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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 re-list some players from time to time when their ownership rate and performance still warrants a mention.

Working the Wire

Catcher

Ryan Doumit (MIN) 28% owned: Doumit’s strong 2012 made him a popular back-end backstop heading in the 2013 season. A dismal .198 start to the year over his first 24 games, however has left Doumit’s ownership rate down around 28% in standard leagues. Health has always been the biggest issue with the veteran catcher, but when on the field he’s been a solid .271 hitter with decent power throughout his career. Over the past several days, Doumit has shown signs that his bat is waking up from a season long slumber. Doumit has swatted a pair of home runs, scored five times and driven in four while going 6-for-12 over his past three games and owners desperate for production  behind the dish should give Doumit a look.

Derek Norris (OAK) 1% owned: On paper, the Oakland Athletics certainly don’t look like one of the league’s best offenses,  but they have seemingly carried over their second-half success from 2012 into the current season. Norris flashed some solid pop last year, slamming seven long balls in in 209 at-bats, though he struggled with the rest of his offensive game to the tune of a .201/.276/.349 slash line. This season, he’s flipped the script. Sitting without a home run in 23 games so far, Norris has posted an awesome 14 walks against just 17 strikeouts, helping him to a very nice .395 OBP. His patience at the plate fits perfectly into the A’s Moneyball mentality and if Norris can find some of the power stroke he flexed last year, he could make for a shrewd addition in deeper mixed leagues.

First Base

Mitch Moreland (TEX) 9% owned: Moreland has consistently been given chances to prove himself worthy of an everyday job, but the weak production against lefties (.243/.305/.354) has really limited his potential fantasy impact. He is, however, capable of putting up some nice numbers in a platoon role and is even hitting southpaws at a solid .286 clip this season. While it is tough to buy in on Moreland to just figure out how to handle left-handed pitching, his production in recent days is impossible to ignore. Moreland has piled up four mutli-hit effort in his last six games and is batting a sizzling .391 with four home runs in his past 17 contests. Regardless of how long this current binge lasts, Moreland is making a strong case to be owned in many more that the 9%  of leagues in which he is currently rostered.

James Loney (TB) 12% owned: It pains us just a bit to recommend Loney in these pages as he has been a marginal talent for some time. The powerless first baseman has hit in five straight and seven of eight games overall. Loney’s power stroke has fallen by the wayside, but you have to like the .385/.427/.531 slash line so far in 2013. A career .285 hitter, expect Loney to continue to provide a solid batting over the balance of the season with useful run and RBI production and, though the power will not be anywhere near what you are looking for at a first baseman, Loney is worth adding in deeper leagues where at-bats and batting average come at a premium.

Second Base

Kelly Johnson (TB) 28% owned: We keep telling you about Kelly’s awesome production and many of you continue to leave him rotting on the wire.  Meanwhile, Johnson keeps on hitting and has put up seven runs, 13 RBI and a 1.041 OPS in his last 14 games. Kelly has been getting regular playing time mostly at DH and in the outfield, but fantasy owners will enjoy using his solid bat at the middle infield. Even more encouraging, Johnson has batted second in each of his past four starts after bouncing around down towards the bottom of the order over the last couple of weeks. The increase in at bats will only serve to enhance Johnson’s counting stats and make him an even more attractive fantasy commodity.

Emilio Bonifacio (TOR) 15% owned: Bonifacio’s brutal early season performance has put him in the discussion as a waiver wire pickup as he was owned in far too many leagues leaving the draft room to have his name appear here. There is certainly no question that Emilio has disappointed across the board in 2013.  The biggest question with Bonifacio heading into the season was playing time and early season injuries in Toronto made that a non-issue early in the year, but Emilio failed to take advantage. His strikeout rate is up, his walk rate is down, his line drive rate is down and when you add in a touch of poor luck (.236 BABIP) you find a player who has stumbled his way to a disastrous .165/.202/.278 slash line. To add insult to injury, Bonifacio didn’t even attempt to steal a base during April. Things have not gotten all that much better in Nay, but at least the speed has shown up just a bit. He swiped a pair of bags in a start on May 5 and another the next day as a pinch runner. Of course, Emilio has to start making contact to earn at-bats once again, but we still believe in those wheels and if he can get right at the plate, you will have an impact player on you hands. He’s better left on waivers if you have a short bench, but if your league allows four or more reserve players, why not give the speedy utility man another couple of weeks to see if he can come around at the plate.

Shortstop

Dee Gordon (LAD) 27% owned: Hanley gets healthy… Hanley gets hurt. The injury issues for the five-tool Ramirez certainly have to be disappointing  but the is silver lining for fantasy owners who were able to snag the speedy Gordon–who now finds himself with an everyday job in LA. Gordon has swiped three bases in his first five games in the majors this season while going 6-for-19 at the plate. Perhaps the most encouraging sign for Gordon is the three walks against five strikeouts that he has put up after Dee walked 14 times against 17 strikeouts in 25 minor-league games in April. We have no questions about the speed as Baby Flash has grabbed 56 bags in 143 major league games prior to this year, but the career .299 OBP was really holding him back from being a usable fantasy commodity. Though the sample is small, if Gordon’s improved discipline at the dish continues, the breakout that many expected in 2012, could finally arrive this season. The time is now to invest.

