Fantasy Baseball 2012: Top 15 Waiver-Wire Pickups for Week 3

Jay ClemonsFantasy Sports Lead WriterApril 17, 2012

Fantasy Baseball 2012: Top 15 Waiver-Wire Pickups for Week 3

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    The following slideshow touts the top 15 waiver-wire pickups right now, a countdown of the best free agents from the majority of 12-team roto leagues. For the most part, this list rewards players who have already fostered productive starts to the 2012 season.

    Savvy readers will notice the rankings are different from last week's offering; and that can be attributed to the waiver-wire graduations of Zack Cozart, Jordan Schafer, Henry Rodriguez, Danny Duffy and Lance Lynn—forgotten assets on draft day but now invaluable pieces with their current teams. And that's how it should be with this list: Here today, gone tomorrow.

    Enjoy the show!

15: (SP) Michael Pineda, New York Yankees

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    Pineda (15-day DL) has had zero impact with the Yankees to date, which explains why I couldn't find a good wide action shot of him wearing pinstripes.

    That aside, Pineda has reportedly begun throwing again, testing his sore shoulder, and could rejoin the parent club—after a few rehab starts—sometime in mid-May.

    When healthy, Pineda (nine wins, 3.74 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 173 strikeouts with Seattle last year) is a top-30 pitching asset and certainly worth a free-agent flier in mixed and AL-only leagues that have "DL" slots. He's the ultimate stashee for a June-September run.

14: (2B/SS/3B) Robert Andino, Baltimore Orioles

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    Andino (.324 batting, one HR, five RBI, four runs) has enjoyed a strong start for the hot-and-cold Orioles, but his real value lies with the three-position versatility in the infield (2B/3B/SS).

    It's hard to put a price on that, within reason, for AL-only leagues.

    There's also a security angle with Andino, since he'll probably be Baltimore's starting second baseman for the duration of the season—barring a surprising return from former fantasy dynamo Brian Roberts.

13: (SP) Drew Pomeranz, Colorado Rockies

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    Pomeranz got roughed up in his 2012 debut last week (10.38 ERA, 2.54 WHIP, .409 opponents' batting average), but that's not sufficient cause for jumping off the high-profile rookie's bandwagon in mid-April.

    There's a reason why Pomeranz was Colorado's most coveted prize from the Ubaldo Jimenez trade to Cleveland last summer. He has the tools, physical makeup, multi-pitch repertoire, and deceptive savvy to succeed at Coors Field in the long run.

    Pomeranz's Cactus League numbers are a small-sample testament to that: 3-0, 11/4 K-BB, 0.53 ERA and 0.88 WHIP.

12: (SP) Barry Zito, San Francisco Giants

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    Six long years have passed since Zito last had fantasy relevance. As a result, no one would blame you for skipping to the next slide.

    For those sticking around, though, Zito (1-0, 1.13 ERA, 0.69 WHIP, 8/1 K-BB) could be a sneaky-good fixture on your fantasy squad. The Giants' hitting lineup is improved, the club's defense remains solid, and Zito has found a way to avoid walks in his first two starts.

    Granted, Zito is nothing more than a No. 6 starter in fantasy circles, but he's also a decent play for 11 wins and 140 strikeouts.

11: (OF) Nolan Reimold, Baltimore Orioles

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    It's easy to dismiss Reimold's fantasy viability over a sustained period, given his track record of middling production in runs, RBI and batting average. But in short bursts, Reimold (.353 batting, three HRs, six RBI, six runs, one steal) serves a purpose in deeper mixed leagues and AL-only ventures.

    There are also two other factors in Reimold's favor—his age (28) and the likelihood of collecting 25 at-bats per week all season (barring injury).

    Baltimore's farm system may be teeming with potential studs in their teens and early 20s, but the Orioles' veteran outfield of Reimold, Adam Jones and Nick Markakis remains an entrenched bunch.

10: (SP) Kyle Drabek, Toronto Blue Jays

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    If Drabek (2-0, 1.42 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 10/4 K-BB) had posted these scintillating numbers last year, it might have conformed to all the hype that followed him throughout the 2011 spring training.

    Instead, there's a level of apprehension with those who've been burned by Drabek's uneven development on the road to Toronto, begging two questions:

    Was the 24-year-old Drabek not allowed some time to adjust to MLB hitters in his first two seasons? And if he had the look of a future fantasy ace just 13 months ago, what has really changed since then?

    Drabek has plenty of room for growth here, and fantasy owners should happily oblige his status as a No. 6 starter.

9: (3B) Kyle Seager, Seattle Mariners

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    The rookie Seager (one HR, six RBI, four runs, one steal, .286 batting) has made the most of his opportunity with the up-and-coming Mariners, but there can be no judgments about the kid until he gets 100 at-bats under his belt (first week of May).

    This ranking goes deeper than a few games against the Oakland A's: In 2010, Seager scored 126 runs and batted .345 in just 135 games of Single-A ball. He's a potential 10-year star.

