Fantasy Baseball 2012: Top 15 Waiver-Wire Pickups for Week 8

Jay ClemonsFantasy Sports Lead WriterMay 21, 2012

Fantasy Baseball 2012: Top 15 Waiver-Wire Pickups for Week 8

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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, changes that can be attributed to the waiver-wire graduations of Addison Reed, Tony Campana, Yonder Alonso, Wei-Yin Chen and Jonathan Lucroy (grand slam, seven RBI on May 20)—forgotten assets on draft day but now contributing pieces with their current teams.

    That's how it should be with this list: Here today, gone tomorrow.

    Enjoy the show!

15a: (SP) Trevor Bauer, Arizona Diamondbacks

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    To clarify, this will not be your last chance to acquire Bauer in roto or weekly leagues that don't allow a "minors" stash slot.

    But there's no time like the present in splurging for a 21-year-old Justin Verlander/Clayton Kershaw/Stephen Strasburg-esque prospect, who's been near-unhittable in his last 18 minor league starts: 16-2, 1.60 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 142 strikeouts in 112.2 innings. (Bauer was recently promoted to Triple-A Reno.)

    Given the Diamondbacks' patient approach with super-prospects (Justin Upton would be a rare exception), there's no guarantee Bauer will see a major league ballpark until Sept. 1. However, he could easily force Arizona's hand with a few more dominant starts in Reno.

15: (1B) Matt Adams, St. Louis Cardinals

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    Adams earned a big-league promotion from Lance Berkman's knee injury and subsequent visit to the disabled list, but he is more than worthy of the callup.

    Baseball America recognizes Adams as the Cardinals' pre-eminent power-hitting prospect...but only the club's ninth-best overall talent.

    Of course, Lance Lynn held the organization's No. 7 ranking last December, and Lynn has arguably been a top-10 pitcher in baseball this season. So, you never know when/where the breakouts will occur.

    Adams' conservative ranking reflects the fact he's only had four at-bats in the majors (one run, two hits).

    Like 99.99 percent of players in their first MLB go-round, they'll first be humbled before taking flight.

14: (1B) Matt LaPorta, Cleveland Indians

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    This is not our first rodeo with LaPorta.

    In years past, fantasy owners were tantalized by the hype that followed him at the University of Florida, or when he became the supposed crown jewel in the CC Sabathia trade with the Brewers in 2008.

    And each time, his stint in the majors ranged from ordinary to forgettable.

    Well, it's 2012, and the 27-year-old LaPorta (13 HRs, 28 RBI, 26 runs, .328 batting, 1.077 OPS at Triple-A Columbus) is once again shredding the opposition, positioning himself for yet another MLB promotion.

    So, why might this time be different? I can think of two reasons:

    1. Rangers outfielder Nelson Cruz continually raked in the minors until his age-27 season; after that, he became a full-time fixture with Texas and grew into one of fantasy's best power hitters.

    2. I refuse to turn my back on a corner infielder with a lifetime on-base percentage of .392 in the minors.

13: (SS) Brian Dozier, Minnesota Twins

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    Dozier (two HRs, .279 batting from May 7-20 with Minnesota) may not have garnered a spot in the Top 7 Rookie Hitters piece, but he still has 2B/SS-slot value in 12-team roto leagues.

    Would it be a stretch to characterize Dozier (minor league career: .305 batting, 45 steals in four seasons) as a reasonable facsimile of Oakland's Cliff Pennington? It's an apt comparison, and one that should be interesting for the fantasy owner who can choose between the pair in free agency.

    Here's a possible tiebreaker: Dozier has hit safely in 11 of his last 14 games.

12: (2B/SS) Freddy Galvis, Philadelphia Phillies

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    Galvis (13 RBI, .333 batting since May 5) was a late addition to the countdown, thanks to homers in consecutive games against the Red Sox last weekend.

    Admirably filling in for Chase Utley (early July return?) and currently riding a five-game hit streak, Galvis is worth keeping at the 2B/SS slot for another six weeks, with the potential for a longer stay if he keeps expanding his power.

    The upside to Galvis: At 22 and tangibly athletic, he has no defined ceiling as a real-world or fantasy producer.

    The downside: Fantasy owners can become quickly impatient with an interim prospect who posted a nearly 3-to-1 strikeout-to-walk rate in the minors.

11: (3B) Brandon Inge, Oakland A's

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    Inge, last week's prized possession off the waiver wire, has taken a noticeable step back—more out of injury (groin) than a general lack of faith in his power consistency.

    But then again, you couldn't blame fantasy owners for having ambivalent feelings about a maligned hitter with a penchant for long dry spells after quick bursts of fantasy excellence.

    Bottom line: You can never have enough power options at the corner-infield slots. So as long as he's getting starter reps in Oakland, Inge (four HRs, 16 RBI, .276 batting since May 5) should be on your waiver-wire radar.

    Just know there's a reason why the Tigers dropped him. Ryan Raburn was already the team representative for painfully low batting average.

10: (SP) Clayton Richard, San Diego Padres

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    This pick comes with a major caveat.

    In four home starts this season (spanning 27.1 innings), Richard has two wins, a 2.33 ERA and 22 strikeouts. In four road outings, he's allowed triple the damage in runs (21), with zero victories to boot.

    The message here: In daily leagues, Richard is a great play for home games...and a lousy one on the road.

    For what it's worth, Richard will likely have two road outings (Cardinals, Mets) before facing the Diamondbacks at home on June 1.

9: (OF) J.D. Martinez, Houston Astros

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    This photo is the perfect set-up for a Martinez discussion.

