by Bryce McRae
on May 28, 2007 @ 16:00:00
Welcome to this week's MLB Waiver Wire article. This will be the second week in a row that we are going with the new and improved format. We hope it helped your team to an even better fantasy week last week. As it was last week, the Bench Stashers section will be a list of players that are getting dropped from teams but should provide value over the course of the season. These players could be crucial to your success during the latter stages of the season, when the championship is on the line.
Among the players being featured this week is a top third base prospect being called up to provide a spark to a slumping team, a future closer recently taken out of the rotation and a pitcher with one of the best names in baseball. Without further delay...
Yadier Molina, St. Louis Cardinals - Molina has built on last year's postseason success and is having, statistically, the best season of his young career. Long considered one of the top defensive catchers in the league, Molina had a 14-game hitting streak snapped Tuesday, May 22. Two days after that, his average reached a high of .304 (at the time, 61 points higher than his career average). He has cooled off recently and his average has dipped to .278; however, he is still on pace to set new career-highs in average and runs while approaching that for his RBI. Still only 24, Molina has plenty of room to improve, which could happen as the season carries on. He is also available in roughly 99 percent of leagues polled.
Mike Napoli, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim - In just his second season in the majors, Napoli has established himself as the team's starting catcher. He is on pace to surpass his all of his fantasy totals of last year. Through games Sunday, May 27, he is hitting .257 with five home runs, 15 RBI and 19 runs in 32 games. He also has three stolen bases, which is decent value at a position not known for its speed. Those numbers alone wouldn't make Napoli a solid pickup; but rather, it is what he has done over his past 10 games that give him his value. In that stretch, Napoli is hitting .371 with four home runs, 12 RBI and 12 runs. It looks like he is finally coming around after a slow April. His average is still pretty low, and once all is said and done, it likely won't be much higher; however, finding a 20-home run catcher, who can also give you around 80 RBI and a few stolen bases, is something that should definitely be looked at. He is available in about 95 percent of fantasy leagues polled.
Carlos Pena, Tampa Bay Devil Rays - Along with Devil Rays closer Al Reyes, Pena ranks as one of the fantasy surprises on this talented Devil Rays team. He has already surpassed the 18 games total he played last year, appearing in 37 this year. In those games, he is hitting .307 with 10 home runs, 27 RBI and 21 runs. He has been even more impressive over his last 10 games, hitting .406 with seven RBI, three home runs and 10 runs. This has no doubt been the best start to a season he has had in his career. One should note, however, that Pena is a career .247 hitter that has hit 20-plus home runs only once in his career. He has also only had more than 50 RBI once in a season. That still doesn't discount what he is doing now, so pick him up and ride him until this hot streak is over and the real Pena comes back. He is available in roughly 75 percent of fantasy leagues polled.
Ryan Garko, Cleveland Indians - Garko is one of three Indians players on this list, which speaks volumes to the start they are having. Called up in midseason last year, Garko quickly established himself at first base, all but assuring him a place on the roster this year. In just 50 games last season, he hit .292 with seven home runs and 45 RBI. He also scored 28 runs. He has been even better this season, hitting .336 with seven home runs, 20 RBI and 21 runs through 39 games. He has also been even hotter over his past 10 games, hitting .400 with three home runs and nine RBI. Garko is one of the young stars on a talented Cleveland team. He should be snapped up before his name becomes a regular in fantasy circles. He is available in about 84 percent of leagues polled.
Josh Barfield, Cleveland Indians - Barfield finally appears to be coming around after a slow start. For the month of April, he hit just .162 with seven runs, one home run and nine RBI. Already in May, he is hitting .286 with one home run, 14 RBI and 15 runs. The Barfield in this month is more akin to the one the Tribe envisioned when they traded for him this past offseason. His past 10 games have seen his season average rise up to .230, to go along with two home runs, 23 RBI and 22 runs. He also has five stolen bases. Barfield also doesn't have a real threat to his position, as the team made clear by sticking with him after his poor start. Of course, when you are winning games like they are and leading the division, it is easier to stick with a slumping player. Barfield is a player on the rise and is still available in nearly 77 percent of leagues polled polled.
