Wiretap: Indulge your inner winner
Headley, Royals' Guillen proving to be mixed-league material
Greetings and salutations.
Welcome to Year Three of the new and improved Wiretap. "Improved, how?" you ask.
For starters, expect far fewer self-indulgent jokes about Super Mario Brothers and 1980s pro wrestlers. But most importantly, you can count on more player write-ups than ever before and a couple of new weekly features that are sure to be of more interest than my hazy recollections of Mr. Perfect.
If you would like to improve your squad, by all means, read on.
By the time you read this, it might already be too late, for the news of Jose Guillen's astonishing shows of strength is sure to spread like wildfire. The 33-year-old slugger went largely unnoticed on draft day thanks to an injury-plagued '09, but he's certainly gotten people buzzing after swatting five long balls in his past four games. When healthy, Guillen has always been an underrated force to be reckoned with, as illustrated by the 22 homers and 98 RBIs he's averaged over his last two injury-free seasons. Which begs the question: Why did everyone pass him by on draft day to begin with? Grab him if you can.
Chase Headley might prove to be the only member of the Padres' offense to grace the MUSTS this season, which works both as a reminder of how anemic San Diego's offense really is and as an affirmation of Headley's talents inside the batters' box. The proud owner of a .301/.399/.500 triple-slash on the farm, Headley showed improvement in his first full big league campaign of '09, cutting his K percentage from 31.4 in '08 to 24.5. The 25-year-old has made more progress in '10, recording five multihit contests and a .424 average while serving as cleanup hitter Adrian Gonzalez's protection. The third-base/outfield-eligible batsman is currently unclaimed by 53 percent of Yahoo! owners, but he won't be for too much longer.
Chances are you may have caught some clips of Justin Masterson (available in 90 percent of Yahoo! leagues) overpowering the Rangers on Wednesday (6 IP, 0 BB, 9 Ks). Unfortunately, that means that most of your league's owners probably have as well, so the time to act is now. In two starts this year, the hulking right-hander has rung up a dominating 14/2 K/BB ratio over 11 innings, which should come as no surprise, since Masterson generated an 8.28 K/9 rate for the Red Sox and Indians last season despite shaky control (4.18 BB/9). Now that he's spotting his pitchers better, there's little holding him back from making a mixed-league impact.
The Royals' offseason acquisition of Scott Podsednik generated, at best, a collective shrug from the fantasy community, for there was little reason to believe that Pods had another '09 season, aided by a friendly .341 BABIP, left in the tank. But here we are in 2010 and the rejuvenated 34-year-old has picked up right where he left off, knocking the ball around the yard for a .457 average with six swipes in as many attempts. Podsednik was gunned down 13 times in 43 attempts last year, so his increased efficiency on the basepaths is highly encouraging. Scoop him up while his aging legs are still fresh.
What do you get when you take a pitcher with extreme ground-ball tendencies and you partner him with up with the grand poobah of pitching coaches, Dave Duncan? You very well may have the closest thing there is to a fool-proof recipe for success. Under Duncan's tutelage, 23-year-old Jaime Garcia has every opportunity to be this year's version of Joel Pineiro, only Garcia possesses strikeout ability -- 8.9 K/9 rate over parts of three Minor League seasons -- that Pineiro can only dream of. The young left-hander has a mean sinking fastball to go with a solid curve and should have plenty of success working in front of a Cardinals defensive unit that is strong up the middle.
He may not be the flashiest player around, but how is Carlos Guillen owned in just 4 percent of Yahoo! leagues? The 34-year-old Tiger is the definition of a professional hitter; barring his injury-riddled '09 campaign, he's hit at least .276 in every season since '03. Guillen has proven adept at finding a way to get on base (career .359 OBP) and he might even deliver 10 steals to go with a .300 average and double-digit homers. He's a must-own in AL-only leagues and provides nice offensive depth in the outfield for mixed-league owners.
There's been some closer-related upheaval around the league, which means that it's time to mine the waiver wire for some cheap saves.
The Blue Jays continue to play ninth-inning musical chairs, with the latest development resulting in the removal of the shaky Jason Frasor (6.23 ERA, 2 BL SV) for the slightly more reliable (at least as of now) Kevin Gregg, who has nailed down all three of his chances this season and sports a lean 6/0 K/BB. Gregg needs to be owned at the moment, but just remember that he blew seven opportunities last year. The only regular closer to blow more chances? I hope you're sitting down, Gregg owners ... Brad Lidge.