    Before the March drafts, Martinez was a sneaky-good commodity in the outfield, the supposed breakout performer of an Astros club that was slowly producing fantasy assets.

    On April 21, Martinez was hitting at a .340 clip with three homers and 13 RBI.

    But since then, Martinez (.158 batting average with zero homers) cannot find a ray of sunshine in a month-long hitting funk that has essentially vanquished his preseason fantasy cachet. As a result, many owners have quickly dropped Martinez, thinking he'll be hitting under-.200 from this point forward. (Not likely.)

    I wouldn't wish a .158 meltdown on anyone, but there is a positive to derive from it: Martinez, who flashed 18-homer, 90-RBI, 100-run, .340-batting potential in the minors (just two seasons ago), is one of the best rock-bottom assets you'll find in the marketplace.

8: (SP) Alex Cobb, Tampa Bay Rays

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    If Cobb pitched for the Royals, Pirates or Marlins, perhaps he wouldn't be getting run in this countdown.

    But when you're the new No. 5 starter for the Rays, and handpicked replacement for Jeff Niemann (broken leg) over Wade Davis and budding prospect Chris Archer, that's reason enough to believe in your fantasy worth as a starter.

    It also helps that Cobb, 24, had a productive outing in his seasonal debut (one win, six strikeouts against Atlanta). It brought more credibility to a sterling minor league record (35-28, 3.07 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 516/169 K-BB ratio) and his long-term projections as a solid No. 5 or 6 starter in 12-team fantasy leagues.

7: (SP) Christian Friedrich, Colorado Rockies

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    Before Saturday's shaky outing against the Mariners (four walks, eight runs allowed), Friedrich would have likely garnered a No. 2 ranking here. He was that dominant in his inaugural two starts (17 strikeouts, two runs allowed)—both on the road.

    But even the hottest of hotshot rookies can be humbled by Coors Field, and Friedrich is no different.

    Of course, there's nothing that prohibits Friedrich from bouncing back from Saturday's bloodletting with a big-time effort against the Reds on Friday.

    After all, Friedrich is an above-average play for 6-7 strikeouts...and the Rockies will be in Cincinnati for that game.

6: (SP) A.J. Burnett, Pittsburgh Pirates

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    There is nothing enigmatic about Burnett's fantasy status this season.

    His 12-hit, 12-run implosion on May 2 was a simple "bad day at the office" for a veteran pitcher who's had his share of random super-clunkers.

    But looking at the bigger picture, Burnett has allowed either zero or two runs in every other start. How many elite pitchers can boast that for at least five outings in 2012?

    Bottom line: It's highly likely that Burnett (2.45 ERA, 1.05 WHIP in his last three starts) will have at least two more deplorable starts in the next four months, but the numbers from the other 14 or so outings should be more than acceptable.

    If that's the case, what's the harm in taking a free-agent flier on Burnett...especially if you can predict when a meltdown may occur?

5: (SP) Felipe Paulino, Kansas City Royals

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    Consider Paulino to be the more advanced version of Clayton Richard, the No. 10 pitcher in this countdown. In two home starts, he has zero runs allowed and 15 strikeouts—numbers befitting of a fantasy ace...if Paulino performed exclusively at Kansas City's Kauffman Statdium.

    And when on the road—at least after one sample start—Paulino's rather nondescript (four runs allowed).

    Bottom line: With Danny Duffy done for the year (injury) and Luke Hochevar fighting for survival on essentially every start, the Royals are in desperate need of a real-world and fantasy ace.

    And even if Paulino (1-1, 1.93 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 21/5 K-BB) qualifies as a low-rent ace, it's still something to celebrate in Kansas City.

4: (1B) Justin Morneau, Minnesota Twins

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    The sooner people realize that Morneau (six combined RBI for May 17-18) has shown few ill effects from the concussion problems that curtailed his 2010 and '11 seasons, the sooner they'll realize he could be a top-20 first baseman by season's end.

    Forget about the .237 batting average. Watch any Morneau at-bat on DirecTV's Extra Innings package, and you'll see that he rarely gets fooled or cheated at the plate.

    He's pretty much dialed into opposing pitchers right now, and I would be shocked if his stats didn't improve from this point forward.

3: (OF) Dayan Viciedo, Chicago White Sox

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    Granted, it's a small size, but Viciedo has been tearing up the opposition since May 14, rolling for four homers, 10 RBI and a .444 batting average.

    Ordinarily, I'd look past this short burst of fantasy excellence. But Viciedo's power numbers are ahead of last year's paces, and the White Sox are apparently giving him every chance to succeed (or fail) in their lineup.

    As stated many times in this blog, there is no sweeter combination for potential breakouts than talent and opportunity.

2: (1B) Mitch Moreland, Texas Rangers

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    Moreland has been an on-again, off-again commodity with this countdown, a reflection of his hot-and-cold hitting streaks throughout the season.

    But the warm fronts seem to have more staying power than the cold ones, and in the last seven days, Moreland two homers and a .375 batting average.

    Could this be the start of something big? Who knows.

    But there are worse strategies than taking a flier on an entrenched starter with the Rangers—the same club that currently boasts 12 players with on-base percentages above. 300.

1: (C) J.P. Arencibia, Toronto Blue Jays

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    In this space last week, I recommended Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy (grand slam, seven RBI on May 20) to the masses, and that worked out well.

    So, perhaps it's time to stump for another backstop—especially one with five homers, 11 RBI, 11 runs and a .333 batting average since May 6.

    Simply put, Arencibia is one of the 12 best catchers in fantasy right now; and if you're not satisfied with the production from that slot, it might be time for a high-ceiling change.