Let's be honest, no one cares about the Golden Globes or the ESPYs. But in the fake baseball world, we care about The Wiggys. (At least I do. And you should, too.)
The idea behind The Wiggys is to find the out-of-nowhere waiver finds, the guys you were almost embarrassed to use a pickup on. There's nothing more satisfying in fantasy baseball than unearthing major production from an unexpected source.
Ty Wigginton is our patron saint, an everyman usually found on the waiver wire in the 2000s, ready to clock a few homers, fill a few positions. This exercise aspires to be a collection of dirt dogs and unsung heroes. Players draped with buzz or expectations are steered away from the hardware (looking a you, Yasiel Puig; nodding at you, Shelby Miller). We want the craziest stories we can find.
-- Starting Pitchers: Bartolo Colon, Athletics; John Lackey, Red Sox; Jeff Locke, Pirates; Mike Leake, Reds; Eric Stults, Padres
Colon's career arc doesn't make a lot of sense. He looked done like dinner back with the Angels in 2007 (6.34 ERA, 1.62 WHIP) and he wasn't fooling anyone with the White Sox in 2009, either (4.19/1.44). Oakland's cushy backdrop has helped, sure, but he's also handy on the road (seven wins, 2.93/1.20). It's fun to watch him pitch; he works quickly and everything is around the strike zone. Science . . . it works, bitches. Life begins at 40.
Fantasy owners didn't kick Lackey to the curb so much as they kicked him, period. This guy made us angry with his public persona, his crummy pitching, his bloated contract. Here's a reminder that sometimes those "best shape of his life" stories in February and March actually mean something.
The entire Pittsburgh staff could be in this article. Francisco Liriano, you too. Locke gets the nod because it's in our nature to underrate the soft tossers, the guile guys, the pitchers without pedigree.
Two months ago, Leake was the unexciting guy standing in Tony Cingrani's way. You win this one, Johnnie Baker.
Honorable Mention: Liriano, Patrick Corbin, Scott Feldman
-- Relief Pitchers: Kevin Gregg, Cubs; Edward Mujica, Cardinals; Mark Melancon, Pirates; Alex Torres, Rays; Francisco Rodriguez, Brewers
Fantasy owners recognize the low barrier to relief relevance in our game. Anyone in the ninth inning has to be taken seriously, no matter what warning signs are flashing. Chase those handshakes. Gregg was the easiest punchline in a messy Chicago bullpen, but no one is laughing now. (The Cubs and Brewers will be shopping Gregg and K-Rod, respectively, all summer. That tells you something right there.)
Mitchell Boggs was considered the hedge behind Jason Motte in St. Louis, a reminder that closers-in-waiting are generally an overrated lot. Mujica has some homer problems here and there, but his elite control and sharpened splitter make him an excellent for for the ninth. Unexpected saves always come into the fantasy world, yearly. This is an area you can attack on a budget.
Honorable Mention: Koji Uehara
-- Catcher: Evan Gattis, Braves
You should know the Gattis story by now, a ready-for-Hollywood script. Drugs and dropouts, wandering and searching, ultimate redemption It's a shame the Braves don't have a dedicated spot for Gattis in the lineup, but he probably has another 10-12 homers in him, somewhere. His defense is an issue at all positions, but the pop is too juicy to ignore.
Honorable Mention: Jason Castro
-- First Base: Daniel Nava, Red Sox
Nava is really an outfielder and not a first baseman, but position flexibility is a glorified trait in these awards and we'll sneak him onto the roster here. Nava's story is almost as good as the Gattis tale; the Boston outfielder couldn't make his college team and had to find his way to relevance through junior college baseball. Undrafted, an independent league baller, a $1 purchase for the Red Sox - the classic underdog framework. The Boston offense is MLB's deepest, with Nava's .288-52-10-52 line fitting nicely in the middle of the order. A nifty emergence at age 30.
Honorable Mention: Chris Carter
-- Second Base: Matt Carpenter, Cardinals
Not every St. Louis experiment works out famously, it just seems that way at times. Carpenter leads the NL in runs, splashing a tasty .321/.394/.497 line at the top of the Cardinals lineup. He's been solid at second base, too - here's a rare case of a player moving to a trickier defensive position and making it work.
Honorable Mention: Brian Dozier
-- Shortstop: Jose Igelsias, Red Sox
The scouting report has always been clear on Iglesias - wonderful glove, no bat. He wasn't expected to hit at all. His .244/.296/.292 line at Triple-A, over 222 games, tells an ominous story. To be fair, his 52-game binge with Boston (.367/.417/.461) is probably a monumental fluke (Didi Gregorius waves from Arizona), and Iglesias hasn't offered any category juice (one homer, two steals). But it's been fun while it's lasted.
Honorable Mention: Jean Segura (a little too famous), Gregorius
-- Third Base: Josh Donaldson, Athletics
A late bloomer in Northern California, what a concept. Donaldson came into pro baseball with something of a pedigree (he was a sandwich pick in 2007, 48th overall), but it didn't really click until his age-26 season last year at Triple-A. His part-season in Oakland was mildly useful but not overwhelming, which is why no one really saw the 2013 explosion. It's criminal Donaldson wasn't on the AL All-Star Team.
Honorable Mention: Chris Johnson
-- Outfield: Raul Ibanez, Mariners; Marlon Byrd, Mets; Nate McLouth, Orioles; Domonic Brown, Phillies
If you saw the Ibanez or Byrd emergence before the year, start picking lottery numbers. McLouth offered a tease to what was coming, giving Baltimore 55 useful games in 2012. Brown is a textbook post-hype case, but even the most optimistic Brown supporter didn't dream about 23 first-half homers. A retooled swing has done wonders, not to mention the long-awaited endorsement from manager Charlie Manuel.