D.J. Short

Waiver Wired

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Waiver Wired: Liriano Revival?

Thursday, May 23, 2013


Memorial Day is just around the corner, which means we are officially past the quarter mark of the 2013 season. In addition to spending time with family and friends for the holiday, this is the perfect time to take stock of how your team is performing and evaluate your chance for success moving forward. There's still plenty of time to catch up in the standings, but it's time to get proactive. Hopefully you'll find a couple of options below to help you on your way.

You may remember a few weeks ago I included Jesus Montero among my mixed league recommendations. I basically did this because his value was at its absolute nadir and I couldn't see him being much worse. Of course, I also mentioned that a demotion was a real possibility if he continued to struggle and well, Ryan Divish of the Tacoma News Tribune reports that the Mariners plan to send him to Triple-A on Thursday. So it goes.

It's the right move, as Montero has been a complete mess at the plate and hasn't made any noticeable progress as a catcher. It's probably time that the Mariners throw in the towel on that idea. And since Mike Zunino is the everyday catcher in Triple-A, Montero figures to see most of his at-bats at DH or first base. Regardless of his future position, the most important thing is getting him back on track offensively. It wasn't too long ago that the 23-year-old was considered one of the top hitting prospects in the game, so you can't give up on this kind of talent. Still, the Mariners have plenty of options between first base and DH right now, so there shouldn't be any rush to bring him back to the majors. This should be obvious already, but don't wait on him in redraft leagues.

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MIXED LEAGUES

Kevin Gausman SP, Orioles (Yahoo: 29 percent owned)

Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette downplayed Gausman as a potential option for the rotation just last week, but things have changed in a hurry, as the 22-year-old right-hander is set to make his major league debut Thursday night against the Blue Jays. The No. 4 overall pick of the 2012 First-Year Player Draft, Gausman only has 13 pro starts to his name, but he produced a 3.23 ERA and an efficient 62/6 K/BB ratio over 61 1/3 innings. Armed with a mid-90s fastball and a plus-changeup, he has displayed the ability to miss bats and pound the strike zone. Life isn't easy for a rookie pitcher in the American League East, but he's absolutely worth a flier in all fantasy formats.

Pedro Alvarez 3B, Pirates (Yahoo: 46 percent owned)

I get it, owning Alvarez is a pain in the neck. Through 359 games in the majors, the 26-year-old third baseman has struck out 30.9 percent of the time. That's not good. And his contact rate has actually declined this year. Still, there's something to be said for being a consistent source of power and Alvarez at least has that going for him. With eight home runs in 41 games, he's currently on pace to come close to the 30 bombs he had last year. If you are near the top of your league in batting average and are playing catch up with pop, you should be able to stomach having him on your squad.

Julio Teheran SP, Braves (Yahoo: 33 percent owned)

Teheran was a popular sleeper in fantasy drafts after a fantastic spring, but it failed to translate at the start of the season, as he had a 7.31 ERA over his first three starts. However, something has clicked recently. The 22-year-old right-hander owns an excellent 2.41 ERA and 18/2 K/BB ratio in 33 2/3 innings over his last five starts and has allowed three earned runs or fewer in each of them. The strikeouts haven't really been there, but his control has been excellent. It would be nice to see him develop his changeup so that he can get more swings-and-misses and Brandon Beachy looms as an eventual replacement in the starting rotation, but I'd give him a whirl against the light-hitting Mets this weekend in New York. An easy call, really.

Eric Chavez 3B/1B, Diamondbacks (Yahoo: 17 percent owned)

Picking up from where he left off last season with the Yankees, Chavez has thrived so far this season in Arizona, batting .337/.389/.567 with five home runs, and 19 RBI in 34 games. The 35-year-old owns an .875 OPS in 427 plate appearances dating back to the start of last season, which essentially equals what he produced during his peak with the Athletics from 2000-2004. Given his lengthy injury history, the good times could come to an end at any moment, but he's worth a look at a CI (corner infielder) spot as long as Aaron Hill is sidelined.

David Phelps SP, Yankees (Yahoo: 15 percent owned)

Called on to fill Ivan Nova's spot in the starting rotation, Phelps is making a very favorable impression. Since giving up four runs in 5 2/3 innings in his first start of the season on May 1 against the Astros, the 26-year-old right-hander has gone at least six innings and allowed two runs or fewer in each of his last three starts. This includes eight strikeouts over a career-high seven innings in his most recent outing. There hasn't been a much of a difference in his results regardless of his role, so it's about time to take him seriously in fantasy leagues. I like him for upcoming starts against the Rays and Mets.
 
Jonathan Lucroy C, Brewers (Yahoo: 43 percent owned)

Lucroy has really struggled so far this season, but there's opportunity to be found here after his 2012 breakout. While there has been a slight drop in his line drive percentage, his batted ball profile has remained pretty consistent for the most part and he's making more contact than ever before. Look for the hits to eventually fall and his .233 BABIP (batting average on balls in play) to follow suit. Maybe Lucroy won't touch what he did last year, but I still think he's capable of being a No. 1 catcher in deeper leagues.

