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Waiver Wire: Looking for some relief?

Senior Fantasy Writer
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Junichi Tazawa and Heath Bell will likely get a handful of save opportunities over the next two weeks. But the two would-be closers are couched in a set of circumstances that make them somewhat-enigmatic adds.

Tazawa has, for all intents and purposes, been named the closer for the Red Sox, beating out fellow Roster Trender Koji Uehara for end-game duties. While Tazawa has seen his ownership numbers rise by 26 percent (a number that will probably climb even more over the next couple days), it's unclear how long he will remain in the role. Joel Hanrahan has a forearm strain, which will likely sideline him for at least a month, and maybe more, depending on how complicated his return is. Andrew Bailey has a much more vague biceps injury and could be back within a week thanks to DL backdating. However, the injury could be more serious and keep him out for an extended period of time. So one has to play a very delicate guessing game with Tazawa, weighing how long he will close and exactly how effective he will be as closer against the possible downside of releasing a Marco Estrada-type in order to roster him.

Bell recorded his third save of the season Wednesday night after being tabbed the closer for now while J.J. Putz recovers from elbow soreness on the DL. While David Hernandez sports slightly better numbers than Bell, Heath has 155 career saves, with three straight 40-plus save seasons from 2009 to 2011, while pitching in the NL West.

Recently, though, Bell has been a mess: a 5.03 ERA and 1.53 WHIP since the start of the 2012 season. Anyone who saw The Franchise on Showtime last year can understand the weird mind games Bell was put through in Miami, so giving him a pass for last year is fine. And if you take away Bell's first appearance of this season -- in which he gave up three runs in 1/3 inning -- he has a 2.77 ERA in 13 innings, with 18 strikeouts and two saves (Hernandez, meanwhile, can attribute most of his 4.02 ERA to a three-run outing against San Francisco last week).

I'm not sure there's a way to rank Bell and Tazawa, based on all the moving parts, injuries, speculation, and levels of intrigue. My strategy would be to add both (while passing on Hernandez). If I had to put priority on one over the other, it would be with Bell, who just has more factors working in his favor (long-term opportunity, experience).

The Big Leaps

Dee Gordon, SS, Dodgers (39 percent ownership, up from seven percent)

Anyone who listens to our daily podcast knows that we've been singing the praises of Gordon to the point where we thought his ownership would rise to about 70 percent by Wednesday. Our predictions fell a little short. Maybe it's from worries that Gordon could plunge to 2012 depths (.228 average with 32 steals and 10 caught stealing) and be irrelevant by the time Hanley Ramirez returns. Maybe owners just need power now more than speed. Perhaps Justin Sellers' constant lurking has turned people off.

All of these are valid points, but Gordon was having a nice run in Triple-A this year (.314 average, 14 steals and only two caught stealing) while sporting a career-high OBP (.397). Despite the poor steal percentage in 2012, he still managed 32 steals in 303 at-bats, and has three already this season. He's essentially a must-add in Roto leagues, even if this is just short-term steals potential. In a best-case scenario, Gordon sticks with the team when Ramirez comes back, shifting Ramirez to third base.

Over/under on steals (season): 39
Over/under on average (season): .285
Over/under on home runs (season): 1.5

Hector Santiago, RP, White Sox (32 percent, up from 28)

After a seven-inning, four-hit, eight-strikeout shutout performance on Tuesday against the Mets, Santiago pretty much announced his presence to the Fantasy world. He now has a 1.69 ERA and 0.98 WHIP on the season, with 14 strikeouts in the last two games.

Most Added Players (as of 5/8)
Player Name % change
1. Hector Santiago, RP, White Sox 35
2. Dee Gordon, SS, Dodgers 33
3. Junichi Tazawa, RP, Red Sox 26
4. Kevin Slowey, SP, Marlins 24
5. Ryan Raburn, OF, Indians 24
6. Marcell Ozuna, OF, Marlins 24
7. Heath Bell, RP, D-Backs 22
8. Justin Grimm, SP, Rangers 20
9. Kyle Kendrick, SP, Phillies 19
10. Jeremy Guthrie, SP, Royals 19

How could we have seen this coming? Well, Santiago quietly put together a stellar end to his 2012 season, with a 1.96 ERA and 30 strikeouts in 23 innings over his final seven appearances, four of which were starts. In those four starts last year, Santiago had a 1.86 ERA and 1.19 WHIP, with a 12.1 K/9. Making the feat even more impressive was Santiago's short three-start run in the minors last year, when he pitched 14 2/3 shutout innings. Additionally, when used exclusively as a starter in 2011 (High-A and Double-A), Santiago had a 3.60 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, and 8.3 K/9 over 127 1/3 innings. It's not an overpowering line, but the ERA and WHIP were the lowest of any season with more than 35 innings pitched for him in the minors.

