Fantasy Baseball 2013 Waiver Wire: Top 10 Pickups for Week 9

Andrew Gould@AndrewGould4Featured ColumnistMay 27, 2013

Fantasy Baseball 2013 Waiver Wire: Top 10 Pickups for Week 9

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    The holidays are no excuse to ignore your fantasy baseball roster.

    If anything, this is the perfect time to ransack the waiver wire for hidden gems while everybody else is commemorating Memorial Day and watching Arrested Development.

    This is the time of the year where striking gold on the waiver wire becomes increasingly harder. Many of the unforeseen breakouts have already found a home, but some potential contributors are still sitting stagnant on the open market, waiting to find a suitor.

    So before setting up your barbecue, be sure to see if your squad could use any of these free agents.

    The following players are currently available in at least 50 percent of Yahoo! leagues, but that could change for some of these emerging talents.

    Note: All statistics courtesy of FanGraphs, updated as of Monday, May 27

Honorable Mentions

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    These players are worth monitoring in most leagues and adding in some deeper formats.

    Rex Brothers (16 percent owned)

    Rafael Betancourt avoided a trip to the disabled list, but Brothers has allowed one earned run this year, striking out 21 batters in 22 innings. Be ready to pounce if Betancourt's groin injury forces him to miss time.

    Ricky Nolasco (13 percent owned)

    The ultimate poster child for a pitcher whose surface numbers never match up to his gaudy peripherals, Nolasco has finally received a small dosage of good luck. A .289 BABIP below his career .308 rate has allowed him to post a 3.65 ERA and 1.14 WHIP. He has thrown back-to-back gems, allowing two runs while compiling 17 strikeouts in his last two outings.

    Matt Dominguez (5 percent owned)

    A Houston Astros hitter? Does this reek of desperation, or is this just a suggestion to consider a third baseman who has crushed seven homers this month? 

    Luke Scott (2 percent owned)

    The designated hitter is batting .276/.400/.448 in May with three homers and 15 RBI. He's worth an AL-only add and could work his way into mixed-league consideration if this production persists.

    Rick Ankiel (1 percent owned)

    Since joining the New York Mets, Ankiel is hitting .256/.310/.565 through 12 games. His catastrophic 44.9 strikeout percentage makes him a gigantic batting average liability, but those looking for temporary power in NL-only leagues could plug him in the lineup while he's hot.

10. Jarrod Parker (40 Percent Owned)

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    How forgiving are you?

    It's difficult to overlook Jarrod Parker's abysmal start to the season, but the young pitcher is beginning to turn the corner.

    He made a major splash by registering a 3.47 ERA during his rookie campaign, but Parker has followed that with a mighty sophomore slump, posting a 5.76 ERA and 1.61 WHIP through his first 10 starts. His 1.60 K/BB ratio certainly is not helping his cause either.

    Drafted almost universally to start the season, Parker is now unowned in a majority of Yahoo! leagues. Those willing to put the past aside could see firsthand why many originally viewed Parker as a breakout candidate.

    During his last three starts, Parker has earned a 3.10 ERA and 0.98 WHIP. Faced with a steep challenge pitching at Texas, Parker showed signs of life by allowing seven baserunners, three runs and one walk with five strikeouts through seven solid innings.

    Parker will receive two favorable matchups at home this week against the San Francisco Giants and Chicago White Sox. Owners can stream him while using these starts as a litmus test to see if he warrants holding onto for the long haul.

9. David Murphy (17 Percent Owned)

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    Finally getting the keys to an everyday spot in Texas' outfield, David Murphy spent all of April showing why he spent so many years as the Rangers' fourth outfielder.

    Now he's reminding us why this promotion seems long overdue.

    After hitting .170/.215/.295 during the first month, Murphy is recording a .279/.324/.515 slash line in May with four homers and 16 RBI. 

    The 31-year-old is frequently prone to flashes of brilliance mixed with stretches of futility, and that unpredictability limits him to waiver-wire fodder. Even if he's not a long-term resolution in standard mixed leagues, he's worth a look while swinging a scorching bat,

    Alongside his power, Murphy has also swiped double-digit bags in three consecutive seasons, a skill that has not been on display this year. He's been gunned down in all three attempts, so it will be interesting to see if he still receives the green light.

