Wednesday Waiver Wire Wars: Hot Hands

Good morning folks, and welcome to the inaugural weekly Wednesday Waiver Wire War report, where I’ll be breaking down key players to target on the wire. This week, I will highlight six players you should consider picking up: two infielders, two outfielders, and two starting pitchers. As well as recommend a craft beer pairing to go with these “hot” bats and arms.

When it comes to picking up replacements on the waiver wire, it can often be a wasteland of mediocrity. But there are gems hidden that barren waste, and I argue that by looking at recent numbers, we can identify guys who can contribute immediately to your fantasy team.

But wait! Shouldn’t we consider all the data? Look at long-term, full-season trends to predict player success? Well, yes and no. Looking at career numbers and full-season data is far and away the best way to predict long-term success (or lack thereof). But we aren’t looking for long-term success in this column. We’re looking for band-aids and short-term solutions to fill roster gaps created from injury, demotion, or slumping stars. And for that, we look at recent data to find the hot hands. 

It’s my belief that baseball is all about streaks. The beauty of the sport is its maddening mix of volatility and predictability. We all know that Mike Trout will hit .300+ and score over 100 runs every year. But he’s going to have games where he doesn’t get a hit or score a run. Hell, he might even have two or three games in a row where he fails to reach base. It happens. For guys like Trout, the ship always rights, and the numbers bear out. That’s why we don’t drop him when he inevitably has a bad game. But for our waiver wire warriors, we should be dropping them when they string together a few bad games, and we should be adding them when they appear ready to go on a tear. Because just as Trout invariably has a string of bad games, Mr. No-Name Replacement will invariably have a string of good games, and that’s exactly when we want to pick him up.

So here are my suggestions for guys on streaks that you should hop on and hang onto for dear life….at least until they start to slump.

Rodeo

Me riding a hot streak (not pictured: dignity)

Outfielders to target

MAGNEARIS SIERRA – OF (STL) – Available in 99% of ESPN leagues

.357/.400/.357 , 5 R, 0 HR, 0 RBI, 0 SB (three games played/started)

I might not be able to pronounce his name, but I can tell you that this kid has been good over an (admittedly) small sample size. The young speedster was called up in the wake of Jose Martinez’s DL stint, and with Dexter Fowler also battling an injury, he figures to see playing time for the next couple weeks at least.

Sierra is batting .357 with 5 R over his first three Major League games, and has flashed impressive leather on defense in addition to showcasing his blazing speed. Magnus (that’s what I’m calling him) hasn’t stolen any bases yet, but the chances will come, and he has drawn comparisons to Billy Hamilton in his skillset; great speed, hits for contact rather than power. Don’t expect many RBI or HR from Magnus (he’s still searching for his first Major League occurrence of each), but he could help you with his .400 OBP, driven by two consecutive multi-hit games.

Young guys are often figured out by opposing pitchers after a few weeks in the bigs, but by the time his regression hits he figures to be losing out on playing time anyway. However, if he continues to perform and get on base, the steals will come, and his defensive skills could help keep him around or force a difficult managerial decision.

Bottom line on Sierra:  Pick him up if you need runs or steals; the average will adjust but he could easily hit over .300 for the next few weeks as pitchers have yet to figure him out.

 

KEON BROXTON – OF (MIL) – Available in 74% of ESPN leagues

.258/.340/.472 , 16 R, 3 HR, 9 RBI, 8 SB

Oh boy, here we go again. The tease that is Keon Broxton. We all know what he did last year in his sensational debut marred by streakiness and long bouts of, to use the technical term, garbage play.

What we also know is that for all of his streaks of crappy play, he has a few streaks of brilliance. And right now Broxton is hot and worth a waiver wire pickup. Over the last two weeks, Keon has racked up an OBP of .513, collected 14 hits in 33 AB (good for a .424 BA), scored 10 Runs, hit 2 HR and 7 RBI, and oh yeah, swiped 5 bags, including 2 in his last 2 games. Whew. That’s heat!

Bottom line on Broxton: Broxton is the kind of guy who you want when he’s hot, and you don’t when he’s not. Right now he’s hot. He’s surprisingly reliable when it comes to OBP, walking around 10% of the time (.250 avg/.350 obp last year, .248 avg/.340 obp this year), which is probably the one thing he does consistently. He’s fast, and he’ll be aggressive on the basepaths, getting you those sweet, sweet steals that we all covet. Combine that with the fact that he’s in a streaking Brewer’s offense right now, and you’ve got a waiver wire bargain to bolster your OF for the time being.

 

Infielders to target

CHRIS TAYLOR – 3B/2B (LAD) – Available in 98% of ESPN leagues

.372/.491/.651 , 10 R, 3 HR, 12 RBI, 0 SB

This is a pick that I’m proud of, because I haven’t seen anyone else talk about this guy, despite playing for the big market Dodgers. Taylor is also dual eligible as a 2B and 3B, which makes him extra valuable as a utility guy/roster filler. His hot streak has allowed him to supplant Chase Utley as the everyday 2B for the Dodgers, with Manager Dave Roberts confirming that Taylor is slated to get more regular playing time.

Why is that? Well, he’s hot. (are you noticing a trend in the guys I pick?)

taylorrightnow

In the past week, Taylor has gotten on base an astonishing 60% of the time, good for a clip of .600 OBP. He has impressive plate discipline, walking 10 times already in just over 50 PA, which helps make up for his streaky hitting . He recently had his first 3-hit game against the Pirates, including a grand slam (no, not a fucking “papa slam,” don’t even get me started on that horseshit), and shows some good power at the keystone.

