Fantasy Baseball 2012: Top 10 Waiver-Wire Pickups for Week 17
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The following slideshow touts the top 10 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 Michael Fiers, Salvador Perez, Trevor Bauer, Travis Blackley and Casey McGehee—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!
10. (SS) Josh Rutledge, Colorado Rockies
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This must be an odd time for Josh Rutledge to make his initial mark in the majors.
Despite a .353 batting average with three steals, the 23-year-old infielder has no shot of supplanting Troy Tulowitzki as the long-term shortstop in Colorado. He also belongs to a franchise that is awash in second-base prospects (including veterans Marco Scutaro and Michael Cuddyer).
That aside, Rutledge has forged an impressive start to his MLB career, racking up four multiple-hit efforts in his first nine games while collecting at least one run, steal or RBI eight times.
Bottom line: Rutledge (a .320 career hitter in the minors) deserves waiver-wire consideration based on a strong start and tenuous depth at fantasy shortstop.
For the long term, he may develop into a 20-homer/20-steal threat...just like Troy Tulowitzki in his early to mid-20s.
9. (SP) Luis Mendoza, Kansas City Royals
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There's plenty to love about Luis Mendoza (4-6, 4.31 ERA, 1.48 WHIP) in the fantasy realm, even if he's seldom a lock for zero runs and/or nine strikeouts.
In his last 10 starts, Mendoza has allowed three or less runs nine times, and in that span, he yielded three or less walks nine times as well.
Of his last seven outings (all starts), Mendoza also has per-game averages of five strikeouts and 6.1 innings pitched.
These are the calling-card numbers of a No. 7 starting pitcher in 12-team leagues; it also helps that Kansas City needs him to perform well every fifth day.
8. (SP) Cole De Vries, Minnesota Twins
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Even with a seven-run implosion against the scalding-hot Athletics on July 7, Cole De Vries still has a 3.81 ERA, 0.96 WHIP and sublime walk-to-strikeout ratio (20/3) in the last 30 days.
Throw in De Vries allowing just three runs or less in five of his last seven starts, and it's easy to see why he gets favored-nation status among a crop of middling free-agent pitchers.
On the flip side, De Vries is a 27-year-old rookie in the bigs, and his minor league track record (34-43, 4.03 ERA, 1.39 WHIP, 515/192 K/BB) doesn't scream much from an "upside" point of view.
7. (OF) Rajai Davis, Toronto Blue Jays
Rajai Davis was a late addition to the countdown, on the strength of a strong Sunday performance against Jon Lester and the Red Sox (one homer, two RBI, three hits, three runs).
Even before Sunday's reckoning, though, Davis would have a been keen acquisition in 12-team leagues, especially with owners needing one more difference-maker to capture the steals title.
In his last nine games, Davis has five steals and seven runs, and with Toronto's power quartet of Brett Lawrie, Adam Lind, Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista reconnecting sometime next week (after Bautista comes off the DL), Rajai's runs/steals trend should continue for the final two months.
6. (1B/DH) Adam Lind, Toronto Blue Jays
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This countdown endorsement comes with a caveat:
Yes, Adam Lind has strong marks in the 15-day (one homer, eight RBI, .382 batting average) and 30-day windows (five homers, 16 RBI, .319 batting average), but his season-long numbers are a little troubling.
For starters, Lind only has five games of multiple RBI in 2012. His monthly maximum of three homers occurred in July, and from April 4 to June 30, he scored just 11 total runs.
Put it all together, and it's easy to wonder, what will become of Lind's fantasy standing...once the steady string of singles comes to a halt?
5. (SP) Chad Billingsley, Los Angeles Dodgers
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Forget that Chad Billingsley (4-9, 4.30 ERA, 1.40 WHIP) has incurred five straight losses or that he has four outings of four runs or more allowed since May 20.
In the fantasy realm, he's still a name-brand talent who deserves props for the following.
1. In his last 10 outings, Billingsley tallied seven-plus strikeouts six times, and in that span, he yielded three or less walks nine times.
2. In the month of April (when the Dodgers had Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier in the every-day lineup), Billingsley had a 2-1 record, 2.64 ERA, 0.96 WHIP and 25 strikeouts.
3. From 2006 to 2011, Billingsley had a 3.56 career ERA for the months of August and September.
4. (RP) Francisco Cordero, Houston Astros
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Here's the rub of penning a Monday column of waiver-wire picks:
On Saturday, the Astros announced that recent acquisition Francisco Cordero (pictured in Blue Jays garb) would become the club's new closer in the wake of Brett Myers being dealt to the White Sox.
That's a 48-hour window for savvy fantasy GMs to go out and snag another closer for the stretch run, while leaving the Monday morning lineup-changers to wonder aloud, Why did Chicago even trade for Brett Myers, if Addison Reed is still the closer? And when did Houston acquire Francisco Cordero?
3. (C) Jonathan Lucroy, Milwaukee Brewers
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It's a shame that Jonathan Lucroy's season got curtailed by a hand injury two months ago.
He was the only Brewers hitter to rival Ryan Braun's production with on-base percentage, slugging and OPS (although we know who would have won in the end).
Lucroy (five HR, 30 RBI, 17 runs, two steals, .345 batting) was also one of the few Milwaukee hitters to bat above .300, despite having a pedestrian walk-to-strikeout ratio (7/22).
But that's all in the past. Fantasy owners in dire need of a catcher won't have to wait much longer to corral a pure-hitting backstop and possible difference-maker during the pennant chase.
With a little luck, Lucroy will be back in the Milwaukee lineup by Aug. 1.
2. (SP) Lucas Harrell, Houston Astros
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The fantasy pessimist would fixate on Lucas Harrell surrendering five or more runs four times since May 30. He/she might even mention the two outings of four walks since June 27.
But the fantasy optimist, like me, chooses to focus on Harrell's admirable numbers in the last five games—a 1-2 mark, 2.18 ERA, 1.20 WHIP and 35 strikeouts.
Granted, it's a small sample size, but it's still enough to believe that Harrell—one of three 27-and-under talents in Houston's current rotation—might be forging a significant turnaround in his third MLB season.
Especially for the low, low price of a risk-free waivers pick.
In 12-team leagues, Harrell (7-7, 4.24 ERA, 1.33 WHIP) is a respectable No. 6 starter...with an upside to move up a spot or two by season's end.
1. (OF) Brennan Boesch, Detroit Tigers
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Three weeks ago, no one had Detroit pegged as the first team in the American League Central to reach 52 wins.
Along those lines, who could have foreseen the amazing turnaround of Brennan Boesch in the last 12 weeks?
Yes, Boesch is built like an NFL linebacker and has one of the prettiest upper-cut swings in baseball, but the bottom-rung numbers on May 7 were nonetheless startling: a .209 batting average, .229 on-base percentage and leadoff hitter-like slugging mark of .330.
Since then, Boesch has boosted his batting average 45 points, and since July 8, he's batting at a .378 clip, with three homers, 12 RBI and seven runs.
Assuming the Tigers remain in first place and don't trade for Justin Upton, Boesch (11 homers, 43 RBI, .254 batting) is a lock to collect 25 weekly at-bats while enjoying lineup protection from Austin Jackson, Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder.
As such, Boesch might be a reasonable pick for double-digit dingers from this point forward.