Happy Fourth of July to each and everyone out there! I hope you all have an exciting and, most importantly, safe, long holiday weekend.
We're almost to the midway point of the MLB season and if you haven't started your run up the standings yet, don't panic because there's still time. Granted, you don't have much time, but that is why the moves you make in the next few weeks are paramount to your ultimate success this season.
Chances are the teams that are leading your league are super confident right now and therefore not making the important roster decisions that would keep them on top all season. If you are in the middle of the pack or lower, now is the time to make that blockbuster trade or drop that struggling "superstar" (ADAM DUNN!) that has been killing you all season long.
Start your march back up the standings this week by ridding your roster of players who aren't producing and picking up those who are. Brighter than the fireworks up in the sky, here are this weeks top waiver pickups.
1) Eric Thames, Outfield, Toronto Blue Jays (Owned in four percent of leagues.)
Thames is a good young hitter who has a sweet whip-like left-handed swing that generates good power to the middle and pull side. Unlike many young power hitters though, he has shown a good recognition of pitches and understanding of how the opposing pitcher is trying to attack him.
But what makes Thames a must-add fantasy baseball player right now is the fact that he is slotted into the No. 2 spot in the Blue Jays lineup, directly in front of Jose Bautista. This ensures Thames of seeing many fastballs over the plate in order to not put anybody on base freely before Bautista digs in.
Thames has been raking ever since being put in this spot and you should remember just a month or so ago Corey Patterson was also flourishing in this spot in the lineup. As long as Thames is hitting ahead of Bautista, he is a must-start fantasy player and really should be owned in all leagues of 10 or more teams.
2) Alex Presley, Outfield, Pittsburgh Pirates (Owned in six percent of leagues.)
What a great week to be in need of an outfielder. Presley has been able to translate his offensive outburst at Triple-A Indianapolis to the top of the Pirates batting order. In one week, Presley has a .310/.364/.517, 1 HR, 5 RBI, 4 R, 1 STL, batting line with plenty more on tap.
This is an exciting young player who is as hot as Lady Gaga right now and playing for an up-and-coming team in Pittsburgh right now. With Andrew McCutchen, Neil Walker and Garrett Jones driving in runs in bunches, all Presley needs to do is get on base and let the guys behind him do the rest.
3) Mark Ellis, Second Base, Colorado Rockies (Owned in eight percent of leagues.)
Ellis has always been a lefty killer throughout his career. He has also always had some decent pop in his bat especially for a small middle infielder. Since being acquired by the Rockies, however, Ellis has been on a tear that rivals the best in the league.
He has gone 8-for-15 (.533) with two HRs, seven RBI and five runs since coming to the Rockies. Obviously, he won't continue this sort of production, but he is hitting between Carlos Gonzalez and Todd Helton with Troy Tulowitzki and Ty Wigginton further down the order ready to drive in any ducks that get on their pond.
There aren't many second basemen available capable of putting up the sort of numbers that Ellis could here in Colorado.
4) Joe Nathan, Closer, Minnesota Twins (Owned in 33 percent of leagues.)
Twins manager Ron Gardenhire pulled Matt Capps after he gave up two singles in the ninth inning this afternoon, a move that emphasizes exactly how little faith he has in Capps these days. With Nathan healthy and throwing the ball well as of late, I expect Gardenhire to give Nathan back the closer job while moving Capps back to setup duty.
It may not happen tomorrow, but by the end of next week, if Capps has one more bad outing, his time as closer will be over. Better get on this train fast because Nathan's ownership will likely hit 50 percent by the end of the week as more people catch on.
5) David Hernandez, Closer, Arizona Diamondbacks (Owned in 10 percent of leagues.)
Of course J.J. Putz has now gone on the DL leaving the Diamondbacks scrambling to find a capable ninth inning replacement for him in the meantime. Hernandez will get the first crack at closing mostly because of his insane 10.2 K/9 rate this season.
If he can avoid the free pass, Hernandez has a chance to be an incredible pickup for at least the next two weeks and let's face it, Putz seems to break down constantly and could be out a lot longer.
6) Cory Luebke, Starter, San Diego Padres (Owned in five percent of leagues.)
It shouldn't surprise anyone that another San Diego pitcher is tearing it up right now because manager Bud Black is the best in the business at developing pitching. Luebke is a young player who has three very capable pitches including a slider that seems to slow down immensely just before reaching the plate almost like it is on a string.
Although his strikeout rate will not continue at this rate, Luebke is likely this year's version of Clayton Richard who produced a pretty fine season in 2010.
7) Matt Harrison, Starter, Texas Rangers (Owned in seven percent of leagues.)
Harrison is my favorite of the free agent two-start pitchers this week. He goes up against two terrible offenses in Baltimore and Oakland and has the luxury of the Rangers lineup behind him.
Other names to consider this week include Chris Volstad (owned in one percent of leagues), Vance Worely (owned in 11 percent of leagues) and Paul Maholm (owned in 10 percent of leagues). But Harrison offers the most upside in both wins and strikeout potential and should post some pretty good numbers this week for somebody, might as well be you.
Jeff Mans is a co-host of The Fantasy Alarm Show on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio, the Senior Writer at Fantasy Alarm and a contributor to Bleacher Report.
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