This article originally appeared on Fantasyfootballmaniaxs.com.
We now enter week nine as fresh faces are beginning to emerge throughout the league. We have seen the re-arrival of David Price to the Rays, and now the No. 1 prospect in all of baseball is coming.
Matt Wieters will be joining the Baltimore Orioles on Friday, as a new era of professional baseball is being born. We now focus on these youngsters, as well as many other names, on this week’s waiver wire.
Matt Wieters (C—BAL)
He has finally come. The top prospect in baseball will be arriving on Friday, May 29 against the Detroit Tigers, as he will step to the plate for the first time in a big league uniform.
Let’s look at his numbers at Triple-A Norfolk before we start hyping him up. Wieters hit for a .305 average, with five homers, 30 RBI, 25 runs scored, and a .387 OBP. This all occurred in a 39-game span. If he were to play a 150-game season, then he was currently on pace to finish with 115 RBI.
To put it simply, the kid can hit.
Now it’s time for the hype. Wieters is a switch hitter who bats well from both sides of the plate. He shows tremendous power and could be a 40-home run threat in the prime of his career. He has a cannon of an arm (he was a former catcher/closer for Georgia Tech), and he possesses quiet leadership.
Without a doubt, this stud will be one of the top five hitters in MLB before 2011. So now the question is: Is he still available?
According to Yahoo! Sports, he is currently owned in 67 percent of fantasy formats, leaving you with a nice window of opportunity to go grab him. If I were you, I would check while I’m reading this very sentence. Once he is called up, he will most likely be owned in 100 percent of all fantasy leagues, so make a run for him while you still can.
This youngster could be slotted into the starting catcher or utility spot for the long run. He’s just that good.
Jeff Keppinger (3B, 2B, SS—HOU)
The Houston Astros organization has been up-and-down with the injury issues as of late, as both starting second baseman Kazuo Matsui and third baseman Geoff Blum are currently listed as questionable over the next few days. This gives super utility man Jeff Keppinger more shots at the plate.
Thus far this season, Keppinger is hitting for a .313 average with two homers, four RBI, and eight runs scored. So now you may be saying, “Well, you said the two injured starters are questionable, so they are bound to come back soon, right?” Sure, they will be back; however, just because you’re back doesn’t mean you’ll be playing.
According to a Houston Astros broadcaster, it is possible that Matsui may lose a significant amount of AB's even after his return, showing fans and fantasy owners alike that Keppinger is making his presence known. With more at-bats come better numbers, and with better numbers comes more fantasy value.
If you need a third baseman, second baseman, or shortstop, Keppinger is the perfect injury reserve/bench player. As he receives more and more starts, he could grow into a starter in any fantasy format.
Jerry Hairston Jr. (2B, 3B, SS, OF—CIN)
Sticking with the super utility theme, Jerry Hairston Jr. is beginning to make some noise in Cincinnati.
There have been several injuries to Reds starters this season, with second baseman Brandon Phillips and third baseman Edwin Encarnacion both missing time. Hairston Jr. is taking full advantage of the situation. So far, he’s hitting for a .264 average with six homers, 14 RBI, 29 runs scored, and four stolen bases.
He has now connected for three home runs in his last nine games, showing power that many people were not expecting to see.
Like Keppinger, Hairston provides the option of several positions for a fantasy owner. He is eligible at second base, third base, shortstop, and in the outfield, making him one of the better bench/injury reserve players on the market. With the way he’s hitting at the moment, he could prove to be a solid fill-in type player for any struggling starter.
Andy LaRoche (3B—PIT)
Once a former top prospect within the Dodgers organization, Andy LaRoche has seen everything but success over the past year; however, things are finally beginning to look up for the talented young corner infielder.
After struggling initially out of the gate, LaRoche is currently hitting for a .447 average during his 10-game hit streak. On the year, he is now batting for a .303 average with two homers, 21 RBI, 15 runs scored, and two stolen bases.
Andy has plenty of protection from the lineup around him, as Jack Wilson, Freddy Sanchez, Adam LaRoche, Robinson Diaz, Nate McLouth, Brandon Moss, and Nyjer Morgan have all produced well thus far. LaRoche appears to be morphing into a starting fantasy third baseman, and in due time, he could be one of the premier young infielders in the pros.
Monitor his progress over the next week. If he continues to hit at a torrid pace, grab him while you can. He may end up as a starter on your fantasy squad before season’s end.
Fernando Martinez (RF—NYM)
With all the talk about David Price and Matt Wieters, many fans have forgotten about the New York Mets’ top prospect. Fernando Martinez, a young outfielder from the Dominican Republic, hit for a .291 average with eight homers, 28 RBI, 22 runs scored, and two stolen bases while at Triple-A Buffalo.
