Mariano Rivera of the New York Yankees is done for the year. Who replaces him? What other closers are in trouble? Who should you pickup if you’ve lost Pablo Sandoval or Evan Longoria or Ryan Zimmerman (I have a team where I’ve lost all three!)? And, boy, does Bryce Harper make the Washington Nationals exponentially more fun to watch!
What is out there on the waiver wire this week? Let’s take a peek.
American League Waiver Wire
There isn’t a lot out there currently in the American League for catchers. I’m still not clear why Kurt Suzuki hasn’t picked it up yet. He’s still getting virtually all the ABs for the Oakland Athletics and has no viable backup. He’s worth the risk in a trade or as a pickup if your catcher is struggling.
The Tampa Bay Rays Evan Longoria is gone for 6-8 weeks. It’s huge blow for the Rays and fantasy owners alike. It looks like Joe Maddon will mix and match with Elliot Johnson, Sean Rodriguez, and Jeff Keppinger. Maddon will play the hot hand. Rodriguez is already the full-time short stop so Johnson has a chance to take the job and run with it. Johnson is a speed demon, but is inefficient on the base paths. He has a little pop, but will likely harm your batting average. He’s worth in look in the deepest of leagues as is Keppinger who will play all around the diamond.
Outside of Tampa Bay, there are some other options to consider. With the Boston Red Sox losing Kevin Youkilis, top prospect Will Middlebrooks has entered the lineup. I do not believe he will be up for the long term, but he is the long term answer at third base for the Red Sox. He is a must own in keeper and dynasty leagues. He has solid power and should help in batting average as well.
I also covered the Seattle Mariners infield situation last week. Since then, Chone Figgins has been moved to a utility role which should mean more ABs for Alex Liddi, Kyle Seager (also eligible at SS in some leagues) and the newly activated Mike Carp.
In shallower leagues, I would consider Baltimore Orioles Chris Davis (owned in 63% of Yahoo! leagues). There are few players who have been hotter in the last two weeks. He will hit for power, but strikeout a lot. Be careful however as he can drop off a cliff as quickly as he warmed up.
Gordon Beckham has been hot over the last 14 days hitting .297 with 2 HRs, 6 runs and 6 RBI. We’ve seen short stretches like this previously. Beckham says he is close to figuring it all out. I’d let someone else wish upon that falling star. I don’t believe in Beckham.
Also, late on Saturday there was a report that the Minnesota Twins are recalling Brian Dozier from AAA with Justin Morneau heading to the DL. The speculation is that Dozier will play full-time, but as Aaron Gleeman notes on Twitter, Dozier hit 276/.339/.371 in 25 games at AAA this year so we can’t expect a lot from him. He’s played the majority of his games at shortstop so this could be the end of the line for Jamey Carroll. Dozier could offer some cheap steals and a little bit of batting average help, but little else.
Wilson Betemit (also eligible at third base in many leagues) picked up a start for the Baltimore Orioles in the first game since Nolan Reimold was placed on the DL. He could be a source of cheap power if he starts regularly. If his competition is Endy Chavez, he has a good shot of winning out. And even if Chavez does play regularly, he wouldn’t be interesting unless your league only drafts and plays guys named Chavez.
Oakland Athletics prospect Michael Taylor was recalled as Coco Crisp was put on the DL. Taylor should get some playing time in Oakland and could be worth a flier in deeper leagues as he has some tools, but just hasn’t been able to put it all together. He’s been hot at AAA, so we will see if it translates to the majors this time.
Preseason darling Brennan Boesch is starting to power up with three HRs in the last 14 days and ten runs. He’s a batting average risk, but the power looks to be coming around and he’s still batting in front of Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder.
The Kansas City Royals have a new leadoff man in Jarrod Dyson and he has speed to burn. He’s picked up two steals in the last seven days. He won’t help you anywhere else, but could be a difference maker in the SB category.
Tyson Ross’ spot in the Oakland Athletics rotation seems like it is in jeopardy. I believe that if (when?) Ross is sent to the bullpen or AAA, we will see Brad Peacock. Peacock came over in the Gio Gonzalez trade with the Washington Nationals. Peacock has been a strikeout machine since 2010. Wins are always tough to come by in Oakland, but he could certainly help in deeper leagues with an estimated strikeout rate near 8.0/9 IP at the major league level.
Felipe Paulino is back from the DL for the Kansas City Royals and had a respectable start on Saturday with six strikeouts over six innings and picking up a win against the New York Yankees. The strikeouts will always be there for Paulino, but he has a good shot to ruin your WHIP with his lack of control. Wins will also be hard to come by in Kansas City.
