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.
Get this Met - It pays
Kirk Nieuwenhuis (OF) New York Mets
Following a week in which he hit .400, Nieuwenhuis currently owns the distinction of being the highest rated offensive player (No. 147) in the Yahoo! game owned in less than half of Yahoo! leagues. And with a 10 percent ownership rate, he's not even close to the 50 percent threshold. With a healthy BB rate and hitting ahead of David Wright at the top of the Mets lineup, Nieuwenhuis has made his biggest fantasy impact in the Runs department (31). But he's a solid athlete that can do a little bit of everything, and that's apparent when looking at his 5x5 line.
Y! % 10%
Y! rank 147
Scutaro has been frequently scooting around the bases for Colorado
Marco Scutaro (2B/SS) Colorado Rockies
Like Nieuwenhuis, Scutaro gets a Runs boost hitting at the top of the Rockies lineup. But, unlike Nieuwenhuis, Scutaro has eligibility at both middle infield spots. And in the past week, Scutaro has been the No. 6 MI in the Yahoo! game with a line of .320, 1 HR, 5 Runs, 2 SBs and 7 RBIs (only had 4 RBIs heading into this past week). After hitting north of .280 in two of his past three seasons, there's reason to believe that Scutaro's batting average (.257) should only go up as the season progresses, given that half of his games are in the ripe offensive environment of Coors Field. And, not to be dismissed, Scutaro is projected for a career-high 15 steals. If he can keep up that pace on the base paths, he's a solid two-and-a-half category bet the rest of the way.
Y! rank 296
Smoak's monster run earns him AL Player of the Week honors
Justin Smoak (1B) Seattle Mariners
Since landing in last Thursday's Pickups of the Week: Hitter update following a 2 HR, 6 RBI performance at Texas, Smoak went 4-for-11 with another home run over the weekend in Chicago. In addition to his weekend performance, the one other note to tack onto Thursday's Smoak breakdown is that the M's first baseman is trending the right way in terms of plate discipline. In his past 13 games, his K-to-BB ratio is 7:7. In his first 37 games of the year, he produced a miserable 39:8 ratio.
Y! % 31%
Y! rank 215
This OBP machine has failed to generate much fantasy buzz
A.J. Ellis (C) Los Angeles Dodgers
Ellis hasn't slowed down since landing on the May 16th Pickups of the Week: Hitter update, collecting a hit in 12 of 14 games since. In his past 25 games, Ellis has hit .330 with 5 HRs, 18 RBIs and 15 Runs. Combine Ellis' hot bat and his 28 bases on balls (14th in MLB) and you get the fourth-best OBP in the league (.430). Ellis produced a .441 OBP in 251 Triple-A games, so his '12 breakout shouldn't be scoffed at. Currently the No. 8 catcher in the Yahoo! game, Ellis warrants a healthy spike in his current Yahoo! ownership rate (46%).
Y! % 46%
Y! rank 185
Tribe prospect has been quick to the take in his second tour of duty
Lonnie Chisenhall (3B) Cleveland Indians
Considered Cleveland's top hitting prospect heading into the '11 season, Chisenhall was a bit of a disappointment in his 66-game MLB debut last season, producing just a .699 OPS and a worrisome 49:8 K-to-BB ratio. Opening up '12 back in Triple-A, Chisenhall hit .324 with a .893 OPS for Columbus before the Indians called him back up again last week. And he's hit the ground running in his second tour with the Indians, hitting .333 with two home runs and two steals in his first six games. The Tribe is limiting his exposure to lefties, as he's sat against Kansas City's Bruce Chen and Minnesota's Scott Diamond. But Chisenhall was actually better against lefties (.888 OPS) than righties (.640 OPS) last season in Cleveland, so the platoon set-up may not last if Chisenhall continues to swing a hot stick. And if he does that, Jack Hanahan may have a hard time getting his job back when he returns from the DL in a week or two.
Y! % 6%
Y! rank 952
Paulino has packed punchouts into his first month of '12
Felipe Paulino (SP) Kansas City Royals
Since returning in early May from the DL following a forearm strain, Paulino has been mostly lights out, pitching at least six innings and allowing zero runs in four of six starts. And he's fanned at least five hitters in all six outings, leaving him with a lofty 9.49 K/9 rate. Among those that have pitched at least 30 innings in '12, only Stephen Strasburg has produced a greater fastball average than Paulino's 95.1. But it's been Paulino's slider that has been doing the most damage as, according to FanGraphs, it ranks among the top 13 sliders in '12 among starters (min. 30 IP). For the past month, only 10 starters have been better than Paulino in the Yahoo! fantasy game.
