D.J. Short

Waiver Wired

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Waiver Wired: Claim Clay

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Four days without regular season baseball is just the worst, isn't it? However, it also provides some time to take a long look at your roster and evaluate your chances of success during the second half of the season. How to improve. Where to upgrade. And if you are in a keeper league, perhaps whether to cash in your chips and turn your focus to 2015. I hope you have used the All-Star break wisely, even if that means just spending some extra time with the people you have ignored since the start of the season.

With the lull in the schedule, we don't have our usual "Buy, Sell, or Hold" or "Rotoworld Mailbag" videos for this week, but we'll get back to business next week. With the trade deadline quickly approaching, there should be plenty to talk about in the coming days.

Editor's Note: Rotoworld's partner FanDuel is hosting a one-day, $35,000 Fantasy Baseball league for Friday night's MLB games. It's $25 to join and first prize is $6,000. Starts at 7:05pm ET on Friday. Here's the FanDuel link.

Have specific questions about your roster? Ask @djshort on Twitter.


Clay Buchholz SP, Red Sox (Yahoo: 48 percent owned)

Buchholz was a complete mess in April and May prior to landing on the disabled list with a conveniently-timed knee injury, but he ended the first half on a high note, striking out 12 batters in a three-hit shutout against the Astros. The 29-year-old right-hander has been improved since his return late last month, posting a 2.73 ERA and 23/1 K/BB ratio in 29 2/3 innings across four starts. He has gotten at least 10 swinging strikes in each of them. There is something tangible behind the improvement, as his velocity is up a couple of ticks from where he was earlier this season. It's probably too late to make much of a difference for the Red Sox, but there's reason for optimism with him going into the second half.

Arismendy Alcantara 2B, Cubs (Yahoo: 14 percent owned)

The original plan called for Alcantara to get a brief cup of coffee in the majors while Darwin Barney was on the paternity leave list, but the Cubs might have to call an audible here. The 22-year-old has been a spark-plug for Chicago's lineup thus far, going 9-for-23 (.391) with five extra-base hits (including a home run), a stolen base, and six runs scored over his first five games. This isn't coming out of nowhere, as he was batting .307/.343/.537 with 10 homers and 21 stolen bases over 89 games this season in Triple-A. Here's hoping the Cubs give him an extended look after the All-Star break. He could provide some serious value out of the middle infielder spot the rest of the way.

Wade Miley SP, Diamondbacks (Yahoo: 23 percent owned)

Miley has a 5-6 record to go along with a 4.18 ERA through 20 starts this season, which isn't going to blow you away, but I'm liking what I'm seeing under the surface here. The 27-year-old southpaw has struck out 22.4 percent of the batters he has faced this season, up five percent from where he was last year. Meanwhile, his swinging strike rate has jumped over 10 percent for the first time in his career. The big key has been his increased reliance on his slider, which gets plenty of whiffs. Miley has solid control and induces groundballs around 50 percent of the time, so he's really starting to put it all together. He could be a sneaky value play moving forward.

Brock Holt 1B/3B/OF, Red Sox (Yahoo: 47 percent owned)

Fantasy owners keep waiting for Holt to slow down, but he just keeps on producing. Capping off a surprising first half, he notched a career-high five hits Sunday against the Astros. The 26-year-old owns a .327/.371/.463 batting line with 25 extra-base hits (including three home runs), 21 RBI, six stolen bases, and 37 runs scored over 61 games this season and has hit exclusively out of the leadoff spot for nearly two months. He has done everything the Red Sox have asked of him, playing every position except for pitcher and catcher. Though I suppose there's still time for him for the Red Sox to use him in those spots, too. I don't expect Holt to maintain a BABIP close to .400 all season -- even with a lofty line drive rate -- so his batting average figures to come down a bit during these second half. Still, his multi-position eligibility is very handy in all formats.

Jake Odorizzi SP, Rays (Yahoo: 25 percent owned)

Odorizzi endured some hiccups in the early part of the season, but he has really hit his stride since early May, posting a 2.95 ERA over his last 13 starts. The 24-year-old has allowed three earned runs or fewer in seven straight starts and has begun to pitch deeper into ballgames. The development of his split-change has been critical in his success. The most surprising thing about his season has been the strikeouts. He has averaged 10.34 K/9, which is third among qualified starters. Only Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, and Yu Darvish have been better. By the way, his teammate David Price is right behind him. Pretty nice company there. My guess is Odorizzi will not go underappreciated for much longer in fantasy leagues.

Trevor Bauer SP, Indians (Yahoo: 15 percent owned)

Bauer has been up and down with the Indians this season, but it's hard to ignore what he did Sunday against the White Sox. The 23-year-old right-hander struck out a career-high 10 batters over 6 2/3 scoreless innings en route to his first win since June 16. He now owns a 3.84 ERA and 70/27 K/BB ratio in 72 2/3 innings across 12 starts this season. The control is still shaky at times, so he has only completed seven innings once this year, but the velocity is there and he's missing plenty of bats with his deep arsenal of pitches. He's one of the better widely available upside plays out there.

