We're rapidly approaching Memorial Day weekend, the unofficial first benchmark of the baseball season. It's a great time to catch up with family and friends while doing a little grilling and watching some day baseball, but it's also the perfect opportunity to take stock of your fantasy team and evaluate your chances for success moving forward.
We have nearly two months of data to work with here, so while there are still some fluky things going on, "small sample size" isn't the easy excuse it was just a few weeks ago. Some players appear to be taking the next step (Adam Jones, Edwin Encarnacion, Gio Gonzalez) while others (Ike Davis, John Danks, Colby Rasmus) have gone from being universally owned on draft day to common waiver wire fodder.
Perhaps you've been burned by some combination of injuries, underperforming veterans and sleepers who turned out to be duds. You're not alone there. And stop feeling sorry for yourself. Weird things happen in this game we all love, so there's still plenty of time to turn things around. Scouring the waiver wire is a pretty good way to get started.
Felipe Paulino RP/SP, Royals (Yahoo: 12 percent owned, ESPN: 7.1 percent)
I was one of those folks who thought Paulino was headed for a breakthrough season in 2010 with the Astros. Better late than never, I suppose. Since missing the first month of the season with a strained right forearm, Paulino has a microscopic 1.42 ERA and 29/7 K/BB ratio in 25 1/3 innings. Three of his four starts have been scoreless, including two against the Yankees. His hot start isn't coming completely out of nowhere either, as the 28-year-old right-hander had an intriguing 4.11 ERA and 119/48 K/BB ratio in 124 2/3 innings with the Royals after being acquired from the Rockies last May. He's worth a look outside of shallow mixed leagues.
Anthony Bass SP/RP, Padres (Yahoo: 30 percent owned, ESPN: 19.9 percent)
I keep waiting for the bloom to come off the rose with Bass, but it just hasn't happened yet. And perhaps it won't. The 24-year-old right-hander has a fantastic 2.89 ERA and 51/18 K/BB ratio over 53 innings this season, including a 2.94 ERA in eight starts. It's a small sample, sure, but Bass has evolved quite a bit from the pitcher we saw down the stretch last year. His walk and ground ball rates have both improved while his swinging strike rate is currently among the league leaders. And his success isn't just a product of PETCO Park either, as he has a 3.09 ERA in five starts and two relief appearances at home compared to a 2.57 ERA in three starts on the road. Judging by his ownership percentage, it seems his hot start is still flying under the radar. It probably won't for much longer.
Matt Adams 1B, Cardinals (Yahoo: 16 percent owned, ESPN: 9.6 percent)
Adams was tabbed as the Cardinals' "first baseman of the future" as soon as Albert Pujols signed with the Angels last December, but he wasn't expected to arrive this soon. Of course, Lance Berkman's knee injury has changed that. The full extent of Berkman's injury isn't yet known -- we should know more after he undergoes exploratory surgery on Friday -- but Adams should get a pretty solid shake at the first base job, at least until Allen Craig returns from a hamstring injury. The 23-year-old isn't known for his patience, but he should be able to hit for average and power right away. Give him a try in deeper mixed leagues.
Andy Pettitte SP, Yankees (Yahoo: 33 percent owned, ESPN: 38.4 percent)
Why did Pettitte take a year off again? In his first three starts back with the Yankees, the 39-year-old southpaw owns an impressive 2.53 ERA and 19/5 K/BB ratio over 21 1/3 innings. This includes back-to-back starts with at least eight strikeouts. He hasn't done that since 2006. I don't expect Pettitte to maintain his current ERA -- heck, even matching his 3.28 ERA from 2010 is asking a little much -- but he hasn't missed a beat thus far and there's enough talent in the Yankees' offense to put him in line for plenty of wins. He should be relevant in most mixed leagues moving forward.
Sean Rodriguez 2B/3B/SS, Rays (Yahoo: 15 percent owned, ESPN: 29.9 percent)
After batting just .190 in April, Rodriguez is hitting .296 (21-for-71) with three homers, four doubles, nine RBI and an .803 OPS over 22 games in May. While he's still not a strong bet to hit for a high batting average, he has at least seen moderate improvements with his contact and strikeout rates so far this season. His power-speed combo and multi-position eligibility makes him a pretty handy option in deeper mixed leagues, especially if he can be used at a MI (middle infielder) spot.
