In every fantasy sport, playing the waiver wire is as important to long-term success as a solid draft. Fantasy baseball, in particular, contains an unprecedented amount of league scoring settings, ranging from rotisserie to head-to-head with subsets for each. Still, the large pool of players generally allows for midseason acquisitions that can help bolster any roster. It’s just a matter of finding the right piece.
Below are this week’s suggested waiver wire adds, currently owned in less than fifty percent of Yahoo! leagues.
Billy Burns – OF – Oakland Athletics
One of the common beliefs during fantasy baseball drafts is that steals are easy to find as the year progresses. Embodying this theme is A’s outfielder Billy Burns. Previously obtainable in nearly any round of any draft, the everyday leadoff hitter is now owned in nearly half of Yahoo! fantasy leagues.
Burns’ name defines his game — stolen bases with hardly any power. Breaking the stereotype of speedsters, however, Burns is more than a pair of legs — currently holding a batting average over .310 with more than 150 at-bats on the season. Most importantly, Burns should remain atop the A’s lineup with little competition. While Oakland doesn’t necessarily pile on runs, Burns appears poised to reap the rewards of anything the offense produces.
Alex Guerrero – 3B/OF – Los Angeles Dodgers
Search any list centered around fantasy baseball, and Alex Guerrero’s name fits the bill. From ‘buy-low candidates’ to ‘time to cut him loose,’ Guerrero is an anomaly of a ballplayer in an incredibly unique position. Despite being physically capable of playing multiple defensive positions — it is worth noting that he doesn’t play any position necessarily well — and utterly mashing the ball — ten home runs and a .926 OPS in only 123 plate appearances — Guerrero is frequently left off the lineup card. For reasons that seem to run deeper than the naked eye could see, manager Don Mattingly appears reluctant to start Guerrero on an everyday basis.
The platoon certainly hurts Guerrero’s value, but it also helps diminish his ownership to the point where he will remain available in most leagues. When a player puts up numbers like Guerrero’s in short sample sizes, his opportunities tend to grow. His talent is there, and his playing time will follow.
Will Middlebrooks – 3B – San Diego Padres
Position scarcity tends to drive waiver wire decisions. With that, third base appears to be one of the deepest positions, if only by quantity. Players like Yasmany Tomas, Yangervis Solarte, and the aforementioned Alex Guerrero all have eligibility at third base, despite spending much of their time elsewhere. Comparatively speaking, Will Middlebrooks is at the low end of the spectrum. This makes him affordable.
Middlebrooks’ biggest asset to a fantasy team is his typical position in the Padres’ batting order. Matt Kemp and Justin Upton tend to bat third and fourth, respectively, on a given night, and Upton has proved to be the power bat needed in the middle of the lineup. As such, opponents tend to pitch around Upton to face Middlebrooks.
As a whole, Middlebrooks’ numbers are disappointing, but his value lies in the discounted price for a middle-of-the-lineup hitter. It might be best to only use Middlebrooks when he bats after Upton in the lineup, but he should benefit from the Padres’ offense — fourth best in the National League.
Carlos Rodon – SP – Chicago White Sox
Immediately following the 2014 MLB Draft, Carlos Rodon was universally considered the pitcher who would break into a Major League rotation first. It was simply a matter of time before the White Sox felt Rodon had become seasoned enough to take the ball every fifth day, and he is now paying dividends for their investment.
In 40 2/3 innings — 6 1/3 of which came in relief — Rodon sports a 2.66 ERA striking out nearly one batter per inning pitched. His young arm brings the risk that he will be shut down prior to the end of the regular season – especially if Chicago is eliminated from playoff contention — but his stuff is electric and he numbers won’t be leaving anytime soon.
Alex “Chi Chi” Gonzalez – SP – Texas Rangers
Pegged as one of this season’s prospects to watch, Alex “Chi Chi” Gonzalez was a near-lock to pitch in the Rangers’ rotation this year. As injuries began to compile, Gonzalez found himself in Texas as the calendar turned to June.
Chi Chi’s opening act has been fantastic, allowing only one earned run in almost 22 innings of work. His numbers will absolutely regress — statistically, it’s almost impossible for his ERA to go lower — but his immediate success is not surprising. His entire Minor League career consisted of a compiled 3.17 ERA with an average of seven strikeouts per nine innings pitched. It’s arguably too late to own Gonzalez for his best three-game stretch, but he should be a viable starting pitcher for the remainder of the season.
Brett Cecil – CL – Toronto Blue Jays
The fantasy baseball community has collectively given up on the Toronto Blue Jays’ closer club. Strung along throughout the preseason by inconsistent rumors, fantasy owners believed they had settled on the answer. That was, until Miguel Castro became the ‘new answer.’ Then wasn’t.
Finally, the solution to the problem appears to Brett Cecil. At least, it would be if the Blue Jays ever needed him. Prior to Cecil saving a game on June 12, the entire Toronto roster failed to record a save since May 4. Opportunities being nonexistent and question marks circling the closer role, most Toronto bullpen arms remained under-owned. Perhaps giving the final vote of confidence in Cecil’s direction is the fact that Rafael Soriano — long-rumored to be linked to Toronto — has been signed by the Cubs, leaving the role of closer, once again, Cecil’s to lose.