It hasn't taken long for Athletics rookie Sonny Gray to become a waiver wire sensation. With a 1.71 ERA and 21/6 K/BB ratio in 21 innings over his first three major league starts, the 23-year-old right-hander has been picked up in 31 percent of Yahoo! leagues. And deservedly so. Armed with a mid-90s fastball and plus-curveball, Gray has the potential to be an impact starter for a long time. However, keep in mind that his next two starts will be against the Tigers and Rays. Maybe a blow-up outing won't matter too much in standard roto formats, but it could be a killer in head-to-head leagues at this time of year. Be careful.
The other big news from a waiver wire perspective has Xander Bogaerts (Yahoo: 26 percent owned) coming up from Triple-A Pawtucket. I recommended stashing the 20-year-old a couple of weeks ago, but it's tough to give him much of an endorsement in standard mixed fantasy leagues right now since it looks he's around to spell Stephen Drew and Will Middlebrooks, with most of his playing time coming against left-handed starters. And the Red Sox can't afford to take the red-hot Middlebrooks out of their lineup right now. Bogaerts is obviously keeper gold, but don't get too caught up in the hype, as his impact down the stretch could be minimal.
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Trevor Rosenthal RP, Cardinals (Yahoo: 22 percent owned)
Cardinals' closer Edward Mujica sat out the weekend series against the Cubs due to arm fatigue and admitted after Wednesday's game that he's dealing with an issue behind his right shoulder. He told reporters that he's not overly concerned and intends to pitch through it, but the situation makes Rosenthal a must-own wherever he's available. With a 2.58 ERA and 86/17 K/BB ratio over 59 1/3 innings, there's no question that he has the goods for the ninth inning. And hey, he'll help with strikeouts even if he doesn't end up getting many save chances.
Angel Pagan OF, Giants (Yahoo: 29 percent owned)
Pagan has been sidelined for over two months following hamstring surgery, but he began a minor league rehab assignment last week and is expected to move up to the Triple-A level on Friday. If all goes well, he'll be activated when rosters expand on September 1. The Giants have little incentive to push him since they are well out of the race, but a return for the final few weeks of the season will give him some peace of mind going into the winter. I wouldn't expect Pagan to be as active as he usually is on the basepaths, but he's worth stashing in a DL spot if you need outfield help.
Evan Gattis C/OF, Braves (Yahoo: 40 percent owned)
Gattis is hitting just .227 with one home run and a .564 OPS over his last 24 games, but while it's easy to see that opposing pitchers have figured him out, the sporadic playing time hasn't helped. However, there could be an opportunity for him to get more at-bats in the outfield now that Jason Heyward will miss 4-6 weeks with a fractured jaw. His power makes him a decent pickup in two-catcher mixed leagues, especially those which allow daily lineup changes.
Andrew Cashner SP, Padres (Yahoo: 26 percent owned)
Cashner's strikeout rate continues to be a bit lower than most expected it would be, but he has allowed three earned runs or fewer in 17 out of his 21 starts this season, including each of his last seven. Not surprisingly, the 26-year-old has been especially effective at home, posting a 2.38 ERA at PETCO Park compared to a 4.93 ERA on the road. Using him against the weak-hitting Cubs on Sunday should be a no-brainer in all formats.
Jedd Gyorko 2B/3B, Padres (Yahoo: 33 percent owned)
Gyorko's rookie campaign has taken a bit of a tumble since his groin injury in June, but after finishing without a single extra-base hit over 13 games in July, he has six home runs and four doubles through 17 games this month. He's still not hitting for a high average and has only drawn two walks in 117 plate appearances since coming off the disabled list, but perhaps he's beginning to feel comfortable at the plate again. With his multi-position eligibility, his pop is useful to have around in most leagues.
Tommy Hunter RP, Orioles (Yahoo: 10 percent owned)
With Jim Johnson's struggles continuing, Orioles manager Buck Showalter decided to go in another direction to close out an important win over the Rays on Wednesday night. After Darren O'Day and Brian Matusz put two runners on with nobody out to begin the ninth inning, Hunter (and Matt Wieters) managed to snuff out the potential rally. It might not take long for Johnson to get back in Showalter's good graces, but the Orioles' skipper is willing to do whatever it takes to win games right now. And Hunter, who has had a major velocity spike since moving to the bullpen, looks like the best option. It's worth noting that his strikeout rate isn't far off from Johnson's, which isn't ideal for a closer, but he does a better job limiting walks. Pick him up if you need saves.
