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The Cut List (Week 3) - Time to Let Go?

We're now midway through April, and your trigger finger may be getting a bit itchy. The baseball season is only a couple weeks old, however, and with more than 90% of the season to go it is still really early. Most teams had played about eight games through last weekend, and now that number is closer to 14.

This week, the still-small samples will be handled by considering 2018 data (or, in one case, lack thereof). Some players found their way on a decent number of teams for past production that did not offer much promise for more, so a weak start to 2019 is more dangerous than it might be for someone who had more signs of breakout potential in their 2018 record. Last week's considerations of injury and playing time will be included again this week.

Last week, we didn't tell you who to pick up, directing you to our "fabulous RotoBaller Waiver Wire Pickup List blog for that." But whether you want to drop a player really does depend on what the wire has to offer. Starting this week, then, at the end of each drop suggestion, you'll find a link to the pickup list entry of a preferred player.

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Week 3 Cut Candidates

Ian Desmond (1B/OF, COL)

Desmond is currently Yahoo's most-dropped hitter and with good reason. While he's still playing almost every day and batting fifth or sixth, he's hitting an anemic .160/.208/.220 through Friday, bad for a -2 wRC+. It may have been a flight of fancy to have drafted him in the first place, since last year showed no signs of better results this year; he had a .304 xwOBA. In fact, his best mark since Statcast came in 2015 was a .327 in 2016.

In both 2017 and 2018, he had an average launch angle of exactly 0.0, not where you want to be at Coors Field. If that park was going to help, it should have already done so in past years. So although the 2019 sample is small, it's not inconsistent with Desmond's record. Also worrying is Desmond's lack of steals; part of why shareholders tolerate his iffy bat is to get some of those steals, so he loses a lot of value without them. Despite a 143 ADP, it's not too early to cut loose.

Preferred pickup: Chad Pinder gives you positional flexibility too, but with much better offensive potential. Click here for more on Pinder.

Jung Ho Kang (3B, PIT)

Kang tried to put the moral and legal troubles that cost him 321 of 324 games in 2017-18 behind him with a seven-home run spring training this March. Unfortunately for him, it hasn't translated into 2019 regular season success, and Kang is hitting just .108/.195/.243 through Friday.

It's hard for anyone to hit MLB pitching, and it can only be harder if you've gone two years without seeing basically any of it. Kang's .193 xwOBA is in line with his .199 wOBA, and at age 32 with such a long layoff, it's possible that Kang won't figure it out at all this year. Kang also faces competition at third base from teammate Colin Moran, who is off to a .278/.409/.667 start, and Kang was out of the lineup for the third time in seven games on Saturday. There are plenty of warning signs here that suggest a cut.

Preferred pickup: Yandy Diaz has far surpassed Kang in ownership rates, but see if he's still around in your leagues. Chad Pinder can also serve as a Kang replacement at third base. It's even possible a question mark with very low ownership like Kang's teammate Moran holds more promise at this point, although perhaps that's a bridge too far. Click here for more on Diaz and see the Desmond entry for more on Pinder.

Michael Wacha (SP, STL)

Starting pitching has been a bit of a hellscape this season. Even if you want to cut a pitcher, is there really another hurler out there you can confidently say is better? Probably not, but sometimes you have to take the chance, and if Major League starters continue to stink, finding one of those breakouts could pay off more than ever.

Wacha was solid last year despite an injury in his 15th start that ultimately cost him the season, but beneath the 3.20 ERA were some concerns: a 4.22 FIP, a 4.12 xFIP, and a .350 xwOBA against. Wacha began to follow that up with a 1.54 ERA in 11.2 innings before getting blown up by the Dodgers on Thursday, but even in those first two games he walked a whopping 12 batters against 14 strikeouts. Including the Dodgers game he now has a 5.28 ERA, 6.85 FIP, and 5.05 xFIP.

Wacha's K rate has jumped this season despite a decline in swinging strikes, leaving a clear possibility that he falls to career strikeout rates (21.0%), which just won't be good enough with more typical BABIP luck than his good fortune in 2018. Steamer anticipates a rest-of-season ERA of 4.38, and ZiPS is even more pessimistic with a 4.59. Unlike the projections of a younger pitcher, these forecasts have a lot of MLB Michael Wacha to go on. Feel free to chase better upside.

Preferred pickup: Why not try a Brewers pitcher? Click here for information on Brandon Woodruff.


The Watch-Out List/Shallow-League Cuts

From Week 2: "Fantasy sites have watch lists for players that are not quite yet worth acquiring but should be monitored; the watch-out list, then, is owned players not quite worth cutting yet." Anticipate this hedge going away by May, but for now it's a useful way to discuss frustrating players that still have a reasonable shot at producing.

