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
Russell Martin (PIT) 34% owned: Martin is a guy who is incredibly hard to trust over the course of a full season. He is, no doubt, quite a ways away from the guy who put up a .285/.373/.433 slash line with 16 home runs and 19 steals per season from 2008 to 2008, but Martin has still shown some usable flashes in the years since. Over the past two seasons with the Yankees, Martin clubbed 39 home runs, though he also registered a poor .224 batting average over that time. Still, the recent power surge that has seen the Buccos’ backstop slug five long balls in his last eight games is legit. There is also some hope that his improved batting average is sustainable as Martin has posted a solid seven walks against 10 strikeouts through 24 games, number much more in line with the studly performance Martin posted earlier in his career rather than the batting average sink that he’s been lately. Martin may not make it to the all-star break on your roster, but for now, he’s a worthwhile pickup based on the recent power production.
Nick Hundley (SD) 2% owned: Hundley was featured in this space a couple of weeks ago, and while he’s continued to produce–.333 batting average in his last 10 games–the catcher’s ownership percentage has only risen to a meager 7%. While we can’t expect Hundley’s production to stay where it is while he’s striking out almost one-third of the time and benefiting from a ridiculous .442 BABIP, there are some underlying skills that we do like. Hundley posted a .288/.347/.477 slash line in 82 games as recently as 2011 and he’s already matched his power production that he contributed last year.
Corey Hart (MIL) 40% owned: Hart is currently rehabbing a knee injury and his presence on this list will mark the first time that his ownership rate dipped to 40%. It’s perplexing a bit as earlier this week, we got word that Hart was progressing well in his recovery and it’s looking as though he’ll be ready to return when first eligible on May 30. Of course, many owners may have been struck by the injury imp that has forced them to reconsider the use of their DL spot, but those that have space and find Hart available on the wire, should make the move. Though he doesn’t run much anymore–and we wouldn’t expect him to be all that active on the base paths while coming back from a knee injury–Hart has averaged a very solid .276-101-34-959-8 5×5 line per 162 games over the past three seasons. There really aren’t all that many 30-homer, 90 runs, 90 RBI bats just sitting out on the wire at this point, so if you seen one, you should jump on it! Hart’s production of the final four months of the season will more than justify a four-week DL stash right now.
Yonder Alonso (SD) 12% owned: For those in need of more immediate boost at first base, Yonder Alonso remains available in 88% of standard Yahoo leagues. The former Reds’ prospect came over to San Diego in the Mat Latos deal prior to the 2012 season and while his power production in cavernous Petco Park (9 HR in 549 at-bats) left his numbers a bit light on the punch, he did show some decent skills at the plate with a .273 average in his first full season. Alonso is slugging .431 in 2013 with three homers and six double so far and while that’s still a bit light for a first baseman, it’s notable that he’s seen a 7% increase in his fly-ball rate over the first month of the season a sign that his moderate power surge is for real. If Alonso can continue his early improvements at the dish, a 20 homer, 90 RBI season is realistic with a solid .280 average. Fantasy owners in 12-team and deeper leagues can find plenty of use in that.
Jedd Gyorko (SD) 23% owned: Apparently we are bullish on the Padres this Friday! Gyorko made it on to our list previously, but that was based on his strong minor league performance. His return to Waiver Wire Friday is finally based on some actual production at the major leagues. While Jedd failed to have an immediate impact, batting just .210/.296/.258 over his first 17 major league games, the Padres young infielder has picked things up in his past 10 contests registering 11 hits (4 doubles and a home run) in 38 at-bats (.289). Gyorko’s season numbers remain uninspiring and it’s no surprise that he hit the waiver wire in so many leagues, but fantasy owners are a bit too reactive at times. Had Gyorko batted .289 in his first 10 games of the season, perception of the much-hyped rookie would be vastly different and we can only assume his ownership rate would be sitting around 75%. Give the kid some time to adjust, and we should eventually see that solid bat that so many bought into this preseason. As he begins to heat up at the dish, now is the time yo jump on the Gyorko train.
Chris Nelson (NYY) 1% owned: Really Bretsky? You’re recommending a guy who was just cut by his real team? Why yes, we are. The Rockies pulled the plug on Nelson as their everyday third baseman, designating the former first-round pick for assignment when they called up rookie Nolan Arenado. The Yankees came calling, hoping that Nelson could fill the void left by a rash of injuries up and down the lineup. With Kevin Youkilis hitting the DL, Nelson should get a shot at regular at-bats right out of the gates and this is a guy who slashed his way to a .301/.352/.458 season over 345 at-bats in 2012. As the Yanks get healthy Nelson may be squeezed for playing time, but he remains a short-term pickup of interest with the opportunity to carve out a bigger role in an offense that will only get better as the season progresses.
Jhonny Peralta (DET) 39% owned: The shortstop pool is perhaps the thinnest of any position and Peralta remains the most attractive bat on the wire, so we’re gonna keep talking him up until you start picking him up. He continues to have a strong start to the year with a .295 average over his first 26 games. The Tigers’ offense is going to score a ton of runs and Jhonny has 20-homer pop in that bat.
