Every once in a while, I'll get questions (most of them polite) regarding how I go about putting together Waiver Wired. So before we get started with this week's column, I wanted to lay out a couple of my basic ground rules.
Unless there's a unique case, I don't include any players who are owned in more than 50 percent of Yahoo! leagues. With this simple threshold, I can still help those in shallow formats while hopefully offering a few options for those who might play in deeper leagues.
Another important element to my column is that I try to stay away from recommending the same player within a month's time. That's why you won't see popular adds like Matt Garza, Nick Franklin, Yasmani Grandal, Brandon Beachy, Matt Joyce, Domonic Brown, Kelly Johnson, and Jedd Gyorko here. Yes, each was mentioned in Waiver Wired over the past four weeks.
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Michael Wacha SP, Cardinals (Yahoo: 45 percent owned)
The no-brainer waiver wire add of the week, Wacha is set to make his major league debut Thursday night against the Royals. The Cardinals likely would have preferred to keep him in the minors for a bit longer, but injuries to Jaime Garcia, Jake Westbrook and John Gast really gave them no choice. Selected 19th overall in last year's draft, the 21-year-old right-hander had a 2.05 ERA over his first nine starts this season in Triple-A. While Wacha only fanned 34 batters in 52 2/3 innings, he displayed solid control and his changeup is considered a real weapon. The Cardinals will be careful about his workload, but he's in a great spot from a fantasy perspective. Feel free to pick him up in all formats.
Vinnie Pestano RP, Indians (Yahoo: 33 percent owned)
Chris Perez was placed on the disabled list this week with tendinitis in his right rotator cuff, so Pestano will get the first crack to fill in at closer. The 27-year-old has been mentioned as a possible dark horse for saves for a couple of years now, so it's not a big surprise to see him get the nod, but he has struggled since returning from elbow tendinitis and showed diminished velocity during a recent outing. Joe Smith and Cody Allen linger as alternatives if Perez needs to miss more time than originally expected, but Pestano should be owned as long as he's getting the opportunity.
Francisco Rodriguez RP, Brewers (Yahoo: 35 percent owned)
Brewers manager Ron Roenicke has indicated that he'll go with a closer-by-committee while Jim Henderson is out with a hamstring strain, but Rodriguez appears to have the edge over John Axford and Mike Gonzalez. K-Rod has pitched well since joining Milwaukee earlier this month, allowing just one hit and one walk over 5 1/3 scoreless innings while notching five strikeouts. While his velocity isn't what it once was, he's still getting plenty of swings and misses. The 31-year-old is just five saves away from 300 for his career and he may get there while Henderson is sidelined.
Josh Reddick OF, Athletics (Yahoo: 32 percent owned)
Reddick has been sidelined since May 6 due to right wrist inflammation, but he managed to avoid surgery and should rejoin the Athletics on Friday. The 26-year-old outfielder was batting just .152 with one home run, 25 strikeouts and a .516 OPS over his first 92 at-bats this season, so clearly the injury had an impact on his production. Fantasy owners will have to hope that the rest did him some good. I wouldn't expect much in the way of batting average, but there's nice power upside here if he's healthy.
Kevin Youkilis 3B/1B, Yankees (Yahoo: 43 percent owned)
The replacement Yankees have done a fine job keeping the team afloat, but some important reinforcements are on the way, as both Mark Teixeira and Kevin Youkilis are expected to be activated for Friday's series opener against the Red Sox. Youkilis was batting .266/.347/.422 with two home runs, seven RBI and a .769 OPS in 17 games prior to going on the disabled list with a lumbar spine strain in late April. The 34-year-old remains a terrible bet to stay healthy, so David Adams could get another chance at third base soon, but given his track record he should be owned in most mixed leagues as long as he's in the lineup.
Shaun Marcum SP, Mets (Yahoo: 21 percent owned)
Marcum owns an ugly 5.77 ERA through six starts and one relief appearance this season, but remember that injuries interrupted his spring training and pushed his season debut back to April 27. The 31-year-old allowed two runs in seven innings Sunday against the Braves and struck out a career-high 12 batters, so perhaps he needed a month to get himself on track. With a career ERA of 3.83, he deserves some benefit of the doubt. Plug him in on Friday, as he has a promising matchup against the Marlins.
