AL Waiver Wire:  Week 23

Going against the norm, and not just proceeding to the players, I’d like to thank Paul Singman and Derek Ambrosino for pinch hitting for me last week. I’d also like to mention that the Top-100 Fantasy Prospect list is soon to be updated, so be on the lookout!

Trevor Plouffe|Minnesota|2B/SS/OF|3 percent Yahoo! ownership
YTD: .242/.309/.412
Oliver ROS: .246/.294/.426

Plouffe is the type of versatile bench player that comes in handy this time of year. He’s can be slotted at middle infield, second base, shortstop and outfield, so if a regular gets a day off and you’re not on pace to surpass games played limits in a roto league (or you’re in a H-2-H league) he offers the potential to tack on just a few more counting stats when every single one counts.

He’s seeing regular playing time for the Twins of late and being slotted second in the lineup. He offers a tad bit of pop, but doesn’t excel in any one fantasy category. His walk rate and OBP are a little below league average, but are good enough that he should set the table and provide some run scoring opportunities. Not a ton to get excited about here, but you have to take stats where you can get them at this point.

Recommendation: Should be owned in some mixed-leagues and most AL-only formats.

Trayvon Robinson|Seattle|OF|1 percent Yahoo! ownership
YTD: .274/.319/.464
Oliver ROS: .251/.316/.411

He strikes out a lot (35.9 percent of his at-bats), doesn’t walk a lot (6.5 percent of his plate appearances) and is still developing. Robinson has succeeded in spite of his empty swings, and has the tools that play well in the fantasy game. His power and speed are above average, and he’s playing every day. He offers batting average risk, but at this point, the average needle isn’t likely to move much.

Those in need of home runs or stolen bases should turn Robinson’s way. He has stolen only stolen 10 bases this year, but he stole 37 in 2009, so don’t be fooled. With the Mariners out of contention, they may let him run a bit to hone his craft and establish a stolen base success rate. He’s attempted only one stolen base with the Mariners (and succeeded), so I may be talking out of my hind side suggesting they’ll let him run, but it would make some sense from a development standpoint. He’s available in 99 percent of Yahoo! leagues, so if you’re currently rostering an empty average outfielder unlikely to gain you valuable points in roto leagues, pull the switcharoo and pluck Robinson off the wire.

Recommendation: Should be owned in most large mixed leagues and all AL-only formats.

Jesus Montero|New York (AL)|C|7 percent Yahoo! ownership
YTD: .353/.450/.706
Oliver ROS: .274/.323/.470

Football season has kicked off, and many owners are out of it, so I shouldn’t be shocked by Montero’s low ownership rate. Nonetheless, it is inexcusably low. He plays a position that’s not noted for offensive production, and is seeing steady playing time in the vaunted Yankees lineup. He’s a potential four-category contributor, all but with stolen bases. He’s gotten a hit in all but his debut, and has a two home run game already. He didn’t have the banner year in Triple-A many would have liked to have seen, but he was still solid. Trust the scouting reports that laud his hit tool and developing power, and buy into his fantasy friendly lineup.

Recommendation: Should be universally owned.

Luke Hochevar|Kansas City|SP|15 percent Yahoo! ownership
YTD: 4.76 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 5.63 K/9, 2.77 BB/9, 49.2 percent GB
Oliver ROS: 4.31 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 6.0 K/9, 2.6 BB/9

The former first overall selection has teased with stretches of strong play, but his post All-Star break performance has been excellent. In 66.2 innings he has struck out 56 batters (7.56 K/9) while walking 19 (2.57 BB/9) making his strikeout-to-walk rate a hair under three-to-one. His ERA and WHIP in that same time frame are 3.51 and 1.11 respectively.

Looking at his PITCHf/x data paints an interesting picture. Hochevar is using his slider more often (post-break 16.0 percent versus pre-break 11.4 percent), and with better results, getting whiffs 22.8 percent of the time compared to 11.6 percent pre-All-Star break. He’s also getting more whiffs on his four-seam fastball, sinker, and cutter. His cutter’s whiff rate is solid at 16.9 percent, offering Hochevar a second wipeout pitch.

For anyone wondering, his slider and cutter are two distinctly different pitches and not just misclassifications; their breaks are different and their velocities differ about three mph. He may never be elite, but it looks as though something has clicked for Hochevar, and even a league average strikeout rate paired with his awesome groundball rate would make him a solid starter.

The “R” in WAR
How a person can be a hero by being a zero.

The most important thing for the rest of the year is his favorable schedule. If he makes each of his scheduled starts, he’ll face the Twins on Sept. 14, and Sept. 26, with the Tigers sandwiched in between on Sept. 20. The Twins offense is terrible, and none of his starts come at offensive friendly ballparks, with two starts at home and one at Minnesota.

Recommendation: Should be owned by pitching-starved teams in all league sizes and types.

Doug Fister| Detroit| SP| 49 percent Yahoo! ownership
YTD: 3.17 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 5.91 K/9, 1.65 BB/9, 47.8 percent GB
Oliver ROS: 3.89 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 5.0 K/9, 1.5 BB/9

He doesn’t light up the radar gun, and the formula is pretty simple for Fiste: Make hitters put the ball in play and don’t put them on base for free. He doesn’t generate a lot of swings and misses, but he has seen his strikeout rate go up in Detroit (part of that is a 13-strikeout performance sprinkled into just 44.1 innings with his new club), while his walk rate has been cut back to just 0.61 BB/9.

He is owned in almost half of Yahoo leagues, so he’s not available in most large leagues, but he should get strong consideration in shallower formats to close out the season too. He’s scheduled to face the Twins on Sept. 11, the A’s on Sept. 16, and Baltimore on Sept. 22. The Twins are a great match-up, while the other two are pretty neutral. The A’s offense has oscillated between really good (July and September) and mediocre/bad (August), but the start is at pitcher-friendly Oakland making it fairly “safe.” The Orioles offense isn’t a slouch, but the team doesn’t win many games so win-hungry owners should keep that in mind when deciding whether to trust him.

Recommendation: Should be owned in his favorable match-ups in all league sizes and types.

Chris Sale|Chicago (AL)|RP|28 percent Yahoo! ownership
YTD: 2.61 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 9.73 K/9, 3.05 BB/9, 50.6 percent GB
Oliver ROS: 3.90 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 9.1 K/9, 2.3 BB/9

Sale has been awesome in the White Sox bullpen this year, and since the All-Star break he’s been flat out dominant. In 25.2 innings post-break he has a 1.40 ERA and a 0.70 WHIP with just five walks and 29 strikeouts. He has three saves in the last 30 days and four in his last 10 appearances. Manager Ozzie Guillen has no problem using him in high leverage situations, and his being left-handed offers the animated manager the opportunity to use him in place of his regular closer, right-hander Sergio Santos, when the situation dictates. He should already be owned for his sparkling ratios and high strikeout rate in more leagues than he is, but the saves are further incentive to find room for him on more rosters.
Should be owned in most leagues.

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Jeffrey Gross
Jeffrey Gross

I love how we both covered Trayvon Robinson this week, to different results. I just dont trust his power, and his “speed” is unreliable…

Josh Shepardson
Josh Shepardson

@ Jeff

Over a long period of time, Robinson’s lack of showing his tools, and his high strikeout rate would make him a player I wouldn’t much desire on my fantasy rosters.  I just feel like at this point, if you need a little bit of everything, it might be worthwhile to buy into a toolsy type and hope for a happy meal.