Each and every single year I'm reminded that when it comes to attacking the waiver wire, I fall into the conservative camp. I don't find myself getting excited about a recently called-up rookie (Socrates Brito). I'm not overly swayed by a good start by a player who's spent a half-decade doing little (Edinson Volquez). And, when it comes to chasing the latest 9th-inning savior, I find myself saying why they can't pull off the trick than why they can pull it off (Jenmar Gomez).
Obviously, this has caused me to miss out on some hits. But, for every successful April show-off that becomes a season-long asset, there are well over a half-dozen misses. I consider those misses to be wasted money down the drain. Succinctly, I weigh 'need' over 'want' in the early part of the season.
If I have an outfield missing Ben Revere and Shin-Soo Choo, you can be certain that I'm hunting after a guy like Jeremy Hazelbaker or Nick Markakis. After all, I'm just looking for someone to see me through the choppy seas of the here and now. Barring the DL-stints, I spend April mostly looking at the long term and concentrating on what a possible pick-up can do for me over the course of the entire season. In my view, I'd rather have the FAAB money on-hand for later in the summer when there's a high-end call-up that could fit (say, Lucas Giolito or Yoan Moncada) or a semi-talented player moving into a full-fledged starting role because of a season-ending injury (say, Aaron Hicks or Dalton Pompey). Claiming and winning a player that I may like, but don't really need, is not my modus operandi.
But, of course, each and every player has to decide for themselves how they plan to treat the April bidding fests. Is the lottery ticket something you'll always go after or would you rather play it slow, sober, and steady?
(Note: To make the list, I'll apply a loose definition that says a player is likely be unowned in a vast majority of 12-team mixed leagues. At the end of each player note, I'll also provide a suggested bid for those that use FAAB (Free Agent Acquisition Budget) for their waiver process (based on a $100 budget). Understand that this is only a suggestion ... if you've just lost your starting outfielder to injury and you have an immediate need or gaping hole in your lineup, you will find it necessary to bid more in order to get that week's top available outfielder.)
Oswaldo Arcia, OF, Minnesota
Oswaldo is the lesser of the two Arcia's that we are likely to see. His younger brother, Orlando Arcia, is currently polishing up his game in the Brewer's AAA affiliate, awaiting a likely late-year call-up. As for Oswaldo, he's in the midst of reminding what we thought of him just 13 months ago. Do you recall that he popped 20 homers in barely more than 100 games in 2014? Do you remember that he is still not 25? And, here's the biggie ... he's not manning left-field for Minnesota again. Arcia has defensive and contact issues, but the Twins have that all over their starting nine. He's been in the batting order for six of the seven games (the only game he didn't play in was in a National League yard) and I believe that will continue. He's mostly an asset to those searching for power. If that's you, then he fits.
Suggested FAAB bid - $8
Joe Mauer, 1B, Minnesota
From the top, let me state that this is not the Joe Mauer of old. That Mauer peppered line drives everywhere and could carry your team on the batting average side. This Mauer is now a first baseman with no power and a descending batting mark. But, here's the thing ... the 13-year vet (really?) has come out by replicating his old self. His heydays featured an OBP well over .400 and more walks than strikeouts. Lo and behold, he leads the AL in OBP and has 14 walks to just five whiffs. There is no power to speak of anymore. He's a singles and gaps hitter. That's it. But, if I were a betting man, I'd put some coin on Mauer hitting over-.300 this season. He's also still frozen in the center of the Twins' batting lineup which will lead to some decent RBI and runs numbers over the course of the season. Only 12 players hit over-.300 last year while also driving in more than 70 runs. I think Mauer hits those marks this summer. Like Arcia above ... if you need what Mauer gives (batting average), he's a cheap and proficient fit.
Suggested FAAB bid - $8
Eduardo Nunez, 3B, Minnesota
How can I start a column with three consecutive Twins?! As many of you know, they started 0-9 and that gave them the immediate reputation of a fantasy wasteland. But, did you know that they are still in the upper-half of the MLB rankings for batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage? In other words, it's better than it looks. Nunez has moved into the starting lineup thanks to a Trevor Plouffe injury. Relegated as a utility guy, he doesn't provide much zip. But, with a gig at 3B (the Twins say they'd hesitate to move Miguel Sano back to the hot corner, right now), Nunez gives a nice contact/speed (he's already attempted eight steals!) combo. He's an underrated, multi-positional, stolen base helper. No one is considering him.
Suggested FAAB bid - $4
Ryan Raburn, OF, Colorado
Raburn will always be a favorite of the DFS players out there. Throughout his career he has had his way with southpaws and he's a daily consideration against them now that he calls Coors Field his home. He makes my list this week because of the upcoming schedule. Looking ahead to the Monday-Sunday run, you'll see that the Rox are set to welcome Pittsburgh to town (three lefties in that rotation) and then head to Chase Field in Arizona (which is actually a better park for homers than even Coors) to take on a D'Back pitching staff that features a couple of lefties. Plus, Charlie Blackmon is still out and disabled, forcing Raburn to likely see even more opportunities. It's a one week play, but it's a very cheap hunch to play.
Suggested FAAB bid - $2
Yasmany Tomas, OF, Arizona
Going into last Sunday's action Tomas had yet to push a ball over the wall. He ended the day in San Diego with a pair of round-trippers. Then he kept the run going. He's had a hit in every game since, added another homer, and even saw a game in the clean-up spot. Arizona should be given credit for sticking with the Cuban through his struggles, but they really don't have much choice considering the heavy contract he owns. Tomas has slowed down on the whiff-front after a rough start and that's a fairly decent sign that he's locked in. He still holds potential and figures to get more and more action for Arizona. I think you could get caught bidding against multiple parties depending on what occurs this weekend at home against Pittsburgh, but for now, he's a worthwhile addition if you bid accordingly.