Michael Brantley OF, Indians (Yahoo: 22 percent owned)

I mentioned Brantley in the very first Waiver Wired of the season, but he still hasn't gained much momentum in fantasy leagues. It's time to give him another look. After going 3-for-5 with three RBI in Wednesday's loss to the Tigers, the 26-year-old outfielder is now batting .309/.363/.394 with two home runs, 24 RBI, two stolen bases and 23 runs scored in 44 games. Sure, Brantley probably won't reach double-digit homers and he doesn't run as much as you'd like to see, but he's currently on pace to set career-highs in RBI and runs scored thanks to the improved supporting cast. He can be a helpful piece in most mixed leagues.

Francisco Liriano SP, Pirates (Yahoo: 45 percent owned)

I recommended stashing Liriano in Waiver Wired back on April 18 and it's paid off so far. After striking out nine over seven shutout frames Wednesday night against the Cubs, the 29-year-old southpaw is 3-0 with a 1.00 ERA and 25/6 K/BB ratio in 18 innings across his first three starts. Granted, he hasn't had the most difficult competition so far, but I'm optimistic that the league switch and favorable home environment will do him a lot of good. Liriano's next start will be an interleague matchup against the Tigers in Detroit, which won't be easy, but I'm optimistic that he can be an asset in mixed leagues for the entire season.

Jedd Gyorko 2B/3B, Padres (Yahoo: 35 percent owned)

It's safe to say that Gyorko is getting comfortable against major league pitching. After batting .247/.317/.323 with zero homers over 25 games in April, the 24-year-old rookie owns a .333/.395/.623 batting line to go along with five homers over 19 games this month. He's now on pace for 18 home runs, a total I think most fantasy owners would have signed up for at the start of the season. Gyorko is a solid play in most mixed leagues and makes plenty of sense if you are looking for a second base or MI (middle infielder) replacement for the demoted Josh Rutledge.  

Shopping at the five-and-dime:

(Players owned in less than 10 percent of Yahoo! leagues)

Logan Morrison 1B/OF, Marlins (Yahoo: 5 percent owned)

OK, so maybe that subheading should have read "Players on the Marlins and Rays owned in less than 10 percent of Yahoo! leagues." Anyway, here we are. Morrison is finally on the comeback trail after knee surgery, as he began his minor league rehab assignment on Monday. The 25-year-old may end up needing the entire 20-day rehab window before being activated, but he should be the starting first baseman for the Marlins as soon as he's ready. Morrison has been a bit of an underachiever early on in his career, but I think there's reason for optimism in fantasy leagues if his knee issues are truly behind him. Keep an eye on him as an option for a CI (corner infielder) or a fourth or fifth outfielder spot in a deeper mixed league.

Luke Scott 1B, Rays (Yahoo: 2 percent owned)

After missing most of April with a right calf strain, Scott has been very productive since coming off the disabled list, batting .291/.414/.473 with three home runs, 14 RBI and an .887 OPS in 20 games. The 34-year-old has shown improved plate discipline in a small sample this season, but recent history says that you shouldn't count on him maintaining his current batting average. However, he should be a useful source of power in deeper leagues as long as he can stay healthy. Rays manager Joe Maddon has a lot of moving parts -- and the club will play two games without the DH next week in Miami -- so Scott is a better option in daily leagues.  

Christian Yelich OF, Marlins (Yahoo: 3 percent owned)

Marcell Ozuna probably deserves to stick around when Giancarlo Stanton is ready to return from the disabled list, but the Marlins are likely going to have to make room for Yelich soon, too. After missing the start of the season with plantar fasciitis, the sweet-swinging outfielder is batting .308/.376/.624 with six home runs, four stolen bases and a 1.000 OPS through 28 games with Double-A Jacksonville. Ranked as the No. 15 prospect in the game by Baseball America this spring, Yelich has a legitimate chance to take over the starting center field job in Miami by mid-June. If you have the roster space in a deeper league, it might make sense to get out in front on this.

Chad Qualls RP, Marlins (Yahoo: 0 percent owned)
Mike Dunn RP, Marlins (Yahoo: 4 percent owned)
A.J. Ramos RP, Marlins (Yahoo: 0 percent owned)

With Steve Cishek struggling, Marlins manager Mike Redmond said earlier this week that he plans to use "everybody" at closer. There aren't many save chances to be had at the moment, but Redmond mentioned Qualls and Dunn as specific alternatives, so go grab them if you're desperate for saves. I could see Dunn vulturing a few based on matchups, but ideally the Marlins will try to build Cishek's trade value and deal him to a contender before the July 31 deadline. Looking more long-term, Ramos is right-handed and has the velocity and the strikeout rate, so I think he could take over the role at some point during the second half.

Jake Odorizzi SP, Rays (Yahoo: 8 percent owned)

As speculated last week, the Rays have called on Odorizzi to fill David Price's spot in the rotation. The 23-year-old right-hander held his own after getting off to a shaky start in his Rays' debut Monday against the Blue Jays, allowing three runs in five innings while striking out six batters and walking just one. Prior to his promotion, Odorizzi had a solid 3.83 ERA and 47/15 K/BB ratio in 44 2/3 innings through eight starts with Triple-A Durham. He might not be a frontline starter, but he has a solid four-pitch mix and throws strikes. Odorizzi may only stay up for another week or two, but fantasy owners should take advantage, as the Rays have pushed him back one day in the rotation so that he'll face the Marlins on Monday instead of the Yankees. You have to like that.


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D.J. Short is a Rotoworld baseball editor and contributes to NBCSports.com's Hardball Talk blog. You can also find him on Twitter.
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