Happy Fourth of July, everyone. I hope this week's edition of Waiver Wired finds you well. I'm going to keep things pretty brief this week, so we can get straight to the names and you can spend more time watching day baseball, grilling, shooting off fireworks, or whatever you plan to do. Just make sure to do it safely.
Stay tuned next week, as I'll hand out some superlatives for the first half of the season. Yes, we're already halfway home. Hopefully you'll find some options below to get your second half off to a strong start.
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Rajai Davis OF, Blue Jays (Yahoo: 31 percent owned)
With Melky Cabrera on the disabled list due to left knee tendinitis, Davis has received regular playing time in left field for the Blue Jays over the past week. That's good news for fantasy owners, as the 32-year-old is getting the opportunity to run wild. He did just that in a recent stretch, swiping seven bases in eight attempts over the course of four games. That's more than three teams (Tigers, Cardinals, and Twins) had for all of June. Davis may not be able to maintain a .300 batting average over the long haul, but there are few better bets for speed out there. He should be owned in most formats until Cabrera returns.
Tony Cingrani SP, Reds (Yahoo: 47 percent owned)
Cingrani is back in the Reds' rotation, as Johnny Cueto aggravated his right lat muscle during his start last Friday and was placed on the disabled list yet again. The young southpaw had mixed results Wednesday night against the Giants, allowing two runs in 5 2/3 innings while walking four and striking out five. He still owns a solid 3.15 ERA and 51/14 K/BB ratio in 45 2/3 innings as a starter this season, which should be more than enough for most fantasy owners to scoop him up. It wouldn't be surprising if we don't see Cueto again until August.
Anthony Rendon 2B/3B, Nationals (Yahoo: 34 percent owned)
Rendon has done nothing but hit since taking over for Danny Espinosa at second base last month, batting .330 with two home runs, 10 doubles, eight RBI and 13 runs scored in 25 games entering play on Thursday. I'd like him more if he stayed in the No. 2 spot, but Nationals manager Davey Johnson moved him to seventh in the order after Bryce Harper was activated from the disabled list. Still, with his multi-position eligibility, I think he'll continue to be an asset in most mixed formats moving forward. And if you're worried about Espinosa getting his job back, don't be. He's hitting .088 (6-for-68) with two doubles, zero homers, and 34 strikeouts in Triple-A. Yikes.
Adam Eaton OF, Diamondbacks (Yahoo: 28 percent owned)
One of the most popular sleepers in fantasy drafts this spring, Eaton is finally getting closer to making his season debut for the Diamondbacks. Sidelined since spring training due to a sprained ulnar collateral ligament in his elbow, the 24-year-old had a minor setback in late May, but he resumed a minor league rehab assignment last week and played his first game in center field yesterday. There's always the risk of another setback or maybe even Tommy John surgery, but Eaton has the ability to be a dynamic player out of the leadoff spot, offering patience, speed, and even a little bit of pop. Be sure to stash him in an available DL spot, as he could deliver on his sleeper status during the second half.
Heath Bell RP, Diamondbacks (Yahoo: 47 percent owned)
J.J. Putz was immediately pushed into the closer role after missing seven weeks with an elbow injury, but he blew his first save chance Monday against the Mets and will now be used in a set-up capacity as he rebuilds arm strength. This means that Bell will be relevant for a little while longer. While the veteran right-hander has really struggled over the past month, he was able to convert a save against the Mets on Wednesday. I don't have much faith in his ability to be successful on a regular basis, so this falls under the classification of "saves are saves."
Miguel Gonzalez SP, Orioles (Yahoo: 29 percent owned)
I'll admit that I have been skeptical about Gonzalez in the past, but he's gone 15-7 with a 3.56 ERA and 1.19 WHIP in 182 innings since joining the Orioles' rotation almost exactly one year ago. After averaging 6.6 K/9 and 3.0 BB/9 last season, he has actually improved slightly in both categories this year. His fly ball tendencies make him risky at times, but he's a perfectly useful back-end starter in mixed leagues, with the powerful Orioles' offense giving him an added boost in value. I wouldn't hesitate starting him against the Yankees this weekend on the road.
