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Fantasy Baseball Today

Waiver Wire: Time to find Kendrys Morales a home

By R.J. White | CBSSports.com

Preseason drafts and auctions are perhaps the most critical portion of a Fantasy season for championship hopefuls. Major-league teams have their own draft on the horizon, with the 2014 First-Year Player Draft kicking off Thursday, June 5. While baseball is unique in that none of the drafted players will make an immediate impact on the fortune of Fantasy teams, the mere passage of this year's draft could alter the dynamic of your Fantasy league for the remainder of the season.

Let's have the Kendrys Morales talk.

Morales, who spent the 2013 season with the Mariners, was one of 13 players to receive a qualifying offer from his former team that would pay him $14.1 million for the 2014 season if accepted. All 13 rejected the offer, and while the cream of the crop had little trouble finding a market for their services this offseason, several of the unlucky 13 had to play the waiting game for much of the offseason. That's because if a team other than the team to extend the qualifying offer decided to sign one of these players, they would have to forfeit a key draft pick. This caused several of the unlucky 13 to encounter a despressed market, making it hard to find an acceptable deal they felt was commensurate with their talents. A couple entered the season without deals, and when Stephen Drew re-upped with the Red Sox a few weeks ago, that left Morales as the lone member of the 13 without a job.

Now that the preamble is out of the way, the key thing to know is that the draft-pick compensation attached to Morales disappears once the draft starts Thursday. This should lead to a much more favorable market for the first baseman/designated hitter, and CBSSports.com baseball insider Jon Heyman reported this week that the Yankees have already reached out to Morales, while the Royals are considering making a play. If Morales is content taking a pro-rated one-year deal and hitting the market again this offseason in search of a big deal, he won't have to worry about being extended another qualifying offer, as players who don't begin the season with an organization can't be subject to the offer at the end of the year.

What does this mean for your Fantasy team? Pick Morales up now. He's up to 38 percent ownership in CBSSports.com Fantasy leagues, but since he should finally have a new home within a matter of days, that number should skyrocket. He can provide a Fantasy team with solid power and average numbers, especially if he lands in a situation with a home park that boosts power numbers considering that part of his game has declined in recent years. At the very least, he'll make for a usable daily option at a CI or UT spot, with the upside for more depending upon his final destination.

Marcus Stroman, SP, Blue Jays
Ownership in CBSSports.com leagues: 36 percent (up 18 percent)
The second time may be the charm for this rookie pitcher, who was brought up to pitch in relief in early May but sent back down after giving up eight earned runs in three innings over his last two relief appearances. Stroman was recalled to make a start on May 31, and he pitched up to his ability, striking out six in six innings while giving up just one earned run. That start was preceded by seven great starts with Triple-A Buffalo earlier this season (3.03 ERA, 11.4 K/9), and he's well on his way to confirming the talent flashed in his breakout 2013 campaign with Double-A New Hampshire is real. He's worth owning as long as he's in the rotation, and the odds are that he'll be making starts for the Blue Jays for the remainder of the season.
Leagues worth owning him: 12-team Head-to-Head and Rotisserie

Josh Willingham, OF, Twins
Ownership in CBSSports.com leagues: 38 percent (up 18 percent)
After hitting a total of 64 home runs from 2011 to 2012, Willingham endured a horrific 2013 season in which his numbers cratered across the board. Some of the decline may have been due to old age, but it's likely a knee injury that eventually required surgery contributed to his down season. He jumped out to a solid start in the first week of 2014, albeit one that didn't include a home run. He hit .294/.409/.353 in his first five games before suffering another injury, this one to his wrist. He would be out for the rest of April and most of May before returning on May 26. Wrist injuries are tricky when it comes to evaluating players, as there's a very real concern that continued issues with the wrist will lead to reduced power numbers. That hasn't happened with Willingham, who has homered three times in his last five games while continuing to exhibit plate patience by walking seven times in his last six games. He'll cool off eventually, but it looks like this version of Willingham will be closer to the 2011-2012 edition than the abomination from last year.
Leagues worth owning him: 12-team Head-to-Head and Rotisserie

Cody Allen, RP, Indians
Ownership in CBSSports.com leagues: 38 percent (up 12 percent)
Allen has flashed closer stuff over the last two seasons, but he's never had a chance to get regular saves for the Indians ... until now. The fireballer has picked up saves in each of his last three appearances, and it appears he's emerged from Cleveland's closing committee to be the No. 1 option for saves. That's not to say he's locked into the job long-term; the Indians could decide to shift back to the high-salaried John Axford if he pitches well. But if talent truly wins out in the long run, we could see Allen rack up 20-25 saves over the remainder of the season. He owns a 30:11 K:BB ratio in 24 1/3 innings while Axford sports an ugly 24:17 K:BB ratio in 21 2/3 innings. With his upside, Allen is a recommended add as long as Fantasy owners don't have to drop quality options with more stable roles to get him.
Leagues worth owning him: 10-team Rotisserie, 14-team Head-to-Head

