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The Wheelhouse: Watching the Drop List

Derek VanRiper

Derek VanRiper

Derek is the Senior Baseball Editor for RotoWire.com, where he's been a two-time finalist for the FSWA's Baseball Writer of the Year award, and winner of the Best Football Article on the Web (2009) and Best Baseball Article on the Web (2010) awards. Derek also co-hosts RotoWire Fantasy Sports Today on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio (XM 87, Sirius 210) from 11a-2p ET on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

While many owners are interested in scrambling to the waiver wire in their quest to unearth this year's Jose Bautista or Andres Torres, there's a more important list of players I like to keep an eye on during the early weeks to the season - players dropped. Sure, it's fun to look at the waiver-wire report to see what owners are paying for the limited talent available on the waiver wire in deeper leagues, but the players your competitors deemed unfit for their rosters could turn out to be valuable pieces to your squad. Let's take a look at the transactions from this week.

Here are the FAAB results ($1,000 budget, $1 minimum) for the WCOFB main event:

$215 Bloomquist, Willie (U,OF) Released: Kosuke Fukudome
$152 Janish, Paul (SS,MI,U) Released: Sergio Romo
$109 Fuld, Sam (U,OF) Released: Jake Arrieta
$102 Tomlin, Josh (SP,FP) Released: Mark Melancon
$102 Sanchez, Angel (SS,MI,U) Released: Jordan Lyles
$100 Callaspo, Alberto Jose (3B,CI,U) Released: Pat Burrell
$77 Coke, Phil (RP,FP) Released: Jo-Jo Reyes
$52 Towles, J.R. (C,U) Released: Ryan Doumit
$51 Wolf, Randy (SP,FP) Released: Mark Trumbo
$51 Marquis, Jason (SP,FP) Released: Michael Pelfrey
$48 Motte, Jason (RP,FP) Released: Takashi Saito
$31 Overbay, Lyle (1B,CI,U) Released: Jorge Cantu
$27 Volstad, Chris (SP,FP) Released: Randy Wells
$21 Litsch, Jesse (SP,FP) Released: Evan Meek
$19 Valdez, Wilson (2B,SS,MI,U) Released: Clay Hensley
$7 Ankiel, Rick (U,OF) Released: Manny Ramirez
$5 Nix, Jayson (2B,3B,MI,CI,U) Released: Emilio Bonifacio
$5 Batista, Miguel (RP,FP) Released: Freddy Sanchez
$5 Enright, Barry (SP,FP) Released: Jed Lowrie
$4 Gwynn, Tony (U,OF) Released: Mark DeRosa
$4 Chamberlain, Joba (RP,FP) Released: Octavio Dotel
$4 Johnson, Dan (1B,U) Released: Lucas Duda
$4 Takahashi, Hisanori (SP,RP,FP) Released: Joe Blanton
$4 Chen, Bruce (SP,FP) Released: Mike Leake
$3 Kouzmanoff, Kevin (3B,CI,U) Released: Russell Branyan


Keep in mind, there are no DL spots in this league, so the opportunity to stash injured players doesn't exist beyond using your eight allotted reserve spots.

Of this week's pickups, the three we were most interested in were:

Sam Fuld, OF, TAM -
Particularly to a team looking for steals, Fuld's greatest asset is going to be speed. Even if he'll go to the bench once Desmond Jennings comes up from Triple-A, Fuld is getting at least a temporary run in the outfield for the Rays, and the retirement of Manny Ramirez certainly helps his case. A closer look at his minor league career reveals steady contact and walk rates, a nice combination for a player who simply needs to reach first base to steal others. Fuld has often been a 20-25 steal player in the 300-350 at-bat range. Could he push 30 at the big-league level if the Rays find him 400-plus at-bats? It's worth throwing a dart to find out in deeper leagues, but $109 was just a bit too rich for our blood to find out.

Jason Motte, RP, STL -
Motte has only appeared in two games this season, and the rampant speculation is he'd be the primary option to close if Ryan Franklin is replaced. Word out of St. Louis on Sunday indicated that Miguel Batista is actually next in line - ahead of Motte and Mitchell Boggs - while the Cards aren't looking to remove Franklin from the closer's role just yet. Motte's growth last season included a full year when he struck out more than a batter per inning (9.3 K/9IP), and he shaved his walk rate to 3.1 BB/9IP. Somehow, the 40-year-old Batista, he of the 4.73 FIP over 114 appearances the last two seasons, is considered a fallback? I would rather invest in a Cards penny stock such as Triple-A reliever Fernando Salas than try to believe Batista is going to rack up saves this summer.