There's a very good chance that what we're seeing from Santiago is legitimate. He showed the skill in the minors and now has a decent track record in the majors as a starter, as well. For players in Head-to-Head leagues, Santiago is even more valuable, as he will stay in the rotation while retaining RP eligibility.

Over/under on ERA (season): 3.50
Over/under on K/9 (season): 8.5
Over/under on his ownership by May 31: 87 percent

Unadvised Drop of the Week

Shaun Marcum, SP, Mets (53 percent, down from 45 percent)

Marcum has a career 3.80 ERA and 1.23 WHIP, with a K/9 of 7.3. So far this season, Marcum has been bad -- a 7.20 ERA and 2.10 WHIP in two starts (and an appearance in extra innings at the end of April). With the rather ugly start, Marcum is getting dropped in a lot of leagues. But there is plenty of hope for him to turn things around.

Marcum has a pretty long history of success, including a WHIP that is low for his career ERA. He struggled with nerve inflammation in his neck this spring, got a cortisone injection in his shoulder before that, and is coming off a truncated 2012 thanks to an elbow injury. In short, Marcum probably still isn't 100 percent just yet, but will be getting closer to that with every game. This makes him more of an add than a drop, as he steadily improves the deeper into the season he gets..

Over/under on starts (season): 25
Over/under on ERA (season): 3.70

The Flavors of Next Week

Justin Ruggiano, OF, Marlins (37 percent, up from 29)

Fantasy owners have every right to be skeptical about Ruggiano's prospects for 2013: he really only has one half of a good season under his belt in a five-year career. He has fewer than 600 career at-bats. He's 31 years old. And the Marlins lineup that Ruggiano is holding together was considered a wasteland before Giancarlo Stanton went down.

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But I am on the opposite end of the Ruggiano spectrum, owning him in nearly every one of my leagues. Ruggiano was given regular at-bats for the first time in his career last year, and that translated to a .313 average, with 13 home runs, 14 steals, 23 doubles, and a .909 OPS over 288 at-bats. In nine minor league seasons, Ruggiano stole 20 or more bases five times, and hit 15 or more home runs four times, despite getting over 450 at-bats twice, and playing a majority of those games (476) in the pitcher-friendly International League.

While Ruggiano is hitting just .230 this season, he already has six home runs and five steals. And he's hitting .265 with three of those home runs and two of those steals in his last 34 at-bats. Keep in mind that Ruggiano was sidelined for a good chunk of spring training with back issues and started the season getting himself into a groove. It's not going to be fun without Stanton in the lineup for another few weeks, at least, but things aren't as grim as the situation has been made out to be in Miami. The team does have some sly power bats in the lineup (Marcell Ozuna is developing; Miguel Olivo, Rob Brantly, Greg Dobbs and Matt Diaz aren't typical power bats, but do have some punch) and table-setters who can hit ahead of Ruggiano and get on base for potential RBI opportunities (Juan Pierre and Placido Polanco). Things aren't exactly working in Ruggiano's favor, but he has managed to put together some nice numbers already and put himself on pace for a run at a 20/20 season. For that, he deserves an ownership percentage higher than 37 percent.

Over/under on average (season): .265
Over/under on home runs (season): 20
Over/under on steals (season): 25

Stephen Drew, SS, Red Sox (31 percent ownership)

Fenway Park has worked its magic on a number of players recently, from Mark Bellhorn to Bill Mueller to Cody Ross. Stephen Drew, hitting .409 with two home runs and a 1.167 OPS in the month of May, looks to be next in line.

Drew didn't play his first game for Boston until April 11, after being hit in the head with a pitch March 7 and being put on the DL with concussion symptoms. After struggling to find a rhythm early, Drew has pretty much turned it on for the Red Sox, with hits in eight of his last 11 games. Buried in that .230 average is a player who is heating up at a position that is perennially thin for Fantasy owners.

Drew, a former first-round pick, has shown some skill in the past, with 21 home runs and a .291 average in 2008, and a run of four seasons with 12 or more home runs from 2007 to 2010, averaging seven steals per season, as well. But the key here is the transformative power of Fenway Park, with the Green Monster providing a nice target for a hitter like Drew, who has a career-high of 44 doubles.

Over/under on home runs (season): 19
Over/under on average (season): .265

American League-only fun

J.D. Martinez, OF, Astros (Four percent ownership)

Martinez has had an odd 2013 so far, being optioned to Triple-A out of spring training, brought back, going on a bit of a run (two home runs in nine games), getting injured, and then returning from injury on Tuesday to a team that DFA'd two of his fellow outfielders.