Martin Perez SP, Rangers (Yahoo: 20 percent owned)
Long considered a top prospect in the Rangers' organization, Perez is beginning to realize his potential, going 6-3 with a 3.48 ERA and 52/22 K/BB ratio in 75 innings through 12 starts this season. The 22-year-old southpaw has been especially effective recently, posting a 2.12 ERA over his last four starts, a run which includes his first career complete game. With his low-to-mid 90s fastball and a plus-changeup, you'd like to see some more strikeouts, but he's worth considering in most formats right now. After his scheduled outing against the White Sox this weekend, he lines up for starts against the Mariners (on the road), Athletics (on the road), Pirates, Athletics, Royals (on the road), and Astros to close out the year. Not bad.
Emilio Bonifacio 2B/OF, Royals (Yahoo: 16 percent owned)
Bonifacio has been close to worthless for most of this year, but he could have a chance to salvage his season now that he has been traded from the Blue Jays to the Royals. The speedy 28-year-old has already stolen four bases in seven games with his new club and has helped fill in at third base and in center field. With Lorenzo Cain likely to miss at least another couple of weeks with his oblique injury, Bonifacio could be a sneaky option in deeper leagues if you need steals. Just don't expect much help in other categories.
Zack Wheeler SP, Mets (Yahoo: 43 percent owned)
Wheeler has won five out of his last six decisions, but his progress goes beyond the win column. The 23-year-old rookie has a 3.02 ERA and 49 strikeouts over 53 2/3 innings during that nine-start timespan. In addition, he has walked just four combined batters over his last three starts and has induced 12 or more swings and misses in three out of his last four outings. He's a smart play against the Phillies next Monday and should have plenty of momentum going into 2014 in fantasy leagues.
J.J. Putz RP, Diamondbacks (Yahoo: 48 percent owned)
Brad Ziegler grabbed a hold of Arizona's closer job recently, but with just 34 strikeouts in 57 2/3 innings, he hardly fits the definition of your typical lockdown closer. The sidearmer has also had his share of issues with lefty hitters during his career. Putz has allowed just two runs in 20 appearances since coming off the disabled list, but Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson appears content to keep him in a set-up role for now. However, if Ziegler hits a rough patch, don't be surprised to see things change quickly. Keep Putz stashed if you are desperate for saves.
Shopping at the five-and-dime:
(Players owned in under 10 percent of Yahoo! leagues)
Jordan Schafer OF, Braves (Yahoo: 1 percent owned)
Schafer has quietly been very solid in his second go-around with the Braves, hitting .286/.375/.415 with three home runs, 15 RBI, and 13 stolen bases in just 68 games. The 26-year-old has taken away some starts from the struggling B.J. Upton in center field in recent days and could take on an expanded role now that Jason Heyward is out 4-6 weeks with a fractured jaw. He's a solid pickup if you need speed in five-outfielder formats.
Khris Davis OF, Brewers (Yahoo: 8 percent owned)
Davis is currently getting a chance to show what he can do in left field with Ryan Braun suspended for the rest of the season. The early returns are promising, as the 25-year-old is hitting .324 (23-for-71) with six home runs, five doubles, and a 1.043 OPS through 37 games. His .362 BABIP (batting average on balls in play) has helped matters and strikeouts have been an issue for him, but he has a history of power and patience in the minors. He makes for a fine flier in deeper formats.
Kolten Wong 2B, Cardinals (Yahoo: 7 percent owned)
With David Freese struggling, the Cardinals called up Wong last week and intend to use him on a semi-regular basis at second base, which pushes Matt Carpenter over to the hot corner. The 22-year-old earned the call-up after hitting .303/.369/.466 with 10 home runs and 20 stolen bases through 107 games this season in Triple-A. He has already stolen three bases over his first six games in the majors, adding an element of speed the Cardinals have been missing this season. Wong isn't a lock to be in the lineup every day, but he's capable of hitting for a high average and swiping a few bags down the stretch. There's value here if you need to fill a MI (middle infielder) spot.