Fantasy Baseball 2012: Top 10 Waiver-Wire Pickups for Week 21
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 Dustin Ackley, Jason Marquis, Steve Cishek, Chris Carter, Jake Westbrook and Manny Machado—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: (2B/3B) Ryan Roberts, Tampa Bay Rays
Skinny: Let's start the countdown with a guy whose fantasy credibility fluctuates wildly from week to week.
For the season (with Arizona and Tampa Bay), Ryan Roberts has fallen woefully short of last year's output with the Diamondbacks (19 HR/18 steals).
But then again, it's not like anyone truly believed the 31-year-old journeyman would be a rock-solid fantasy asset in back-to-back campaigns.
Within this market correction, Roberts (.311 batting with 10 runs since Aug. 5) has re-emerged as a sneaky-good option in 12-team roto leagues, boasting dual-position versatility and riding Tampa Bay's most recent tidal wave into playoff contention.
9: (OF) Anthony Gose, Toronto Blue Jays
Skinny: Let's be honest here. Anthony Gose likely isn't a must-have acquisition for roughly 60 percent of fantasy owners on Aug. 20.
But for those who covet steals, like eight steals in an eight-day period (Aug. 10-18), Gose could easily be the difference between claiming a pennant on Sept. 30...and falling just short of prize money.
Bottom line: If you can absorb a pedestrian batting-average range of .200 to .230, go ahead and grab Gose on the hope of four runs and four steals per week.
8: (3B) Kevin Frandsen, Philadelphia Phillies
Skinny: Just like with Anthony Gose, Kevin Frandsen is nothing more than a one- or two-category contributor in fantasy circles.
But at this point in the season, where the demand for specialization is greater than April, May or June, fantasy owners would appreciate Frandsen and his .352 batting average over the last 15 days, with five multiple-hit games since Aug. 8.
It also helps that Frandsen is garnering regular reps at third base for the Phillies, while playing along pitching studs Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels.
7: (SP) Miguel Gonzalez, Baltimore Orioles
Skinny: In his last three starts (spanning 21 innings), Miguel Gonzalez boasts a 2-0 record, 1.29 ERA and 0.95 WHIP.
So, why such a middling ranking here?
For starters, I'm not wild about Gonzalez's propensity for tallying two or three strikeouts, compared to the eight on July 30.
More importantly, I'm a little uneasy about Gonzalez's likely opponents for his next five outings—Rangers, Blue Jays, Yankees (twice) and Rays.
6: (SP) Bronson Arroyo, Cincinnati Reds
Skinny: If my research is correct, the Reds have been baseball's hottest team since the All-Star break (27-10), vaulting to a sizable lead in the National League Central—without Joey Votto in the lineup (sore knee).
As a result, it's a tad unsettling to see the club's No. 3 pitcher (Bronson Arroyo) being rostered in less than 15 percent of fantasy leagues.
In the last 30 days, Arroyo has five wins, a healthy strikeout-to-walk ratio (22/8) and respectable marks in ERA (3.76) and WHIP (1.30).
And yet, he's getting less respect than certain middling pitchers from bottom-feeder clubs.
Hopefully, Arroyo will trend upward from this point forward.
5: (SS/3B/OF) Trevor Plouffe, Minnesota Twins
Skinny: I completely understand how Trevor Plouffe and his .045 batting average since July 13 would scare prospective fantasy owners to no end.
As in, it's never a good thing when someone draws batting comparisons to Ryan Raburn.
But Plouffe (19 HR, 39 RBI, 44 runs) deserves a little slack here, especially in 12- or 14-team leagues.
He's still the same guy who racked up 11 homers, 21 RBI and .327 batting in June, followed by a .302 average in July.
And he's still the same Twins asset with eligibility at three positions—a luxury that cannot be overstated during a pennant drive.
4: (3B) Pedro Alvarez, Pittsburgh Pirates
Skinny: Similar to Trevor Plouffe, I'll happily take a low-risk flier on Pedro Alvarez for the next few weeks...and here's why:
For the season, Alvarez (23 HR, 62 RBI) has produced three separate streaks of five-plus homers in a nine-day period—April 25-May 3, June 16-21 and July 13-22.
Bottom line: With the Pirates engaged in their first legitimate playoff chase in 20 years, surely Alvarez can be counted on for one more run of homers aplenty.
3: (SP) Hisashi Iwakuma, Seattle Mariners
Skinny: In a perfect world, all fantasy gurus should have a Batman-style "red phone" that alerts them to whenever a non-elite pitcher tallies double-digit strikeouts in a random outing.
On July 30, Hisashi Iwakuma stifled the Blue Jays for 13 strikeouts; and in the three successive starts, he posted a respectable 14 punch-outs.
I can live with that.
I can also live with Iwakuma's numbers from his last six appearances:
1. A 37/11 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
2. Three games of six-plus strikeouts.
3. Six outings of three or less runs.
4. Six games of three or less walks.
Bottom line: The Mariners rotation, on the whole, doesn't get enough credit for posting consistent numbers. And Iwakuma is an ideal No. 5 or 6 starter in 12-team leagues.
2: (SP) Jeremy Guthrie, Kansas City Royals
Skinny: Strange but true. If Jeremy Guthrie had actually thrown a no-hitter against the White Sox on Sunday, he likely wouldn't be a candidate for this countdown.
But now that he's yet to reach his high-water mark for the season, I believe in his capacity for rock-solid numbers from this point forward.
Of his last four outings, spanning 28.2 innings, Guthrie boasts a 2-1 record, 0.96 ERA, 0.78 WHIP and sterling strikeout-to-walk ratio (23/4).
Of equal importance, Guthrie is a perfect 10-for-10 in allowing three or less walks since July 4; and in that span, he yielded just six hits or less eight times.
1: (1B/OF) Brandon Belt, San Francisco Giants
Skinny: I would never rejoice in a player getting extensive playing time at the expense of a fellow teammate's injury.
But in the absurd case of Melky Cabrera, who drew a 50-game drug/PED suspension from Major League Baseball and then reportedly created a fake web site to justify whatever testosterone-enhancing stimulant was in his body...I am excited by what the immediate future holds for Brandon Belt.
Before Cabrera's suspension, Belt was an intriguing prospect whose lineup spot would sometimes be usurped by outfielder Gregor Blanco.
But with Cabrera now out of the picture, Belt (.413 batting since Aug. 5) has an unimpeded shot at four or five daily at-bats from this point forward.
That's four of five opportunities to help your fantasy club make significant gains in batting average and modest ones in runs, RBI and steals.