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.
Former Astro raising Arizona with his scorching bat
Chris Johnson (3B) Arizona Diamondbacks
Johnson landed on last Monday's POW, shortly following the deal that sent him from Houston to Arizona. One week later, he's the most popular offensive waiver add in the Yahoo! game, thanks to the 1.291 OPS he's sporting after his first six games in a Diamondbacks uniform. Over the past two weeks, there hasn't been a better hot corner in the fantasy game. Despite his recent popularity, he can still be had in 65 percent of Yahoo! leagues. Diamondbacks GM Kevin Towers said, after the Johnson deal, that he thought the former Astro would enjoy the Arizona hitting environment and, so far, his comment has been spot on.
Y! % 35%
Y! rank 195
Energizer Brewer has been going strong for several weeks
Carlos Gomez (OF) Milwaukee Brewers
Another recent POW nominee (July 25), all Gomez has done since last he was lobbied for here is hit .333 with two home runs, six RBIs, 10 runs and three steals in 11 games. Gomez has now hit .252 with 17 home runs, 83 runs and 44 steals in his past 500 at bats for the Brewers, and his playing time is steadily on the rise. Gomez broke into the league as a 20-year-old, so although he seems like a has-been, he's only just now entering his prime (26). If you need speed, it's time to seriously reconsider this post-hyper.
Y! % 33%
Y! rank 214
"El Caballo" providing some horse power to the Miami offense
Carlos Lee (1/O) Miami Marlins
Perhaps the threat of another trade has sparked Lee into action, as the once revered "El Caballo" is riding an 11-game hitting streak, raising his average 22 points in the process. And while he has no home runs during his hitting streak, he has tallied a healthy amount of RBIs (10) batting regularly from the cleanup spot in front of a red-hot Jose Reyes. Lee closed out the '11 season strong (.850 OPS post-break) and, although he's currently in the zone for the Marlins, he could get a boost by landing in a better hitting environment if the rumors of Lee being an August waiver-trade candidate come to fruition.
Y! rank 330
M's second baseman should be more than "Dust in the wind" down the stretch
Dustin Ackley (2B) Seattle Mariners
Let's face it, there's not much to be excited about among the under-50 percent owned middle infield crowd, save Colorado's Josh Rutledge (who has been getting regular love in this space for a few weeks). Among the others, at least Ackley still comes with a "prized prospect" tag (he's still only 737 ABs into his MLB career) in addition to some recent solid production – .275, two home runs, seven RBIs, eight runs, one steal in his past 10 games. And as much as he's struggled this season, his 62 runs (third-best among MIs) and 12 steals (24th among MIs) are relevant. Of course, his .225 batting average is what has landed him on the waiver wire in many leagues. But, of course, you don't have to absorb his past performance when picking him up. And there's reasons to believe Ackley will continue his upward trend the rest of the way. His ratios (K%, BB%, GB%, FB%, LD%, etc) are all nearly identical to last season. The big discrepancy comes in his batting average on balls in play (BABIP), which is nearly 70 points lower this season (.339 to .270). With a little luck, he (and his fantasy owners) could enjoy a nice final two months of the '12 campaign.
Y! rank 283
Pirates offense enjoying a big "Mc" attack
Michael McKenry (C) Pittsburgh Pirates
When someone with little major league experience goes on a run like McKenry has – .323, 10 home runs, 27 RBIs in past 32 games – it's nice to be able to get affirmation from his pedigree. Unfortunately, there's not much prospect cachet to lean on here. Despite some solid minor league seasons – three consecutive seasons with an OPS of .828 or better spread out among the Single-A and Double-A levels – McKenry never advanced above a No. 9 ranking, according to Baseball America, among Colorado prospects (the organization he was drafted by before being traded to Boston for a non-prospect minor league pitcher and then Pittsburgh for a player to be named later). But, as mentioned, McKenry does have some solid minor league numbers, and he has a respectable plate approach. The rub here is that he hasn't been getting regular at bats for the Pirates, though it's not surprising to see that McKenry's ABs have increased every month while platoonmate Rod Barajas' ABs have decreased each month since peaking in May. I'm sure that has a lot to do with the fact that McKenry's OPS (.944) is more than 300 points higher than Barajas' (.632). McKenry's HR/FB rate (22.4) is going to come down a bit, but he has the fifth-highest Fly Ball Percentage among those with 150 plate appearances, so at least he's giving himself plenty of long-ball opportunities. If you are playing the catcher shuffle, you might as well see if you can catch whatever is left of this McKenry wave.
Quality has been Job 1 for this new Brave
Paul Maholm (SP) Atlanta Braves
Maholm's riding a streak of seven straight quality starts with one scoreless inning of relief work tucked into that stretch. In total, he's 5-1 with a 1.38 and a 40:11 K-to-BB rate in 52 innings of work since a 3.1 IP, 6 ER shellacking at Arizona on June 23 – it's worth mentioning that Maholm also had two quality starts directly preceding that rough outing against the Diamondbacks. Although not much of a strikeout pitcher, the ground-ball inducing Maholm is whiffing hitters at the highest rate of his career while issuing the second-fewest amount of walks (percentage-wise) of his career. And even though he earned his fair share of wins for the league's lowest-scoring team (Cubs), you have to feel good about his wins potential going to a team that has scored 100 runs more than the Cubs to this point.