Maicer Izturis (TOR) 3% owned: Bonifaco’s struggles coupled with Jose Reyes’ injury have put Izturis into an everyday role in the Blue Jays’ middle infield. The season-long stats are nothing to get excited about with a .216/.243/.324 slash line, but he has been warming at the dish of late. In 11 games since April 27, Maicer is batting .308 with five runs scored and three RBI. He’s yet to be very successful on the base paths, but Izturis swiped 17 bags in 289 at-bats last year and he can help you with a decent batting average and solid speed at a very weak position. The depth at shortstop really makes it tough to find usable bats on the waiver wire, but if you are cobbling together an injury replacement while you continue to wait for Jose Reyes to heal, you could do worse than Izturis over the next couple of weeks.

Third Base

Cody Ransom (CHC) 1% owned: We’re digging deep on this particular Friday and Ransom is off to a nice start to the season with the Cubbies, knocking nine hits and three homers in his first 24 at-bats with the team. Manager Dale Sveum recently praised the veteran’s consistency and Ransom figures to continue to see at-bats against left-handed pitching while splitting time with Luis Valbeuna at third base in Chicago. For his career, Ransom boasts a .791 OPS against lefties and all three of Ransom’s home runs have come against southpaws  this season. Expect Ransom to remain on the short side of the platoon, but if you can mix and match him into your lineup against left-handed starters, you’ll get solid power numbers on a per-game basis.

Matt Dominguez (HOU) 1% owned: The former Marlins’ prospect has had a pretty disappointing progressing through the minors from a developmental standpoint, but was able to flash some decent power down the stretch in Houston last year with five home runs in 31 games. Perhaps the best thing we can say about Dominguez at this point is that he’s getting every day at-bats, which really is a hard thing to find in AL-only and deeper mixed leagues. He’s also showing some signs of life at the dish with two straight two-hit games. The power is yet to surface and we question whether it ever will, but the steady at-bats make him a player to consider in deep formats.

Bonus Pickup: 

Alex Rodriguez (NYY) 15% owned: ARod won’t return to the Yankees lineup until around  the all-star break as he continue to recover from January hip surgery. We mention him in this space because we expect his ownership to rise with each positive rehab report. Given  the mess at third baseman surrounding him in terms of ownership percentage includes a bunch of part-time player and/or flat-out terrible players, it might not be a bad idea to scoop Rodriguez up now if you have an extra DL spot.  We obviously can’t expect vintage ARod numbers, but but if the guy can give you a .275 average with 10 home runs and 40 RBI over the second half, he will return value on your minimal investment.

Outfield

Domonic Brown (PHI) 28% owned: The Phillies’ outfielder has taken quite a while to finally contribute at the major league level, but a slight change to his swing this offseason seems to have finally helped the former top-prospect break through. Since April 24, Brown has been hitting for solid power and average, smacking four home runs in 56 at-bats over the 15-game span while positing a solid .286 batting average. . Dom’s patience at the plate could still use some work as he’s struck out 13 times with only one walk over that span, but if he continues to make solid contact at the dish, 20 home runs with double-digit speed is not out of the question. Playing time may be a bit of a concern in standard mixers with Brown likely to split at-bats with John Mayberry, Jr. at times, but Dom will see the heavy side of that platoon, and limiting his at-bats vs. tough lefties will only serve to boost his batting average over the balance of the season. Just a few short years ago, Brown was widely considered a top-5 prospect in the game and while it would be foolish to expect him to immediately transform into a fantasy stud, the early returns have been encouraging in 2013.

Andy Dirks (DET) 3% owned: Dirks meager .235 average on the year will scare away many perspective owners but he’s been much better at the plate recently, batting .306 over his past 10 games with two home runs and a steal. Unlike the aforementioned Brown, Dirks has shown a solid eye at the dish, walking 12 times compared to 15 strikeouts so far this season. He’s also picked up his productivity on the basepaths with three steals already in 2013, showing that his increased emphasis on stealing bases in the spring was a purposeful effort. Perhaps the biggest plus in Dirks’ profile comes from the lineup that surrounds him and if he continues to get on base at a solid clip (.390 OBP over his past 10 games), the counting stats will come. Dirks has the look of a 15/15 outfielder with upside to do even more damage than that in the powerful Tigers’ lineup.

Pitcher

Chris Tillman (BAL) 25% owned: The former top-prospect was finally able to show some consistency last season, posting a 2.93 ERA with a 1.05 WHIP in 15 starts last season. His mediocre strikeout rate remains a concern, but since couple of poor starts to begin the season, Tillman has ripped off four straight quality efforts. His control hasn’t exactly been pin-point over those turns, with 10 walks in 26.2 innings pitched, but posting four wins against in his last four games against a couple of solid offensive squads (Toronto, Los Angeles, Oakland and Kansas City) will put any pitcher on our radar. In standard mixed leagues, Tillman is tough to run out there week in and week out thanks to his poor K-rate. but if you are looking for a temporary rotation fill-in or a spot starter, give the O a shot.

Hector Santiago (CHW) 12% owned: The 25-year-old Santiago flamed out early last season as the White Sox closer, but he’s put up solid numbers this year and now has a chance to stick in the White Sox injury riddled rotation. After spinning seven shutout frames against the Mets this week, Hector has his ERA down to 1.69 on the year with his only bad appearance being a four-run outing on April 27 in a long relief role. Since joining the rotation, Santiago has made two starts and struck out 14 batters over his first 12.1 innings pitched. Santiago showed a strong K-rate throughout the minors, consistently striking out close to 25% of the batters he faced. At the very least, Santiago is looking like a strong spot-start next week against the Twins with the potential to develop into solid rotation piece.

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