Welcome to the new season of our weekly MLB version of The Wire Troll. Each and every year, the first several weeks of a new season are without a doubt the busiest from a waiver wire perspective, as we attempt to sort through both the contenders and the pretenders and deal with the usual onslaught of injury woes. Some players, that only a week ago were buried on the waiver wire, are now the hottest of commodities.
How many teams in your 12-team league had Mark Lowe or Jason Kubel on a roster at the beginning of April? Need I say more? This year, in an attempt to look at the waiver wire from a deeper perspective, we will be trolling the wire in three separate groupings. Without further ado, let’s take a look at some of those early waiver wire options.
- Mark Lowe, Seattle, RP: Up until the beginning of last week, had anyone outside of the medical profession ever heard of “mild costochondritis?” An inflammation whereby cartilage attaches to a rib has incumbent closer J.J. Putz sidelined indefinitely. Miguel Batista picked up that first save, but with him starting Saturday, it’s clear that a bullpen-by-committee headed by Lowe looks like the approach Seattle is going to take at this time. For those looking at an early gamble for some cheap saves, Lowe would be the best option at this time.
- Jon Rauch, Washington, RP: With Chad Cordero on the 15-day DL and sidelined for most of next week with right shoulder tendinitis, Rauch has been moved into the closer’s role in Washington. Rauch has pitched in an extremely high number of games over the past several years and this should raise a red flag (especially given his injury history), but for now he has the job. In the event that Cordero doesn’t return as scheduled you might want to file away the name of Luis Ayala for future reference, especially in leagues that count holds.
- Johnny Cueto, Cincinnati, SP: This 22-year-old righthander has some serious high-end potential as demonstrated this past week with that seven-inning one-hitter and the ten strikeouts. He is a must have, especially in keeper formats, but do beware there will undoubtedly be some bumps in the road, a common occurence with most young pitchers.
- Jason Kubel, Minnesota, OF: Heading into the regular season, Kubel was sharing the DH slot with Craig Monroe. With Michael Cuddyer on the 15-day DL with a dislocated right index finger, the opportunity is there for Kubel to demonstrate the skills that made him a top prospect prior to that knee injury several years ago. Judging by his solid second half last year and a good start in ’08, Kubel looks like a very good gamble at this time.
- Carlos Gomez, Minnesota, OF: Heading into the regular season, one of the main areas of concern for the Twins centred around Gomez and his ability to assume Torii Hunters’ former role patrolling centrefield. The early verdict is in, and with four stolen bases so far in Week One, Gomez is most certainly a solid option at this time. Just temper your expectations with regards to the batting average, as those eight strikeouts with only one walk should be a cause for concern.
- Bill Hall, Milwaukee, 3B: If you can live with the potentially low batting average, the power numbers for this year could be very solid. This free swinger is not going to hit .300 with those nine Ks for every walk that he is showing so far, but a return to the 30-homer level is possible. The fact that Hall is outfield-eligible for this year is also a nice added bonus.
- Xavier Nady, Pittsburgh, OF: Off to a great start in 2008, the free-swinging Nady could round out your final outfield slot very nicely. One could do much worse than the 20-home run potential that Nady exhibits.
- Ryan Church, New York Mets, OF: With the Mets’ top of the order one being of the strongest in baseball, someone in that lineup is going to see some good pitches to hit, and Church could end up being the benefactor. A full season with him in your outfield could equate to a more than adequate .275, with 20 homers and 85 RBI. So why is Church currently sitting as a free agent in 62 per cent of CBS fantasy leagues?
- Micah Owings, Arizona, SP: Coming off a rough spring due to shoulder issues, that first start from Owings was a most pleasant surprise. The 25-year-old righthander struck out nine while only allowing two hits through 6 2/3 innings pitched. Owings is definitely worth the gamble, and in a worse case scenario you do end up with probably the best hitting starting pitcher in baseball — a nice bonus should your league count those numbers.
- Ervin Santana, Los Angeles Angels, SP: Isn’t it hard to believe that Santana is only 25 this season? Two solid years followed by last years 1-10 road disaster, makes Santana a decent bounce back candidate for this year. A very strong showing in the Dominican Winter League playoffs, and a good first start on the road in 2008 could be an early indicator that things will be looking up for him this season.
The Long Shots
- Nick Blackburn, Minnesota, SP: In his first start, Blackburn limited the Angels to one run over seven innings with six strikeouts. With Boof Boonser struggling and Kevin Slowey currently suffering from a strained biceps, with a solid April Blackburn could find himself doing more than just holding a spot in the rotation until the anticipated return of Francisco Liriano.
- Bobby Crosby, Oakland, SS: It has most certainly been a long three years for Crosby since winning the AL Rookie of the Year back in 2004. The skills are there, but health issues have prohibited him from topping 358 at bats in any season since that solid rookie year. If (and it’s a big if) Crosby can maintain some semblance of health and record 500 at bats this year, his owners could have some very decent numbers to look back on at year’s end.
- John Danks, Chicago White Sox, SP: The soon-to-be 23-year-old lefty has gotten off to a rather nice start this season. Danks took a no-hitter into the sixth against a very strong Cleveland offense this past week and is a must have for those in keeper and dynasty formats. For those in standard ten- and 12-team leagues, the potential is most certainly there for Danks to be a real asset in 2008.
- Randy Wolf, San Diego, SP: The talent has always been there; the health? Not so much. Coming off a terrible spring where virtually everything he threw got hammered, Wolf rebounded very nicely in his opening start, limiting the Astos to one run over six innings and striking out five. If he can stay healthy, he has the potential to post solid numbers in San Diego this year.
- Kevin Millwood, Texas, SP: While wandering through stacks of statistics this past week, I did happen to notice a trend. Check out Millwood’s numbers for 1999, 2002, and 2005. Does 2008 continue this trend, or are we to be subjected to more of the Millwood we’ve come to know and not so much love? Without a doubt a longshot at best, Millwood could surprise and be a solid innings-eater type in 2008 if he can continue to limit the free passes.