Waiver Wire: Chasing the hot streak

I know it seems like ages ago, but I would like you to recall the first week of the Fantasy Baseball season. If you can, you might remember players like Emilio Bonifacio, Chris Colabello, Justin Smoak, Scott Feldman and Juan Nicasio were among the highest-scoring options in Fantasy.

I bring this up because you probably recall the tough roster decisions you had to make after the first week of the season. Do you cut bait with a late-round pick or struggling option and take a chance on chasing the hot streak?

For the above mentioned players, patience probably proved to be the right decision because at best they turned into short-term options. However, on the flipside, there were some early season surprises that turned into pretty reliable Fantasy options like Charlie Blackmon, Todd Frazier and Ian Kennedy.

But that was then and this is now. With the Fantasy playoffs rapidly approaching in most leagues, waiver-wire strategies have drastically changed from the start of the season. This no longer has to be the time for you to show patience, especially if you are on the cusp of making the playoffs. You have to make bold moves now to keep your playoff hopes alive or even radical decisions to make a run at a championship.

Most added players on CBSSports.com
Player Own %
1. Kyle Hendricks, SP, CHC 58 (+38)
2. Caleb Joseph, C, BAL 28 (+27)
3. Collin McHugh, SP, HOU 67 (+26)
4. Jeremy Hellickson, SP, TB 45 (+23)
5. Danny Santana, SS/OF, MIN 78 (+21)
6. David Peralta, OF, ARI 36 (+20)
7. Billy Butler, 1B, KC 74 (+19)
8. Colby Lewis, SP, TEX 26 (+16)
9. Chris Carter, 1B/OF, HOU 89 (+15)
10. J.P. Arencibia, C/1B, TEX 34 (+15)

Case in point, Astros DH Chris Carter has been on a ridiculous tear. Since July 3, he is batting .319 with a .714 slugging percentage, 1.093 OPS, 13 home runs and 31 RBI in his last 31 games. The chances of Carter continuing at this pace are highly unlikely and he's likely due for a cold spell, especially for a player that strikes out as much as he does. However, if you were hesitant to add Carter because of his past track record, then you have missed out on a lot of Fantasy production.

However, most Fantasy owners haven't steered away from adding Carter, whose ownership in CBSSports.com leagues is up to 89 percent. Perhaps if it was earlier in the season, Carter's ownership percentage would have been slower to rise as Fantasy owners would be more fearful of dropping a struggling slugger. But we have reached the part of the season where potential stopgap options become more of a factor. Worst comes to worse, once the player starts to cool off, you just run back to waivers to add the latest flavor of the month.

There are plenty of Fantasy owners waiting for players like Joey Votto, Ryan Zimmerman or Michael Wacha to return from the disabled list and provide a late-season boost. Though, if you can't use a DL spot to stash those players, then you have to give real thought to dropping them, especially if your playoff fate hangs in the balance. You also have to take into consideration how big of an impact can they really make? A guy like Votto still might not be 100 percent and we saw how much he struggled the first time he came off the disabled list this season when he wasn't fully recovered.

Trust me, I know there are a myriad of strategies that could lead to winning a Fantasy championship. When you watch our video shows or listen to our podcasts, you know we analysts have our own strategies that show plenty of conviction. But chasing the hot streak is a universal Fantasy sports strategy, and it becomes a bigger part of the game the later we get into the season.

Billy Butler, 1B, Royals

Ownership in CBSSports.com leagues: 74 percent (up 19 percent)
Butler, also known as Country Breakfast, has had a yo-yo kind of season. For a good portion of the first half, he was a very disappointing Fantasy option. Then he throws up back-to-back 20-point performances in Fantasy Week 11 and Week 12, and we think the old Butler has finally returned. Then he goes on to have up-and-down production before finally going on another hot streak. Butler has a .351/.667/1.029 slash line in his last 16 games, which includes four home runs, six doubles and 12 RBI. His hot streak coincides with his return to first base with Eric Hosmer sidelined. Butler admits playing first base has taken his mind off hitting and has allowed him to get back to the basics. Hosmer is still a few weeks away from returning, so Butler might stay locked in for a few more scoring periods. Butler was heavily owned before turning in a disappointing first half and you know his upside potential. Even if you are just chasing the hot streak, you could do a lot worse on waivers, so you might as well lean on Butler for the time being. It helps too that he now has first-base eligibility.
Leagues worth owning him: 10-team Rotisserie, 12-team Head-to-Head

