Today’s waiver wire looks at two hitters who are beneficiaries of injuries. Every year, a large percentage of surprise performances happen as a result of increased playing time, rather than any change in skill. These players are typically undervalued because they have never played full-time and therefore don’t have the history of counting stats to attract fantasy owners or instill the confidence that they could maintain their skills over every day at-bats.
Juan Francisco | ATL 3B | 5% Owned
Surprise, surprise, Chipper Jones is injured again. While his current ailment isn’t serious and he is expected to be ready soon after he is eligible to return from the Disabled List, you can obviously count on him missing more games in the future. That brings us to former Reds backup to their own injury prone third baseman Scott Rolen, Juan Francisco. Francisco is still just 24 and has only accumulated 274 plate appearances at the big league level. He has hit 10 home runs though with 45 RBIs, putting him on a prorated pace of 20+ bombs and 100 RBIs over a full season. He makes pretty poor contact and he learned well from Dusty Baker that clogging up the bases with walks is a bad thing. That makes for a pretty entertaining career BB/K ratio of 14/80 though. But it does mean he won’t exactly be a factor in the runs scored category.
While Francisco’s strikeout rate will ensure he won’t be a positive in the batting average category, he does sport a career line drive rate well above the league average. In a limited sample, he has also posted a .349 BABIP. That is enough to get his career average into respectable territory at .267, though it is more likely that he BABIPs lower than that and hits around .250 the rest of the way. That said, you pick up Francisco for his power. He has ISO’d .186 in the Majors and never posted a mark below .233 while at Triple-A. You don’t typically find this type of power available in deep leagues, so he’s worth a look while Larry Wayne is out and should probably be held onto in preperation for Jones’ inevitable next trip to the infirmary.
Norichika Aoki | MIL OF | 9% Owned
After Mat Gamel’s season-ending knee injury, the Brewers have been on a search for a permanent solution at first base. They may have found one in Corey Hart, which opens the door for Aoki to receive full-time at-bats in the outfield. Projecting Aoki is obviously a lot tougher than Francisco, given that this is his first year playing in the U.S. In Japan, he had always hit for a good average, only once failing to hit above .300. He also showed some power, hitting double digit homers from 2006-2010, but his power went missing in 2011 when he managed to hit just 4. He had also always shown pretty good speed, swiping at least 17 bases over that time frame. Once again, though, his speed disappeared during the 2011 season.
Without advanced metrics or any real deep knowledge of Aoki and how Japanese players age (if it’s different than how players do so in the U.S.), it is difficult to gauge whether 2011 was the beginning of a decline or just an off year. What we do know though is that Aoki has made pretty good contact with the Brewers and is hitting the ball on the ground to make good use of his speed. Though you can’t expect his .356 BABIP to continue, he should remain a batting average contributor. He would probably find it difficult to reach double digit homers over a full season, but he won’t be a zero there, as he does have one and five doubles already. More stolen base attempts would be nice, but two so far means a full season would yield low double digits. Sometimes all you need is a hitter who won’t kill you, and Aoki is exactly that.
Mike Podhorzer is the 2015 Fantasy Sports Writers Association Baseball Writer of the Year. He produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X 2.0: How to Forecast Baseball Player Performance, which teaches you how to project players yourself. His projections helped him win the inaugural 2013 Tout Wars mixed draft league. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikePodhorzer and contact him via email.