Fantasy Baseball Week 8 Waiver Pickups: Community Edition
Matt Adams, Ernesto Frieri and Felipe Paulino led this week's list of fantasy baseball waiver pickups.
I had some trouble coming up with a topic for this week's analogies, so I decided to get back to this column's roots: writing about TV shows that I like, but few other people watch.
If you missed last week's season-ending Community extravaganza, I highly recommend it.
This week's Seriously You Guys, I Wasn't Kidding All-Stars:
Yonder Alonso (30% Owned)
A.J. Ellis (27% Owned)
Brian Fuentes (46% Owned)
“Fantasy Troy Barnes”: Ernesto Frieri (29% Owned)
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I imagine that Ernesto Frieri's first experience in a high-leverage relief situation felt much like Troy Barnes' first attempt at air conditioner repair. Sure, neither had much experience, but right away, it just made sense.
Frieri initially seemed like the third option in the Los Angeles Angels closer pecking order, but since his trade from the San Diego Padres, he's been among the best relievers in baseball.
Frieri has yet to allow a run as an Angel, and he's whiffed 19 of the 32 batters he's faced. Counting his time as a Padre, his 45.1 percent strikeout rate ranks second among all major league relievers, behind only Aroldis Chapman.
Frieri's profile as an extreme fly ball pitcher is a slight concern, but it shouldn't bother him much in Anaheim. Only two American League parks are unfriendlier to power hitters.
He hasn't been officially announced as the closer, but Ernesto Frieri clearly has the best stuff of any Angels reliever. He converted his first save chance, and he'll convert at least 20 more the rest of the way.
“Fantasy Abed Nadir”: Jason Kubel (43% Owned)
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When Abed isn't unleashing his boundless imagination in the Dreamatorium, he seems almost robotic.
I can't speak to Jason Kubel's imagination (although I've heard he's a big fan of Inspector Spacetime), but I can say that his production at the plate is borderline robotic.
Kubel posted a walk rate of at least nine percent, a strikeout rate below 20 percent and at least 21 home runs in each of his last three full seasons in Minnesota.
Perhaps most importantly, at least 11.9 percent of Kubel's fly balls left the yard during that time. His career rate sits even a little bit higher, at 12.5 percent.
He figured to push that rate even higher when he moved his home games to homer-friendly Chase Field, and so far, that's exactly what's happened. His home HR/FB rate is a robust 17.6 percent.
Yet, in 171 plate appearances, he's hit only three home runs.
Oddly enough, Kubel has yet cleared the fence on the road. That trend won't continue forever. In fact, I'd wager he'll hit at least two homers on the Diamondbacks' next road trip, even if that means finding the seats at pitcher-friendly venues in San Francisco and San Diego.
“Fantasy Britta Perry”: Mitch Moreland (36% Owned)
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Britta Perry is probably the weakest link in the study group; but amongst such a talented cast of characters, even the weakest link has value.
Mitch Moreland can sympathize.
It's hard to get noticed when you're surrounded by fantasy superstars like Josh Hamilton, Ian Kinsler and Elvis Andrus, but with seven home runs already this season, Moreland is certainly making an effort to turn some heads.
He won't necessarily play every single day, but he'll see enough time in the lineup to log at least 500 plate appearances. With that kind of opportunity in one of the best offenses in baseball, Moreland will easily be top 70 in both runs scored and RBI.
“Fantasy Jeff Winger”: Brian Matusz (2% Owned)
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In the very first episode of Community, Jeff Winger was revealed to be a fraud. Through his first few starts of 2012, Brian Matusz seemed to be in the same situation.
After being touted as a top prospect, this was a make-or-break season for Matusz, and he was breaking.
He face-planted in his first three starts, allowing a total of 13 earned runs in only 14.2 innings. Those struggles have torpedoed his full-season numbers, but since that point, Matusz has been excellent.
In his last six starts, Matusz has allowed more than three runs just once (there's no shame in getting knocked around by the Texas Rangers) and held the opposition to one run or fewer three times.
His last outing was his best of the season, a two-hit nine-strikeout gem against the Boston Red Sox.
Regardless of whether his Baltimore Orioles can keep up their breakneck pace, Matusz has the pedigree and the stuff to be a solid fantasy starter. For the rest of the season, he'll be just that.
“Fantasy Annie Edison”: Matt Adams (17% Owned)
Annie Edison is so darned cute.
In a fantasy sense, I can't help thinking the same thing about Matt Adams. Look at those chubby little cheeks.
Seriously though, Adams is an incredibly attractive fantasy asset.
With Lance Berkman down indefinitely and Allen Craig being Allen Craig, there's no shortage of opportunity for a first baseman in St. Louis.
