When I started writing this column on Sunday morning, I noticed an interesting tweet from the Marlins' official account.
Any time I see the name 'Mark Prior,' I see this horrific mix of Game 6, a collision with Marcus Giles and a Brad Hawpe line drive shattering his elbow. But I also remember what Prior's first 40 innings were like, and really the dominance of his entire 2003 season. So the fact that Jacob Turner is matching the numbers Prior posted in his rookie year is nothing to dismiss. It's also why he's worth owning in nearly all mixed leagues.
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Turner (available in 81 percent of Yahoo leagues, 64 percent of CBS leagues, and 87 percent of ESPN leagues) joined the Marlins' rotation at the end of May, and has posted five quality starts in six outings. The only time he failed to register a quality start, he allowed just two runs in five innings. He had his best start of the year his last time out, tossing a complete game and allowing just one run on seven hits, striking out seven in a win over the Padres.
Let's throw out some red flags first. He's never been a big strikeout guy, and he's fanning fewer than six batters per nine innings this year. He also has 12 walks in 41 innings, and while the sample is way too small to draw any meaningful conclusions, his BABIP is .264 and his strand rate is 82.6 percent. On the bright side, his ground-ball rate is north of 50 percent, and he has surrendered just one homer thus far. Going back to his minor league days with both the Marlins and Tigers, he has always managed to keep the ball in the park at a rate way better than league average. He may not be matchup-proof at this point, but given his ceiling, he's well worth owning in all but the shallowest mixed leagues.
And now for the rest of the waiver wire:
• SP Tony Cingrani, Cincinnati Reds (67, 30, 84): It has been a few weeks, so that must mean it's time for Cingrani's obligatory appearance in the waiver wire. With Johnny Cueto headed to the DL for the third time this season, Cingrani once again finds himself in Cincinnati's rotation. All three of Cueto's trips to the DL this year have been related to his right lat, so it might behoove the Reds to leave him on the DL for a while this time around. They're a strong favorite to make the playoffs, and they'll need Cueto healthy in October if they want to avoid the disappointment that befell them last year. At this point, we know exactly what Cingrani can do as a starter. In 47.1 innings this season, he has 57 strikeouts and a 3.42 ERA. He should be universally owned. Again.
• OF Raul Ibanez, Seattle Mariners (71, 58, 40): Somehow, at 41 years old, Ibanez has found a way to remain relevant in the minds of fantasy owners. And he's done that by hitting home runs at a ridiculous pace this season. His 18 jacks have him tied with Jose Bautista, Jay Bruce and Carlos Beltran for 10th in the category. He's hitting just .247 with a .294 OBP, so he's not going to help you in the rate categories, but he can be a major asset in homers and RBI. If that's a cocktail you can stomach, go ahead and make the move.
• OF Rajai Davis, Toronto Blue Jays (88, 78, 86): Davis has always been a reliable base stealer. He swiped 41 bags in 2009, 50 in 2010, 34 in 2011 and 46 last year. However, despite always being near the top of the stolen-base leaderboard, he hasn't been able to catch on as a fantasy regular because he didn't contribute meaningfully to any other category. In fact, each of the last two years, he has been a detriment in batting average and OBP. That has all changed this year, though, as he's slashing .314/.354/.397 in 131 plate appearances. Yes, his .370 BABIP is a bit inflated, but he also has 28.7 percent line-drive rate. In addition, he has just a 7.7 percent infield-hit rate. That's a career low since becoming a regular in 2008. Just as we can expect his BABIP to come down a bit, we can expect that to increase. He's worthy of a roster spot in most mixed leagues.
• SP John Lackey, Boston Red Sox (54, 18, 34): Lackey has been a huge part of the Red Sox' resurgence this year, enjoying a major bounceback season of his own. Through 13 starts, he's 5-5 with a 2.99 ERA, 3.62 FIP and 73 strikeouts against just 17 walks in 78.1 innings. He dominated the Rockies in his last start, allowing two runs while striking out 12 in seven innings. He hasn't lost anything off his fastball, still sitting at 91-92 mph, and he has largely scrapped a changeup that hasn't been effective for him either of the past two seasons. The way he's pitching, he should be owned in all mixed leagues.
• 1B/3B/OF Todd Frazier, Cincinnati Reds: If you're in a deep league, you're not going to drop Frazier, but those of you in shallower leagues can feel free to cut ties. He simply hasn't been the same player he was last year. He's hitting just .238/.336/.398 with nine homers in 304 plate appearances. His BABIP is .286, so it's not like this is just a case of bad luck. After posting a line-drive rate of 22.4 percent last year, he's down at 17.6 percent this year. The flexibility created by his multi-position eligibility only goes so far when he isn't hitting.
• SS Erick Aybar, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: Aybar has been a valuable commodity each of the last two years because he has stolen at least 20 bases while playing a shallow position. This season, however, he has just four steals, eliminating much of his value. If you're in a league that uses batting average, you're feeling alright about his .285 average, but his .304 OBP hurts in OBP leagues. And even with his decent average, if all a guy does is hit .285 without contributing to any other category, he's not exactly moving the needle.