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MLB Barometer: Chooch Returns

Howard Bender

Howard Bender has been covering fantasy sports for over a decade on a variety of web sites. For more from him, you can find his personal musings on his blog or follow him on Twitter at @rotobuzzguy. For questions, thoughts or comments you can email him at

At this point in the season, you're probably sifting through your waiver wire with a bit of disgust. It is very likely that on at least one occasion you missed out on a guy and have been scouring through in search of someone, anyone, who may have some potential to do more for your team than play one or two strong games and follow them up with a 2-for-20 over their next five. Unfortunately though, that can be hard to come by at this point.

The month of April is actually one of the more difficult times to actively play the waiver wire as there is basically a fantasy perfect storm happening. On one hand, it's early in the year so everyone is active. Yup, even that guy who year after year finishes in last due to team neglect. You're fighting the full slate of owners for each and every player who gets even the slightest positive write-up on some web site. People are making it rain in the club with FAAB dollars and guys are staying up until 3 AM, just waiting for the site to roll over so they can be the first to nab a player one waivers ends and free agency starts. If you're not obsessive-compulsive, it's a battle each and every day/week.

On the other hand, you still have substantial player movement for a few reasons. Obviously the biggest is the early-season injury. Maybe it's poor conditioning or maybe their bodies simply aren't ready for the daily grind of a baseball season, but players drop like flies in the early goings of a season and people are scrambling for their replacements. You also have fickle managers who like to move players around due to slow starts. Platoon situations develop and random guys begin to gain value while players you thought were full-time and solid, are now stuck in a time-share. Pitchers get bumped from the rotation, closer jobs change hands, it's just a whirlwind of activity and staying on top of every team detail and nuance can be a daunting task at times.

But fear not as your waiver wire is going to start looking a whole lot better soon enough. As we head into the month of May, there are greener pastures ahead. Injured players are headed back, bullpens are settling down, rotations are being reset, expected call-ups are making their way to the show; even the weather is getting nicer and we're seeing more double-headers and fewer postponements. What all that means is that your waiver wire is going to start looking flush with talent again. Not only will you be able to pick off of these minor leaguers who are making their way to the bigs, but those owners in your league who suffered early injuries are going to have to do some DL-maintenance to their roster and be forced into dropping several of the players they picked up earlier. Sure, not everyone is going to have huge value, but the players who should be hitting your waiver wire in the next week or two are definitely going to be better options than the garbage through which you are now sifting.

The storm clouds are parting and the waiver skies are finally opening up again. Hopefully you didn't blow your wad too early and still have FAAB dollars in reserve or a decent waiver priority. If you do, then take a look at some of these guys.

On the Rise

Nolan Arenado, 3B COL - He's baaaaaaaack! Just as we knew he would be. Sure, he struggled in Double-A last year while he was tweaking his mechanics, but things are clicking now and there's just no way the Rockies were going to keep Arenado down in the minors any longer; not after batting .364 with 14 runs, three home runs, 21 RBI and walking nearly as many times as he's struck out. He made his mark in spring training and he backed it up through the first month. With Chris Nelson struggling in a variety of situations at the plate and having difficulty even hitting his weight, the move shouldn't come as much of a surprise. The good news is that there's still plenty of time to get those weekly waiver bids in.

Oswaldo Arcia, OF MIN - With Ryan Doumit and Chris Parmelee both hitting near the Mendoza line and Aaron Hicks still not fully out of the doghouse, the Twins brought up Arcia, who was batting .394 at Triple-A Rochester, to get into the outfield mix. And in the mix he is, as manager Ron Gardenhire said that he'll be in the lineup regularly. "I didn't bring him up to sit on the bench,"" were his exact words. Defensively, Arcia is both solid and versatile which Gardenhire likes, and while he's only 4-for-18 (.222) over his last five games, he's got four runs, two home runs and six RBI to his credit. His at-bats are looking better lately and there's no reason to believe that he won't keep moving in and out of the corner outfield and DH spots and picking up steady at-bats.

Carlos Ruiz, C PHI - It's funny how a player can be so easily forgotten because he's not accumulating stats right now. But Ruiz is sitting on plenty of waiver wires out there just waiting to be scooped up. It's hard to imagine that he will hit as strongly as he did last season, but even if he comes close to that .325-16-68 mark, he's going to have a solid value. One caveat here though as Ruiz was also diagnosed with plantar fasciitis, which is a recurring injury that could limit his time down the stretch. He should be more than fine for the first couple of months, but simple wear and tear could cause a flare-up so make sure you hold a decent back-up.

