04/29/10 11:03 AM ET
Wiretap: Mile-high mayhem
Olivo packing pop; Smith, Fowler, Young vying for playing time
By Chris Stryshak / MLB.com
Welcome to the new, improved and practically bursting-at-the-seams Wiretap.
Enough chit chat, there are leagues to be won. If you would like to improve your squad, by all means, read on.
Normally I try to spread the waiver-wire love around evenly with a fair and balanced blend of hitters and hurlers and rooks and vets from as many teams as possible, but sometimes the fates will simply not allow it.
This is one of those times.
Simply put, half of the Rockies' starting offense should be readily available in your league and, thanks to a couple of injuries, struggling veterans and a highly favorable home-park advantage, are all worthy of the "Must Own" tag.
Let's start with the player who stands the best chance of already being unavailable: catcher Miguel Olivo. The 31-year-old has notched double-digit bombs in five of the last six seasons, sometimes without the benefit of a regular gig, no less. That trend figured to continue in 2010 due to the presence of fellow backstop Chris Iannetta in Colorado, but Olivo easily outperformed his younger competition by hitting .314 with five homers, 13 RBIs and a stout 1.004 OPS out of the gate, forcing the Rox to send the scuffling Iannetta to Triple-A to get his bearings. The catching job in Colorado is now Olivo's and Olivo's alone, so make sure he's not still hanging out on the wire if you're in need of some assistance behind the plate. Now that that's settled ...
An injury to Brad Hawpe opened up a potential Pandora's Box of possibilities for manager Jim Tracy, who is now tasked with finding enough at-bats for a trio of talented offensive options in Dexter Fowler, Seth Smith and Eric Young, Jr.
The 27-year-old Smith is probably the "safest" commodity of the three, but he also comes with the lowest upside for owners. The left-handed batsman should slot into an everyday role for at least the next two weeks and put his career .285/.367/.501 triple-slash to use for owners looking for a decent average and a little pop from the outfield. Just don't count on him sticking on a daily basis once Hawpe returns to the fold.
Is there a valid reason why Dexter Fowler is available in 90 percent of Yahoo! leagues? Yes, he got off to slow start and yes, there were early rumblings of a platoon with Smith, but manager Clint Hurdle has showed a steadfast commitment to playing the 24-year-old phenom, who scored 73 runs and swiped 27 bags in 433 at-bats during his '09 debut campaign. And about that cold start to 2010? Over the past five games, Tyrannosaurus Dex has slashed out 10 hits in 19 at-bats with eight runs, two steals and a home run. Not to get all accusatory, but what are 90 percent of you waiting for?
Which brings us to the final link in the Brad Hawpe injury chain: Young, the player recalled to fill the injured outfielder's spot on the roster. E.Y. has made an immediate impact, going 3-for-8 with three runs scored and three RBIs over his first two starts of the season, and he's even found time to showcase some of his world-class speed by swiping a pair of bags. Young just might possess the most pure speed of anyone in the game, but the flashy 24-year-old's value doesn't end there, as his eligibility at second and (coming soon) in the outfield makes him a versatile option in all formats. Young will probably be ticketed back to Triple-A once Hawpe returns, but there's a chance he could unseat starting keystone Clint Barmes (.189/.271/.340) with an impressive showing, a development that would send his stock soaring.
Soft-tossing Wade LeBlanc doesn't necessarily attack hitters so much as he finesses them back to their respective dugouts. Armed with a fastball that averages a leisurely 87 mph, the 25-year-old southpaw has spotted his pitches well and used his offspeed stuff to generate plenty of swings and misses over his first two outings. Opposing batters are making contact with 70 percent of their swings off LeBlanc, well below the 80 percent MLB average. Originally called up to take the ailing Chris Young's spot in the San Diego rotation, LeBlanc could hang around for a little while longer if he can maintain a superb ERA (0.82) and strong K/9 rate (8.18) for a few more starts.
He might be currently mired in a 3-for-17 schneid, but that doesn't change the fact that Scott Rolen is tied for second in home runs (5) and tied for third in runs (15) amongst all big league third basemen. And he can expect a bump in RBI opportunities now that he's been moved to Cincy's cleanup spot behind the fleet-footed Brandon Phillips and on-base machine Joey Votto.
