This week, Yahoo! Sports fantasy expert Brandon Funston looks at eight intriguing fantasy baseball players still available on the waiver wire in more than half of Yahoo! fantasy leagues.
This Tribe member has been on an offensive quest the past few weeks
Michael Brantley (OF) Cleveland Indians
Brantley is the highest-ranked offensive player (No. 112) not owned in more than half of Yahoo! leagues. His numbers don't jump off the page at you, but he's been a plus contributor in all but the HR category. And, he's caught hellfire in his past 14 games – .479, 3 HR, 10 RBIs, 8 R, 1 SB. Brantley is starting to flash the strong contact skills (solid 21.4 LineDrive%; excellent 9.2 Strikeout%) that he showed at the minor league levels, when he was regularly turning out .300 batting averages. He has 30-SB upside, but he tends to run hot and cold on the base paths, so don't bet on more than another 10 swipes. Regardless, there's still plenty here for fantasy owners to sink their teeth into.
Y! % 33%
Y! rank 112
Padres mighty mouse making Frieri deal look less one-sided
Alexi Amarista (2B) San Diego Padres
Like Brantley, here's another "makes a lot of contact" type. And, the main piece (for the Padres) in the Ernesto Frieri deal earlier this season has been making particularly good contact this past month – ranked No. 70 in the Yahoo! game in that span thanks in large part to a .349 batting average. Amarista doesn't have home run power (despite what the 3-HR outburst in June might make you think), but he can drive the ball into the gap and lean on his solid speed for extra bases. The Padres are protecting him by sitting him against tough southpaws, but they have moved him up to the top the order of late, which will help in the Runs department. With shortstop and outfield eligibility soon to come, Amarista is not a bad utility option for deep leaguers.
Y! rank 842
Minor league journeyman finding success in South Florida
Justin Ruggiano (OF) Miami Marlins
As a 30-year-old former 25th-round draft choice who washed out of Tampa Bay after three partial seasons in which he combined for a .621 OPS, you can't exactly call Ruggiano a post-hype sleeper. There was never any hype to begin with. But he does own a career minor league OPS mark of .868 to go with a 20/20 skill set. Strikeouts have long been been an issue, but his K/BB rate this season (a combined 48/30 in 74 games split between Miami and Triple-A) shows a very nice step in the right direction. Since June 1, Ruggiano is a top 40 fantasy offensive contributor, with a .382 batting average in that span. His lofty .459 BABIP is unsustainable, obviously, but given his plate discipline improvements, steady playing time in the middle of the Marlins order and power/speed combo, Ruggiano is definitely worth taking a flyer on.
Y! rank 462
Salvador has been surreal at the plate for KC since return from injury
Salvador Perez (C) Kansas City Royals
Perez is hitting .373 in his first 16 games for the Royals since returning from a preseason knee surgery in late June. Add this to the 39 game debut he made with the Royals in '11 and you have a .343 batting average (and .889 OPS) in his first 55 games in the majors. Impressive stuff. Perez makes good contact (a theme this week, apparently) and has long showed an ability to hit for average in the minors. But power was never part of the equation. That said, he has hit four home runs in his limited action this season for KC, and he passes the power eye test (6-foot-3, 230 pounds), so it certainly wouldn't be surprising if he started to turn a corner in the power department. But he still hits a lot of ground balls and fantasy owners should be looking at Perez for his batting average upside, treating the the rest as gravy. Over the past two weeks, only Brian McCann, Joe Mauer and Carlos Ruiz have been better fantasy backstops.
Y! % 34%
Y! rank 957
Per usual, Young finds his groove around the break
Delmon Young (OF) Detroit Tigers
It's not out of character for Young to come alive in July. Quite the contrary, as he owns a career .898 OPS mark for the month. Right on schedule, Young is the No. 34 player in the Yahoo! game for the past two weeks, thanks to a four-game home run streak leading into the All-Star break. No doubt, Young has his issues both on and off the field, but he's a career .286 hitter batting fifth in a lineup that features three players in front of him (Austin Jackson, Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder) that could/should hit over .300. There's no denying the run production richness of the Young's situation. If he's available in your league, give him at least a test drive for the rest of the month
Y! % 29%
Y! rank 300
Jays up-and-down slugger hitting on all cylinders since return
Adam Lind (1B) Toronto Blue Jays
I suggested Lind in the last POW before the All-Star break, but he's only gained 4 percent in ownership popularity since then despite continuing to dig himself out of an early-season slump that prompted a mid-May demotion. Since rejoining the Jays in late June, Lind has hit .327 with four home runs and 14 RBIs in 16 games. No doubt, Lind struggles against lefties and is slump prone, but he's a proven power producer (average of 28 home runs the past three seasons) who is filling the No. 5 spot in an offense that is No. 3 in the league in scoring. That should speak for itself.
