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.
Discriminate against Thome because of his age at your own risk
Jim Thome (1/O) Baltimore Orioles
I'm on board with colleague Scott Pianowski on this one. Thome's move to Baltimore to fill the team's DH need should grab fantasy owners' attention. After all, in his past 615 at bats dating back to 2010, Thome has launched 45 home runs and owns a serviceable .267 batting average. And, while the Pianowman suggests he might not play often against southpaws, Thome's OPS against left-handed pitching is well above .800 since '10. So, I'm saying there's a chance. With the likelihood that he'll deliver double-digit home run power from somewhere in the heart of the O's lineup the rest of the way, Thome is an immediate must-grab for the power needy in all but the shallowest of leagues.
- Y! % 6%
- Y! rank 940
- AVG .242
After three months of giving him the cold shoulder, it's time to cast a vote for Pedro
Pedro Alvarez (3B) Pittsburgh Pirates
The Yahoo! fantasy baseball community has been slow to welcome back Alvarez. I can't say I blame them. It's hard to get cozy with a player that strikes out more than 30 percent of the time and struggles to stay above the Mendoza Line. But, that said, it wouldn't be prudent to ignore his power surge any longer. Alvarez has eight home runs in his past 28 games. No longer pounding balls into the ground like last season, his Isolated Power rate of .251 ranks in the top 20 in the league. And though he'll likely always be a batting average risk, he has boosted his OBP in each of the past two months (up to .354 in June). Like Thome, Alvarez is strictly a power play, but one that you can play at the hot corner, where he ranks in the top 10 in both home runs and RBIs.
- Y! %33%
- Y! rank 185
- AVG .226
Daniel Murphy's Law: See the ball, hit it hard
Daniel Murphy (1/2/3) New York Mets
June was a struggle for Murphy … until the final week, that is. Murphy closed out the month by going 8-for-17 (.471) with three home runs and 10 RBIs in the final four games before the calendar flipped. A line-drive machine, Murphy owns a lifetime .290 batting average and currently ranks among the top 20 in the league in doubles (21). Though he has limited upside as a home run hitter, he's a solid run producer when hitting in the middle of the order – he ranks among the top 10 second basemen with 38 RBIs, the majority of them coming from the No. 5 spot in the Mets' order. As utility knife for fantasy owners – eligible at first, second and third base – Murphy is an ideal plug-n-play bench weapon.Pick him up and hope for another July like his last one (.360 in July '11).
- Y! %45%
- Y! rank 231
Two home runs in his first MLB start incites Yasmani mania
Yasmani Grandal (C) San Diego Padres
Grandal was the most added player in the Yahoo! game on Sunday. That's what a two-homer outburst in your first big league start will do for you. Of course, many fantasy owners are also aware of the fine pedigree that Grandal carries. Prior to launching two bombs at Colorado on Saturday, Grandal terrorized the lower levels of professional baseball, hitting 20 home runs and 49 doubles in his past 161 games in the minors – 568 at bats spread out across Single, Double and Triple-A. Grandal has also sported a high average and solid K/BB rates along the way. The 23-year-old switch-hitting Cuban still needs plenty of work behind the plate, but that's San Diego's problem, not yours. If you're still trying to squeeze blood from turnips like Russell Martin or A.J. Ellis, it's time to flip the switch to Grandal.
- Y! % 7%
- Y! rank 1084
- AVG .400
Plenty of steals to be had north of the border
Rajai Davis (OF) Toronto Blue Jays
Here's your one-stop shop for fixing your team speed issues. Davis is one of six players in the league with at least 20 steals, and he's only been playing regularly for about a month. Since becoming a full-timer on May 29, Davis is hitting .305 with 12 steals in 28 games. Unfortunately, hitting in the No. 6-8 range in the Jays' order hasn't provided much in the way of run production. Davis seems to relish playing the "second leadoff" role in the No. 9 spot, where he owns a 1.209 OPS, 12 steals and 17 Runs in 19 games. Regardless of where Toronto hits Davis, he remains a speed specialist. If your need steals, here's your answer.
- Y! % 14%
- Y! rank 195
Lind looking for a fresh start after forgettable first half
Adam Lind (1B) Toronto Blue Jays
Chasing Lind's .305, 35-home run, 114-RBI '09 campaign is futile. He enjoyed a healthy amount of luck that season and his peripherals suggest he doesn't have that kind of sustainable upside. But the 26 home runs he hit (with a .251 average) in 125 games last season still has a place in most fantasy leagues, and that's where owners should set their optimistic expectations for Lind now that he's returned from a "find yourself" mission in Triple-A. In his first week back, Lind hit .286 with a couple of home runs in five games. From where he was before his demotion, that's a quantum leap forward.
