Fantasy Baseball Waiver Wire Adds: Week 1
Seriously, just ban spring training.
Ban it. Banish it to parts unknown. Send it away with a scolding and no dinner. I mean, look at what spring training did to poor A.J. Pollock, fracturing the elbow of one of the brightest young stars in the National League and one of the most important components to an Arizona Diamondbacks team that has designs on winning the NL West.
Seriously, can we not just let hitters figure out some other way to get ready for the season? Must we really submit these people to playing in fake games where real injuries can occur? I mean, I know pitchers need to build up arm strength, hitters need to get their timing and managers need to look at players to decide the final few roster spots, but there has to be some way to stop these kinds of things from happening.
Of course, the Pollock injury is the big fantasy news this week, and his injury could result in some regular playing time for a Diamondback prospect. Or it could mean the team will look to add a veteran from outside the organization.
Regardless, the Pollock injury has major ramifications on the very first waiver wire pickup piece of 2016.
Socrates Brito - Arizona Diamondbacks (OF)
ESPN Percentage Owned: 8.2%
So if you want to give your kid an absolutely terrific name, it's hard to go wrong with "Socrates." Arizona outfielder Socrates Brito will get the first opportunity to fill the void left behind by Pollock. Before getting a cup of coffee with the D-Backs last year, he had never played above Double-A, but was a fairly productive hitter there in 2015, putting up a wRC+ of 122 in 522 plate appearances.
Brito can run and has a little bit of pop, although some time at Triple-A would have been better for his development. However, with the injury to Pollock, Brito steps in as the everyday outfielder, and is worth an add in deeper, 12-team leagues. The Atlanta Braves' Michael Bourn has been rumored as a possible Pollock replacement from outside the organization, but he's on the downside of his career and isn't even worth a deep league flier.
Travis Shaw - Boston Red Sox (3B)
ESPN Percentage Owned: 21.9%
Chances are, you've already heard about the benching of Pablo Sandoval and the 25-year-old who will take his place, Travis Shaw. And while Sandoval may have the bigger contract and more name recognition, Shaw was worth far more as a player last year than Sandoval.
In 2015, Kung Fu Panda put up a hideous fWAR of -2.0. Do you know how hard it is to cost your team two wins below a replacement player? To quote the fictional Ron Washington in the Moneyball movie, "It's very hard." Shaw, meanwhile, slashed .270/.327/.487 with a wRC+ of 117 and an fWAR of 1.5 in 248 plate appearances last season.
It's this simple. Shaw is a better player right now, providing good pop for the position, hitting 13 homers last year in just those 248 plate appearances. Here's a bit of that power on display.
Double those plate appearances, and in 500, you'd have a 25-homer hitter on your hands at the hot corner.
Juan Nicasio - Pittsburgh Pirates (SP)
ESPN Percentage Owned: 20.1%
Juan Nicasio had an outstanding spring this year, not allowing a run in 15 innings on 10 hits and five walks with 24 strikeouts. That's a 0.00 ERA, kids, with 10 of those strikeouts coming in one outing in which he pitched just four innings. Bear witness, y'all.
And that was coming off a 2015 season in which, as a relief pitcher for the Dodgers, he had a 3.86 ERA and a more impressive 2.83 fielding independent pitching (FIP), thanks to his eye-popping 10.03 strikeouts per nine innings. He did walk 4.94 batters per nine, which wasn't good, but he did well enough in 58 1/3 innings and gave up a minuscule 0.15 homers per nine innings last season.
Pirates pitching coach Ray Searage has made this kind of reclamation project his stock and trade, and you should be adding Nicasio to your bench, because it's more than likely he's going to strike a bunch of guys out and put up some decent numbers at the back of Pittsburgh's rotation.
Cesar Hernandez - Philadelphia Phillies (2B)
ESPN Percentage Owned: 13.9%
There aren't a lot of players who can steal bags in baseball anymore. So when you find one, he has some value.
That's where Philadelphia Phillies second baseman Cesar Hernandez comes in. In 452 plate appearances last season, he stole 19 bags and had an on-base percentage of .339 with an 8.8% walk rate. He'll start off the season as the Phils' leadoff hitter, and if he gets on base consistently, could see 70-80 runs scored hitting in front of Maikel Franco. Hernandez also led all Phillies hitters this spring with 22 hits, batting .319/.382/.435.
Eugenio Suarez - Cincinnati Reds (SS)
ESPN Percentage Owned: 11.6%
Eugenio Suarez is the Reds everyday shortstop, and if you're in need of some cheap power from a middle infielder, Suarez could be your guy. He slugged 13 homers in just 398 plate appearances last season, and although he doesn't walk much, has some serious pop for a shortstop.
Suarez also had a very good spring, for whatever that's worth. He was tied for second on the team this spring in hits with 21 and hit .356/.457/.576 with two homers and seven doubles. However, he did strike out 16 times this spring, but added an encouraging nine walks.
Jonathan Schoop - Baltimore Orioles (2B)
ESPN Percentage Owned: 37.6%
The secret may soon be out on Jonathan Schoop. He's long been one of the Orioles' most heralded prospects, and may finally be ready to take flight.
Schoop had a huge spring, batting .349/.379/.571 with 4 homers and 12 RBI with just 7 strikeouts in 68 at-bats. Injuries caused him to play just 86 games last year, but when he was in there, the power production was there, with 15 homers in 321 plate appearances. Here he is earlier this spring doing damage.
His strikeout-to-walk ratio as ghastly, going down on strikes 24.6% of the time last year and walking just 2.8% of the time.
But if no one in your league has Schoop yet, go get him.
Jerad Eickhoff - Philadelphia Phillies (SP)
ESPN Percentage Owned: 5.3%
The Phillies actually have a couple starters who could be on this list as well. Aaron Nola is still available in 36.3% of ESPN leagues, and Vincent Velasquez can be picked up in all but 31.3% of ESPN fantasy leagues. Both could have surprisingly effective seasons, if you don't care about pitchers' wins totals.
But the starter who is available in far too many leagues is the team's number-four starter, Jerad Eickhoff, who had a brilliant cup of coffee with the Phils last season. In eight starts last year, Eickhoff had an ERA of 2.65, a Fielding Independent Pitching of 3.25 and struck out 8.65 batters per nine innings. In fact, the only two right-handed starters in Phillies history to have two 10-strikeout, 1-walk games in the same season are Eickhoff and Roy Halladay.
Eickhoff missed the first couple weeks of spring training, but when he came back continued to display a knee-buckling curveball that hitters still haven't picked up, and also flashed a new changeup that was inducing swings and misses. You'd like to see more swings and misses on his fastball, but you can't have everything in life.
Hector Olivera - Atlanta Braves (3B/2B/OF)
ESPN Percentage Owned: 14.7%
It's been a little while since a high-priced Cuban import made an impact in the Majors, but Atlanta's Hector Olivera could be that guy. He'll be the team's starting left fielder, but ESPN's fantasy site has him listed as a third baseman, and it's possible he'll play some second this year as well, so his value is in his versatility.
Olivera was on fire this spring, leading Atlanta in hits with 24. He batted .393/.406/.492 with six doubles and just six strikeouts with two walks. He puts the ball in play, and although he doesn't hit much for average, he can be a doubles guy who will provide some decent batting average and a handful of steals if he plays up to potential.
Don't take his spring numbers as gospel, but the soon-to-be 31-year-old is looking good so far in 2015.