Looking at Martinez’s upside, the key for him lies in his keeper potential. One day, Fernando is projected at being a 30-plus home run threat, but for now, his power is still raw. If you participate in a keeper league, then grabbing him is a must. He has limitless potential, and hitting in a stacked lineup in New York only helps.
As far as the immediate future, monitor his status over the next week. Watch how he performs, for this will determine whether or not you should pick him up in week nine.
Ben Zobrist (SS, OF—TB)
With the painful news that starting second baseman Akinori Iwamura will be out for the season, the Rays have had to search for new infield options. This search only increased as starting shortstop Jason Bartlett also went on the disabled list this past week. Now, the Tampa Bay franchise will be turning to Ben Zobrist to help fill the holes.
Thus far, Zobrist is hitting for a .287 average with eight homers, 24 RBI, 19 runs scored, and four stolen bases. Zobrist has shocked us all with the “pop” in his bat this season, and many are predicting him to hit 20-plus home runs by the year’s end. As a fantasy owner, one can only take advantage of his situation.
He will be getting everyday at-bats from here on out, and his power numbers will only feed off of the opportunities. If you can, pick him up as soon as possible and place him on your bench. In due time, he could evolve into a starting fantasy outfielder/shortstop, giving you a solid sleeper pickup.
Scott Podsednik (OF—CHW)
Anyone else remember this guy from a couple of years back? He was the final player voted on to the American League All-Star team, as his speedy nature and leadoff capabilities took the baseball world by storm.
Well, to put it lightly, he’s back. He has returned with the team that made him a quiet star, the Chicago White Sox, and now they are placing him in the right situation to succeed.
With Carlos Quentin hurt and Jermaine Dye appealing a suspension, Podsednik is looking to make an impact in the Chicago lineup. In ’09, he’s hitting for a .296 average with five RBI, six runs scored, and three stolen bases.
He has been hitting leadoff this season, just like old times. He’s not the only one who enjoys him being there. This was said in regard to Podsednik leading off:
"Whoever says, and this comes from the heart, all those computer guys or whatever, whoever says it's not important to have a leadoff hitter, he's full of whatever it is," Cora said.
"It's very important to have a leadoff hitter because when they get on base, the big boys get happy. And when the big boys are happy, it's a good thing. Scott Podsednik has been doing a good job, and when he gets on base it's a good thing for us.”
As a fantasy owner, Podsednik can be used in a variety of ways. With his speed, stolen bases are prevalent, aiding in 5X5 formats. He also uses this ability to score runs on a daily basis.
Now, the one thing to watch out for is the return of Dewayne Wise to the Sox outfield. This is why I will tell you to monitor Podsednik over the next week. If he is still stealing bases and scoring runs, give him a shot on your bench.
Jason Berken (SP—BAL)
The Orioles seem to send out a new prospect each week. A few weeks ago, it was starter Brad Bergesen. Last week, it was the return of former Cubs starter Rich Hill. This time around, we are witnessing the arrival of Matt Wieters and Jason Berken.
In his first major league start, Berken went five innings, giving up two runs on seven hits. He also struck out three and walked three. Berken can be compared to Bergesen in a way, as both cannot overpower hitters; however, they change speeds and have solid breaking pitches to escape jams.
Berken is someone that should be monitored in week nine, for he has solid potential for this season. He may end up being a steal for any fantasy owner.
Edgar G. Gonzalez (SP—OAK)
Like Berken, Gonzalez was another young pitcher making his major league debut this past week. He went five innings, giving up one earned run on four hits. He also struck out four and walked two.
This youngster has high upside, and he shouldn’t be taken lightly. His next start is on Friday against Scott Feldman and the Texas Rangers. Here, we will see how good Gonzalez truly is. If he’s able to outduel Feldman, then I think it’s fair to say that he would make a nice waiver pickup for the upcoming week.
Sean Marshall (SP—CHC)
The Cubs’ rotation has hit a bit of a rough patch as of late. Ace Carlos Zambrano was ejected on Wednesday, and many are expecting him to be suspended for a limited period of time. Also, Rich Harden is hurt, so the team needs the young Marshall to step up. Thus far, Marshall is 3-3 with a 3.70 ERA, 29 strikeouts, and 13 walks.
He has won three of his last four outings, and he has looked sharp in the rotation. He has been matched up against back-end starters, so he always appears to have a favorable matchup.
If you’d like, grab him off of waivers and start him. He will help anyone in a 5X5 fantasy format gain ground in the “wins” category.