    Even if he doesn't, Murphy is worth a spot on your squad until he cools down.

8. Chris Young (10 Percent Owned)

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    Can you use some power? How about some speed?

    If you answered no to both of these questions, can we switch rosters? You must have an awesome offense.

    A dual-threat position player is hard to come by on the waiver wire, which is why Chris Young deserves your attention despite his poor batting average.

    You can take the glass-is-half-empty approach and say that Young is only hitting .198. I, however, am going to look at the positives. He also has five homers and steals apiece in 30 games, and he's now heating up.

    Since returning from the disabled list, Young is hitting .276 in eight games. He'll never amount to anything closely resembling a .300 hitter, but a .240 rate is acceptable from a 20/20 threat. 

    Playing time could be an issue once Josh Reddick gets healthy, but you won't find another readily-available option to fill the other four categories.

7. David Phelps (19 Percent Owned)

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    One of the many players fueling the New York Yankees to an unlikely first-place start is David Phelps, who has enshrined a spot in the team's starting rotation.

    After serving as the team's long reliever last season, Phelps stepped in for the ineffective/injured Ivan Nova, and he's not about to give his new role up. In five starts, Phelps has posted a 3.27 ERA and 1.12 WHIP for the Bronx Bombers.

    Including his earlier work in the bullpen, Phelps is sporting an 8.82 K/9 rate, 3.24 BB/9 ratio and 3.45 FIP. He's been New York's second-best starter this year, and sorry C.C. Sabathia owners, that's with Hiroki Kuroda at No. 1.

    In 149.2 innings as a Yankee dating back to last year, Phelps holds a 3.55 ERA, 1.21 WHIP and 145 strikeouts. Those stats, if maintained, should make him a regular in fantasy lineups.

    Although Nova is back from the disabled list, the struggling righty won't pose much of a threat as long as Phelps continues to build upon his resoundingly underlooked tenure in New York. 

6. Andy Dirks (9 Percent Owned)

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    While a batting order's effect on a team's overall performance remains in question, fantasy managers must take it into consideration when evaluating individuals.

    For example, a guy seeing time as the leadoff hitter for baseball's best offense probably deserves a place on your team. Luckily for you, he's still available in a wide scope of Yahoo! leagues.

    With Austin Jackson on the DL, Andy Dirks' name rests on top of Detroit's lineup card against right-handed pitchers. If he gets on base, those Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder guys are pretty good at bringing him home.

    In Jackson's absence, Dirks is hitting .296 with nine runs in 14 games. The left fielder also offers some pop and speed, contributing five homers and five steals through 42 games 

    Despite preliminary reports that Jackson would return immediately when eligible, that tune has changed. According to Lynn Henning of The Detroit News, "It could be a while before Jackson returns to regular duty."

    Even when Jackson returns, Dirks should at least stay in the lineup against righties. Jackson's presence hinders Dirks' fantasy appeal a bit, but that problem might not arise for a while. For now, scoop up Dirks and enjoy.

5. Daniel Straily (10 Percent Owned)

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    No, I'm not an Oakland A's fan. Why do you ask?

    Daniel Straily has not pitched nearly as poorly as Parker, but it's not evident by his 5.73 ERA. And that's after he tossed seven shutout innings against Texas last week.

    Put your hand over his ERA while looking at the rest of his stat line, and all of the sudden Straily looks like a top-notch performer. He sports a 3.66 FIP, 8.73 K/9 ratio and 3.27 walk rate, with opponents hitting just .226 against him.

    Yet his ERA is nearly equivalent to Parker's, even though his teammate has legitimately stunk prior to his last few outings. What's the cause for this?

    The answer lies in Straily's 54.1 percent strand rate, which is the second-lowest in baseball among pitchers with at least 30 innings pitched. Oddly enough, he slid by with a 3.89 ERA last year despite a 6.48 FIP, and he had a unsustainably high 90.7 percent strand rate to thank for it.

    The law of averages will eventually kick in, allowing Straily to function as a solid fantasy starter. 

4. Joel Peralta (23 Percent Owned)

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    Fernando Rodney stinks.