Kevin Gregg, RP CHC - While the expectation is that Kyuji Fujikawa will soon come off the DL and be considered for a return to the closer's role, Cubs manager Dale Sveum has been around the block enough times to know that if he's got a guy, especially a veteran, throwing well and doing his job, then you don't mess around with it. You all know that line from Bull Durham - you don't "%^#$" with a streak! Gregg has now made three successful appearances as the team's closer and has allowed just two hits with no walks and four strikeouts. The original plan called for Fujikawa to set up for Carlos Marmol and the team can easily put him back in that role when he's healthy again.

Brandon Belt, OF SF - There were rumblings in San Francisco that suddenly Belt was stuck in a platoon with the light-hitting Joaquin Arias as he was sitting against a pair of lefties last week. However, manager Bruce Bochy gave a vote of confidence for his struggling first baseman and assured the public that there was no such platoon. The funny thing about it was that Belt is actually hitting better against southpaws than he is right-handers (.294 vs LHP; .207 vs RHP) so it was just a matter of giving the opposition different looks and holding a potentially stout left-handed bat on the bench. It may all be a moot point however, as Belt is now 6-for-14 (.429) with two runs, a home run and three RBI over his last five games. He's got strong potential once he gets going so he makes for an interesting stash until he gets hot, which could actually be sooner than later.

Fading Fast

Andrew Bailey, RP BOS - Unlike the volatile situation on the North Side of Chicago, the Red Sox have every intention of putting Joel Hanrahan back into the closer's role once he comes off the disabled list. Bailey has certainly done an admirable job with just one small hiccup and probably deserves to hold the gig, but the Sox were pretty vocal about their revamped bullpen structure when they trade for the big right-hander. If you can stash Bailey that might be the best scenario for you, as Hanrahan will certainly have to perform up to task if he is going to hold down the job. The Sox are a high-profile team, so a successful Bailey languishing in a set-up role with a failing closer won't last for too long. Unfortunately, how long the leash on Hanrahan is not yet known.

Luis Cruz, SS/3B LAD - While Justin Sellers is only batting .224, at least he has a glove. Cruz, on the other hand, is not as strong defensively and his .098 average is ... please insert your own expletive here. With Hanley Ramirez set to come off the disabled list soon, the Dodgers are going to have to make a move. The original plan called for Hanley to play shortstop this year, but with Justin Sellers clearly outplaying Cruz, the Dodgers could simply move him [Ramirez] back to the hot corner unless Sellers is up for the task. Meanwhile, Cruz could be dropped from the 25-man roster entirely. One added thing to keep in mind: should the Dodgers put Hanley at third and leave Sellers at short, there could be a future change as well with shortstop Dee Gordon batting .337 with nine walks to just 12 strikeouts and 12 stolen bases down at Triple-A Alburquerque. Just something to keep in mind.

Mark Ellis, 2B LAD - Wow. One six-game hit-streak and a two-homer game sure gives you some juice in the fantasy community, huh? Ellis has been one of the most added players in leagues across the interwebz over the past week and those who have scooped him up are likely in for some serious disappointment. Come on people, we're talking about a 35-year old guy who is a career .266 hitter and hasn't his more than 10 home runs since 2009. His strikeout rate is already a little higher than his career-norm and his .342 average is being held up by a very unsustainable .383 BABIP. His .363 OBP is also being helped by it as well, but actually shouldn't drop off too much so long as his atrocious 2.5-percent walk rate regresses to the mean. Still, Ellis is clearly playing over his head right now and those who are banking on production for him are going to be sorely disappointed when the baseball gods remind him that he's still just Mark Ellis.

Joe Blanton, SP LAA - Aside from the general rule of thumb that few pitchers go from the NL to the AL with much success, a simple look at Blanton's 4.72 interleague ERA over the last four seasons should have been enough for you to avoid picking him up as a member of the Angels this year. Blanton is now 0-4 with a 7.09 ERA, a 2.10 WHIP and just a 13:9 K:BB over 26.2 innings (five starts) and just looks awful out there right now. Everyone's favorite innings-eater hasn't gone past the sixth in any start this season and has given up fewer than four runs in an outing just one - three to Seattle in Seattle on Saturday, to be exact. There hasn't been talk of a bump from the rotation just yet, but you should certainly be bumping him from yours right now. Maybe he finds a groove later on down the road, but for now, you just can't risk it.

Gerardo Parra, OF ARI - Here's another case of a productive guy about to hit the pine as a teammate comes off the disabled list. Parra is actually in the midst of a seven-game hit streak and is batting .313 with a fantastic .458 on-base percentage. But unfortunately, Jason Kubel is coming off the disabled list soon and the Diamondbacks are likely going to start platooning their corner outfielders at best, if not just go with Kubel and Cody Ross more often than not. Parra has always been the designated fourth outfielder in that group so while he is playing well, he should still see some work, but he won't be in there every day for long. He's always a nice plug-and-play option but his days as a regular in your lineup should be coming to an end.