Big Kimpin’, Valbuena, and El Duderino: Deep League Waiver Wire

Each week until the start of the season, we’re looking at deep league options currently going late in drafts or not at all. Last week we covered catchers and this week we’re onto first basemen. In addition to the two titular-featured players, I’ve thrown in a third as a bonus who’s being drafted in the middle rounds of standard leagues but going well outside the top 12 at the position.


Hyun-Soo Kim – I have to admit, this is about as much of a gut call as I feel comfortable making, which is to say I’m a little uncomfortable. While my proclivities toward drafting older rookies from other professional leagues have more often than not paid off, I don’t have much to go on with Kim. I like to see strong plate discipline numbers abroad, which Kim has in spades, but offense in the KBO is so ridiculously inflated that it’s hard to take his 101:63 BB:K ratio seriously. I mean, how can you?

But Kim profiles as an excellent contact hitter with decent power. The projections like him, anticipating 18-20 home runs with solid plate discipline and an average that plays. For those concerned, August Fagerstrom recently wrote in-depth about why his Spring Training results really aren’t anything to worry about (aside from that it’s Spring Training) because the process suggests he probably is who we think he is.

Yes, playing time among 1B/OF/DH types is a concern in Baltimore but Kim is currently penciled in as Nolan Reimold’s backup in left and could see time at first and right. And remember, that’s the same Nolan Reimold who’s amassed 482 plate appearances over the last 4 seasons. If Kim can provide just average defense in the outfield corners or while spelling Chris Davis at first, he’ll represent a vast defensive improvement over Mark Trumbo or Pedro Alvarez.

For what it costs to land Kim, I’m buying.

Luis Valbuena – Valbuena has been around a while, which isn’t really an endorsement so much as a reminder. But in that time he’s shown steady signs of growth not typically expected from someone 4 years into what’s typically considered a hitter’s power prime. His ISO has increased every year since 2009, peaking last season at .218, a 28-point jump over 2014. He’s also shown the ability to take a walk which, in OBP leagues, goes a long way in mitigating the damage done by his career .228 AVG.

Last season was certainly a mixed bag. On the plus side, Valbuena hit 25 home runs, a 56% jump over his previous career high set in 2014. We might expect some regression in his HR/FB% in 2016 but he’s always hit the ball hard and continues to post some of the highest fly ball rates in the league.

Now, most of those homers came in the first half of the season. From July onwards, he hit just 6. But in second half, Valbuena actually hit better, posting a .352 wOBA. His line drive and hard hit rates spiked so while his second half BABIP dwarfed that of his catatonically low first half, some of those gains were certainly deserved. Perhaps recognizing this, the projections anticipate a 10 point jump in batting average in 2016, which would make him merely lousy instead of atrocious.

If you have the luxury of platooning him, then take the opportunity; his batting average last season was nearly 90 points higher against righties than lefties. Paired with a capable platoon partner, that plays well in any deep league.

Currently, Valbuena is going just outside the top 300 and is the 40th first baseman off the board. His third base eligibility is obviously a plus as well and he’s currently the 28th taken at the hot corner. He fits well in any deep league and is serviceable as a CI in OBP leagues.

Lucas Duda – You might take umbrage with El Duderino appearing in a Deep League Waiver Wire piece since he’s going in the top 200 overall but too bad. And that’s why he’s more an an added special than a special feature.

Duda is currently the 19th first baseman off the board (16th if filtering out catcher-eligible players) and I’m having a hard time figuring out why. In 2015, he duplicated his 2014 breakout that made him the revelation we’d been hoping for. Sure, he strikes out more than you might want to see but not to an unpalatable degree and he more than makes up for it with his trenchant batting eye. He even seems to have improved against lefties, his Achilles heal, posting a .375 wOBA last season.

Now his line against lefties is a variety pack of pink Starburst improvements and banana-and-cream oatmeal packets of regression. Dig around and you’ll find a .378 BABIP and 17% HR/FB rate. However, Duda also made harder contact and hit fewer grounders versus southpaws so I’m more inclined to believe in the righteous verisimilitude of his 2015 handedness gains.

It’s kind of baffling to me that a first baseman who posted the 10th best wOBA and 4th best ISO at the position last season, is going as late as he is. Even though he’s a staple in standard-league drafts, I’m including him in this article because 1) you most likely haven’t drafted yet so your waiver wire is only theoretical at this point and 2) you could do a lot worse than taking Lucas Duda 19th at the position. And if you’re in an OBP league and he falls to you late, obviously you take him.


Rylan writes for Fangraphs and The Hardball Times. Look for his weekly Deep League Waiver Wire and The Chacon Zone columns this season.

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“his line against lefties is a variety pack of pink Starburst improvements and banana-and-cream oatmeal packets of regression”

Fantasy-writing gold.