Bobby Crosby, Oakland Athletics - Crosby is one player the Athletics would love to finally see live up to the expectations they had after drafting him in the first round. He is hitting .259 with five home runs, 20 RBI, 21 runs and a surprising five steals this year. His numbers have improved in the month of May, jumping from a .215 average in April to .297 so far in May. He also has three home runs and 11 RBI in May compared to two home runs and nine RBI in April. Crosby is a player that has the potential to be a legit fantasy starter on your team, but injuries and failed expectations have kept him down so far. He seems to be turning the corner, with a .297 average and five RBI in his last 10 games. He is available in about 94 percent of fantasy leagues polled.
Ryan Braun, Milwaukee Brewers - The team has won just three of its past 10 games (including a five-game losing streak). Heading into the weekend they decided to finally call up top prospect Braun from Triple-A Nashville. Braun made his debut Friday, May 25, going 1-for-4 with two RBI. He has since played in two more games and currently has a .364 average with one home run, three RBI, two runs and one stolen base. Not a bad debut weekend when all is said and done, although the team did lose all three games. Those numbers are on par with the .342 average, 10 home runs, 22 RBI and four steals Braun had in 33 games at Nashville. As long as he continues that pace, he figures to get most of the playing time at the hot corner, as infielders Tony Graffanino (.187 average, one home run, eight RBI) and Craig Counsell (.234 average, eight RBI) have both been ineffective starting there. Braun is available in approximately 41 percent of leagues polled.
Mark Reynolds, Arizona Diamondbacks - With regular third baseman Chad Tracy (ribcage) on the disabled list and infielder Alberto Callaspo struggling (.212 average, four RBI), Reynolds has seized the opportunity given to him Wednesday, May 16, when he made his major league debut after coming up straight from Double-A Mobile. In 12 games since then, Reynolds has hit .442 with three home runs, 13 RBI and 10 runs. There are a couple of red flags around Reynolds, however. First, he struggles with defense, having committed 12 errors with Mobile. Second, he is likely just filling in until Tracy is ready to return. The club doesn't know when that will be at this point, but when he does return, Reynolds will likely be relegated to the bench or the minors. Either way, he is a player worth considering after getting off to a great start in his major league career. He is available in about 91 percent of fantasy leagues polled.
Casey Blake, Cleveland Indians - The final Indians player on this list, Blake has made third base to himself after splitting time at first base and the outfield earlier in the season. His average has held pretty steady (currently .267); however, over his past 10 games, the power numbers have come alive. In those games, he has four home runs, nine runs and 10 RBI, to go along with a .278 average. Those numbers are on par with how he has hit all May. After hitting just .222 with two home runs, seven RBI and nine runs in April, Blake has hit .305 with five home runs, 19 RBI and 22 runs in May. One caveat: The Indians haven't given up on Marte, so if Blake begins to cool off, he could find himself splitting time again. The situation involving Marte, Blake and Garko should be one to follow. Blake is available in roughly 83 percent of fantasy leagues polled.
Mike Cameron, San Diego Padres - Cameron struggled out of the gate this season, hitting just .192 with four RBI and seven runs in April. He has improved on that (not that it was hard to do) in May, hitting .258 with four home runs, 15 RBI and 16 runs so far this month. A lot of that damage has come in his past 10 games, when he has hit .289 with three home runs, seven RBI and nine runs. Cameron also has two of his six stolen bases in that stretch. He likely won't hit any higher than .270 or so (his career average is .250 but he hit .268 last year with San Diego). However, he provides a decent power and speed option for your team. As is the case with most players on this list, he is on a hot streak that makes him worth at least a roster spot. He is available in approximately 76 percent of fantasy leagues polled.
