It has been a crazy start to the fantasy baseball season, with Jacoby Ellsbury and Brian Wilson suffering significant injuries over the past week. Ellsbury is expected back sometime in June, and Wilson is expected to undergo Tommy John surgery, and miss the rest of the season. I’ll go position by position and breakdown the hottest waiver wire pickups in fantasy baseball.
First BaseAdam LaRoche – Washington NationalsThrough his first 9 games of the season, LaRoche has totaled 36 at-bats and a line of .333/2/10, couple that with his 6 walks, and he is in the top 10 fantasy first basemen in the early going here in 2012. I recently added him in one of my deeper mixed league formats, and while I don’t expect the numbers to continue, he does look healthy and I’ll ride the hot streak while it lasts.Carlos Pena – Tampa Bay RaysThey must put something in Pena’s Kool-Aid when he plays in Tampa, because he is a much better hitter as a member of the Rays. Last year he appeared in 153 games for the Cubs and hit just .225. His power numbers were still there as he hit 28 HR’s with 80 RBI’s, but so far in 2012 he has been the best first baseman in fantasy baseball. His line is currently sitting at .379/3/9, if he is still sitting on waivers you should pick him up and ride out this hot streak, Pena has always been a premier power hitter, but this high average makes him viable in all mixed league formats. He will probably cool off eventually and end up hitting in the .240’s, but he is locked in right now, and should be owned in all formats.
Michael Cuddyer – Colorado Rockies
Cuddyer is enjoying the rarified air in Denver, and is currently the hottest hitter in the Rockies lineup. When Cargo and Tulo are healthy he is batting in the 6th spot, behind them and Helton, giving him the opportunity for plenty of RBI’s. In his first 8 games with the Rox, Cuddyer is batting .406 with 1 HR and 5 RBI’s, he even stole a base! Fantasy owners that picked him up in the middle rounds of fantasy drafts are loving him right now, and if you play in the 5% of leagues he isn’t owned in, he is a must start in all formats when going like this. Look to trade for Cuddyer if a manager in your league thinks it is just a hot streak, as we expect him to be a top 20 outfielder all year in 2012.
Kelly Johnson – Toronto Blue Jays
Kelly Johnson was one of the hottest players in fantasy baseball 2010, as he hit .284 with 26 HR’s and 71 RBI’s, he regressed in a big way in 2011, and many fantasy owners wrote him off as he hit just .222. Well, so far in 2012, he is hitting .281 with 3 HR’s and 5 RBI’s through the first 8 games, and at a thin position like second base, he is worth an add in all fantasy formats for the third week in 2012. He should clear 25 HR’s this year, and if you get to him soon enough he could help take your team to the promised land.
Ian Desmond – Washington Nationals
This is Desmond’s third year in the big leagues, and he seems to be settling into his role atop the Nationals lineup. He has appeared in all 9 games for the Nats, racking up 43 at-bats. His line of .326/1/2 with a stolen base is good enough to currently rank him in the top 3 SS in most fantasy formats. He is strikeout prone, and should eclipse 100 once again this year(He currently has 8), and that should be taken into account when deciding whether or not to add him to your fantasy squad. Right now he is a recommended play at the MI position, but if he keeps hitting like this, he will be a starting fantasy SS in no time.
Derek Jeter – New York Yankees
There were many fantasy analysts, myself included, who wrote off Jeter prior to the 2012 season. I figured age was ready to catch up with the captain, and although he has had a brilliant career, sometimes as fantasy baseball managers we have to face the facts and realize a guy can no longer put up the numbers he did when he was younger… Well Jeter has decided to have a say in that, and has opened the season hitting a scorching .361/1/3 in his first 36 at-bats. I will say to take those numbers with a grain of salt, as the majority of the at-bats came off the Orioles pitching staff, but if he is available in your league he can be added as a decent backup SS at this point. He may not hit over 5 HR’s this year, the RBI’s will be down, and the SB’s in the 10-20 range, but if you need someone to help out with BA, Jeter could be your guy.
