Fantasy Baseball 2012: Top 15 Waiver-Wire Pickups for Week 13
The following slideshow touts the top 15 waiver-wire pickups right now, recognizing 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. These changes can be attributed to the waiver-wire graduations of Zack Cozart, Jacob Turner, Ryan Cook, Homer Bailey, Nick Markakis and the enigmatic Mark Reynolds—forgotten (or largely ignored) assets on draft day, but now contributing pieces with their current teams.
That's how it should be with this countdown: Here today, gone tomorrow.
Enjoy the show!
15: (SP) Dallas Keuchel, Houston Astros
Just to be on the safe side, let's not call too much attention to, or make any definitive judgments about Dallas Keuchel in 12-team leagues...at least until after his start against the Padres (June 28).
Yes, Keuchel (1.29 ERA, 1.07 WHIP) has surrendered just one run in each of his two outings with Houston and yes, he threw a complete gem against the Indians on Saturday.
But the 24-year-old southpaw is still an unknown (and perhaps, unreliable) asset in the fantasy realm, especially with good, but hardly mind-blowing stats from the minors (24-29, 3.85 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 314/99 K-BB ratio in 475 innings) to support his case.
Given the lukewarm endorsement, it's fair to ask why Keuchel (5.9 K/9 ratio) even made the list.
Well, the remaining waiver options comprise the usual suspects of veteran pitchers who look great one day...and horrid the next.
Plus, his form kind of resembles Wandy Rodriguez in the above shot and anything close to duplicating Wandy is OK with me.
14: (RP) Brayan Villarreal, Detroit Tigers
At the risk of sending mixed messages here, fantasy owners don't need to rush out and acquire Brayan Villarreal (3-1, 1.16 ERA, 0.86 WHIP, 34/10 K-BB ratio) in 12-team leagues, even if he's a no-risk, foolproof and potentially dynamic asset on the pitching side.
Let's start with the first half of that convoluted statement: As Detroit's No. 2 setup reliever (or No. 3 when Phil Coke is in manager Jim Leyland's good graces), the 25-year-old is a long shot to become the club's new closer, should Jose Valverde (sprained wrist) fall victim to a more serious injury or significant statistical decline (some might argue that's already happening).
But after Justin Verlander (complete-game victory on Sunday), Villarreal has arguably been the Tigers' second-best pitcher all season, racking up a K/9 clip of 13.1 and holding opposing hitters to a microscopic .128 batting average.
It also helps that Villarreal has major league experience from last season, mollifying the masses who believe a rookie shouldn't be closing for a playoff contender and possible World Series participant.
13: (SP) Travis Blackley, Oakland A's
As a Mariners prospect in Double-A ball back in 2003, the 20-year-old Blackley dominated the Texas League with a 17-3 record, 2.61 ERA, 1.15 WHIP and 144/62 K-BB ratio.
Eight years later, the Melbourne, Australia native and southpaw pitcher has just two major league victories on his resume.
Simply put, I have no clue what the long-term future holds for Blackley.
For all we know, Blackley might not have enough cachet to maintain a spot in the Athletics rotation into August. Or he may get swept up by Oakland's next wave of premium pitching for the majors—Brad Peacock, Sonny Gray, A.J. Cole and Ian Krol.
But as long as Blackley (2.89 ERA, 1.02 WHIP since June 10) gets the call every five days for a club in transition, I like his chances for per-outing marks of two walks, three or less runs and five or more strikeouts.
We're talking about respectable numbers for a No. 7 starter in 12-team leagues.
12: (SS) Andrelton Simmons, Atlanta Braves
In time, the 22-year-old Simmons (seasonal numbers: two homers, 10 RBI, .329 batting) may develop into a good source of power, relative to other major league shortstops.
But for his rookie campaign, I'm merely focused on his success with runs, steals, batting average and on-base percentage. As the .368 on-base percentage might attest, Simmons has the capacity to post respectable numbers in three categories from this point forward.
As noted in last week's shortstop rankings, there are other waiver-wire options with more seasoning than Simmons, who has less than 250 professional games under his belt.
But from a low-risk, high-reward perspective, Simmons (.356 batting since June 10) fits the bill of a potential difference-maker at the 2B/SS slot.
Time to roll the dice.
11: (SP) Chris Archer, Tampa Bay Rays
It's gotten to the point where any Rays pitcher that earns a spot in the rotation—for whatever reason—should be immediately coveted in the fantasy realm.
