Week 1 is finally here, and although it wasn’t a long cold winter (even here in Colorado), the wait between October and April still seemed to take forever. Luckily, starting April 4th the grand ole’ game will make its return, and I will get my fill for the next 6 months. I will continue to keep an eye on the waiver wire for those owners in deeper leagues that need to find the player that will put their team over the top.As we come out of spring training I will caution my readers not to read too much into the numbers coming out of Florida and Arizona, as the numbers can be inflated due to the number of minor leaguers that were present for the majority of the preseason. Many major leaguers can experience early success in spring training, only to fall flat on their face during the actual season, as the level of competition increases. Ok lets find some more gems that are just waiting to be added to your fake team.
Starting PitcherEdinson Volquez – SP – San Diego PadresOwnershipYahoo – 50% CBS – 65% ESPN – 5%The Padres have named Volquez their opening day starter, basically naming him the ace of their staff. If they are putting their faith in Volquez, it may be time for fantasy owners to do the same. He is available in a whopping 95% of ESPN leagues right now, and after a few injury plagued seasons, will be looking to get back on track in San Diego. Don’t forget in 2008, he was 17-6 with an ERA of 3.21. He also struckout 206 batters in just 196 innings, and that was his last full season of work. Since then he has a combined record of 13-12 as he has been unable to stay on the field. If Volquez is healthy all year, he could end up being one of the best picks off the waiver wire, and if you are looking to fill a need in your starting rotation, head over and pick him up now before he starts putting up solid numbers in the pitchers paradise that is PetCo Park.
Matt Capps – RP – Minnesota Twins
Yahoo – 61% CBS – 66% ESPN – 99%
With closers going down quicker than two-dollar hookers this preseason, there has been a waiver wire rush to add any and all closing pitchers. Apparently on ESPN, Matt Capps is gone, so you won’t even bother looking him up. In 2011, Matt Capps posted an ERA of 4.25 with a K/9 of just 4.66 and lost the job to Joe Nathan. Well Nathan is officially out of town, the Twins resigned Capps, and he is the closer once again heading into 2012. On a team where the offense figures to have some scoring issues, Capps could be a decent #2 or #3 closer for fantasy teams everywhere. Just figure you are only picking him up for the saves category, as that strikeout ratio is awfully low. If you are in desperate need of a fantasy option at the closer spot on ESPN, look up Grant Balfour or Jonathan Broxton, you might have better luck there.
Yahoo – 61% CBS – 87% ESPN – 28%Well if you have an injury at the catcher position, the waiver wire pickings are going to be slim. Even though Martin is nowhere near the elite talent he appeared to be just a few short years ago, he will be hitting at Yankee stadium, and hopefully fantasy owners haven’t forgotten about his hot April/May from just a year ago. He did tail off towards the end of the season, back to the numbers we would expect, but if you are looking for a temporary stop gap option for week 1, Martin could be your guy until your starter returns.
Gaby Sanchez – 1B – Miami Marlins
Yahoo – 61% CBS – 93% ESPN – 100%
Well, once again it looks like ESPN fantasy owners will be S.O.L here, and I really can’t imagine why he is owned in 100% of leagues… but that is what they are reporting his ownership levels at, so I have to trust that ESPN doesn’t put up screwy numbers. Hitting behind Reyes, Ramirez, and Stanton, Sanchez will be seeing baserunners aplenty in 2012, and is an obvious choice if you need a replacement, or even a decent starter at first base. If you need a deeper waiver wire pickup playing on either CBS or ESPN, take a look at guys like Brandon Belt and Chris Parmalee once the season begins, but they probably won’t put up the same numbers as Sanchez.
Aaron Hill – 2B – Arizona Diamondbacks
Yahoo – 38% CBS – 75% ESPN – 90%
In my CBS league, I added Hill on draft day to be a backup for my 2 starters Ian Kinsler and Dustin Ackley. Since we use a MI spot, I picked up Hill in the final rounds for little to no risk. Over at Yahoo is available in 38% of leagues, probably because the standard league there doesn’t use a MI spot, so there will be second basemen in abundance, such as Jason Kipnis or Danny Espinosa, who offer more upside than Hill. If you play in a deeper league, Hill could be an option in 2012. Aaron hit just 8 HR’s in 2011, after hitting 26 in 2010, and 36 in 2009. He is just 30 years old this season, so the clock hasn’t run out, and hitters seem to have no problem launching HR’s in the Arizona desert. If you need a solid backup MI, Hill is probably one of your best bets, and he could fill in as a starter if you have a 2B go down to injury.
Alcides Escobar – SS – Kansas City Royals
Yahoo – 27% CBS – 44% ESPN – 15%
Escobar is an intriguing option at the MI spot in deeper mixed leagues. There are a couple of downsides here, the main one being his low spot in the batting order, if he continues to be the #8 hitter in the Royals lineup, he won’t see as many at-bats as the majority of shortstops in fantasy. Alcides also doesn’t offer much power, but if you are looking for a cheap source of steals off the waiver wire, chances are Escobar will be the top option available. As you can see, in ESPN leagues he is available in 85% of leagues, you definitely shouldn’t drop a starter for him, but injuries do happen, and when you need a middle infielder, take a look at Alcides Escobar out there in Kansas City. Don’t forget about Stephen Drew as well, he is trying to return from injury in 2012, and is currently shooting for a late April/ early May return window.
Daniel Murphy – 1B, 2B, 3B – New York Mets
Yahoo – 58% CBS – 75% ESPN – 92%
Murphy is the kind of player I like to own for one simple reason, versatility. If any of my infielders go down to injury, or even if their wife has a baby, in steps Murphy to whatever role I need, and he will hit for a high average until my starter returns. He hit .319 a year ago with just 6 HR’s and 5 SB’s, and we can expect an average in the .290-.310 range again for 2012. He won’t fill up the stat sheet in multiple categories, which is why he is just an elite backup, instead of a starter, but Daniel can fill in at all infield positions with the exception of SS, and is a valuable commodity to own in fantasy leagues. If Murphy is owned in your league, take a look at guys like Mat Gamel or Mark Trumbo who will offer more power, but a much lower average.
Lorenzo Cain – OF – Kansas City Royals
Yahoo – 43% CBS – 74% ESPN – 39%
Do you need a top prospect option in a keeper league? If so drop everything, head over and add Cain to your roster, and then come back and finish reading. I already have Cain as a backup OF in all 3 leagues I participate in, and as a top of the order hitter for the Kansas City Royals he should be getting way more love than he currently is in fantasy leagues. Although I caution fantasy owners to take spring training numbers with a grain of salt, Cain’s numbers are through the roof. .394/5/11 in 66 at-bats with 4 stolen bases. Although he projects to hit around 15 HR’s this season with the big league club, he should also be a high average hitter who steals bases. Don’t miss the bus on Lorenzo Cain, I expect him to be owned in 100% of leagues in just a few short years, and 2012 could be his coming out party.