ROTISSERIE: Being a waiver wire analyst

Have you ever wondered what makes the waiver wire so tantalizing? Do you wonder why you look forward to reading Waiver Wire articles as your index finger hovers over the “Next Tab” hotkey so you can see if you can catch your league-mates napping? Why does the grass always seem a bit greener when looking at a league-mate’s winning lineup?

Shiny New Toy syndrome is one of the many itches our holy hobby scratches. After the absolute Confirmation/Recency Bias zenith of draft day, we race to the wire and watch as Spring Training changes how we think about benches on the daily. We drop this presumed closer for this possible stolen base lottery ticket. We drop a catcher for a different catcher who just homered, because sometimes fantasy baseball is a disease.


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In this way, an end-of-bench player is our perfect little life/death cycle. Like a little video game avatar, we hurl them off the cliffs until they stick the landing. We pick them up, they don’t produce for an arbitrary length of time, and then we drop them for the next hot fellow. Speaking of fellows, you’re usually going up against three types of Waiver Wire Warriors in a given fantasy league:

The Vigilant - Every morning, mid-morning, noon, mid-afternoon, twilight, before bed, and right before your league’s waivers start processing. That is when The Vigilant is checking the wire for hidden value.

The Variable - The middle child is the hardest to predict. Sometimes you’ll stay up late too late and boost your FAAB bid worrying about The Variable, only to wake up and realize that you were bidding against yourself. They are steady, but they pick their spots.

The Vanished - The member who will not bid on anything for two months, and then swoop in and grab a closer in waiting, or a 6th OF they don’t even need. If it feels personal, it’s not. This makes it worse.

These humans obstruct your view of the waiver wire, a veritable militia of Frankenstein’s Monsters all trying to sit in front of you at the cinema. As mentioned last week, these Obstructionists read a lot of the same material that you do, week in and week out. If everyone’s reading the same Waiver articles, then the truly terrible takes hold: You get excited for a fringe guy you read about, check your wire…and he’s owned. He’s been owned for a week. And it happens again. And again.

I would rather we be on the other side of the looking glass, and make like John Cusack climbing into the brain of a fantasy baseball John Malkovich. One way to do that is to analyze the waiver wire articles themselves to look for patterns in suggestions. Baseball statistics are like the alphabet; everyone has access to the same information, but the art of analysis lies in the crafting of one's methodology. There is no "gotcha" in what you're about to read, because baseball is a game of instant hindsight, and being right has nothing to do with making a player forecast, despite what the most ardent Cold Takes Exposed tweet will tell you.

This is what I will be looking at:

  • Find common players suggested by multiple websites from June 12-18
  • Analyze why each player was suggested as a “Buy”
  • Analyze the selected player's Roto 5x5 stats two weeks before and after the waiver articles reflect on the methodology of the buy, and whether said methodology is worth attempting

This is what I will not be doing:

  • Dunking on missed calls
  • Absolutely lambasting authors or websites
  • Being anything but curious

I selected articles from five fantasy baseball websites, created a table with all of their waiver suggestions, and then pulled the five players who were mentioned the most on the week of June 12-18. They are in no certain order:

Ezequiel Durán
Jon Berti
Luis Garcia
Gabriel Moreno
Nathaniel Lowe

I then pulled their Rotisserie 5x5 stats two weeks before the Waiver Wire recommendations, and the two weeks after the recommendation. It’s worth mentioning that I was unable to select any pitchers based on the variance between number of pitchers mentioned in each article.

Ezequiel Durán
Pre-article: 5/1/1/0/.308 in 27 ABs
Post-article: 0/0/0/0/.000 in 11 ABs

Why the helium? He was called up in June, and his track record looked good. Sites mentioned his ability to swipe a few bases, and that he was hitting  +100 mph on at least 10 batted balls. Also mentioned was his starting six straight games.

Did he keep it up?
Nope. He was sent down after getting a brief taste of action.

The lesson:
Go over MiLB reports and prospect profiles preseason, track player profiles that fit lineup needs so you can fill your Watch List with tasty category-helping prospects. That way you've done your homework, and you haven't wasted an add or FAAB on a player destined for banishment.