Chris Volstad, SP, FLA -
Before his first start of the season last week, the quiet hope in this camp was that Volstad would get shelled to keep interest low. Fortunately, he walked four over five innings and only struck out one, so the interest was limited in the former first-round pick. With Alex Sanabia battling arm trouble at Triple-A, Volstad should have plenty of leash as the Marlins are going to try and make sure they get a profit from their investment in the 24-year-old. Given his age, Volstad may not be a finished product just yet, and we'd be happy to turn a low-risk FAAB investment into something that resembles Jeff Niemann in the coming weeks.

Now, we get to the more interesting portion of the report. Who did our fellow owners let go to acquire the talents of Willie Bloomquist, Jason Marquis and Bruce Chen (among others)?

Jed Lowrie, 2B/SS, BOS -
I won't go wax poetic about Lowrie again, it's already happened a couple of times this season and is actually getting a little pathetic on some levels. Marco Scutaro has slumped out of the gates, and Lowrie offers eligibility and both middle-infield positions. He's the type of high-upside reserve you love to own because of the flexibility even when he's not getting a ton of at-bats because the value of ownership can quickly outpace the investment made if the playing time opens up.

Ryan Doumit, C, PIT -
He's still a top-28 fantasy catcher, so Doumit belongs on a roster in a league like this where all 14 teams must start a pair. Even with Chris Snyder nearing a return, Doumit should squeeze out three starts per week around the diamond. If we didn't already have Brian McCann, Geovany Soto and Alex Avila in tow, he'd be on our list this week.

Jake Arrieta, SP, BAL -
A triple-digit bid earned him the week before, but he was discarded after a rough start against the Rangers on Saturday. The Rangers are very good offensively, so getting shelled by them as a young pitcher doesn't necessarily mean he can't handle the big leagues. Arrieta has eight strikeouts in 9.1 innings, and his success throughout the upper minors in addition to his potential for another big leap forward makes him desirable. Unfortunately, a start at Cleveland later this week might drum up the interest of other owners.

Mike Pelfrey, SP, NYM -
He's never been particularly interesting to me, probably because of the lack of strikeouts and overall inconsistency. Citi Field can mask some of his deficiencies - 10-3, 2.83 ERA, 1.27 WHIP and 77:42 K:BB at home last season and a 6-5, 3.72 ERA with 65:29 K:BB in 2009. There's no chance I'd rely on him for constant starts, but spot duty in a league where lineups can be set twice weekly (Mondays and Fridays)? Absolutely.

Mike Leake, SP, CIN -
Chase Field is a tough place for young pitchers to pitch, and while job security is going to be a concern as Johnny Cueto and Homer Bailey get healthy, Leake's first start against Houston proves he's going to be usable at least on a part-time basis this season. The underlying skills here weren't that bad last season before he fell apart in the second half, and although many considered Leake to be nearly a finished product out of college (it's what enabled him to skip the minor leagues entirely), there's a good chance he'll prove that he belongs in the back of the Cincinnati rotation as the season rolls along.

Mark Melancon, RP, HOU -
The ground Brandon Lyon is standing on in Houston is no more firm than Ryan Franklin's in St. Louis. As a result, Melancon is the interesting speculative bid for saves in Houston even on the heels of an impressive 2010 from Wilton Lopez. As we saw this week with Motte (who was released by another owner last week), it doesn't take much for the price of closers-in-waiting to rise.

Sergio Romo, RP, SF -
Especially for Brian Wilson owners, Romo is a nice insurance policy for saves in San Francisco if Wilson's oblique issue resurfaces. Even if that doesn't happen, he can be valuable as a staff filler during lineup periods when you don't have enough pitchers for the flex spots, delivering strikeouts and improving your standing in ERA and WHIP.

Evan Meek, RP, PIT -
Admittedly, it's nice to see Joel Hanrahan succeeding in Pittsburgh. If the Pirates aren't in contention when the trade deadline arrives in July, Meek could wind up closing in the second half as Hanrahan would be of interest to contenders looking to make bullpen upgrades. His improvement last season included more groundballs and fewer walks - remember you don't have to absorb the early damage to ERA and WHIP after he allowed seven baserunners and four earned runs while delivering just two-thirds of an inning out of the gates.

This time last year, we had to make a move to add another starting pitcher with Trevor Cahill on the DL. Since Cahill was still a few weeks away from returning and other other bench players were more valuable at that time, we cut him loose. It turned out to be a huge mistake as we were outbid for him in FAAB during early May, but one owner's roster woes can quickly benefit another's when forced to let go of a talented player due to injury or early-season ineffectiveness.
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