D.J. Short

Waiver Wired

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Second Chance For Stewart?

Thursday, May 05, 2011

I was asked on a podcast earlier this week who were some of my biggest surprises and disappointments of the first month of the season. I won't dwell on the negatives here, though you can probably guess a few of them (Hanley Ramirez, Carl Crawford, Adam Dunn, Yovani Gallardo), but the biggest surprises that come to mind are Lance Berkman and Bud Norris.

I mentioned Berkman for obvious reasons, as he is currently second in the league in batting average, third in homers and second in RBI. I was also quick to mention that I see him as a sell-high, mostly because I have serious concerns about his ability to stay healthy while playing the outfield on almost an everyday basis.

However, Norris is a more interesting case. I included him on a list of under the radar starting pitchers back in February -- and on Waiver Wired a couple weeks back -- so this hasn't come completely out of nowhere, but the biggest surprise is that he has managed to cut down on his walks (3.03 BB/9) from last season (4.51 BB/9). Who knows if he'll be able to keep it up, but man, I have always loved his ability to miss bats.

Let's move on to the good stuff.


Ian Stewart 3B, Rockies (Yahoo: 26 percent owned, ESPN: 26.4 percent)

Third base has been a very difficult position for fantasy owners to fill this season. We've already seen Evan Longoria, Ryan Zimmerman, Pablo Sandoval, David Freese, Casey Blake and Scott Rolen all go on the disabled list while Pedro Alvarez and Jose Bautista are currently sidelined with injuries of their own. Why not give Stewart another chance? Of course, he was demoted in April after going 2-for-26 (.077) to begin the season, but the Rockies called him up this week after Ty Wigginton went on the DL with -- you guessed it --- an oblique injury. It's worth noting that Stewart was batting .361 with three homers over his first 46 plate appearances with Triple-A Colorado Springs. Jose Lopez could get some looks against left-handed pitching, but Stewart's power potential is worth the gamble if you need help at the hot corner.

Angel Pagan OF, Mets (Yahoo: 41 percent owned, ESPN: 36.8 percent)

Pagan is floating nicely under the radar right now for two reasons. One, well, he's been on the disabled list for the past two weeks. And two, he was batting just .159 over his first 82 plate appearances prior to the oblique injury. His anemic batting average isn't just a matter of bad luck, either, as he was hitting infield pop ups more frequently than he did last year. Still, we shouldn't let less than 100 plate appearances scare us away, especially after he batted .290 and swiped 37 bags in 2010. The Mets are expected to activate him from the disabled list on Saturday, so I'd tuck him away where available.

Jake Peavy SP, White Sox (Yahoo: 47 percent owned, ESPN: 28.5 percent)

Here's what I like to call a fantasy lottery ticket. As you might already be aware, Peavy underwent a unique procedure last July to repair a detached lat muscle near his right shoulder. There have been some stops and starts in his rehab, including a scare a little over two weeks ago, but he appears back on track after striking out eight over 5 2/3 innings with Triple-A Charlotte last Friday. If all goes well during his rehab start Thursday, he could rejoin the White Sox as soon as next Wednesday against the Angels. Look, nobody knows what to expect here, but you could do worse than stash him and see how he fares his first time out.

Eduardo Sanchez RP, Cardinals (Yahoo: 15 percent, ESPN: 10.5 percent)

Before we get started here, let me just say that Tony La Russa doesn't give a hoot about your fantasy team. And if he did, we wouldn't have seen four different pitchers get saves over the past 10 days. It's simply anybody's guess who he will use in the ninth inning at this point. Sanchez probably didn't do himself any favors by giving up a go-ahead two-run homer to Mike Stanton on Wednesday night, but I find it difficult to ignore his electric stuff as a late-game option. The 22-year-old right-hander has an impressive 19/5 K/BB ratio over his first 11 1/3 innings. Mitchell Boggs and Fernando Salas could also be in the mix here, but I'd bank on Sanchez's ability to miss bats.

John Lackey SP, Red Sox (Yahoo: 45 percent owned, ESPN: 35.1 percent)

Probably didn't think you'd see him here a month ago. Lackey was knocked around pretty good in his first two starts of the season, but has seemingly righted the ship by allowing just three earned runs over his past three starts combined. I'm not completely convinced he's back to form, as batters are making contact against him more often than ever before, but he's at least a solid play against an Angels team that has struggled against right-handed pitching so far this season.

Wilson Betemit 3B, Royals (Yahoo: 21 percent owned, ESPN: 32.9 percent)

Why are fantasy owners having such a tough time believing Betemit is a legitimate option? He's batting .304 with 14 homers and 58 RBI since last June 1. That's pretty darn useful. One interesting note is that he started at first base on Tuesday night, which could indicate that the Royals would like to use him in a utility role if or when third base prospect Mike Moustakas is called up to the majors later this season. Betemit's future playing time is in doubt, but he's a perfectly respectable injury fill-in at third base.

Johnny Cueto SP, Reds (Yahoo: 41 percent owned, ESPN: 42 percent)

Another pitcher returning from injury, Cueto began the season on the disabled list due to right triceps irritation. He hasn't been perfect during his rehab stint, giving up 12 runs -- 10 earned -- on 19 hits over 14 1/3 innings, but the Reds plan to start him Sunday against the the Cubs. While Cueto's strikeout rate has declined since his rookie season in 2008, he posted a career-low 3.64 ERA over 31 starts last season. I wouldn't activate him immediately, but the 25-year-old right-hander should be owned in most mixed leagues before long.

Shopping at the five-and-dime:

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

Mark Melancon RP, Astros (Yahoo: 3 percent owned, ESPN: 0 percent)

Brandon Lyon blew his fourth save in eight chances Wednesday against the Reds, prompting many to wonder if the poor outing will cost him his job. Astros manager Brad Mills wasn't quite ready to go there after the game, but Melancon is the speculative pickup for the ninth inning. The former Yankee farmhand did well in a brief stint with the Astros last season and has a 1.72 ERA and 12/6 K/BB ratio over his first 15 2/3 innings this season. Melancon averages around 92 mph on his fastball, so he doesn't overpower batters, but he gets a fair amount of strikeouts while limiting the walks and inducing plenty of groundballs. File him away before it becomes official.

Scott Sizemore 2B, Tigers (Yahoo: 5 percent owned, ESPN: 1.4 percent)

Fed up with the lack of production at second base, the Tigers sent Will Rhymes to the minors earlier this week and called up Sizemore. You might remember that Sizemore was hyped as a fantasy sleeper last season, but he batted just .224 with three homers and 14 RBI over 143 at-bats. We're still not sure if he can hack it against big league pitching, but he certainly earned the promotion by batting .408/.495/.605 with two homers and 15 RBI over his first 92 plate appearances with Triple-A Toledo this season. He's batting second in Jim Leyland's batting order, so his speed and pop is worth watching in deeper mixed formats or in those that use a MI (middle infielder) spot.

Jason Bourgeois OF, Astros (Yahoo: 4 percent owned, ESPN: 4.2 percent)

Bourgeois has taken advantage of some recent injuries in the Astros' lineup to land very favorably on our fantasy radar. The speedy 29-year-old outfielder has nine hits, three RBI and four stolen bases over the past four games. Carlos Lee continues to be sidelined with a hip contusion following a collision with teammate Angel Sanchez over the weekend, so Bourgeois is well worth using in deeper mixed leagues as a short-term play.

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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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