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So where do you stand?
With almost four full weeks in the books it’s time to switch things up a bit. As a fantasy owner, I’m sure you are starting to see areas on your roster that need to be addressed, which is why Waiver Flavor is going to look a little different this time around.
I’m always cookin’. One of my favorite meals to put together is stew. It doesn’t matter what kind, as long as it is meaty and full of flavor. Well, that’s what we are going to do today, expect it isn’t one of the thousand varieties we have come to love, but rather a fantasy stew.
Believe it or not puttin’ together a winning fantasy team is a lot like cooking stew. It needs to be well balanced, but could be lacking in some areas as long as the other ingredients are strong enough to overpower what’s missing. As I’ve mentioned in previous columns, all ingredients are not created equal, and neither should every statistical category in your fantasy league. It all depends on your strategy.
Consider each of the 10 major fantasy categories as the ingredients of your favorite stew. The most powerful, overpowering ingredient should be the one that you built your team around on draft day. Now, you don’t want to completely change up your strategy in April, but added depth in lesser areas won’t hurt.
Below I have listed a player that is either in line to or has already been solid contributors in a given category this season, and could be of help to your roster. All players listed are owned in less than 40 percent of fantasy leagues between the major providers (Yahoo!, ESPN, CBS), so odds are these guys are sittin’ on the wire as we speak. So let’s get to it.
Gerardo Parra, OF (ARI)--To say the Diamondbacks season hasn't gotten off to the right start would be an understatement. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t fantasy value to be had in their often changing lineup. Like his team as a whole, Parra isn’t off to the best start either, despite sitting atop a potent batting order. However, over his last 10 games he has crossed home plate six times while registering three multi-hit performances in that span. Currently he is tied for eighth in runs scored amongst all outfielders sitting with 14 on the year, but is owned in less than 15 percent of both Yahoo! and ESPN leagues. The at-bats where pretty much guaranteed prior to the Mark Trumbo injury, so now there is absolutely nothing to worry about if considering him to help out your runs category.
Mark Reynolds, 1B, 3B (MIL)--It’s all or nothing here. Reynolds is not going to be of much service outside of this one category, but if you can counter his poor batting average (.197 BA), why not? Through his first 61 at-bats, Reynolds has already blasted five homers and should continue to get regular at-bats as long as when he does make contact the ball goes a long way. The only teammate he has to worry about taking at-bats away from him is the 37-year-old Lyle Overbay, who has made just four starts on the year. Even if he reverts back to his career 16.8 AB/HR (currently 12.2), you are still looking at a guy that could reach 30 home runs if he reaches 500 at-bats. Just remember you have to take the bad (40.9% strikeout rate) with the good.
Dayan Viciedo, OF (CWS)--After going undrafted in most leagues this past offseason, Viciedo has resurfaced as a solid fantasy pickup following a recent hot streak over the last two weeks. Over his last 46 at-bats, Viciedo has registered 26 hits (8 extra-base hits) while driving in seven RBI hitting in the middle of the White Sox lineup. He obviously isn’t going to be able to maintain his current .377 average (career .270 BA), but the opportunity to drive in runs is going to stay constant as long as his slot in the batting order doesn’t fluctuate significantly. Also keep in mind, player production tends to heat up along with the weather and the temperature is already starting to rise. So there is a lot to like about Viciedo as the season progresses.
Chris Denorfia, OF (SD)--There is nothing sexy about this game, but when given regular at-bats he always finds a way to surface as a legitimate fantasy option whether for long-term or short-term purposes. The Padres outfield has taken its fair share of blows this season, with both Carlos Quentin and Cameron Maybin yet to suit up, which has led to Denorfia finding himself in the starting lineup more times than not. He has been streaking of late, recording five multi-hit games in his last seven starts, having recorded a stolen base in that span. He is now sitting on four stolen bases on the season, which doesn’t seem like much, but is enough to rank 10th amongst all outfielders in the month of April. Considering the other areas he can help out in (.333 BA w/ 1 HR and 7 RBI) there really isn’t much to dislike about this guy while getting playing time.
