Fantasy Baseball Week 5 Waiver Pickups: The Avengers Edition
This week's fantasy baseball waiver pickups compare our subjects to the cast of this summer's first blockbuster, The Avengers, because obviously, the best way to provide measured and unbiased advice is to compare a group of marginally effective athletes to mythical superheroes.
On top of that, we're debuting a new feature in this week's column.
Clearly, my impact on players' Yahoo! ownership percentages isn't what I'd like it to be. As such, there are a few players that tend to appear over and over on this list, unable to crack the 50 percent ownership barrier that graduates them out of this silly space.
Rather than taking up valuable analogical real estate to reprise my thoughts on those players, I'll instead list three of these players at the beginning of every week's column, leaving more slides for newbies.
Here they are, your inaugural Seriously You Guys, I Wasn't Kidding All-Stars:
Aaron Hill (47 percent Owned)
Gavin Floyd (38 percent Owned)
Erik Bedard (43 percent Owned)
“Fantasy Hawkeye:” Jeff Samardzija (27 Percent Owned)
I can't speak for Jeff Samardzija's skills as an archer, but I can say that so far this season, his accuracy with a baseball could absolutely rival Hawkeye's skills with his bow.
Prior to this year, Samardzija had never posted a BB/9 lower than 3.89. This year, he's hitting his spots to the tune of a 2.84 BB/9.
For most pitchers, that kind of improved control would mean pitching to more contact, but Samardzija has bucked that trend. He's striking out more than a batter per inning while setting a career high in swinging strike rate (13 percent).
Based on his career numbers, his 3.41 ERA seems unsustainably high, but the underlying numbers bear out the fact that Samardzija is a completely different pitcher this season. In reality, he's actually been a bit unlucky.
His .315 BABIP and 66 percent strand rate should both regress to a more favorable position, bringing Samardzija's ERA closer to his sparking 2.30 FIP.
Jeff Samardzija should be owned in every league, especially yours.
“Fantasy Iron Man:” Jordan Walden (61 Percent Owned)
Jordan Walden is on a path to his very own Iron Man origin story, just without the whole Afghan prison camp angle.
Much like Tony Stark's original Iron Man suit, the 2011 version of Walden wasn't perfect, but it got the job done. After being junked from the closer's role last week, Walden is retooling.
His 6.75 BB/9 would seem to indicate a regressing in his previously improved control, but he's actually located a higher percentage of his pitches in the strike zone this season than ever before. He's never been worse at getting strike one, however, but given the fact that he pumped the first pitch into the zone over 60 percent of the time last season, I'm confident that he can make the adjustment.
Walden's stuff is exactly what it's always been: devastating. His average fastball velocity is still sitting right around 97 mph, and he sports a superhuman K/9 of 13.5.
More important than anything, the Angels very much want Jordan Walden to be their closer. Manager Mike Scioscia said so himself:
"It should be a quick fix. When Jordan gets his stuff right, it will play in the closer spot, and that's what we're working toward."
He'll get it right, he'll regain the closer's role and he'll be dominant.
If somebody made the mistake of dropping him in your league, grab him and feel free to populate your league message board with a bit of Tony Stark's condescending snark.
“Fantasy Incredible Hulk:” Pedro Alvarez (35 Percent Owned)
If the Incredible Hulk ever decided to take up baseball, I imagine his stat line would look a lot like that of Pedro Alvarez.
Undeterred by his mammoth 32.4 percent strikeout rate, Alvarez has blasted seven home runs in just 74 plate appearances.
He won't consistently muscle 36.8 percent of his fly balls over the fence, but a 20 percent HR/FB is absolutely within reach. With consistent playing time, that means Alvarez could challenge 30 homers on the season.
If you lost Kevin Youkilis or Pablo Sandoval, Alvarez is a fine replacement, but understand that he won't give you what you expected from those two.
His batting average is going to be bad. I would be floored if he ended the season within even 10 points of his current .257 mark.
Alvarez's singular skill set also makes him a demotion risk. If he's not hitting home runs, he's essentially worthless to the Pirates.
Pick him up while he's hot, but if he begins to turn back into Bruce Banner, don't hesitate to cut Alvarez loose.
“Fantasy Nick Fury:” Allen Craig (34 Percent Owned)
Much like Nick Fury, Allen Craig is a secondary character who never seems to get the recognition he deserves.
They're glue guys; rarely the star, but they seem to show up everywhere.
Fury shows his face in a wide variety of Marvel comics as a unifying force for the Avengers. Craig pops up all over the baseball diamond, providing his fantasy owners (and the world champion St. Louis Cardinals) with Swiss Army-like versatility.
He already possesses 2B and OF eligibility, and he'll soon add 1B to that mix as well. His playing time has been sporadic so far, but his positional flexibility will earn him four to six starts per week over the course of the season.
Regardless of where you choose to play him, Craig provides a welcome mix of cross-category production. Even after missing a month, he'll hit .285 and chip in at least 10 homers and 10 steals the rest of the way.
“Fantasy Thor:” Colby Rasmus (43 Percent Owned)
Thor's father forced him to take human form in order to teach him a lesson in humility. Clearly, the evil luck dragons are doing something similar to my man Colby Rasmus.
Even with a line drive rate that's flirted with 25 percent all season, Rasmus can't seem to lift his BABIP over .270.
His OPS still sits at a respectable .767, and there's plenty of upside to be had. A month of poor production probably eliminates his chance at a 20/20 season, but I still think he's a good bet for at least 15/15 the rest of the way.
Eventually, it's going to even out.
Eventually, the "at 'em" balls will turn into base hits.
Eventually, Rasmus' ownership percentage will top 50 percent.
Eventually, I won't have to write about him anymore.
“Fantasy Captain America:” Brandon Belt (22 Percent Owned)
After an early career being kicked around like a scrawny Steve Rogers, things are finally lining up for Brandon Belt. And he didn't even need to subject himself to a dangerous experimental surgery.
With Aubrey Huff and Pablo Sandoval both out of the lineup, there aren't many players left to stand in Belt's way. It seems that Bruce Bochy will finally be forced to slot Belt into his everyday lineup.
His power hasn't shown up yet this season, but his minor league numbers indicate that it will eventually surface. In the meantime, his .370 OBP is a nice way to tide over his fantasy owners.
If you have a 1B, CI or OF hole to fill, there aren't many options better than Belt.
“Fantasy Black Widow:” Drew Smyly (24 Percent Owned)
Smyly isn't going to maintain a sub-2.00 ERA for the entire season, but his current xFIP of 3.62 is a very reasonable projection of his full-season performance.
For all the talk of Smyly not possessing knockout stuff, he's induced a swing-and-miss on 9.4 percent of his offerings, that's better than strikeout mavens Jon Lester, Felix Hernandez and Brandon Morrow.
Much like the Black Widow, Smyly succeeds with a smoke-and-mirrors approach, favoring guile and deception over power.
He mixes his pitches and changes speeds exceedingly well. Pitch F/X data labels four pitches in Smyly's arsenal, and no two pitches are within three mph of each other in terms of average velocity. That's a lot for a hitter to process, especially against a pitcher who he's seeing for the first time.
Smyly is going to be effective all year, but he'll never have quite the advantage that he has right now.