Bottom line on Chris Taylor: He earned his way into this position and regular at-bats in the wake of Logan Forsythe’s injury, and managed to push veteran Chase Utley out of the picture on the strength of his play. He’s hitting .500 in the past week with 6 R and 6 RBI and a grand slam to boot. Ride Taylor until Forsythe shows back up, which shouldn’t be any time soon based on his setbacks in his rehab assignment.

CAMERON RUPP – C (PHI) – Available in 94% of ESPN leagues

.263/.367/.474 , 11 R, 3 HR, 6 RBI, 0 SB

I know what you’re thinking: “really? A catcher?” Well, he’s a hot catcher, and an easy pickup in most leagues. The righty backstop is hitting nearly .500 over the past week, with two home runs coming against Washington and the Cubbies; not easy feats.

Going back even further, he’s recorded multi-hit games in 4 out of his last 7 starts, scoring 5 runs and netting 3 RBI over that frame. While Rupp splits some time with backup catcher Andrew Knapp, he should get the vast majority of starts, though he does usually bat in the bottom third of the order.

Bottom line on Cameron Rupp: Rupp is a true streamer bat. You won’t want him on your team once his ride comes to an end, but while he’s streaking you had best hop on the Rupp train. Rupp will hit with power and get on base regularly, as he demonstrates a good batter’s eye and has already walked a dozen times this season. Obviously he won’t help you in the steals department, but his offensive tear should net you some points in all other offensive categories.

Starting pitchers to target

JULIO URIAS – SP (LAD) – Available in 41% of ESPN leagues

3 Starts (0-0, 1 QS) , 10 K, 10 BB, 17 IP, 1.06 ERA, 1.12 WHIP

I didn’t want to put him on here because everyone should know about Julio, but somehow he’s only owned in 59% of ESPN leagues, so clearly there are a lot of nonbelievers out there (though I have no idea why).

Urias is a potential ace. I’m not saying he’ll rise to that caliber this year, as all he’s faced have been the lowly Giants (twice) and a surging (but overperforming) Pirates offense. But the talent is there, and boy is he special.

I’ve watched all three of Urias’s starts (yes, he’s on my fantasy team) and his stuff is electric. He has a great fastball with a ton of movement, and he has three pitches that Baseball American rates as “plus or plus-plus,” aka ace-level pitches. Most impressive is his dirty curveball, which most young players struggle to throw at all, much less as their go-to pitch. His one issue in the majors thus far has been control, as Urias has walked 10 batters. But his 1.12 WHIP shows that despite his propensity to give up free passes, he’s not giving up hits (or runs, which his 1.06 ERA attests to).

the leap

Urias’s adorable, trademarked, child-like “leap” over the baseline as he leaves the field after each inning. Seriously. He actually does it every time.

The scary part is he’s still getting better. Urias has improved in each start, earning his first QS of the season in a dominant performance last night in which he no-hit the Pirates through 6+ innings.

Bottom line on Urias: Besides the fact that his name sounds suspiciously like urine (I’m sure he had a hard time growing up), Julio Urias is a perfect waiver wire pickup. He has the pedigree of an ace, with a floor of a 3rd starter. That’s damn good for a mid-May FA pickup. He throws filthy stuff and is improving with every start, with the only potential issue being handled delicately in terms of going deep into games. His combined potential and his performance make him rosterable in every league. If he’s available, grab him now.

EDUARDO RODRIGUEZ – SP (BOS) – Available in 51% of ESPN leagues

5 Starts (1-1, 3 QS) , 37 K, 15 BB, 29.1 IP, 3.07 ERA, 1.26 WHIP

Another big-market team with a great pitcher somehow flying under the radar. I’m not sure how this keeps happening.

Rodriguez is looking ready to breakout this season, posting three consecutive quality starts over his last three outings and playing on a good Boston team. His 37 K’s in just over 29 innings paint the picture of a strong strikeout pitcher who knows how to paint the corners.

His 15 walks are a little unnerving, but 5 of them came against the patient Orioles (who currently hold the best record in baseball), and he has walked just 3 batters over his last two starts, showing improved control.

Bottom line on Eduardo Rodriguez: Rodriguez will get you a shitload of K’s, posting 5 or more strikeouts in every start this year, and 7 or more in three starts. His ability to control the strike zone and keep balls in the park will keep his ERA low, and whether you’re in a QS league, a Wins league, or both, being on Boston will help your cause.

 

The Beer Slant

My theme for this Wednesday’s Waiver Wire Wars is heat: hot hitters, hot pitchers….just hotness. I will warn you: if you don’t like spicy things, you won’t like this beer. Period. Don’t judge it if you don’t like heat!

On that note, I recommend sipping on Ballast Point’s Habanero Sculpin IPA. Clocking in at 7% and 70 IBUs, this spicy beer hits the classic identifiers of an IPA with its own unique flavors. I know that hot beer (or spicy things in general) doesn’t qualify as “special” anymore, but this one is different. You can really feel the heat. But in a good way!

I get notes of pine, grapefruit, and citrus with a subtle underbite of hops. The mouthfeel is medium and hot. Seriously, it just feels hot. Be sure to smell it and enjoy the combination of tropical IPA citrus aroma mixed with habanero pepper, which comes through nicely when poured in a glass.

habanero

Seriously, it’s spicy. I warned you.

So while you watch your hot studly starters continue their hot streaks, try this hot beer out of San Diego, CA!

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