D.J. Short

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Vazquez Vindicated?

Thursday, August 18, 2011

We are currently in the dog days of summer, but this is crunch-time in most fantasy leagues. Assuming you haven't already wrapped up a playoff spot, these can be some pretty tense days. Everybody is out there scouring the waiver wire for the extra stolen base or the streaming option that can put them over the top.

If you are currently one of those jockeying for position, my only advice is that you shouldn't waste a roster spot on someone who hasn't come around by now. For instance, if you are still waiting on the likes of Adam Dunn, Francisco Liriano ,Vernon Wells or Aaron Hill to justify their ADP, well, you are probably going to have a lot of time to focus on fantasy football in the coming weeks and months.

Let's move on to the good stuff.


Ryan Raburn 2B/OF, Tigers (Yahoo: 21 percent owned, ESPN: 14.5 percent)

I'm giving serious thought to the notion that we should just ignore this guy every year until the second half of the season begins. Like clockwork, Raburn is batting .305 (18-for-59) with three homers, two doubles, one triple and eight RBI since the All-Star break. The recent Delmon Young trade might squeeze him out of at-bats eventually, but he should get most of the playing time at second base while Carlos Guillen recovers from wrist soreness. He's worth a shot if you're looking to fill a MI (middle infielder) spot.

Frank Francisco RP, Blue Jays (Yahoo: 40 percent owned, ESPN: 48.6 percent)

Jon Rauch underwent an appendectomy on Monday and is expected to miss at least three weeks, which means Francisco will be the Jays' primary closer for now. While Rauch was probably pitching himself out of the job anyway, Francisco has actually been very solid recently, allowing just earned one run (on a solo homer) over 13 1/3 innings while striking out 11 and walking just one. He is a must-own in all formats.

Ryan Doumit C/OF, Pirates (Yahoo: 10 percent owned, ESPN: 1.5 percent)

Doumit has been limited to just 44 games this season due to an ankle injury, but the good news is that he is batting .313 (10-for-32) with two homers and four RBI since returning from the disabled list earlier this month. Sure, this is a very small sample, but let's be honest, it doesn't take much in the way of production to garner attention at the catcher position. The 30-year-old should continue to see most of the playing time behind the plate, at least until Chris Snyder returns from back surgery next month, so go ahead and pick him up in deeper mixed formats while he's healthy for once.

Randy Wolf SP, Brewers (Yahoo: 32 percent owned, ESPN: 36.7 percent)

I'll admit it, Wolf isn't pitching nearly as well as his current 3.30 ERA would indicate. But at this time of year, we don't have the time to wait for regression to the mean. The veteran left-hander has won four straight starts while pitching for the hottest team in baseball. He has also allowed three earned runs or less in six out of his last seven starts dating back to early-July. With a start against the depleted Mets on tap for Saturday at pitcher-friendly Citi Field, he looks like a solid matchup play.

Bobby Parnell RP, Mets (Yahoo: 11 percent owned, ESPN: 8.9 percent)

The transition is officially underway. Moments after Jason Isringhausen put the finishing touches on his 300th career save Monday night against the Padres, Mets manager Terry Collins announced that Bobby Parnell would get the bulk of the save opportunities moving forward. The 26-year-old right-hander has struggled since the All-Star break and his command remains an issue at times, but with his high-90s heat and an improved slider, he has all the talent to be a long-term solution at closer. I wouldn't drop a more established closer for him, but he should be owned in all formats.

Kurt Suzuki C, Athletics (Yahoo: 36 percent owned, ESPN: 22.9 percent)

It isn't saying much, but Suzuki is in the middle of his best month of the season. Including his two-homer game on Wednesday afternoon against the Orioles, the 27-year-old backstop is batting .268 (11-for-41) with four homers, three doubles, seven RBI and a 6/6 K/BB ratio so far in August. I have been waiting for Suzuki to bust out for a while now, because while he is striking out more often this season, he is also hitting more line drives and flyballs. He could be worth consideration in deeper mixed formats if you're currently waiting on the likes of Carlos Ruiz or Miguel Olivo to get hot again.

Jose Tabata OF, Pirates (Yahoo: 41 percent owned, ESPN: 18.6 percent)

I don't hide my enthusiasm for Tabata very well. Not only did I feature him among my keeper targets in the annual Rotoworld Draft Guide, but I also liked him as a rebound candidate in the Midseason Pass. While his recovery from a quad injury took a bit longer than originally expected, Tabata has led off each of his first two games back from the disabled list and hit a two-run homer on Wednesday night. Alex Presley's eventual return could complicate things in the Pirates' outfield, but I'm much more confident in Tabata's ability to be a fantasy asset the rest of the way.

Javier Vazquez SP, Marlins (Yahoo: 39 percent owned, ESPN: 16.6 percent)

I mentioned Vazquez a little over a month ago and while he has had one dud since then, what we're really witnessing is a sustained period of success. The 35-year-old right-hander has a 2.36 ERA and 57/13 K/BB ratio in 68 2/3 innings over his last 11 outings dating back to mid-June. Perhaps most encouraging, he averaged 91.3 mph on his fastball during Saturday's win against the Giants, equaling his 2009 average. I wouldn't hesitate to use him in most matchups at this point.

Shopping at the five-and-dime:

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

Wilson Betemit 3B, Tigers (Yahoo: 8 percent owned, ESPN: 8.5 percent)

Betemit has thrived as the Tigers' regular third baseman since coming over from the Royals last month, batting .316/.355/.474 with two homers, three doubles and 12 RBI over 62 plate appearances. Many routinely scoff when Betemit is suggested as an option in mixed leagues, but I'm honestly intrigued to see what he can do now that he'll be playing his home games in an environment that is more hitter-friendly than Kauffman Stadium. If you are looking for someone to fill your CI (corner infielder) spot, you could do worse than find out.

Nate Schierholtz OF, Giants (Yahoo: 5 percent owned, ESPN: 7.4 percent)

You might have expected to see Brandon Belt here, but as much as I like him, I fear he'll go back to the bench or maybe even the minors once Carlos Beltran is ready to return from the disabled list. Besides, Schierholtz is plenty productive on his own right now. The 27-year-old has proven to be one of the Giants' best hitters since the start of July, batting .299 with five home runs and nine doubles. While he gave the Giants a bit of a scare after fouling a ball off his foot on Monday night, Schierholtz went 2-for-5 in his return to the lineup Wednesday. His role should be pretty secure moving forward, so he is worthy of consideration in deeper mixed and five-outfielder formats.

Kyle Blanks 1B/OF, Padres (Yahoo: 5 percent owned, ESPN: 4.3 percent)

While I included Blanks in my NL-only recommendations three weeks ago, it hasn't taken him long to be relevant in mixed leagues again. After collecting just three hits over his first 32 at-bats, the 6-foot-6 monster is batting .370 with three homers, four doubles, one triple and 10 RBI over his last 13 games. I realize this includes an unsustainable batting average on balls in play, but he is hitting more line drives than ever before and has a fly ball rate approaching 50 percent. Blanks could be a major asset in the power department down the stretch.

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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.
Email :D.J. Short

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