TOYOTA TUNDRA – PICKUPS OF THE WEEK
This week, Yahoo! Sports fantasy expert Brandon Funston looks at nine intriguing fantasy baseball players still available on the waiver wire in more than half of Yahoo! fantasy leagues.
Sure, blame it on Rios for a dismal '11 season, but owners would be wise not to hold a grudge
Alex Rios (OF) Chicago White Sox
Rios is on a 10-game hitting streak, and his OPS sits at .907 for the season. A 20/30 clubber in '10, Rios is coming off his worst full season campaign of his career, though his batted ball profile shows that he was a victim of an unhealthy amount of bad luck – his Batting Average on Balls in Play (BABIP) was 80 points lower (.237) than his career average (.317). As his Yahoo! ownership rate shows, last season's detour through hell has made Rios an easy player to get your hands on this season. That shouldn't be the case for a 31-year-old with three seasons of top 60 fantasy production in the past five years.
Y! % 46%
Y! rank 227
Hum-baby! Mr. Perfect enjoying the fruits of a new approach
Philip Humber (SP) Chicago White Sox
Humber's perfect game is the big story of the early '12 season, and much of his shutdown success can be attributed to a heavier reliance on his slider, which rates as the most valuable slider in the league among those who have pitched at least 10 innings this season, according to Fangraphs. And although he's pitched just two games, it's also worth pointing out that his SwStk% (swinging strikes) is a career-high 13.3%, which ranks among the top 10 in the league. Hitters have averaged just .246 off Humber in his career, and he's shown good control with the White Sox, so he should be a solid WHIP contributor even if he can't continue to fan a batter per IP. But the increased reliance on his slider offers hope that his '12 transformation might not be a flash in the pan.
Y! % 39%
Y! rank 39
Deep-ball Friar inching closer to his Padres debut
Carlos Quentin (OF) San Diego Padres
Acquired from the White Sox on New Year's Eve, and signed by the Padres to a one-year, $7 million dollar deal, Quentin has yet to take the field for the Padres because of an injured right knee that required arthroscopic surgery in mid-March. By all accounts, his recovery has gone well and he should be embarking on a minor league rehab assignment soon. With the likelihood that he'll be back in early May, those with an open DL spot should strongly consider adding Quentin to the roster now, which will give you the rights to one of the league's premier power hitters while giving you a couple weeks to decide how to make room for him once he comes off the DL. Once he's healthy, Quentin is a power source to be reckoned with. He averaged 36 home runs per 162 games in his four years in Chicago. And he's always hit well with runners on base, so he can pile up the production in the middle of the order. Of course, staying healthy is the main rub here. He's never played more than 131 games in a season. But, perhaps, he'll find a way to stay on the field since he's playing for a new contract in ‘13.
Y! % 32%
Y! rank NA
Nearing a return from knee surgery, regular middle-of-the-order at bats in the Cards for Craig
Allen Craig (2B/OF) St. Louis Cardinals
Craig gained a fantasy following thanks to a .320 average and .924 OPS in 219 games at Triple-A. And many have been heady with anticipation at what Craig might be able to do this season for the Cards in a Tony LaRussa-free environment. LaRussa's lineup whims, as well as health, prevented Craig from playing every day, but he still managed a .917 OPS in the 75 games he did play in St. Louis last season. Like Quentin, Craig is coming back from knee surgery, which he had last November, and he's just started on a minor league rehab assignment – he homered in his first at bat. He'll Likely land back in St. Louis by the first week of May. But the time for fantasy owners to roster him is now.
Y! % 23%
Y! rank NA
Houston pocket rocket riding a contact high
Jose Altuve (2B) Houston Astros
A member of last week's touted waiver crowd, Altuve is still feeling the cold shoulder from the fantasy community. A .324 hitter in his 318-game minor league career, Altuve is showing no problems of translating his high contact approach (currently ranks fourth in MLB in Contact%) to the big leagues. He ranks fourth in the NL in multi-hit games (7) and his OPS of .845 is also fourth-best among the 2B-eligible crowd. Altuve should also be good for 20-plus steals when the dust settles, and he has the potential to make a solid impact in Runs if he can find his way back near the top of the Astros batting order, a foregone conclusion if he keeps hitting like he has.