Michael Pineda, SP, Yankees

Ownership in CBSSports.com leagues: 73 percent (up 12 percent)
I had a radio spot a few weeks back and the host brought up Pineda on a few occasions. He was very high on Pineda's return, and I was more lukewarm. I was a little hesitant because he is coming off a shoulder injury that sidelined him for a few months, and the last image we have of Pineda is him getting tossed from a start against the Red Sox because of a foreign substance on his neck. But I was undervaluing Pineda and I feel he is actually a pretty good pickup. Even before the pine-tar incident, Pineda was 2-1 with a 1.00 ERA and 15 strikeouts in 18 innings. He was averaging 20 Fantasy points per start over his first three outings. Pineda, who is returning to the rotation Wednesday, pitched pretty well on his rehab assignment coming off the long layoff. He's allowed just one run in 7 2/3 innings, while walking just one batter and striking out 11. I know Triple-A isn't the majors and you can believe all you want Pineda's early season success might have been aided by pine tar, but you still have to be encouraged by what he did on his rehab assignment. He showed great control and had a high strikeout rate.
Leagues worth owning him: 10-team Rotisserie, 12-team Head-to-Head

Mike Fiers, SP, Brewers

Ownership in CBSSports.com leagues: 11 percent (up 10 percent)
Fiers made his return to the rotation Saturday and stepped up in a big way by outdueling Dodgers All-Star Zack Greinke. Fiers allowed one run over eight innings and held in check a pretty good Dodgers lineup. Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said Sunday starting pitcher Matt Garza is not close to returning from an oblique injury, so Fiers is going to get a bit of an audition. And to tell you the truth -- he has the skills to get the job done. As Roenicke put it, Fiers had a "rough year" in 2013, as he dealt with a broken arm and the death of his mother (per the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel). But he's had great success this season. He went 8-5 with a 2.55 ERA in 17 starts in the hitter-friendly PCL, and he struck out 129 batters and issued 17 walks in 102 1/3 innings. He also allowed just eight home runs. Fiers showed great control in the minors and had a pretty strong strikeout rate as well. Even during his first full season in the majors in 2012, Fiers had a 3.74 ERA and struck out 9.5 batters per nine innings. He has been thrust into the middle of a pennant race, and he's being backed by a good Brewers lineup, which gives him a chance to rack up wins. He's definitely a sleeper option for the stretch run.
Leagues worth owning him: Deep formats

Norichika Aoki, SP, Brewers

Ownership in CBSSports.com leagues: 39 percent (up 9 percent)
Aoki's recent hot streak hasn't gotten a lot of publicity, but it's nice to see him get going since he was struggling for several weeks before going on the disabled list in late June. Over his last 18 games, Aoki has a .317/.403/.429/.831 slash line. He also has one triple, one home run, two doubles, 11 runs, 11 RBI, eight walks and five stolen bases. Over the last 21 days, he has been a top 30 bat in points and Rotisserie formats. Aoki is coming off a 31-point performance in Fantasy Week 19. It's by far his best week of the season and a real outlier. Over the previous two weeks, Aoki had 18 and 14 Fantasy points. That's what you can expect on a more frequent basis from Aoki. If I'm looking to add an outfielder off waivers, I'd choose players like Danny Santana, David Peralta and Dustin Ackley over Aoki.
Leagues worth owning him: Deep formats

Caleb Joseph, C, Orioles

Ownership in CBSSports.com leagues: 28 percent (up 27 percent)
Joseph shocked the baseball world last week when he homered in five straight games. Fantasy owners are smart enough to know Joseph won't be parking homers at such a frequent pace the rest of the way, but are still wondering if Joseph is worth adding off waivers? Joseph did belt 22 homers and slug .494 in 135 games in the pitcher-friendly Eastern League (Double-A) in 2013, so he's capable of hitting for power. Joseph is definitely an older rookie catcher, but most rookie backstops struggle offensively since learning the defensive intricacies of the position takes priority. He is batting .228 and has 41 strikeouts in 55 games, so it's not like he's been lighting it up all season. If you are looking to add a catcher in Fantasy, I'd consider options like Stephen Vogt, Travis d'Arnaud, Dioner Navarro and even J.P. Arencibia before taking a flier on Joseph.
Leagues worth owning him: Deep formats

Jeurys Familia, RP, Mets

Ownership in CBSSports.com leagues: 50 percent (up 20 percent)
Let's face it -- relievers are the running backs of Fantasy Baseball. Owners are looking for the speculative stash or handcuff option since the closer position has become so volatile. Well, Familia is the latest name to consider after Mets closer Jenrry Mejia revealed Sunday he is pitching with a hernia. Mejia also listed a bunch of other ailments giving him problems, but the hernia injury is the most concerning. Mejia said he can pitch through the injury, but former Mets reliever Tim Byrdak seems to doubt it. He took to Twitter after the revelation to weigh in on the matter. Byrdak tweeted he pitched with a sports hernia in 2010 and struggled through the injury because he wasn't able to finish his pitches. Your ears tend to perk up when someone with experience talks about the situation. The struggles for Mejia seem to mounting. He is 0-2 with one blown save and a 9.82 ERA in his last four outings. If he doesn't prove to the team he can pitch through the injury, the Mets might choose to shut him down and opt for surgery before the season ends. Familia has picked up two saves since Saturday and has pitched well in high-leverage situations, so if you are nervous about Mejia, then Familia is the guy to stash.
Leagues worth owning him: Deep formats