James Loney, 1B (TB)--After a horrendous start to the 2014 season, Loney has been swinging a hot bat lately, raising his batting average up to .301, which was sitting under the Mendoza line only two weeks prior. He is currently riding a six-game hit streak in which he has only one game in which he did not registered two or more hits. Although he never lived up to his full potential coming up with the Dodgers, he has developed into a solid hitter who holds a career .285 average. Considering where he is slotted in the Rays batting order there is a chance he could turn in some quality production in the RBI category as the season progresses, but in the very least will help boost your batting average while starting to come into a zone as the end of April nears.
Wei-Yin Chen, SP (BAL)--Before you say, “What the hell are you talking about?” let me get things straight. We are strictly talking about wins here. While I do not suggest chasing wins on a regular basis, it is hard to ignore the fact that Chen has recorded a win in three straight starts despite having allowed three or more earned runs in all but one of his four trips to the mound. The Orioles are ranked sixth in all of baseball in runs scored and have given him plenty of run support in the early going. Over his last three starts the Orioles offense has scored 9.3 runs per game which sure makes it easier to end up in the win column. As long as he continues to get through the fifth inning at the very least (which he has done each start) he will continue to be of value, as long as there is enough support on your staff in other areas.
Dallas Keuchel, SP (HOU)--There really isn’t much to talk about in Houston outside of the arrival of George Springer, but Keuchel has been a solid fantasy asset, at least up to this point. He is averaging one strikeout per inning through his first four starts (24.0 IP) while supporting a solid 3.38 ERA and 1.29 WHIP to go along with his 2-1 record. Through 22 starts for the Astros a season ago, Keuchel posted a 7.20 K/9, which is very respectable, although he did not have as much success as he is having in the early going. After fanning 12 batters earlier in the week the hot pickup from the rotation is Collin McHugh, but I am just not buying it. If you are searching for strikeouts you have to look past the smoke and mirrors because Keuchel could be just what you are lacking in the K department.
Joe Smith, RP (LAA)--Although the Angels have yet to officially remove Ernesto Frieri from the closer role the writing is on the wall and Smith will be the beneficiary when it happens. Smith has posted a 3.60 ERA and 1.10 WHIP through his first 11 appearances (10.0 IP) averaging just over one strikeout per inning (9.90 K/9). Although he lacks the swing-and-miss ability of Frieri, his great control should keep him in the job as long as he can deal with the pressure. So if you are searching for saves, get him while you can.
Jenry Mejia, SP (NYM)--The Mets have been waiting for Mejia to become a staple in their starting rotation for quite some time now and now that he is finally there, it doesn’t look like he will be going anywhere anytime soon. Through his first four starts of the season, Mejia has posted is 3-0 with a 1.99 ERA and 1.32 WHIP as he continues to be the top pitcher in the Mets starting rotation. Not only with Mejia help bring your ERA back to life, but he has also logged seven or more strikeouts in three of his first four starts of the year, bringing his total to 25 swing and misses over 22.2 innings pitched. Although his ownership throughout fantasy leagues has yet to catch up to him, he is worth rostering whether the public agrees or not.
Jason Hammel, SP (CHC)--It is tough to target players based solely on their WHIP production, but Hammel has made himself easy to find in the early going. Through four starts, Hammel has yet to allow more than eight baserunners in a single game, while lasting into the seventh frame in each contest. He is currently sitting on a 0.69 WHIP to go along with a 3-1 record and a 2.60 ERA. He is coming off a season in which he posted a 1.46 WHIP through 139.1 innings, but that was also battling through injuries. It will be next to impossible for him to maintain that type of production, especially once the weather heats up in Chicago, although somewhere in between the previous two seasons would be nice to see.