My longtime fantasy league disbanded this season, frustratingly. Most of the reason for that springs from the fact that Nate, our commissioner, got transferred at work to try to repair the situation at another location, meaning Nate works all the dang time. He just didn't have time to put it together.
But the secondary reason is that Nate and I together decided to get rid of Cheek. We both love Cheek. He's funny, talented and a big sports fan. What Cheek isn't, though, is active. Every year, in both sports, without fail, he'd draft his team, have his roster, and then do almost nothing with it. Sure, if a guy got hurt, he'd bench him and put in a new starter, either from his bench or from the wire, but unless forced, Cheek's draft-day roster stayed his end-of-season roster.
It was frustrating. That was 1/12 of the league's players that, more or less, we couldn't touch. Cheek would pretend to discuss trades, then tell you he didn't know your roster, so you'd send him your roster, then he'd say he couldn't remember his roster, so you'd send him his roster, then he'd say he was too busy to look at all these screenshots, so just send him something, so you would, and he'd just never respond. Literally the only trade I ever remember Cheek making in baseball was when a player of his got traded (in real life) to the Yankees; he refused to ever own any Yankees or Cardinals.
That's Cheek. Great guy, great friend, horrible leaguemate.
So we decided to let him go. Letting Cheek go meant letting his buddy who had joined after him go as well, and with two absences and Nate's complete lack of time, we just couldn't make it happen. So the league ended.
The waiver wire is a key part of season-long fantasy. You know that. But every year, someone would criticize people with big numbers of transactions. "That just means you didn't draft well," they'd say, as though value and importance is a static notion and can't change as more information comes to light.
No, you savvy fantasy player, you know the wire is at least as important as the draft. I had a thought exercise:
- Choice A: You can draft your team, but never make any roster changes yourself. When injuries happen, your lineup will be fixed by adding the highest-owned available player and dropping your lowest-owned over the whole season.
- Choice B: Autodraft with no ability to adjust your player ranks; every pick is literally the next guy up in the site's predraft rankings, regardless of positional need. After that, though, you can run the team all season.
Every single person out there chooses B, right? Both put you behind the eight-ball, and neither is a good choice, but to me, B gives you two things: First, the opportunity to fix mistakes over the course of a season and improve. And second, fun. It's fun to watch as you make a team better, bit by bit.
Which is why we're here. This is The Ticker, my stock-inspired look through fantasy baseball. As always, there are six categories:
Stocks I'm buying: low-owned players who did well the week before, and I believe it
Stocks I'm not buying: low-owned players who did well the week before, and I don't believe it
Stocks I'm selling: high-owned players who struggled, and I'm bailing on them a bit
Stocks I'm not selling: high-owned players who struggled, but I still trust them
Futures market: low-owned guys without an obvious line to fantasy productivity yet, but there are things that could change in that department
Hedges: handcuffs; low-owned guys who have a starter in front of them, but injuries or starter awfulness could change things
(Ownership percentages are as of Thursday evening.)
Don't be Cheek. Play your league. Use your wire. It's just fun.
Stocks I'm buying
Carlos Martinez, SP/RP, STL (48 percent owned in Yahoo! leagues)
This is one of those situations where I told myself "obviously he's too owned for the column, but I'll check anyway." Lo and behold, Martinez has been ignored in more leagues than I would have guessed. Admittedly, Martinez is working on a .133 BABIP, with a 100 percent strand rate. Those things will regress. But it's so early that those numbers don't mean a lot so far. What does matter is that enough smart people were in on Martinez all the way through the minors that his success shouldn't come as a surprise. No that BABIP and strand rate won't continue. Much of the rest will. He's a must-own.
Stephen Drew, 2B/SS, NYY (3 percent)
I'll grant you that a .190 batting average and a .286 on-base percentage are rough, if you'll grant me that four homers in 13 games out of a middle infielder whose career we thought might be over a couple months ago is heartening. Drew has been up-and-down with the Yankees this year. You know who hasn't been even that? Didi Gregorius. Gregorious has bested Drew's batting average so far, but it's only at .205. He has exactly one extra-base hit, a double. And his fielding has been horrendous. Gregorius is supposed to be a special fielder. Instead, he's looked lost at shortstop. If something doesn't get worked out there, he'll have to have a break — either the bench, the DL or the minors. If that happens, we'll see Drew at shortstop and someone — Gregorio Petit? Robert Refsnyder? — at second. Drew is the most assured of playing time of anyone there.
Yunel Escobar, 3B/SS, WAS (3 percent)
I list these guys by the positions at which they're eligible in Yahoo!, which is why Escobar has those two listed there. But with Anthony Rendon moving closer to a return, and Escobar hitting really well so far, he's going to find himself with another position of eligibility before too long, as Rendon's return will slide Escobar to second base. He's hitting .275/.339/.451 so far, with a couple home runs and exactly as many strikeouts as walks. Dan Uggla has been awful. Danny Espinosa has been okay, but the team is basically done with him. Escobar has a starting spot. And he has the flexibility to help you in fantasy.
Stocks I'm not buying
Zack Cozart, SS, CIN (32 percent)
Well, let's see. Dude with a career BABIP in the mid-.270s is suddenly BABIPing .341. His career ISO was in the low .100s, now it's in the high .200s. His current OPS+ is almost 100 points higher than his career number. All while he's walking at a career-low rate. If you want to say this dude has figured out his offense at 29 years old, I mean, sure, be my guest. But I ain't picking him up.