Travis d'Arnaud C, Mets (Yahoo: 11 percent owned)

There's no other way to say it. D'Arnaud has simply looked like a different player since coming back from Triple-A Las Vegas. The 25-year-old backstop is hitting .295 (18-for-61) with three home runs, five doubles, and 10 RBI over 16 games. Just to put things in perspective, he had just three home runs and three doubles over 145 plate appearances this season prior to his demotion. While d'Arnaud has been more aggressive since returning from the minors, he has also moved closer to the plate, which has allowed him to be less vulnerable to outside pitches and hit the ball with more authority. As a result, he's looking a lot closer to the top prospect the Mets thought they were getting in the R.A Dickey trade. He should be owned in all two-catcher leagues at this point and might be worth a try if you recently lost Yadier Molina.

Kendrys Morales 1B, Twins (Yahoo: 23 percent owned)

The Twins surprised many around baseball when they signed Morales back in June, but they haven't gotten much bang for their buck so far. The 31-year-old is batting just .229/.254/.328 with one home run and 18 RBI over 33 games. On the bright side, he had a seven-game hitting streak going into the All-Star break, so perhaps he's finally shaking the rust. Remember, he didn't have a spring training. It's probably too late for Morales to help the Twins, who will begin the second half six games under .500, but he could prove valuable to fantasy owners during the second half. It would be nice to see him get traded to a contender in a favorable hitting environment. The Blue Jays, perhaps? Either way, I'm confident we'll see better from him.    

Jenrry Mejia RP/SP, Mets (Yahoo: 40 percent owned)

Mejia has just five saves since the start of June, so I get why his name isn't flying off the shelf in mixed leagues, but it's not like he's been bad since taking over the closer role with the Mets. In fact, he's actually been pretty good. The 24-year-old has a 2.33 ERA and 27/11 K/BB ratio in 27 innings since moving to the bullpen. He has allowed just three runs (two earned) in 14 1/3 innings since a little rough patch in early June. Yes, Mejia is walking more batters than you'd like to see, but he's been getting the job done for the most part. Jeurys Familia has pitched well in a set-up capacity, but he's also been overworked and I'm fearing a potential drop-off during the second half. In other words, I don't see him as a big threat at the moment. With the Mets playing better these days, Mejia needs to be owned in all formats.

Adam Eaton OF, White Sox (Yahoo: 42 percent owned)

Functioning as the regular leadoff man and center fielder for the White Sox, Eaton is hitting .270 with a .340 on-base percentage to go along with one home run, 25 RBI, eight stolen bases, and 42 runs scored over 74 games. Quietly useful is probably the best way to put it. With one of the highest ground balls rates in the majors, power isn't going to be his thing, but the 25-year-old has one of the highest contact rates in the league and shows good patience, two important skills to have at the top of the lineup. It would be nice if Eaton had more success on the stolen base front (he's just 15-for-26 so far in the majors), but he's relevant in most mixed formats.  

Juan Francisco 1B/3B, Blue Jays (Yahoo: 14 percent owned)

The Blue Jays are the walking wounded at the moment, dealing with injuries to Edwin Encarnacion, Adam Lind, and Brett Lawrie. While they have faded in the standings as a result, the situation has assured Francisco of continued at-bats, whether it's at first base, third base, or the DH spot. Fantasy owners have to take the good with the bad with this one. Francisco owns a .439 OPS against southpaws for his career and he's not going to hit for a high batting average due to his obscene strikeout rate, but he brings power and multi-position eligibility to the table and plays half of his games in a hitter-friendly ballpark. I prefer Francisco in leagues where you can make daily lineup changes, but he should be able to fit into a corner infielder spot in deeper formats.

Shopping at the five-and-dime:

(Players owned in under 10 percent of Yahoo leagues)

Rubby De La Rosa SP, Red Sox (Yahoo: 8 percent owned)

De La Rosa previously found his way into Waiver Wired after a strong season debut over Memorial Day weekend and I'm giving him another shot now he could keep a rotation spot during the second half. The 25-year-old right-hander has put up some solid numbers when called upon this season, with a 2.89 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, and 33/8 K/BB ratio in 37 1/3 innings. Yes, his fastball is clocked in the mid-90s, but he has actually gotten most of his swings and misses from his changeup and slider. With Felix Doubront in the bullpen and Jake Peavy on the trade block, the former Dodger is an interesting sleeper second-half sleeper.

Adam Ottavino RP, Rockies (Yahoo: 3 percent owned)

The Rockies currently find themselves 15 games under .500, so they absolutely should listen to offers for LaTroy Hawkins leading up to the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. With that in mind, it's time to think about a potential replacement for the closer role. Rex Brothers saved 19 games last season and has been widely assumed as the closer-in-waiting, but he hasn't been nearly as effective this season, so Ottavino might prove to be the better play. The 28-year-old right-hander owns a 3.95 ERA and 46/10 K/BB ratio over 43 1/3 innings this season and has rebounded this month after an ugly June. Stash away if you are in the mood to speculate.

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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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