NL ONLYDarin Ruf
1B/OF, Phillies (Yahoo: 0 percent owned, ESPN: 0.1 percent)
I wasn't sure Ruf would get much playing time when he was called up from the minors earlier this month, but the Phillies are giving him a look in left field now that they are essentially out of the playoff race. The 26-year-old is a little old to be considered a prospect, but he led the minor leagues with 38 home runs this year while playing with Double-A Reading. I'm highly skeptical about his chances of sticking in the majors, but perhaps he runs into a couple over the final days of the regular season.AL ONLYChad Jenkins
RP, Blue Jays (Yahoo: 0 percent owned, ESPN: 0 percent)
Jenkins was solid in his first major league start Sunday against the Rays, allowing one run (a solo homer) on two hits over five innings while striking out four and walking just one. The 24-year-old right-hander doesn't blow batters away, but has good control (2.2 BB/9) and induces his fair share of grounders with his sinker/slider combo. While he has a dangerous matchup against the Yankees on Saturday, he's relevant if you are trying to keep up in certain categories.
The 2012 Waiver Wired Awards:
This is my third year of handing out superlatives for Waiver Wired excellence. You'll notice that I have titled each award after an obscure Met from my formative years. I'm not sure where I got that idea from exactly, but the tradition continues this year.
As usual, I did whiff on a few guys this year, though some of that was a matter of timing. Kyle Lohse was a popular pickup after he dominated the Marlins in the first game of the season and never saw his ownership dip below the 50 percent mark. Mike Trout and Bryce Harper were both called up on a Saturday and were universally owned before I got a chance to mention them here. And so, while Trout has been the most valuable player in fantasy this year, he will not be mentioned below. Sigh.
The Phil Lombardi Award (best waiver wire catcher)
There were plenty of good finds at the catcher position at certain points this year, including Jonathan Lucroy, Ryan Doumit, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, A.J. Ellis, Salvador Perez and Yasmani Grandal, but Wilin Rosario is the runaway winner here. The rookie backstop is tied with A.J. Pierzynski for the MLB lead among catchers with 27 homers and also ranks eighth with 70 RBI, sixth with an .855 OPS and is tied for fifth with 66 runs scored. His recent hot-hitting is likely responsible for many fantasy titles. I still think he strikes out too much to hit for a high batting average, but he should be an easy top-10 catcher next year.
The Roberto Petagine Award (best waiver wire first baseman)
After being limited to just 43 games last season due to shoulder surgery, Adam LaRoche has bounced back in a big way this year by batting .268 with 32 home runs, 98 RBI and an .844 OPS. He ranks fourth among first base-eligible players in homers and eighth in RBI. Guys like Justin Morneau, Anthony Rizzo, Ike Davis, Garrett Jones and Tyler Colvin have also come in handy at certain times this year, but LaRoche was an easy choice.
The Jason Hardtke Award (best waiver wire second baseman)
One of only a couple of bright spots for the last-place Astros this year, Jose Altuve is first among fantasy second basemen with 33 stolen bases, fifth (tied) with 164 hits and 13th with 79 runs scored. While his production has dropped pretty sharply since the All-Star break, I'm optimistic he'll be a top-10 second baseman next year if he's fully healthy and the Astros add a bat or two to drive him in. Versatile options like Kyle Seager, Danny Espinosa and Jeff Keppinger also had pretty good value from the second base spot this year.
The Al Pedrique Award (best waiver wire shortstop)
Ian Desmond was the breakthrough star at the shortstop position this season from a fantasy perspective, but he was already over my 50 percent threshold when the season started. With that in mind, we'll go with Alcides Escobar. He's hitting .291 with four homers, 50 RBI, 32 stolen bases and 67 runs scored this season. Meanwhile, the universally-owned Elvis Andrus is hitting .288 with three homers, 60 RBI, 20 stolen bases and 81 runs scored. I'm a bit skeptical whether Escobar will be able to maintain his lofty BABIP next year, but he'll likely still come at a bargain rate in comparison to Andrus. I would be remiss if I didn't mention Erick Aybar here also, as he has been outstanding after getting off to a slow start this season.
The Junior Noboa Award (best waiver wire third baseman)
We finally got our long-awaited breakout from Chase Headley this year, but I didn't mention him in Waiver Wired since he was owned in over 50 percent of ESPN.com leagues from the start. Instead, we'll look toward Pedro Alvarez, who has bounced back from a disappointing sophomore campaign to slug 30 homers and drive in 88 runs this season. He'll probably always be a batting average risk, but his pop should put him in the range of the top 12-14 options at hot corner next year. Guys like Kyle Seager, Todd Frazier and Chipper Jones were also some pretty nice finds this season.
The Wayne Housie Award (best waiver wire outfielder)
Again, no Mike Trout here. Or Bryce Harper, for that matter. But that's OK, because we still have Allen Craig to talk about. While he was probably best utilized at second base in fantasy leagues, his .306 batting average, 22 homers, 89 RBI and .886 OPS played just fine in the outfield. Keep in mind that he'll lose his second base eligibility next year since he didn't play a game at the position this season, so fantasy owners will have to plug him in at either first base or the outfield.
Some other notables in the outfield this year include Josh Reddick (29 home runs, 79 RBI, 11 stolen bases, 80 runs scored), Norichika Aoki (.289 batting average, 60 extra-base hits, 28 stolen bases, 76 runs scored), Dexter Fowler (career-highs with a .300 batting average, 13 homers, 53 RBI and an .863 OPS), Alejandro De Aza (.43 extra-base hits, 26 stolen bases and 80 runs scored) and Carlos Gomez (career-highs with 16 homers, 35 stolen bases and a .743 OPS).
The Brett Hinchcliffe Award (best waiver wire starting pitcher)
R.A. Dickey was widely available on the waiver wire after he was knocked around for eight runs over 4 1/3 innings against the Braves on April 18, but he has simply been the best pitcher in baseball since. The knuckleballer has a National League-best 2.66 ERA to go along with 19 wins and a ridiculous 209/52 K/BB ratio over 220 innings this season. From the waiver wire to the Cy Young Award? It's possible.
The rest of my waiver wire starting rotation includes Kris Medlen (1.64 ERA in 132 innings, including a 1.04 ERA in 11 starts), A.J. Burnett (flourishing in the National League with a 3.53 ERA, 16 wins and a 172/59 K/BB ratio over 188 2/3 innings), Wade Miley (Rookie of the Year candidate with 16 wins and a 3.32 ERA) and Matt Harrison (17 wins and a 3.17 ERA).
The Edwin Almonte Award (best waiver wire relief pitcher)
Let's not doubt the Rays ever again, OK? Fernando Rodney has come out of nowhere to completely dominate, compiling a microscopic 0.63 ERA, 0.77 WHIP and 71/15 K/BB ratio over 71 1/3 innings while going 45-for-47 in save opportunities. He has only allowed five earned runs all season long and will likely get some down-ballot Cy Young votes.