We’ve finally made it through the offseason.
We survived the 3 am games in Japan, the Marlins’ home run statue didn’t come to life and vengefully destroy the new stadium last night, and the reward for our patience is back-to-back days of real, meaningful baseball from morning to evening.
While most owners probably aren’t looking to revamp their rosters just yet, injuries and spring swoons may have some looking for an early season ringer. So, with the pageantry of Opening Day as a backdrop, here’s the season’s first Waiver Wire.
Jose Tabata (ESPN: 9 percent owned, Yahoo!: 47 percent owned)
Tabata fits in a category of player I’ve mentioned before, namely the guys who feel like they’ve been around forever, even though they aren’t that old. Tabata is just 23, he has fewer than 200 major league games to his credit, but because of personal issues, his name has been around since he was in the low minors. He lacks the power to be a 20/20 threat, but he easily has the speed, as he swiped 16 bases last year despite playing in just 90 games.
Health is key for Tabata this season. He’s part of the Pirates long-term plans, so playing time won’t be a concern as long as he’s physically able to take the field. He missed 50 games with a right hand contusion last summer, and then broke his left hand in September, which ended his season. Neither injury should linger into this season, so he’s a clean slate.
He’s certainly not going to replace someone like Michael Bourn, but the choice between Tabata and, say, Austin Jackson (53 percent owned on ESPN and 59 percent owned on Yahoo!) is pretty close. Jackson is almost certainly going to be driven in more often, but Tabata is going to provide a better average.
Lorenzo Cain (ESPN: 44 percent owned, Yahoo!: 45 percent owned)
Spring training produces two major batches of sleepers. The first group is the guys who start out red-hot, produce a ton of hype, and then have their draft stock rise to the point that they’re really no longer a bargain: Delmon Young is probably this year’s best example. The second group is the guys who just have a strong spring from tip to tail or who really start hitting at the end of camp. There tends to be less time for the hype machine to inflate their value, which means they can be had for a value price. Cain belongs to the second group.
His spring numbers were fantastic: .371/.450/.743 with 5 HR and 11 2B, but since he didn’t go on a huge HR binge or do anything except play consistently well, he didn’t get the overwhelming push of coverage, which means he went undrafted in about 50 percent of leagues across both ESPN and Yahoo. Like Tabata, Cain is part of the Royals future and he shouldn’t’ have trouble getting playing time as the team’s best center fielder. ZiPS has him set for a .259/.314/.370 season with 17 SB, which strikes me as overly conservative. I don’t quite buy Cain as a guy who will carry that .700+ slugging percentage into the season, but he’s a career .295 hitter in the minors, so I think he’ll provide a better average than a .260 to go with the steals he’ll provide. He is an inexperienced player, so there may be some growing pains, but he should be a great option in leagues with 4-5 OF slots or as a potential bench option in shallower leagues.