Jon Berti
Pre-Article: 6/0/6/7/.308
Post-Article: 6/0/5/6/.256

Why the helium?
Steals. Speed. Fast man go, “Vroom vroom!”

Did he keep it up?
The man has already won some leagues for some players. Alas, like Icarus, Berti flew too close to MLB godliness and one of the Fates took him out of commission to prevent any more SB prorating blasphemy (he’s on the IL with a strained groin)

The lesson:
There cannot possibly be any lesson. The chaos of the universe finds itself at home in Berti’s SB run. He managed to find regular ABs, got and stayed hot, and only stopped running when his body betrayed him. You'll sit at that slot machine all night, pull after pull, thinking that the law of averages will meet you soon. Alas, like Reverse Icarus, your distance from the sun is so vast that everything you touch turns to ice.

Luis Garcia
Pre-Article: 4/1/7/0/.359
Post-Article: 6/0/1/1/.306

Why the helium?
Websites cited his MiLB track record, his early promotion, and his bat speed. Touted as a solid bat that would help in AVG and a little pop. Everyday at-bats were a factor as well.

Did he keep it up?
He’s been exactly as advertised, minus the pop.

The lesson:
Look for prospects with great hitting tools. This sounds obvious, but there has been a glut of hyped prospects (Gorman, Cruz, et al.) who are either all-power or toolsy, yet lack the bat control and speed necessary to stay in the lineup every day. Garcia may seem boring, but in counting stats leagues, volume is the name of the game. Find the guys who can avoid platoons in a league that seems to be leaning into platooning a decent portion of their young players.

Gabriel Moreno
Pre-Article: 1/0/0/0/.250 in 4 PA
Post-Article: 2/0/0/0/.190 in 22 PA

Why the helium?
His prospect grades were fabulous in real life baseball. Half the sites mentioned his hit tool without mentioning his lack of power, but three-out-of-five sites firmly noted that his playing time could be difficult to attain.

Did he keep it up?
He was immediately sent down as soon as Danny Jansen was activated and was left with nothing, like Oliver Twist if someone stopped reading after he asked for more food at the beginning of the book.

The lesson:
Everything I said about prospects with hit tools in Luis Garcia’s section still stands. Because while Moreno has the tools, he lacks consistent playing time and, as a catcher, is more prone to days off. A player’s position affects prospects' ability to stick in the majors. Stay away from catcher prospects.

 

Nathaniel Lowe
Pre-Article: 6/4/6/0/.319
Post-Article: 5/3/7/0/.306

Why the helium?
Websites mentioned his recent production, but there was a lot of doubt and ambivalence regarding his value as compared to other corner infielders. Seen as a boring add.

Did he keep it up?
Like Rowdy Tellez, another unheralded CI, Lowe has kept it up despite his owners probably wanting a reason to drop him for another high-upside guy staring at them from the depths of the Wire.

The lesson:
Sometimes boring is dependable. High upside guys are great, but when a mid-floor guy has a good few weeks or a month-plus, he can do some damage for your team.

Final Takeaways:

To sum up our findings, we’ve found several factors that gain attention from rabid Waiver Wire authors. Analysts seem to use a good mixture of recency bias, playing time opportunities, and general optimism in shaping their opinions. We can beat our league-mates to future waiver candidates by looking for solid hit tool prospects with a clear path to playing time, monitoring platoons and lineup chicanery on a team-by-team basis, and with boring, predictable players who are often more effective than youth with upside. For every Jon Berti, there are a hundred Josh Lowes waiting in the wings, hoping for their own miraculous statistical streak.

As we develop our toolkit to better defend our Waiver Wires from the Obstructionists, keep reflecting on the pickups that have done the most while costing the least. You’re not going to hit on a Juan Soto call-up or a Jon Berti steals apocalypse every season, so balance your expectations and keep shooting for the stars.

Thank you for the warm welcome last month, and if you have any questions about the process or suggestions for future articles, let me know down below!


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  For more information about the terms used in this article, see our Glossary Primer.