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My head-to-head leagues kick off the playoffs this week, although I’ve earned a first-round bye in both after finishing second in both. Always the bridesmaid, never the bride. Whether you get the benefit of a first-round bye or not, or if you’re in a roto league where there aren’t any playoffs, this is the most difficult time to play the waiver wire. Each week is win or go home so if you land a bust, the last 23 weeks of hard work will all go to waste. At the same time, get too complacent with your lineup and see the competition ride the hot bats and arms to the championship.
Let’s take a look at who’s floating around on the waiver wire this week and how we can mitigate some of the inherent waiver risks with our pickups. I’ve ranked each player’s risk with one being steady as Miguel Cabrera and 100 being as unpredictable as Mark Reynolds.
Tony Cingrani (Owned in 58% of Yahoo Leagues): Cingrani is 7-3 with a 2.80 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, and 10.4 K/9 yet finds himself available in more than 40% of Yahoo leagues. Since returning to the rotation in the beginning of July, Cingrani has given up more than two runs just once (three runs against St. Louis) over 10 starts. Over those 10 outings, Cingrani owns a 2.26 ERA, .172 BAA, and 62 K over 55.2 IP. Risk: 15%
Michael Wacha (33%): Like Cingrani, Wacha’s impressive, though much shorter, rookie campaign has been overlooked. Over 46.1 IP in the Bigs this year, Wacha is 3-0 with a 2.72 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, and 8.2 K/9. In the minors, Wacha posted a 2.65 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, and a 7.7 K/9 over 85 Triple-A innings. Wacha has given up more than two runs just once in six starts this season and has not allowed a run over his last 19.2 IP (.141 BAA, 16 K/6 BB). Risk: 20%
Dillon Gee (35%): Gee will either allow 1-2 runs or he’ll allow 4-5. Luckily, he’s allowed the latter with far less frequency this season, owning a 3.53 ERA over 173 IP. Gee has allowed more than two runs just once over his last 10 starts, posting a 1.94 ERA, .218 BAA, and 37 K/12 BB over that stretch. Again, there’s a risk he blows up and gives up five (reasonable compared to other pitchers’ blow-up potential). He’s given up 4-5 runs in 10 of his 28 starts (mostly in April and May) while giving up two or less in 17. Risk: 40%
Will Middlebrooks (53%): After enduring a tough sophomore slump over the first half, Middlebrooks has rediscovered himself, putting up a .358/.421/.657 line with six homers, 14 RBI, 15 R, and two steals over his last 20 games. In September, he has been completely ablaze, batting .464 with four homers, nine runs batted in, eight runs, and a steal over seven games. He looks like a very good candidate to finish out the season on a bang after disappointing for months. Risk: 25%
Yusmeiro Petit (19%): I’ve been clamoring about Petit for a couple of weeks. I have a soft spot for former Mets farmhands who never panned out. After 8.2 perfect innings against the Diamondbacks last week, others without the same affinity took notice as well. In 26.1 IP this year, Petit is now 3-0 with a 2.05 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, and 30 K/4 BB. There’s two sides to this. On one hand, Petit has looked phenomenal and we’ve seen the Giants make stars out of overlooked pitchers before (see Ryan Vogelsong). On the other hand, this is a 28-year-old who has only started 40 games since 2006 and owns 5.19 career ERA. He also put up an unimpressive 4.37 ERA in Triple-A this season. There’s a 50-50 risk of him reverting to the Petit of old but the reward is so high that I’m willing to take a chance on him, at least start-to-start. Risk: 50-60%
Evan Gattis (27%): Gattis definitely fits the Mark Reynolds streakiness profile, enduring the highest highs and the lowest lows. Between July 25 and August 30, Gattis batted just .169 and didn’t hit a single home run in 20 games. In five games in September, Gattis is batting .353 with three homers. We’ve seen this before. When home runs come, they come in bunches so Gattis looks like a good bet for the next week or two. Risk: 40%
Emilio Bonifacio (47%): Bonifacio continues to impress as a Royal, now owning a .315/.386/.393 line with 14 R and 13 SB over 25 games. He’s batting .379 over his last eight games so he won’t kill you in that category like he did as a Blue Jay and makes a solid pickup if you need to fill up your runs and steals categories. Risk: 35%
Sonny Gray (35%): Gray has been stellar, and most importantly, consistent since coming up to the A’s. In six starts and two relief appearances, Gray has faltered just once (six runs over 3.1 IP vs. BAL) and now owns a 2.51 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, and 44 K/11 BB over 43 IP. How many times have we seen this from A’s prospects? I have no qualms starting Gray in every game the rest of the way. Risk: 20%
Carlos Torres (7%): In two starts since moving to the rotation to replace Matt Harvey, Torres has allowed just four runs over 13.2 IP (against Philly and Atlanta) while putting up 12 K/1 BB. Save for one start against Washington, Torres has been one of the most reliable arms on the Mets all season and is very overlooked as we head down the final stretch. Risk: 30%
Josh Rutledge (23%): Ugh, Josh Rutledge is back and now we have to decide if he’s actually ownable this time around after being sent down to the minors twice. The minors may have been good to him, he put up a .371/.444/.587 line with four homers, 24 RBI, 24 R, 17 2B, and a steal over 38 games in Triple-A. More importantly, he may have gotten his confidence back. In six games since being recalled, Rutledge is 8-for-17 with a homer, a triple, three runs batted in, five runs scored, and a steal. With middle infield eligibility, he might be worth taking a shot on but it’s important to remember that he batted .211 through the first four months of the season. Risk: 60%
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