Welcome back my friends to the most in depth free agent and waiver pickup blog anywhere, The Hot Eight! As we close out the first month of the MLB season, I am happy to have recommended free agents such as Dexter Fowler, Nelson Cruz, Colby Rasmus, Scott Downs, Nyjer Morgan, Nick Swisher and Brett Gardner well in advance of their most productive games so far.
This week is no exception as I've got another batch of players poised to breakout in the near future. As always, I have been digging through the minor leagues, watching video and sorting through stats so that you guys don't have to. Just keep visiting these pages and I will keep giving you the top free agent and waiver advice week after week.
1. Justin Upton (Outfield) Diamondbacks
Yes this is a self indulgent choice to sit atop The Hot Eight but it is also not without merit. As my loyal readers and listeners to Fantasy Baseball Tonight know I was very high on Upton going into this season. I took a lot of grief from people about how highly I was recommending him and even more after his horrible start to the season.
Don't look now (actually do!) but Upton is hitting .333 with a .473 OBP in his last 6 games and has also homered in the previous two. He is a very streaky hitter who seems to be in the middle of quite a upswing right now and that could pay off big for your fantasy team right now. I am stunned at how many leagues in which Upton was dropped to free agency probably due to fears that he was going to be demoted soon. But alas, Justin Upton is here to stay my friends and he is an absolute must have if still on your waiver wire.
2. Phil Hughes (RHP-Starter) Yankees
Hughes has gotten the call to replace the struggling Chien Ming-Wang in the Yankees rotation. Hughes had been lights out as had most of his AAA Scranton team this season. He will start Tuesday against the Detroit Tigers and could possibly get a second start this week against the Angels on Sunday if all goes well.
Unlike most experts I believe that Hughes has a very good chance of staying in the rotation for the long haul even when Wang rejoins the team. Wang could be used out of the bullpen as has been done before due to his ability to induce double plays. If Hughes can provide a spark to the Yankees then he's worth a permanent spot in both their rotation and your fantasy team.
3. Matt LaPorta (Outfield) Indians
As mentioned on last Tuesdays edition of Fantasy Baseball Tonight, LaPorta is on a tear for AAA Columbus right now. He is hitting .400/.478/.767 with five HR's and 13 RBI. Even more impressive is that he's struck out just five times in nearly 70 plate appearances. The Indians are struggling but are lucky enough to play in a wide open division. They are in need of another offensive bruiser and run producer. If things continue at their current pace I expect to see LaPorta's bat in the Cleveland lineup by May 15th.
4. Alberto Callaspo (2B/SS) Royals
With Mark Teahen moving over to third base for the injured Alex Gordon, Callaspo has stepped in to become the Roayals everyday second base. He is hitting a whopping .377 so far this season and is outproducing some much bigger named players at his position. Better yet, he is qualified at both second base and SS for those of you needing some MI help after banking on Mike Aviles or Jed Lowrie in your draft.
The downside of Callaspo is that he isn't much of a stolen base threat anymore although he should swipe between 10-15 this season. He is a very productive hitter who has hit for a high average in every single minor league stop along the way. The Royals are hanging tough and Callaspo will get a chance to score plenty of runs and hit hit his way into your starting MI spot very soon.
5. Jason Grilli (RHP-Reliever) Rockies
It has become obvious to me that Grilli is now the most trusted man in the Rockies bullpen. He is being brought in to put out the fires that Huston Street and Manny Corpas light every other night it seems. With Corpas and Street passing back and forth the closer duties like a male eyeliner at a Fall Out Boy concert it appears likely that Grilli has officially become a closer in waiting candidate.
He has the experience and a lively running fastball that managers like to see in their late inning specialists. While fantasy players keep trying to figure out whether Corpas or Street will get the saves in Colorado, my bet is that Grilli eventually becomes the closer while the other two settle into the less pressure situations of the seventh and eighth innings.
6. Micah Hoffpauir (Outfield/1B) Cubs
This guy can flat out hit. In Chicago right now they are officially calling for the heads of Derek Lee and/or Milton Bradley and are demanding as Christopher Walken would say, "more Hoffpauir!" The problem for Hoffpauir is that the Cubs don't have many available spots for him unless they indeed do put Bradley on the DL. They will never platoon Derek Lee so get that out of your heads right now. So, Hoffpauir waits bat in hand for somebody to go down so that he can give the Cubs exactly what they have needed for so long, a left handed power hitter.
Either way, Hoffpauir will see plenty of AB's subbing for Lee, Bradley and Soriano as well pinch hitting duties. His upside is so great though that he should be a bench player right now especially for teams that own either Derek Lee or Milton Bradley as one of those insurance policies that are worth more than the actual asset it is protecting.
7. Josh Anderson (Outfield) Tigers
Anderson is getting regular playing time for the Tigers since the injury to Marcus Thames and he has not disappointed. Acquired in a minor trade with the Braves just before the start of the regular season, Anderson has flashed tremendous speed as well as patience at the plate. Already on his third organization in three years, perhaps this is the opportunity that Anderson needed to climb out from under the thumb of other top prospects.
This is the perfect free agent acquisition for fantasy teams looking to improve their stolen base numbers. Anderson will get on base more often than guys like Coco Crisp, Brett Gardner and Carlos Gomez and is thus more worthy of a roster spot.
8. Jake Fox (Outfield) Cubs
Wait a minute, I thought that I just said there will barely be enough playing time for Micah Hoffpauir in the Cubs lineup let alone another outfielder especially one who is still in the minor leagues? That is right, I did.
While it is a ridiculous long shot to presume Jake Fox ever sees playing time in Wrigley Field this summer I would not be doing my job if I didn't bring his recent performance for the Iowa Cubs to your attention. Fox is hitting an unbelievable .433/.494/.970 with nine HR's seven 2B's and 27 RBI's. He has a huge lead in all three triple crown categories and is starting to draw some nationwide attention for his slugging.
Assuming the Cubs don't develop a spot for him there is no doubt that he will be traded to a team in exchange for some bullpen help at some point. Keep Fox on your radar. If he lands a regular gig somewhere in 2009 I will again have him in The Hot Eight and at that point he is worth taking a flier on.
That is the Hot Eight for this week. What do you guys think? Post your comments below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org