Brett Cecil has been handed a pair of tough matchups in place of the injured and ineffective Brian Tallet in the Toronto rotation, but the left-hander held his own against the lethal Rays offense on April 23 (6 2/3 IP, 4 ER, 8 Ks) before holding the Red Sox to one earned on five hits and a walk over six innings last time out. The former first-round Draft pick posted a lean 2.88 ERA and averaged more than a strikeout per inning in three Minor League stops in 2008, and he could make for a fine streaming option in all formats when he makes his next start against a struggling Indians offense.
Veterans of the fantasy game know that sometimes you just have to shake your head in bewildered amusement at the seeming randomness of the game itself. After all, how else is one supposed to process the Austin Kearns phenomenon in Cleveland? The team's offseason signing of Kearns, owner of a composite .209 average and .312 slugging percentage over his prior two seasons, was greeted with little fanfare and even less in the way of expectations. However, the journeyman has played himself into an everyday role at the expense of Matt LaPorta, and is currently batting .383 with two homers and a couple of steals in 47 at-bats. Kearns hasn't had a mixed-league worthy run since 2007, but why not take a flier on the 29-year-old feel-good outfielder while he's getting the job done?
Cheap saves (and steals!)
It seems that Trevor Hoffman and his 13.00 ERA still have a job in Milwaukee, although I get the sinking feeling that we'll be talking more about The Hoff in this very space next week. What else, what else?
Well, the Orioles are currently holding auditions for the fill-in closer role (yes, again) after the Jim Johnson Era ended in predictable fashion. The latest contestant in manager Dave Trembley's game of ninth-inning musical chairs is 28-year-old Alfredo Simon, who pitched around some trouble but nevertheless nailed down a save against the Yankees on April 27. The saucy (Get it? Alfredo? Forget it ...) right-hander was performing well in Triple-A (17 IP, 1.59 ERA, 14 Ks) before getting the call, but do you really want to get mixed up with an unproven, temporary closer on a four-win team? Maybe if you're desperate enough for saves, but he is what one would call a "roll of the dice."
Obviously, there aren't a lot of great stopper options out there on the wire right now. I mean, there is clearly something to be said for job security in this day and age, but it sure doesn't make for exhilarating column fodder. So let's shake things up a bit and take a look-see at who's been performing a little covert base thievery in recent days. After all, I wouldn't want you to feel cheated.
The stolen base leaderboard reads like a venerable who's who of noted speedsters (Michael Bourn, Carl Crawford, a rejuvenated Rafael Furcal, etc.) but there are a couple of newcomers to the field currently making a run:
Chase Headley has piled up six steals on the year to put himself squarely in the National League Top 10, and with a .382 on-base percentage, he's been getting on base enough to be a real force if he decides to keep running. But as was stated in the latest Trendspotting, Headley racked up only six steals in his entire Minor League career (376 games), so we might have already seen his peak, not that he won't lend a helpful hand in the other offensive categories, mind you.
If you're in the market for fleet-footed Friars, perhaps you'll have better luck with the far more available (21 percent Yahoo! ownership) Will Venable. The son of Max has swiped five bags on the year, including four in the past week alone, and has yet to be caught. Unlike Headley, the 27-year-old put his speed on display before with a pair of 18-plus steal seasons and an 83 percent success rate in the Minors.
Julio Borbon's fall from next-big-thing-status to the waiver-wire scrap heap has been well documented, but a funny thing has happened since manager Ron Washington demoted the ex-leadoff man to the nine-hole: Borbon has started to resemble the guy who hit .312 and nabbed 19 bases in 23 tries last year. From his new spot in the order, the 24-year-old has crafted a .310 average with six runs scored and three steals in eight starts. He hasn't run wild yet, but that should come once he eases into his new role and starts to regain some much-needed confidence.
Something tells me that we are about three weeks away from the debut of the Weekly Aroldis Chapman-O-Meter because with the way Stephen Strasburg is dealing down in Double-A, it won't be long before he gets the call to The Show, lest the Nationals front office wants a full-scale riot on its hands.
The 21-year-old righty was sensational against Reading on April 27, firing five perfect innings and mowing down six hapless batters with an unhittable mix of high-90s fastballs and top-shelf offspeed offerings. Strasburg is 3-0 with a 0.52 ERA and a 23/3 K/BB ratio over his first four starts, and has only allowed a single hit over his last 10 frames.
This week's ranking on the Weekly Strasburg-O-Meter: 9 -- Remember Chief Brody's reaction after blowing up the shark seconds before being eaten alive in "Jaws"? That's what the inside of my brain looks like right now.
Check back again next week for more on the prized righty.
Chris Stryshak is a fantasy writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.