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MLB Barometer: More Bullpen Opportunities

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

From the looks of things this past week, your waiver wire is going to be a hotbed of action here on Sunday as the number of injuries is rapidly growing with each game passing. So far, we've seen players such as Rafael Betancourt, Brandon McCarthy, and Bryce Harper land on the disabled list while others such as Stephen Strasburg, Jacoby Ellsbury and Adrian Beltre have "day-to-day" or even questionable status due to the array of bumps, bruises, sprains and tears. If your league uses a standard (read: easy), first-come, first-served waiver system, then it's just a matter of you getting there before anyone else and making the right choices. But if you use a FAAB bidding system, it's time to get to work.
If you've been conservative on the free agent market, then you've probably got very little with which to be concerned. Throw some money around, pick up some guys, keep yourself covered. But if you got a little over-anxious and started to make it rain over at Club Waiver Wire early in the season, you're going to have to be a little savvier in your selections. You will likely have to dig a little deeper for the amount you're able to spend.
But keep in mind that we're in a much different place now than we were back in early April when everyone in the league was tossing around free agent dollars like they were glow-sticks at a Phish show. Besides the fact that not everyone in your league can afford the high-priced free agents, but you also catch a break with any teams whose frustrated owner has stopped paying attention. No one likes a dead team in their league, but at this point, you'll take whatever advantage you can get. On top of that, there's also a matter of need. Take the time to scan through your fellow owners' teams and really investigate who needs what and how much they have to spend. You may just catch a break and land a guy for less than you would expect simply because no one else needed a replacement third baseman.

We're rapidly approaching the dog days of summer, so get your team in the best shape possible - both starters and bench. We're only a third of the way through the season and there's still plenty more to come.
Now let's look at who's heating up and who's cooling down.
On the Rise

Luke Gregerson, RP SD - If you didn't see a Huston Street DL-stint coming, then you're either a first-time fantasy player, someone who didn't do their homework, or both. Street going down, whether it's for two weeks, four or six, is an annual event these days and something that should always be expected. Gregerson looked a little shaky in his first save appearance Saturday, but while he gave up a run, he still closed things out and earned the save. Some might be a bit concerned about a reduced strikeout rate this season, but his slider is nasty and while there might not be as many swings and misses at it, his 53.8-percent ground ball rate is a nice equalizer.

Tyler Skaggs, SP ARI - The 21-year old southpaw has had his ups and downs this year, posting just a 5.23 ERA for Triple-A Reno this season, but a run of three straight quality starts on the farm followed by a call-up and subsequent blanking of Texas in late May and Skaggs is ready to head back into the Diamondbacks' rotation now that Brandon McCarthy's cranky shoulder has put him on the shelf. A three-pitch pitcher with modest velocity, Skaggs relies heavily on his ability to change things up and keep the hitters guessing. He pounds the fastball in there and just when the hitter thinks he's getting another one, Skaggs slides in a curve or changeup. How long he can continue to use guile as a tool for success is obviously undetermined, but he should be of strong use for more than just a few starts here.

Jonathan Lucroy, C MIL - It was just a matter of time before Lucroy snapped out of his seemingly endless early-season funk and this weekend finally provided the opportunity. While the sample size was small and therefore not incredibly reliable, heading into this year, Lucroy was batting .385 (5-for-13) with a home run, two RBI and three walks at Citizens' Bank Ballpark. Now after two games, you can tack on another three home runs and five RBI to the totals. He's been the victim of some real tough luck this season and has just a .257 BABIP, but with the eventual regression we've been expecting, things are about to turn around.

Staying the Course

Daniel Nava, OF BOS - I'll admit that after two seasons of watching Nava come out the gate white-hot only to fizzle after 30-odd games, I was hesitant to buy into him. I was afraid that the return of David Ortiz combined with a potential drop-off would find Nava on the bench more often in favor of Jonny Gomes or should the Sox opt to bring back Jackie Bradley, Jr. But Nava has maintained his level of production and has earned a regular spot in the Boston lineup. He's currently batting .296 with a .398 on-base percentage and just belted his eighth home run of the season the other day.

Jose Iglesias, 3B BOS - Staying with the BoSox, it appears as if Iglesias is going to stick with the club even after Will Middlebrooks comes off the disabled list. A report in the Boston Globe says that the team is considering keeping him up as a utility player to fill in all around the infield. They've cut back on the playing time of Pedro Ciriaco and given the health concerns of Middlebrooks, Stephen Drew and the all-out style of Dustin Pedroia, Iglesias could see enough at-bats to keep us interested in super-deep or AL-only leagues.

Heading Down

Vernon Wells, OF NYY - Well, the luck was bound to run out sooner than later, right? After an outstanding first month of the season that saw Wells bat .300 with six home runs and 13 RBI, May was not so kind. He batted just .221 for the month, though he did manage four home runs, saw a slight increase in strikeouts, and a dramatic decrease in his walk rate. On top of that, he saw a spike in ground balls hit that rarely found a hole in the infield which pushed his BABIP down 70 points to a .226 mark. Should he continue as he has over the last two seasons, you're going to want to drop him soon enough.

Chris Archer, SP TB - Sometimes a young pitcher just isn't ready, no matter how many bloggers clamor for his ascension to the major leagues. Archer's minor league numbers, while decent, haven't exactly blown people away and while he posted an impressive 11.05 K/9 against big league hitters during his 2012 debut, keep in mind that it was only six appearances (four starts). He was brought up to start against Cleveland and for lack of a better pun, the Tribe scalped him. Think the free-swinging, home run-hitting Orioles are going to go any easier on him? I'm estimating a very rough pitching line with a demotion soon to follow.

Rafael Betancourt, RP COL - OK, I know we discussed Betancourt in last week's column, but that was all prior to his recent addition to the 15-day disabled list. We got faked out for a bit as it looked like Betancourt wouldn't need to go on the DL with his groin injury and he even made a successful save appearance early in the week. But things have gotten progressively worse and his latest blown save disaster gave the Rockies all they needed to make the decision. Now the question is, can he get the job back once Rex Brothers is afforded a full two-week opportunity? Brothers has the talent to run away with this job and the Rockies are looking at him as the closer of the future for them. While a variety of things can happen in the future, we may have just seen Betancourt's last days as a Colorado closer and possibly in the majors as he is likely to be traded to a team in need of bullpen, not closer, help. We'll see.

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