    Then again, anyone who trusted a 35-year-old after one incredible year that was preceded by nine forgettable ones deserves some blame as well for drafting him. Like Kyle Farnsworth, the Tampa Bay Rays got their one anomaly year out of the reliever, so is it time to move him aside and let someone else shine?

    According to The Tampa Tribune's Roger Mooney, Joe Maddon said he's sticking with Rodney as the closer, but let's see how long that lasts if Rodney does not significantly slash his 6.05 ERA and 1.76 WHIP. 

    Tampa Bay's relief corps as a whole is the worst unit in baseball with a 4.96 team ERA, but there is one standout. Clearly the best pitcher in the Rays' bullpen, Joel Peralta could snatch the closer's gig in no time.

    In 23.1 innings, Peralta has a shiny 1.93 ERA, 0.99 WHIP and 27 strikeouts. That microscopic WHIP is normal for the 37-year-old considering he's kept the mark below 1.00 during each of the past four seasons.

    If the sturdy reliever gets a much-deserved chance at piling up the saves, Peralta quickly becomes a top-of-the-line fantasy option. If the day never comes, he still holds value in leagues that allow daily lineup changes.

3. Yan Gomes (20 Percent Owned)

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    When a catcher is slugging .631, you have to stop and take notice.

    Yan Gomes currently does not play every day. He's only drawn two walks this season while striking out 13 times in 68 plate appearances. He hit .204/.264/.367 in his first major league action last season.

    There are plenty of reasons to broach Gomes with skepticism, but he's crushed five home runs through 20 games at catcher, which should award him universal eligibility behind the plate.

    Although there's the possibility that he falls down to earth and falls out of Cleveland's rotation all together, Gomes could also play his way into an everyday gig.

    Maybe he's this year's Jose Bautista or Edwin Encarnacion, the guy you strayed away from for logical reasons, but later regretted it big time.

    In an AL-only league or mixed league that employs two starting catchers, Gomes is a must-add. If you have somebody non-essential to drop in standard mixed leagues, it's worth a feeler to see if the good times keep rolling.

2. Brandon Belt (38 Percent Owned)

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    It took longer than expected, but Brandon Belt has finally arrived.

    If it seems like fantasy writers have been touting Belt since 2011, it's because they have. Ever since he debuted at the end of that season and hit nine homers in 63 games, we have all patiently waited for his coming-out party.

    The breakout did not come in 2012, and a lackluster April offered little promise. All the sleeper accolades bestowed upon him in the spring turned into "Eh, whatever, just drop him."

    Hold up, Belt's starting to show why we all adored the young lefty so much. 

    Continuing the game of "Fun with Sample Sizes," Belt is hitting .284/.392/.537 in May with four homers and a .930 OPS. With six long balls on the year, he's one shy of matching his 2012 total.

    Nothing significant has changed under the surface, but Belt's unfortunate 6.2 HR/FB ratio from last season has soared back to a more reasonable level (12.5 percent). The lack of power was the only thing holding him back from emerging as a vital fantasy option.

    There must be an array of 10- or 12-team mixed leagues with just one starter per position and two utility spots to justify Belt's low ownership rate. Belt is a quality corner infielder option in a more involved format.

1. Kevin Gausman (32 Percent Owned)

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    Now here's your flashy and fun super prospect who surprisingly still falls well under the 50 percent ownership barometer.

    The Baltimore Orioles called up 22-year-old starting pitcher Kevin Gausman straight from Double-A last week. While such a hike to the majors is never ideal, Gausman registered a 49-to-5 strikeout-to-walk ratio during his brief stay, so he certainly earned the promotion.

    Heading into the season, Baseball America tabbed him as the No. 26 prospect. He's the first of the 2012 draft's first-rounders to make it to the show, which could lead to some growing pains pitching in the American League East.

    In his first crack at a major league offense, Gausman allowed four runs to the Toronto Blue Jays, striking out five through five innings. Not great enough to cause a sea of owners to grab him, but decent enough that you consider adding him.

    If you have a chance at securing a potential front-line starter, why not go for it? Use him cautiously at first. If he earns your trust, great. If not, then you can see who else is on the waiver-wire.