Before the season began it was difficult to imagine Jung Ho Kang getting enough playing time with the Pirates to be deemed Fantasy relevant. Sure the Pirates were obviously Gung ho on Jung Ho, after the small market team spent 11 million to acquire his services for a 4-year term, but where was he going to fit in?
Well, what a difference six weeks make. Kang’s path has become as clear as a seabed in parted waters. It’s almost as if Moses himself played a role in his rise to becoming an everyday starter. All of the obstacles that stood in his way have now become a part of the razed swath to King Kang’s rightful throne.
His first obstacle, Jody Mercer, has struggled. Now this does not come as too much of a surprise, but he has been horrible at the plate. He’s hitting below the Mendosa Line at .183, and has just 3 extra-base hits (all doubles) in 104 ABs. This all adds up to a putrid .450 OPS. He had an okay year in 2014, but he’s 28 with no upside left. An easy one-finger push – first obstacle down… and out.
Kang’s second obstacle, Josh Harrison, who looked to be the future of the Pirates last year, is off to a very rocky start, as well. Believe it or not, his numbers are almost as bad as Mercer’s. He’s flatlining it on the M.L., with an even .200 average, and has just 9 extra-base hits in 120 ABs. This all adds up to an unacceptable .569 OPS. Harrison, who finished second in the N.L. batting race last year, will have a much longer leash than Mercer, but for now he’s close to being back the utility man that he had been prior to last season.
Third obstacle, Pedro Alvarez, is barely treading water above the surface of the Mendosa Line, as well, with a .202 average. He does have 5 HR and 15 RBI, and a low average was expected from the third baseman turned first baseman, but it means that his spot in the lineup should eventually drop to 6th or even 7th on a regular basis. On top of this, his potential replacement, Corey Hart, is struggling even more so at the plate. So, Alvarez won’t be shifting back over to his old position any time soon to accommodate a hot bat at first.
In fact, most of the Pirates’ regulars are experiencing a tough start at the plate. Only Starling Marte, Neil Walker and Francisco Cervelli have an average higher than .230, which is where the elite team leader Andrew McCutchen currently resides. So guess what? The Bucs not only need alternative options at 3 of their 4 infield positions, they need a hot bat in their lineup, as well.
Enter Kang. He is slashing .369 OBP/.474 SLG./.843 OPS in 57 at bats, without having that regular spot in the lineup.
Pittsburgh’s announcers keep raving about his bat speed. Kang backed up their claims when he faced Aroldis Chapman earlier this month, as he doubled in his second at bat against the fireballer. (He drew a walk in the first showdown)
So, everything is capiche. Done deal. Let him fill your Fantasy boots. It’s all good, right?
Well, not quite. What’s a story without a little conflict?
Kang has one more Hurdle to overcome – Clint Merrick Hurdle to be specific. Like many of the managers of the stubborn ilk, Hurdle still can’t see that the Korean phenom should be an everyday player.
Now this would be almost excusable if things were going well for the Pirates offense. BUT THEY AREN’T! They presently can’t hit the broad side of the Roberto Clemente Bridge.
For Fantasy owners, like myself, this is becoming as frustrating as Dusty Baker’s myopic mishandling of Mesoraco. Anyone notice how he broke out after Baker was dismissed?
Okay, maybe it’s not that bad, yet, but please Mr. Hurdle, just give the new guy a shot. Have some Mercery.
Anyway, let’s get to the rest of our picks on the waiver wire in week 7. You’ll notice many repeats from previous “Waiver Wire” posts here. That’s because they are the best options out there and still mostly under 50% owned in Yahoo Leagues:
Jimmy Paredes 3B (49% owned in Yahoo Leagues) Two weeks ago we featured Paredes in our Waiver Wire Week 5 article. Since then he has hit in 12 straight games – 4 of the last 5 have been multi-hit games. Some of us are a little slower to catch on than Buck Showalter. Paredes should not only be owned in all mixed leagues, he should be starting.
Marlon Byrd OF (49% owned in Yahoo Leagues) April was a horrible month for the 37 yr. old. May has been the complete opposite. He already has 6 HR and 14 RBI in 12 May games, with an even .500 OBP. Wait a minute, I don’t own him. Excuse me for a moment… Crap. He’s gone. Hope you have better luck.
