers (Dwight Evans, George Hendrick, Jim Wynn) but then again Corey Patterson is also on that list so his career is still young enough to go either way.


In both cases, there is an argument for both players producing value going forward. Drew Smyly has quietly put up a strong season and his production as a solid starting pitcher appears to be sustainable. Colby Rasmus has produced strongly in some areas, not so strongly in others but I still have the feeling that there is a lot of untapped potential. That along with mediocre batting average and not much production in the stolen bases leads to a few too many holes to win this match-up.

Waiver Wire Cage Match Winner: Drew Smyly

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Waiver Wire Cage Match: Ernesto Frieri vs.Tom Koehler

Ernesto Frieri:

The Angels are in the middle of another under whelming season and thus far, Frieri's early struggles have contributed to this. It was just a few weeks ago that those same struggles cost him his closing job (which he is getting back just now). The question to ask yourself is whether we'll see the Frieri going forward that pitched very strongly in his first five seasons with the Padres & Angels that still has a 128 Career ERA+ even counting his early struggles or is his 6.08 ERA/6.49 FIP more indicative of his career starting to tumble towards its end even at the age of 28.

Due to his FIP indicating that his scary numbers are about where they deserve to be so far and an opposing BABIP of .290 indicating that his struggles aren't the result of bad luck, I would shy away from Frieri unless you are absolutely desperate for saves.

Ironically enough, his most similar player through age 27 Bryan Harvey was also a closer for the Angels. While he had a couple monster seasons after turning 27 (1991 & 1993) his career was over in his early 30s (though in his case it was due to injuries and not an ever expanding FIP.

Tom Koehler:

Whenever we have ourselves a little heralded starting pitcher with a 2.41 ERA/155 ERA+ in early-May, naturally I am a bit skeptical. In his first extended look last year, he had his struggles (88 ERA+/1.357 WHIP) but since this was done with the Marlins, it was barely noticed.

This appears to be a case where you should let someone else buy high on Koehler. His FIP is at 4.40 which is actually a little bit worse than it was last year and an opposing BABIP of .217 indicates that he's more the beneficiary of good luck versus being a breakout fantasy candidate.


Well, I guess somebody has to win this battle. Honestly, i'm not even close to being sold on either of the above options. While Koehler has had a nice stretch to start the season, it's only nice from a distance as a lot of his shiny numbers are the result of smoke and mirrors. While Frieri has had some success in past seasons, it appears that his struggles are a sign of trouble ahead. Since Frieri has a stronger history (even if said past success has come and gone) combined with relative youth (28), he wins this battle because somebody has to.

Winner: Ernesto Frieri

All numbers, comparisons, etc. found on

Friday, May 2, 2014

Waiver Wire Cage Match: Tanner Roark vs. Nick Markakis

Switching up the format a bit, instead of individually saying yes or no to particular players, going to compare a couple people that are trendy waiver wire pick-ups to see who is the better option.

Tanner Roark:

Roark may only be 19 games (10 starts) into his career but so far he's taken well to pitching in the major leagues. While he did have one tough start against Atlanta, a lot of people seem to be in buy high mode as he's coming off a complete game shutout against the Padres.

The Nationals are already winners as all they had to give up to get him and another minor-league player was Cristian Guzman. Even if his stock is inflated by having the good fortune to be coming off a start against whatever the Padres call their starting line up, his strong performance appears to have some legitimacy as his FIP of 3.43 indicates he would be a decent option for your team.

His strong start doesn't appear to be a byproduct of being lucky as his .297 Opponent BABIP indicates that not much (if any) regression should occur and all of his starts (with the exception of the aforementioned one against the Padres) have been against teams that are currently .500 or better. If your short on pitching, Roark appears to be a legitimate option.

Nick Markakis:

Markakis got off to a slow start as his OPS was below .600 as recently as April 16th but getting at least a base hit in 12 of your last 13 games and homers in both games of a double header has a way of getting fantasy owners attention.

Since he's been in the league for nine years we have more data to see what type of production your likely to get out of Markakis. You'll likely get slightly above average offensive production (114 career OPS+), with a respectable batting average (.290-.300 range) and moderate power (around 15 homers a year).

Who Wins the Waiver Wire Cage Match?

On one hand, you have Roark who is relatively new to major league hitters. While there is a risk that hitters will successfully adjust and figure him out, his FIP & BABIP numbers indicate that his early success is not entirely fluky and should be a solid contributor in the Nationals starting rotation.

Markakis on the other hand, while he is a known entity and a fairly productive player, he isn't a major superstar and there are plenty of outfielders available who can put up modest power numbers and offer the advantages that he has.

I'm siding with Tanner Roark as at this point, its harder to find solid starting pitching then an outfielder with decent average and moderate dosages of power.

Winner: Tanner Roark