D.J. Short

Waiver Wired

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Cuckoo For Coco

Thursday, July 26, 2012

We're still five days away from the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, but there's already been plenty of interesting developments. The Mariners stunned the baseball world on Monday by dealing Ichiro Suzuki to the Yankees. The underachieving Marlins became sellers, dealing Hanley Ramirez to the Dodgers and Anibal Sanchez and Omar Infante to the Tigers. And the pesky Pirates plucked Wandy Rodriguez away from the Astros.

Cole Hamels is off the market after agreeing to a six-year, $144 million extension with the Phillies, but all sorts of intriguing names continue to float in trade rumors, including Zack Greinke, Josh Johnson, Ryan Dempster, Matt Garza, James Shields, Francisco Liriano, Shane Victorino, Hunter Pence, Denard Span, Jonathan Broxton and Chase Headley, just to name a few.

If you are struggling to make up ground in an NL-only or AL-only league, don't lose hope yet. That's what your FAAB budget (free agent acquisition budget) is for. If you still have some cash to spend, the next few days could legitimately change the direction of your team.


Mike Minor SP, Braves (Yahoo: 20 percent owned, ESPN: 27.5 percent)

Hyped as a sleeper on draft day, Minor has disappointed fantasy owners this season by posting an ugly 5.49 ERA across 18 starts while serving up 21 homers in 105 innings. Only six pitchers have allowed more home runs. The good news is that the 25-year-old southpaw has quietly righted the ship this month by registering a 2.33 ERA and 17/4 K/BB ratio across three starts. He actually has a 3.64 ERA dating back to the start of June. Minor's fly ball rate (45.4 percent) indicates that the home run ball may continue to be a thorn in his side, but he's pitching well enough to keep a rotation spot, even if the Braves snag another starter before the July 31 trade deadline.

Coco Crisp OF, Athletics (Yahoo: 28 percent owned, ESPN: 36.4 percent)

When I last mentioned Crisp in Waiver Wired back on May 24, he had just returned from an inner ear infection and was hitting an underwhelming .175 on the year. The 32-year-old outfielder has turned things around quite nicely since then, including a .350 batting average to go along with four home runs, 11 RBI, 12 stolen bases and 20 runs scored over his last 31 games. Sure, the two-homer night in Wednesday's blowout win over the Blue Jays was nice to see, but fantasy owners aren't buying him for his power. Crisp is currently tied for 13th in the majors with 20 stolen bases, despite appearing in just 68 of the A's 97 games this season.

Wilton Lopez RP, Astros (Yahoo: 4 percent owned, ESPN: 0.4 percent)

The Astros acquired Francisco Cordero (Yahoo: 32 percent owned, ESPN: 31.5 percent) from the Blue Jays late last week and moved him into the closer role after Brett Myers was dealt to the White Sox. While the 37-year-old right-hander has 329 saves to his name, it's increasingly clear that he just can't get major league hitters out. Cordero has blown each of his first two save opportunities with Houston while allowing six runs on five hits and three walks over just 1 1/3 innings. He now owns a 6.87 ERA through 44 appearances this season. Meanwhile, the 29-year-old Lopez has a quality 2.61 ERA and 30/5 K/BB ratio across 38 innings of work. A change appears inevitable, so even if the Astros don't figure to win many games the rest of the way, now is the time to stash in all formats.

Erik Bedard SP, Pirates (Yahoo: 27 percent owned, ESPN: 10.7 percent)

Bedard has thrown me for a loop this season. I expected him to benefit with the league switch, but miss a bunch of time due to injury. Instead, he owns a mediocre 4.32 ERA in 19 starts while he's currently on pace for his most innings pitched since 2007 as a member of the Orioles. Go figure. On the bright side, Bedard is coming off perhaps his strongest outing of the season, limiting the Cubs to just one run on two hits and two walks while striking out 11 as part of a tough-luck loss. The 33-year-old southpaw now has 93 strikeouts in 100 innings this year. The Pirates' rotation is getting a little crowded after the acquisition of Wandy Rodriguez, but assuming Bedard stays on turn to face the lowly Astros this weekend, he's a must-start.

(UPDATE: Bedard has been pushed back to Monday against the Cubs. He did notch 11 strikeouts against them this week, so while I would prefer starting him against the lowly Astros, it's still a pretty good matchup)

Peter Bourjos OF, Angels (Yahoo: 23 percent owned, ESPN: 7.5 percent)

Here's a stash with the upcoming trade deadline in mind. The Angels are reportedly seeking another starting pitcher or perhaps another impact late-inning arm, so naturally Bourjos is coming up as a potential trade chip. The 25-year-old has only been playing a couple days a week in the crowded Angels' outfield and could see his playing time diminish even further when Vernon Wells returns from thumb surgery, but he would be right back on the radar in mixed leagues if he is dealt elsewhere. Remember, Bourjos was a popular sleeper on draft day after hitting .271 with 12 homers and 22 stolen bases last season.