8: (SP) Jeff Samardzija, Chicago Cubs

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    As stated last week, Samardzija (2-0, 3.95 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 13/1 K-BB) could evolve into the National League version of Neftali Feliz, a big-armed asset who can handle the stealth conversion from reliever to starter.

    The only significant hangup lies with walks, as in the Cubs right-hander hasn't posted a 2-to-1 K/BB ratio in three years (Triple-A Iowa); and his pro track record, on the whole, has been shaky in that realm.

    But so far, so good for Samardzija. Perhaps he's finally found the ideal rhythm in-between pitches. Or maybe his concentration level in the majors is at an all-time high.

7: (3B) Chris Johnson, Houston Astros

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    Johnson (.349 batting, four RBI, four runs, two steals) has been a quiet force for the Astros this season, leading or sharing the club lead in hits, doubles and triples.

    From a numbers and opportunity standpoint, the 27-year-old Johnson can replicate his modest 2010 production in homers (11) and batting average (.308). After all, he's in the prime of his career, and Houston doesn't have many premium third-base prospects coming up the pipeline—(excluding Brett Wallace, sort of).

    For 12-teamers, Johnson fits well into the "UTIL" or "1B/3B" slots, as long as he's complementing elite power at the corner spots.

6: (SP) Jake Arrieta, Baltimore Orioles

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    Arrieta's three-start track record (1-0, 2.66 ERA, 0.89 WHIP, 16/4 K-BB) warranted this lofty ranking, but I like his season-long potential as the Orioles' ace, as well.

    Speaking of which, at the time of this writing, four Baltimore starters (Arrieta, Jason Hammel, Wei-Yin Chen, Tommy Hunter) have sub-3.20 ERAs after two weeks, which seems like light-years of progress for a rotation that ranked 30th in ERA last year (4.89). Perhaps more baffling, Brian Matusz (8.38 ERA, 2.17 WHIP) is currently the red-headed stepchild of the staff.

    As for Arrieta, it wouldn't be a stretch for him to rack up 12 wins, a 3.86 ERA, 1.29 WHIP and 145 strikeouts by season's end.

5: (OF) Cody Ross, Boston Red Sox

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    For the 2008-09 seasons with the Marlins, Ross combined for 46 homers, 163 RBI and 132 runs. Given his age (31) and the cozy dimensions of Fenway Park, he has a chance to replicate the numbers of years past—at least on a per-game basis.

    Since the Red Sox are already thin with starting pitching and the bullpen, I doubt club execs will make a substantial trade for an outfielder in Jacoby Ellsbury's absence (through mid-June).

    The team's best minor-league option may be Bryce Brentz, but even that seems like a step down from Ross (eight RBI, five runs, .273 batting this year) and his 22-homer potential.

4: (OF) Jon Jay, St. Louis Cardinals

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    There's little about Jay's pro track record or 2012 stats (.344 batting, two HRs, four RBI, four runs, one steal) that immediately screams 'must-have' in fantasy circles. But that's also the beauty of his prospects in 12-team leagues.

    If you're in need of an underrated No. 5 or 6 outfielder, rock-solid assets like Jay or Cody Ross will always be there for intrepid owners.

    They get overlooked on the basis of upside vs. reality; they routinely get snubbed for outfield prospects who are blessed with amazing speed (but never get on base) or tremendous power (but routinely swing at pitches outside the strike zone).

    Bottom line: Jay nicely represents the brigade of comfortable old shoes. He's proof that fantasy man (or woman) cannot survive on upside alone when building a championship contender.

3: (SP) Rick Porcello, Detroit Tigers

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    From an ERA, wins and WHIP standpoint, the 23-year-old Porcello (one win, 1.84 ERA, 0.86 WHIP) has been electric in his opening two starts.

    But to make a certifiable leap into the next strata of fantasy pitchers, Porcello must improve his strikeouts in Year 4, targeting 5.5 Ks per game over 28-30 starts.

    Porcello was already a lock for 13-16 victories heading into the spring; but a jump to 150-160 strikeouts would really cement his standing as top-40 asset.

2: (SP) Matt Harrison, Texas Rangers

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    It's shocking to see Harrison (2-0, 0.64 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 7/4 K-BB) among the unwanted masses in the majority of 12-team leagues. Was his 2011 production (14 wins, 3.39 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 126 strikeouts) not good enough to merit a Round 22/23 pick last month?

    For Harrison's sake and for my own personal sanity, I hope the Rangers southpaw doesn't make this list next week. Pitchers with 17-win and sub-3.40 ERA potential should never be without a dance partner in standard roto leagues.

1: (OF) Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

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    Barring any unforeseen events, Trout will remain the No. 1 asset in this countdown until he earns a permanent promotion to the Angels' parent club. His power-speed combination belongs on the big stage.

    For his post-illness, extended-rehab stay in Triple-A ball (Salt Lake City), the 20-year-old outfielder is currently batting .420 (with one HR, four steals, six RBI).

    Even better, if Trout should earn a call-up to Anaheim sometime around Memorial Day, he's an interesting play for 20 homers and 20 steals in just a four-month window.

    And baseball hasn't seen midseason production like that from a rookie since Ryan Braun in 2007.