Options, options, options. That's what I see every single week when considering available pitching on the waiver wire. In 2016 free agent pitching depth is immense. Streaming very average arms against mostly weak hitting? Check. Hunting down free agents who are scheduled for two starts in the upcoming week? Numerous possibilities. Call-up's from the minors? Seemingly, there's a guy every day.
I'm not here to re-hash the arguments for and against drafting aces early. Those guys (despite less-than-great April results from so many of those that were considered 'safe' or 'certain') need to be at the top of any fantasy league-winning rotation. But, the back-end is proving to be an easy fill.
If you don't like the early returns on the likes Phil Hughes, Alex Wood, Andrew Cashner, or a litany of others ... dump them. After all, you can go out and snag this week's latest celebrity (I'm looking at you, Tanner Roark). Overall, you should not be married to anyone outside your top three or four starters. There are just too many available helpers from week-to-week. Now, understand, that so many of the guys on the wire are not season-long answers. They're all fliers and you may only wind up owning them for a few weeks. But, if/when they fail, the price you pay for having added them is not destructive. For a good 75% of these guys, there is little commitment being wagered in terms of FAAB bidding. Mostly, if you like a guy at, say, $5 ... you should find multiple guys at the same price point with similar profiles.
My advice is that you should be making multiple pitching bids every week. When you're placing a bid on a specific pitcher, make sure you place back-up bids on others who have favorable match-up's, are in the midst of a decent run, or who are due a pair of starts in the upcoming week. It does take some work and study, but you should find that it pays off to have constant roster churn with your final couple of SP slots.
(Note: To make the list, I'll apply a loose definition that says a player is likely be unowned in a vast majority of 12-team mixed leagues. At the end of each player note, I'll also provide a suggested bid for those that use FAAB (Free Agent Acquisition Budget) for their waiver process (based on a $100 budget). Understand that this is only a suggestion ... if you've just lost your starting outfielder to injury and you have an immediate need or gaping hole in your lineup, you will find it necessary to bid more in order to get that week's top available outfielder.)
Chris Coghlan, 2B/3B/OF, Oakland
Coghlan leads off a group of batters this week who you can play at multiple spots. In Oakland, he's now the most-of-the-time third baseman after an injury to Danny Valencia (hamstring) that will keep him sidelined for another two-to-three weeks. Coghlan's average is the pits (.156), but he's an established MLB'er who will find his stroke. Remember, too, that he found his way to 16 HRs with the Cubs last year and he already has four slow trots this season. Another plus for him is that he could find a home at the top of the A's order in the 2-hole.
Suggested FAAB bid - $6
Derek Dietrich, INF, Miami
The shocking 80-game PED suspension of Dee Gordon makes Dietrich a late arrival in this week's column. The utility man has been a constant source for Thursday and Sunday afternoon starts since showing up in 2013, but now the Marlins will have to make more regular use of him. He's shown a little bit of pop at the plate (25 career homers in only 651 at-bats) and could find his way to a .260-ish average with low double-digit HRs over the next three months. He also brings a positional bonus to the table (middle and corner infield eligible). I would hesitate to say he's a fantasy starter (Miami also has Cole Gillespie on hand), but he's certainly a good bench add in most leagues.
Suggested FAAB bid - $5
Brandon Drury, OF, Arizona
D'Backs manager A.J. Hinch is on record saying that Drury is set to play as long as he keeps hitting. After hitting a third round-tripper on Thursday to continue his early '16 success, he should see more work in May. The youngster has no real position because he can be used at 2B, 3B, and in the OF. That's a good thing, of course. His power hasn't necessarily developed, but there's still potential for 15+ HRs with semi-regular playing time. Like nearly every other young player he has a load of swing-and-miss in his approach and he needs to learn how to earn a walk (one free versus a dozen K's this year). Playing time is looking good for now, so he's another depth add who can come on the cheap this week.
Suggested FAAB bid - $4
Brandon Moss, 1B/OF, St. Louis
Moss's average is still stubbornly stuck under-.250, but he's getting a good deal of starts for the power-packed Cardinals (their team slugging percentage is almost .500!). Moss has crushed five long balls already and he's a sleeper candidate for 25 or more now that his hip seems to be healthy. At this point, you don't have to worry about Matt Adams, either. Moss has past performance on his side, too, lifting 76 balls over the wall from 2012-14. If you can afford the hit to your batting average (he'll probably end up in the .220s), Moss makes for a good power add.
Suggested FAAB bid - $5
Kevin Plawecki, C, NY Mets
Not-so-shockingly, Travis d'Arnaud is back on the DL. Thus, Plawecki gets to handle catching duties for the next few weeks. Unfortunately, he should only interest you if you're stuck with a terrible second catcher in your two-catcher league. Quite simply, Plawecki just doesn't make enough contact. He's extremely whiff-prone and doesn't present enough power to cover up that inadequacy. Obviously the chance is now there for him to prove himself as something else, but I would not suggest paying for a ticket to the show.