Kyle Seager – Seattle Mariners
If you are a regular to the site, you are probably already sick and tired of hearing the name Kyle Seager. I touted him as a sleeper heading into the season, and he is now a regular in my waiver wire threads. I’m just going to keep putting his name out there until his ownership goes over 50% in fantasy leagues. Keep in mind he hit .333 and .345 in his last 2 seasons in the minors, so he knows how to make contact, and in his first 8 games for the M’s this year, he is hitting a very respectable .281/1/6 with just 3 K’s. He is dual position eligible at SS and 3B, and if you have room on your bench or need another infielder, take a look at Seager for 2012.
David Freese – St. Louis Cardinals
Freese, who was the postseason hero for the Cardinals in 2011, is currently the #1 ranked third baseman in my CBS money league. In his first 8 games he is batting .406 with 3 HR’s and 11 RBI’s. He was scratched from the lineup on Saturday with finger irritation, but should be back in the lineup soon. His OPS currently sits at 1.112 and if he keeps putting up power numbers like this, he could be the Jose Bautista of 2012. Pick him up if he is still sitting on waivers as he looks like the real deal in the early going this season.
Josh Willingham – Minnesota Twins
Another one of my preseason favorites, Willingham has come out the gates firing in 2012. I kept touting him as a teriffic late round pick for a number of reasons, fantasy owners were taking Giancarlo Stanton in the second round, and in many drafts passing on Willingham altogether, but these two players put up similar numbers. Stanton will have a better chance at RBI’s hitting behind Reyes and Ramirez, but Willingham should be right around 30 HR’s this season. There is no reason he should be sitting on waivers right now as he has already hit 4 HR’s with 7 RBI’s, with the majority of those coming at Target Field, not exactly a hitters paradise. Pick him up for outfield depth in your fantasy league.
J.D. Martinez and Jordan Schafer – Houston Astros
The Astros are one of the early season surprises in the MLB, and J.D. Martinez and Jordan Schafer are a big reason why. Schafer is the spark plug at the top of the lineup, and he has already racked up 5 SB’s to go with a .285 batting average. J.D. Martinez is one of the guys driving Schafer in, at he is batting .379 with 3 HR’s and 9 RBI’s. If you need speed pickup Schafer, and if you need power, pickup Martinez, both of these players look like breakout talents for 2012.
Bartolo Colon – Oakland AthleticsIt is hard for me to tout Colon as a viable sleeper pick at the age of 38(soon to be 39), but through his first 3 starts he has looked surprisingly effective. He has gone 19 1/3 innings, accumulating 14 strikeouts with an ERA of 3.72 and 2 wins. I would only recommend him in deep mixed league formats at this point, but if he keeps pitching like this, within a few starts he could be a viable option in most formats. Keep your eye on Colon over the next couple weeks and see if the A’s keep producing runs for him as he is still available in more than 80% of fantasy leagues.Edwin Jackson – Washington NationalsEdwin is currently racking up more than a strikeout per inning, with 15 K’s in 14 innings, and as the Nats lineup gets healthy, with Michael Morse coming back he should be in line for plenty of wins in 2012. He currently owns a 2.57 ERA and a miniscule WHIP of 0.64. Although the ERA will probably end up in the mid 3’s by the end of the year, he should be good enough for 15-20 wins as the young Nationals are announcing their presence in the NL East for the first time this year.
Santiago Casilla – San Francisco Giants
Odds are that if you play in a competitive fantasy baseball league, all the quality closers have already been snatched up. On Saturday it was announced that Brian Wilson is expected to undergo Tommy John surgery and miss the rest of the season. The odds on favorite to take over closing duties for the Giants is Santiago Casilla, but Bochy has announced that he will more than likely use a closer-by-committee approach as he works Javier Lopez and Sergio Romo into the mix. If you are desperate for saves, Casilla is probably the best bet, but he won’t be called upon everyday to close for the Giants.
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