Randy Winn, San Francisco Giants - Winn has likely managed to fly under the radar in most fantasy leagues, despite him hitting .313 with three home runs, 17 RBI and 22 runs. Winn had a decent April, hitting .272 with one home run, eight RBI and seven runs, but it is in May that he has really boosted his fantasy value. So far this month, Winn is hitting .347 with two home runs, nine RBI and 15 runs. His power numbers are low, and he doesn't drive in a lot of runs, but if you are looking for a boost in runs scored and average, he should be looked at. He is also available in about 94 percent of fantasy leagues polled.
Carlos Quentin, Arizona Diamondbacks - After watching his average drop to .176 May 17, Quentin has gone on a 12-for-34 streak to raise his average to .227. He also has three of his four home runs this season in that stretch and 14 of his 20 RBI. It seems as though he is finally getting healthy again after missing time with a shoulder injury earlier in the season. He will need to improve his average against left-handed hitters (.118), but the Diamondbacks have made it clear they are going to stick with their young guys this season. Quentin would be a decent pickup, especially with the hot streak he is on. He is available in roughly 98 of fantasy leagues polled.
Boof Bonser, Minnesota Twins - Bonser's ERA has slowly been coming down from the high of 6.97 it reached April 10. He has been particularly impressive over his past six starts, allowing just nine earned runs in 35 innings pitched. He is currently on a three-game winning streak that has seen his ERA dip to a low of 3.88. Bonser will likely also give your team a boost in strikeouts because he has 62 in 55 2/3 innings pitched this year. Bonser appears to finally be living up to expectations as a No. 2 starter. He is available in about 88 percent of fantasy leagues polled.
Matt Morris, San Francisco Giants - Morris has turned it around this season after going 10-15 with a 4.98 ERA last year. In 10 starts this season, he has a 5-2 record to go along with a 2.90 ERA. He is not striking out batters at a high rate (only 32 in 68 1/3 innings pitched), but he has also allowed more than three earned runs in a start only once. In his past two starts, he has thrown 16 innings and allowed just three earned runs. His WHIP is also decent at 1.32. Morris is worth a look if you are trying to lower your ERA and pick up some more wins; however, be prepared to find strikeouts elsewhere. He is available in 80 percent of fantasy leagues polled.
Angel Guzman, Chicago Cubs - Guzman is a player whose value will likely come later in the season. After he was unsuccessful in three starts this season, the team moved him to the bullpen with the idea he would take over as closer in the future. Since the move, he has pitched three times, going 0-1 with one earned run allowed and three strikeouts in 4 2/3 innings pitched. Manager Lou Piniella plans to keep him pitching the sixth and seventh innings for the time being, which hurts his value. However, he should bring you a low ERA (2.96), high strikeout rate (24 in 27 1/3 innings) and a decent WHIP (1.28). Guzman will not likely be given any save opportunities any time soon, but if you have the space, he is a solid pickup to stash away for later in the season. He is available in approximately 94 percent of fantasy leagues polled.
Brandon Morrow, Seattle Mariners - Morrow has combined with Mariners closer J.J. Putz to give the Mariners one of the top setup-closer tandems in the majors. For the season, Morrow is sporting a 1.96 ERA with 19 strikeouts in 18 1/3 innings pitched. Those are impressive numbers for Morrow in what is his first year in the majors. Even more impressive is that he has not allowed an earned run while striking out 15 batters in his last 13 2/3 innings pitched. He also has two wins in that time. With Putz established as the closer, Morrow will likely not bring you many saves; however, he should provide you with a solid ERA, WHIP and strikeout rate. He is available in nearly 100 percent of leagues polled.
The following list is composed of players that have been dropped on a lot of waiver wires lately and that you should consider picking up. These players may not help you right away, but they have track records or specialties that can help you down the road.
About Bryce McRae
Bryce McRae is a Managing Editor with KFFL and has been involved in fantasy sports since 1999. He joined KFFL as a volunteer writer in March 2005 before becoming a Hot off the Wire Analyst in March 2006. He began working in his current capacity in September 2008. His work has appeared on fantasy sports sites such as Yahoo! and CBS Sportsline as well as in print. He graduated from the University of British Columbia in 2008 with a B.A. in History and U.S. Studies.
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