Enticing waiver-wire options after first week
It took just a few games for the best-laid plans of fantasy owners to come unraveled. Between stressful stoppers, struggling starters and sleeping sluggers, the first week of the fantasy baseball season has been anything but boring. For those who are in need of an immediate change, here are some mixed-league options on the waiver wire to consider.
Catcher, Yan Gomes (Indians): The Tribe's new starting catcher is sitting on waivers in many leagues, despite hitting .294 with 11 homers last season. He is in line for a big boost in playing time, and an unproductive opening series in Oakland is no reason to doubt Gomes' breakout potential.
First base, Justin Morneau (Rockies): Morneau's production has dropped substantially over the past three seasons, but fantasy owners may be surprised to know that the Canadian slugger is just 32 years old. He went 5-for-13 in the opening series in Miami, and could knock some balls over the fence once he gets to Coors Field.
Second base, Emilio Bonifacio (Cubs): The speedster has been getting early-season work at the leadoff spot, and a full season in that role could net 80 runs and 45 steals. His long-term playing time is anything but secure, but Bonifacio is a terrific short-term addition because of his ability to rack up steals in bunches.
Shortstop, Chris Owings (D-backs): After hitting .330 with 12 homers and 20 steals in Triple-A last season, Owings should be one of the most enticing rookies for fantasy owners to follow. Surprisingly, he is still sitting on the waiver wire in most leagues, even after beating out Didi Gregorius for the starting shortstop job. Owings struggles to collect free passes, but he should be able to hit for average and help in all five standard categories.
Third base, Chris Johnson (Braves): Let's not make this complicated: Johnson hit .321 last season, and the Braves have inserted him in the cleanup spot. That's reason enough to pluck him off waivers.
Outfielder, Kole Calhoun (Angels): A slow start has led many owners to push Calhoun back to the waiver wire in many mixed leagues. But smart fantasy owners will recognize that he was a terrific hitter in the Minors, and the 26-year-old deserves a much longer leash.
Outfielder, Angel Pagan (Giants): Pagan struggled with injuries last season, but he is a consistent, productive hitter who can also steal plenty of bases when healthy. The 32-year-old has started 2014 hot, and wise fantasy owners will ride this streak as long as Pagan can stay healthy.
Outfielder, Nick Castellanos (Tigers): Castellanos is listed as an outfielder in most leagues, but he will soon gain eligibility at third base, which will give him added value. The youngster hit well in Spring Training, and he should have plenty of RBI chances at the tail end of the middle of Detroit's batting order.
Starter, Scott Kazmir (A's): Kazmir has not gotten much love from fantasy owners despite striking out five in 7 1/3 shutout innings in his first start. There are obvious concerns about long-term health when it comes to Kazmir, but owners should be worried only about the coming weeks when it comes to the back end of the rotation. In many mixed leagues, Kazmir is the best short-term option on the waiver wire.
Starter, James Paxton (Mariners): His sterling 2013 Major League results (24 innings, 1.50 ERA, 21 strikeouts) and his outstanding Week 1 outing (seven scoreless innings, nine whiffs) is enough reason to take a chance on this high-upside arm. It also does not hurt that Paxton is scheduled to make a pair of home starts in the coming week.
Starter, Dillon Gee (Mets): In the second half of 2013, Gee posted a 2.74 ERA and walked just 15 batters in 88 2/3 innings. During his Opening Day start, he held the Nationals to two runs over six innings, before he gave up two more in the seventh frame, with a little help from the Mets' shaky bullpen. As long as Gee continues to exhibit elite control, he will be a useful mixed-league arm.
Starter, Taijuan Walker (Mariners): Despite Paxton's early-season success, Walker remains the Mariners' most touted pitching prospect. The youngster is quickly moving along the comeback trail, and he should be in the Major League rotation later this month. This is the perfect time to stash this talented youngster in a DL slot.
Starter, Mark Buehrle (Blue Jays): Buehrle is coming off a dominant 11-strikeout performance against the Rays, and he lines up for two starts in the coming week. One of those games will come against the youthful Astros lineup, and Buehrle should be just crafty enough to keep Houston's young hitters off balance.
Reliever, Francisco Rodriguez (Brewers): Milwaukee manager Ron Roenicke claims that he will go back to Jim Henderson at some point, but Rodriguez should be a source of saves for at least another week. Just 32, Rodriguez posted a 2.70 ERA last season and he has plenty of ninth-inning experience. It wouldn't be crazy for the Brewers to stick with K-Rod for the long haul and use Henderson as a hard-throwing setup man.
Reliever, Sergio Santos (Blue Jays): The 30-year-old was anointed as the temporary closer when Casey Janssen landed on the DL, and Janssen is likely a few weeks away from a return. Many fantasy owners had reason to pause on Santos when Brett Cecil recorded a save on Wednesday, but a closer look at the box score shows that manager John Gibbons made a smart call in sending a southpaw out to finish the game against Rays lefty Matt Joyce. Santos should record almost all of the Blue Jays' saves in April.
Reliever, Jose Valverde (Mets): The 36-year-old posted a 5.59 ERA last season, so there are obvious reasons to leave him on the waiver wire. But Valverde owns 286 career saves, and the Mets have few other ninth-inning options in their current bullpen. At the start of last season, few fantasy owners believed in Jose Veras and Kevin Gregg, but the pair combined for 35 first-half saves. Even if he cannot hold the job all season, Valverde could help fantasy owners in the coming weeks.
Reliever, Jonathan Broxton (Reds): Broxton is expected to come off the 15-day DL next week, and manager Bryan Price has already said that the experienced closer will handle ninth-inning duties until Aroldis Chapman returns. Rather than chasing closers such as Matt Lindstrom, who have already blown saves, a smarter move for fantasy owners may be to quietly sneak Broxton onto the bench, and then be ready to insert him into the lineup in a few days.