Denard Span (ESPN: 38 percent owned; Yahoo!: 19 percent owned)
The Twins’ offense finally looks like it’s heading in the right direction. Through Wednesday night’s game, they’ve scored 68 runs, the most in baseball and just 20 runs shy of their total for the entire month of April. While the Twins are trending up, their leadoff man Denard Span is heading in the opposite direction in terms of ownership. As much as I like Span, and I like Span a lot, I understand entirely why owners are willing to jettison him so quickly: He’s a tweener.
Span has solid speed and will probably steal about 20 bases this year, but he’s no Michael Bourn or even Ben Revere. He’ll hit .290, maybe push his average over .300, but he’s probably not going to push into Melky Cabrera or Paul Konerko territory. His power isn’t Jason Tyner-level rare, but I’ll be surprised if he hits more than five home runs — which is exactly what the updated ZiPS has for him. There’s just no single reason that Span would be at the top of an owner’s Waiver Wire sort. He’s good across multiple categories, just rarely the leader in any one of them.
The closest thing Span has to an elite category is his batting average, which presently ranks 39th best in baseball among qualified hitters — his on-base percentage ranks slightly higher at 37 thanks in no small part to a 10.2 percent walk rate, his best mark since 2009 — and that’s even after an early June nose dive. Span’s drop in ownership coincides with a .143/.217/.143 start to the month, reflecting a little bit of unease among owners, since he hit .321/.387/.500 in the last half of May.
In addition to his batting average and his solid-if-unspectacular number of steals, Span is in position to be driven in at a goodly rate. His aforementioned walk rate is pushing his OBP into the .350-.370 range, which means he’s on base a fair amount for the core of the Twins lineup — a healthy Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, and Josh Willingham actually qualifies as a real life middle of the order — which has been relatively efficient in driving in runs. Again, it’s nothing that’s going to shock and amaze anyone, but it’s just another piece of the puzzle that makes Span more valuable than he may initially look.
If he’s available in AL-Only leagues, he’s definitely worth an add, though I suspect he’ll largely be gone. Deep mixed league players have a better chance to finding him on the wire and getting solid value from him, while those in 10-team or shallower leagues may do better looking for more category specific players to add.
Craig Gentry (ESPN: 0.4 percent owned; Yahoo! 1 percent owned)
Playing time was a little hard to come by for Gentry early in the season, but after a productive May in which he hit .298/.400/.362 with five stolen bases in 55 PAs, he’s seeing a bit more sunshine. He’s off to a torrid start in June, hitting .500/.560/.636 in 26 PAs thus far, but he hasn’t hit a home run and he’s only stolen one base, so his secondary value is pretty limited.
Though Craig “landed” Gentry plays in one of the most hitter friendly parks in baseball and in the lineup with the highest OPS so far this season, he doesn’t have much power of his own. His career high for home runs at any level is eight at Double-A, and while he did steal almost 50 bases that season, he’s had trouble challenging either of those marks again. His value is tied almost wholly to his average and on-base percentage as he may drive in a few runs and be driven in a few times, but he has to continue to hit for those things to happen.
His BABIP is just shy of .400. When he’s not playing every day, it’s difficult to say what’s high and what’s really too high to stay; I’m sure he’ll regress some with increased exposure, but does some mean 40 points or 90? Working in his favor is his excellent line drive rate, at 27 percent it really is the type of rate that can boost up a BABIP past where we normally expect them to land. Even though he is presently spraying line drives every which way, I just can’t see it lasting long enough to make him a rest-of-the-season play.
If average is a category of concern, I don’t at all mind essentially streaming Gentry. He’s hot right now, capitalize on that for a little bit of a boost, but don’t be afraid to drop him if the worm begins to turn, his line drives start looking a little more like fly balls, and regression kicks in.