- Y! % 24%
- Y! rank 1009
After some May showers, Niese back in bloom in June
Jonathon Niese (SP/RP) New York Mets
Niese is a POW favorite. He earned a plug here in April, a month in which he posted a 2.87 ERA. An eight-run outing at Toronto soured his May. But a sizzling June (3-1, 1.89 ERA) has him back on the campaign trail. Most notable for the past month is the sterling 34:5 K-to-BB ratio in 33.1 IP, which ranks No. 10 among starters. Niese is a K per IP starter with solid peripherals, and he's at the point in his career where you'd expect him to start to "turn the corner." Buy a ticket for this train while you still can.
- Y! %47%
- Y! rank 161
There's no smoke to Fiers, but there's still plenty of hitters going down in flames
Michael Fiers (SP) Milwaukee Brewers
After shutting down Arizona for six innings on Saturday, ringing up 10 Ks in the process, Fiers is this week's repeat nominee for POW consideration – he was recommended in this space last Monday. To repeat the message for the 85 percent of the Yahoo! baseball crowd that can still lay claim to him, Fiers is a soft-tossing strikeout pitcher with excellent command. Fiers was initially expected to just fill a rotation hole while Marco Estrada dealt with a quad injury, but Milwaukee would be crazy to mess with a good thing. Fiers should get the nod Thursday against Miami, a team with the third-fewest runs scored in MLB. It's not a bad opportunity to give Fiers a test drive if you are still on the fence.
- Y! %15%
- Y! rank 164
Twins stop-gap co-closer could make a lasting impression
Glen Perkins (RP) Minnesota Twins
Perkins is sharing closing duties with Jared Burton while Matt Capps works his way back from a shoulder issue. Both Burton and Perkins should be owned in more leagues than they currently are given the situation. Brad Evans made the case for Burton on Friday. So I'll speak for Perkins, who has two saves to show for his streak of seven straight scoreless outings (8 IP, 10 K). Armed with a mid-90s fastball and slider, Perkins has generated 11.3 strikeouts per nine innings, the 13th-best mark in the league among those with at least 30 innings pitched. And there's no platoon issues with the southpaw Perkins, as he's handled both lefties and righties as a reliever. If Capps can get back on the hill soon and prove that his shoulder is sound, he's likely to be shipped out at the first semi-reasonable offer. And if that's the case, Perkins, and Burton, will have plenty more to offer than a just a short-term fix.
- Y! %15%
- Y! rank 273
Other Week 14 Pickups: Cody Ross, Bos, OF; Neil Walker, Pit, 2B; stephen Drew, Ari, SS; Ben Revere, Min, OF; Brandon Belt, SF, 1/O; Michael Saunders, Sea, OF; Norichika Aoki, Mil, OF; CoCo Crisp, Oak, OF; Ike Davis, NYM, 1B; Anthony Rizzo, ChC, 1B; Dayan Viciedo, ChW, OF; Carlos lee, Hou, OF; Peter Bourjos, LAA, OF; J.D. Martinez, Hou, OF; David Murphy, Tex, OF; Wilin Rosario, Col, C; Salvador Perez, KC, C; Chris Davis, Bal, 1/3; Mark reynolds, Bal, 3B; Andrelton Simmons, Atl, SS; Marco Scutaro, 2B/SS, Col; Danny Espinosa, Was, 2B; Gordon Beckham, ChW, 2B; Kirk Nieuwenhuis, NYM, OF; Michael Brantley, Cle, OF; Trevor Bauer; Ari, SP; Tom Wilhelmsen, Sea, RP; Jarrod Parker, Oak, SP; Franklin Morales, Bos, P; Felix Doubront, Bos, SP; Trevor Bauer, Ari, SP; Sergio Romo, SF, RP; Andrew Cashner, SD, P; David Hernandez, Ari, RP; Bobby Parnell, NYM, RP
Starling Marte, OF (Tex) – The Pirates prospect exploded for 18 hits, 4 HRs, 2 3Bs, 2 2Bs and 15 RBIs in his past 9 games for Triple-A Indianapolis.
Oscar Taveras, OF (StL) – Minor league Player of the Year candidate has hit .324 with 5 HRs and 15 RBIs in his past 9 games for Double-A springfield.
Manny Machado, SS (Bal) – The highly-touted shortstop has hit .348 with 2 HRs, 9 RBIs and 6 Runs in his past 6 games for Double-A Bowie.
Hak-Ju Lee, SS (TB) – Lee has hit .362 with 3 3Bs and 4 SBs in his past 10 games for Double-A Montgomery.
Brett Jackson, OF (ChC) – While strikeouts remain a major issue, the Cubs' top offensive prospect has 4 HRs and 3 SBs in his past 10 games for Triple-A Iowa.
Tony Cingrani, SP (Cin) – The Reds farm arm owns a 2.15 ERA and 38 Ks in 29.1 IP at Double-A Pensacola, including 15 Ks in 8 shutout IP in his latest outing.
Dylan Bundy, SP (Bal) – Arguably the top pitching prospect in the minors, Bundy is 2-0 with a 0.90 ERA in his past two starts for Single-A Frederick. O's manager Buck Showalter has not ruled out promoting Bundy this season if Baltimore remains in contention.