Neftali Feliz SP/RP, Rangers (Yahoo: 43 percent owned, ESPN: 39.7 percent)

Feliz had a 3.16 ERA and 37 strikeouts in 42 2/3 innings prior to being placed on the disabled list in mid-May with a sprained ulnar collateral ligament in his elbow. The Rangers have naturally handled him with care over the past two months, but he recently began a minor league rehab assignment and struck out three over three scoreless innings in his most recent outing on Tuesday. He's expected to make two more rehab appearances before being activated from the disabled list. Colby Lewis needs elbow surgery and is done for the season and Roy Oswalt's back is acting up again, so there's a chance for Feliz to have some value as a starter down the stretch. Of course, the Rangers could opt to have him pitch in relief if they acquire another starter before the deadline, but he's worth stashing in a DL spot while we wait.

Vinnie Pestano RP, Indians (Yahoo: 25 percent owned, ESPN: 5.3 percent)

There was a juicy little rumor earlier this week that the Giants have interest in Chris Perez. The thought is that the Indians could listen to offers because they are deep in relievers and Perez's salary figures to jump to about $7 million next season in his second year of arbitration. It would probably take a whopper of an offer to pry Perez away, as he has silenced his critics by posting a 2.89 ERA and a dominant 42/7 K/BB ratio over 37 1/3 innings this season, but Pestano would be the most logical replacement in the closer role. The 27-year-old right-hander has a microscopic 1.50 ERA and 52/16 K/BB ratio over 42 innings this season and has averaged 11.9 K/9 over his first 116 appearances in the big leagues. Regardless of whether a trade happens before next Tuesday, there are worse pitchers to stash on your roster for a few days.

A.J. Griffin SP, Athletics (Yahoo: 11 percent owned, ESPN: 10.1 percent)

Griffin continues to surprise. The 23-year-old right-hander struck out nine over six shutout innings in Wednesday's blowout win over the Blue Jays and now holds a 2.25 ERA, 0.97 WHIP and 29/8 K/BB ratio over his first 36 innings in the big leagues. He has allowed three runs or less in all six of his starts. And we aren't talking about pushovers here, as he has made starts against the Rangers, Red Sox and Yankees. Griffin has only averaged 89.8 mph on his fastball, but he limits walks and keeps hitters off balance by mixing his pitches, including a super-slow curveball. He's worth a look with a start against the Rays at home next week.

Shopping at the five-and-dime:

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

Travis Snider OF, Blue Jays (Yahoo: 4 percent owned, ESPN: 4.7 percent)

Jose Bautista landed on the disabled list last week with a wrist injury and Ben Francisco was traded to the Astros in a 10-player deal, so Snider is currently getting his latest chance to prove that he belongs in the big leagues. The former top prospect was hitting .335 with 13 homers and a 1.021 OPS in 56 games with Triple-A Las Vegas this year. Of course, tearing up the Pacific Coast League is nothing for him. The 24-year-old owns an underwhelming .248/.306/.428 batting line over 898 plate appearances in the big leagues and has struck out 27.3 percent of the time, so there's plenty of reason for skepticism, but his power potential makes him flier-worthy in deeper formats.

Jordany Valdespin 2B/SS/OF, Mets (Yahoo: 3 percent owned, ESPN: 3.6 percent)

While the Mets have faded in a big way in recent weeks, Valdespin is showing some signs of being a useful piece for the future. The 24-year-old is hitting .292 (28-for-96) with seven homers, 22 RBI, four stolen bases and a .903 OPS over his first 48 games in the big leagues. This includes five pinch-hit home runs, a single-season club record. Lucas Duda was sent to the minors this week and Jason Bay is losing playing time against right-handed pitching, so Valdespin should get the chance for more regular at-bats in the days ahead. Keep in mind that he has only drawn two walks thus far and his plate discipline was an issue in the minors, but his power-speed combo makes him worth a flier in deeper mixed formats.  

Starling Marte OF, Pirates (Yahoo: 3 percent owned, ESPN: 0.6 percent)

The Pirates dabbled in trade talks for Diamondbacks' outfielder Justin Upton, but they're now hoping one of their top prospects will provide a boost for their outfield. Marte is set to make his major league debut Thursday after hitting .304/.362/.463 with an .826 OPS through 1,985 plate appearances in the minors. Checking in at 6-foot-2 and 180 pounds, the 23-year-old outfielder was hitting .286/.348/.500 with 12 homers, 20 doubles, 13 triples, 21 stolen bases and an .848 OPS in 98 games with Triple-A Indianapolis this year. Now that's filling up a box score. Marte's plate discipline is still a work in progress, as evidenced by his 393/101 K/BB ratio, but he has enough speed and pop to warrant a look in deeper mixed leagues as a fourth or fifth outfielder.

Chris Iannetta C, Angels (Yahoo: 5 percent owned, ESPN: 0.7 percent)

Iannetta is finally close to rejoining the Angels' lineup. The 29-year-old backstop underwent wrist surgery in early May and had a rehab stint pushed back after experiencing soreness in his forearm last month, but he's currently playing rehab games with Triple-A Salt Lake and could be activated before the end of the month. Iannetta was only hitting .197 (13-for-66) prior to the wrist injury and holds a .233 career batting average, so keep expectations in check, but his pop makes him a perfectly reasonable option in two-catcher formats.

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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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