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Fantasy Baseball: Waiver Wire Friday

With the lighter schedule of games Thursday, we’re going to take advantage every Friday and give a look at the top talent available on the waiver wire. At each position we’ll give you the top players available in >60% of Yahoo standard leagues and for those of you in deeper games, we’ll throw out a name available in more than 85% of those formats.

We are going to try and keep things fresh here and hit on some players that we didn’t get to in last week’s edition of Waiver Wire Friday but we’ll list some players from time to time when their ownership rate and performance still warrants a mention.

Working the Wire

Catcher

Wellington Castillo (CHC) 14% owned: While we really think that Carlos Ruiz belongs in this spot–remains just 18% owned and is eligible to return May 1– we discussed why you should snag Chooch last week. So let’s mix things up with the Cubbies backstop. Castillo is getting his first shot in the starting lineup after functioning as a backup for the first three season of his career. The 26-year-old is off to a very nice start, batting .323/.344/.435 over his first 65 at-bats. Castillo’s plate discipline has been a bit of a disaster this year (19 strikeouts without a single walk) but he’s been making solid contact and is clearly benefiting by a sky-high .452 BABIP so far this year. Still, Castillo posses some decent pop, and he’s shown a solid walk rate in previous seasons (8.9 BB% in 2012), so we expect the plate discipline to improve. Castillo is not quite a top-10 catcher at this time, but he’s certainly outproducing the likes of Jesus Montero and Ryan Doumit at the moment.

Devin Mesoraco (CIN) 1% owned: Perhaps many of you out there are a bit gun shy about trusting a young player on a Dusty Baker team. Or maybe, you had high hopes for the former first rounder last season only to watch your “catcher of the future” struggle to a pitiful .212/.288/.352 slash line over 184 plate appearances.  Either way, Mesoraco has not yet shown the upside of the .300 hitting 26 home run season he put up in the minors in 2010… until now. With platoon-mate Ryan Hannigan hitting the DL, Mesoraco is finally getting a chance to show his stuff on a regular basis. He’s got a solid .278 average so far with six runs scored and five RBI. The most impressive number he’s put up though is a 7:8 strikeout-to-walk ratio through his first 11 games. Now, Hannigan remains one of the more solid defensive catchers in the league so best-case down the road in 2013 is an even time share, but if Mesoraco can start hitting like we all expected him to a couple of years ago, he may just force his bat into that lineup more often than not.

Still on the wire: Carlos Ruiz (18% owned)

First Base

Brandon Belt (SF) 33% owned: Belt just can’t seem to find his way into the lineup on a regular basis, but that hasn’t stopped him from ramping up his production in a big way for the Giants. In the past week, Belt provided not one, but two clutch pinch hits in a pair of extra-innings games for the Giants. The underlying skills are there as Belt has shown solid plate discipline and nice pop throughout the minor leagues and posted a nice.360 OBP in 472 plate appearances last season. He’s handled left-handed pitching just fine over his short career and actually has a better OPS vs. lefties (.811) than he does vs. right-handers (.720), a very nice sign from and young left-handed bat. Presumably, all Belt needs is a regular opportunity to take the next step and he should get a shot sooner than later. If you are thin at the corner spot, he’s worth a flier.

Luke Scott (TB) 1% owned: The oft-injured Scott remains on the DL with a calf injury, but is nearing a return. The Rays figure to utilize the slugger often as they search for an offensive boost while attempting to keep Wil Myers down on the farm. The fantastic sideburns did little to help Luke at the plate last season with a .220/.301/.439 slash line in 209 at-bats, but this is a veteran option capable of some very nice power binges. Scott posted a .902 OPS in 2011, and put up a number north of .800 in each season from 2006-2009 as well. He’s always a health risk, but we are digging deep here and Scott’s pop can help.

