Welcome to this week's edition of MLB Waiver Wire. Each week, we'll analyze a few players fantasy owners can look to acquire off waivers that could make an impact for their team. This week we'll cover a Japanese pitcher in Boston (yeah, you wish that guy was available), a former 18-game winner, a resurgent Bay Area slugger and a former broken down fan favorite that has revived his bat in another division.
Dan Johnson, 1B, Oakland Athletics - The man known to keeper league managers as "Daric Barton's brick wall" is doing his best not to open the door for the prospect to snag his spot. He has six multi-hit outings in his 20 games this year. After his abysmal performance last year - batting .175 in April and .213 in May, he certainly has retuned his swing a bit. He has four home runs and 10 RBI in May so far and is 12 for his last 22 with three home runs and seven RBI. First base is a deep enough position that you can gain impact from mid-range guys like Johnson, who has put up power numbers before. Especially now that Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard is on the DL, Johnson is a simple replacement, and could even be kept after Howard returns. He's available in 70 percent of leagues polled.
Kevin Youkilis, 1B, Boston Red Sox - Youkilis' stock took a major pre-draft hit this year after the Red Sox signed shortstop Julio Lugo to hit at the top spot. Thus, fantasy owners presumed his run totals would drop, and his run total would tumble. He has stayed the course, riding the momentum of the Red Sox's hot streak. Youk already has a quarter of the 100 runs he scored last year, and has three home runs hitting anywhere from second to eighth in the Boston lineup. His main caveat is his second-half freefall last year, as he only hit .258 with 29 RBI after the midsummer classic. Project him at 80 RBI and 90 runs for the year and put him in a UTIL spot if you need the help. He's available in 63 percent of leagues polled.
Ryan Doumit, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates - Doumit is 21-for-50 this season. He was optioned back to Triple-A Indianapolis after one week, but has seven multi-hit games since he was called on April 26, including an 11-game hit streak and two home runs. He hit cleanup for two straight games last week; any catcher hitting in the fourth slot could be valuable to those with less reliable players at that position. His alternate Ronny Paulino has not been as effective at getting on base, and Doumit has been seeing more time. Doumit has enticed interest in his past three seasons in the majors and has been persistently on the cusp of making an impact. For those deprived of action from the catcher slot, give Doumit a whirl. Even in part-time play, he will be effective with the stick. He's available in 94 percent of leagues polled.
Alex Gonzalez, SS, Cincinnati Reds - The former Boston defensive savior has turned into a popular Band-Aid in fantasy leagues. He has come out blazing with seven home runs in 124 at-bats, thriving in the National League. He has almost matched his nine total dingers from last year. If you waited to deal with your shortstop position later in the season, he's a good quick fix but will not likely match 30-home run pace that he's on. Sure, if you own someone such as Los Angeles Angels shortstop Orlando Cabrera, pick up Gonzalez, but don't expect him to perform miracles at the plate for much longer. He's available in 84 percent of leagues polled.
Trot Nixon, OF, Cleveland Indians - Given up for dead in Boston with the arrival of J.D. Drew, Hot to Trot has reemerged at Jacobs Field. He has cooled down a bit since his 20-for-54 streak that vaulted him to fifth in the lineup, and Cleveland's lineup - while potent - doesn't quite have the same punch as his beloved Fenway. However, he is a prototypical 20-homer, 80-plus-RBI hitter, and has a career batting average of .278. Trot's main knock has been that he couldn't hit lefties, but so far he has six RBI against southpaws despite his .231 average against them. Cleveland's other outfielders, Jason Michaels and Franklin Gutierrez, basically guarantee Nixon will be a mainstay in the starting lineup barring injury. So he could be picked up as a fourth outfielder. He's available in 98 percent of leagues polled.
Jason Marquis, SP, Chicago Cubs - Marquis was dubbed as damaged goods by fantasy owners, with his flabbergasting 6.02 ERA in 2006 blacklisting him in most drafts this year. But the right-hander has bounced back, starting the season 5-1 with a 1.70 ERA. He still has some control issues, issuing 13 walks while only gaining 24 strikeouts, but he still has a 0.90 WHIP. The Cubs have started to click, so he could get enough offensive support to potentially snag some more wins. Don't expect him to keep this pace up, but he can serve well as a mid-range starter in deeper leagues. He's available in roughly half of leagues polled.
Hideki Okajima, RP, Boston Red Sox - His performance against the Yankees put his name on the map, as he silenced their big sluggers. He has a microscopic 0.48 ERA and a 0.70 WHIP right now, and his 22 strikeouts-to-four walks ratio isn't exactly scaring people away. His only earned run came in the first game of the season, going 16 games without letting a run across. His issue is that he isn't flying off the shelves in leagues that don't count holds. That being said, he has potential to enter Scot Shields/Scott Linebrink territory as the relievers that sub great ratio stats for saves. Heck, he has even snuck in a save already. If you need some relief help, he's a viable choice. He's available in 70 percent of leagues polled.
Claudio Vargas, SP, Milwaukee Brewers - Sent to the Beer Makers in the Doug Davis trade, Vargas has rekindled the same intrigue he earned on last year's waiver wire as a spot starter. He is 3-0 with a 2.65 ERA in six starts and has a superb 37 strikeouts-to-13 walks ratio. The Brew Crew is one of the hottest teams in baseball right now, and the starting pitching is feeding off their offensive sizzle. A rotation that includes Ben Sheets and Dave Bush is deeper than most think, with a sometimes surprisingly crafty Jeff Suppan reviving his skills. He allowed one run or less in five out of six efforts, the 28-year-old should have a roster spot in most deep leagues. He's available in 90 percent of leagues polled.
Shaun Marcum, SP, Toronto Blue Jays - Marcum made his first start over the weekend and didn't allow a hit in six innings while striking out seven. He had great strikeout numbers as a reliever with 22 in 16 1/3 innings. His ERA was abysmal at 6.06 though. The 25-year-old is worth taking a flier on while he gets his arm stretched out to his starting role. On the season he's 1-2 with one save, a 4.43 ERA and a 1.16 WHIP. He's available in 98 percent of leagues polled.
Cliff Lee, SP, Cleveland Indians - Lee won 18 games in 2005 but has scared off many because of the abdominal injury that slowed him last season. But his second start of the year, his May 8 complete-game effort against the Angels (one run on three hits, with two walks and two strikeouts) reeked of his recent skills. Lee was very adept at keeping runners off the basepaths during his successful years, and his availability now is a boon for owners looking for those fourth starters. Estimate him as an addition for staff depth, but his potential could pay dividends. The 28-year-old lefty is a good pitcher to take a chance on right now. He's available in 97 percent of leagues polled.
About Tim Heaney
Tim's work has been featured by USA Today/Sports Weekly, among numerous outlets, and recognized as a finalist in the Fantasy Sports Writers Association awards. The Boston University alum, who competes in the prestigious LABR and Tout Wars, has won numerous industry leagues in both baseball and football.
He appears frequently, including every Sunday, on Sirius XM Fantasy Sports Radio, as well as every Wednesday on 1570 AM WNST in Baltimore.
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