The Giants and fantasy owners were dealt a tough blow Wednesday afternoon when it was announced that Melky Cabrera was suspended for 50 games after testing positive for Testosterone. The Giants only have 44 games left during the regular season, so Cabrera is done for the year for fantasy purposes and can be dropped in redraft leagues. Bummer.
Cabrera ranked second in the majors in batting average (.346), first in hits (159) and second in runs scored (84), so it may seem like an impossible task to replace him on the waiver wire, but there is some reason for optimism. Keep in mind that for all of Cabrera's success, he had a crazy high .379 batting average on balls in play. Even with his speed and a strong line drive rate, it was a bit of a stretch to think he would have been able to maintain a .346 batting average the rest of the way. He also had 11 home runs and 13 stolen bases, which is certainly decent enough, but that production can be pieced together or potentially exceeded on the waiver wire.
Yes, it hurts to lose Cabrera for the rest of the year, but his suspension is not a reason to wave the white flag. The waiver wire is admittedly picked dry in many competitive leagues, but hopefully you'll find an option below that can help keep your season afloat.
Jaime Garcia SP, Cardinals (Yahoo: 39 percent owned, ESPN: 27 percent)
Garcia has become something of a forgotten man after missing the past two months due to a sprained left shoulder, but he should be back on your fantasy radar. The 26-year-old southpaw notched eight strikeouts while allowing two runs over five innings Tuesday in a rehab start with Triple-A Memphis and is currently on track to rejoin the Cardinals' rotation on Sunday against the Pirates. He had a 4.48 ERA in 11 starts this season prior to going on the disabled list, but this is a guy with a 3.45 career ERA. If he's healthy, expect better results.
Todd Frazier 1B/3B/OF, Reds (Yahoo: 21 percent owned, ESPN: 27.4 percent)
Seriously, what else does this guy have to do to be owned in the majority of mixed leagues? Frazier has hit safely in six straight games, five of them multi-hit performances, and is now batting .286/.343/.541 with 15 home runs and 49 RBI on the year. Rookie of the Year, anyone? As I noted on Twitter on Wednesday night, his .884 OPS is higher than Albert Pujols, Mark Teixeira, Jason Heyward and teammate Jay Bruce, just to name a few. It might not be an issue for a couple of weeks, but let's hope Reds manager Dusty Baker finally breaks from his veteran fixation and gives Frazier regular starts at third base over Scott Rolen when Joey Votto returns from the disabled list. Fingers crossed.
Dale Thayer RP, Padres (Yahoo: 18 percent owned, ESPN: 23.2 percent)
Huston Street suffered a strained left calf while trying to cover first base last Friday and is expected to be out until September. The Padres haven't named an official replacement at closer, but Luke Gregerson got one out in the eighth inning against the Braves on Monday night before Thayer tossed a scoreless ninth to notch the save. Thayer went 5-for-5 in save chances in May while Street was on the disabled list with a lat strain, so he looks like the one to own here, even though Gregerson is the superior pitcher. Hey, that's just the way it goes sometimes.
Brandon Belt 1B/OF, Giants (Yahoo: 18 percent owned, ESPN: 14.7 percent)
The last time I mentioned Belt in Waiver Wired on June 21, he had homered in three straight games. The bad news is that he has only homered once since that day, but his bat is at least showing some signs of life recently. The 24-year-old is hitting a cool .450 (18-for-40) with five doubles, one triple and four RBI this month. I'm not exactly holding my breath here, but given his patience, he deserves a shot out of the No. 2 spot in the lineup. Either way, he's worth consideration in mixed leagues with a CI (corner infielder) spot.
Jon Jay OF, Cardinals (Yahoo: 23 percent owned, ESPN: 32 percent)
Jay may have heard the whispers that the Cardinals were considering calling up top prospect outfielder Oscar Taveras. The 27-year-old batted .531 (17-for-32) during an eight-game hitting streak which came to an end on Wednesday night. His recent surge has led to Cardinals manager Mike Matheny using him out of the leadoff spot, which is an excellent development for his fantasy value moving forward. Jay isn't going to help much in the power department, but he has some speed and is a .302 career hitter in the big leagues. He's a decent alternative if you were forced to drop Melky Cabrera on Wednesday.