This leaves Martinez, through all of the tumult, in a pretty good spot. Martinez has a stellar minor league track record, with a .333 average and .928 OPS in 1,228 at-bats. In each of his three minor-league seasons prior to 2012, Martinez reached double-digits in homers despite going over 350 at-bats just once. I'm not even relying on him for the power -- if he hits over eight home runs on the season, I'd consider that house money -- I'm adding Martinez in all my leagues for the batting average and everyday at-bats he'll be getting. Owned in four percent of leagues, it's only a matter of time until Martinez heats up and gets some much-deserved attention from Fantasy owners.

Over/under on batting average (season): .285
Over/under on home runs (season): 11

National League-only fun

Jordan Walden, RP, Braves (21 percent)

With Craig Kimbrel in a bit of a funk right now -- he has a 9.64 ERA in his last five appearances, giving up three home runs in his last 4 2/3 innings -- it might be a good idea to start poking around at possible replacements. We've seen enough outright domination from Kimbrel in the last three years to know that this isn't par for the course. In 160 1/3 career innings before 2013, Kimbrel has given up more than one earned run in an appearance just six times. And he has given up runs in back-to-back outings just four times (a three-game span in 2012 and three instances in 2011). Kimbrel has been so good that his ERA has only been higher than its current state (3.38) at any point in any season once before -- on May 15, 2010, three games into his MLB career.

I'm not suggesting Kimbrel is hurt, but he did have a little hiccup at the end of spring training with his mechanics having to be slightly tweaked, and he finished the spring with a 5.63 ERA and 1.63 WHIP. There was some hubbub about his velocity being down this spring, but he's been back up to his normal levels this season.

The other end of this supposition is that Walden would take over as the closer if something happens with Kimbrel. My guess is that Walden, who has 34 career saves and was great closing for the Angels in 2011 (2.98 ERA, 32 saves) would get the nod over Eric O'Flaherty, who has far better ratios, but may end up like a Joel Peralta type, having more value in those eighth-inning situations. With the lofty expectations of the Braves this year, the team may opt to go with the experience over the numbers. And this is all a scenario that may never play out, as chances are Kimbrel is fine and just going through a rough patch.

Still, it's never a bad idea to at least be prepared for a worst-case scenario, especially with all the closer shenanigans this season.

Over/under on saves (season): Four
Over/under on ERA (season): 3.10

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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Player News
Santana fine after throwing bullpen session; winter-league status is TBD
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(11:55 am ET) Free agent starting pitcher Johan Santana threw a bullpen session Sunday and is said to be feeling fine, according to CBSSports.com Baseball Insider Jon Heyman. It is now up to his Venezuelan winter league team to decide if he will pitch for them in the finals.

Santana has been dealing with some shoulder discomfort, which has put his status for the remainder of the winter-league season in doubt. Santana is hoping to latch on with another major-league team after suffering a torn Achilles in June.

The Yankees, Padres and Blue Jays are among the teams showing interest in signing the former two-time AL Cy Young award winner.


Mariners planning on batting Smith, Ruggiano in second spot in lineup
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(11:31 am ET) Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon said he is tentatively planning to bat the right-field tandem of Seth Smith and Justin Ruggiano second in the lineup, per The New Tribune.

The Mariners ranked last in the majors last season in on-base percentage (.260) from their No. 2 hitters. No other team was lower than .279.

Smith had a .367 OBP last season for San Diego, while Ruggiano had a .337 OBP in 81 games for the Cubs.


Rays' Jake McGee plays catch for first time since elbow surgery
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(11:25 am ET) The Rays announced Monday reliever Jake McGee played catch for the first time since undergoing elbow surgery in December. McGee is still expected to miss the start of the season.

Cardinals' Carpenter hoping to build off postseason power surge
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(11:17 am ET) Cardinals infielder Matt Carpenter hit just eight home runs with a .375 slugging percentage during the 2014 regular season, but had a much better power swing in the postseason, belting four home runs and slugging .722 in nine games.

“I took a more of an aggressive approach in the postseason,” Carpenter said, per STLBaseballWeekly.com. “Part of that was from the experience that I had gathered the year before. After a long season, going into the playoffs I felt like I wasn’t as prepared as I felt like I could’ve been. It kind of snowballed and my approach and the way I took the regular season at-bat in the postseason it wasn’t playing out well.”

Carpenter said his postseason success could have a positive impact on his power numbers in 2015.

"Certainly, I’m always going to be a guy who’s patient at the plate, but that was a good learning experience for me -- being aggressive," he said. "I don’t remember the exact numbers but out of the four home runs I hit, I think three of them were on the first pitch. That’s something typically I don’t do a lot of, and it was a good learning experience.”


