Waiver Wire: Russell Branyan and Matt Joyce

Two weeks into the fantasy season, frustration can mount pretty easily. Even though “small sample size” has been pounded into your head, it’s still tough to deal with two weeks worth of failure. Thankfully, there’s still value out on the waiver wire. Some popular pre-season sleepers may have been dropped (or not even drafted) in your leagues. While it may have taken two weeks, these players are heating up and you might be able to take advantage of their hot streaks. Matt Joyce and Russell Branyan are two players that fit this bill perfectly.

Matt Joyce (owned in only 7.2% of ESPN leagues) was a popular sleeper entering the season due to the belief that he would finally receive more playing time. Joyce got off to a slow start, causing some owners to lose faith after only a week of games. Lately, Joyce has been on fire. Over his last six games, Joyce has drilled eleven hits. While we shouldn’t make much of such a small sample, Joyce seems to be heating up.

It couldn’t come at a better time either, as the Tampa Bay Rays need Joyce now more than ever. Manny Ramirez’s abrupt retirement left the Rays pretty thin in the outfield, and now Johnny Damon may be looking at some time on the shelf after being hit on the hand. Joyce, who owns a career .509 slugging percentage against right-handers, can provide some nice pop off the bench as well.

Joyce should be owned in all AL-Only leagues right now. In mixed leagues, Joyce jumps to an OF3 when he plays against righties. Much like real life, however, you’re going to want to make sure you platoon him against lefties. Either way, he deserves to be owned way more than 7.2% of ESPN leagues.

Russell Branyan (owned in just 0.5% of ESPN leagues) may be playing himself into a full-time role in Arizona. Kirk Gibson may have initially committed to Juan Miranda as his first baseman, but Branyan’s performance has garnered him more playing time as of late.

We know what to expect from Branyan at this point in his career (lots of home runs, lots of strikeouts), but his potential in such a tiny park is tempting. He’s also far from the safest option at first, as he suffered from back injuries for much of last season. Still, Branyan has clubbed 57 home runs over his last 960 plate appearances. That’s a lot of power left out on the waiver wire.

At the very least, Branyan could be used as a short-term fix at first base. If you have injuries, or your first baseman has jumped out to a poor start, Branyan could be a useful pickup. If he continues to grab playing time, he might even be worth a reserve spot in mixed leagues. He comes with plenty of warts, but Branyan could be a cheap pickup if you are desperate for power of the next couple of weeks.

It’s still far too early to give up on players that have gotten off to slow starts, but smart owners can find value on the waiver wire until the players they drafted start living up to expectations. It’s unlikely that Joyce or Branyan will lead your team to a championship, but they might be able to provide decent stats for a few weeks.

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Chris is a blogger for CBSSports.com. He has also contributed to Sports on Earth, the 2013 Hard Ball Times Baseball Annual, ESPN, FanGraphs and RotoGraphs. He tries to be funny on twitter @Chris_Cwik.

5 Responses to “Waiver Wire: Russell Branyan and Matt Joyce”

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  1. Mark says:

    Why for Justin Smoak gets no love as a post hype sleeper? His ownership is pretty low for a guy who was an uber-prospect just a year ago. He’s got a .387 wOBA so far, including a pair of homers and an 11/11 K/BB in 67 PAs. Sure, the M’s offense is dreadful and will offer him little support for R/RBI, but he seems primed as a guy who has a floor that won’t really hurt you terribly and quite a bit of upside. While everyone else is chasing Jerry Sands as the new Brandon Belt (that sure worked out), I’ll be filling Belt’s spots with Smoak. I’ve already picked him up in a couple leagues where I’m waiting for the warmer months when Carlos Pena might start hitting 10 HR a month in Wrigley (basically all the leagues I missed out on a first baseman not named Fielder, Votto, Cabrera, or Pujols).

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  2. PJ says:

    Drafted Joyce as my LF to start the year in a deep mixed keeper, now he is good again and I already got Fuld and Seth Smith. Booooooo!

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  3. Matty Brown says:

    I have both those fellas on my Ottoneu team, i only use Joyce .vs. righties though, of course. Glad to see Joyce starting to hit; they were both super cheap.

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  4. Andre says:

    Branyan ranks 14th all time in homers per at bat. He homers roughly once every 14.87 ABs, I think, making him a more prolific HR hitter (in this context anyway) than Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Willie Stargell and pretty much everybody named Willie.
    Sadly, even knowing that, I just dumped Branyan from my league because, while I’m confident Branyan would hit a buttload of homers if he played, I’m less confident that he’ll play. Without even glancing at the defensive metrics, I’m guessing his glove is so horrific that every manager Branyan’s ever played for has eventually determined one of the all time great HR hitters should sit more than he plays. Plus, as a Dodgers fan I’m allowed to love Kirk Gibson while also believing he doesn’t have a brain cell in his baldass head. So I do. Plus, plus… a few years back, Branyan got popped in a domestic assault charge, and I generally try to keep the domestic assaulters I know of off my roto teams.

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  5. rob mitchell says:

    Not true about Branyan’s glove so far.When he has started he has played an excellent 1st base.Yost, who for some reason didn’t like him despite 35 homers and 80 rbi’s in 495 at bats[2 stints with Brewers]said he was a lot better 3rd basemen then he had heard.LaRussa whom Russ played for briefly in 2007 marveled at some defensive plays he made in St.Louis.The problem is no matter where he winds up,the club that has him wants him as insurance in case a prospect flops.Same thing in Arizona,despite hitting.426 with 5 homers and 21 ribs this spring that was only good enough to earn him a spot on the 25 man roster.The reason he is only a.235 hitter is 22-145 as a pinch hitter.0-5 this year in the pinch and 8-20 as a starter.Mariners[2009] and Indians;first half of 2010 told him the 1st base job was his and not look over his shoulder.56 homers in 807 at bats,despite missing 96 games in 2009&10.Guy can’t win and it looks like another year with less than 200 at bats.Shame,’cause he only needs 10 dingers for 200 and 45 ribs for 500 in what maybe his final season.

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