The New York Yankees lost Mariano Rivera to a serious knee injury. Rivera vowed to return, but it is unlikely he will do so this year. The closer’s role will likely go to David Robertson or Rafael Soriano. Robertson has the stuff to close and has improved his walk rate dramatically in the early going this year. But has only nine career saves in 83 minor league appearances. Soriano has “Closer Experience” in the majors (he led the league in saves with 45 in 2010), but has struggled with control the last two years in New York. I believe Robertson is the play here and I’d throw a lot of my FAAB budget at him to secure him. Soriano makes a ton of money, but I can’t see the Yankees going with the shakier option at this point. The dark horse – current starter Phil Hughes. Over 49 appearances as a reliever, he sports a 1.44 ERA with 70 Ks over 56 1/3 innings. He also held batters to a .470 OPS.
Grant Balfour has struggled over his last couple of appearances and Brian Fuentes picked up a save this week. Bob Melvin chalked it up to Balfour being overworked. However, in listening to MLB Network Radio, Harold Reynolds was adamant that Balfour was hurt. Reynolds said his velocity was way down and he didn’t “look right.” Jordan Norberto also picked up a save this week. Norberto’s save came after Fuentes had pitched already and Balfour was imploding. If you wanted to speculate, I’d go with Fuentes, but he offers nothing other than the potential for saves. A dark horse is Ryan Cook who has a 9.5 K/9 rate so far in 13 IP (along with four holds in the last 14 days). He saved 19 games between AA and AAA in the Arizona Diamondbacks system so he has “Closing Experience”.
Don’t ask me what is going on with the Chicago White Sox bullpen. It looks like former closer, now former starter Chris Sale is now the closer. Oh, and he has a sore elbow. I’d bid on him as if he’ll have the job for the next month and no longer.
Lastly, Ernesto Frieri makes an interesting speculation for saves in Anaheim. The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim are a bit of a mess currently. He has an otherworldly K/9 rate, but generally struggles a bit with control. He has improved his walk rate this year, so if Scott Downs falters and Jordan Walden fails to regain his form from last year, Frieri may be a sleeper for saves.
National League Waiver Wire
Quick, what is Los Angeles Dodgers’ A.J. Ellis’ career minor league on-base percentage? Give up? .406. That’s right, .406. Ellis is only owned in 5% of Yahoo! leagues, but he should certainly be owned in more especially those with OBP as a category. Oh, and his career slugging percentage? .380. Don’t expect more than a solid AVG, great OBP and perhaps some runs if Don Mattingly moves Ellis up in the order.
The San Francisco Giants’ Pablo Sandoval is out for six weeks after breaking the hamate bone in his wrist. For many players, there is a big hole in the middle of the fantasy lineup. In shallower leagues, the obvious replacement is Pedro Alvarez (owned in 43% of Yahoo! leagues). Over the last 14 days he is .372/.412/.814! with 5 HRs and 12 RBIs. Alvarez has always struck me as a guy with a million dollar skillset and a ten cent head. It looks like he’s putting things together now, but he’s just as likely to turn back into a pumpkin. That said, I’d bid aggressively on him because if he stays on this path, he is a fantasy monster.
In deeper leagues, Sandoval’s replacement on the Giants Conor Gillaspie deserves a look. Owned in only 1% of Yahoo! leagues, this former first round pick has a career .785 OPS in five season in the minors. He will likely contribute in batting average and if he stays at the top of the order (currently hitting second), he could score a few runs in the Giants anemic batting order. Even though he is just 24, Bruce Bochy seems somewhat committed to playing him regularly.
Other corner infield options for the giant hole the Kung Fu Panda left behind include Jed Lowrie (37% owned) who is an injury risk himself, Chipper Jones (who is 40 and a walking injury, but still has power when he plays), Laynce Nix (owned in only 2% of leagues and getting a bit more playing time with Jim Thome’s injury; Nix is a platoon player usually so he could be exposed with full-time play) and the Arizona Diamondbacks Cody Ransom who I believe cannot keep up this hot streak.
The Milwaukee Brewers also lost Mat Gamel for the remainder of the season to a torn ACL. It’s not clear yet how they will fill the hole, but the initial plan centers around Travis Ishikawa, Brooks Conrad and Taylor Green. Conrad (a switch-hitter) got the start Saturday night against lefty Madison Bumgarner. Ishikawa is a lefty swinger so he has a chance to get the lion’s share of ABs should a platoon come into play. MLB Depth Charts lists Ishikawa as the starter and he offers a bit of power, but nothing else. Green has mostly played third base in the minors and I don’t see him getting playing time at first with the Brewers in the near future. I’d grab them in this order Ishikawa, Green and Conrad.
The Arizona Diamondbacks started Stephen Drew (owned in 26% of Yahoo! leagues) on his rehab assignment Thursday. Rehab assignments cannot last more than 30 days, but I do not expect Drew to need the full month. Expect to see him back in the lineup in the next couple of weeks barring a setback. He should hit about .275 with 10 HRs and 10 SBs and score runs at the top of the lineup.
