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Waiver Wire: Time to invest wisely

Senior Fantasy Writer
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Jackie Bradley isn't the most-added player in CBSSports.com leagues -- that honor belongs to Jose Fernandez -- but Bradley may be the most enigmatic. He went hitless on opening day, but drew praise for drawing three walks. He has a .311 batting average with 43 doubles and 24 steals in 499 minor league at-bats, but has played just 61 games above High-A ball. Most importantly, though, he will eventually force the Red Sox to make a tough call when David Ortiz comes back, deciding between a combination of Jonny Gomes, Daniel Nava, Mike Carp and Bradley to handle the left field duties. Until then, though, nobody really knows how he will perform or if he's up to the task.

Bradley, 22, needs to play every day, lest his development get stunted. He's not going to be thrown in the mix as a platoon when Ortiz returns. His only hope of sticking would be if he is playing well and the Red Sox decide to further marginalize the roles of Gomes and their current bench bats. But Bradley is still young and has very little seasoning. And even mighty Mike Trout bombed in his first go-round in the majors with a .220 average, five home runs, four steals, and six doubles in 123 at-bats in 2011. It's not to say Bradley isn't good, he just may require a little more time in the minors before being ready for a regular role with Boston.

If Bradley is hitting .220 when Ortiz returns and is sent to the minors, it doesn't mean he's not good; it just means he's not ready. And chances are that a player who has spent less than half of a season at Double-A will have some struggles facing R.A. Dickey knuckleballs and Mariano Rivera cutters. Now, in 2014, Bradley could be a Fantasy steal. But the 2013 version is a good candidate to be sent down when Ortiz returns. And plenty of Fantasy players will be left scrambling to grab replacements off the waiver wire.

The Big Leaps

Jose Fernandez, SP, Marlins (55 percent ownership, up 13 percent)

Just to put things in perspective, Fernandez is nine days younger than Selena Gomez. Unlike Bradley, Fernandez hasn't even sniffed Double-A, playing his highest ball at High-A. He's very good, but, like Bradley, may need some more seasoning. However, Fernandez does have a few things going for him:

Most Added Players (as of 4/3)
Player Name Own %
1. Jose Fernandez, SP, Marlins 56
2. Jackie Bradley, Jr., OF, Red Sox 60
3. Brandon Maurer, SP, Mariners 39
4. Hyun-Jin Ryu, SP, Dodgers 83
5. Phil Coke, RP, Tigers 25
6. Mitchell Boggs, RP, Cardinals 54
7. Collin Cowgill, OF, Mets 23
8. Matt Carpenter, 2B, Cardinals 15
9. Lance Berkman, 1B, Rangers 62
10. Aaron Hicks, OF, Twins 55

1. A 20-year-old pitcher with 138 1/3 professional innings under his belt won't have a ton of advance scouting on him, so he can fool some teams early.

2. The Marlins don't exactly have a long line of prospects ready to join the rotation, so they can afford to be patient with Fernandez.

3. For a team struggling to win over a disenfranchised fan base, it's kind of tough not to root for a youngster with an electric arm making a huge leap to the majors.

That all being said, if Fernandez is putting up Phil Hughes/Ian Kennedy (c. 2008) numbers when Henderson Alvarez and Nate Eovaldi return from injury, he could be sent down to the farm.

Chances he has impact beyond June: 30 percent
Chances it's a helpful Fantasy impact: Nine percent
Over/under on wins (season): Four
Over/under on strikeouts (season): 75

Jackie Bradley, Jr., OF, Red Sox (59 percent, up 31 percent)

The case was made against Bradley up above, but here's the devil's advocate: if he's hitting .280 and playing solid defense, Jonny Gomes has been in a reserve role before, the Red Sox don't owe anything to Mike Carp and Daniel Nava is not out of options. The thing here is that Bradley has to hit, which is a tall order for someone with his amount of experience.

Chances he has an impact beyond Ortiz' return: 33 percent
Over/under on steals (season): 15
Over/under on average (season): .235

Brandon Maurer, SP, Mariners (37 percent, up from 10 percent)

A 23rd round pick of the Mariners in 2008, Maurer is the third player in this column to have no Triple A experience. He had very Wade Miley-esque numbers in the minors, with a bit more strikeout potential and slightly better WHIP. He also has 371 minor league innings under his belt, making him the most seasoned of the three hot rookies. Does it mean he has the best chance of success? Probably not. In fact, Maurer is probably the least exciting -- but safest -- of the three players. He had a solid spring, but the Mariners can afford to keep him on a short leash, as they have oodles of young, talented arms (James Paxton, Erasmo Ramirez, Taijuan Walker, Danny Hultzen) ready to bubble up if he flails.

