Hunting Out West – Deep League Waiver Wire

Small sample sizes be damned! OK, not really. But today we take a look at two players who, in very limited playing time, have made us (or should make us) look twice and dig just a little deeper. 

 

Edwin Diaz (7% Yahoo, 4.5% ESPN, 8% CBS)– has anyone seen what Edwin Diaz has been up to in Seattle? Well, unfortunately I live in-market and don’t have cable so neither have I. But I’ve seen enough box scores, stat lines, and highlights to say, “Go pick up Edwin Diaz!”

15 innings into his MLB debut, Diaz is currently striking out 17 batters per nine while posting a 1.76 ERA and a sparkling 1.77 SIERA. His 34.8% K-BB% ranks 3rd among relievers with at least 10 IP. I know, I know, it’s only a few innings but what a glorious few it’s been.

Diaz grabs our attention with his big fastball. He lights up the radar gun, having maxed out at 101.4 mph. On average he sits between 96 and 97. But the converted starter also features a devastating slider that’s generating whiffs 36% of the time. In fact, among pitchers who have thrown at least 50 of them, Diaz’ slider sits 12th in MLB in whiffs per swing at 53%.

It’s still too early to draw any conclusions about the quality of contact made against Diaz. That said, I’m going to give you the numbers and let you decide for yourself. His 30.3% Soft% would be tied for 4th among relievers had he the innings to qualify. And if exit velocity is your thing, Diaz’ is 34th lowest out of 494 pitchers with at least 20 balls in play. On fly balls and line drives, it’s 2nd lowest in the league making his 16.7% HR/FB rate seem suspiciously high. And if we mosey on over to ESPN’s Hit Tracker, sure enough we find that half of his bombs are qualified as Just Enough.

Now, about that. I admit I’m being a little facetious on this point because we’re talking about two home runs. Two. Less than that number of weeks ago, Diaz’ HR/FB rate was sitting at 20%. Such is the nature of a reliever and particularly a young reliever with just 15 MLB innings on the back of his baseball card, if he even has one. So very shortly, we should also expect his 99% strand rate to normalize and even if we expect some increase in exit velocity, his soul-crushing .452 BABIP should regress as well.

As for his situation, it’s really not all that relevant here. It always seems as if Steve Cishek is just one appearance away from a spectacular implosion but the truth is he’s been uncharacteristically good this season. Cishek is striking batters out at pretty much the best rate of his career while walking fewer than he did last season. His ground ball rate sits at a career low so perhaps his homer problem is a little concerning. But isn’t it for every pitcher this season? The Bullpen Report has had Seattle green all year and while I’d like to think the M’s have a better option to close out games, I think our crew has it right.

My point is if you’re hunting for saves, there are other more volatile situations out there to profit from. Diaz provides value regardless of save opportunities by way of gaudy strikeout totals and microscopic rate stats. So get on it. The Mariners’ newest secret weapon may not remain secret for much longer.

 

Jake Smolinski (0% Yahoo, 0.3% ESPN, 1% CBS) – the return of Josh Reddick complicates things for Jake ‘the Snake’ Smolinski. Between Reddick, Khris Davis, Billy Burns, and Coco Crisp, it would appear the A’s outfield is full and set. But you know what? When you’re next to last in the AL in team wRC+, it’s kind of tough to keep a 138 wRC+ out of the lineup. And perhaps that’s why despite Reddick’s reactivation on June 28th, Smolinski has started 3 out of Oakland’s 5 games. Once in left, once in center, and once in right.

In just over 70 plate appearances this season, Smolinski has hit 4 homers on his way to a shiny .329/.355/.543 line. We probably shouldn’t expect this to continue given the .248/.310/.407 line he posted in the hitter-friendly PCL but it’s still worth taking a closer look to see what he’s doing differently.

Smolinski may be benefitting from a new more aggressive approach. He’s cut his BB% rate nearly in half but he’s also done the same to his K%. His SwStr% sits at a career low 5.8% which, among hitters with 70 or more plate appearances, ranks 37th out of 387. He’s favoring pitches up-and-in and absolutely crushing them when he makes contact, which to this point has been all the time…literally.

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Smolinski is also hitting one ball into the air for every ball he pounds into the ground. Those balls he’s elevating, he’s pulling with greater frequency this year and this is something that we know is a very good thing.

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That’s 2016’s fly balls and homers on the left and 2015’s on the right. Perhaps given his newfound affinity for strikes up-and-in and his literally perfect track record of hitting them, this all makes sense. Or perhaps, his new aggressive approach will soon expose a weakness that pitchers will exploit. Regardless, it appears that Bob Melvin will find a way to insert Smolinski into his lineup as long as he continues to hit.

The biggest drawback here is the extreme platoon splits. If you’re in daily leagues, Smolinski is an absolute must-start against lefties (236 wRC+) and someone to sit against righties (50 wRC+). Being the short side of a platoon is a never desirable situation, especially if you’re fighting a roster crunch. But he’s playing as much against righties as he is lefties. While that may change with Reddick’s return, the A’s are rumored to be in sell-mode, conceivably opening up some plate appearances for the 27 year old journeyman.





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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Cole
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Cole

Edwin’s the real deal, caught his debut a couple weeks back because I was gung-ho about his call up and added him to my roster in hopes of securing a future closer on the cheap…back to his debut…dude came in caused a weak ground out to 3rd on his heat, made the next batter look like he was in A ball with that slider, and by this time the Mariners home crowd was pumped up and ready to see this kid put down the 3rd batter. 101 flashed on the gun and then another weak ground out to 3rd off the slider…crowd goes wild. Move over Cishek!!

baltic wolf
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Member
baltic wolf

I saw him vs. the Orioles this past weekend and that great fastball sets up that wicked slider nicely. He’s a great pickup for people who play in leagues where holds are one of the categories or you awarded a decent number of points for holds. The Ks will make him attractive in just about any format. Even if he doesn’t seize the job from Cishek, he should be able to help your team in deep league or AL-only formats.

One caveat however, based on a very small sample size: the sliders he threw against the Orioles were, for the most part, out of the strike zone. And I don’t mean just barely outside of the strike zone. The Orioles have a notoriously aggressive group of hitters so it wasn’t surprising that he was able to bait them into chasing it. But will a more disciplined group of hitters lay off that pitch which he almost invariably threw with two strikes?

Stay tuned, or if you live in Seattle without cable, ask your friends to record some games for you, lol.

baltic wolf
Member
Member
baltic wolf

Btw: thanks for the Smolinski information, especially the part about his pulling more flyballs. I think I’ll drop C.J. Cron (picked up only to face O’ Sullivan on Sunday) in favor of Smolinski at the utility spot. I’m pretty sure he’ll play tonight vs. Milone—a really attractive matchup. Any info on his batted ball distance? Last time I checked, heatmaps.com was still down.