Drew Smyly, SP/RP, Rays

Ownership in CBSSports.com leagues: 61 percent (up 6 percent)
Smyly turned in one of his best performances of the season Monday at Texas, tossing 7 2/3 scoreless innings and striking out nine. He did have 11 strikeouts in a loss against the Angels July 25, but it's not like Smyly has been the standout Fantasy option many were hoping he would be this season. Prior to a 31-point performance Monday, Smyly had just 12 Fantasy points over the previous three scoring periods. Over the previous nine scoring periods, he surpassed 20 Fantasy points just once. He's had more than 20 Fantasy points just four times this season. Granted, the production would be a lot better if his record wasn't 7-10, but his WHIP is up and his strikeout rate is down in 2014, so it hasn't been all roses for the left-handed hurler. Monday's start is promising, but Smyly is another player probably facing an innings limit this season. He is already up to 118 1/3 innings after throwing 76 in relief last season, and the number being mentioned in the preseason when Smyly was with the Tigers was being capped around 150 innings as he made the transition back to a full-time starter. You don't know what the Rays have in store, but it wouldn't be surprising if they try to manage Smyly's innings as well.
Leagues worth owning him: Deep formats

Tyler Flowers, C, White Sox

Ownership in CBSSports.com leagues: 21 percent (up 4 percent)
Flowers has been on a pretty good run offensively since mid-July, but like Norichika Aoki, Flowers hasn't received a lot of praise for his performance. He has a .397/.714/1.171 slash line over his last 20 games, which includes one triple, four home runs, six doubles and 14 RBI. Flowers' hot streak coincides with a change from contact lenses to sport goggles, but Flowers won't credit the new eyewear for his success. He said it has more to do with his new approach. Flowers told reporters he is trying "to be downhill a little more" and "trying to make a positive move toward the pitcher" with his stride. Manager Robin Ventura added Flowers' confidence rising as equally important as the mechanical tweaks. Even if his strikeout-to-walk ratio hasn't improved dramatically, Flowers is still a top 6 catcher in points and Rotisserie leagues over the last 28 days. Flowers was a pretty good offensive player in the minors (.275/.391/.484/.876), so if he is on the path to becoming that type of hitter, then you might consider jumping on the bandwagon before it's too late.
Leagues worth owning him: 10-team Rotisserie, 14-team Head-to-Head

Chase Anderson, SP, Diamondbacks

Ownership in CBSSports.com leagues: 31 percent (up 7 percent)
Anderson has had an interesting rookie season. He won his first five starts, then lost four straight and has won his last two decisions. He's even posted a 1.74 ERA over his last five starts. For the most part, he is having a pretty strong rookie season. He is 7-4 with a 3.06 ERA and 1.26 WHIP over 14 starts. He's also averaging 14 Fantasy points per start. Anderson doesn't get a lot of attention because he's pitching for a non-contender, but he deserves more acclaim than he's getting. He didn't pitch well in Triple-A last season, but he was hurt. He's has had success against advanced hitters in the minors, going 9-6 with a 2.27 ERA and 1.01 WHIP in 27 starts at Double-A (2012, 2014). Anderson is a decent strikeout pitcher and he doesn't kill himself with a high walk rate. He reminds me a lot of Kyle Hendricks and Jacob deGrom. He might not have been an elite prospect, but he got the job done in the minors and his major-league career is off to a promising start. Though, the major concern with Anderson is the Diamondbacks might shut him down due to an innings limit. He's already up to a career-high 118 1/3 innings this season and only threw 88 innings last season.
Leagues worth owning him: Deep formats

Jake Petricka, RP, White Sox

Ownership in CBSSports.com leagues: 30 percent (up 3 percent)
Petricka got a strong vote of confidence from manager Robin Ventura over the weekend after Zach Putnam returned from the disabled list, which is a good sign. But even more encouraging is that Petricka's command has improved dramatically the last few weeks. After walking 4.67 batters per nine innings over his first 36 appearances, Petricka is walking 1.56 batters per nine innings over his last 13 outings. The significant improvement in control has coincided with Petricka becoming a regular option for saves. It seems the high-leverage situations has gotten him more focused, as his strike rate has increased from 62 percent in his first 36 outings to 68 percent over his last 13 appearances. It's no surprise his strikeout rate has also increased during that time to 7.8 K/9. Closers on bad teams are still useful in Fantasy, so if you are looking for saves off waivers, Petricka is becoming a strong candidate.
Leagues worth owning him: Deep formats

