Francisco Liriano SP, Twins (Yahoo: 57 percent owned, ESPN: 40.2 percent)
First off, ignore the ownership numbers. At this point of the season, they are pretty worthless. The Twins floated the possibility of shutting Liriano down earlier this month, so there's at least a decent chance that he was dropped in most redraft leagues. Anyway, not only is Liriano back from the disabled list, but the Twins plan to give him a start during Saturday's doubleheader against the Indians. There's risk involved here, to be sure, but would six or seven solid innings really surprise you? Not me.
Chris Parmelee 1B, Twins (Yahoo: 1 percent owned, ESPN: 0.6 percent)
Since being called up from the minors on September 6, Parmelee is hitting .413 (19-for-46) with two homers, four doubles, nine RBI and a 6/7 K/BB ratio. This includes five straight multi-hit games. The 2006 first-round pick has coincidentally batted cleanup in each of his last five games, so he should continue to get plenty of chances to drive in runs. He could be a name to watch at first base next season if Justin Morneau continues to have difficulty with concussion issues and/or playing the field.
Jerry Sands OF, Dodgers (Yahoo: 2 percent owned, ESPN: 3.2 percent)
Don't look now, but Sands is one of the hottest hitters in the majors at the moment. The 23-year-old scuffled in his first taste of the big leagues earlier this summer, but is batting .375 (18-for-48) with two homers, three doubles and nine RBI since returning on September. He's a no brainer add in NL-only leagues, but may also be worth a look in five-outfielder mixed formats.
Randall Delgado SP, Braves (Yahoo: 4 percent owned, ESPN: 4 percent)
Delgado continues to show plenty of promise. The 21-year-old right-hander has a 2.25 ERA over four starts in September and has allowed three earned runs or less in all of them. On the other hand, he has yet to go beyond five innings in a start and his 18/13 K/BB ratio over 30 innings this season is pretty underwhelming. I wouldn't touch him in mixed leagues quite yet, but he could make for a decent streaming option in NL-only leagues next Monday, especially if the Phillies field one of their B-lineups.
The 2011 Waiver Wired Awards:
A couple things before we get started. Last year I had each category named after an obscure Met from my lifetime. I didn't receive any complaints, so we're sticking with that this year.
Also, I admittedly whiffed on a few guys this season, so you won't see them below. This includes names like Emilio Bonifacio, Jeff Francoeur and Melky Cabrera. But really, can you blame me? I did mention Brett Lawrie in a column earlier this season, but that was before he broke his left hand in early June. And yes, I did mention Desmond Jennings, but well before he was called up from the minors. Thanks Rays, for being so frustratingly unpredictable.
OK, let's get started.
The Phil Lombardi Award (best waiver wire catcher)
J.P. Arencibia is fourth among fantasy catchers in home runs and tied for third in RBI, but I'm going with Alex Avila since his strong season really came out of nowhere. After hitting .228 with seven homers and a .656 OPS last season, the 24-year-old backstop is batting .298/.390/.517 with 19 home runs, 77 RBI and a .907 OPS in 2011. He should be a top-five catcher on draft day next season.
The Roberto Petagine Award (best waiver wire first baseman)
Lance Berkman might be the biggest surprise among those who qualify at first base, but he was owned in most leagues even at the beginning of the season. That's why I'm giving this award to Mark Trumbo. The 25-year-old has filled in admirably for the injured Kendrys Morales, leading all major league rookies with 29 homers and 87 RBI.
The Jason Hardtke Award (best waiver wire second baseman)
Ryan Roberts was another one I missed out on, but I don't feel so bad since he's been pretty underwhelming in September. With that in mind, I'll give this award to Danny Espinosa. We knew he wouldn't post a high batting average, but the 24-year-old ranks fourth among fantasy second baseman with 21 homers and 10th with 64 RBI. He has also stolen 14 stolen bases and leads NL rookies in walks. Good enough for me. I think he'll be on the fringe of the top-10 options at second base on draft day next season.
The Al Pedrique Award (best waiver wire shortstop)
This was a pretty easy call. And no, I'm not talking about Asdrubal Cabrera, who was already owned in most leagues at the start of April. Two trips to the disabled list have limited him to just 123 games this season, but J.J. Hardy ranks second among major league shortstop with 28 homers and fourth with 75 RBI. He won't be able to shake the injure-prone tag, but should be in the 5-10 range among fantasy shortstops next season.
The Junior Noboa Award (best waiver wire third baseman)
We have seen awful production from third base this season, so I'll cheat here and use Alex Gordon. The 2005 first-round pick has enjoyed a breakout season in 2011, batting .303/.376/.502 with 23 homers, 45 doubles, 87 RBI, 17 stolen bases and an .879 OPS over 688 plate appearances. When people give examples of post-hype success stories from now on, Gordon's name should be mentioned prominently. He will lose his third base eligibility in 2012, which hurts somewhat, but he does enough to be a top 15-20 outfielder moving forward.
The Wayne Housie Award (best waiver wire outfielder)
Since I put Alex Gordon at third base, this was a pretty easy choice. Though he got off to a bit of a slow start, Mike Morse has been a revelation this season. After showing signs of a breakout in limited duty last year, the 29-year-old is batting .305/.362/.537 with 27 homers, 86 RBI and an .899 OPS. He'll likely play left field next season with Adam LaRoche slated to return from shoulder surgery, but he'll still have his eligibility at first base.
Some others that got my attention this season? Cameron Maybin (39 extra-base hits, 38 stolen bases, 80 runs scored), Josh Willingham (career-highs with 27 homers and 92 RBI), Dexter Fowler (34 extra-base hits, nine stolen bases and a .900 OPS since the All-Star break), Peter Bourjos (48 extra-base hits, 72 runs scored, 22 stolen bases) and Coco Crisp (third in majors with 42 stolen bases).
The Brett Hinchcliffe Award (best waiver wire SP)
Plenty to choose from here, but I'll give this one to Johnny Cueto. Though he only logged 156 innings this season, the 25-year-old right-hander posted a career-best 2.31 ERA and 1.09 WHIP. He allowed more than three earned runs in just two of his 24 starts. That being said, if you rely on him as a fantasy ace in 2012, you will probably be disappointed.
Some others that were mentioned in this space (some of them more than once) include Doug Fister, John Danks, R.A. Dickey, Michael Pineda, Scott Baker and Brandon Beachy.
Javier Vazquez gets knocked down a few pegs due to a his poor first half, but he has posted a ridiculous 2.16 ERA and 87/16 K/BB ratio in 87 1/3 innings over 13 starts since I mentioned him here on July 14.
The Edwin Almonte Award (best waiver wire RP)
It wasn't too long ago that I thought I would have to choose between Sergio Santos and Fernando Salas, but it appears Jordan Walden is the last-man standing. The rookie right-hander took over the ninth-inning gig for the Angels in early-April and hasn't looked looked back, posting a 2.41 ERA, 31 saves and a 63/23 K/BB ratio over 56 innings.