David Murphy OF, Rangers (Yahoo: 17 percent owned)
I understand that there's not a lot of enthusiasm for a guy who is hitting .218 through 50 games, but Murphy has a long history of being a lot better than this. Besides, other than hitting a few more infield pop-ups than usual, his batted ball profile hasn't changed all that much. He's also not striking out more than usual. Look for his .222 BABIP (batting average on balls in play) to rise in the weeks ahead and his production to increase along with it. The idea is to buy before he gets hot.
Jarrod Parker SP, Athletics (Yahoo: 41 percent owned)
After getting off to a really rough start this season, Parker appears to have righted the ship in recent weeks. While the 24-year-old right-hander had an 8.10 ERA through his first five starts, he has posted a 3.76 ERA and 30/13 K/BB ratio in 38 1/3 innings over his last six. This includes three straight outings of seven innings and three runs or fewer allowed. Even more encouraging, he has walked two batters or fewer in four out of his last five starts. Parker's velocity is right around where it was last season while his swinging strike rate has actually improved, so there's reason for optimism with him moving forward. Give him a try against the White Sox this weekend.
Jason Castro C, Astros (Yahoo: 20 percent owned)
I'm just as surprised as you to see Castro here, but his success shouldn't be overlooked any longer. Through 45 games, the 25-year-old backstop is batting .279/.328/.467 with six home runs and 16 RBI. Sure, most of this is due to his recent hot streak, but only four qualified catchers have a higher OPS than Castro (.794) this season. He's living dangerously with a high strikeout rate and an unsustainable BABIP, but there are worse gambles if you are in a two-catcher league. After Castro's development has been slowed in recent seasons due to knee issues, we could be witnessing a modest breakout.
Zack Wheeler SP, Mets (Yahoo: 16 percent owned)
Let the countdown begin. Wheeler's recent collarbone soreness turned out to be a minor blip, which means that he remains on track to make his major league debut around mid-June. If I had to guess, it will likely be during a five-game series against the Braves. To nobody's surprise, that's right around where most expect the Super Two cutoff date will be. Wheeler struggled in most his recent start and has had some control and command issues at times, but he throws in the mid-to-high 90s and should provide plenty of strikeouts right away. Struggles are part of the deal with any rookie pitcher, but he's well worth stashing in most mixed formats.
Shopping at the five-and-dime:
(Players owned in under 10 percent of Yahoo! leagues)
Adam Lind 1B, Blue Jays (Yahoo: 8 percent owned)
Lind isn't a full-time player at this point, but if you utilize him the way the Blue Jays do, he can still provide value in deeper formats. While his production has been buoyed by a recent hot streak, only 20 players (min. 125 plate appearances) have a higher OPS than Lind (.914) against right-handed pitching so far this season. The 29-year-old has also been more patient than ever before, drawing walks 15.1 percent of the time. That's more than double his career rate. I have my doubts about whether he can keep it going for a full season -- and his walk rate has dropped off a bit this month -- but he serves a purpose in daily leagues.
Lucas Duda OF, Mets (Yahoo: 9 percent owned)
Duda has quietly been a pretty productive player over the first two months of the season. With nine home runs in 49 games, the big man is currently on pace for 29 homers for the year. He has also hit safely in 12 out of his last 13 games to pull his batting average up from .205 to .241 on the year. And depending upon what format you play in, there's value in his .351 on-base percentage and .820 OPS. Duda hasn't really hit with runners in scoring position this season, hence his 18 RBI, but let's not make huge leaps of logic based on 48 plate appearances. He's a perfectly reasonable option in deeper formats.
Anthony Rendon 3B, Nationals (Yahoo: 2 percent owned)
Danny Espinosa returned to action Wednesday night, but he's still playing with a small fracture in his wrist. Considering that he's batting just .166 on the year, one wonders if some extended rest could be a possibility if his struggles continue. It's worth noting that Rendon has torn the cover off the ball since his demotion and has also played some second base. His long-term position is likely third base, but it makes sense to stash him in deeper leagues in case the Nationals give him the opportunity to fill in.