Tigers' Dombrowski expecting 'real big season' for Justin Verlander
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(10:48 am ET) Tigers starting pitcher Justin Verlander said last week this is the best he's felt physically approaching the start of spring training in at least three years.

Apparently, the optimism doesn't end with Verlander. Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski indicated the Tigers are expecting big things from Verlander in 2015 after he posted a 4.54 ERA in 2014, failing to make the All-Star team for the first time in six seasons.

"Justin Verlander is as prime a pitcher as there is in the game of baseball," Dombrowski said, per the Detroit Free Press. "Last year, he was not the traditional Justin. But when you look at what he came back from with the surgery, I think he's going to go out and have a real big season for us."


Sleep apnea almost caused Red Sox's Mike Napoli to retire
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(10:47 am ET) Dealing with sleep apnea almost caused Red Sox first baseman Mike Napoli to retire prematurely from baseball, reports the Boston Globe.

"I couldn't do it anymore, feeling the way I was feeling," Napoli said. "I was like, 'I need to have the surgery or I'm not going play anymore.' That's how bad it was."

During the offseason, Napoli underwent facial reconstruction surgery to correct the condition, which was preventing him from getting a proper night of rest.

"It was a brutal process," Napoli said. "It was probably one of the worse things I've ever done."

With the surgery a success and Napoli recovered from losing weight due to a six-week liquid diet, Napoli is now sleeping better than he ever has.

Before the surgery, Napoli turned to medication, mouthpieces and a CPAP mask, but said those problems are now behind him.

"I wake up now and I'm ready to start my day," he said. "It's great."


Angels' Jered Weaver bulks up in effort to pitch deeper into games
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(10:36 am ET) Angels starting pitcher Jered Weaver has bulked up to 224 pounds, which is six pounds heavier than he has ever been, in an effort to pitch deeper into games in 2015, per the Los Angeles Times. Weaver dropped to as low as 199 pounds during the 2014 season.

“Numbers-wise, it was all right,” Weaver said of his 2014 season (18-9, 3.59 ERA). “But from a personal standpoint, me being ultra-competitive, I want to get deeper in games.

“The bullpen helped me a lot last year. I just want to gain some strength. I went on a different weight-lifting program last year, and it’s been paying off. I’m going to stick with it.”

The average velocity of Weaver’s fastball dipped to a career-low 86.3 mph last season. However, he said the added weight gain is more for endurance than velocity on his fastball. He averaged just over six innings per start last season and has just one complete game over the last two seasons after throwing seven complete games in 2011-12.

“I don’t care about velocity -- I just want to be stronger for the whole nine innings,” Weaver said. “If velocity comes along, so be it. I think I’ve shown I can pitch from 83 to 93 mph.”


Mariners' Austin Jackson looking to bounce back in 2015
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(10:08 am ET) After being acquired by the Mariners at the trade deadline last season, outfielder Austin Jackson struggled to produce for the Mariners. In 54 games, Jackson hit .229 and Jackson said the trade affected his playing ability, reports The News Tribune.

"Not making excuses, but I think getting traded and trying to get used to the travel and the sleep - those things affect your play on the field," Jackson said.

By starting the season in Seattle, Jackson said he hopes to avoid the distractions from last season and he's looking to return to his old form.

"Hopefully, getting started here and staying here, those distractions won't be there," Jackson said.


White Sox OF Avisail Garcia dropped weight during offseason
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(1:02 am ET) White Sox outfielder Avisail Garcia dropped roughly 15 pounds during the offseason, according to MLB.com.

"I've been eating healthy, working real hard at the gym, Garcia said. "I have to be ready for spring training. I can't go there and be fat." With the weight loss, Garcia is hoping to keep his power potential. "I don't want to lose speed, I don't want to lose power," Garcia said. "I want to be in the middle. I know I can do a little bit of everything, so that's why I've been working really hard on speed, power, hitting and defense, so I can help my team win."

Garcia hit .244/.305/.413 over 172 at-bats last year.


Athletics' Billy Butler would welcome return to Royals
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12:35 am ET) Athletics designated hitter Billy Butler said he would love to return to the Royals later in his career, according to the Kansas City Star.

After spending the first eight seasons of his career in Kansas City, Butler signed a three-year deal with Oakland during the offseason. Though he left the Royals, Butler said there is no hard feelings. "It’s disappointing, but you understand that the game’s a business and I didn’t leave on bad terms," Butler said. "I’d be more than happy to come back. That’s home for me. I’ll always be forever tied to the Royals organization and the community there."

The 28-year-old hit .271/.323/.379 over 549 at-bats last year.


 
 
 
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