Ernesto Frieri RP, Angels (Yahoo: 23 percent owned, ESPN: 15.1 percent)
Thanks to a shrewd deal by GM Jerry Dipoto, the Angels may have found their solution for the closer role. Frieri has yet to allow a hit since being acquired from the Padres last month, posting an 18/6 K/BB ratio over 8 2/3 scoreless innings. He notched his first career save Wednesday by striking out the side in an extra-inning win over the Athletics. Scott Downs is still the designated option for the ninth inning at the moment, but I give Frieri the edge in the long-term since he's right-handed and has the swing-and-miss stuff we're used to seeing from a closer-type. Stash now and reap the benefits later.
Coco Crisp OF, Athletics (Yahoo: 28 percent owned, ESPN: 30 percent)
Crisp just returned from an inner ear infection and is only hitting .175/.233/.188 through 86 plate appearances this year, but those are hardly reasons to ignore him in mixed leagues. We're talking about a guy who tied Brett Gardner for the American League lead with 49 stolen bases last year and has eight homers in each of the past two seasons. Sure, Crisp will probably end up on the disabled list again at some point and it would be nice if he got on base more often, but there's no reason why he should be owned in so few leagues right now.
Dayan Viciedo OF, White Sox (Yahoo: 24 percent owned, ESPN: 38.1 percent)
Viciedo has shown plenty of power potential in the minors, but he's had a tough time getting it to translate to major league success. Perhaps that will change soon. After getting off to a miserable start this year, "The Tank" had four home runs and 10 RBI in the space of six games last week. The 23-year-old still owns a woeful 83/14 K/BB ratio over 359 plate appearances in the majors and he has made zero improvement in his approach, so he's not someone I would trust in shallow mixed leagues, but his power makes him worth a flier in five-outfielder formats.
Tyler Clippard RP, Nationals (Yahoo: 33 percent owned, ESPN: 20.1 percent)
Nationals manager Davey Johnson tried to stick it out with Henry Rodriguez as long as possible, but the young fireballer's constant inability to find the strike zone gave him no other choice but to make a change with the closer role this week. He now plans to use a closer-by-committee approach, at least until Brad Lidge and/or Drew Storen return from the disabled list. Sean Burnett and Craig Stammen should also be in the mix, so feel free to stash in deeper leagues, but Clippard got the first save since Rodriguez's demotion and owns an outstanding 2.56 ERA dating back to the start of the 2009 season. If you are going to own somebody in this situation, why not get the best one?
Shopping at the five-and-dime:
(Players owned in less than 10 percent of Y! and ESPN.com leagues)
Everth Cabrera SS, Padres (Yahoo: 0 percent owned, ESPN: 0.1 percent)
We haven't heard much from Cabrera since he stole 25 bases as a 22-year-old back in 2009, but he's back on the fantasy radar now that the Padres have begun a youth movement with their middle infield. While the speedy shortstop got off to a bit of a rough start by going hitless over his first 19 at-bats since his promotion last week, he finally got off the schneid Wednesday night against the Cardinals by going 2-for-4 with a pair of singles. Any power would be a bonus, but Cabrera packs plenty of patience and has already proven that he can rack up a bunch of stolen bases if given the green light. There's a chance Jason Bartlett won't have his starting job when he is ready to return from the disabled list, so Cabrera makes for a pretty intriguing MI (middle infielder) option in deeper mixed leagues.
Will Venable OF, Padres (Yahoo: 3 percent owned, ESPN: 1.1 percent)
Fresh off going 3-for-5 with a homer and a double Wednesday night against the Cardinals, Venable isn't straying too far from what we've seen from him in the past. Namely that he's a completely different player away from PETCO Park. The 29-year-old outfielder owns a .223/.301/.371 career batting line and a .672 OPS at home compared to a .280/.343/.451 career batting line and a .794 OPS on the road. The Padres still have seven games left on their current 10-game road trip -- four against the Mets and three against the Cubs -- so he's a fine short-term pick up in deeper formats. I would hesitate starting him against left-handed pitchers (.548 career OPS), so he is best utilized in a daily league.
Jerome Williams SP, Angels (Yahoo: 11 percent owned, ESPN: 11.6 percent)
Eight appearances into the 2012 season, Williams has shown that his surprising performance down the stretch last season wasn't necessarily a fluke. The 30-year-old right-hander has a 3.74 ERA and 33/16 K/BB ratio in 53 innings and has allowed two runs or less in five out of his last six appearances. While Williams isn't going to help much in the strikeout department, he throws strikes and keeps the ball on the ground for the most part. He's a strong streaming option this weekend against the Mariners, who are hitting just .201/.284/.319 with a .604 OPS at home this season.