I say this every year around this same time, but if you're still reading this column, that means you have probably enjoyed a pretty successful season and may even have a chance to win your league. Kudos to you. I sincerely hope Waiver Wired has played a small part in putting your team on the right path to success.
This is the penultimate Waiver Wired of the season. I'll be back next Thursday with some final recommendations and will also hand out some superlatives for the best waiver wire pickups of the year. Good luck out there.
Homer Bailey SP, Reds (Yahoo: 36 percent owned, ESPN: 47.8 percent)
Bailey has clinched a spot in the Reds' playoff rotation in part by posting an excellent 1.55 ERA and 26/6 K/BB ratio in 29 innings over four starts this month. Two of those starts were against the Astros while the others were against the Cubs and Pirates, so he certainly had the benefit of facing some pretty weak competition, but his upcoming matchups against the Dodgers (at home) and Pirates (on the road) aren't all that bad either. Just remember that he's been a lot better on the road than at Great American Ballpark.
Chris Nelson 2B/3B, Rockies (Yahoo: 23 percent owned, ESPN: 38.5 percent)
Don't look now, but Nelson is one of the hottest hitters in all of baseball. The 2004 first-round pick is hitting a ridiculous .526 (20-for-38) over his last 10 games and has pulled his batting average up from .265 to .296 in the process. While there haven't been many bright spots for the last-place Rockies, Nelson has emerged as the favorite to start at third base in 2013 or at least until top prospect Nolan Arenado is ready for the big leagues. It's true that he doesn't have the pop you'd normally look for in a third baseman or a CI (corner infielder), but his eligibility at second base makes him a pretty handy option in a MI (middle infielder) spot.
Matt Thornton RP, White Sox (Yahoo: 23 percent owned, ESPN: 9 percent)
Addison Reed was pulled in the middle of a save opportunity Saturday against the Twins so that Thornton could finish the job. Reed has notched two saves since while Thornton has remained in a set-up role, so his job isn't in serious jeopardy, but remember that the White Sox are trying to secure a playoff spot right now. Robin Ventura has already shown that he isn't afraid to make a move if Reed is on the ropes or if the matchup is right, so it wouldn't be surprising to see Thornton sneak another save or two over the final 14 games of the regular season.
Gavin Floyd SP, White Sox (Yahoo: 22 percent owned, ESPN: 34.9 percent)
It looks like Floyd's elbow is just fine. After striking out seven in 4 2/3 innings in his return from the disabled list last Wednesday, the 29-year-old right-hander limited the Royals to two runs over seven innings Tuesday for his 10th victory of the season. According to Brooks Baseball, Floyd was actually throwing harder than his average velocity for the season, so perhaps the extended rest will allow him to finish the season strong. Assuming he stays on his regular turn, he currently lines up to face the Angels on Sunday and the Rays next week.
Wilton Lopez RP, Astros (Yahoo: 14 percent owned, ESPN: 20.8 percent)
I know, I know. Owning the closer on the Astros isn't that exciting from a fantasy perspective, but Lopez has converted three saves since the start of last week. That's more than high-profile closers like Craig Kimbrel, Joel Hanrahan, J.J. Putz, Chris Perez and Fernando Rodney have during the very same timespan. Lopez also has a solid 2.24 ERA, 1.06 WHIP and 52/7 K/BB ratio over 60 1/3 innings this season, so he isn't just about saves. The Astros are still terrible and Lopez might not get many chances moving forward, but he should absolutely be owned in more leagues right now.
Shopping at the five-and-dime:
(Players owned in less than 10 percent of Y! and ESPN.com leagues)
Eduardo Nunez 2B/3B/SS, Yankees (Yahoo: 2 percent owned, ESPN: 0.7 percent)
Last week I included Nunez under my AL-only recommendations, but he's suddenly an interesting name to consider in deeper mixed formats. The 24-year-old is 4-for-16 (.250) while filling in at shortstop over the past week, including a home run last Saturday and three stolen bases on Sunday. His shaky defense gets a lot of attention, but he can do a lot to help fantasy owners if given the opportunity. The Yankees have sorely missed a speed element in their lineup and Raul Ibanez and Andruw Jones are both struggling, so Nunez deserves at-bats out of the DH spot assuming Derek Jeter is ready to play shortstop again on a daily basis.
