D.J. Short

Waiver Wired

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Waiver Wired: Go Domingo

Thursday, May 10, 2018

What has gotten into Alex Gordon all of the sudden? He’s been an afterthought in fantasy leagues since staying with the Royals on a four-year, $72 million contract in January of 2016. And it’s completely justified. The 34-year-old put up a brutal .649 OPS in 276 games over the first two seasons of the deal and started this season on a similarly sour note by batting .174 (4-for-23) through seven games before going down with a left hip labral tear in early April. Perhaps he was thrown into the Lake of Reincarnation as part of his rehab? Because he’s been nothing short of wonderful since his return.

While Gordon took an 0-fer on Wednesday, he still drew two walks and owns a shiny .368/.429/.561 batting line with three homers, two doubles, eight RBI, and 10 runs scored in 15 games since his return from the disabled list. The sudden and unexpected surge has boosted his ownership to 11 percent in Yahoo leagues.

Yes, Gordon is sporting a .344 BABIP this year. That can’t be ignored. But the contact rate is suddenly way up. In fact, it’s the highest of his career. He’s also seen upticks in his hard-hit rate and average exit velocity. Some of this could be the result of getting good pitches to hit. Among players with at least 80 plate appearances, he’s seen more pitches in the strike zone than anyone else (hat-tip to FanGraphs for their "zone" metric). With the way he’s hit in recent years, you can understand why pitchers would go right after him. There could be some adjustments if he continues to produce like this.

I’d be more optimistic about lasting fantasy value for Gordon if he was lofting the ball. That isn’t happening. So far, his fly ball rate is the lowest it’s ever been. Maybe he’ll end up carving out some deep league relevancy again, but I just don't see the upside being that high anymore, which is why he didn’t make the cut this week.

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(Percentages are from the morning of Thursday, 5/10)

Domingo German RP, Yankees (Yahoo: 39 percent owned)

It was really disappointing to see Jordan Montgomery go down with a flexor strain which could cost him a couple of months, but German helped soften the blow by tossing six hitless innings in his first major league start Sunday against the Indians. There was a lot to like, as he struck out nine and walked a pair in his 84 pitches while inducing 16 swinging strikes. He averaged 95 mph on his fastball, but mixed in his changeup and curveball almost equally and got most of his swings and misses on those pitches. If he can show sustained improvement with the changeup, the Yankees could really have a hidden gem here. The control was an issue for German even in the minors, so I’m not going to pretend there isn’t some risk involved here, but I’m buying with the Yankees absolutely rolling right now. Upcoming projected starts include the Athletics, Royals, and Angels, so deploy as needed.

Tyler Clippard RP, Blue Jays (Yahoo: 42 percent owned)
Seung Hwan Oh RP, Blue Jays (Yahoo: 21 percent owned)
Ryan Tepera RP, Blue Jays (Yahoo: 19 percent owned)
John Axford RP, Blue Jays (Yahoo: 1 percent owned)

The Blue Jays’ closer situation appears to be wide open in the wake of Roberto Osuna’s arrest this week on an assault charge. We might have gotten our first clue at how John Gibbons plans to proceed, as Clippard received the first save chance to finish off a win over the Mariners on Wednesday. Many have speculated on Tepera being the guy because of his usage until now, but he allowed a couple of homers in his last two appearances leading into Wednesday. For what it’s worth, Tepera was used in his standard eighth inning role on Wednesday while Axford pitched in the seventh and Oh pitched in the sixth. Clippard makes me nervous with his penchant for giving up the home run ball, but he’s fanned 22 batters in 19 1/3 innings this season to go along with a 1.40 ERA. Take your pick out of these guys, but Clippard might have the early edge here. It could be a fluid situation assuming Osuna faces a suspension.

Teoscar Hernandez OF, Blue Jays (Yahoo: 49 percent owned)

I’m a little miffed why Hernandez isn’t over 50-percent ownership right now. Sure, the approach hurts his chances of maintaining a useful batting average, but he’s been an extra-base hit machine since his call-up from Triple-A. The 25-year-old went 3-for-4 with a homer and a double in Wednesday’s win over the Mariners and now sports an .892 OPS with 17 extra-base hits (including six homers), 15 RBI, three steals, and 17 runs scored over 24 games. His average exit velocity is right there among the league leaders. In fact, if you separate it strictly for fly balls and line drives, only Joey Gallo and Giancarlo Stanton have been higher. You know, just in case you need that extra nudge. Hernandez has bounced around Toronto’s order since his call-up, but he’s been hitting leadoff in recent days. I was worried about the playing time situation a couple of weeks ago, but it’s clear the Blue Jays are going keep running him out there if he keeps producing.