Ruben Tejada (NYM) 4% owned: We warned you that the position was thin! Tejada offers little power and really doesn’t run all that much either: 2 home runs and 13 steals over 1,101 major league at-bats. He did hit .289 last season, however, with 26 doubles and 53 runs scored in 114 games. Tejada has been warming at the plate with nine hits in his last 27 at-bats and though he’s not going to win you any leagues a solid batting average with decent run totals could keep you afloat as an injury replacement in deeper leagues.
Nolan Arenado (COL) 45% owned: Yep, we’re cheating a bit with the ownership rate and Arenado has already been scooped up in most deeper leagues, but he is a guy that you can consider adding in even 10 or 12-team mixers. Arendado offers a solid contact rate and has a bit of pop in his bat that will play well at Coors field. The Rox are going to stick with their rookie for better or worse as they try to stay competitive in the NL West and as long as Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki are still on the field the Rockies lineup will be a force to be reckoned with. We project something like .285-60-15-75-2 the rest of the way from Arenado so why not grab some David Freese-like production just sitting on the wire.
Eric Chavez (ARI) 2% owned: Chavez has always hit when on the field and his .476 career slugging percentage is justification of that fact. Of course, injuries have robbed this guy of any ability to be consistent over the past five seasons and at 35 years old, it is hard to see that issue magically disappearing. He was able to stay on the field for 113 games last season with the Yankees and put up a solid .281/.348/.496 triple slash for the Bombers. The DBacks are using him as a part-timer in the hopes to keep his productive bat in the lineup long-term, and it is working so far. Chavez has four home runs in just 58 at-bats and can provide some punch to your lineup in deeper leagues. He’s going to be a bit of a high-maintenance player to own as he move in and out of the lineup, but the production will be their when he is on the field.
Michael Saunders (SEA): 19% owned: Saunders slugged a home run in his first game back from the DL and followed that up with a 3-hit performance on Wednesday. Last season, the Mariners’ outfielder fell just one homer shy of a 20/20 season a mark that only six outfielders hit in 2012. In any type of category-based scoring format, balanced production is king and Saunders’ enticing mix of power and speed make him the top outfield pickup of the week. The Mariners offense remains in the lower-third in the AL in just about every category, but Saunders’ is their most enticing fantasy bat and belongs on rosters in just about every league. Though its an admittedly small sample, Saunders has slashed his K-rate in the early going this season and if he can nudge his average up into the .270-range, he’s got a real shot at returning top-25 value in the outfield.
Matt Joyce (TB) 9% owned: Those is weekly league will likely want to move past Joyce, but anyone who has bench depth and daily lineup changes should give Tampa’s powerful platoon bat a look. Joyce has mashed right handed pitching throughout his career with a .853 OPS over 5+ seasons in the majors while registering a pitiful .194/.277/.310 slash against southpaws. He’s warming at the dish, with a .318 average and four home runs over his last five starts and when he’s in lineup, Joyce can help your fantasy team. Again, it’s going to take a but of flexibility and effort to get maximum value from Joyce, but he’s a really useful piece when deployed correctly.
Matt Garza (CHC) 48% owned: We’re cheating again with Garza as more and more owners are flocking to pick up the oft-injured righty, but he remains available in more leagues than not so there may still be time to scoop him up. Garza has finally shown some positive signs in rehab and the latest reports have him returning as early a the Cubs’ May 17-19 series with the Mets. In two seasons with the Cubbies, Garza has posted a 3.52 ERA with a 1.23 WHIP and 8.7 K/9 in 49 starts and if he’s right, he remains a guy with top-30 potential at his position. Now is the time to scoop up Matt as you may need to wait just a couple of more weeks before he is ready to return.
Kevin Slowey (MIA) 9% owned: Slowey has had a career renaissance pitching with Miami on 2013, ripping off six straight starts in which he allowed 3 ER or less. Slower’s signature control has shown up again in South Beach and he’s walked just one batter over his past three turns (20.o IP). Slowey is benefiting from a bit of fortunate luck in his peripherals, but he’s in a great home park for a fly ball pitcher and the low walk rate should serve to limit the damage even when he does give up the long ball. Wins will be few and far between and Slowey already has an 0-2 record to go along with his sterling 2.15 ERA through six starts. Still, he’s a solid spot starter when pitching in Miami and could develop into a reliable No. 4 if he can stay the field.
Al Alburquerque (DET) 12% owned: Though he was left out of the closer mix early on in Detroit due to workload and health concerns, Alburqurque has continued to flash dominant skills over the first month of the season. He’s been a bit on the wild side, but the guy has also struck out 21 batters in 12.0 innings pitched to go along with a 1.50 ERA. In leagues that have an innings cap or start limit, Al Al can be a fantastic source of strikeouts to boost you overall performance. He should pick up a stray win here and there and can be a real asset to support a fantasy staff that is light in the strikeout department.
Matt Reynolds (ARI) 7% owned: Last week, we highlighted Heath Bell‘s performance in the back-end of the Diamondbacks pen as J.J. Putz continues to struggle in an end-game role. Well, another week and another blown save later and lefty Matt Reynolds is still yet to allow a run through 14 innings pitched this season. The setup man has walked just one batter on the year and has picked up a pair of stray saves so far this year. The bottom line is that we are currently unsure who exactly would take over between David Hernandez, Bell and Reynolds if the Snakes do decide to pull the plug on Putz, but Reynolds is a guy that will only help your pitching stats over the next few weeks while Arizona sorts out the back-end of their pen.