Archer is the latest example of that time-tested rationale.
As one of Tampa Bay's premium under-25 arms, Archer had a solid MLB debut against the Nationals on June 20, striking out seven while allowing only one run and three hits over six innings. By all accounts, he's a certifiable talent.
But a truer test comes this week against the Royals (away) and Tigers (home)—a pair of hot-and-cold teams that can make pregame adjustments to Archer, thanks to the almighty video gods.
Of equal importance, Archer must also prevent a high BB/9 ratio (5.2 in the minors) from rearing its ugly head in the bigs.
10: (SP) Dillon Gee, New York Mets
We've continually gone to the mat for Dillon Gee (5-5, 4.27 ERA, 1.24 WHIP) in this countdown and yet, he's still one of the most ignored assets in the majority of fantasy leagues.
In his last seven starts, Gee has surrendered three or less runs seven times; in that span, he's yielded three or less walks six times.
Since May 25 (covering six starts), Gee also has a stellar strikeout-to-walk ratio (40/12) that rivals or eclipses some of fantasy's most accomplished aces.
In other words, what will be your excuse for not grabbing Gee off waivers in the next few days? He's gone at least six innings in his last seven outings and the two seven-run meltdowns from April 23 and May 15 will have no effect on Gee's underrated stats.
From this point forward.
9: (SP) Clayton Richard, San Diego Padres
Was it just one month ago that Clayton Richard (5-7, 3.95 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 58/27 K-BB ratio) was considered a flight risk when pitching away from the spacious confines of San Diego's Petco Park?
In his last six starts, Richard has a 2.95 ERA, 1.29 WHIP and three victories and in his last eight outings, Richard has allowed three or less runs six times.
Put it all together and one could make the argument that Richard is the Padres' most effective starting pitcher.
In the fantasy realm, he's an ideal No. 5 starter for clubs that value strikeouts, wins and ERA.
8: (OF) J.D. Martinez, Houston Astros
It doesn't take much for me to endorse Martinez in this countdown.
On consecutive days (June 23/24), the outfielder notched one homer and two RBI, leading some fantasy gurus to wonder if that might lead to another two- or three-week burst of statistical glory.
On the other hand, there are no guarantees that Martinez (seasonal numbers: nine homers, .230 batting) will convert the latest weekend surge into sustainable fantasy stats. His prolonged slump in 2012 has halted a lot of the momentum cultivated from three amazing seasons in the minors.
Call me crazy, but I'm not giving up on Martinez (.316 batting since June 18) and his 20-homer, 90-RBI, .320-batting potential. There's too much talent, too many athletic gifts to deny him as a No. 6 or 7 outfielder in 12-team leagues.
7: (OF) Daniel Nava, Boston Red Sox
For reasons that cannot be fully explained or justified, Daniel Nava (2 HR, 25 RBI, 23 Runs, 3 Steals, .339 BA) is currently a free agent in the majority of MLB fantasy leagues.
Maybe that will change now that Kevin Youkilis has been traded to the White Sox, freeing up Will Middlebrooks to play third base full-time and Adrian Gonzalez to access his normal position (first base).
Or maybe that'll change once fantasy GMs get a load of Nava's prodigious numbers from a 15-day (.500 batting) and 30-day perspective (13 runs, 14 RBI, two steals, .347 batting).
Either way, Nava's standing as a No. 5 outfielder in 12-team leagues is secure—at least for those who are aware of his existence.
6: (OF) Quintin Berry, Detroit Tigers
The way I see it, fantasy owners have nothing to lose, and everything to gain, by employing Quintin Berry on their rosters.
Since June 10, Berry has one homer, four steals and a .355 batting average. In the last 30 days, the outfielder has 10 steals and a .306 batting average.
Bottom line: With Berry's versatility at all three outfield slots, along with Detroit's need to compensate for the OBP lethargy of Ryan Raburn (.226) and Delmon Young (.298), the Tigers will hopefully give the 27-year-old rookie every chance to succeed in the next few months.
The club's playoff fate may hinge on that leap of faith.
5: (SP/RP) Jose Quintana, Chicago White Sox
When originally crafting the waiver-wire gems list on Sunday morning, I had Quintana (2-1, 1.25 ERA, 0.97 WHIP) ranked as the No. 15 asset.