Suggested FAAB bid - $1
Yadiel Rivera, 2B, Milwaukee
Milwaukee was getting a good start from Scooter Gennett, but all of that is out the window after he was placed on the DL with an oblique strain. Now, the Brewers will hand the reins to the 23-year old Rivera. For fantasy players, this should be of no concern. Rivera produced a .720 OPS in Double-A last year, but that's likely a mirage. He's just your typical glove-first, bat third-or-fourth middle infield option. Mixed league players shouldn't bother.
Suggested FAAB bid - $1
Devon Travis, 2B, Toronto
Travis (shoulder) is still a bit away from emerging out of his rehab and that's why he's the perfect add (if available) right now. There's a chance that even if he was drafted in your league, his owner has moved on from Travis in order to fulfill other roster needs or just because they got tired of waiting. His rookie season of a year ago was rather strong (.304/.361/.498 in 217 ABs). Heck, he was headed to an All-Star game after 60+ games before his injury crushed those hopes. He still has that talent and still brings plus-bat work to the position. He should be back in the bigs by late-May. If you can afford to wait or just need to have some sort of insurance at 2B ... get in on the low-end.
Suggested FAAB bid - $4
Trevor Bauer, SP, Cleveland
As soon as Carlos Carrasco crumpled to the ground with a hamstring pull, Bauer knew his jail time in the Cleveland bullpen was over. Going back to the end of spring training, it was a huge surprise that the young arm didn't make the Tribe's rotation. Although he didn't publicly pout you can be certain that Bauer was not pleased with the relegation. Despite serving up some baserunners, Bauer did show off some put-away stuff with 11 K's in 11.1 relief innings. His first start is scheduled for Saturday evening in Philly, so depending on how that pans out, the price could escalate. He still has the arm that made him a high-end prospect just a couple of years ago, but the shine has worn off with too many failed attempted take-off's (his ERA as a starter is over 4.50 and his WHIP is near 1.40). Still, this a true K-arm (8.6 per 9 in almost 375 innings) that is absolutely worth the risk.
Suggested FAAB bid - $12
Jose Berrios, SP, Minnesota
Berrios will be the hot commodity on the waiver wire this week. His mid-week call-up by the Twins was a bit earlier than many expected, but the team had no choice after both Ervin Santana and Kyle Gibson landed on the disabled list. His first outing against Cleveland was far from positive as he allowed five runs and six hits in just four frames. He seemed to show some nerves, constantly missing his spots and falling behind in the count time and time again. Consider the debut a positive, though ... he's cheaper now! As we all know ... hype is only as good as your last start. Berrios sports three strong offerings (fastball, change-up, curve) and should stick in the Twins' rotation for the remainder of the summer. He shouldn't have any real innings limitation after throwing nearly 175 innings in the minors last year. He hasn't had many hiccups in the minors, either, dominating most every batter he faces. He's definitely one of the top two or three rookie call-up's scheduled for the year (Lucas Giolito, Blake Snell, and Tyler Glasnow all competing with him for those honors), so if you're into the idea of one big add each season, he fits the bill.
Suggested FAAB bid - $30
Sean Manaea, SP, Oakland
Manaea's debut versus Houston on Friday gave us his overall game in one single game. His stuff was there, but his control was up and down, left and right, zigging and zagging. He finished five-plus innings while allowing four runs on four hits and four walks. Moving away from the take-away of just one start, what do we have in Manaea? The lefty is a big dude (standing 6'5") who mostly goes fastball-slider when attacking hitters. Command comes and goes and no one sees him as any team's future ace, but he can be a middle-of-the-rotation asset. He should remain in the Oakland rotation moving forward and in a week where bidders will be focusing on Berrios and Smith, you have a shot at getting a bargain. Oakland's home yard is also a calming influence for the rookie, as well.
Suggested FAAB bid - $20
Justin Nicolino, SP, Miami
Don't pay much attention to Nicolino's first start. His 7.1 shutout innings versus the Dodgers in L-A is not a representation of what he is. Instead, pay attention to his 12 starts of a year ago when he didn't strikeout anyone (2.8 K/9??!!) and crafted an ERA over 4. The lefty might get 20 starts this year, but that says much more about the lack of options in Miami than it does about Nicolino. The only way he pulls off any success will be by inducing grounder after grounder and hoping that those balls find the mitts behind him. There is still one temptation, though. He has a pair of home starts (vs. ARZ, vs. PHI) coming up this week. If you fancy yourself a risk-taker then here's your chance!
Suggested FAAB bid - $3
Joe Smith, RP, LA Angels
Here's another pitcher that has jumped on the radar after a teammate came up lame. Smith moves into the 9th-inning with Huston Street (oblique) likely sidelined for at least a month. Such things are rarely given's, but Smith has a decent skill set that should translate into the last inning. He's not a huge strikeout arm (a career 7.5 K/9), but he's been reliably getting guys out for a decade now. He also doesn't cough up home runs or walks, either. If Jeanmar Gomez can have success, so can Smith! Obviously, if you play the game of 'I'll just grab a guy in April' when it comes to your bullpen, you'll want to give a little more air to the bid I have below.
Suggested FAAB - $15
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