By Sam McPherson
Since signing an eight-year, $182 million contract with the New York Yankees in December 2008, starting pitcher CC Sabathia has delivered mixed results. An All-Star selection in 2010, 2011 and 2012, Sabathia certainly paid dividends for the Yankees—especially since New York won the World Series in 2009 with the big lefty winning the American League Championship Series MVP that October. However, from 2013 through 2015, Sabathia won just 23 games with an ERA in the very high 4.00s, and he became a pitcher to avoid in fantasy baseball.
It’s 2016 now, and Sabathia is back, seemingly better than ever, with a 2.58 ERA so far this season through nine starts and 52 1/3 innings pitched. Can fantasy baseball owners believe in this resurgence of vintage Sabathia? His win-loss record is only 3-4 right now, but other numbers are promising. Sabathia is giving up just 7.4 hits per nine innings so far, which ties his career low set back in his rookie season (2001). His strikeout rate per nine innings (7.7) is right in line with his career mark (7.8). His walks are up a little, but Sabathia has allowed just two home runs this season.
He hasn’t given up more than three earned runs in a start yet this season, and that kind of consistency makes Sabathia a worthy risk in fantasy baseball. He seems to be getting better, too, since a brief stint on the disabled list in early May. Sabathia has given up just three earned runs since the start of May, and this includes starts against the Baltimore Orioles and the Toronto Blue Jays—teams that hit the long ball with frequency. This leads us to believe in Sabathia’s resurgence as a real, late-career transition to a successful level of expertise and wisdom at age 35.
Every veteran in a similar circumstance requires diligent research to make sure the return to fantasy prominence is real and not a fluke. When you find players like this on your waiver wire, investigate first before investing. You won’t regret the brief amount of time it takes to make sure you’re making the right move in your fantasy league.
Players to Get Onto Your Roster Now
1. CC Sabathia, SP, New York Yankees: Here’s an interesting scenario to consider, since Sabathia is in the final year of his contract with the Yankees—and New York is probably not going to be challenging for the postseason this year. Could the Yankees trade the big lefty to a team that needs starting pitching, like the Los Angeles Dodgers? Sabathia has just three wins right now, but that could change if he ends up making a lot of starts this summer for a team in contention. Ride him while he’s hot, even on the road against good-hitting teams.
2. Dan Straily, SP, Cincinnati Reds: Another SP stuck on a bad team despite posting good numbers, Straily never achieved the heights Sabathia did, of course. Plus, he’s only 27 years old, but it’s entirely possible the one-time Oakland A’s phenom has discovered how to pitch consistently in MLB. Straily is pitching more than he’s throwing these days, and that adjustment has meant a 3-2 record for a team with a 21-36 overall mark. He, too, is a likely candidate to be traded this summer to better pastures. Grab him now and reap the rewards.
3. Adam Duvall, OF, Cincinnati Reds: Sometimes, the worst teams have the best hidden fantasy gems, flying under the radar. At age 27, the former San Francisco farmhand is raking the ball in Cincinnati, to the tune of a .265 average, 16 home runs and 35 RBI. His walk rate is atrocious, and Duvall strikes out a lot, but right now, you cannot argue with the power numbers. The batting average could slide as summer progresses, but a change of scenery is likely—and that could mean better protection in the lineup. Duvall has a lot a value both now and later this season.
4. Mike Napoli, 1B, Cleveland Indians: He always seems to be available in most fantasy leagues, because his average (currently .239) scares owners away. But Napoli is a dominant streak hitter when he’s on, and right now, he’s crushing the ball (14 HRs, 42 RBI). Who can’t use those kinds of power numbers? Yes, he leads the American League in strikeouts, but Napoli always piles up the Ks. Considering he had just 18 HRs and 50 RBI all of last year, it’s clear Napoli can help a lot of fantasy teams right now.
Players to Sit/Drop This Week
1. Francisco Liriano, SP, Pittsburgh Pirates: His last start against the Los Angeles Angels was a disaster, and it’s clear this is one of those seasons where Liriano just doesn’t have it. Strangely, he’s never had an ERA in the 4.00s during his career, and right now, it sits at the 5.25 level. Do yourself a favor and cut bait now, before Liriano’s season really heads downhill. By the way, he leads the National League in walks right now.
2. James Shields, SP, Chicago White Sox: His 2-7 record and 4.28 ERA with the Padres doesn’t bode well for his trade to the White Sox over the weekend. Shields twice has given up the most HRs in the league (2010 in the AL, 2015 in the NL), and now he heads to one of the most HR-friendly ballparks in the MLB. “Big Game” James is anything but, and as he gets older now (34), his game is fading fast. Drop him and don’t think twice about it. Or trade him to a White Sox fan in your league if you can get something good in return for Shields.
3. Byung-ho Park, 1B, Minnesota Twins: Hopefully, he’s not on your team, anyway, but with just 19 RBI this season, Park isn’t delivering much value for the double-digit power he’s providing (10 HRs). The .219 average hurts, and the team around him is pretty bad. His OPS (.777) is average, and with 58 strikeouts in just 166 at-bats, Park isn’t making good contact. Thus, we cannot expect his average to climb. There are better, more-productive first basemen out there on the waiver wire (see Napoli above).
4. David Wright, 3B, New York Mets: He is 33, and with a .226 average, Wright is hitting worse than he ever has before in his career. Now on the disabled list with chronic neck problems, Wright never will be the same player he once was again. After seven All-Star appearances from 2006-13, his career has been in a nose dive since and may be over. We respect the guy, but the time has come to sever ties with him in the fantasy world.
Sam McPherson is a freelance writer covering baseball, football, basketball, golf and fantasy sports for CBS Local. He also is an Ironman triathlete and certified triathlon coach. Follow him on Twitter @sxmcp, because he’s quite prolific despite also being a college English professor and a certified copy editor.