Fantasy Baseball Week 7 Waiver Pickups: Network TV Upfront Edition
This week's fantasy baseball waiver pickups are led by Mark Reynolds and Bud Norris, and each player is linked to a new show from this season's Network TV upfront.
Upfront season is the couple of weeks at the beginning of every summer during which the major TV networks shower ad buyers in sitcom pilots and shrimp cocktail, trying to drum up interest for their new shows debuting in the fall.
It seems like an apt comparison for the fantasy baseball waiver wire (minus the shrimp cocktail, of course).
This week's Seriously You Guys, I Wasn't Kidding All-Stars:
Aaron Hill (42% Owned)
Jason Kubel (43% Owned)
Addison Reed (38% Owned)
“Go On”: Mark Reynolds (42% Owned)
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A former star who's been out of the game for a spell seems poised to reclaim his former glory as a part of something that wasn't expected to be great, but might just end up being pretty good.
Mark Reynolds, meet Matthew Perry, star of NBC's new sitcom, "Go On".
Reynolds' peak never quite reached the same pinnacle that Perry hit as Chandler Bing in "Friends," but he was a darn fine (if one-dimensional) fantasy baseball asset, averaging over 35 home runs per season from 2008-2011.
His power numbers weren't what we expected early on, but the rest of his peripherals were right in line with career norms. In fact, Reynolds' 16.7-percent walk rate is nearly two points higher than his previous best, and his 31.5-percent ground-ball rate is his best since 2010.
Still, dropping an injured Mark Reynolds was probably the right move for a lot of owners. He's not an elite hitter, and with limited bench/DL slots available, he's absolutely expendable in shallower formats.
If someone in your league cut him loose, and you can stomach his abysmal batting average, now's the time to grab him. He'll be off the DL in a matter of days, and his injured ribs should be fully healed by the time he returns.
“Nashville”: Bud Norris (49% Owned)
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Actress Connie Britton can empathize with Bud Norris' situation. Both are outstanding at their respective crafts, but surrounded by a pile of garbage.
In Britton's case, that pile of garbage is ABC's new southern-fried drama "Nashville". In Norris' case, it's the Houston Astros.
Although Britton's supporting cast might bring her season to an early end (that'll happen when you co-star's acting career peaked at the age of nine), the Astros can't completely hold Norris back.
Sure, he won't get much in the way of run support, but he'll deliver fantastic results in the categories that he can control. In fact, control is exactly the reason for that.
Norris' 11.7-percent swinging strike rate ranks fifth among qualified MLB starters, and he's complemented it with a career-best 2.68 BB/9.
He's always had put-away stuff. Now that Norris is able to find the strike zone on a consistent basis, that stuff becomes even more devastating.
Norris has been great so far, and there's no reason to think that his current production can't continue. It also doesn't hurt that he has two starts coming up next week.
“Made in Jersey”: Yonder Alonso (25% Owned)
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At first glance, "Made In Jersey" looks like a poorly executed rip-off of the second half of My Cousin Vinny.
You might say that Yonder Alonso is nothing more than a cheap knock-off of former San Diego Padres first baseman Adrian Gonzalez.
Although I don't have many positive things to say about "Made in Jersey", the Alonso/Gonzalez comparison is an apt and, frankly, complimentary match. There's nothing wrong with being Adrian Gonzalez-lite.
Alonso's power is still developing, but his batting average seems to be fully matured.
He's cut his strikeout rate to under 20 percent for the first time in his big league career, and although his .353 BABIP seems primed for a regression, Alonso routinely maintained BABIPs in the .330 range during his time in the minors. His 29.7-percent line drive rate doesn't hurt either.
Alonso is a fantastic fill-in at a corner spot, with potential to help you out in AVG, R and RBI. In fact, he'd be a perfect complement to somebody like Mark Reynolds.
“Last Resort”: Brian Fuentes (39% Owned)
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What better comparison for the Oakland A's abomination of a closer than a show about a rogue nuclear submarine turning against its own nation, hell-bent on havoc?
ABC's "Last Resort" actually looks like it could be a solid show, and as much fun as it is to make fun of him, Brian Fuentes could actually be a solid closer.
Fuentes is in the midst of his best season since 2008. He doesn't have the strikeout stuff he used to, but a career-low BB/9 has boosted his K/BB ratio to a career-best 6.00. Prior to this season, his best full-season mark in that category was just 3.73.
Bill Beane will undoubtedly attempt to flip Fuentes at the trade deadline, but until then, he's a full-time closer available in more than half of Yahoo! leagues. He won't stay that way for long.
“The Mindy Project”: A.J. Ellis (18% Owned)
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I'm not even going to attempt a direct comparison here. I just love both of these people so darn much.
"The Mindy Project" hasn't gotten a ton of hype, but if the trailer is any indication, it is going to be fantastic.
A.J. Ellis was barely noticed heading into the season but has quickly established himself as one of the best OBP men in baseball. His 18.4-percent walk rate is the best in baseball among catchers with at least 70 plate appearances.