Chris Heston, SP/RP, SF (32 percent)
Admit it, you didn't really know who Chris Heston was a couple weeks ago. Sure, maybe you recognized his name, knew he had appeared in a few games with the Giants last season. But he wasn't on anyone's fantasy radar. He was a 27-year-old rookie with 5.1 innings under his belt. He had been pretty decisively unsuccessful in AAA after some marginal success in the lower minors. He certainly wasn't a "0.87 ERA in 20.2 innings" guy. Two starts against the woeful Diamondbacks and a home game against the inconsistent Rockies isn't changing my mind, and it shouldn't change yours.
Jonathon Niese, SP, NYM (12 percent)
You know how I kind of picked on Chris Heston's opponents up there? The Diamondbacks twice and the Rockies once? That's a pitcher's hellscape compared to the glory road Niese has faced so far, with two starts against the Braves and one against the Phillies. I'm pretty sure I could manage a 3.40 ERA in that stretch, and I was, when I (rarely) pitched a control-heavy kid who maxed out in the high 60s. Niese isn't striking anyone out and he's walking plenty. He just hasn't faced anyone who could make him pay for it yet.
Stocks I'm selling
Mark Melancon, RP, PIT (92 percent)
You know how I'm always saying that it's too early to make decisions based on results? Well this isn't based on Melancon's 8.53 ERA, or his 1.895 WHIP, or his 5.29 FIP. Dude just ain't throwin' the ball as hard as he used to. Melancon's velocity is diminished, and while there's always the chance that will bounce back after a few days off or in some warmer weather, it's also a warning sign. The Pirates don't have a ready-made next-man-up in the bullpen — Tony Watson and Arquimedes Caminero are the best of a questionable lot — but if Melancon doesn't get his stuff worked out soon, they'll have to go to someone.
Danny Santana, SS/OF, MIN (56 percent)
Did you really believe in Santana a year ago? The steals were nice, but the batting average was carried by a .405 BABIP that didn't really make sense. He struck out more than five times as often as he walked. It just didn't compute. His numbers this season — .218/.218/.255, no home runs — might be worst-case-scenario for Santana, but the best realistic case for 2015 was nowhere near 2014. At the very least, dude has to take one walk this year before I'd even consider him. He's not a regular player. He just played like one for a little while.
Stocks I'm not selling
Russell Martin, C, TOR (80 percent)
I'll just let Keith Law handle this:
@shiftevil Good response. Russell Martin is hitting .128; do you think that's going to last too?— keithlaw (@keithlaw) April 23, 2015
@SavageDrums Do you think Russell Martin is a .146 hitter?— keithlaw (@keithlaw) April 23, 2015
@SavageDrums I asked you a question. Do you think Russell Martin is a .146 hitter?— keithlaw (@keithlaw) April 23, 2015
It. Is. Just. So. Early.
Chris Carter, 1B/OF, HOU (73 percent)
Y'all remember August of last year? In 122 plate appearances, Carter hit .270/.328/.613 with 12 home runs. That's a 12-homer month. It came on the heels of eight home runs in July. At the end of that stretch, Carter was everyone's darling, and it was that stretch, more or less, that gave Carter any and all draft stock he had entering this season. Well, in April of 2014, Carter his .153/.270/.329 with three home runs, and looked like he was on the verge of a benching. This year, he's starting off abysmally. But this is the streaky kind of player that you can't get rid of just because of this start. He'll have a month with 12 home runs again. Don't miss out on it.
Coco Crisp, OF, OAK (35 percent)
Michael Saunders, OF, TOR (8 percent)
These two are basically in the same situation, with one mattering for regular leagues and one for deeper ones. Crisp is still a month or so away, though he's ahead of schedule already, so it could move up a bit. He's still good for more than a handful of steals and at least a few homers, and makes for a good stash now. As for Saunders, he lacks the upside of Crisp, but his return is much closer — perhaps as close as Friday. He'll give you average and, in that lineup, enough runs scored and driven in to be of help. Both warrant consideration.
Andrew Heaney, SP, LAA (3 percent)
Jered Weaver has a 5.24 ERA. Matt Shoemaker is at 6.46. Garrett Richards is only one start in, so I'll say it's 5.40, but that's even more meaningless than the other ERAs I quoted there. C.J. Wilson is better, at 3.54, but if you want to be out there trusting 34-year-old C.J. Wilson, you got more guts than me, friend. Meanwhile, Heaney has the pedigree of a star, or close. The Angels aren't exactly much of a good baseball team right now, and the starting pitching is a big part of the problem. There's no obvious move to get Heaney in the rotation, but there are a bunch of almost-moves, and all it takes is one guy slumping a little more.
Jonathan Singleton, 1B, HOU (3 percent)
Look up a little bit and you'll see that I'm still high on Carter. Who I'm not high on is Evan Gattis, who has shown absolutely nothing this year and who never really looked like a long-term good hitter. The Braves got out at the right time, and got a good return on him. The Astros have too much invested in Gattis to just bail outright, but they have a lot invested in Singleton, as well, having locked him up long-term last year. His major-league time in 2014 was an utter disaster, sure, but Singleton has been a hitter all the way up, and is crushing in the minors to start this year, as well. Even if Gattis starts to figure his bat out, they're going to find a way to work Singleton back in. If Gattis doesn't figure it out? Well, then the answer is easy.