D.J. Short

Waiver Wired

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Pedro Power

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Since I last left you, Bryce Harper and Mike Trout were both called up to the big leagues. It's a little too late for me to tell you to go out and get these guys, as they should be stashed away in all formats on pure potential alone, but I'm a bit surprised that Trout is owned in just 52 percent of Y! and 55.7 of ESPN.com leagues while Harper is owned in 76 percent of Y! leagues and 90.7 percent of ESPN.com leagues.

OK, maybe "surprised" is the wrong word here. The amount of attention paid to Harper dwarfs what we've seen with Trout, so the ownership disparity is completely understandable. But it's worth noting that the 20-year-old Trout has previous major league experience on his side and he was hitting .403 with ten extra-base hits (one homer), six stolen bases and a 1.091 OPS before his promotion from Triple-A Salt Lake. The Angels' still have a log jam between the outfield, third base and DH spots, but the promotion was completely justified.

As for Harper, he was hitting .250 with one homer and a .708 OPS with Triple-A Syracuse. Holding his own for a 19-year-old? Absolutely. But his call-up was more a reflection of a team that needed to spark a stalling offense. Harper does something each game to remind us that he has a chance to be a special player, but history tells us to temper our expectations given his age. My best-case scenario is that he comes close to matching Ken Griffey, Jr.'s production (.264/.329/.420 with 16 homers, 61 RBI, 16 stolen bases and a .748 OPS) as a 19-year-old in 1989.

I'm not completely convinced that Harper will be with the big club all year, but even if he is here to stay, Trout's speed gives him the slight edge in fantasy leagues this year. 2013 and beyond, well, that's a different story.


Scott Downs RP, Angels (Yahoo: 48 percent owned, ESPN: 45.3 percent)

It was a bit of a surprise when young fireballer Jordan Walden was removed from the closer role late last week, but Downs is certainly good enough to run away with the job. The 36-year-old left-hander has notched back-to-back save opportunities since getting the nod and has yet to allow a run in 9 1/3 innings this season. The strikeout rate (6.89 K/9 career) isn't what we typically see from a closer, but Downs has excellent control (2.3 BB/9 since 2009) and a career ground ball rate of 57.4 percent. Walden could eventually get his job back and the Angels are reportedly talking to other teams about a closer, but Downs is a safe add in all formats right now.

Pedro Alvarez 3B, Pirates (Yahoo: 22 percent owned, ESPN: 10.7 percent)

Alvarez appeared bound for a possible demotion just a couple weeks ago, but he's suddenly one of the hottest waiver wire adds out there. After collecting two hits and 15 strikeouts through his first 30 at-bats this season, the 25-year-old third baseman is batting .388 (14-for-36) with four homers and 10 RBI over his last 10 games. This includes his current five-game hitting streak. The strikeouts are still a major concern, so don't expect him to help much in the batting average department, but the potential for 20-plus home runs is very real. Third base is suddenly very thin, so give him a shot if you're searching for a replacement for Pablo Sandoval, Evan Longoria or Kevin Youkilis.

John Danks SP, White Sox (Yahoo: 38 percent owned, ESPN: 44.4 percent)

Danks was hammered for seven runs over 5 2/3 innings by the Red Sox last Friday and has an ugly 6.23 ERA across his first five starts this season, so it's no surprise to see him sitting on the waiver wire in mixed leagues right now. It remains to be seen whether his diminished velocity and suddenly shaky control is just a blip or part of a bigger issue, but his track record makes him a worthy buy-low. Remember, he had a 6.89 ERA and 10/14 K/BB ratio in five starts last May before posting a 3.69 ERA for the rest of the season.

Carlos Quentin OF, Padres (Yahoo: 32 percent owned, ESPN: 23.4 percent)

Quentin began a minor league rehab assignment this week with Triple-A Tucson as he works his way back from March surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee. He was the DH on Tuesday and played three innings in left field on Wednesday, but he's expected to need at least seven rehab games before coming off the disabled list. Quentin's stock has tumbled a bit because he has left one of the most hitter-friendly parks in the majors for one of the most pitcher-friendly, but the good news is that PETCO isn't nearly as hard on right-handed power hitters as it is left-handers. Quentin will be a free agent after this season and the Padres are rebuilding, so he could find himself with a contender before the deadline, anyway. In mixed leagues that are 12 teams or deeper, he should be owned.

Henderson Alvarez SP, Blue Jays (Yahoo: 13 percent owned, ESPN: 2.7 percent)

Do I completely buy Alvarez's impressive April? Not necessarily. While his 3.62 ERA through five starts is pretty nice, his 4.93 xFIP indicates that he has been somewhat fortunate. And it doesn't take much digging to see why. The 22-year-old right-hander has an underwhelming 9/9 K/BB ratio over 32 1/3 innings and has benefited from a .196 batting average on balls in play. The encouraging part is that he has demonstrated excellent command in the majors (1.59 BB/9 in 96 innings) and has a ground ball rate of 58 percent this season. I wouldn't trust Alvarez every time out in mixed leagues, especially in the power-packed AL East, but I like him for upcoming road starts against the Angels and Twins.

