Relative Waiver Wire: Juan Francisco, Trevor Cahill

Downtime. Major leaguers have some right now. Most of us fantasy baseball players need some, at some point. Today’s first entry had been getting some a little more regularly because the appropriate teammates of his were healthy. Today’s second entry hasn’t really had much because his organization wanted him to continue to pitch, just not for the parent club, understandably.

1B/3B Juan Francisco, Toronto Blue Jays

Ownership: CBS 30% | Yahoo! 14% | ESPN 15.0%

It’s that time again. Edwin Encarnacion is expected to miss anywhere between two and four weeks (it’s been roughly one already) because of a strained right quadriceps. Adam Lind is expected to be out for another two to three weeks (the original prognosis was for at least four weeks more, but he’s received an encouraging second opinion) because of a fracture in his right foot. Brett Lawrie (broken right index finger) was playing second base before his injury but regardless doesn’t seem likely to be an option at third base any sooner than the first two wounded Jays would be. Francisco is, quite probably, the team’s best bat available at first, third or DH, at least until August, and at least when Jose Bautista is in right field.

Yes, Francisco has flaws. If he were qualified, then he’d be “leading” the majors in strikeout percentage. He has a lifetime slash line of .168/.215/.224 against left-handers. After a stunning run of 102 plate appearances to begin his time with Toronto (.292/.373/.629), he went into the toilet in his next 93 (.176/.247/.388). That’s him, in a nutshell.

But, of course, Francisco has appeal. If he were qualified, then he’d be in the top 20 in the majors in slugging percentage. He has a career slash line of .254/.316/.486 in 860 plate appearances against right-handers. He had that stunning stretch referenced in the last graf, and he may be up to some old tricks this month (.269/.310/.511 in 29 plate appearances). That’s useful, usually.

Francisco’s ownership rates haven’t risen recently. Perhaps that’s because of the timing of Toronto’s injuries and the All-Star break and the fact that he hasn’t been on a real tear. It doesn’t matter, really. He’s just one of those players you can stand to check on if an opportunity rises. He just might do it again, and the sooner you set him aside, the sooner he becomes your option, even in 12-team mixed leagues, in case he does. The good times don’t last long, but he may not have long to enjoy them, anyway.

SP Trevor Cahill, Arizona Diamondbacks

Ownership: CBS 6% | Yahoo! 1% | ESPN 0.1%

Local news reports have since confirmed that the Snakes made an agreement with Cahill before they designated him for assignment in mid-June, when instead we had to read between the lines. He’d accept a minor league assignment and then be back with the parent club at a specified time, which is obviously the All-Star break. That means not necessarily after he’d displayed some requisite improvements in the areas in which he’s struggled, notably the command of his sinking fastball, which has been his primary weapon in his last handful of seasons.

Cahill’s sinker is a bit of a loose cannon. It has inherently wide spreads in velocity and a large degree of vertical movement (No. 61 on the page). Therefore, it’s probably not an easy pitch to command. The right-hander has been in the zone with it only 43.7% of the time this season, down several percentage points from 2013 and continuing a four-year trend of the degradation in that measurement. That should help to explain a roughly 4.5% drop in swings on it. Perhaps it also helps to explain a reduction in its ground-ball outcomes, down to 50.8% this year against a backdrop of 61.2% for his career. Judging from the latest pitch-type peripheral benchmarks, its GB% this year may be good enough to be above-average, but it hasn’t been for this pitcher.

Anyway, it’s clear that command of the sinker is essential to the success of this version of Cahill. GM Kevin Towers expressed, at the time of the transaction and since, how confusing it’s been to the organization that the righty has gradually become less effective since his breakout 2010 with the Oakland Athletics. Cahill has taken some strides since his demotion, at least according to the results, but the fuzzy feeling ignores his obvious control problems during them (14 walks in his last 15 1/3 frames with Triple-A Reno). It seems possible that the ineptitude of farm batters compared to big league ones could easily go a long way toward clarification for those free passes. Is that really progress?

We might surmise that it is because the D-backs went ahead and recalled him. But the two parties had some sort of arrangement, it seems, and Arizona is going nowhere in 2014. Another half-dozen or dozen crappy starts from Cahill don’t affect their disposition much.

This is kind of a Hail Mary, in my opinion. Cahill used to be fringe 12-team mixed-league material, and he’s not even that, yet. I’m probably going to put in a $0 bid, making him one of my final contingencies, in 15-team Mixed Tout Wars Draft league this Thursday night. He could play there for the rest of the season. Anything deeper, may as well give him a shot.

I have to keep Cahill in my lineup for the first week if I win him. He goes first after the break for the Snakes, against the Chicago Cubs, who have generally been tough on southpaws but awful against right-handers. I can live with that. Even if he does well in that start, I’m going to bench him until I see a string of positive signs. Having said all that, I’ve kind of liked the prospect of Cahill in the NL. I’d like to see what he can do there with improved command of the sinker, even if I don’t get him. Why can’t the Diamondbacks figure it out?



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Nicholas Minnix oversaw baseball content for six years at KFFL, where he held the loose title of Managing Editor for seven and a half before he joined FanGraphs. He played in both Tout Wars and LABR from 2010 through 2014. Follow him on Twitter @NicholasMinnix.


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FeslenR
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FeslenR

ugh, even against a lousy offensive team like Cubs and Padres I wouldn’t stream Cahill.

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