Ruben Tejeda is criminally under owned at only 18%. He has a .390 OBP in the last 14 days and has scored nine runs. He can be useful in a number of leagues.
In very deep leagues, Alexi Amarista is worth a look. The San Diego Padres dealt reliever Ernesto Frieri for him this week. The talk is that the Padres are getting tired of Orlando Hudson and Jason Bartlett. They could be dealt or even released. Amarista is a possibility to play in the middle infield. He is only 23 and has always hit for average in the minors. He has speed, but struggles to use it in an efficient manner so he’ll likely rack up some SBs but will be caught his fair share of times.
The Washington Nationals’ Bryce Harper does not seem overwhelmed at the major league level either offensively or defensively. I may have been incorrect in my column comparing Trout and Harper about the time in the majors for Harper this year. GM Mike Rizzo acknowledged the same. He will still struggle at times during the year, but I think he’s a surer bet for regular playing time in the majors all year. I’d double my projections for him from last week.
The Milwaukee Brewers sent Carlos Gomez to the DL on Saturday. This will likely mean more playing time for Japanese import Norichika Aoki. Aoki has shown little during his sporadic playing time during the early part of the season. He fell off a cliff offensively in Japan last year. In prior years, he showed a great batting average and had nearly 20 steals per year for three years running. The ceiling for Aoki is probably Carlos Gomez’s output.
Jon Jay has been impressive since he missed a few days with a sore shoulder. He likely won’t continue to hit .404 or get on base nearly 50 percent of the time. However, the skills he has shown are real and supported by a minor league .301 batting average and .367 OBP. Jay is hitting near the top of the lineup again so he will score runs in bunches. Moreover, his playing time shouldn’t be affected a great deal when Lance Berkman (though waiver wire favorite Allen Craig may lose some time.
Carlos Quentin should return to the San Diego Padres lineup in the next week to ten days. He’ll slot back into the starting lineup and is a must add in NL-only leagues.
The Los Angeles Dodgers’ Chris Capuano moved to 4-0 on Saturday. He’s struck out a batter per inning and has a 2.21 ERA with a 1.12 WHIP. He’s owned in 40% of leagues. If you lost Cory Luebke this week, Capuano makes a great consolation prize.
Jorge de la Rosa started his rehab this week so expect to see him back in Colorado in thirty days or less. As I’ve mentioned previously, pitchers coming back from Tommy John surgery will struggle with command early and can be a WHIP-risk.
It looks like Tim Stauffer will make one more rehab start for the San Diego Padres. After the start, I see him returning to the rotation to supplant Jeff Suppan. With Cory Luebke injury (and it looks like he could be out for a long time), the Padres may look deeper to a pitcher like Robbie Erlin should one of the rotation members falters.
The Chicago Cubs’ Carlos Marmol is back in my column this week. He finally picked up his second save, but his next outing featured walks, runs and a blown save (not charged to Marmol, of course). Dale Sveum mentioned Rafael Dolis and James Russell as potential replacements with Marmol exiled to a lower profile role. This columnist’s darling, Scott Maine, was sent to the minors so he is not in the mix. Sveum says he will use Dolis and Russell as the matchups dictate. Dolis is right-handed; Russell is left-handed so the majority of opportunities should go to Dolis. As I’ve said, he has neither the pedigree nor the skills to succeed, but Dale Sveum is a major league manager for a reason, so bid on Dolis accordingly.
Let us not forget our old friend Kerry Wood. Just activated off of the DL this week, I have to imagine he will get a look at some point. It’s not clear at this point in his career if he can hold up to the rigors of closing. Wood is worth a flier should you lose out on Dolis or Russell.
Heath Bell was also covered last week and now he’s also been relieved of his closing duties. Or has he? It’s not clear and attempting to get a precise answer from Ozzie Guillen is like trying to figure out one of Mushmouth’s monologues. Edward Mujica picked up a save this week, however it looks like Steve Cishek will get the call and he’s the target. Bell blew yet another save Friday night and I cannot see Guillen rolling him out there again for a save chance. I believe Bell will be back in the role at some point, unless he is injured. Bell’s contract is huge and the Miami Marlins will want to get everything out of Bell they can.
Late Friday night, the San Diego Padres pulled Huston Street was pulled from the game with what was later diagnosed as a right lat strain. He says it isn’t a major injury, but lat strains are notoriously difficult to diagnose and the recovery time can be days or months. Go out and grab Andrew Cashner while Street is out.
As always, thanks for reading and let me know who I missed and you want to know more about.
Chris Garosi is a contributor for District Sports Page. One of his favorite sports memories is witnessing Wilson Alvarez’s no-hitter at Memorial Stadium in 1991. Chris has played fantasy sports since the pre-Internet days and participates in any league for any sport to which he’s invited. You can follow him on Twitter at @chrisgarosi.