Anthony Gose OF, Blue Jays (Yahoo: 5 percent owned, ESPN: 7.2 percent)
Gose has been a little better with the bat since returning from the minors earlier this month, hitting .278 (10-for-31) with one home run, one double, one triple and a 10/4 K/BB ratio in 12 games, but that isn't why you should consider picking him up. One of the fastest players in the game, the 22-year-old outfielder is 15-for-17 in stolen base attempts in just 41 games in the majors this year. By the way, that would put him on pace for around 60 stolen bases over an entire season. He's playing every day right now, so if you need speed, you know what to do.
Lonnie Chisenhall 3B, Indians (Yahoo: 3 percent owned, ESPN: 3.2 percent)
When Chisenhall underwent surgery in early July to repair a fractured right forearm, it was initially thought that he would miss the rest of the season. Fortunately for fantasy owners, he made a speedy recovery. The 23-year-old is hitting .276 (8-for-29) with two homers, a double and three RBI in nine games since being activated from the disabled list on September 9 and should continue to get regular playing time at third base as the Indians play out the string. His plate discipline remains worrisome, but he has enough pop to help from a CI (corner infielder) spot in deeper mixed leagues.
Adam Eaton OF, Diamondbacks (Yahoo: 2 percent owned, ESPN: 0.5 percent)
Chris Young finally returned to center field on Tuesday night, but he ended up aggravating his right quadriceps muscle on the very first play of the ballgame. He went two weeks between starts due to the initial injury, so there's a real chance he could miss the rest of the season. That means we should continue to see Eaton in center field and at the top of the Kirk Gibson's lineup. The 23-year-old has just two hits over his last seven games, but he has displayed plenty of patience (5/10 K/BB ratio) and has scored 10 runs in just 12 games. Eaton was a .355 hitter in the minors and swiped 98 bases in 319 games, so there are worse ways to roll the dice in five-outfielder formats.
Bobby Parnell RP, Mets (Yahoo: 7 percent owned, ESPN: 5.4 percent)
Frank Francisco was unavailable Wednesday due to right elbow tendinitis. It doesn't sound too serious, but he's no sure thing to be ready this weekend. Josh Edgin got the save chance Wednesday against the Phillies because of matchups, but Mets manager Terry Collins may be reluctant to go there again after he gave up a go-ahead two-run homer to Ryan Howard. Meanwhile, Parnell tossed a scoreless eighth inning Wednesday and owns a 2.87 ERA and 56/20 K/BB ratio over 59 2/3 innings this year. Jon Rauch has been lights out for a couple of months now too, so he could also get a look in a pinch, but Parnell is the one to own in mixed leagues.
Martin Perez SP/RP, Rangers (Yahoo: 1 percent owned, ESPN: 0 percent) - Friday at SEA
The Rangers moved Scott Feldman back to the bullpen this week, which means Perez will get a shot in the starting rotation over the final two weeks of the regular season. The 21-year-old left-hander tossed 4 1/3 hitless innings in relief of Feldman on Sunday against the Mariners while notching five strikeouts and walking just one. Perez's minor league numbers haven't quite matched the hype, but he has a great arm and it's easy to forget that the Rangers have pushed him aggressively. There's obviously some risk with a rookie and he could be on a pitch-count, but a start in Safeco is tough to pass up.
Alex Cobb SP, Rays (Yahoo: 20 percent owned, ESPN: 17 percent) - Sunday vs. TOR
Cobb is rapidly approaching his innings limit, but he should still be able to help fantasy owners this weekend. The 24-year-old right-hander has allowed three earned runs or less in 12 out of his last 13 starts dating back to the start of July, so there's a pretty good chance he'll keep the Rays in the game. And while he took his first loss since July 27 last time out, he held the Red Sox hitless until he gave up a two-run homer to Jacoby Ellsbury with two outs in the sixth inning. The Blue Jays aren't scaring anyone these days, so he makes for a pretty solid streamer.
Chris Tillman SP, Orioles (Yahoo: 16 percent owned, ESPN: 8.8 percent) - Sunday (projected) at BOS
Tillman went 14 days between starts due to elbow stiffness, but he was very impressive in his return Monday night against the Mariners, allowing just one run (a solo homer by Michael Saunders) over six innings while striking out four and walking none. The 24-year-old right-hander now owns a surprising 3.22 ERA and 53/21 K/BB ratio in 67 innings over 12 starts this season. In the past, a matchup against the Red Sox would be reason to consider alternatives, but these aren't the same Red Sox.