Ty Wigginton 1B/3B/OF, Phillies (Yahoo: 18 percent owned, ESPN: 13.5 percent)

That's right, it's time for our annual Wiggy mention. The 34-year-old has taken advantage of regular playing time with the Phillies by hitting .328/.395/.463 with two homers, 10 RBI and an .857 OPS through his first 67 plate appearances. He has hit safely in 13 out of his last 14 games. His .392 batting average on balls in play (.293 career BABIP) indicates that his hot start is unsustainable, but with John Mayberry struggling and Jim Thome on the disabled list, he should continue to get the bulk of the playing time at first base while Ryan Howard rehabs from Achilles surgery. The multi-position eligibility comes in handy in deeper mixed leagues.

Josh Reddick OF, Athletics (Yahoo: 12 percent owned, ESPN: 14.4 percent)

On the strength of his current seven-game hitting streak, Reddick is batting .274 with four homers, nine RBI, 13 runs scored, three stolen bases and a .772 OPS through 25 games this season. I'll admit that's not going to blow most fantasy owners away, he's doing enough in all categories to warrant attention in deeper leagues. His lack of patience is still an issue (just three walks in 106 plate appearances this season, 4.9 percent career walk rate) and I would like to see more RBI, but the opportunities should be there as long as he continues to bat third in the A's lineup.

Tony Campana OF, Cubs (Yahoo: 13 percent owned, ESPN: 16.7 percent)

Yep, it only took one week for Campana to graduate from the NL-only to the mixed league side. And why the heck not? Though 10 games, Campana is hitting .355 (11-for-31) with seven stolen bases and seven runs scored. Only eight players have more stolen bases and most of them have three times as many at-bats as Campana. I'm not suggesting you go out and pick him up in a shallow mixed league, as the 25-year-old is essentially a one-trick pony with absolutely no power, but he makes for a fine pickup in five-outfielder formats. Just keep in mind that Campana could sit against left-handed starters, so he's more useful in a daily league.

Will Middlebrooks 3B, Red Sox (Yahoo: 10 percent owned, ESPN: 0 percent)

Boston, your savior has arrived. OK, not quite. Middlebrooks will only hold down third base until Kevin Youkilis is ready to return from a lower back strain. However, the 23-year-old makes for an interesting short-term option in deeper mixed formats. Middlebrooks went 2-for-3 with a double, a walk and a stolen base in his major league debut Wednesday against the A's and was hitting .333/.380/.677 with nine homers, 27 RBI and a 1.057 OPS over his first 100 plate appearances with Triple-A Pawtucket this season. I wouldn't drop anyone of great importance for him, as his first stint in the majors will likely be a brief one and his aggressive approach could lead to some growing pains, but nothing wrong with taking the proverbial flier.

Shopping at the five-and-dime:

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

Brian Fuentes RP, Athletics (Yahoo: 7 percent owned, ESPN: 1 percent)

Grant Balfour deserves a bit of a leash with the closer role, but he has allowed five runs on five hits and two walks over his last two appearances and was pulled in favor of Jordan Norberto during a save situation Tuesday night against the Red Sox. Fuentes got the save -- the 200th of his career -- on Wednesday and would be the likely alternative if Balfour's struggles continue. Sure, Ryan Cook is beginning to look like a possible "closer of the future" and I would much prefer to see him get a shot, but Fuentes has that "proven closer" tag which most managers seem to dig. Getting a few saves under his belt could also enhance his trade value leading up to the deadline. Stash if you're in the mood to speculate.

Steve Cishek RP, Marlins (Yahoo: 5 percent owned, ESPN: 0.7 percent)

Heath Bell was terrible again Wednesday night against the Giants, allowing three straight hits to begin the bottom of the ninth before getting pulled from a save situation. He ended up getting charged with two runs and saw his ERA jump to 11.74 on the year. The 34-year-old right-hander has allowed 13 hits and eight walks over just 7 2/3 innings of work this season while his velocity and swinging-strike rate continue to decline. His three-year, $27 million deal provides some extra job security, but Marlins' manager Ozzie Guillen suggested after Wednesday's game that he Bell could be pulled from the closer role, at least on a temporary basis. Cishek is the strongest candidate to replace him, as he got the call in the ninth inning last night and has an 0.79 ERA and 12/4 K/BB ratio over 11 1/3 innings this season, but Guillen could also turn to Edward Mujica and Ryan Webb.

Suitable streamer:

Drew Smyly SP, Tigers (Yahoo: 18 percent owned, ESPN: 14.9 percent)

I had Smyly under my AL-only recommendations in the very first Waiver Wired of the season, but the rookie left-hander is now on the mixed league side after posting a 1.23 ERA and 22/8 K/BB ratio in 22 innings through his first four major league starts. His strand rate is a perfect 100 percent, so he can't be this fortunate forever, but he's racking up plenty of swings and misses and his control has been very solid since he walked three over four innings in his major league debut. It's tough to make a strong judgment with such a small sample, but give him a whirl Friday against a White Sox team that is batting just .199 with a .614 OPS against southpaws this season.

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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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