Caleb Smith SP, Marlins (Yahoo: 40 percent owned)

It’s not often that I recommend a pitcher on the same day he’s scheduled to pitch, but Smith’s recent performances are difficult to ignore. Acquired from the Yankees last November which involved international bonus money, the 26-year-old southpaw hasn’t allowed a run in his last 14 2/3 innings. He’s put up a crazy good 26/2 K/BB ratio over his last three starts. His strikeout percentage (33.8 percent) is now higher than the likes of Chris Sale and Jacob deGrom. Only James Paxton, Patrick Corbin, Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, and Gerrit Cole have been higher among starters this season. That’s some great company and reason to invest even if the control has looked shaky at times. And I’m putting my money where my mouth is here. I recently dropped $65 FAAB dollars on him in the Tout Wars Mixed League Draft league.

Steven Souza, Jr. OF, Diamondbacks (Yahoo: 38 percent owned)

I was bummed when the news of Souza’s activation came down last Thursday afternoon, as it was too late to include him in Waiver Wired, but I’m getting another shot this week since he hasn’t done much with the bat just yet. He’s 2-for-15 with no extra base hits through his first five games. That doesn’t change anything for me. Souza might never be much of an asset in batting average, but he up 30 homers, 78 RBI, 78 runs scored, and 16 steals over 148 games last season. Counting stats galore. Souza has been locked into the No. 5 spot for Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo so far, so he’s in a good situation to prove relevant in most mixed formats.  

Michael Conforto OF, Mets (Yahoo: 48 percent owned)

When Conforto homered in his season debut against the Nationals last month, fantasy owners thought they were looking at one of the best draft day bargains. It hasn’t worked out that way so far. The 25-year-old is batting just .191/.330/.303 through 27 games this season. He’s still been getting on base, but his hard-hit rate is noticeably down from last year and his average exit velocity has also seen a dip. There’s reason to believe that his shoulder surgery could be impacting his production, at least in the short-term. Conforto homered (his first since his season debut) and doubled in this week’s series against the Reds, which provides some reason for hope. There’s risk here, but I can’t let a player of his upside sit on the waiver wire.

Alex Reyes SP, Cardinals (Yahoo: 25 percent owned)

Looking for an exciting lottery ticket? Consider Reyes, who probably would have been a mainstay in the Cardinals’ rotation already if it wasn’t for his Tommy John surgery last February. The good news is that he’s finally on the comeback trail, having pitched 3 1/3 scoreless innings with six strikeouts in his first minor league rehab start Wednesday with High-A Palm Beach. He’s on the 60-day disabled list right now and isn’t eligible for activation until May 28, but he obviously still needs more time to get fully stretched out. The Cardinals could bring him back as a reliever, but a lot can change over the next couple of weeks. If you have a DL spot open, I like the idea of stashing him and seeing how this develops. Very little downside with the potential for a nice payoff.

Logan Morrison 1B, Twins (Yahoo: 18 percent owned)

I mentioned Morrison a month ago, but there hasn’t been much momentum toward picking him up in most leagues. And it’s understandable, as he’s sporting an ugly .183/.274/.337 batting line through 29 games this season. Still, he’s shown some signs of life in recent days by batting .286 with three homers, three doubles, and a .933 OPS over his last 11 games. Sure, the batting average won’t last, but we saw last year the sort of impact that he can make on the power front. For what it’s worth, Morrison’s average exit velocity and average launch angle are both up a bit from last year. I still see him as a usable option for mixed fantasy leagues.

Alen Hanson 2B/OF, Giants (Yahoo: 15 percent owned)

Hanson was in my NL-only recommendations last week, but he gets a promotion to the mixed league side this week. The 25-year-old has played pretty well as a fill-in option for Joe Panik at second base, batting .263 (10-for-38) with two home runs, four doubles, and two steals over 11 games. He’s cooled down a bit over the past couple of days, but he’s even received a couple of opportunities out of the leadoff spot. This is mostly a speed play, as Hanson swiped nine bases in 69 games with the White Sox last year and has stolen 211 bases over 737 games in the minors. The multi-position eligibility makes him a useful short-term option in deeper formats.

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. 3B, Blue Jays (Yahoo: 29 percent owned)

There’s just no way to know if Guerrero’s ascent to the majors is imminent, but it’s a fun possibility to dream on. I mean, have you seen his numbers in Double-A? Ridiculous doesn’t even begin to describe the sort of damage he’s doing down there. The 19-year-old is batting .387/.440/.651 with five home runs and 35 RBI through 27 games. Even more impressive, he has just as many walks (12) as he does strikeouts (12). The Blue Jays are very much in the Wild Card race and Kendrys Morales has looked pretty terrible this year, so it’s looking more reasonable by the day that Guerrero could be up sooner than most of us would have imagined coming into the year. His presence would allow the Blue Jays to rest Josh Donaldson’s shoulder out of the DH spot at least a couple of days a week. Obviously not everyone can afford to stash Guerrero due to roster constraints, but he’s such an exciting prospect that I could make an exception depending on your set-up.

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D.J. Short is a Rotoworld senior baseball writer and hosts the Rotoworld Baseball Podcast. You can also find him on Twitter and Facebook.
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