Y! % 31%
Y! rank 179
Young Royal finally starting to live up to past prospect hype
Alcides Escobar (SS) Kansas City Royals
For the past week, only Derek Jeter has been better in fantasy at the shortstop position than Escobar. The former Brewers top prospect is showing signs of turning the corner in Kansas City, where he's batted .286 with 24 steals in his past 113 games. Drawing walks would be a welcome next step, as he has just one free pass on the season. But, that said, he's keeping the average up and offering nice speed from a depth-scarce position.
Y! % 24%
Y! rank 126
Attention, Span has his hit-and-run fantasy game back in working order
Denard Span (OF) Minnesota Twins
Span is tied for ninth in the league in hits and has three steals and six runs, all coming in the past 11 games. He owns a very nice .361 career OBP mark and should be good for 20-plus steals. He'll also contribute positively in Batting Average and Runs if he can stay healthy. Last year, he missed more than half the season as a result of a concussion. So it's heartening to note that he hasn't missed a game this season.
Y! % 19%
Y! rank 219
Pronk is a nice Band-Aid for those fantasy franchises bleeding offense
Travis Hafner (DH) Cleveland Indians
Hafner is a hard one to roster in shallow leagues because he can only be used in a UTIL spot given his no-position eligibility. But offensive-needy owners might want to consider biting that bullet, at least while Hafner is enjoying rare good health. Pronk is hitting .406 over the past two weeks, with a couple home runs and solid run production. In his past 150 games, dating back to the '10 All-Star break, Hafner has hit .301 with 20 home runs and 86 RBI. Those are Billy Butler type numbers, and he's owned in 88 percent of Yahoo! leagues. Agains, the likelihood that he'll avoid the Disabled List the rest of the way is not very good, but that has nothing to do with the here-and-now. A healthy Pronk deserves a home.
Y! % 15%
Y! rank 133
Owners should head for Hill to find rare middle infield power
Aaron Hill (2B) Arizona Diamondbacks
Hill hit 36 home runs and 26 home runs in back-to-back seasons in '09 and '10. That's reason enough to buy in to his solid power numbers out of the gate this season. Even more encouraging is his 0.73 BB/K ratio, which is the highest of his career. Batting average will be a concern because of his heavy fly ball tendencies, many of which are infield flies, but Hill is currently on a nice roll, hitting .314 in his past 11 games. Fantasy owners can hope for a batting average north of .250, but should be able to count on 20 home runs, at least a dozen stolen bases and better than average run production from a middle infielder.
Y! % 39%
Y! rank 165
Other Week 4 Pickups: Mat Gamel, Mil, 1B; Adam LaRoche, Was, 1B; Zack Cozart, Cin, SS; Eduardo Nunez, NYY, 2B/3B/SS; Jason Bay, NYM, OF; Colby Rasmus, Tor, OF; Vernon Wells, LAA, OF; Luke Scott, TB, 1B/OF; Angel Pagan, SF, OF; Cody Ross, Bos, OF; Raul Ibanez, NYY, OF; A.J. Burnett, Pit, SP; Jarrod Parker, Oak, SP; Santiago Casilla, SF, RP; Matt Thornton, CWS, RP;
Will Middlebrooks, 3B – Boston’s top prospect is lighting up the International League – 7 HRs in 17 games for Pawtucket.
Mike Trout, OF – Arguably MLB’s top prospect, Trout is flashing power (.600 SLG%) and speed (6 SB) for Triple-A Salt Lake City.
Lonnie Chisenhall, 3B – The Tribe’s top hot corner farmhand is keeping the pressure on Jack Hanahan, producing a .583 SLG% for Triple-A Columbus.
Travis Snider, OF – The Jays’ post-hype prospect leads the PCL with a .769 slugging percentage.
Anthony Rizzo, 1B – Rizzo continues to prove that he’s a master of Triple-A pitching with a PCL-high seven home runs in 18 games.
Alex Castellanos, 3B – Part of the haul in the trade that sent Rafael Furcal to St. Louis, Castellanos leads the PCL in total bases.
Trevor Bauer, SP – Anticipation builds for Bauer’s arrival in Arizona with each passing start for Double-A Mobile, where he has fanned 28 and allowed just 1 ER in 22.2 IP
Danny Hultzen, SP – The M’s coveted southpaw owns a 2.81 ERA and has whiffed 21 batters in 16 IP for Double-A Jacksonville