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).

Verdict:

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