Fantasy Baseball Week 6 Waiver Pickups: The Beastie Boys Edition
In honor of Adam Yauch, aka MCA, this week is the Beastie Boys edition of the fantasy baseball waiver pickups. We're pairing up each player with a song off of the Beastie Boys' legendary debut album "Licensed to Ill".
This week's Seriously You Guys, I Wasn't Kidding All-Stars:
Aaron Hill (45% Owned)
Jeff Samardzija (50% Owned)
Colby Rasmus (37% Owned)
“Time to Get Ill”: Alex Rios (49% Owned)
According to the weird internal calendar that seems to govern the ups and downs of Alex Rios' career, 2012 is indeed time to get ill.
To illustrate this phenomenon, I present Alex Rios' Fangraphs WAR by year, since 2008:
I can't explain it, but for some reason, Rios performs much better in even-numbered years than he does in odd-numbered ones.
It's a really interesting trend, but you shouldn't pick up Rios because he's "due." You should pick him up because he's been an excellent, if different, hitter this season.
The underlying numbers show that Rios has shifted his priorities at the plate, emphasizing contact over power. His contact rate is the highest of his career, and his plate discipline has never been better. Rios' 0.67 K/BB ratio is by far the best of his career.
This new approach has resulted in a spike in his groundball rate, which isn't a bad thing for a guy with Rios' speed. His current .307 BABIP is right in line with his career norm and could actually increase given his new batted-ball tendencies.
If you are looking for the 20/20 threat that Rios used to be, you'll be disappointed. That Alex Rios doesn't work here anymore.
However, if you're in need of a .280 batting average and and 25-30 steals, you've come to the right place.
“Rhymin and Stealin”: Jemile Weeks (53% Owned)
I can't speak to Jemile Weeks' abilities when it comes to "rhymin," but he's certainly been "stealin" so far this season, he just hasn't had many chances.
Even with blazing speed and a batted ball profile loaded with ground balls and line drives, Weeks' BABIP currently sits at a paltry .218, the 13th-worst mark in all of baseball.
Last year's .350 BABIP isn't exactly a realistic benchmark, but something closer to .320 is absolutely attainable.
So far, his deplorable luck has landed Weeks on first base just 27 times. Still, he's managed to rack up 10 stolen base attempts, converting on eight on them.
He is among the most aggressive base stealers in the game, and this season he's added efficiency to the mix.
In 2011, Weeks was successful on 67 percent of his attempts. So far this year, he's slid in safely 80 percent of the time.
Assuming his current aggressiveness and efficiency continue, and he's able to get himself to first base 175 times the rest of the way (a fair projection when his BABIP rebounds), Weeks would swipe over 40 bags the rest of the way.
“Paul Revere”: Will Middlebrooks (36% Owned)
Just a couple of weeks ago, most of us probably didn't know Will Middlebrooks' name. The 23-year old was barely old enough to drink a quart of beer, heading into his first full season at AAA Pawtucket.
Then Kevin Youkilis tweaked his back, and everything changed.
Middlebrooks has taken MLB by storm, ripping four doubles and three home runs in only 27 major league plate appearances.
I could go into detail about how he needs to walk more and how his BABIP is unsustainably high, but in Middlebrooks' case, that really doesn't matter.
Yeah, he's eventually going to cool off, but by the time that happens, he probably won't be playing for the Red Sox (or your fantasy team) anymore.
Youkilis is going to be back within the next couple of weeks, and Middlebrooks will most likely be thanked vociferously for his services, then ushered onto a bus back to Pawtucket.
Until that happens, enjoy the ride with Middlebrooks. He's caught lightning in a bottle; stories like his are what make fantasy baseball so darn fun.
Ride the hot streak and celebrate accordingly with two girlies and a beer that's cold.
“She’s Crafty”: Drew Smyly (35% Owned)
That's how I feel about Drew Smyly. Something special is clearly going on here, but his methods are far from obvious.
His stuff isn't overpowering, yet he posted dominant numbers during each of his short stays in the minor leagues. He mixes his pitches and changes speeds exceedingly well, and he's tallied an impressive 10.3 percent swinging strike at the major league level.
Yes, Smyly's numbers are going to regress a bit. He won't continue to strand 91.7 percent of baserunners and his BABIP will probably jump a bit from his current .276 mark.
However, even if that regression doubles his ERA (which is currently 1.59), Smyly will still be a tremendously effective fantasy starter.
Smyly misses bats, but rarely misses the strike zone. That's a recipe for long term success.
With a potent offense supporting him, Smyly will deliver 8-10 wins along with strong numbers in ERA, WHIP, and K.
Head off to your waiver wire to pick him up.
And let me know if you happen to see my remote control or my old skateboard around anywhere.
“Posse in Effect”: Addison Reed (28% Owned)
Perhaps disgusted is a bit too strong of a word, but there's not a whole lot to like about the posse of closers that the Chicago White Sox have run out there this season.
