Welcome to the 26th and final edition of Waiver Wired for the 2012 season. It has been an absolute pleasure to put this column together each and every week for the third straight year. One of the best parts of this gig is corresponding with everyone through Twitter and email, so be sure to keep in touch during the winter. After all, baseball doesn't really have an "offseason" and there is always something fantasy-relevant to talk about.
Best of luck if you are still fighting to win your league. Below you'll find a few last-minute recommendations to consider. After you give those a once-over, be sure to check out my annual Waiver Wired awards on the second page.
Yonder Alonso 1B/OF, Padres (Yahoo: 22 percent owned, ESPN: 25.5 percent)
Alonso may never be a feared power bat, especially calling PETCO Park home, but he has really hit his stride over the past few months. The 25-year-old is batting .290/.357/.433 with six homers, 37 RBI and a .789 OPS in 65 games since the All-Star break. He hasn't batted lower than .280 in any of the past three months. If you are in a head-to-head league and need to stay afloat in batting average for the final few days of the season, Alonso is one of the safer widely-available names.
Stephen Drew SS, Athletics (Yahoo: 19 percent owned, ESPN: 18 percent)
Look who is finally coming around. Drew is red-hot right now, hitting .464 (13-for-28) over his last six games and .360 (18-for-50) over his last 11. While he batted just .193 in 40 games with the Diamondbacks after returning from ankle surgery, he has a .270 batting average to go along with four homers, five doubles, 14 RBI and a .733 OPS in 32 games since being traded to the A's. The 29-year-old has a lengthy track record of being a producing when healthy, so he makes for a fine addition if you need a shortstop or a MI (middle infielder).
David Murphy OF, Rangers (Yahoo: 30 percent owned, ESPN: 43.4 percent)
Murphy doesn't get much national attention, but he has done enough this season to be owned in the great majority of fantasy leagues. Buoyed by his increased production against left-handed pitching, the 31-year-old outfielder has a career-best .308 batting average to go along with 14 homers, 58 RBI, 10 stolen bases and a career-best .866 OPS. Only 13 players (with at least 200 plate appearances) have bested his .325 batting average since the All-Star break. He has played nearly everyday over the past two months, so there shouldn't be any hesitation to trust him at this point.
Shopping at the five-and-dime:
(Players owned in less than 10 percent of Y! and ESPN.com leagues)
Jon Rauch RP, Mets (Yahoo: 3 percent owned, ESPN: 4.5 percent)
When I first heard about Frank Francisco's elbow troubles last week, I assumed that Bobby Parnell would get the nod to replace him in the closer role. My bad on that. Rauch got the save on Saturday (though he was pretty shaky doing so) and appears to be the preferred option for Mets manager Terry Collins. Must be that "previous closer experience" thing. The 33-year-old right-hander has actually had a pretty nice season, compiling a 3.23 ERA, 0.95 WHIP and 39/10 K/BB ratio over 55 2/3 innings, so he's a fine pickup for anyone on the lookout for saves.
Jean Segura 2B/SS, Brewers (Yahoo: 3 percent owned, ESPN: 3.7 percent)
Segura got off to a bit of a slow start after being called up by the Brewers in early August, but the 22-year-old shortstop is batting .345 (20-for-58) with two doubles, two triples, six RBI and an impressive 11/7 K/BB ratio in 18 games this month. He hasn't shown much pop thus far, but he has swiped six bases in seven attempts. Give him a look if you need some speed or an upgrade of the MI (middle infielder) spot.
Justin Smoak 1B, Mariners (Yahoo: 9 percent owned, ESPN: 4.9 percent)
Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Well, Smoak has fooled us multiple times and might be doing it again. The former top prospect is absolutely scorching at the plate right now, hitting .459 (17-for-37) with five home runs, three doubles, eight RBI and a 1.470 OPS over his last 10 games. This is the same guy who owns a .222/.304/.377 batting line in the big leagues and was demoted to the minors in July, so there is obvious reason for skepticism here, but go ahead and ride the hot hand for now.
Andy Pettitte SP, Yankees (Yahoo: 32 percent owned, ESPN: 41.1 percent) -Saturday at Blue Jays
Pettitte should already be owned in any fantasy league worth its salt, but there's a chance he could still be available in shallow formats. Be sure to change that. The 40-year-old southpaw has tossed 11 scoreless innings over his first two starts since returning from a fractured left ankle and owns a fantastic 2.71 ERA and 65/18 K/BB ratio over 11 starts overall this year. The Blue Jays have been one of the weakest hitting teams in the league over the past couple of months, so Pettitte is a strong play this weekend as he gears up for the postseason.
Dan Straily SP, Athletics (Yahoo: 9 percent owned, ESPN: 9.7 percent) - Saturday vs. Mariners
Straily was mighty impressive in his most recent start on Monday, holding the Rangers to just two runs (one earned) over 6 2/3 innings while walking a pair and tying a career-high with eight strikeouts. The 23-year-old right-hander has allowed nine home runs over his first 35 innings in the big leagues, so his fly ball tendencies could spell trouble in certain environments, but a start against the Mariners at the spacious O.co Coliseum is too favorable to pass up.
Jake Odorizzi RP/SP, Royals (Yahoo: 3 percent owned, ESPN: 0.7 percent) - Saturday at Indians
Odorizzi made his major league debut against the Indians last Sunday and gave up just two singles over five scoreless innings before being touched up for three runs on four hits in the sixth. Not too bad, all things considered. The 22-year-old right-hander had a 3.03 ERA and 135/50 K/BB ratio in 145 innings this season between Double-A Northwest Arkansas and Triple-A Omaha and is already looking like a favorite to win a rotation spot during spring training next year. Trusting Odorizzi will be a category decision for many, but another start against the Indians is pretty enticing.
Erasmo Ramirez SP, Mariners (Yahoo: 4 percent owned, ESPN: 0.7 percent) - Sunday at Athletics
Ramirez was touched up for five runs (three earned) over six innings Tuesday in a loss to the Angels, but there's still a lot to like here. The 22-year-old right-hander owns a very impressive 3.42 ERA, 0.99 WHIP and 42/8 K/BB ratio over 52 2/3 innings with the Mariners this season and has shown surprising velocity (92.8 mph average fastball) for someone who checks in at just 5-foot-11 and 180 pounds. Stream him now and look for him on plenty of sleeper lists next spring.
Bud Norris SP, Astros (Yahoo: 30 percent owned, ESPN: 24.6 percent) - Wednesday at Cubs
Norris struck out seven over 7 1/3 scoreless innings Wednesday night against the Cardinals for his first win since May 21. If only he could face the Cardinals every time out, right? This has been a bitterly disappointing season for the 27-year-old right-hander, even though his swinging strike rate and secondary numbers are pretty much in line with what we saw last year. The main difference is he has allowed a few more homers while seeing his velocity dip slightly. He has a strong chance to finish his season on a high note next week against the Cubs and makes for a decent bounceback candidate next year.
Travis Wood SP, Cubs (Yahoo: 14 percent owned, ESPN: 11.7 percent) - Wednesday vs. Astros
Yes, I'm recommending both pitchers for the season finale next Wednesday. We're talking about two of the worst teams in the majors, so why the heck not? Wood has a 3.36 ERA and 59/16 K/BB ratio in 67 innings over his last 11 starts and has allowed three earned runs or less in 10 of them. And while the southpaw has the reputation of a fly ball pitcher, he hasn't allowed a home run since August 28. He's a solid streaming option against the light-hitting Astros next week and could even be worth a look against the Diamondbacks on Friday if you're feeling bold enough.