The knock on Ellis is that he won't provide anything beyond his on-base ability, but so far, he's proven to be a much more complete player.
He's shown surprising power, with a .178 ISO that outpaces purported power hitters Carlos Santana, Buster Posey and Jesus Montero.
Ellis is also becoming an elite run-scorer, crossing the plate seven times in his last 11 games. Expect that trend to continue, as his on-base skills have earned him a prime slot in the Dodgers' order.
“Elementary”: Wei-Yin Chen (19% Owned)
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I think I have a pretty good idea of what the executives at CBS were thinking when they green-lit "Elementary".
They probably saw a few episodes of the BBC's fantastic series "Sherlock" and thought that they could come up with another lucrative take on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's classic characters.
I imagine that the Baltimore Orioles had a similar thought process regarding Wei-Yin Chen. Amid all of the off-season hoopla around Yu Darvish, the O's thought that they could find the next best thing from Japan.
Where "Elementary" has failed miserably, Chen has been an overwhelming success.
It's tough to judge Chen's early success without prior MLB stats for comparison, but aside from his slightly lucky .265 BABIP, all signs point to a pitcher who'll be a valuable contributor for the long haul.
Over seven starts, Chen has been remarkably consistent. He's punched out at least four and walked no more than three in each outing, allowing more than two earned runs only once.
“Vegas”: Angel Pagan (43% Owned)
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"Vegas" hasn't been talked about much heading into the new season, just as Angel Pagan was a forgotten man heading into this season.
Both deserve better.
"Vegas" has an intriguing premise and a fantastic cast, headlined by reliable stars Dennis Quaid and Michael Chiklis.
Pagan has a full-time gig and a full suite of tools, including a batting average that he's managed to make even better this season.
His BABIP is right in line with career norms, but by slicing his strikeout rate to just 9.5 percent and hitting a line drive or ground ball 67 percent of the time he makes contact, Pagan has boosted his average by 20 points.
That change in approach will make reaching double-digit homers a challenge, but a higher OBP means more opportunities to run, giving Pagan a great shot to deliver 25 steals the rest of the way.
“Partners”: Elliot Johnson (11% Owned)
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"Partners" is everything we've come to expect (and, in my case, loathe) from CBS. It's a punchline-per-minute comedy backed up by a hair-trigger laugh track.
Elliot Johnson is everything we've come to expect from the Tampa Bay Rays. He's an unheralded infielder, a great defender who was never expected to produce much with his bat.
In both cases, results are almost guaranteed. CBS' comedy lineup has turned into a printing press for cash, and the Rays' infield has become a revolving door of unexpected run producers.
Johnson doesn't have much power to speak of, nor will he hit for a particularly high average, but he can run. He swiped 30 bags in his last full AAA season, and with seven bags already in his pocket this season, he's a good bet set a new career high.
His place in the potent Rays' lineup will give him ample opportunities to deliver R and RBI, making him a valuable three-category contributor as a middle infielder in deeper leagues.
“The Goodwin Games”: James McDonald (39% Owned)
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"The Goodwin Games" is an uplifting tale centered around siblings competing for a one last shot at the family fortune.
It remains to be seen whether the story of James McDonald's career will be a positive one, but at this point, he's almost certainly working on his last shot at a long-term gig in the big leagues.
After bouncing between levels early in his career, McDonald finally settled in Pittsburgh last season. After a year of relative consistency, he's begun to tap into his very deep potential in early 2012.
McDonald has always had electric stuff, and he's finally getting it under control, riding a 9.5-percent swinging strike rate to a career-high 22.8 strikeout rate, while also setting a new career best in walk rate.
And that's before he whiffed 11 Washington Nationals (walking just one) in less than six innings of work on Thursday.
His 2.68 ERA isn't sustainable, but something closer to 3.30 is absolutely attainable over the long term.
“Revolution”: Joaquin Benoit (17% Owned)
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J.J. Abrams' latest series, "Revolution", is a compelling look at what our society would become of our society is the world's electricity was suddenly shut down.
What happens when the lights go out?
I can't say for sure, but my best guess is that the resulting dystopian wasteland would bear more than a passing resemblance to the Detroit Tigers' bullpen.
The Tigers have turned blowing late leads into an art form. The bullpen sports a league-worst 5.17 ERA and has converted only eight of a possible 14 save chances.
Much of that blame can and should fall on Jose Valverde, and now that he's down with a tweaked back, Joaquin Benoit has an opportunity to right the ship.
Benoit's early ERA is ugly, but a .444 BABIP is as much to blame as anything else. I'd much rather focus on his 34.7-percent strikeout rate, which ranks fifth among all AL relievers.
It's possible that Benoit will get a save chance or two and the job will pass back to Valverde when he returns in a couple of days, but it's also possible that he'll mow down the opposition so impressively that he'll earn himself a longer look at the closer's gig.
It's also possible that Valverde's injury is worse than we think, as "Papa Grande" hasn't exactly been a picture of health throughout his career.
Nothing is guaranteed, but if you can spare the roster spot, Benoit is a great speculative play.