The only thing worse than initial closer Hector Santiago's ugly 5.73 ERA is his ghastly 7.49 FIP.
Matt Thornton hasn't been a disaster, but he hasn't been good. So far, he's on pace for the worst strikeout rate and second-worst ERA of his career.
Chris Sale pitched well as a starter, but was moved to the bullpen to protect his health. Since then, Sale has had as many MRIs as relief outings, and his future as the closer is very much in jeopardy.
Out of all of this mess, Addison Reed has emerged.
Reed and his mid-90s heat have not been scored upon in 13 appearances this season.
I don't personally tend to put much stock in the idea of a "closer mentality," but I'd imagine that White Sox manager Robin Ventura does.
However you choose to define "closer mentality," Addison Reed has it.
He's registered saves in each of his last two outings, allowing no baserunners and fanning three of the four batters he faced.
The closer situation in Chicago is still very much up in the air, but if I'm picking a horse right now, I'd go with Reed.
“Slow and Low”: Jeff Niemann (10% Owned)
Slow and low has been quite an effective tempo for Jeff Niemann this season. Although his fastball velocity has dropped down to just over 90 mph, he's struck out a full batter per inning more than last season.
When the ball is put in play, he's been able to work effectively down in the zone, inducing a career-high groundball rate of 49.5 percent. With a terrific infield defense behind him, that approach will be effective for Niemann all season long.
His results have been pretty good so far, but his 3.48 ERA could actually get even better.
Niemann's strand rate currently sits at only 62.8 percent. As the season moves along, that number should regress toward the mean, ending up closer to 70 percent in the end.
Niemann has never posted an ERA below 3.94 for a full season, but this year's success has been fueled by sustainable improvements in his approach. It's not a fluke—we need to recalibrate the way we think about him.
Niemann is just a better pitcher this season, and his numbers will reflect that. You might even say, like a volcano, he'll erupt.
“The New Style”: Zack Cozart (35% Owned)
Zach Cozart has tailed off a bit after a white-hot start to his rookie season, but he's settled in as a very productive fantasy shortstop.
He's not going to hit for a great average, but he has valuable pop from a position filled with power-challenged wonders like Erick Aybar and Yunel Escobar. Mix in a bit of speed, and you've got yourself a nice little commodity.
Cozart is tied for tops among all shortstops with 14 extra-base hits. Even with a batting average of just .267, he has more total bases than Hanley Ramirez, Asdrubal Cabrera and Jose Reyes.
His pop is certainly appealing, but his biggest value for your team comes from the lineup that he hits in.
Cozart has been shifted back and forth between the leadoff and No. 2 spot in the Cincinnati Reds batting order, but in either case, he'll be followed up by the likes of Brandon Phillips, Joey Votto and Jay Bruce.
For the rest of the season, only Reyes, Ramirez and Derek Jeter have a rosier outlook when it comes to scoring runs.
“Hold It Now, Hit It”: Andy Dirks (11% Owned)
I'm not sure who Andy Dirks' hitting coach was during his developmental years, but I wouldn't be surprised if this track had been playing on a loop in the batting cages.
Dirks lives be the old adage: "See ball. Hit ball".
You'll notice that nowhere in that simple phrase does it say anything about taking a walk.
Dirks' contact rate is nearly 90 percent and his walk rate is nearly nonexistent. In 63 plate appearances this season, he's drawn a free pass twice.
Admittedly, it's not my favorite approach, but I can't argue with the results. Dirks' improved play, combined with the play of his surrounding cast, has landed him in an enviable situation.
With Ryan Raburn, Delmon Young and Brennan Boesch all off to less than impressive starts, Dirks has a firm lock on everyday playing time.
Not only has he locked down a job, Dirks has been moved up to the No. 2 slot in the Tigers batting order, backed up by Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder. As long as he sticks in that spot, he'll be valuable for run scoring and batting average, not to mention the double-digit homers and steals that he's capable of chipping in.
“No Sleep Till Brooklyn”: A.J. Ellis (7% Owned)
At first glance, A.J. Ellis is a rather unremarkable baseball player.
The Los Angeles Dodgers' catcher has hit .273 in his 112-game MLB career, swatting just four home runs along the way.
However, Ellis does possess one very remarkable skill—he takes a base on balls like it's going out of style.
Ellis has walked in 20.4 percent of his plate appearances this season, which ranks second in all of baseball, behind only Joey Votto. He's ridden that walk rate to an impressive .454 OBP, a figure that ranks fifth in MLB.
Don Mattingly is far from the smartest manager in baseball, but I'm hopeful that he'll eventually take note of Ellis' skills and move him to a spot in the order where his on-base ability will help the team most.
With regular at bats in an offense fueled by run producers like Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier, Ellis is going to score runs.
He won't do much else, but in a deep or two-catcher league, he's definitely got some value.