Carlos Quentin OF, Padres (Yahoo: 16 percent owned)
Quentin has quietly turned his season around over the past month, batting .366 (3-for-94) with four home runs, five doubles, eight RBI, and a 1.020 OPS since the start of June. The 30-year-old hasn't hit higher than .261 in a season since 2008 as a member of the White Sox, so don't look for the lofty batting average to continue, but he should provide plenty of power as long as he can stay on the field. Playing left field on a regular basis doesn't help his chances of doing that, so just know that a new injury could crop up at any time.
Will Middlebrooks 3B, Red Sox (Yahoo: 30 percent owned)
Middlebrooks was sent down to Triple-A Pawtucket last month after batting just .192 with nine homers and a .617 OPS in 53 games, but it might not be much longer before he returns to the majors. The 24-year-old went deep twice and drove in eight runs on Wednesday night and is hitting .333 (10-for-30) with four home runs and 13 RBI in seven games since his demotion. Stephen Drew's health is a legitimate question and Jose Iglesias is unlikely to maintain his current level of performance, so Middlebrooks should get another chance soon. There are still legitimate concerns about his plate discipline, but his power could prove valuable during the second half.
Francisco Rodriguez RP, Brewers (Yahoo: 35 percent owned)
Most expected that Rodriguez would hand the closer job back to Jim Henderson once he notched his 300th career save, but Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said over the weekend that the veteran right-hander will keep the gig for now. While Roenicke won't admit it, this appears to be an obvious attempt to boost his trade value. And it's not a bad idea for a team out of contention. Aside from a shaky performance in Sunday's extra-inning loss to the Pirates, K-Rod has been lights out this season, posting an excellent 0.92 ERA and 21/7 K/BB ratio over 19 1/3 innings. He might end up as a closer depending on where he lands (Detroit, maybe?), so make sure he isn't sitting on the waiver wire in your league.
Shopping at the five-and-dime:
(Players owned in under 10 percent of Yahoo! leagues)
Juan Francisco 1B/3B, Brewers (Yahoo: 9 percent owned)
With the news that Corey Hart will miss the rest of the season following surgery on his right knee, Francisco is suddenly poised to get regular at-bats at first base the rest of the way. The 26-year-old has struck out a ridiculously high clip of 31.7 percent since breaking into the majors back in 2009, so don't expect much help in the batting average department, but he has 24 home runs in 584 career plate appearances. Miller Park is one of the most favorable environments for left-handed power, so there's some sneaky upside here. He's worth a look if you need some pop from a CI (corner infielder) spot.
Brad Miller SS, Mariners (Yahoo: 3 percent owned)
The Mariners called up Miller last week after he batted .319/.399/.521 with 12 home runs, 53 RBI, and six stolen bases in 68 games this season between Double-A Jackson and Triple-A Tacoma. A second-round pick in 2011, the 23-year-old is off to a slow start (3-for-19 with six strikeouts) since his call-up, but don't let that stop you from picking him up if you need to fill a MI (middle infielder) spot. While playing in Seattle may keep his power numbers down, Miller has the ability to help in batting average and get on base with regularity. There are questions about his defense at shortstop, so he's a big downgrade from Brendan Ryan in that regard, but it appears that the Mariners are prepared to make the sacrifice if they can finally get some offense from the position.
Johnny Giavotella 2B, Royals (Yahoo: 1 percent owned)
After relying on an underwhelming combo of Chris Getz and Elliot Johnson for the first three months of the season, the Royals are now giving Giavotella the chance to establish himself as the starting second baseman. The diminutive 25-year-old hasn't done much in sporadic opportunities in the major leagues until now, but he owns an impressive .306/.380/.441 batting line over parts of six seasons in the minors. Granted, a lot of that was in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League, but it's about time the Royals stop messing around and see what they have here. Giavotella has the potential to be a useful five-category player, so give him a look if you need to fill a MI (middle infielder) spot.
Jeremy Hefner SP, Mets (Yahoo: 5 percent owned)
Hefner hasn't received much attention in fantasy leagues, but it's about time that changes. Over his last six starts, the 27-year-old right-hander has a microscopic 1.70 ERA and 29/7 K/BB ratio in 37 innings. Only Jose Fernandez and Stephen Strasburg have a lower ERA since the start of June. If that's too small of a sample size for you, consider that his ERA sits at 2.93 ERA in 13 starts dating back to late April. While Hefner isn't going to blow batters away, it's worth noting that he has added a tick or so to his velocity as the season has moved along. Give him a chance this weekend against a Brewers' lineup that isn't scaring anyone right now.