Y! rank 175
Bazooka Joe gets an advantageous change of venue
Joe Blanton (SP) Los Angeles Dodgers
The MLB leader in K:BB ratio (5.71) was solid in his first outing for his new employer, getting a no-decision in a Dodgers' 7-6 win over the Cubs on Sunday – Blanton pitched six innings, allowing two earned runs. It was his fourth consecutive quality start, and sixth in his past seven starts. Pitching-friendly Dodger Stadium should help mitigate Blanton's fly-ball tendencies, and his next three starts come against offenses of varying degrees of impotence (Miami, Pittsburgh, San Francisco), making Blanton at least a nice test-drive option in in anything deeper than the default Yahoo! mixed league set-up.
Y! rank 232
Marlins closer role has been a committee of one for going on a month
Steve Cishek (RP) Miami Marlins
While Cishek may not carry an official "closer" title for the Marlins, he just happens to be the only Miami reliever to have recorded a save since Mike Dunn picked up the save against the Nationals on July 16. Cishek has the team's four saves since then, and he hasn't allowed an earned run since an interleague loss to Toronto on June 23rd. He's riding a streak of 15 straight scoreless innings, owning a 15:4 K-to-BB rate in that span. With New York Met Bobby Parnell appearing to have handed the ninth inning role back to Frank Francisco, you'd be hard-pressed to find a more attractive saves option than Cishek available in less than half of Yahoo! leagues, though Kansas City's Greg Holland might take issue with that assessment.
Y! rank 163
Other Week 19 Pickups: Josh Rutledge, Col, SS; Ryan Ludwick, Cin, OF; Domonic Brown, Phi, OF; Ben Revere, Min, OF; Rajai Davis, Tor, OF; Chipper Jones, Atl, 3B; Justin Morneau, Min, 1B; Cody Ross, Bos, OF; Denard Span, Min, OF; Matt Joyce, TB, OF; Michael Saunders, Sea, OF; Pedro Alvarez, Pit, 3B; Garrett Jones, Pit, 1/O; Michael Brantley, Cle, OF; CoCo Crisp, Oak, OF; Mike Olt, Tex, 3B; Ryan Doumit, Min, C/O; Wilin Rosario, Col, C; A.J. Ellis, LAD, C; Todd Frazier, Cin, 1/3/O; Jhonny Peralta, Det, SS; Angel Pagan, SF, OF; Brennan Boesch, Det, OF; Carlos Quentin, SDG, OF; Scott Hairston, NYM, OF; Alexi Amarista, SD, 2/S/O; Jean Segura, Mil, SS; Erick Aybar, LAA, SS; Dan Straily, Oak, SP; Mike Minor, Atl, SP; Jonathon Niese, NYM, SP; Wei-Yin Chen, Bal, SP; Kris Medlen, Atl, P; Jarrod Parker, Oak, SP; Scott Diamond, Min, SP; Marco Estrada, Mil, SP; Zach McAllister, Cle, SP; Vance Worley, Phi, SP; Jeff Samardzija, ChC, SP; Matt Harvey, NYM, SP; Carlos Villanueva, Tor, P; Alexi Ogando, Tex, P; Sergio Romo, SF, RP; David Hernandez, Ari, RP; Sean Marshall, Cin, RP; Jason Grilli, Pit, RP; Vinnie Pestano, Cle, RP; Jared Burton, Min, RP; Wilton Lopez, Hou, RP; Greg Holland, KC, RP
Nolan Arenado, 3B (Col) – While Colorado's top offensive prospect has fallen off the fast track to the majors, he has started to rediscover his power stroke in his past 10 games for Double-A Tulsa (.385, 7 doubles, 2 HRs)
Wil Myers, OF (KC) – KC's top prospect, and the minor league home run leader (33), has hit four home runs in his past nine games for Triple-A Omaha.
Alex Castellanos, 1B (LAD) – With 4 HRs (and a .448 BA) in his past 8 games, the Dodgers prospect now owns a PCL-high (min. 250 ABs) 1.114 OPS for Triple-A Albuquerque.
Zach Lutz, 3B (NYM) – The Mets prospect has a .450 BA, 4 doubles, 1 triple and 4 HRs in his past 11 games for Triple-A Buffalo.
Chris Archer, SP (TB) – Since the Rays demoted him back to Triple-A Durham at the end of June, Archer has allowed just 10 hits and 3 ER in 18.2 IP (1.45 ERA) for the Bulls.
Dylan Bundy, SP (Bal) – Arguably the top pitching prospect in the minors, Bundy is 3-1 with a 1.48 ERA and 33 Ks in his past 30.1 IP for Class-A Frederick.