Chaos, in physics, is defined as behavior so unpredictable it appears random, with great sensitivity to small changes in conditions. As much as those who are allergic to the sciences may despise any comparison of physics to their favorite pastime baseball, the sport is as much of a science as it is entertainment.
Another sense of this erratic behavior is that of fantasy baseball, and 'rest of season' (ROS) projections.
So let's start off this weekend's waiver wire column with one of the more intriguing pitchers still lingering on some waiver wires, James Paxton.
The reason I find Paxton so perplexing is that it seems to me like his 2015, or previous year's body of work doesn't carry as much weight as it may for other pitchers we are seeing a second time around. Jeff Sullivan of Fangraphs wrote a great article last week about the Mariner's lefty and it convinced me more so of his ability and ceiling, something I have noticed many owners are hesitant to take advantage of. In the article, Jeff talked about the new arm slot that Paxton is utilizing, and the more natural flow of his delivery he has capitalized on, based on a lowered glove hand that he used to point sky high on his motion to the plate.
These adjustments seem to carry much of the explanation for his 2.5 mile per hour spike in fastball velocity this season to last. It has also allowed him to hit 100 on the gun deeper into games, something not a lot of starters can do. Mixing that with a cutter and Pitch F/X classified knuckle curve, I think Paxton has some of the highest upside of any waiver wire arm heading into Saturday's start. I understand velocity isn't everything in the majors, but I and many others were excited about him last year when he was less effective, and battled injuries through the year. So now that he has mechanics he is more comfortable with, why are we not paying more attention? I'm undecided on starting him against Texas, but the time to add him is now, because if he displays any bit of the 10K to 1BB control from his last start through six innings of work it may be too late.
It's looking like after this Texas start he'll have to throw in Boston, which puts him in the Jon Gray category of scary starts while still maintaining his upside value. He is also in this weird limbo where his peripherals have too small of a sample size this year to draw any definitive conclusions from. And as I mentioned, last year doesn't hold too much weight to me right now with his mechanical alteration.
At the moment we only know a few things about the big lefty. Paxton is 7.7% owned in ESPN leagues and 15% owned in Yahoo leagues for fantasy purposes. I think he's a strong speculative add for the weekend if you have roster flexibility, even if you don't start him.
Other Arms of Note
Michael Pineda - I know that just the thought of his name to some owners causes a gag reflex, but I haven't given up on him. Well, this may be because I haven't owned him this year for any period of time, and therefore never had the chance to drop him after any of his shellackings. Touche'. While opponents are batting just over .300 versus him, it's heavily built on a .371 BABIP, which I see no reason will remain that high. His ERA sits at 6.14, which is atrocious, but xFIP loved him in 2015, and that sits around 3.61. That estimates a pitcher's performance independent of his defense, coupled with a factor that replaces the pitcher's actual HR tendency with how many they should have allowed given league average HR/FB%. While he warrants more of a look before adding in almost all leagues, he should linger on waivers for a little as I suspect owners are very bitter with regards him. Pineda is 40% owned in ESPN leagues and 61% owned in Yahoo leagues, and has always had good strikeout numbers.
Jeremy Hellickson - Many readers will scroll past this name simply because he's a Phillies pitcher with a history of failure to reach expectations, but there is little denying Hellickson has been pretty good this year. He's showing some of the best strikeout stuff he has every displayed in his career (24.4% K rate), and his underlying stats show that he is about a 3.6-3.8 ERA guy, which makes him worthy as a spot starter in deeper 12 team leagues. When he runs into two decent starts, I have no problem rolling him out there in hopes he doesn't replicate his early 2016 failures. 28% owned in ESPN leagues and 33% owned in Yahoo leagues.