American League options

Eric Sogard, 2B/SS, Athletics

Ownership in CBSSports.com leagues: 3 percent (up 3 percent)
Sogard is enjoying a great start to the second half, batting .304 with a .439 on-base percentage, .435 slugging percentage and .873 OPS in 17 games since the All-Star break. He also has one home run, three doubles, five RBI, 11 walks, 13 runs and three stolen bases in that span. Sogard credits his recent surge to his work with hitting coach Chili Davis. Sogard said being able to recognize pitches early has allowed him to wait back on the pitch and shorten his swing. Sogard added it allows him to "keep that line drive swing" (MLB.com), and the numbers support his claim as his line drive rate is up 2 percent in the second half. That's important because line drive hitters tend to have a high BABIP. The only negative against Sogard is that he doesn't have high-end upside. It's unlikely he turns into a big home run threat or RBI producer. He could be a good source for average, runs and stolen bases, and his good plate discipline won't hurt Fantasy owners in points leagues. But Eric Sogard reminds me a lot of Tommy La Stella, and it's not like La Stella is on the verge of being a must-start Fantasy option.
Leagues worth owning him: Deep formats

National League options

Matt den Dekker, OF, Mets

Ownership in CBSSports.com leagues: 2 percent (up 1 percent)
den Dekker, much like Sogard, was having an awful season before he decided to make a change to his approach at the plate. And wouldn't you know, he also shortened his swing. Den Dekker also admits the new approach has provided him with the same benefits as Sogard, which allows him to see the ball longer before he offers up at the pitch. Again, like Sogard, the results have been great. den Dekker didn't have the luxury of working on his craft in the majors, but he had great success with it in the minors. He had a .375/.432/.775/1.207 slash line in June for Triple-A Las Vegas, .420/.508/.630/1.138 slash line in July and a .375/.483/.625/1.108 line in August prior to his recall Saturday. den Dekker is 3 for 8 (.375) with one double, one RBI, one walk and one run in two games since returning to the majors. den Dekker's new approach didn't significantly improve his home run swing, but he still hit for power using his speed to leg out doubles and triples. den Dekker has pretty good plate discipline, so a high strikeout rate won't hurt you in points league. Though, a lack of home run power will hurt in Rotisserie formats. While den Dekker might only currently be worth a flier in NL-only formats, I'm intrigued enough that at the first signs of a hot streak, I wouldn't hesitate to add him off waivers.
Leagues worth owning him: Deep formats

Player you might reconsider dropping

Kevin Gausman, SP/RP, Orioles

Ownership in CBSSports.com leagues: 60 percent (down 6 percent)
I think Gausman gets a bad rap despite pitching fairly well against good opponents all season. He really hasn't had a ton of favorable matchups. He's pitched against the Tigers, Athletics (twice), Rays (twice), Blue Jays, Red Sox, Mariners, Angels, Nationals and Cardinals. Most of those teams are in playoff contention, so I think Gausman deserves more praise than criticism for going 6-4 with a 3.90 ERA in his 12 starts. It seems Gausman might finally be in for a stretch of good matchups, as his next few starts (if he remains on schedule) should come against the Indians, Cubs, Rays and Twins. I know the strikeout rate hasn't been there and Gausman has a high WHIP, but it can't be overlooked he's a starter on a contender, so hopefully the run support will be there. I don't really have a problem if you would rather own a pitcher like Bartolo Colon, Kyle Hendricks, Mike Fiers or another pitcher you want to chase the hot streak over Gausman. But there is definitely potential here, so Gausman could reward you.
Leagues worth owning him: 12-team Head-to-Head and Rotisserie

Q &A

With Jacob deGrom going to disabled list, should I grab Kyle Hendricks or Drew Smyly? --@Real_J_Eddy

MH:I'm one of the bigger Hendricks fans here on staff at CBSSports.com. I think he is highly underrated and feel his fast start with the Cubs isn't a fluke. Is he prone to a bad start or cold spell? Absolutely. There's a good chance he is going to endure some rookie growing pains. However, I like him better than Smyly because of his minor-league track record, and it doesn't appear he will be hit with an innings limit since he pitched 166 1/3 innings last season and is only up to 137 this season.

In the minors, Hendricks compiled a 31-19 record, 2.69 ERA and 1.07 WHIP over 452 1/3 innings. He struck out 7.7 batters per nine innings as well. I know his strikeout rate (5.5 K/9) is not as strong since his promotion, but like in the minors, he's not hurting himself with a high walk rate or giving up a lot of home runs. He's even pitching deep into games, which has helped him earn three wins in his first five starts. Hendricks' BABIP (.245) is a little low for being a groundball pitcher, so he's probably due for at least a bit of a market correction at some point. But I still prefer to add him off waivers over Smyly and it's not just talk. I own Hendricks in multiple Fantasy leagues, NL-only and mixed, so I'm fully invested.

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