This is Adams's first taste of the big leagues, but his power will play on any level.
He hit a total of 36 home runs last season, after pounding 22 the year before. He'll pay for that power with more strikeouts than I'd prefer to see, but such is life for a rookie.
Adams can expect to see about 350 plate appearances the rest of the way, and he's absolutely capable of turning that opportunity into 15 home runs and a .265 average.
“Fantasy Pierce Hawthorne”: Vladimir Guerrero (7% Owned)
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Pierce Hawthorne knows a thing or two about being written off. He landed at Greendale after being effectively disowned by his ivory-capped father.
Vlad Guerrero wasn't forced into community college, but spent the Spring on his couch rather than in a major league training camp, overlooked by front offices and fantasy owners alike.
Even when Alex Anthopoulos and the Toronto Blue Jays first decided to give Vlad a shot, his fantasy value was minimal at best. Now that Adam Lind has been sent down, one of the coziest DH spots in baseball is wide open.
So far this season, ESPN Park Factors rates Rogers Centre as the fourth-best hitter's park in baseball, a position it held last year as well.
Aside from somehow ending up back on the Texas Rangers, Guerrero couldn't have possibly ended up in a better situation.
In 590 at-bats with the Baltimore Orioles last season, Guerrero managed 13 homers and a .290 average. It'll probably be a couple more weeks before he comes up, but in a better hitter's park and a much better hitting lineup, Guerrero has a chance to deliver similar output in only half the at-bats.
“Fantasy Ben Chang”: Felipe Paulino (16% Owned)
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Taking a cue from Ben Chang (without the army of preteen security guards), Felipe Paulino has made a forcible takeover of the No. 1 spot in the Kansas City Royals rotation.
Paulino has always possessed knockout stuff. His average fastball checks in at 95.4 mph, the second-highest velocity among MLB starters, better than purported fireballers David Price and Justin Verlander.
Prior to this season, poor control and chronic bad luck had held him back, but so far in 2012, neither has been an issue.
Paulino has cut his walk rate to just 6.8 percent, by far the lowest of his career. His BABIP checks in at a seemingly elevated .318, but that's actually well below his career average of .344.
With that out of the way, Paulino has rolled to a 1.42 ERA and 2.03 FIP. He obviously can't keep up this level of dominance, but that doesn't mean he won't still be useful.
His 90.6 percent strand rate and 0.36 HR/9 will experience some unfavorable regression, but that won't stop Paulino from posting a 3.75 ERA and striking out a batter per inning the rest of the way.
“Fantasy Craig Pelton”: Tyler Clippard (36% Owned)
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Tyler Clippard is a man in search of a role change. He's been dominant as a setup man, but as the Nationals' closer situation crumbles in front of him, Clippard is becoming frustrated with his lack of opportunity.
"I want it bad. I've been fighting for the opportunity for three years now. I feel like I've been over-stepped a few times along the way for the opportunity to get those saves, for whatever reason. I don't really know."
In order to make himself a better fit for the closer's role, it seems that Clippard has taken a Craig Pelton-like approach and made something of a costume change.
Thankfully, this one hasn't had any of Dean Pelton's signature flair. It's actually given Clippard a more subdued approach on the mound.
Clippard has scrapped his slider and curveball and added a cut fastball to his arsenal, throwing it 14 percent of the time. He still relies mostly on his four-seam fastball and changeup, but the cutter has completely changed his batted ball profile.
Clippard was previously an extreme fly-ball pitcher, but this season, he's induced grounders at a career-best rate of 45.8 percent.
Not coincidentally, that change in batted ball profile has also dropped his home run rate. Clippard has yet to allow a round-tripper in 20 innings this season.
The Nationals bullpen is a mess, but Clippard is the best healthy pitcher in it right now.
Drew Storen may or may not make it back this season, and until he does, Tyler Clippard is the Washington reliever that I'd want to own.
“Fantasy Shirley Bennett”: Jake Arrieta (12% Owned)
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Shirley Bennett turned to Greendale to learn how to market her baked goods. I think Jake Arrieta could use some marketing training; the leaps and bounds of progress he's made this season have gone largely ignored by the fantasy community.
At a time of year when many pitchers are still building up to peak velocity, Arrieta has added more than a full mile per hour's worth of giddy up to his fastball.
Unsurprisingly, that uptick in velocity has powered a corresponding increase in strikeout rate, but Arrieta has also managed to cut his walk rate nearly in half, issuing a free pass to just 6.3 percent of the hitters he's faced.
His BABIP and strand rate are both slightly unluckier than league average, suggesting the Arrieta's 3.47 xFIP is a better indicator of future performance than his 4.87 ERA.