PAINTING THE BLACK: Waiver Pick Ups for Production
For most of the nation, spring is here. For those in the upper northeast and Midwest, we are really hoping all these April showers bring the welcomed May flowers and warmer temperatures. The same spring blooming is also being hoped for from a few teams and players around Major League Baseball.
Thirty games isn't enough time to deem any team "for real" or "a bust" in the beginning of an MLB campaign. At the same time, the equivalent argument can be made in the case of all players not on the 60-day DL. This year, however, the fantasy season is littered with more transactions due to season-ending injury, closer replacements, and ineffective play than in recent memory. It's so bad that Tommy John needs to get a hospital named after him at the rate pitchers are falling by the wayside.
Fear not fantasy GMs. If the team you drafted got decimated by UCLs popping, blown leads and too many GIDPs, I've got five waiver wire pickups that will get you healthy in no time. Some of these guys will be making their season debuts. Others will be coming from Triple-A. The beauty of the fantasy baseball season is getting hot at the right times - these five players certainly look to provide the necessary improvement you'll be looking for.
MIKE MINOR, SP, ATLANTA BRAVES: expected return - April 30
Minor will make one final rehab start for Double-A Mississippi and return to a rotation that's the most pleasant surprise of any National League bunch in the 2014 season. The additions of Ervin Santana (2-0, 0.86 ERA) and Aaron Harang (3-1, 0.85 ERA) stabilized a unit that lost Kris Medlen to TJ surgery in spring training, while also providing a platform to showcase a budding star in Alex Wood (2-3, 1.54 ERA). Minor will no doubt provide a boost from the left side and anchor a staff already leading the senior circuit in multiple pitching categories.
The 26-year-old southpaw is known for a solid three-pitch mix and befuddles hitters with his fantastic change-up. For fantasy owners looking to improve not only their starting corps, but cash in on IP and K categories, the Vanderbilt alum Minor gives you everything you'd want and more. With the way Atlanta started out of the gate, he's a name that will be quite popular in replacing starters who are on the shelf for the year.
Trevor Bauer, SP, CLEVELAND INDIANS: currently in Triple A Columbus
The clock is ticking on incumbent Cleveland Indians fifth starter Carlos Carrasco. Three shaky outings are certainly weighing on the minds of the Indians front office and Bauer is forcing their hand by making Triple-A competition look meager at best. What's the difference been so far? The maturity Bauer displays now is 180 degrees from on the field a year ago. The young right-hander's sequencing is much improved as well. His velocity is back up to the mid-90's, occasionally popping a 98, but the real distinction is his new-found ability to get hitters out with something other than his wicked curveball.
I talked with Bauer this past week and, as a former teammate, I can tell you first-hand the kid is a different player in 2014. He recognizes little tweaks making major enhancements in all facets of his game. His strikeout-to-walk ratio is night and day what it was in 2013. Ultimately, he's getting deeper into games and achieving more swings-and-misses. All these attributes are very imperative ingredients for fantasy owners scouring the waiver wire for this year's steal. Trevor Bauer very quickly could put your team back on the map.
LONNIE CHISENHALL, 3B, CLEVELAND INDIANS:
The big spring training commotion out of Goodyear centered squarely around who would play third base to begin the season for the Tribe. Carlos Santana "won" the job, but is coming up short on expectations thus far. Chisenhall, notorious for good camps, is absolutely en fuego right now, making the most of his opportunities for the Indians in 2014. A concern of making him the primary DH surfaced early in 2014 about his inability to hit left-handed pitching. He's not facing them full-time yet, but it's going to be hard for manager Terry Francona to keep Chisenhall (.432 AVG, 1.070 OPS) out of the every day lineup.
Fantasy GMs always like depth at the corner infield position to cover injuries or slumps. You can't go wrong by adding Chisenhall at this point in the season. In the short term, he'll be playing against a slew of right-handed starters. In the long term, if he continues to get deep into counts and use the left side of the field as he's done so far, "Big Lon" fills your needs to bolster a lackluster fantasy lineup.
DAISUKE MATSUZAKA/Kyle Farnsworth, RP, NEW YORK METS:
2014 is certainly the year of the "closing carousel." For the Metropolitans, the circus continues after Jose Valverde's audition fell flat and Kyle Farnsworth succumbed to "old age." The once heavily-fawned over Japanese phenom Matsuzaka recorded his first big league save against the Cardinals this past week, adding yet another option to manager Terry Collins's on-going search for a consistent stopper.
While Farnsworth appears set in the short-term to get the lion's share of save opportunities, you'd be smart to add Matsuzaka if you can afford the bench space. As the script follows for 2014 bullpen leashes, Farnsworth's is surely no longer than a shoelace. Both provide plenty of strikeout potential and are relatively average on BB/IP. Continue to track this closing situation, but I'd be adding one of these two to my fantasy relief corps.
CARLOS QUENTIN, OF, SAN DIEGO PADRES: expected return - May 10
"Q" will finish a month-long rehabilitation of a bruised left tibia and join a Padres offense that welcomes his immediate power presence. A guy I used to hate facing when he played with the White Sox, Quentin crowds the plate at all times, making pitching inside to the right-handed hitter a little bit of a nightmare. Nevertheless, it provides him plenty of ability to get his hands extended to the outside half of the plate where he thrives going the other way. He can beat you to all fields, when healthy, and manager Bud Black will be counting on his bat in the middle of the order to spark the Friars O.
If you've stashed Quentin already, good for you. He's an extreme sleeper in my mind, even though his home games are at spacious Petco Park. His gap-to-gap approach will lend fantasy owners to more chances for XBH and more than likely a mid .840-.850 OPS. Quentin hasn't been under double-digit HR totals since 2007 and I expect him to contribute immediately upon his return. Monitor his health in the early going as Black may not play him every day to begin, but "Q" will certainly be a force in the Padre lineup.