Dexter Fowler OF (47% owned in Yahoo Leagues) Fowler’s hitting at the top of the most exciting young lineup in baseball – and it shows. He’s got 23 runs and 8 steals already, with a more than respectable .782 OPS. Who would you rather pitch to, Fowler, Bryant, Rizzo or Soler? Be assured, he’ll continue to see more balls crossing the plate than the other three.
Jung Ho Kang (23% owned in Yahoo Leagues) The Hurdle hurdle is all that remains on his path to glory.
Alex Guerrero 3B/OF (44% owned in Yahoo Leagues) The kid can hit, but where does he fit? He still has only 55 ABs, not enough for Fantasy relevance. Mattingly is stubborn and leans toward the veteran bats. Besides this, everyone on the team seems to be raking presently.
Jose Iglesias 3B/SS (43% owned in Yahoo Leagues) Is it finally time to acknowledge an uptick in the offensive game of this 25 yr. old Cuban, who is known more for his glove than his bat. Maybe, but I’ll need to see more before I’m convinced.
Rajai Davis OF (42% owned in Yahoo Leagues) Hate to put it this way, but he needs an injured teammate to see more playing time. He’s always a great streamer for steals if the playing time is a certainty.
Kennys Vargas 1B (11% owned in Yahoo Leagues) Very strange year so far for the 24 yr. old sophomore. A horrible April is slowly being forgotten with a promising May. (sounds like the weather in the East) Vargas has 14 hits in 10 May games, but only 3 went for extra bases. So, it’s almost like he’s just trying to make contact right now and will work up to the power swing as time goes on.
Logan Morrison 1B/OF (9% owned in Yahoo Leagues) Post post post hype potential. Who knows?
Chris Owings 2B/SS (8% owned in Yahoo Leagues) In his last 6 games he went 10 for 27 with 7 runs. Check to see if he sees more of the 2-spot, directly in front of Goldschmidt. The D-Backs have had several high-scoring affairs and are more of an offensive threat than most expected.
Noah Syndergaard SP (58% owned in Yahoo Leagues) Our Headliner for last week’s Waiver Wire article – Sizzling Syndergaard – had a fairly good debut against the intimidating Cubs (man, when was the last time those two words have come together). He escaped a few jams and shutout the Cubs through the first 5 innings, but then allowed 3 runs in the 6th. He did look tentative at times, but who wouldn’t be in that situation. Once he finds his footing his talent should show through. He will be starting his second game on Sunday in his home debut against the Brewers.
Carlos Rodon SP (52% owned in Yahoo Leagues) In his debut start Rodon pitched through 6 innings. he allowed just 4 hits with 8 Ks, but did cede 4 walks and 2 runs, as well. We covered his rise to the Majors last week: Rodon has blasted through the Minors, going from Single A to Triple A last year, with very small sample sizes at each level. He does have some control issues, but over 24.2 IP he allowed 20 hits, while striking out a whooping 38. He and Syndergaard are the two most exciting arms to be called up from the Minors this year. Rodon has the one advantage in that he is a southpaw. Syndergaard has the advantage of being in the weakest hitting division in the majors. So, it will be quite interesting to see how each one fares in the coming months. Can’t wait to see how he does tonight against the A’s in Oakland.
Chris Young SP (42% owned in Yahoo Leagues) Young was so impressive in Sunday’s game of the night, against the ferocious Tigers, that he has now graduated from the watch list to the add list. He tamed the big cats to the tune of 3 hits and no walks over 6 innings. His only other start this year came against the Tigers, as well. In that performance he reversed the number of hits (0) and walks (3) over 5 innings. Does this soon to turn 36 years old veteran just have a knack for taming one team? Well, I think not, as he has been just as stellar out of the bullpen. In total, he has allowed just 7 hits in 23 IP with 19 Ks. Young’s 6’10” frame is an intimidating force to look up at, especially when you add the extra 10 inches of the height of the mound. He has survived a couple of injuries. One that was particularly horrible (he was hit in the face by an Albert Pujol’s line drive almost exactly 7 years ago and here’s their take on the incident: Pujols and Young Recount the Smash) and I’m cheering for him – and not just because I own him in several leagues.
Chris Heston SP (29% owned in Yahoo Leagues) In deeper mixed leagues, Heston should begin to get some consideration. With his 2.91 ERA you would think he’s pretty reliable, but like many rookie pitchers he seems to pitch lights out or he gets smacked around. He has had 2 bad blow-ups to go with 5 quality starts. So, beware of the “rookie factor” here.