D.J. Short

Waiver Wired

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Buckle Up

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Welcome to this season's first edition of Waiver Wired. This is my third straight year writing this column for Rotoworld, where each and every Thursday I provide some names to consider on your league's waiver wire.

With this weekly column, you'll find coverage of mixed leagues, as well as AL-only and NL-only formats.

You'll notice that I use ownership percentages from Yahoo! and ESPN, two of the most popular sites for fantasy baseball. There may be some pretty big disparities in ownership levels early on in the season, primarily due to pre-draft rankings, but those should even out soon enough. I usually try to list players who are owned in less than 50 percent in both Yahoo! and ESPN leagues, but since the season is just getting started, I'll let it slide in certain cases.

Keep in mind that this Opening Day (or Opening Day Pt. 3, really) edition is a bit shorter than normal, as it's mostly a dress rehearsal for what we'll have next week. By then, we'll have a lot more data to work with, as well as some more insight on playing time arrangements and closer situations. But hopefully this will tide you over.

And with that little spiel out of the way, let's get to our first batch of names for the new season.



Alfredo Aceves SP/RP, Red Sox (Yahoo: 59 percent owned, ESPN: 5.2 percent)

This one shouldn't surprise anyone, as Aceves is probably the must-add of the week at this point. Many expected Bobby Valentine would go with Mark Melancon as the replacement for Andrew Bailey, who is out three to four months following thumb surgery, but he announced Wednesday that Aceves will open the season as the closer. I'm not sure this is the best decision for the Red Sox, as what makes Aceves so valuable is his versatility and ability to pitch multiple innings as opposed just the ninth. He also benefitted from an unusually low batting average on balls in play last year and gave up eight homers in 114 innings despite a fly ball rate of 45 percent, so I doubt we'll see a repeat of his 2.61 ERA. Still, saves are saves and Aceves figures to get plenty of them on this team.

Brandon Belt 1B/OF, Giants (Yahoo: 47 percent owned, ESPN: 66.4 percent)

Our other no-brainer add of the week. That there was even a question about whether Belt would make the Opening Day roster is downright comical, but there was no way to be sure until the official announcement was made Wednesday. Bruce Bochy has teased us in the past, but he plans to platoon Belt and Brett Pill at first base while moving Aubrey Huff to left field. I hope it's not a strict platoon, as Belt should still get tested against southpaws, but there's legitimately the chance for 20 or more homers here if the 23-year-old finally gets his chance to sink-or-swim. With his added eligibility in the outfield, that's not a bad way to fill out your roster in standard mixed leagues.

Joel Peralta RP, Rays (Yahoo: 23 percent owned, ESPN: 1.7 percent)

Kyle Farnsworth will likely begin the season on the disabled list due to a strained flexor pronator muscle in his elbow, the very same injury which forced him to miss a couple weeks down the stretch last year. The Rays hope he won't have to miss a significant amount of time, but Joe Maddon is now forced to consider the alternatives. Fernando Rodney has the most closing experience of the lot and J.P. Howell saved 17 games in 2009, but Joel Peralta figures to get the bulk of the chances. The 36-year-old right-hander went 5-for-5 in save opportunities while filling in for Farnsworth late last year and owns an impressive 2.55 ERA and 110/27 K/BB ratio in 116 2/3 innings over the past two seasons. He could pay big dividends if Farnsworth's injury lingers.

Sean Rodriguez 2B/3B/SS, Rays (Yahoo: 11 percent owned, ESPN: 35.6 percent)

Rays manager Joe Maddon announced Wednesday that Rodriguez will begin the season as the starting shortstop. Reid Brignac and Elliot Johnson will also get playing time, but Maddon was quick to add that it won't necessarily be a strict platoon, which is interesting given that Rodriguez has a .782 career OPS against southpaws compared to a .615 OPS against right-handed pitching. The 26-year-old is clearly a batting average risk, but I ultimately don't see a tremendous difference between him and Ian Desmond, who is owned in 60 percent of Y! leagues and 52 percent of ESPN.com leagues. The potential for double-digit home runs and steals gives him plenty of value in mixed formats with a MI (middle infield) spot.

Henry Rodriguez RP, Nationals (Yahoo: 26 percent owned, ESPN: 1.0 percent)
Brad Lidge RP, Nationals (Yahoo: 13 percent owned, ESPN: 3.8 percent)

I'm grouping these guys together because they are expected to share closing duties while Drew Storen is on the disabled list with right elbow inflammation. They have both looked fantastic this spring, combining to allow just two earned runs over 22 innings while striking out 24 and walking just three. Lidge probably gets the edge because of previous closing experience, but Rodriguez is one of the hardest throwers in the game and could be poised for a breakthrough if he can get his control issues in check. I wouldn't drop anybody significant for either of them, as Storen is on track to return in a couple weeks, but they should each get save opportunities in the early going.

Jose Tabata OF, Pirates (Yahoo: 46 percent owned, ESPN: 8.8 percent)

This is an example of someone who I think will be owned in the majority of mixed leagues by the end of this season. Tabata underwhelmed in his sophomore campaign, but I'm willing to give him a bit of a mulligan since he dealt with hamstring, quad and hand injuries. Besides, the 23-year-old still had a healthy .349 on-base percentage to go along with 23 extra-base hits (four home runs), 21 RBI, 16 stolen bases and 53 runs scored in 91 games. Tabata hits way too many ground balls to expect double-digit homers anytime soon, but assuming he can stay healthy, I see him swiping 30 bases and scoring 80-90 runs as the No. 2 hitter in the Pirates' lineup.

Shopping at the five-and-dime:

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

Juan Nicasio SP, Rockies (Yahoo: 7 percent owned, ESPN: 1.1 percent)

Jamie Moyer wasn't the only remarkable story in Rockies' camp this spring. Nicasio has his career back on track just eight months after suffering a fractured C-1 vertebrae when he was hit by a line drive. The 25-year-old right-hander had a promising 4.14 ERA and 58/18 K/BB ratio over 71 2/3 innings prior to the injury and hasn't missed a beat with his velocity this spring, popping the mid-90s on the radar gun with regularity. I wouldn't be surprised if he ends up being more valuable than his teammate Jhoulys Chacin, who is owned in 64 percent of Y! leagues and 49 percent of ESPN.com leagues.

Hector Santiago RP, White Sox (Yahoo: 4 percent owned, ESPN: 0.1 percent)

White Sox manager Robin Ventura has yet to give any indication which way he's leaning for the closer gig, but he did let Santiago close out Tuesday's exhibition win over the Astros. Hint? Maybe. Maybe not. But we'll take them where we can get them. While most of the attention has been focused on Matt Thornton, Addison Reed and Jesse Crain, but the young screwballer allowed just one run over 11 innings this spring while striking out 13 and walking six. The walks are a bit of a concern (he averaged 4.1 BB/9 in the minors) and this could be a fluid situation all year, but I'd pick him up if Thornton and Reed are already off the board.

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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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