But after recording consecutive outings of eight innings, zero runs and zero walks, he deserves a spot among the elite talents of this countdown. At least for one glorious week.
(Incredibly, Quintana didn't register a decision in either flawless start.)
The career book on Quintana adds to his intrigue. In five-plus minor league seasons (spanning 300 innings), the White Sox product had a 19-11 record, 2.76 ERA, 1.17 WHIP and 334/129 K-BB ratio.
To be fair, only 50 of his 91 minors appearances came as a starter; but does that really matter? At any level, proficiency is proficiency, outs are outs and a 10.0 K/9 ratio holds up well under any light. It also helps that Quintana (now 23) was competing against similarly aged talent during that period.
Fast forward to the present: With John Danks' recent shoulder tear, Quintana (six runs allowed in his last 43.1 innings) presumably has a free and clear shot at a rotation slot.
4: (1B/OF) John Mayberry Jr., Philadelphia Phillies
Mayberry scores a high ranking here based on his superb 15-day numbers (four homers, 12 RBI, .293 batting) and dual-position versatility (1B/OF).
It has nothing to do with how his father, John Mayberry Sr., cracked a homer in the first major league game of my lifetime (July 5, 1980 at Tiger Stadium)—approximately eight feet from my seat.
Pleasant recollection aside, Mayberry has commendably flourished amid the Phillies' rash of hitting injuries this season. In the last 30 days, he's among Philly's top five in runs (10), doubles (six), homers (five), RBI (16), slugging (.542) and OPS (.822).
The only drawback: Mayberry is way too talented and athletically gifted to sport an on-base percentage below .300. He needs to become a little more selective at the plate, perhaps taking a cue from his red-hot teammate, Jim Thome (five homers, .310 batting, 1.110 OPS since June 10).
3: (1B) Ike Davis, New York Mets
For the fantasy owner who invested a 10th-round pick or higher Davis back in March, thinking his small sample of statistical goodness from 2011 (.302 BA, .383 OBP, .925 OPS) would carry over to this season, you're excused from this slide.
For everyone else, here's a golden chance to take a reasonable gamble on a productive power hitter who's due for a run of good luck in the coming days and months.
Since June 10, Davis is batting .333 with three homers and 15 RBI. In that span, he has offered a measure of positive fantasy production in all but one game where he logged at least three at-bats; and for a regular starter like Davis, that's quite significant.
Of equal importance, Davis boasts an excellent .368 on-base percentage and above-average walk-to-strikeout ratio (15/23) in the last 30 days.
That's two sound indicators of Davis' comfort level at the plate, understanding that he cannot erase the memory of a wretched April in one June afternoon.
2: (SP) Trevor Bauer, Arizona Diamondbacks
I'm grateful for small favors in the fantasy biz—like never having to use Trevor Bauer's UCLA-based picture again in waiver-wire countdowns, once a crop of new Bauer photos (in a Diamondbacks uniform) become available after Thursday's MLB debut.
But then again, now that Bauer (11-1, 2.19 ERA in 15 minor league starts this year) belongs to the MLB universe, there's no reason for him to be a waiver-wire gem past the next few days.
Even if Bauer struggles against the Braves, it still won't change the fact that, as can't-miss prospects go, he's still in the class of Clayton Kershaw, Justin Verlander or even Stephen Strasburg.
Bottom line: Don't let Bauer escape your free-agent clutches on Monday (if it's not too late already). At this stage, the 21-year-old dynamo is a plug-and-play No. 3 or 4 starter in fantasy circles.
1: (1B/OF) Brandon Belt, San Francisco Giants
Back in March, my 2012 expectations for Belt ran in concert with projections involving Mike Trout and Mike Moustakas.
In retrospect, that was a poor assessment of Belt's immediate impact, but it was a reasonable assumption of his hitting talents, which have been on public display recently (.385 batting since June 10).
Before Belt's 11-game hitting streak ended on Sunday, the dual-position talent (1B/OF) had accrued two steals, four homers, seven runs, 12 RBI and 15 hits in that span. Also, three of Belt's homers occurred on consecutive days (June 12-14)—and against left-handed pitching.
From my vantage point, it indicates that Belt (a .343 hitter in the minors with a .457 OBP) is finally ready to produce consistently strong numbers against MLB pitching.
Just like Mike Trout.
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