In leagues of 10 teams or shallower, feel free to cut these names as well. With 12 teams or more, be wary of giving up too soon.

All three players on last week's watch-out list survived, otherwise they would have "graduated" to this week's cut list up above. More on them at the end of the column.

Andrelton Simmons (SS, LAA)

For years now Simmons has been a batting average play with the occasional homer and steal from the middle infield. After posting an xBA between .269 and .288 each year from 2015-18, Simmons has only a .254 xBA early this season to back up his .216 average. The good signs are a 91.6 exit velocity and 8.2 launch angle, both of which would be the highest marks Simmons ever recorded in a full season.

The Angels aren't that great outside of Mike Trout and Simmons is a defensive wizard, so he'll continue to play. It's time to ax Simmons in OBP or OPS leagues, but consider giving him one more week in standard BA leagues. He did hit .292 last year, after all.

Jackie Bradley Jr. (OF, BOS)

Bradley was a popular sleeper pick this year, but it just hasn't happened yet. He's lost 3.2 mph of exit velocity and his xwOBA has crashed from .346 last year to .226 so far this season. His first barreled baseball has yet to appear. His ugly -7 wRC+ thru Friday is the worst among qualified hitters. It does look pretty bad, and even a big breakout probably wouldn't get Bradley higher than sixth or seventh in Boston's batting order.

If the underlying data from 2018 such as that .346 xwOBA or his 50.1% hard hit rate weren't there, Bradley would be a cut by now. He's also 2-for-2 stealing bases despite rarely reaching, so if he does get out of the slump, you should get some steals to go with it. Try sitting him on your bench in case those good signs from last year start to reappear.

Saturday the 13th was Bradley's first day not starting for Boston in an AL park, another sign that bears watching.

Sandy Alcantara (SP, MIA)

It's completely sensible to drop Alcantara, especially if you picked him up after his 2019 debut, but consider waiting one more start. After going from six strikeouts and no walks in his first game to five walks and no K's in his second, it was an open question what Alcantara would do in his third start, this one against Philadelphia's strong offense. He ended up allowing five runs on eight hits in a second-straight four-inning start.

However, more important than balls-on-play luck were the six K's against just one unintentional walk (with an IBB). The Cubs in Miami are next, and if his command struggles return, it's pretty safe to say Alcantara remains too inconsistent to trust.


Last Week's Updates

Dallas Keuchel (FA, SP) - Still unsigned, of course, but the longer you wait, the more you'll want to hang on as he will be pitching an ever-increasing remainder of the season. Say he debuts July 1st; if you dropped him May 1st you got two extra months of a roster spot, but if the drop came June 1st that's only one month. Right now, it's not too late to let him go.

Verdict: STILL A CUT

Hunter Strickland (RP, SEA) - Nothing has changed here. Until you need his IL spot, there's no harm in holding, but once you have a choice, you can let him go.

Verdict: STILL A CUT (if IL full)

Andrew Heaney (SP, LAA) - Heaney began playing catch this week but uncertainty remains about his timetable and productivity once he does return.

Verdict: STILL A CUT (if IL full)

Jose Martinez (1B/OF, STL) - Martinez only started two more games this week. The more recent of those on April 11th was a 4-for-5 day that lifted his season line to .259/.259/.333 with still no home runs. The lack of both playing time and power continues to be a double-whammy for Martinez's value.

Verdict: STILL A CUT

Johan Camargo (3B/SS, ATL) - Camargo started on April 6th, 7th, and 11th, and the Braves are trying to get him some playing time in the outfield. There are still players getting more time on the field and producing more than Camargo's .105/.227/.316, so you can probably continue to do better. But he's gotten a little more interesting.

Verdict: STILL A CUT / potential watch list

Franmil Reyes (OF, SD) - The Padres are showing a willingness to go to that Hunter Renfroe-Wil Myers-Reyes outfield alignment, using it twice this week, and the results are starting to come in for Reyes as well.

Verdict: HOLD

Jesse Winker (OF, CIN) - The Reds offense finally heated up this past week. Fortunately, Winker was a key contributor to that resurgence and is staying in the lineup most nights while continuing to lead off in those games.

Verdict: HOLD

Jake Arrieta (SP, PHI) - Despite a somewhat modest 10 whiffs on 108 pitches, Arrieta was great against the Marlins on Friday, allowing one run with no homers, one walk, and eight K's. The underlying skills remain a bit concerning, but it was a bit too aggressive to name him last week. Still...maybe see if you can swing a trade?

Verdict: HOLD

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