Still on the wire: Garret Jones (PIT) 31% owned, Chris Carter (HOU) 23% owned, Matt Adams (STL) 13% owned

Second Base

Dustin Ackley (SEA) 28% owned: The Ack Attack has got his hack back! Though he’s sitting with a poor .231 overage on the season, the Mariners’ second sacker is rocking a six-game hitting streak and has hit in eight of his last nine contests. He’s 13-for-36 (.382) over that span with four runs scored. Now, we did say he was hacking up there, and that was no joke with zero walks in those games. He is, however, making solid contact and any signs of life from the former top-prospect are encouraging. Ackley put up 12 home runs and 13 steals in 607 at-bats last year and if he can step up the average in 2013, he provides a nice taste of the category juice to make him a middle infield option.

Steve Lombardozzi (WSH) 2% owned: Manager Davey Johnson indicated last week that the utility man would see an increase in playing time following a red-hot start to the season. He responded, of course, with an 0-for-5 effort on Thursday while Danny Espinosa seemed to finally find his stroke. Still, with Ryan Zimmerman on the DL, Lombardozzi figures to work his way into 4-5 games a week with a real chance to carve out a role in the Nats’ lineup. The utility man is eligible all over the diamond for fantasy owners (2B, 3B and OF in most leagues) and may even see some at-bats at first base if Adam LaRoche continues to struggle. Don’t expect elite power, but he can give you a solid batting average with good run totals and decent speed if given 400 at-bats in the Capital.

Still on the wire: Kelly Johnson (TB) 8% owned

Shortstop

Brandon Crawford (SF) 50% owned: We’re cheating just a bit here because we already discussed both Zack Cozart and Jhonny Perlata here–both of whom are <40% owned and make for the better add than Crawford (as is the 43% owned Andrelton Simmons)–but the Giants’ infielders ownership rate has sky rocketed so quickly we figured there’s a chance he’s still floating out there in many leagues. Crawford has been crushing at the dish with a .361 average and three home runs over his past 10 contests. He’s cut down his strikeout rate and improved his walk rate while flexing a power stroke that we had not seen in previous seasons. Crawford makes a fine short-term fill-in, but we do question the power surge that is supported by an unsustainable 26.7 HR/FB% (career 6.3%).

Yunel Escobar (TB) 6 % owned: It’s going to be awful tough to rely on Escobar as your everyday shortstop, but he’s getting regular at-bats for the Rays and did slug a pair of home runs this past week. Double digit power from Escobar is likely and we are talking about a guy with a .279 career average who put up a respectable .290/.369/.413 slash line as recently as 2011. If you need some at-bats in the middle in a deeper league, Yunel shouldn’t hurt you while providing the occasional home run.

Still on the wire: Jhonny Peralta (DET) 38% owned, Zack Cozart (CIN) 38% owned

Third Base

Trevor Plouffe (MIN) 30% owned: Plouffe is the definition of a streaker. A guy you only want in your starting lineup when he is running hot but will crush you when he’s cold. Last year Plouffe mashed 13 home runs in a 22-game span from mid-May to mid-June giving many owners a jump start in the power department. Plouffe’s cold streaks are similarly strong, however, and he’s a tough guy to keep in your lineup day-to-day when things are bad. He’s certainly struggling a bit early and while we don’t recommend picking this guy up if you need a bat in your lineup today, we do know that a hot streak is coming for Trevor in the not-too-distant future. If you can scoop him up and stash him until then, you will be quite happy that you beat all your opponents to the wire.

Lonnie Chisenhall (CLE) 7% owned: The Indians’ third baseman has been largely terrible for the entirety of his major league career, hitting just .260 with no power to speak of over his first two seasons in the majors. Following a sluggish start to the 2013 season, Chis has hit .350 (7-for-20) over the past week with a home run. Still just 24-years-old, there’s some upside here for the former first-round selection.

