Waiver-wire digging a worthwhile exercise
For injury-stricken fantasy rosters, certain finds can help plug holes
Injuries are piling up around the Majors, and fantasy owners are being forced to the waiver wire for replacements. Fortunately, there are many reliable veterans and high-upside youngsters who are just waiting for mixed-league owners to give them a chance. Here are some of this week's best options:
Catcher, Derek Norris (A's): Since May 6, Norris has started seven of Oakland's nine games. Last season, he registered nine homers and five steals in just 264 at-bats. With regular playing time, Norris should be able to top 15 homers, and he can also chip in close to 10 steals.
First base, Juan Francisco (Blue Jays): Like his teammates Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion, Francisco is hitting for power. The lefty masher has gone deep four times in his past nine games, and while he will strike out often, he can help mixed-league owners as long as he is smacking homers.
Second base, Kolten Wong (Cardinals): Fantasy owners started the season with high hopes for Wong, but a slow start earned him a ticket back to Triple-A Memphis. He hit .344 with a pair of homers and five steals in 15 games in the Minors, and he's back for a second chance with the big club. Expect regular playing time and several steals.
Shortstop, Eduardo Escobar (Twins): After an undistinguished Minor League career, Escobar seemed to find his groove last season, when he hit .307 with a solid walk rate in Triple-A. He is hitting for average with Minnesota, and he could be a temporary asset in deep leagues despite his lack of power.
Third base, Chris Johnson (Braves): After hitting .321 last season, Johnson got off to a tough start in 2014 before turning things around in May. He has recorded seven multihit games this month, and his ability to hit line drives makes him a solid short-term injury replacement for mixed-league owners. Just don't look to Johnson for power.
Outfield, Gerardo Parra (D-backs): Parra is known for his defense, but his ability to help in four categories has quietly made him a useful asset in deep mixed leagues. Although some owners chase high-upside options, many wise owners -- especially in deeper leagues -- will pick up 12-15 homers and steals from Parra.
Outfield, Seth Smith (Padres): Smith is hitting a ridiculous .465 this month, which has earned him a larger share of playing time. Because he lacks notable power or speed, he is unlikely to help mixed-league owners all season, but a bat this hot cannot be ignored as a short-term starter.
Outfield, Eric Young Jr. (Mets): The speedster was supposed to become a fourth outfielder for the Mets, but he has started the past five games. Young has swiped 15 bases in 123 at-bats this season, and he notched 46 steals a year ago. Because of his speed, he should be active in all leagues as long as he is starting roughly five games per week.
Starter, Dallas Keuchel (Astros): It is time for mixed-league owners to give Keuchel more attention, as he has posted a 2.63 ERA and 1.02 WHIP across his past seven starts. He threw at least six innings in all of those outings, and he notched a shutout vs. Texas his last time out. Road starts next week against the Angels and Mariners seem manageable for this improving hurler.
Starter, Josh Beckett (Dodgers): Beckett is not all the way back to his glory days, but a 2.38 ERA and a 1.06 WHIP show that he can help mixed-league owners. The 33-year-old has tossed more than six innings in each of his past four starts, and upcoming road tilts against the Mets and Phillies should not overwhelm this veteran.
Starter, Rafael Montero (Mets): The 23-year-old was having a solid season in the hitter-friendly PCL before logging a quality start at Yankee Stadium in his Major League debut. A pair of home starts next week at pitcher-friendly Citi Field should present more favorable matchups.
Starter, Anthony DeSclafani (Marlins): The 24-year-old got the call to replace Jose Fernandez despite the fact that he had not pitched above the Double-A level. DeSclafani looked comfortable in the Majors in his first start, and he has a pair of attractive home outings next week against the Phillies and Mets.
Starter, Drew Pomeranz (A's): This former first-round Draft pick was rescued from Coors Field by the A's, who often have great success with hurlers. The southpaw has pitched well since joining Oakland's rotation, allowing seven baserunners in 10 scoreless innings across two starts. Pomeranz will act as a solid two-start option for Week 8, although the tilts will both come on the road at Tropicana Field and Rogers Centre.
Starter, Jake Odorizzi (Rays): Because of a 4.89 ERA and a 1.55 WHIP, Odorizzi is sitting on waivers in most leagues. A closer look, however, reveals that he has struck out 18 batters in 11 scoreless innings across his past two starts. Odorizzi will work at pitcher-friendly Tropicana Field against the A's and Red Sox next week.
Reliever, Bryan Shaw (Indians): When John Axford lost his closer's job, fantasy owners flocked to add Cody Allen. But it may be Shaw who picks up the majority of saves in the coming weeks. The 26-year-old can match Allen in most statistical areas, and he has a slight advantage in terms of age and Major League experience.
Reliever, Hector Rondon (Cubs): With Pedro Strop on the DL, the Cubs have few options for the ninth inning. Rondon owns a 1.47 ERA, a 1.04 WHIP and a solid 21-to-6 strikeout-to-walk ratio. The Cubs may not give him many leads to protect, but Rondon should help deep-league owners with a save or two per week.
Reliever, Joe Smith (Angels): When Halos manager Mike Scioscia put Ernesto Frieri back into the ninth-inning picture, many fantasy owners dropped Smith. That decision could present a buying opportunity for others, as Smith has picked up a pair of saves since May 10. Frieri's weakness for giving up homers could cause him to fall behind Smith in this closer competition at any point in the coming weeks.