Andre Ethier, OF, Dodgers
Ownership in CBSSports.com leagues: 28 percent (up 6 percent)
When word broke that Matt Kemp was being moved to left field after struggling defensively in center, I rushed to grab Ethier in my head-to-head format. While his overall numbers have been pretty pedestrian over the years, he's a great asset to have on Fantasy benches thanks to his penchant to succeed against right-handed pitching. Last year, he slashed .294/.394/.460 in 337 at-bats against righties, while the year before he hit .325/.398/.546 in 335 at-bats against righties. He's terrible against southpaws, which has dragged down his overall numbers, but if you can own him in a situation where he'll only be started against right-handers, he's a very undervalued commodity. Kemp's shift means Ethier is locked into playing time on a regular basis, and that peace of mind should help lead to an increase in his performance to his historically proficient precedent against righties.
Leagues worth owning him: Deep formats

American League options

Kyle Blanks, 1B/OF, Athletics
Ownership in CBSSports.com leagues: 3 percent (up 1 percent)
It's early, but the big man has taken to Oakland like a fish to water since coming over in a mid-May trade, hitting .316/.435/.632 with two home runs in 19 at-bats. His playing time will generally be spotty, as he works best in the short side of a platoon facing lefties, but AL-only Fantasy owners in daily-lineup leagues with a bench spot to burn could do worse than a player eligible at 1B and OF with power potential in the right matchups.
Leagues worth owning him: Deep formats

Johan Santana, SP, Orioles
Ownership in CBSSports.com leagues: 7 percent (up 2 percent)
I can't presume to predict what pitcher we'll see when Santana finally takes the mound again in a major-league game. A dominant Fantasy force and winner of multiple Cy Young awards in the 2000s, Santana saw a decline in his numbers in 2009 and 2010 before injuries completely derailed his career. Recovering from shoulder surgery, Santana saw the Orioles purchase his contract this week rather than lose him to free agency, and though he still has some rehab time in front of him while on the disabled list, one would figure the team wouldn't have made that play if they didn't think he could contribute. Feel free to stash him on Fantasy IR until we get some sense as to what he has left.
Leagues worth owning him: Deep formats

National League options

Tommy La Stella, 2B, Braves
Ownership in CBSSports.com leagues: 14 percent (up 8 percent)
There's a very real chance that NL-only owners have already missed the boat on La Stella, but if he remains available in your league, he's certainly worth consideration. The Braves has received putrid production at second base thanks to the decline of Dan Uggla, and La Stella figures to get an extended look to see if he's the future at the position. He offers elite batting average upside and the ability to chip in steals here and there, and while that's not the profile of a player ready to set the Fantasy world on fire, a plus batting average plays in most deep formats.
Leagues worth owning him: Deep formats

Jesse Hahn, SP, Padres
Ownership in CBSSports.com leagues: 0 percent (no change)
Hahn has been tabbed to start Tuesday's game in San Diego against the Pirates, and it'll be his first opportunity pitching above the Double-A level. The Padres rotation has been rocked by injuries this season, and while ace Andrew Cashner is expected back this weekend, Hahn has the opportunity to take charge of the No. 5 role and run with it if he can be effective. He has maintained quality peripherals in the minors which could translate into a solid rookie season if he can keep a spot in the rotation. If he does stick, Hahn is worth using in San Diego right away and potentially on the road in the right matchups.
Leagues worth owning him: Deep formats

Player you might reconsider dropping

Brandon McCarthy, SP, Diamondbacks
Ownership in CBSSports.com leagues: 23 percent (down 13 percent)
This may as well be directed into a mirror, as I've been on the verge of dropping McCarthy several times over the past few weeks. After giving up five earned runs in back to back starts, it would be easy to cut our losses and move on. But I still feel like there's potential upside lurking here. McCarthy has produced increased velocity on his fastball this season, and that's led to a spike in his strikeout numbers. He's been able to keep his walks to a minimum as usual. Where he's really been done in is home runs, as he's seen more than a fifth of the fly balls he's surrendered clear the fence. Despite that, he's recording the highest groundball rate and the lowest flyball rate of his career. If he can just keep pitching to those peripherals, his luck figures to swing eventually.
Leagues worth owning him: 12-team Head-to-Head and Rotisserie

 
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