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Waiver Wire: Plenty of relief in sight

Senior Fantasy Writer
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The past week has seen the emergence of two "maybe closers" in Fantasy, coupling tremendous upside with significant risk.

Mark Melancon and Rex Brothers are injury fill-ins for Jason Grilli and Rafael Betancourt, respectively. While both have inarguably awesome numbers this season (Melancon has a 0.95 ERA, 0.80 WHIP, and an 8.9 K/9; Brothers has a 1.30 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, and 9.3 K/9), it's tough to fully embrace them because of their situations. Melancon will be closing while Grilli is out, but we're not sure just yet how long that will be. Brothers is in a similar situation, closing while Betancourt is sidelined (although Betancourt may have a less-serious injury).

Most Added Players (as of 7/24)
Player Name % change
1. Christian Yelich, OF, Marlins 26
2. Mark Melancon, RP, Pirates 23
3. Marlon Byrd, OF, Mets 21
4. Chad Gaudin, RP, Giants 20
5. Alex Wood, RP, Braves 19
6. Brad Miller, SS, Mariners 18
7. Junior Lake, OF, Cubs 18
8. Justin Smoak, 1B, Mariners 17
9. Wily Peralta, SP, Brewers 16
10. Chris Archer, SP, Rays 15

With vague return dates slapped on Grilli and Betancourt, it's understandable that an owner in a deeper league would be a little hesitant to drop someone like Gerardo Parra or Daniel Nava to take a chance on Melancon or Brothers. However, Betancourt could always be traded (assuming he can prove he's healthy by next week) and Grilli could have an injury significant enough to render him out for the season.

So we must balance the unknown with some logic and guesswork. I'm more inclined to pick up Melancon than Brothers, but snagging both is something I've tried to do in most of my leagues. For every Melancon that emerges this time of year, there's an owner who just lost his Francisco Rodriguez or could lose his Kevin Gregg, meaning that there's going to be a market for closers -- whereas not many teams may be scrambling to make deals for a Gerardo Parra in order to hold thier place in the standings. In short, go after would-be closers with skill this late, and you could be looking at two months worth of saves.

The Big Leaps

Christian Yelich, OF, Marlins (51 percent ownership, up from 26 percent)

Yelich is 21 years old, was a top-15 prospect coming into this season, and seems to have an outfield job in Miami all to himself. He had an as-advertised debut Tuesday, going 3-for-4 with two RBI. And he displayed great potential in the minors, with a .313 average and .886 OPS over four seasons, including two campaigns of double-digit home runs and 20 or more steals.

There's little doubt that Yelich will be a Fantasy asset at some point. But it may not come this season. Collectively, as a group of Fantasy players, we've questioned Giancarlo Stanton's value all year long because of the Marlins' weak lineup and large confines at home. Yet Yelich's ownership has already surpassed that of Brandon Moss and Dan Straily, almost acting wholly against those same concerns.

I'm not saying this is going to turn out poorly for the Yelich owners, because Yasiel Puig, Jose Iglesias and Wil Myers have kind of disproven that "don't overreact to call-ups" mantra; I just worry that the price some deeper-league owners are going to pay may not end up turning a profit. Yelich is exciting, he has a ton of skill and will play pretty much every day -- but with just 49 games played above Class-A, it's tough to see him sustaining a hot start over the next 60 games.

Over/under on average (season): .251
Over/under on home runs (season): Five

Alex Wood, RP, Braves (22 percent ownership, up from three percent)

Here's what we know about Wood's role with the Braves: he will take Paul Maholm's rotation spot for at least one start.

Now here are the many ways his season could continue:

1. Wood remains in the rotation and Kris Medlen is sent to the bullpen.
1a. Brandon Beachy either hits another snag in his rehab or Maholm's stay on the DL is extended.
2. Wood remains in the rotation while Maholm's stay on the DL is extended, and Beachy takes Medlen's spot.
3. Wood remains in the rotation after Tim Hudson is traded, with Beachy taking Medlen's spot.
4. Wood is out of the rotation when Beachy is activated from the DL.
5. Wood is out of the rotation when Maholm returns from the DL.

And these scenarios are all being considered without Wood having even started a game (which will likely be a good start, but could go either way, as many things in life tend to do). Wood, in short, is good. If you liked Drew Smyly last season -- before the blister and intercostal injury -- then you will like Wood. He has a great minor league ERA (1.73) and WHIP (0.99) over 24 career minor league games, and Wood strikes out about a batter per inning. He's only thrown 84 innings so far this year, so he isn't in danger of being shut down.

The main issue here is that Wood doesn't have a role beyond Thursday's start. The scenarios above all have a pretty decent chance of occurring (outside of the Hudson trade, which I can't really see happening). Medlen is close to surpassing his career high in innings and Beachy is close to a return. So when the squeeze comes, maybe we look at what happened with Smyly in Detroit (he was awesome but was still sent to the bullpen because of a squeeze in starters), and consider Wood a soon-to-be middle reliever who is worth a spot start this week.

