On our handy little list of the "highest searched players" over the last seven days, you'll see that Diamondbacks rookie shortstop Didi Gregorius is at the top of the list. And it's easy to understand why, as the 23-year-old is hitting .400 (10-for-25) with two homers and four doubles since his promotion from Triple-A Reno last week. But you aren't going to find him in Waiver Wired.
By all means, go ahead and play him while he's hot. It's a reasonable thing to say. But Gregorius was a .267/.319/.375 hitter over 2,082 plate appearances in the minor leagues. Known more for his defense than his contributions on offense, he never hit more than seven homers in a season and was just 45-for-75 in stolen base attempts. It's much more likely that this is just a small sample blip than a sudden breakthrough. My job is to direct you to players who will perform moving forward and I'm just not convinced that Gregorius will. Of course, I expect you to remind me of this if he becomes one of the top waiver wire finds of the season. But I'll take my chances.
Patrick Corbin SP, Diamondbacks (Yahoo: 35 percent owned)
Corbin didn't receive as much attention as Tyler Skaggs and Randall Delgado at the start of camp, but he won the fifth starter job with a strong spring and has kept it going in the early part of the season. The 23-year-old southpaw owns a 1.71 ERA and 20/7 K/BB ratio in 26 1/3 innings through his first four starts and has shown an intriguing spike in his fastball velocity. After averaging 2.3 BB/9 over parts of four seasons in the minors, he has averaged 2.2 BB/9 over his first 133 1/3 innings in the majors. Not too shabby. Corbin is bound to give up more home runs making half of his starts in Chase Field -- he has only allowed one so far this year -- but he could sneak up on fantasy owners much like Wade Miley did last year. Skaggs and Delgado aren't pitching that well in Triple-A right now, so his spot in the rotation should be safe in the short-term.
Andrelton Simmons SS, Braves (Yahoo: 44 percent owned)
Simmons was a popular sleeper pick in drafts this spring, but he has been dropped in many leagues after hitting just .209 (14-for-67) through 19 games. While his .220 BABIP (batting average on balls in play) indicates that maybe he has been a bit unlucky, he has an infield fly ball rate of around 30 percent, which means he has been an incredibly easy out for opposing pitchers. No qualified batter has finished with an infield fly ball rate higher than 21 percent (Gordon Beckham, 2011) over the past three seasons, so it's highly unlikely that this pace will continue. Simmons has a good approach at the plate and has a knack for making contact, so I expect that batting average to go up in time. And his excellent defense should give him a pretty long leash. If the 23-year-old earns his way back to the leadoff spot, he could have quite a bit of value in the loaded Braves' lineup. Don't give up on him yet in deeper leagues.
Shaun Marcum SP, Mets (Yahoo: 34 percent owned)
Marcum was forced to begin the season on the disabled list due to nerve inflammation in his neck, but he has made it through a couple of starts in extended spring training without incident and is scheduled to make his season debut Saturday against the Phillies. The 31-year-old right-hander has battled injuries throughout his career and has only topped 200 innings once, so he had to settle for a one-year, $4 million deal with the Mets over the winter, but he has been a very productive pitcher when healthy. Despite a fastball that sits in the mid-80s, he owns a 3.71 ERA and 1.21 WHIP over 149 career starts. It's anyone's guess how long he'll hold up, but he should be owned in most formats.
John Axford RP, Brewers (Yahoo: 47 percent owned)
Axford allowed nine runs over his first four appearances this season, giving Brewers manager Ron Roenicke little choice but to install Jim Henderson as the club's closer, but there's a chance they could be flip-flopped again soon. While Henderson has converted all five of his chances since taking over the role, Axford has delivered six straight scoreless appearances and hasn't walked a batter since April 9. When Roenicke was asked Wednesday what it would take to give the "Ax Man" another shot as closer, he replied, "probably not much." It may not happen right away, but given Axford's track record and $5 million salary for 2013, odds are he'll get another chance soon. Go ahead and pick him up wherever he was dropped.
Carlos Quentin OF, Padres (Yahoo: 16 percent owned)
This pick might not be very popular among Dodgers fans, but Quentin is worth a look now that he has completed his eight-game suspension. The 30-year-old smacked 16 home runs in just 86 games last season and topped 20 homers in the previous four seasons. He has never played more than 131 games in a season and his knees aren't likely to hold up playing regularly in left field, but it's hard to find this sort of power potential on the waiver wire. I mean, look at this home run he hit Wednesday night. Serious thump.
Bartolo Colon SP, Athletics (Yahoo: 16 percent owned)
Many were surprised to see Athletics general manager Billy Beane bring back Colon after his 50-game suspension for synthetic testosterone, but it has proven to be a savvy move early on. The 39-year-old right-hander tossed seven shutout frames in a win over the Red Sox on Tuesday night and is now 3-0 with a 2.42 ERA and 17/1 K/BB ratio in 26 innings through four starts. While Colon doesn't miss many bats, he throws strikes at a ridiculously high rate and makes half of his starts in one of the most pitcher-friendly stadiums in the game. I like him as a streaming option in all formats Sunday against the Orioles at O.co Coliseum.
