3/27/2014 10:22 P.M. ET
Waiver wire provides plenty of worthy options
By Fred Zinkie / MLB.com
Spring Training is drawing to a close, and it is time to set all fantasy lineups for Opening Day. Many owners will need to scan the waiver wire, either for short-term injury replacements or for ascending talents who carved out a significant role via strong spring results.
Here are some possible waiver-wire options who can help mixed-league owners get off to a good start this season.
Catcher, Dioner Navarro (Blue Jays): The Blue Jays' decision to keep Josh Thole as the personal caddy for R.A. Dickey means that Navarro will likely catch the other four starters. If he can continue to hit for average, his large workload should allow for strong counting stats.
First base, Justin Smoak (Mariners): The Mariners have an improved lineup, and Smoak has already been cleared of a potential logjam when manager Lloyd McClendon declared that he will be the team's regular first baseman. The 27-year-old offers plenty of power and a strong walk rate.
Second base, Jonathan Schoop (Orioles): Manny Machado's injury will allow Schoop to start the season as the team's regular second baseman. The O's have often been aggressive with young talent, and Schoop could keep the job all season if he gets off to a strong start.
Shortstop, Chris Owings (D-backs): If he can push past the light-hitting Didi Gregorius, Owings is capable of hitting for a high average with double-digit homers and steals in his rookie season.
Third base, Chris Johnson (Braves): He will not steal bases, but Johnson can hit for a high average. And if the Braves follow through on plans to bat him in the cleanup spot, he will easily top last season's total of 68 RBIs.
Outfield, Melky Cabrera (Blue Jays): Cabrera struggled mightily with injuries last season, but the outfielder's legs have looked so good in Spring Training that the team plans to use him on occasion in center field. Hitting in the middle of Jose Reyes, Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion should allow the 29-year-old to score and drive in plenty of runs.
Outfield, Junior Lake (Cubs): The 24-year-old will be a key piece of the Cubs young lineup in 2014. If he can take a small step forward in his first full season, Lake could help in all five categories.
Outfield, Dustin Ackley (Mariners): This former top prospect showed signs of a breakout when he hit .304 in the second half of last season, and his bat was on fire during Spring Training.
Starter, Scott Kazmir (A's): His sizzling second half in 2013 (3.38 ERA, 82 K's in 72 innings), followed by an offseason move to a noted pitchers' park gives Kazmir huge 2014 upside.
Starter, Ian Kennedy (Padres): Kennedy has always provided a strong strikeout rate, and a full season in Petco Park could help to lower the right-hander's ratios.
Starter, Ivan Nova (Yankees): The 27-year-old posted a 2.78 ERA in the second half of 2013, and an improved Yankees offense could help him win many games if he can duplicate last season's second half across a full campaign.
Starter, Hector Santiago (Angels): The New Jersey native posted a high strikeout rate with the White Sox, but a tough pitcher's park and a rebuilding supporting cast limited his 2013 fantasy value. Santiago was one of the top pitchers in the 2014 Cactus League, and his new teammates and home park in Los Angeles could help result in a noticeable uptick in production.
Starter, Michael Pineda (Yankees): The righty's strong spring stats and the memory of a dominant 2011 season spark optimism that he could be one of this year's biggest surprises.
Starter, Tanner Scheppers (Rangers): The 27-year-old will make his first Major League start on Opening Day. A move to the rotation will test his skill set, but a 1.88 ERA out of the bullpen last season is reason enough for fantasy owners to give Scheppers an early season opportunity.
Reliever, Jose Veras (Cubs): There are better closers out there, but saves are saves, and Veras converted 19 of 22 chances while he was with the Astros last season. He is the Cubs' stopper, and that should be enough to keep him in mixed-league lineups.
Reliever, Joakim Soria (Rangers): Texas' newly anointed closer, Soria saved 160 games across five seasons with the Royals from 2007-11. The reliever's 2.50 career ERA shows that he has the skills to hold this job all season.
Reliever, Tommy Hunter (Orioles): The hard-thrower is expected to open the season as the Orioles' closer. To keep the job, however, he will need to improve his work vs. left-handed batters, against whom he allowed a .294 opponents' average with 11 homers in 170 at-bats last season. But as long as he is seeing ninth-inning opportunities, Hunter should be a must-own player.
Fred Zinkie is a fantasy writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.