D.J. Short

Waiver Wired

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My Favorite Martin

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Welcome to the season's first edition of Waiver Wired. I'll be your humble host each and every Thursday, doing my very best to pass along some players to consider on your league's waiver wire.

With this weekly column, you can expect coverage of mixed leagues, as well as AL-only and NL-only leagues.

You'll notice that I'm once again using ownership percentages from Yahoo! and ESPN. Early on in the season, there will be some differences between the two sites, partially because of their respective pre-draft rankings. Expect those numbers to even out over the next couple of weeks.

In a way, this is the most difficult column I'll write all year. We only have a few games of data to work with and the majority of the players you'll find below went undrafted in most leagues. Perhaps they were overlooked or maybe they just weren't good enough to make your initial roster. In other words, I might look back and laugh at a couple of these recommendations in September. Then again, hopefully some of them can help give a boost to your roster for the long haul.

Let's get started, shall we?

And don't worry, I promise you won't find Willie Bloomquist here…


Jordan Walden RP, Angels (Yahoo: 58 percent, ESPN: 33.3 percent)

The no-brainer add of the week, really. He's probably already gone if you play in a competitive league, but for some reason it doesn't look like everybody has received the message. Mike Scioscia named Walden as his new closer after Fernando Rodney blew up in epic fashion Sunday against the Royals. He has indicated that the change may only be a temporary one, but Walden certainly has the stuff to run away with the job. The hard-throwing right-hander earned his first save Tuesday and pitched a scoreless ninth inning in Wednesday's 5-1 win over the Rays. He's one example of a guy who could stick on your roster all year long.

J.J. Hardy SS, Orioles (Yahoo: 20 percent, ESPN: 21.5 percent)

Hardy is just 3-for-14 (.214) to begin the season, but hang with me for a second. While he batted .268 with just six homers and 38 RBI last season, realize that he was dealing with a wrist injury for most of the year and played half of his games in one of the least hitter-friendly parks in the league. He's in a much better place after the trade to Baltimore. And in his walk year, no less. I wouldn't be shocked if he delivered 15-20 homers, which would give him sneaky value from the shortstop position.

R.A. Dickey SP, Mets (Yahoo: 32 percent, ESPN: 14.7 percent)

Dickey was an obvious choice for "bust" lists this spring, but you wouldn't know it from his season debut Sunday against the Marlins. He gave up only an unearned run over six innings while walking three and striking out seven. You'll often see Dickey lumped in with other knuckleballers, but the 36-year-old right-hander throws his harder than most, which often throws hitters off balance and induces plenty of ground balls. I'm confident that he'll be the most valuable fantasy starter on the Mets' staff this season.

Chris Iannetta C, Rockies (Yahoo: 16 percent, ESPN: 29.6 percent)

Where's the love for this guy? Seriously. After years of sharing playing time with the likes of Yorvit Torrealba and Miguel Olivo, Iannetta finally has the starting catcher job all to himself. Sure, he's unlikely to hit for a high batting average, but his combination of power and patience gives him breakthrough potential at the catcher position, especially in leagues that count on-base percentage and OPS. 20 homers are legitimate possibility here.

Sean Burnett RP, Nationals (Yahoo: 40 percent, ESPN: 12 percent)

I'm still of the opinion that Drew Storen will be the primary closer in Washington before long, but the first save opportunity of the season went to Burnett on Saturday. And why not? He's probably the most reliable option in Jim Riggleman's bullpen at the moment. Burnett averaged 8.9 K/9 and 2.9 BB/9 in 2010 and while many consider him a left-handed specialist, he actually held right-handed batters to a .182/.253/.234 batting line over 151 plate appearances last season. You'll probably have to drop him at some point, but if you can't get Walden, he's the one to own.

Alex Gordon 3B/OF, Royals (Yahoo: 44 percent, ESPN: 10.3 percent)

Will we ever give up on this guy? As much as Gordon has disappointed fantasy owners over the years, we can be awful quick to forgive. The former 2005 first-round pick has multi-hit games in four out of his last five, including five doubles and a home run. He's also batting third in the Royals' lineup, which gives a nice boost to his value. I'm less enthusiastic about him in leagues where he only qualifies in the outfield, but he's a worthwhile target if you can plug him at third base, especially if you need a fill-in for Evan Longoria.

Russell Martin C, Yankees (Yahoo: 51 percent, ESPN: 33.8 percent)

Here's another example of someone who is probably gone in most competitive leagues. Martin, who was non-tendered by the Dodgers in December, has hit safely in four out of his first five games, including a three-run homer in Saturday's win over the Tigers. He has also stolen two bases, which should answer any lingering concerns about his hip and surgically-repaired knee. Granted, he's coming off back-to-back near identical mediocre seasons at the plate, but if there's any place where he could rebound, this is it. He's worth a shot.

Michael Pineda SP, Mariners (Yahoo: 33 percent, ESPN: 20.3 percent)

I debated whether to include Brandon Beachy, Alexi Ogando or Zach Britton in this spot. All three make for interesting fliers depending on need, but I feel Pineda has the most potential of the lot. The 22-year-old right-hander was impressive in his major league debut Monday against the Rangers, giving up three runs over six innings while striking out four and walking just one. With a fastball that touches the high-90s to go along with a wicked slider, he looks like the perfect complement to Felix Hernandez atop of the M's rotation. His offense isn't going to help him much, but I could see him putting up some gaudy numbers at Safeco in his rookie year.

Shopping at the five and dime:

(Players owned in less than 10 percent of Y! and ESPN.com leagues)

Aaron Harang SP, Padres (Yahoo: 8 percent, ESPN: 1 percent)

Harang returned home to San Diego over the winter in hopes of getting his career back on track. He's already off to a pretty good start. The 32-year-old right-hander tossed six innings of one-run ball in Tuesday's win over the Giants. Many will shy away from Harang because he posted a 4.71 ERA from 2008-10, but he did so while averaging 7.4 K/9 and 2.6 BB/9. That's pretty good. His fly ball tendencies will be less of a liability in PETCO Park, so he's at least worth using on a matchup basis. Try him against the Dodgers on Sunday.

Michael Brantley OF, Indians (Yahoo: 6 percent, ESPN: 1.7 percent)

I'm a big fan of Brantley right now. The 23-year-old is currently batting leadoff and playing center field while Grady Sizemore works his way back from microfracture surgery. And he's done pretty well so far, hitting safely in each of the first five games of the season while also walking three times. His combination of patience and speed makes him a worthwhile short-term acquisition in deeper mixed formats, but he should still see plenty of time in left field once Sizemore returns. I could see around 30 stolen bases if everything breaks right.

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D.J. Short is a Rotoworld baseball editor and contributes to NBCSports.com's Hardball Talk blog. You can also find him on Twitter.
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