Suggested FAAB bid - $5
Melvin Upton, OF, San Diego
So here we are ... Melvin is actually having a better season than his celebrated brother, Justin. I don't know if that says more about Justin's immense struggles in Detroit or the slight uptick in success for Melvin. Wait a second ... who am I kidding? Considering where we have been with Melvin over the past few years, he's turning in quite a flip. The Padres have made him the #4-hitting in the lineup and he's answering with hits, runs, and steals. Would it surprise you to know that he entered Friday's play tied for the NL-lead in stolen bases? Melvin will always have contact problems, but he's looked a load better on that front to begin the season (8 walks to a dozen whiffs versus his usual 3 or more K's for every walk earned). You can't be expecting him to reach his previous high-water mark (much like Mauer up above), but he can still be a viable option because of the realistic shot that he finishes with nearly 25 thefts this year.
Suggested FAAB bid - $5
Aaron Blair, SP, Atlanta
As of this writing it is not confirmed that Blair is the Braves starter for Sunday's tilt against the Mets. But, it's certainly shaping up that way. Blair is a high-end pitching prospect that was part of the Shelby Miller haul in the offseason. Blair's arsenal of mid-90s fastball with two good follow-up's (change and curve) bodes well for his future. But is that future now? His last start certainly appeared to showcase an arm who is ready for promotion. He fired seven hitless innings with 10 whiffs and one walk against Durham on Tuesday. He's mostly held onto that domination in his other two starts for AAA-Gwinnett. One key component to any bid on him is that he may only be up for a spot start before being sent back down. Many eyes will be on his MLB debut Sunday and if it's a good one, the bidding will definitely go up a notch. If it's a good one and it appears that Atlanta is going to give him a role in their rotation, crank the below bid up by $5-8 depending on your needs on the SP-front. If it's good and he's sent down afterwards, drop it by a few bucks. And if he doesn't get the promotion for Sunday? Perhaps go in for a $1 and stash him for soon-to-happen call-up.
Suggested FAAB bid - $6
Caleb Cotham, RP, Cincinnati
A couple of weeks back we were dealing with the Philadelphia Phillies closer situation. At the time (and, still), I did not have a particularly strong opinion in favor of any of the options that the team would be turning to. To me, the guessing games of who, when, how, and how long, etc. were issues that I didn't want to be a part of. Cincinnati is now in a similar spot. J.J. Hoover is no longer the go-to man in the 9th and now the Reds have opened up the decision making to include the likes of Jumbo Diaz and Tony Cingrani. Both of those throwers have struggled to find the strike zone and could be just as likely to blow up as to shut down. Cotham is a dark horse to keep in mind. He's been unscored upon in his first eight innings this year. He doesn't feature a closer's arsenal (the fastball is lucky to sniff 95) and he has fewer than 20 innings of MLB work. But, this is the Reds we're talking about. They have little to play for and an 'untested youngster' is exactly what they're embracing nowadays. I have little faith that one man will run away with it, but if I had to place a bet, it would be on Cotham. He's an unknown name and that will make him cheap.
Suggested FAAB bid - $2
Doug Fister, SP, Houston
It's been difficult to stomach Fister's first few turns in the Astros' rotation. He's giving up hits, issuing walks, and striking out no one. It's been very ugly. But, here's the saving grace for dudes like Fister ... a two start week on the west coast! Houston is set to give him the ball for a pair of starts in Seattle and in Oakland. We all know the pitcher-friendly reputations of those yards and Fister might be able to connect those facts with his solid last outing at Texas (6 IP, 5 H, 2 ER). For what it's worth, Seattle has a home slash of .170/.248/.275 against very ordinary pitching this year. The A's stand at .211/.275/.313 when wearing the home whites. Give Fister a random shot. He's not earning many looks which makes him a cheap add for two plus-matchups this week.
Suggested FAAB bid - $2
Rick Porcello, SP, Boston
I'll follow my slight Fister push with an equally slight Porcello push. We've all been down this road before. Porcello is a maddening talent who has never truly take the bull by the horns and gone on a significant run of success. This week he has a pair of scheduled trips to the hill. Neither frightens. There's a trip to Atlanta and then a follow-up home tilt with New York. The righty has surprised with his K-rate, thus far (24 strikeouts in under 20 innings), but has served up a few long balls (five), too. Many insiders are amped about the arrival of Christian Vazquez as the new man behind the dish, believing him to be a stalwart framer and strong defensive asset. He's always been a ground-baller which is a plus and he's got plenty favoring him for the upcoming week.
Suggested FAAB bid - $5
Blake Snell, SP, Tampa Bay
One of the top pitching prospects in baseball is due for a supposed spot start on Saturday against the Yankees. Snell has been crushing it in the minors for quite some time and sports a fabulous fastball, change-up, slider collection with developing control. Last season, he cruised through three minor levels and punched out over 30% of hitters faced. The ball can get away from him time-to-time, but the lefty still holds plenty of 200 strikeout potential. There's really little doubt ... he's one of the top 3-4 minor league pitching call-up's we'll see this year. A good start on Saturday will send bidding into the stratosphere. And, that's even with everyone knowing he may not pitch back with the Rays after the sole shot this weekend. I think he's worth a big bid for those looking to bolster their rotation. By May, I figure he'll be a regular part of the Tampa rotation. He could be one of the true difference making adds we have in the fantasy game this year.
Suggested FAAB bid - $31
You can hear Kyle each weeknight on 'The SiriusXM Fantasy Drive' from 7-10 ET, Sirius 210, XM 87.
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