Corey Hart 1B/OF, Brewers (Yahoo: 40 percent owned)
Hart had right knee surgery in January and was placed on the 60-day disabled list at the start of the season, so he isn't eligible to return until May 30. Still, it's a head-scratcher that he's unowned in so many leagues. The 31-year-old averaged 29 home runs and 83 RBI between 2010-2012. Only 30 players (min. 1000 plate appearances) had a higher OPS+ during the same timespan. Just icing on the cake, he's multi-position eligible after spending most of last season as the Brewers' starting first baseman. He's someone worth waiting for in all formats, so stash him away if you have some roster flexibility and an open DL spot.
Kevin Gregg RP, Cubs (Yahoo: 12 percent owned)
I didn't think we'd ever discuss Gregg again, so consider this a victory for the "proven closer" tag. After joining the Cubs last week, the veteran right-hander notched his 145th career save on Tuesday night against the Reds. Gregg has never been all that effective during his career and he's been flat-out awful in recent seasons, so this recommendation comes with little in the way of enthusiasm, but there's opportunity in this mess of a bullpen. And sometimes that's the only thing that matters. By the way, it might not be a bad idea to see if Kyuji Fujikawa (Yahoo: 41 percent owned) is still available in your league, as he should get the first crack at the closer job once he's back to full health.
Jason Hammel SP, Orioles (Yahoo: 44 percent owned)
Hammel was one of the most pleasant surprises among starting pitchers last season, but some fantasy owners have already kicked him to the curb after his slow start. That could prove to be a mistake. While the 30-year-old right-hander only has 14 strikeouts over 24 2/3 innings thus far, he had 12 swinging strikes in his most recent start Saturday against the Dodgers. That equaled his total from his first three starts combined. Hammel is giving up fly balls at an unusually high rate thus far, but it's worth picking him up to see if his last outing is a sign of things to come.
Shopping at the five-and-dime:
(Players owned in less than 10 percent of Yahoo! leagues)
Devin Mesoraco C, Reds (Yahoo: 1 percent owned)
Ryan Hanigan was placed on the disabled list over the weekend with a strained left oblique, so Mesoraco figures to get the majority of the playing time behind the plate during his absence. The 24-year-old backstop displayed real power potential in the minors, but he owns an underwhelming .216/.290/.356 batting line over his first 279 plate appearances in the majors. Of course, his playing time has been so sporadic that it's hard to put too much stock in those numbers. He could make for a savvy short-term investment in two-catcher mixed formats.
Andrew Cashner SP, Padres (Yahoo: 9 percent owned)
The Padres originally planned to use Cashner as a starting pitcher this season, but he began the year in the bullpen after an offseason hunting accident resulted in surgery to repair a lacerated tendon in his right thumb. While this took him off the radar for many fantasy owners, it's time to pay attention. The 26-year-old right-hander allowed two runs in four innings in a spot-start last Saturday against the Giants and is now expected to get an extended opportunity in the rotation. Injuries limited Cashner to just 57 innings between 2011-2012 and there are some who think he will end up in the bullpen in the long run, but throws in the mid-to-high 90s and has serious swing-and-miss potential. He's worth a flier in most formats.
Will Venable OF, Padres (Yahoo: 4 percent owned)
I mentioned Chris Denorfia last week, but let's not forget his platoon partner, who can provide some sneaky counting stats. While Venable owns an underwhelming .253/.325/.415 batting line for his career, he has averaged 10 home runs and 26 stolen bases over the past three seasons. PETCO Park hasn't been kind to him in the past, but I'm optimistic that the dimension changes could lead to an uptick in his power production. Venable is best utilized in daily leagues, as he will sit against southpaws, but the good news is that he's on the strong side of the platoon.
Jordany Valdespin 2B/OF, Mets (Yahoo: 4 percent owned)
Valdespin could be "the man right now" for you in fantasy leagues. OK, that's a bit of a stretch. The enigmatic 25-year-old has only started seven games for the Mets this season and manager Terry Collins doesn't seem to have a clear idea of what he wants to do with him yet. However, there's no denying that Valdespin brings some interesting skills to the table, as he has collected nine homers and 13 stolen bases in just 251 plate appearances in the majors. Of course, he has only hit .249 and his plate discipline remains a work in progress. I think he's more of a stash in deeper leagues at this point, but if Collins gives him regular playing time, he could end up providing some nice value.
Steve Lombardozzi 2B/3B/OF, Nationals (Yahoo: 1 percent owned)
The Nationals have dropped four straight games to fall to 10-11 on the season, so manager Davey Johnson is prepared to shake up his lineup. In addition to moving Jayson Werth to the middle of the order, he plans to give Lombardozzi regular at-bats and put him near the top of the lineup. This will likely cut into the playing time of second baseman Danny Espinosa and Anthony Rendon, who was called up from Double-A Harrisburg over the weekend to fill in for Ryan Zimmerman at third base. Lombardozzi doesn't have a ton of pop, but he makes contact and is capable of stealing a few bases. With his multi-position eligibility, he could make for a nice short-term play in deeper mixed formats.