UPDATE: With Tim Hudson's Wednesday night injury, it appears Wood has just bought himself at least a second start, possibly a third, depending on when Maholm returns. After that, it's basically Wood, Medlen, and Beachy in the mix for two spots in the rotation (Medlen's and Hudson's). This gives Wood much more value, and I'd consider adding him in deeper leagues, with the recognized downside of being sent back to the bullpen. But with RP eligibility, Wood is now in a much better spot than he was 24 hours ago.

Over/under on starts (season): Seven
Over/under on ERA (season): 2.99
Over/under on WHIP (season): 1.15

Flavor of Next Week

Pedro Strop, RP, Cubs (Owned in 7 percent of leagues)

With Francisco Rodriguez going to the Orioles -- and probably taking a middle relief role there -- the market for dependable closers just shrunk significantly. I'd guess that it's really just down to Kevin Gregg and John Axford on the market (in terms of relievers who can close for their new team), and Gregg has been far more reliable than Axford this season (although Axford has been brilliant lately). So Gregg -- who was picked up on waivers by the Cubs in April -- has significant trade value.

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This leaves the Cubs, hypothetically, without a closer. With Carlos Marmol gone to the Dodgers and Kyuji Fujikawa recovering from Tommy John surgery, the most likely choice for saves in the Cubs bullpen is the 28-year-old Strop.

Strop's overall numbers this year look bad: a 5.40 ERA and 1.43 WHIP. But since his trade to the Cubs, he's reverted to his 2011/2012 form. In nine appearances, Strop has yet to give up an earned run, sporting a 0.65 WHIP and striking out 10 in 7 2/3 innings. He's still averaging about 95 with his fastball and is under the team's control for another four years. If Gregg is shipped out, Strop becomes a solid clsoer option in most formats. Now might be the time to get him, in anticipation of a Gregg trade.

Over/under on saves (season): 14
Over/under on ERA (season): 2.39

American League-only fun

Kole Calhoun, OF, Angels (0 percent ownership)

Calhoun is not a top prospect. He's been so widely ignored that I've been able to snag him this week in two 24-team dynasty leagues. And I can't really figure out what's not to like.

Calhoun is currently hitting .349 with 12 home runs and 10 steals over just 235 at-bats for Salt Lake in the PCL (he missed about six weeks with a broken hand). He has a 1.021 OPS. In his minor league career, Calhoun has a .316 average and sports a .938 OPS. He's managed double digits in steals and home runs in each of the last three seasons.

With J.B. Shuck playing well and Collin Cowgill likely taking any injury-related at-bats from Josh Hamilton, there is a bit of a blocked path for Calhoun, who has played mainly center and right field in his minor league career. But AL-only leaguers may want to take a gamble anyway, as Calhoun can hit -- he just needs a shot. And this shot can come from the Angels (9 1/2 games out of the second wild card slot) either promoting Calhoun to see what he can do once they've given up on the season, trading Calhoun for some pieces that might help them make a late-season push, or bringing Calhoun up if another injury strikes.

There's a decent list of Angels prospects who put up big numbers in the minors and didn't translate it to the majors (Sean Rodriguez, Brandon Wood, Jeff Mathis), but Calhoun, 25, has shown enough at the highest level of the minors to at least get a shot to show what he can do with regular at-bats.

Over/under on at-bats (season): 120
Over/under on home runs (season): 6.5

National League-only fun

Jeff Mathis, C, Marlins (1 percent ownership)

How's that for a segue?

Mathis, 30, was once a perennial prospect coming up with the Angels, reaching No. 22 on the Baseball America list. After seven seasons with the Angels, in which Mathis managed a career-high of just 283 at-bats, he was traded to Toronto in 2011, then sent to the Marlins in the Jose Reyes, et al. deal that essentially turned the sporting world against Miami.

While Mathis' overall line this season doesn't look very impressive -- a .204 average with two home runs and 18 RBI -- he's been solid lately. In 46 July at-bats, Mathis is hitting .304 with two doubles and seven RBI. Perhaps more importantly, Mathis has a 2.55 catcher ERA ("cERA") and has thrown out 14 baserunners trying to steal -- putting him at eighth in the majors, despite playing in less than half the games of the catchers ahead of him.

For all the jokes about the failings of the Marlins, Mathis' increased playing time has led to Miami sporting the eighth-best ERA in the majors in July (3.29). With a young staff, Mathis has worth outside of his hitting. But as long as he continues to get regular at-bats (Rob Brantly, his main competition, has just 22 at-bats this month), Mathis should continue to have value as a second catcher in NL-only formats.

Over/under on average (season): .250
Over/under on at-bats (season): 199

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us on Twitter @CBSFantasyBB or Nando Di Fino at @NandoCBS .

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Player News
Rockies' Nick Hundley hits game-tying home run in loss Thursday
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(1:01 am ET) Rockies catcher Nick Hundley went 2 for 5 with a single and two RBI, including a solo home run in Thursday's 9-8 loss to the Cardinals. Hundley launched his eighth home run in the sixth inning to tie the game at 6-6. 