Y! rank 120
Mighty mouse throwing serious cheese in the middle innings for KC
Tim Collins (SP) Kansas City Royals
Collins may not be at the top of KC's short list of next-in-line closers, but he still offers three-category fantasy utility for those in Yahoo! default leagues (and other leagues working with a similar easily-reachable innings pitched cap). The diminutive Collins currently owns the seventh-highest K/9 rate (13.5) among those with at least 20 innings pitched. And because of his heavy use in middle relief, he ranks third among all relievers in total strikeouts (41), behind only Aroldis Chapman and Ernesto Frieri. Since allowing three runs to the Red Sox on May 7th, Collins has pitched 11 scoreless innings with a 19:3 K-to-BB ratio.
Y! rank 127
Once bitten Burnett owners shouldn't be twice shy
A.J. Burnett (SP) Pittsburgh Pirates
Seemingly all the Yahoo! fantasy experts have stated the case for Burnett but, given that he's still only owned in 30 percent of Yahoo! leagues, it bears repeating. Burnett is being unduly punished for one very bad outing – 2.2 IP, 12 ER at St. Louis on May 2nd. In his other seven starts, Burnett owns an ERA of 1.52, including a 3-0 record, 1.57 ERA and a 25:8 K-to-BB ratio in his past five starts (34.1 IP) since his St. Louis shellacking. Burnett BB/9 rate (2.52) is the lowest mark of his career, and his ground-ball rate (57.9) ranks fourth in MLB among starters. And among the 12 most ground-ball heavy starters, only Burnett and James Shields carry a K/9 rate above 7.50. It's been more than a month since Burnett laid his one massive egg of '12. It's time to drop the grudge.
Y! rank 196
The Bauer hour is nearly upon us
Trevor Bauer (SP) Arizona Diamondbacks
Speculation has increased that arguably the top minor league pitching prospect is very close to getting his first call to the majors. Splitting time between Double- and Triple-A this season, Bauer has gone 9-1 with a 1.96 ERA and 91 Ks in 73.1 IP. His workout routine, delivery and electric stuff has led some to label him the next Tim Lincecum. He still needs to work on his control, as he's walked well over four batters per nine innings this season. But the talent upside makes Bauer worth a dice roll in even shallow leagues, even if only to try and capitalize on the building buzz by flipping him in a deal to another owner in your league for a more proven player. With the fear of a player gaining "Super 2" arbitration status, early-to-mid June is typically when cost-conscious teams start to feel comfortable about promoting top prospects. So it could be that Bauer only sees another start or two for Triple-A Reno before he punches his ticket.
Y! rank 517
Other Week 10 Pickups: Gordon Beckham, ChW, 2B; Wilin Rosario, Col, C; Ty Wigginton, Phi, 1/3/O; Will Middlebrooks, Bos, 3B; Mitch Moreland, Tex, 1B/OF; Jordan Pacheco, Col, 1B; Todd Frazier, Cin, 3B; Chris Johnson, Hou, 3B; Danny Espinosa, Was, 2B; Everth Cabrera, SD, 2B/SS; Darwin Barney, ChC, 2B; Raul Ibanez, NYY, OF; Colby Rasmus, Tor, OF; Scott Hairston, NYM, OF; Michael Saunders, Sea, OF; Michael Brantley, Cle, OF; J.D. Martinez, Hou, OF; Denard Span, Min, OF; Brian Matuz, Bal, SP; Homer Bailey, Cin, SP; Felix Doubront, Bos, SP; Jason Vargas, Sea, SP; Aaron Harang, LAD, SP; Jonathon Niese, NYM, SP; Sergio Romo, SF, RP; Brad Lincoln, Pit, RP; Craig Stammen, Was, RP; Alexi Ogando, Tex, RP
Travis d'Arnaud, C (Tor) – Has hit .422 with 5 HRs and 15 RBIs in his past 10 games for Triple-A Las Vegas.
Moises Sierra, OF (Tor) – d'Arnaud's teammate is hitting .486 with 4 HRs and 12 RBIs in his past eight games.
Mike Olt, 3B (Tex) – Texas' top power hitting prospect leads Texas League with 17 HRs and 127 Totals Bases for Double-A Frisco.
Brett Jackson, OF (ChC) – Cubs' top prospect is breaking out of his slump with 3 HRs, 3 Triples, 2 Doubles and 4 SBs in past nine games for Triple-A Iowa.
Bryce Brentz, OF (Bos) – Boston's top outfield prospect has hit .429 with 4 doubles and 2 HRs in his past nine games.
Danny Hultzen, SP (Sea) – In his past five starts for Double-A Jackson, Hultzen has gone 4-0 with a 0.57 ERA and 33 Ks in 31.2 IP.
Wade LeBlanc, SP (Mia) – The former Padre has a 1.45 ERA and a 30:2 K-to-BB ratio in past 4 starts (31 IP) for Triple-A New Orleans.