Yonder Alonso 1B/OF, Padres (Yahoo: 19 percent owned, ESPN: 11.8 percent)
Alonso's numbers aren't that impressive on the surface this season, but he's hitting .301 with three home runs, 11 doubles, 19 RBI and an .811 OPS in 30 games since the All-Star break. That's a pretty big improvement from the first half, where he batted just .263 with three home runs, 23 RBI and a .706 OPS in 83 games. The 25-year-old first baseman may not help much in the power department, especially playing his home games in a stadium which kills left-handed power, but he should be able to maintain a decent batting average and drive in a bunch of runs out of the fifth spot in the batting order. He's a decent enough option if you need to fill a CI (corner infielder) spot.
Alex Cobb SP, Rays (Yahoo: 17 percent owned, ESPN: 27.8 percent)
The Rays are going to have a tough decision to make when Jeff Niemann is ready to return from a fractured leg. Cobb has allowed one run over seven innings in each of his last three starts and now owns a 4.08 ERA and 67/28 K/BB ratio over 90 1/3 innings. The 24-year-old right-hander has allowed just four home runs all season while posting an outstanding 58.5 percent ground ball rate. Things could get complicated when Niemann returns later this month, but Cobb is at least worth using for upcoming starts against the Angels and Athletics.
Rajai Davis OF, Blue Jays (Yahoo: 24 percent owned, ESPN: 43.2 percent)
Davis continues to go overlooked in most fantasy leagues despite ranking second in the majors with 35 stolen bases. The 31-year-old speedster has been a staple in Toronto's starting lineup over the past few weeks and has batted leadoff in 10 straight games. Davis figures to lose some playing time once Jose Bautista is able to return from wrist inflammation, but we're still likely a week or two away from that situation coming to a head. His speed should continue to come in handy in most formats, anyway.
Ruben Tejada 2B/SS, Mets (Yahoo: 18 percent owned, ESPN: 28.2 percent)
While the Mets have faded in a big way since the All-Star break, Tejada has managed to remain productive. The 22-year-old hasn't been as patient as his first two seasons in the big leagues, but he has hit safely in 37 out of 45 games since returning from the disabled list on June 24 and is batting .320 overall. Tejada doesn't hit for power and isn't a threat to steal, so he doesn't do enough to justify a spot in shallow mixed leagues, but he's a pretty safe option if you need to fill a MI (middle infielder) spot.
Shopping at the five-and-dime:
(Players owned in less than 10 percent of Y! and ESPN.com leagues)
Andy Dirks OF, Tigers (Yahoo: 7 percent owned, ESPN: 9.1 percent)
It looks like Dirks has picked up from where he left off in May. After missing two months due to a strained right Achilles tendon, the 26-year-old outfielder is hitting .366 (15-for-41) with one home run, five doubles, seven RBI and nine runs scored over 12 games this month. He has batted second in five out of his last seven starts, which is a pretty nice place to be with Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder right behind him. Dirks isn't going to excel in any one category and he could sit occasionally as Quintin Berry and Brennan Boesch are mixed into the lineup, but he makes for a pretty cheap replacement for Melky Cabrera in deeper leagues.
Hisashi Iwakuma RP/SP, Mariners (Yahoo: 4 percent owned, ESPN: 2.1 percent)
Iwakuma hasn't received much attention, likely because he plays for a last-place team on the West Coast, but he has pitched quite well since moving into the starting rotation. While the 31-year-old right-hander has an underwhelming 4.14 ERA and 1.37 WHIP during his first year stateside, he has a 3.73 ERA and 35/16 K/BB ratio in 41 innings across seven starts. I'm a bit concerned with his penchant for the long ball (he has allowed one home run in each of his last 10 appearances), but he makes for an excellent streaming option for upcoming home starts against the Twins and Indians.
Yasmani Grandal C, Padres (Yahoo: 9 percent owned, ESPN: 1.5 percent)
Grandal was a waiver wire sensation after hitting home runs from both sides of the plate in his second major league game on June 30, but a strained oblique on July 30 caused him to be dropped in many mixed leagues. The good news is that the 23-year-old backstop began a minor league rehab assignment with High-A Lake Elsinore on Wednesday and could rejoin the Padres as soon as this weekend. He should be able to help in most formats the rest of the way, so it would be wise to stash him away before somebody else beats you to it.