Week 9 Fantasy baseball waiver-wire talk
After a frustrating rookie season, A.J. Pollock seems to be breaking out for the Diamondbacks. Should Fantasy owners be buying in?
At the end of every Fantasy week, I'll take a look at some of the most interesting names on the most-added players list, with an eye on their future.
What's the appeal?
As of this writing, Pollock has two hits in his last three games, nine in his last five, and 11 in his last eight. He is hitting .367 over that span, but the numbers are skewed by a massive two-game stretch that saw him go 7 for 10 with three extra-base hits.
Pollock's rise to the top of the most-added list might seem like a good example of Fantasy owners overreacting to a bit of small-sample size success, then. However, he also hit .303 in the month of April, so there's some track record of success to go on here beyond a bit of flukiness. Can he keep it going?
The problem for Pollock right now is none of his success looks particularly sustainable at this point. His .303 batting average is being propped up by a sky-high .362 BABIP, which could tumble down any day now. And, though he has five home runs already after hitting just eight last season, he still profiles largely as a slap hitter. Fully half of Pollock's batted balls have been on the ground, an even higher rate than last season, making his power breakout seem unlikely to sustain itself either.
Pollock is still young enough that we should expect some growth in his game, but he also still looks a lot like the guy who wasn't a particularly enticing Fantasy option entering the season. Though Michael Hurcomb and Scott White have moved Pollock into the top-75 of their outfielder rankings, Al Melchior has him holding steady at 91st. I'm inclined to agree with Al, here, and wouldn't run out to add him.
The real deal
As Scott noted on his player page, Doolittle isn't some desperation choice for the A's to throw at the wall and see if it sticks. Though Doolittle entered the season with just three career saves, he has established himself as much more than just a lefty specialist in his third season, and should find success late in games.
Doolittle can rack up big strikeout numbers (9.8 per nine for his career) and shows no significant platoon disadvantage, with righties actually posting a lower career OPS against him over 352 plate appearances. That he does this without a dominant changeup to neutralize righties makes his work all the more impressive, though it takes nothing away from him.
Doolittle's got a pretty straightforward approach to hitters from both sides of the plate, pumping mostly mid-90's fastballs past them with ease, picking up a swinging strike 13.7 percent of the time he delivers. Though the A's traded for a supposedly dominant closer this offseason, Doolittle seems unlikely to lose his job now that he has it. Scott has him ranked just outside of his top-20 among relievers, while Al snuck him in at 19 in his most recent update. Doolittle should be owned in any league that records saves.
A part-time player
After the first month of the season, Jones looked like an absolute bust for the Marlins. He had a .698 OPS and 33 strikeouts in just 96 at-bats, and looked woefully overmatched in an everyday role. Things have changed drastically in May, however, as he has cut his strikeout rate from 31.1 percent to 19.0 percent, and nearly doubled his walk rate.
Jones does have one glaring flaw in his game, and even his hot month of May can't really hide. The Marlins have remained insistent on keeping Jones in the lineup everyday even against lefties, ignoring a split that has become comically outsized this season. He is putting up a .986 OPS vs. righties, nearly double the .498 mark he has against let-handed pitchers. This is simply a more exaggerated example of what has been a career-long trend; Jones just can't hit lefties.
Even with how well Jones is hitting right now, he remains a victim of circumstance for Fantasy purposes. He will be useful in a week where the Marlins face five or more right-handed pitchers, but it's hard to justify using him with lefties lining up on the schedule. It is no surprise that his worst week of the season came during Fantasy Week 6 (May 5-11), when the Marlins faced a trio of lefties. If you snag Jones, you need to keep an eye on the probable pitchers for the upcoming week before getting him active.
Tommy John success story
Baseball fans alarmed by the Tommy John bug that's been going around this season should look at Hutchison as a beacon in the darkness. He had to undergo the surgery after just 11 major-league starts as a 21-year-old in 2012, but has worked his way back and is one of the success stories of the league so far for the Blue Jays.
Hutchison has returned from surgery as the pitcher he was expected to be pre-injury; not an ace, but a very solid pitcher who can rack up strikeouts when he gets going. He ranks 21st in the majors in K/9 at 8.85, and has so far avoided the sort of wildness one might expect from a young pitcher, walking just 2.70 batters per nine innings.
Hutchison isn't a perfect pitcher, or else he wouldn't be available so freely in a quarter of all CBSSports.com leagues. He is a fly ball pitcher, and that won't play well forever in a park like Rogers Centre that is so hitter friendly. Still, with how many pitchers remain on the disabled list, he can be helpful in any Fantasy format. I would rather own him than Justin Masterson or Ubaldo Jimenez at this point.
Another righty masher
Though he is a similar hitter, Smith should probably be more highly owned than fellow platoon star Jones. Maybe it's an anti-Petco Park bias, but the numbers Smith is putting up right now are worth owning in well more than three out of every five leagues.
Smith is hitting .333, and though his .371 BABIP is largely unsustainable, there's still a lot to like about him. Smith has cut his strikeout rate to 15.5 percent, a career-low number that could help him sustain a higher batting average than in years past. He has developed into an extremely patient hitter, swinging at just 39.8 percent of pitches thrown to him, and only 22.5 percent outside of the zone, a number that has dropped in three straight seasons.
The Padres have done a remarkable job keeping Smith away from left-handed pitchers, avoiding the temptation to shoehorn him in as an everyday player regardless of platoon splits. Though he almost certainly won't sustain his .341 average against righties, the fact that 90 percent of his plate appearances have come with his natural platoon advantage in his favor bodes well. Smith is a career .283 hitter against right-handed pitchers, and the Padres are maximizing his chances to succeed. Fantasy owners should be taking note.
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