Y! % 28%
Y! rank 917
Down the stretch, let slip this dog of war
Gavin Floyd (SP) Chicago White Sox
Floyd has a history of holding up well in the second half, where his career ERA is three-fourths of a run better than his pre-AS break mark. The big righty has picked things up considerably this past month, ranking as a top 20 starter over that span – in three of his past four starts, he's pitched at least six innings without surrendering a run. Floyd is an innings eater for a first-place squad, a good recipe for wins. And he's enjoying the best K/9 rate of his career, ranking 40th among starters with a 7.95 mark. Floyd skipped his latest turn in the rotation because of forearm tightness, but it was deemed to be a non-issue and he'll be back in the mix later this week.
Y! rank 297
Cishek looks like the biggest fish in the Marlins' pen at the moment
Steve Cishek (RP) Miami Marlins
Cishek picked up the first save under Miami's new closer-by-committee plan, pitching a perfect final 1.2 innings on Saturday to close out a 2-1 victory over the Nats on Saturday. Considering that hired gun Heath Bell has a 6.56 ERA and a league-high six blown saves, there's a decent chance that Cishek, who hasn't allowed a walk or a run in his past eight innings covering eight appearances, could quickly ascend to the lead chair of this committee – especially after Juan Carlos Oviedo (Leo Nunez) is likely out for a while with a sprained elbow. Averaging right at a K-per-IP with a .216 BAA for his career, Cishek has the goods to be successful in a closer role, though his issues against left-handed hitters may prevent him from being a true be-all, end-all ninth inning option. Still, he's definitely worth a roster spot even in a part-time role.
Y! rank 187
Other Week 16 Pickups: Pedro Alvarez, Pit, 3B; Chipper Jones, Atl, 3B; Cody Ross, Bos, OF; Carlos Quentin, SDG, OF; Stephen Drew, Ari, SS; Ben Revere, Min, OF; Brandon Belt, SF, 1/O; Michael Saunders, Sea, OF; Norichika Aoki, Mil, OF; CoCo Crisp, Oak, OF; Ike Davis, NYM, 1B; Garrett Jones, Pit, 1/O; Dayan Viciedo, ChW, OF; Casey McGehee, Pit, 1/3; Carlos Lee, Hou, OF; Rajai Davis, Tor, OF; J.D. Martinez, Hou, OF; David Murphy, Tex, OF; Yasmani Grandal, SD, C; Ryan Doumit, Min, C; Erick Aybar, LAA, SS; Marco Scutaro, 2B/SS, Col; Danny Espinosa, Was, 2B; Gordon Beckham, ChW, 2B; Michael Fiers, Mil, SP; Francisco Liriano, Min, SP; Tommy Milone, Oak, SP; Trevor Bauer; Ari, SP; Travis Wood, ChC, SP; Ben Sheets, Atl, SP; Felix Doubront, Bos, SP; Franklin Morales, Bos, P; Mike Leake, Cin, SP; Carlos Villanueva, Tor, P; Trevor Bauer, Ari, SP; Sergio Romo, SF, RP; David Hernandez, Ari, RP; Bobby Parnell, NYM, RP
Michael Taylor, OF (Oak) – The No. 6 prospect for '12, according to Baseball America, is hitting a scorching .395 with 4 HRs, 1 3B and 4 2Bs in his past 10 games for Triple-A Sacramento.
Nate McLouth, OF (Bal) – The 30-year-old vet, now with the O's, is hitting .326 with 6 HRs in his past 11 games for Triple-A Norfolk.
Hunter Morris, 1B (Mil) – The Brewers top corner infield prospect has hit .425 with 3 2Bs, 2 3Bs and 4 HRs in his past 10 games for Double-A Huntsville.
Nick Franklin, SS (Sea) – The M's potential '13 opening day SS is starting to hit for Triple-A Tacoma, sporting a .976 with a HR, 3B, 4 2Bs and 2 SBs in his past 10 games.
Daniel Straily, SP (Oak) – The A's pitching prospect has served notice since his arrival in Triple-A Sacramento in mid-June, going 3-2 with a 1.09 ERA and a 46:11 K-to-BB ratio in his first five starts.
Matt Harvey, SP (NYM) – Expected to make his MLB debut this week, Harvey has a 1.87 ERA and a 28:7 K-to-BB ratio in his past for starts for Triple-A Buffalo.