Fantasy Baseball Week 4 Waiver Pickups: NBA Playoffs Edition

Gerard MartinCorrespondent IApril 27, 2012

Fantasy Baseball Week 4 Waiver Pickups: NBA Playoffs Edition

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    This week's fantasy baseball waiver wire pickups come alongside the launch of the NBA playoffs.

    Sure, the NFL draft is dominating national sports coverage at the moment, but we did that last week!

    As usual, we have Yahoo! and FanGraphs to thank for their vast statistical resources, and all of the players on this list are available in at least 50 percent of Yahoo! leagues.

    Right as this piece was posted, I heard the news about Bryce Harper. Pick him up if you've got a bench spot, but don't go crazy. He's not going to be an All-Star right away.

    On to the rest of the advice...

“Fantasy Atlanta Hawks”: Gavin Floyd (29% Owned)

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    In every season in recent memory, the Atlanta Hawks have made the playoffs in the Eastern Conference, and in every season in recent memory, nobody cared.

    I'm sure Gavin Floyd can sympathize.

    In each of the last three seasons, he's posted an xFIP between 3.64 and 3.73. His consistency has been remarkable, but his reception among fantasy owners has been decidedly less so.

    His 3.60 ERA so far this season is exactly what we should expect, but there are underlying numbers that indicate a pending jump in production.

    Some might look at those numbers and say that regression is on the horizon for Floyd, and frankly I can't argue that his BABIP, which currently sits at .200, won't rise.

    However, that's not the only stat that's primed for an increase.

    Floyd's K/9 sits at 7.92 right now, a career-high number, but not a huge departure from the numbers he's posted over the past few years. Most of the time, these sorts of early-season changes are often nothing more than casualties of small sample size.

    This isn't one of those times.

    Floyd has changed his approach for this season, throwing his cut fastball more often than he ever has before. This change has resulted in a 12.2 percent swinging strike rate, by far the highest of his career.

    That number is the fifth best in baseball, better than strikeout kings like Justin Verlander and Clayton Kershaw.

    Eventually, that elite whiff rate is going to lead to fantastic strikeout numbers. Grab him now, before anyone notices.

“Fantasy Oklahoma City Thunder”: Mike Trout (20% Owned)

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    Other than maybe the Miami Heat, no team in the NBA is blessed with more raw talent than the Oklahoma City Thunder.

    Other than maybe Bryce Harper, no prospect in baseball is blessed with more raw talent than the Los Angeles Angels' Mike Trout.

    The Thunder played exceptionally well this season and earned a No. 2 seed in the Western Conference playoffs.

    Trout has also played exceptionally well this season, yet all he's earned is a bus ticket to Salt Lake City.

    Maybe they're not quite so similar after all.

    I'm starting to run out of things to say about Trout. There aren't enough adjectives to describe how dominant he's been in Triple-A, nor are there enough expletives to express my frustration with the Angels organization.

    Sooner or later, the Angels are going to realize that Trout is a far better option than Vernon Wells and his .264 on-base percentage, and that day is creeping closer every day.

    If you have room on your bench, stash Trout now.

“Fantasy Orlando Magic”: Colby Rasmus (49% Owned)

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    Colby Rasmus must be jealous of Dwight Howard. I mean, Howard put on a clinic on how to mope your way through a season, accomplishing the difficult double of All-NBA production and a coach-killing performance that would make Latrell Sprewell blush.

    Clearly this is what Rasmus was trying to do last year in St. Louis. Unfortunately, it's tough to get Tony LaRussa fired when you're hitting .246.

    This season, it looks like Rasmus has put his malcontent ways behind him and focused on tapping into his fathoms-deep reservoir of talent.

    His .240 BABIP proves that luck hasn't been on his side, but even still, Rasmus has posted the second-best slugging percentage of his career along with a career-high line drive rate.

    I've committed to keep writing about him until he gets above 50 percent ownership. So pick Rasmus up, if only so somebody else can move into the column instead of him.

    We're so close!

“Fantasy Utah Jazz”: Aaron Hill (41% Owned)

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    Heading into their respective seasons, not much was expected of either the Utah Jazz or Aaron Hill. Both had flashed some potential, but down years in 2011 dampened their projections for 2012.

    Lately, both have proven their doubters wrong.

    The Jazz closed the regular season on a five-game winning streak, stealing a playoff spot from the Phoenix Suns.

    Hill has locked down his place as a top-10 fantasy 2B, belting seven extra-base hits in only 67 at-bats. His counting numbers have been very good, but his plate discipline has been even more impressive.