Fernando Rodney will now be entrusted with putting out fires for the Angels while Brian Fuentes takes a timeout to heal his aching back and side. Rodney posted an unsightly 4.40 ERA and 1.47 WHIP last season but also locked down 37 saves in 38 tries. He's a fine waiver pickup, but don't get hoodwinked into trading for his services. Fuentes could return as soon as next week.
Finally, Mike Gonzalez's 15-day trip to the DL seems to have merely postponed the inevitable, as there was talk that the scuffling left-hander would be removed from Baltimore's closer role as soon as this week. Jim Johnson, owner of 10 career saves and a 6.00 ERA this season, will take over in Gonzo's absence. The only question remaining is whether the 1-8 Birds will provide J.J. with even a single opportunity before Gonzalez returns.
Everyone knows that it's coming. One day this season -- and what a glorious day it will be -- Stephen James Strasburg will toe the rubber of a Major League mound for the first time. The only way this scenario could possibly be more epic would be if Liam Neeson was on hand to proclaim, "Release the Kracken!" right before he takes the hill.
So, in an effort to further fan the flames of the Strasburg hype machine, each week we'll take a look at how everyone's favorite 21-year-old flamethrower is doing down on the farm.
On April 11, Strasburg made his pro debut with Double-A Harrisburg and casually snapped off a 99-mph heater with his first pitch. One radar gun actually clocked it at an even 100. He did have an early "He's cut! The Russian's cut!" moment when he gave up an earned run in the first, but other than a defensive miscue by the Harrisburg second baseman leading to a trio of unearned runs, Strasburg had things well in hand and mowed down eight batters against just two walks in five innings to pick up the first of what should be many professional wins.
This week's ranking on the Weekly Strasburg-O-Meter (1-10 scale): 7 -- Totally Geeked
Check back again next week for more on the prized righty.
And now, a special message for Mike Napoli owners
This one goes out to all of the shellshocked Mike Napoli owners out there who have been blindsided by Mike Scioscia's unabating man-crush on Jeff Mathis. Sure, the Angels skipper oversaw the timeshare thing behind the plate last year, but the ratio was nowhere near as skewed as it is this season, with Mathis claiming seven of the year's first nine starts.
Mathis has the better glove of the two and is taking full advantage of Scioscia's vote of confidence by ripping at a .333 clip with a Napolian .458 slugging percentage. Considering that he managed a near-50/50 timeshare with Napoli from 2008-09 despite a .202/.281/.313 line, it's unlikely that he'll be surrendering the chest protector and shin guards any time soon. So, what's a jilted Napoli owner to do? If you're the impatient type, you may want to hitch your wagons to one of these capable fill-ins:
Currently locked in his own battle for playing time with Chris Iannetta, Miguel Olivo is actually quite similar to Mathis in that he's outplaying the perceived starter. The difference is the Rockies' new backstop has a much stronger track record of offensive success, underscored by his 23 homers in 390 at-bats in '09. This year, Olivo has not only outclassed Iannetta with his .438 average and pair of big flies, he's also outperforming star backstops such as Victor Martinez, Jorge Posada and even wunderkind Matt Wieters. I don't even have to mention Coors Field, right?
Last year, Chris Snyder lost his starting job in Arizona to Miguel Montero, who never looked back and was largely considered by many to be a Top 5 fantasy catcher entering '10. Well, things have now come full circle as Snyder, called into duty when Montero landed on the 15-day DL with a knee injury, has celebrated his return to an everyday role by going 4-for-11 with a homer and six RBIs in three starts. It's unlikely that Snyder will pull his own version of the Montero Shuffle this year, but he did smack 16 homers in 115 games in '08 and should be good for at least a few weeks of solid, if not spectacular, power production.
If you're more worried about replacing the .273 average that Napoli has, well, averaged over the past two years, then you could do a lot worse than pick up Ivan Rodriguez, currently the owner of a smoking .391 mark. While Pudge fell off a bit last year, he's a career .299 hitter and the clear-cut starter in Washington for at least the next month, until Jesus Flores is ready to return. Speaking of Flores, it might not be a bad idea to clear a DL spot for the 25-year-old, who was hitting .311 with 15 RBIs in 26 games before a shoulder injury all but wiped out the rest of his '09 season.
Chris Stryshak is a fantasy writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.