As Week 18 of the 2011 fantasy baseball season approaches, owners are starting to figure out certain remedies and game plans that help them out the most.
Whether that's adding a young five-tool outfielder or taking a chance on an over the top veteran DH, the waiver wire is full of tantalizing options.
Just like every week before it, the next scoring period could be the deciding factor as far between reaching the playoffs or starting your fantasy football research a little early.
With that said, here are the top 10 free agent options heading into next week.
Don't look now, but Jarrod Saltalamacchia is once again becoming a recognizable fantasy catcher.
The only reason why he isn't being considered a must-add in deeper formats is because of veteran Jason Varitek.
While Varitek continues to show why he doesn't deserve to be a major league starter anymore, the Boston Red Sox continue to roll with their captain behind the plate.
It just so happens to be that that ignorance is starting to impede on Salty's future in fantasy.
Despite only seeing 205 at-bats in 2011, the 26-year-old has still smacked eight home runs, 31 RBI, and 12 doubles, making him a great weekly play in the deepest of mixed leagues.
With that said, it's hard for me to believe that Boston, amidst fighting off a New York Yankee division comeback, is going to idle by and allow Saltalamacchia's production to sit on the bench.
Food for though, over his last four games, Saltalamacchia has gone 7-for-16 with two home runs and seven RBI.
I'd say that's enough production to warrant pickup consideration.
Now before I make a case for Brendan Ryan, let me be the first to say that the 29-year-old shortstop isn't going to become an elite option anytime soon.
With that said, Ryan has produced well enough over the last seven days to be considered a decent option in even certain mixed leagues.
You have to realize that many owners struggle on a weekly basis to produce points out of the shortstop position, so by taking a flier for a hot hitting stop-gap is sometimes the best case scenario.
Ryan is batting .413 through his last 29 at-bats, adding two home runs, six RBI, three doubles and two stolen bases, easily making him one of the most productive shortstops in fantasy during that span.
If the middle infield is one of your weak positions, getting past the fact that he plays for Seattle, consider adding Ryan heading into Week 18.
I may be getting ahead of myself, but Hideki Matsui is looking like his former must-start self.
Over his last seven games, the 37-year-old is batting a glorious .500, hitting two home runs with 10 RBI and three walks.
Now I realize it's hard to get Matsui active in most leagues due to his DH status, but how long can his numbers go unrewarded?
Also considering it's highly possible that the Oakland Athletics move him before the July trade deadline, Matsui could be in for a huge August.
Remember, this is a guy who's hit nearly 50 home runs and 180 RBI over the past two seasons, so don't give up on him that quickly.
I recently put Brett Cecil on a waiver wire list a few weeks ago.
Well, he's proving me right, all cockiness aside.
Cecil has pitched extremely well over his last three starts, going 2-0 with 15 strikeouts, only six walks, and six runs surrendered in 22 innings of work.
Most recently, he had his complete game shutout of the offensively potent Texas Rangers, proving that Cecil's 15 wins from 2010 were no fluke.
Fantasy owners tend to forget those wins just as often as they disregard that Cecil is only 25 years old.
With the exception of one start, the Blue Jays starter has been one of the more consistent options around the league since coming off the DL in late-June.
Going forward, given another solid outing, Cecil should warrant serious mixed league consideration.
Umm, is anybody seriously paying attention to Josh Reddick?
Despite being part of a sloppy outfield platoon with J.D. Drew, the 24-year-old has been absolutely dominant.
Reddick's hitting .358 with four home runs, three triples, seven doubles, 22 runs, and 10 walks through only 95 at-bats.
There's no argument that he deserves to start for Boston and fantasy owners alike.
And considering Drew just landed on the disabled list, both scenarios could come true.
Heading into Week 18, if you are even skeptical about starting an already owned outfield option, please put some thought into scooping Reddick off the waiver wire.
Because with one more hot week, the young rookie could not only win a starting job with the Red Sox for the remainder of the 2011 season, but he has enough potential to transform into a must-own talent.
Manager Joe Madden has decided to lean on a six-man starting rotation, pegging Alex Cobb as a starting option for the foreseeable future.
Cobb recently turned in a scoreless seven-inning performance that was cut short because of a blister, nonetheless improving the 23-year-old to 3-0 in seven starts this season.
Following his most recent mound session, Cobb's ERA now sits at 2.57, adding a 1.12 WHIP and five quality starts through 42 innings of work.
By looking at his success thus far in 2011 and what was a dominating minor league career, he becomes a no-brainer as far as waiver wire pickups are concerned.
The blister doesn't seem severe enough hinder him from making his next start against fellow rookie Michael Pineda and the Seattle Mariners, so jumping on Cobb's band wagon now could save you some face later on when every owner in your league makes a play for the young hurler.
No Jonathan Broxton, no problem.
Manager Don Mattingly has had no trouble turning to his young closer, Javy Guerra, late in games.
Guerra has turned in a great July, recording five saves while giving up only one earned run through 7.1 innings of relief duty.
The 25-year-old has a lot of potential going forward, despite closing for an offensively challenged Los Angeles Dodgers squad.
And as it stands now, the team still employs Ted Lilly and Hiroki Kuroda to go along with their ace Clayton Kershaw.
With a 18:6 K:BB ratio, Guerra is a fantastic add for Week 18.
It looks like John Lackey is doing a magic trick in this picture.
It's ironic because the 32-year-old veteran has seemingly transformed his season over his last three starts alone.
Now I realize a lot of owners have held onto Lackey through thick and thin this year in fantasy, but if he's on the waiver wire, you might want to consider picking him up.
Over his last three outings, spanning 19.1 innings, Lackey has went 3-0 while surrendering only four runs, striking out 18, and issuing only two walks.
If that doesn't do it for you, consider this. In his three starts before this two week resurgence, Lackey went 0-3 while giving up 14 runs and five walks in 13.1 innings.
Talk about a magic trick.
If he's available, I'd take a flier. Because when it all comes down to it, he still pitches for Boston.
Cameron Maybin may be finally turning it around.
After being pegged one of the most talented prospects in all of baseball just a few seasons ago, Maybin's inter-team journeys have led him to San Diego.
He hasn't looked back.
The 24-year-old is currently batting .283 on the season, after hitting .538 with six RBI and eight stolen bases over his last 26 at-bats.
Maybin isn't going to have a lot of lineup protection going forward, especially if Ryan Ludwick gets traded, but his power-speed combo makes a great case as to why owners should add him now.
He's currently on pace for 35 stolen bases in 2011, so alongside his improving power numbers, Maybin could turn into a B.J. Upton-like fantasy player but with a respectable average.
With B.J. Upton's name being mentioned in a lot of trade speculation around the league, the Tampa Bay Rays have turned to their prized hitting prospect in Desmond Jennings to bolster their offense.
Jennings, 24, is a big-time power-speed threat.
Sort of a Carl Crawford in training.
Through his first two games, the young speedster has already recorded four hits, including two doubles, one triple, and two stolen bases, making it obvious that he's poised to contribute on a consistent level.
While his average in the big leagues isn't going to stay at .667, his production thus far for a mid-range offense should be good enough for mixed league consideration.
Jennings has so much potential that he could actually be a weekly game changer come playoff time.