    Heading into 2012, Hill had never walked in more than 8.4 percent of his plate appearances. So far this year, he's drawn a free pass 11.7 percent of the time. It's a small sample size, but that huge boost in walk rate shows that Hill is being more selective at the plate.

    His more refined approach has clearly paid off so far, and I see no reason for it to stop.

“Fantasy San Antonio Spurs”: Allen Craig (25% Owned)

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    Although I won't expect to see "OLD" written next to 27-year-old Allen Craig's name on any lineup cards, the St. Louis Cardinals have taken a patient approach to his rehab that would make San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich proud.

    Late in spring training, the Cardinals were optimistic about Craig cracking the Opening Day roster, but after he suffered a preseason setback, they made the decision to wait until he was 100 percent healthy before easing him back into the lineup.

    Craig hasn't played in the field yet, but he did collect a couple of base knocks for the Triple-A Memphis Redbirds during a rehab assignment last night. The team plans to ease him back into the field at first base, then in the outfield.

    Assuming that everything goes as planned with his rehab, Craig will be up with the big club in the next week or so. With Lance Berkman on the shelf and Carlos Beltran always in need of the occasional day of rest, it won't take long for the versatile Craig to snag an everyday role.

    With dual eligibility at 2B and OF, he's an ideal add as a bench bat.

“Fantasy Los Angeles Clippers”: Jason Kubel (36% Owned)

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    Though Jason Kubel is nowhere near the player that Chris Paul is, both moved to greener pastures prior to the 2012 season, and both are clearly reaping the benefits.

    Paul joined forces with Blake Griffin, one of the best at-the-rim finishers in the NBA.

    Kubel literally moved to greener pastures, departing the pitcher-friendly confines of Minnesota's Target Field for cozier surroundings in Arizona. According to ESPN's park factors, Chase Field has been the eighth-most hospitable ballpark for home run hitters this season.

    Kubel stumbled a bit out of the gate, registering more than his share of whiffs as he's gotten himself used to National League pitching, but he's also posted the highest walk rate of his career.

    He's left the yard three times in his last 22 at-bats, hitting .364 along the way. With Chris Young's injury clearing a path to regular playing time, Kubel is an add for outfield-hungry teams in any format.

“Fantasy New York Knicks”: Jarrod Parker (18% Owned)

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    No team in the NBA is as unpredictable as the New York Knicks. Their talent is immense and unquestionable, but whether that actually translates to production is anybody's guess.

    Most rookie pitchers, Jarrod Parker included, would fall under the same description.

    Parker has an impressive pedigree, never recording an ERA higher than 3.79 at any professional level. His first start as an Oakland Athletic was equally as impressive; Parker allowed only one run in 6.1 innings, fanning five of the 25 batters he faced.

    He'll absolutely have some ups and downs this season, but few environments are as conducive to developing young pitchers as the Oakland Coliseum. All of that foul territory has a way of expanding a starter's margin of error.

    You'd be best served to let him ride the bench for his next start at Fenway against the Boston Red Sox, but he's still worth an add to your bench.

“Fantasy Memphis Grizzlies”: Denard Span (21% Owned)

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    If the Memphis Grizzlies ever got their entire team completely healthy at once, they'd be NBA title contenders.

    If Denard Span could make it through this entire season completely healthy, he'd be an excellent fantasy outfielder.

    Span played only 70 games last year, but back in 2009 and 2010, he stole 49 bases in two years while chipping in a very beneficial batting average.

    He won't help you in the power department, but if you recently lost Brett Gardner, Span is a fantastic source of cheap speed. His .373 OBP means he'll have plenty of opportunities to run, and when he does, he's among the most efficient thieves in baseball.

    Span has been successful on 78 percent of his attempts for his career, and he's been caught more than seven times in a season just once.

“Fantasy Boston Celtics”: Gerardo Parra (11% Owned)

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    Much the like Boston Celtics, most of the attention that Gerardo Parra receives is for his defense.

    He led all National League left fielders in FanGraphs UZR last season, but like many NBA analysts felt about the Celtics earlier this season, defense alone just wasn't enough.

    With that in mind, the offense-hungry Arizona Diamondbacks chose to bring in Jason Kubel to take Parra's spot in the starting lineup.

    Parra was banished to the bench until Chris Young crashed into a wall and shook free an opportunity.

    With regular playing time, Parra has been a terrific fantasy contributor, delivering two home runs and five steals in only 56 plate appearances. He won't keep up this power pace, but the speed is absolutely for real.

    As long as Young is out, Parra is a great pickup.