Closers - One of the more popular topics of the week has been the closer situations in Minnesota, San Francisco, Houston, and I would still argue Oakland. At the beginning of the week, I was extremely excited that I jumped on Ken Giles before others in a lot of my shallower leagues, but to my dismay, the hard throwing ex-Philly was about one clean inning away from possibly locking down the role. Now Will Harris steps in as the go-to option for A.J. Hinch, and save injury or the yips, I really don't think he'll struggle to hold it down. Giles won't be breathing down his neck as he hasn't thrown a clean inning in his last seven appearances, and if for some reason they go back to Gregerson, I won't be shocked to see him quickly removed again after mediocrity.
Chances are if you didn't get to Harris in time you're looking for other options on the save front. My favorite speculative adds are Hunter Strickland and Sean Doolittle. Strickland has always been touted as the future closer for the Giants and for good reason as last year he finished with a 2.45 ERA in right around 50 innings pitched. In Casilla's last three appearances, he has blown a save, taken a loss, and got a hold as Bochy went with three different arms to close out Boston on the 8th. You'll be happy to know that Strickland was the last man in that game, ultimately netting the save, and while this doesn't warrant an overreaction, chances are Strickland won't go quietly into the night.
Doolittle on the other hand I have wanted on most teams as a flyer for saves mainly because I think Ryan Madson is less than a few slips away from losing his job to the guy who was the closer coming into the season. Madson's FIP is near 4.00 and he hasn't pitched since the 4th of June, due in part to the lack of save chances, but as we see often with David Robertson, rust can build up, making it more and more a reasonable expectation that he falters and Doolittle steps in.
Brandon Kintzler looks to steal some saves as well in Minnesota, but he is homer prone and doesn't strike out a lot of guys. What he does have working for him is success as a minor league closer and that Fernando Abad is a lefty. Use him at your own risk.
Quicker Look at Some Hitters
Ketel Marte - Great option up the middle in all leagues as he comes off the DL. While I'd like to see him higher in the order for counting stat purposes, three steals in his first three games is a great sign, and he won't kill your average. I swapped Justin Upton for Ketel and Yelich in one 12 team league I'm struggling in and am not looking back.
Leonys Martin - Another Mariner that is coming off the DL. Martin will likely get back to daily playing time quick as the motley of an outfield Scott Servais throws out there on a daily basis isn't great. I was wrong about Franklin Gutierrez going yard last weekend, so hopefully I'm not wrong on this outfielder who was red hot with nine homers and eight bags before his injury. Worth an add almost everywhere, especially where steals are needed.
Curtis Granderson - A player that Scott White and the crew over at CBS sports mentioned on their Friday podcast is this Met's right fielder who I've become more interested in over the last few days. While he has arguably been terrible so far, he still has managed to gather 11 bombs, and is on pace for about 28. His BABIP has been insanely low this year and has actually been hitting the ball harder. A perfect sign of things to come. The Mets also don't have many options in the outfield or at the top of their order. Fun Fact: The Grandy Man is also the only player to hit 100 HR with BOTH the Yankees and Tigers.
Yangervis Solarte - Jeeze it is really tough to like Padre hitters. I think Wil Myers is really the only valuable bat on that team, and really can't bring myself to add Solarte and expect production outside of a points or OBP league (.398 OBP in 22 games). I don't see him getting high above 15 HR or having great counting stats either.
Travis d'Arnaud - Have some room on your DL? Give him a stash if you're still navigating the 'Catcher Wasteland'. If he comes back and meshes well again with that staff, the home runs will come with he regular playing time. Keep an eye on Rene Rivera's impact on some of the arms though, as Terry Collins seems to like using him in favor of any other NY backstop at the moment.
Alex Rodriguez - The DH designation doesn't help his flexibility, but the Yankee's bats are starting to come alive and A-Rod has RBIs in six of his last nine games. He did hit 33 home runs last year, and I wouldn't be shocked if he has another 15 or so still in his bat for 2016. Health is key, as with many old players.
Pedro Alvarez - Three home runs in his last seven games, with peripherals that look very similar to his 27 homer season last year. It's not crazy to add if you're in need of some cheap power, he isn't owned in many places either.
Best of luck over the weekend.
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