Chances he is in the rotation by June 1: 65 percent
Chances he strikes out a batter per inning this year: 20 percent
Over/under on starts (season): 17
Pitchers I would drop for him: Mark Buehrle, Bruce Rondon, Juan Nicasio

The Flavors of Next Week

Mitchell Boggs, RP, Cardinals (owned in 54 percent of leagues)

Boggs is already in the top five of Most Added, but he is the closer for the Cardinals, with Jason Motte sidelined indefinitely, and is barely owned in half of our leagues. I think his ownership is being pushed down by two factors: the presence of hard-throwing Trevor Rosenthal and the reluctance of owners to believe he is the closer until he gets a save. If Boggs gets two saves this week, his ownership will shoot up into the 80s.

Chances he is the closer on July 4: 70 percent
Over/under on saves (season): 30

Vernon Wells, OF, Yankees (32 percent)

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Yeah, it's fun and easy to call Wells washed up and deem his mega-contract with the Angels a huge bust. And while you do that, the rest of us who look at his numbers will pick him up and start Wells at utility. He still has power (his 162 game average the last three years was 30 home runs), he still has the ability to produce a decent average (.272 career), he has a starting job right now, and he may even throw in three to five steals. With a few hot games this week (he hit a three-run bomb Wednesday night), Fantasy players will take notice of his regular playing time and add him in droves.

Over/under on plate appearances this year: 450
Over/under on home runs: 24.5
Chances he hits .272: 33 percent

Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C, Red Sox (44 percent)

Lost in the OMG-Jackie-Bradley-walked-three-times! reaction to opening day was Red Sox catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia drawing three walks, while adding a double and scoring two runs. After a 25-homer season in 2012, you'd think Saltalamacchia would be getting a little more love. But he did hit just .222, so people probably wanted to wait and see what he could offer. With a couple more decent games, though, the "should I pick up Saltalamacchia and drop Ryan Doumit?" questions should start coming in, and owners will sort by points or Roto rank and see him sitting atop the waiver wires.

Chances he hits 25 home runs again this year: 40 percent
Over/under on average (season): .240
Catchers I would drop for him: A.J. Ellis, Chris Iannetta, A.J. Pierzynski

American League fun

Stephen Drew, SS, Red Sox (32 percent)

Drew has gotten clearance to begin rehab from his concussion, meaning he could be back in the Boston lineup in about 10 days. Drew's main drawback the last couple years has been his inability to stay healthy, so if this is the only setback for him this year (not likely, but you never know), we could expect some decent power and average from him, especially in the cozy confines of Fenway Park.

Chances he is playing by April 20: 85 percent
Over/under on home runs (season): 18
Middle infielders I would release to activate him off the DL: Yunel Escobar, Jeff Keppinger, Howard Kendrick

John Lackey, SP, Red Sox (18 percent)

Fine, this column has inadvertently become a little Red Sox heavy. I don't care -- it seems to be where the deep value is. Lackey is coming back from a lost season thanks to Tommy John. He slimmed down, got into shape, and looked decent this spring (a 5.40 ERA belied a nice 1.29 WHIP). Lackey is probably never going to reach the heights of his Angels days again, but he can turn in some serviceable starts for an AL-only team, as he's a younger-than-you-think 34 years old and has plenty to prove in 2013.

Over/under on ERA: 4.08
Chances he makes 30 starts: 25 percent
Chances he makes 25 starts: 65 percent

National League fun

Justin Ruggiano, OF, Marlins (23 percent)

This isn't to dump on Chris Coghlan, who makes for a great comeback story, but the Marlins need Ruggiano's bat in the lineup to offer some other power threat besides Giancarlo Stanton. Ruggiano battled back issues this spring and was limited to 35 at-bats, so I think the platoon may be a temporary situation, and Ruggiano ends up getting the lion's share of at-bats. In 288 at-bats last year, many coming with regularity, Ruggiano hit 13 home runs and stole 14 bases, all while hitting .313. Why the Marlins would not want to build on that remains a mystery (which makes the giving-him-time-to-heal-and- catch-up theory sound a little better).

Over/under on at-bats: 475
Over/under on home runs: 17
Chances he steals 20 bases: 45 percent

Mike Leake, SP, Reds (15 percent)

Leake became the unlikely fifth starter for the Reds this season after plans to start Aroldis Chapman were scuttled at the end of spring training for the second year in a row. The fact that the plan was considered and Leake was going to be in the bullpen may have hurt his value and ownership numbers. Leake's 2012 (4.58 ERA, 1.35 WHIP) also didn't help. Still, the eighth overall pick in the 2009 draft is just 24 and was great in 2011. Last year, Leake struggled at home (5.54 ERA at home, 3.65 on the road) and sported a 5.05 ERA from July forward. However, Leake wasn't consistently bad -- he simply got into the habit of getting bombed here and there -- of his final 15 games, he gave up four or more runs six times. In seven of those 15 starts, Leake allowed two or fewer runs. So if he can just corral the success from those good starts and avoid the ugliness from the very bad ones, he could see major improvement from last year.

Over/under on ERA: 3.89
Over/under on WHIP: 1.31
Chances he makes 30 starts: 40 percent

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us on Twitter @CBSFantasyBB or Nando Di Fino at @NandoCBS . You can also send our staff an e-mail at fantasybaseball@cbsinteractive.com .

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