Hundley has been swinging the bat well over the past two weeks or so. In his last 14 games, the backstop is hitting .358 with two home runs and nine RBI. 


Pirates outright OF Gorkys Hernandez to Triple-A
by Elliott Smith | Staff Writer
(1:00 am ET) The Pirats announced late Thursday they have outrighted outfielder Gorkys Hernandez to Triple-A Indianapolis, per the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Hernandez had been on a rehab assignment at Triple-A. He was hitless in five at-bats with the Pirates in his first MLB action since 2012 before being put on the disabled list with a shoulder injury. 


A's RP Sean Doolittle (shoulder) could be nearing rehab
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(12:57 am ET) Athletics reliever Sean Doolittle threw from a mound on Thursday, the first time he's done so since landing on the disabled list for a second time at the end of May. 

Doolittle made 26 pitches, mixing in all of his pitches on Thursday.

"That's the best bullpen I've seen him throw," manager Bob Melvin said, per MLB.com. "I think he feels psychologically a little bit better about letting it go. It seemed to me that he was guarding it a little bit more so the last time. He definitely was not this time. It seemed like there was a lot more whip."

The left-hander, who is out with a strained left shoulder, is expected to have another bullpen session on Saturday. If all goes well, he could go out on a rehab assignment shortly thereafter. 


Rangers SP Derek Holland (shoulder) begins rehab assignment
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(12:50 am ET) Rangers left-hander Derek Holland began his minor-league rehab assignment, starting the game for Triple-A Round Rock on Thursday. Holland allowed two runs on two hits over 1 2/3 innings, suffering the loss. He walked one and struck out three, throwing 22 of his 39 pitches for strikes.

Holland has made one start all year for the Rangers, coming all the way back in early April. He has been sidelined ever since with a shoulder injury. Holland is currently expected to make two more starts before returning to the Rangers' rotation.


Indians 1B Carlos Santana hits big HR in tight victory
by Elliott Smith | Staff Writer
(12:44 am ET) Indians first baseman Carlos Santana cracked a first-inning home run to propel Cleveland to a 3-1 victory on Thursday, his 12th homer of the season. 

Santana connected off A's starter Chris Bassitt to dead center, driving in Michael Brantley to give the Indians a 3-0 lead. 

Santana has now hit safely in eight of his last 10 games to raise his average to .227. 


Athletics SP Chris Bassitt remains winless
by Elliott Smith | Staff Writer
(12:39 am ET) Athletics starter Chris Bassitt had a shaky first inning, allowing three runs, and despite pitching well for the remainder of his outing, wound up on the losing end of a 3-1 defeat Thursday.

Bassitt went seven innings, scattering six hits while striking out six and walking just one in what was the best of his five starts this season. However, Bassitt's record dropped to 0-4.


Cardinals' Matt Carpenter has monster night at the plate vs. Rockies
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(12:35 am ET) Cardinals third baseman Matt Carpenter had a strong night at the plate on Thursday. Carpenter went 4 for 5 with a double, four RBI and four runs scored in the 9-8 win over the Rockies.

Carpenter also knocked a pair of home runs off starter Chris Rusin, including a three-run shot in the second inning. The two longballs give Carpenter 12 on the season.

Over his last 10 games, Carpenter is now batting .297 with three homers and seven RBI.


Indians SP Carlos Carrasco pitches complete game in win
by Elliott Smith | Staff Writer
(12:33 am ET) Carlos Carrasco was dominant for the Indians on Thursday, pitching a complete-game two-hitter as Cleveland earned a 3-1 win over the Athletics. 

Carrasco allowed a first-inning RBI double, but that was just about it, as he wound up striking out seven hitters while walking just one. Carrasco only needed 103 pitches to spin his gem, using 14 ground-ball outs to power through the Oakland lineup. 

It is Carrasco's first complete game of the season and the fourth of his career. He improves to 11-8 on the season, fourth-most wins in the AL. 


Tigers' Yoenis Cespedes homers, drives in three on Thursday
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(12:30 am ET) Surrounded by trade rumors, Tigers left fielder Yoenis Cespedes went 3 for 5 with two singles and a two-run home run in Thursday's 9-8 win over the Orioles. 

Cespedes belted his 18th home run of the season with two outs in the fourth to cap a five-run inning for Detroit. 

Cespedes, who could be dealt prior to Friday's 4pm trade dealine, is batting .325 with five home runs and nine RBI over his last 10 games.


Giants acquire SP Mike Leake from Reds for two minor leaguers
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(12:24 am ET) The Giants have acquired right-hander Mike Leake from the Reds, CBSSports.com Baseball Insider Jon Heyman reports.

Leake had been solid in the Reds' rotation this year, going 9-5 with a 3.56 ERA. He has been even better here in July, as he posted a 1.25 ERA in five starts this month. 

The Giants have officially announced the trade. They are sending two minor leaguers, right-hander Keury Meila and first baseman Adam Duvall, to the Reds in exchange for Leake.


 
 
 
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