Still on the wire: Juan Francisco (ATL) 15% owned

Outfield

Carlos Quentin (CHW) 16% owned: Quentin is certainly not the most popular player in the league after breaking Zack Greinke’s collarbone in an early season melee, but the guy remains an enticing fantasy talent. With his own suspension from the brawl out of the way, Quentin is starting to find his groove at the plate, going 3-for-7 with a homer and two RBI in his first two games back in the lineup. CQ put up 14 home runs in just 86 games last season after slugging 24 bombs in 118 games in 2011. It’s foolish to bet on a full season from the brittle outfielder, but he provides elite power for your fantasy sqaud whenever he is on the field. That’s right: elite.

Nate McLouth (BAL) 10% owned: McLouth has been a fantasy disaster for years following a couple of 20/20 type seasons for Pittsburgh half a decade ago. That is, of course, until his stretch run with Baltimore last season. He registered a solid .268 average with seven homers and 12 steals in 55 games for the Orioles and is providing some nice value again for owners early in 2013. Nate is yet to pop a home run this year, but he’s collected seven steal in eight attempts so far while boasting  a very nice .302/.429/.397 triple slash. He’s also shown impressive plate discipline with 12 walks against just eight strikeouts in his first 78 plate appearances.  McLouth has always possessed nice contact skills and been able to draw a fair amount of walks, so this solid performance does not really look like a fluke. He’s going to continue to be in the Orioles underrated lineup each and every day and perhaps its time you gave him a shot on your team as well.

Still on the wire: Justin Ruggiano (MIA) 26% owned

Starting Pitcher

Jose Quintana (CHW) 28% owned: Quintana gave up a pair of runs over five innings in his most recent starts, but those two runs are the only he has allowed in his last 18.2 innings pitched. The South Side hurler has picked up a little but of zip on his fastball this season and after flashing some upside in 2012 (6 wins, 3.76 ERA), Jose looks like he is here to stay in 2013. The strikeout rate is up to a solid 7.94 K/9 through his first four turns this year and he’s also cut back the walk rate a bit. He’s got a sparkling 2.78 ERA with a 2-0 record, but remains available in over 70% of standard leagues. Should you go grab the starter before the rest of your league notices? Yes way, Jose!

Jorge De La Rosa (COL) 15% owned: Jorge DLR has been a horse for the surprising Rockies in the early going. He missed all of 2012 following Tommy John surgery, but De La Rosa was really making stride prior to his injury. He’s 2-2 on the year but with a 2.86 ERA, 1.16 WHIP over 28.1 innings this year. He hasn’t quite recaptured the strikeout rate that was making him an attractive fantasy commodity prior to the injury, but with four quality starts in his first five turns, DLR has the look of a solid back-end starter with some upside.

Still on the wire: Jeremy Guthrie (KC) 22% owned, Patrick Corbin (ARI) 38% owned

Relief Pitcher

Jose Veras (HOU) 38% owned: Veras had a bit of a rough start to the season for the ‘Stros, but he’s picked up a pair of saves in his last three appearances  and has not allowed an earned run in his last four games. Yeah, the Astros are not good, but even closers on bad teams get saves. There no reason why Veras can’t rack up 25+ this season and many of you can go and pick him up for free right now!

Heath Bell (ARI) 5% owned: What? You were expecting Kevin Gregg? Well, we recommended his at the Pickup of the Day earlier this week and, to be blunt, we can only stomach one positive note on Gregg per week. Plus, the Cubbies gave Carlos Marmol a save chance on Thursday and he finally converted, but that’s neither here nor there. A guy who has had some trouble converting saves in recent days is Arizona closer J.J. Putz, who has already blown three chances so far this season. Everyone assumes that David Hernandez is the handcuff here, but we wouldn’t be so sure. While Hernandez has not done much to lose his role as understudy, Bell has (surprisingly) returned to elite form over his past nine appearances, allowing just one earned run while racking up 14 strikeouts without a walk in 7.2 innings pitched. Bell is a must-add in holds leagues and with his body of experience in an end-game role, could feasibly leap-frog Hernandez in the pecking order if Putz continues to struggle.

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