Fantasy baseball Waiver Wire: Chris Archer finding his stride
Whenever you consider a pitcher over a small sample size, you have to look at the teams he has faced. Sure, he may have posted some gaudy numbers during the stretch, but the right string of opponents can make a lot of pitchers look like Cy Young. That's not a reason to completely avoid a guy, but it is one of the many factors you have to think about when deciding whether or not to make a move. And with that, let's talk about Chris Archer.
The Rays promoted Archer (available in 75 percent of Yahoo leagues, 32 percent of CBS leagues, and 48 percent of ESPN leagues) back in June and placed him in the rotation. It took him awhile to find his stride, as he allowed five runs to the Indians in his first start and went for fewer than five innings in three of his first four outings.
That looks like nothing more than growing pains now, though. Recently, he's appeared every bit the ace the Rays thought he was when they dealt Matt Garza to the Cubs for a package Archer headlined. He threw his third consecutive strong outing Sunday, holding the Blue Jays to one run on five hits in seven innings. He only struck out one batter and walked four, and while walks have been an issue for him, he still deserves to be owned in most mixed leagues. In his last three starts, he has allowed one run in 22 innings. The first two starts in the hot streak were against the Twins and Astros, but the fact remains that he shut down both teams. Given his pedigree and the results we've seen from him, he can be a valuable commodity for fantasy owners the rest of the year.
And now, for the rest of this week's waiver wire goodness:
• 1B Justin Smoak, Seattle Mariners (Yahoo: 94 percent, CBS: 65 percent, ESPN: 86 percent) -- A darling post-hyper for the past few seasons, Smoak has been on a tear of late, hitting .353/.441/.647 with three homers in July. While the counting stats light up the fantasy scoreboard, the strides he's made with his plate discipline have been the most encouraging this year. For the first time in his major league career, Smoak isn't a rate killer. His walk rate is up to 13.3 percent, and his strikeout rate is a manageable 21.9 percent, helping him to a .268/.371/.435 slash line in 278 plate appearances. We've seen Smoak get hot and then burn out, but there's reason to believe he has staying power this year thanks to his improved patience. He also has a career-best 24.2-percent line-drive rate. He's worth a shot in deep mixed leagues.
• 2B/3B/OF Kelly Johnson, Tampa Bay Rays (63, 40, 65) -- Speaking of guys who run hot and cold, Johnson is on another burner. He got off to a great start this year, and really took off in May, but his production predictably took a drop. He's back on the upswing, though, and after a 3-for-4 with a homer Sunday, he's hitting .375/.442/.725 with four homers in July. We've seen this story play out once this year, already. He hit .330/.374/.648 in May and .116/.225/.174 in June. He's a guy worth riding while he's hot, but understand that the ride will end eventually. If you need help at second, third or outfield right now, Johnson is worth adding, no matter your league format.
• OF Marlon Byrd, New York Mets (69, 52, 18) -- It has been a sad year in Flushing, the kind of season where feel-good stories get as much play as possible. So it's surprising that the resuscitation of Byrd's career has made little noise outside of New York. The 35-year-old outfielder hit his 17th homer of the season Sunday in a win over the Phillies. He dealt with injuries for much of 2012, and limped his way to a .210/.243/.245 slash. Through 318 plate appearances this year, he's hitting .277/.327/.519. His power surge is hard to explain, as this is just the second time in his career he has hit more than 12 homers in a season. Despite that, he's still worth going after if you're looking for power or a change in the outfield.
• RP Pedro Strop, Chicago Cubs (97, 96, 99) -- Cubs Manager Dale Sveum said over the weekend that Strop would likely take over as the closer in the event of a Kevin Gregg trade. If you're speculating for saves that makes Strop a great add right now. Gregg has been effective enough that teams in need of bullpen help would be able to hold their noses and make a deal, especially since the Cubs probably won't be asking for much in return. Strop, who was dealt to the Cubs as part of the deal that sent Scott Feldman to the Orioles, hasn't allowed a run in eight appearances with his new team. He has eight strikeouts and two walks in 6.2 innings as a Cub.
• SS Derek Jeter, New York Yankees -- Well that was fun while it lasted, huh? Jeter played in one game after his much-awaited return from the DL, but strained his quad and had to go back on the shelf. Now the Yankees are saying he likely won't be able to return when first available at the end of this week. At this point, you can't count on him contributing at all in fantasy leagues this year.
• OF Andre Ethier, Los Angeles Dodgers -- With the Dodgers fully healthy for the first time all year, Ethier looks like the odd man out. The team is playing its best baseball of the year, taking over first place on Sunday, and Don Mattingly won't be able to bench Matt Kemp, Yasiel Puig or Carl Crawford. With this team's luck, there's always the chance of another injury, but Ethier just isn't worth owning now.