Welcome to this week’s edition of Hitters I Can’t Pick Up, the partner to the article I wrote earlier this week about pitchers on the waiver wire that I couldn’t quite justify adding to my team. This time around, I’ll be focusing on hitters instead of pitchers.
It’s ironic that I’m writing an article based on the players I’m not picking up, as I regularly lead my leagues in most acquisitions by end of year. As a general rule, streaming is a valuable option for all fantasy sports when you do it right, particularly for pitching in baseball. However, when it comes to hitters, I tend to be more conservative with my pickups, as they are more consistent in terms of the end of year stats despite going through typical slumps throughout the year. Here are some hitters you shouldn’t be too hasty about picking up for this week.
Since he was called up in the middle of last year, Sandy Leon has been an offensive wonder for the Red Sox with a wOBA of 0.364 and a wRC+ of 126 in 306 plate appearances. However, that’s being supported by an uber-inflated BABIP of 0.390 which stands out from his career average of 0.333. Basically, it’s not a very large sample size and signs point to him eventually regressing over the course of the year. The Red Sox also have a pair of younger catchers in Blake Swihart and Christian Vazquez that will almost definitely cut into Leon’s playing time if he starts to struggle. He’ll stay hot for a little while longer, but Sandy Leon doesn’t project to be a long term option and I wouldn’t drop the catcher I originally drafted for him.
Hitter I’d Keep: Russell Martin (C, TOR) – 61.6% (ESPN) / 68% (Yahoo) / 76% (CBS)
Another MLB season, another brutal start to the year for veteran catcher Russell Martin, as it’s taken him eight games to get his first hit. This is not surprising, as Martin is known for being a streaky hitter. He’s also known as a catcher that has gotten double digit HRs for the past six years (and 20 HRs in three of the six) and you can’t leave that on the waiver wire. Bench him when he’s cold if you need to (I took a flier on Matt Wieters), but know it’s a risk to do so, as he can start hitting without notice. He’s a mainstay in the Blue Jays’ lineup and should be a mainstay in yours.
The hitter I’m most on the fence about this week is Zimmerman, who is currently rolling with an unsustainable 0.476 BABIP and 42.9% HR/FB rate to propel him to an OPS of 1.152 this season, but could be on the verge of a bounceback season if he can stay healthy. That “if” is a big one, though, as he’s missed a significant portion of each of the last three seasons with an assortment of injuries. If Zimmerman is to stay healthy in 2016, we can look to his 2012 and 2013 seasons, the last two seasons where he eclipsed 600 plate appearances, for what we can expect over a full season from him: around 25 HR and between 80-90 R and RBI. He’s probably worth a flier if you are struggling at the position, but personally, I’m not sure if I can trust him to stay healthy. Add in that his exaggerated HR/FB rate is coming with a career low fly ball percentage rate of 29.2% and points to a lower HR total than expected, and I’m fine with not having him on my roster.
On the other side of the coin, we have Granderson who is still looking for his first dong of the season despite having 50% of his hits go for fly balls thus far. He’s older than Zimmerman, but has accumulated over 600 plate appearances in five of the last six seasons and is a perennial 20+ HR hitter, so it’s too early to bail on him. With older players, there’s always the fear that this is the year they fall of the map due to age, but I think the HRs will start coming for Granderson soon.
The Hitter I CAN Pick Up: Mitch Haniger (OF, SEA) – 42.1% (ESPN) / 55% (Yahoo) / 75% (CBS)
There are a bevy of young, high-upside outfielders on the waiver wire that have gotten off to fast starts this year (Chris Owings, Nomar Mazara, Manuel Margot, and Steven Souza Jr., to name a few), but the one that stands out the most to me is Mitch Haniger. While the other previously-mentioned hitters are predictably being fueled by high BABIPs during their hot streaks, Haniger is the only one with a sub .300 BABIP, which says to me that his production is more sustainable than the rest. He’s also been combining power and speed with 3 HRs and 2 SBs so far, a valuable combo in any league. As usual, we have to keep in mind that we are dealing with a pretty small sample size this early on, so there’s no telling if these results will stick, but none of his peripherals so far seem to be way out of line from what you’d expect from Haniger. All of the outfielders mentioned here are worth taking a flier on if you have the room, but Haniger may be the best bet out of all of them to keep it up.
Hitter I’d Drop: Byron Buxton (OF, MIN) – 48.2% (ESPN) / 49% (Yahoo) / 68% (CBS)
The one promising young outfielder that has NOT gotten off to a great start is, as you may guess, is Byron Buxton. He is currently striking out at an astonishing clip of 54.3%, just below the rate at which he makes contact with the ball. YIKES.
It’s still a small sample size, but unfortunately, this is not out of the ordinary from Buxton. There was some optimism going into the year that Buxton would improve offensively after ending the 2016 season on an upward trend, but it’s clearly not there yet. The good news is that he might have earned a consistent role in the outfield due to his stellar defensive play, so the Twins will likely continue to confine him at the bottom of the order. This should give him plenty of plate appearances against major league pitching in low-pressure situations where he can continue to gain experience and hopefully become a better hitter. Until that happens, he should stay far, far away from your fantasy baseball lineup.
You can find me on Twitter wondering how long the Reds will stay in first place here.