D.J. Short

Waiver Wired

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Just Jake

Thursday, August 11, 2011

One of the more surprising things I found while putting together this week's column is that Justin Morneau is owned in 69 percent of Y! leagues and just 49.2 percent of ESPN.com leagues. Really. That's it.

Just for some perspective, this means Morneau is owned in less Y! and ESPN.com leagues than the likes of Brennan Boesch, Jeff Francoeur and Emilio Bonifacio. I don't include players in "Waiver Wired" unless they are owned in less than 50 percent of both Y! and ESPN.com leagues (hence the reason you won't find Brett Lawrie or Jesus Guzman in this week's column), but this little tidbit was just too egregious to ignore.

I really don't care that Morneau is batting just .225 with just four homers this season. He has ripped the cover off the ball during his minor league rehab assignment and we all know what he is capable of doing offensively when healthy. He should be owned in all formats and that's that.

Let's move on to the good stuff.


Casey Kotchman 1B, Rays (Yahoo: 14 percent owned, ESPN: 19.8 percent)

He can't be denied any longer. After going 2-for-4 in last night's win over the Royals, Kotchman is now batting .340/.399/.476 on the year to go along with an .875 OPS. This includes a .438 batting average over his last 12 games. Kotchman obviously isn't going to hit for much power (his three homers in August notwithstanding) and his batting average on balls in play is likely unsustainable, but he should be owned in deeper mixed formats, especially those with CI (corner infielder) spots.

Jake Peavy SP, White Sox (Yahoo: 40 percent owned, ESPN: 31.8 percent)

Others may shy away from Peavy due to his 4.63 ERA, but we all know better. Or at least we should. The veteran right-hander has a very healthy 63/16 K/BB ratio over 81 2/3 innings this season, including a career-best walk rate of 1.76 BB/9. He has been especially stingy lately, walking just three batters in 27 innings over his last three starts. Peavy's ownership numbers have begun to build since he tossed eight shutout innings against the Twins on Sunday, so grab him now before it's too late.

Mike Leake SP, Reds (Yahoo: 21 percent owned, ESPN: 12 percent)

Leake earned his 10th win Wednesday night against the Rockies by allowing two runs over 7 1/3 innings while striking out five and walking one. He now has a 3.84 ERA for the year and a 3.09 ERA over 14 starts since returning from the minors at the end of May. With improved peripherals and a ground ball rate approaching 50 percent, Leake could make for a legitimate "steal" down the stretch. I know, too easy. Please forgive me.

Jason Bartlett SS, Padres (Yahoo: 15 percent owned, ESPN: 12.1 percent)

Bartlett has really flipped the switch since the All-Star break, batting .318 with four doubles, one homer and 11 RBI over 84 at-bats. Finally getting on base out of the No. 2 spot, he has scored 16 runs over 21 games after scoring just 32 times during the entire first half. He has also stolen four bases, giving him 22 for the season. If you're out there looking for a replacement for Hanley Ramirez, Stephen Drew or Jose Reyes at shortstop, you could do a lot worse.

Peter Bourjos OF, Angels (Yahoo: 14 percent owned, ESPN: 4.5 percent)

Not surprisingly, Bourjos has experienced some ups and downs during his first full season in the big leagues. The good news is that he is in one of his upswings right now. The 24-year-old is batting .317 (13-for-41) with two homers, four doubles, one triple, seven RBI, 11 runs scored and four stolen bases over his last 13 games. I believe that's called filling up the boxscore. His lowly contact rate puts him at risk for another slump, but he's plenty useful in deeper mixed leagues at the moment.

Chris Iannetta C, Rockies (Yahoo: 27 percent owned, ESPN: 14.1 percent)

I mentioned Iannetta a couple of months ago, but I see that he continues to get overlooked in mixed leagues. It's about time that changes. Coming into Wednesday's action, Iannetta ranked sixth among fantasy catchers in OPS (.812) and was tied for eighth with 12 homers. And while you aren't buying him for his batting average, he is hitting .407 (11-for-27) with two homers and two doubles this month. What else do you want from your catcher? Get on it, people.

Mark Buehrle SP, White Sox (Yahoo: 40 percent owned, ESPN: 32.4 percent)

Looking for strikeouts? Well, you won't find them here. But if you want consistency, Buehrle should be pretty high on your list. Don't look now, but the veteran left-hander has allowed three runs or less in 17 consecutive starts dating back to April 22. He actually has a 1.03 ERA and 20/6 K/BB ratio over his last five starts, lowering his ERA from 3.66 to 3.04 in the process. Sure, he has been somewhat fortunate with his stand rate and batting average on balls in play this season, but I like his chances of keeping it going against the last-place Orioles on Thursday.

Stephen Strasburg SP, Nationals (Yahoo: 36 percent owned, ESPN: 18.3 percent)

No real need to explain this one. Strasburg kicked off his minor league rehab assignment Sunday with Class A Hagerstown and was clocked in the high 90s on the radar gun. He is slated to throw 50 pitches Friday with High-A Potomac as he continues to increase his workload. One setback could quickly put things to a halt for 2011, but Strasburg is currently on track to rejoin the Nationals' starting rotation in late-August or early-September. Nothing wrong with stashing him on your DL, as he has the potential to be a difference-maker in all formats down the stretch.

Shopping at the five-and-dime:

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

Johnny Giavotella 2B, Royals (Yahoo: 3 percent owned, ESPN: 1.5 percent)

We haven't heard nearly as much about Giavotella as we have with fellow rookies Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Aaron Crow and Danny Duffy, but he would be considered a top-10 prospect in many other organizations. The 24-year-old was promoted from Triple-A Omaha last week and is batting .318 (7-for-22) with one homer, two doubles, one triple, three RBI and a stolen base over his first six major league games. Giavotella has a polished approach at the plate and while he doesn't have plus-speed, he has stolen at least nine bases in each of his four seasons in the minors. The Royals are giving him the opportunity to sink or swim at second base, so he's a worthwhile addition for those looking to fill a middle infielder (MI) spot.

Mike Minor SP, Braves (Yahoo: 4 percent owned, ESPN: 1.5 percent)

The Braves have pushed Tommy Hanson's next start back to Tuesday due to concerns about his shoulder, so Minor will get another start Friday against the Cubs. The young left-hander was handed a no-decision Sunday against the Mets, but all seven of the hits he gave up were singles and he notched five strikeouts (including three in the fifth inning, all of them swinging) while walking a pair. Minor has actually pitched much better than his 4.85 ERA this season would have you believe, so he comes recommended as a streaming option.

Rafael Betancourt RP, Rockies (Yahoo: 9 percent owned, ESPN: 1.2 percent)

Here's one if you're in the mood to speculate. Huston Street hasn't pitched since Sunday due to triceps soreness and while he hopes to pitch Thursday afternoon, there's a chance he could be sidelined for even longer. Primary set-up man Matt Lindstrom was just placed on the DL on Wednesday with a nerve injury in his throwing arm, so Betancourt may be Jim Tracy's best alternative for the ninth inning. Remember, the veteran right-hander just got his first save of the season Tuesday night.

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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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