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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
Rangers pitcher Nick Tepesch admits to pressing too hard last spring
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(12:41 am ET) Rangers pitcher Nick Tepesch is still pushing to earn a spot on the team's starting rotation this spring, but he knows he pushed a bit too hard last year, reports the Dallas Morning News.

"I was just trying to do a little too much," said Tepesch, who threw a scoreless inning on 14 pitches in Sunday's intrasquad game. "I was trying to make perfect pitches and staying who I am. Getting sent down allowed me to look at what made me successful and try to own those types of things. It was beneficial. I also now know that I can only control what I do. If I stay focused on that, pressure takes care of itself."


Tigers' Blaine Hardy hoping to reign in his accuracy in 2015
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(3/1/2015) Tigers pitcher Blaine Hardy is using this spring training to work on his control. Hardy struggled in 2014 with his control, walking 20 batters in 39 innings pitched.

"Last year I walked more people than I would've liked," he said to MLB.com. "That's definitely a learning point, learning the strike zone. It's a little bit different, a little bit smaller, but more consistent. With that being said, I felt like I had a good year, and hopefully I'll be able to come in and do the same thing with less walks."

Manager Brad Ausmus didn't think Hardy's season was as bad as people believe it was.

"I thought he did a good job for us, quite frankly," Ausmus said. "It kind of irks me a little bit when people want to split players' seasons up: Player X had a good year, but he really struggled in the second half. He still had a good year.

"Guys are going to struggle at some point in the season. It's probably more likely they struggle in the second half as they tire, but you can't discount what they did in the first half. Those games are just as important to win."


Rockies' Jhoulys Chacin faces hitters for first time Saturday
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(3/1/2015) Rockies pitcher Jhoulys Chacin is feeling good about his health so far in camp. Good enough, in fact, that the 27-year-old faced hitters Saturday for the first time this spring.

Sunday, Chacin said he was without pain.

"Today I feel normal -- not like before," Chacin said. "I threw everything and felt good. I need to get into games to really feel back to normal, like it did two years ago [14-10 with a 3.47 ERA in 31 starts]. I know I've got a long way to go. I don't know what my velocity was, but it'll come up a little."

Chacin injured his rotator cuff in the middle of last season, forcing him out of action for nearly half the season.


Indians P Gavin Floyd comes out of live BP session pain free
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(3/1/2015) Following his first live batting practice of spring training, Indians pitcher Gavin Floyd came away without any pain the elbow he broke last season.

With the Braves in 2014, Floyd fractured his elbow in a game against the Nationals on June 19. The injury required surgery, which ended his season. Sunday morning's batting practice marked the first time he'd thrown to a batter since that game. 

"It's just another step," Floyd said via MLB.com. "It's the first time I had a significant bullpen, cooled down for a little bit and then got back out there. I felt really good. I've just got to continue to make progress and build up strength. Usually, that's just by doing it over and over again, and using spring to do that."


White Sox's Gordon Beckham working at multiple infield positions
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(3/1/2015) Gordon Beckham's main goal this spring training is to win the White Sox's starting second baseman position. 

But for now, the White Sox are planning to use him at multiple positions in the infield during Cactus League play, according to MLB.com. This is somewhat new for Beckham, as he played second base during his first five-plus Major League seasons with the White Sox. 

Though Beckham is looking to earn the starting job at second base, he seems to be enjoying playing multiple spots so far. 

"I'm actually kind of enjoying running around," Beckham said. "I like popping around the infield. I know the coaches and the people making the decisions know I can play second base and know I can play it well. There has been an emphasis on them just telling me to get some work in other places."

Beckham actually played shortstop in college at the University of Georgia and played that position, as well as third base, after the White Sox traded him to the Angels. He was brought back to Chicago on a one-year deal. 

Beckham hit a single-season worse .226 for both the Angels and White Sox a season ago. 


Giants' Tim Lincecum to 'piggyback' starter this week
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(3/1/2015) Giants manager Bruce Bochy said pitcher Tim Lincecum will see a relief appearance early this week, according to MLB.com

Lincecum is generating rave reviews for his performance early on in spring training. However, he won't be getting a start this week. Bochy said Lincecum will "piggyback" either Madison Bumgarner (Tuesday), Jake Peavy (Wednesday), Ryan Vogelsong (Thursday) or Yusmeiro Petit (Friday) this week. 

This means Lincecum will come in and get a starter's workload in relief. 


Giants' Jake Peavy to start Wednesday for Giants
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(3/1/2015) Following Madison Bumgarner's exhibition start on Tuesday, the Giants will go with Jake Peavy to start Wednesday's Cactus League game against the Athletics, manager Bruce Bochy announced via MLB.com

Ryan Vogelsong will pitch Thursday against the Cubs and Yusmeiro Petit will go Friday against the Rangers. 


White Sox's Gordon Beckham working at multiple infield positions
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(3/1/2015) Gordon Beckham's main goal this spring training is to win the White Sox's  starting second baseman position. 

But for now, the White Sox are planning to use him at multiple positions in the infield during Cactus League play, according to MLB.com. This is somewhat new for Beckham, as he played second base during his first five-plus Major League seasons with the White Sox. 

Though Beckham is looking to earn the starting job at second base, he seems to be enjoying playing multiple spots so far. 

"I'm actually kind of enjoying running around," Beckham said. "I like popping around the infield. I know the coaches and the people making the decisions know I can play second base and know I can play it well. There has been an emphasis on them just telling me to get some work in other places."

Beckham actually played shortstop in college at the University of Georgia and played that position, as well as third base, after the White Sox traded him to the Angels. He was brought back to Chicago on a one-year deal. 

Beckham hit a single-season worse .226 for both the Angels and White Sox a season ago. 


Phillies pitcher Paul Clemens fighting for spot in bullpen
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
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"Some pitching coaches tell me how incredible my arm is and that I could play for a long time, so I think I've been showing some guys what I bring to the table," Clemens said. "I had a couple really good conversations with front office and some guys around here, so it's definitely motivating."

He wants to be able to pick out his spots better during spring training, knowing he has to impress as a non-roster invitee.

"Sometimes I think I get too overzealous with my fastball and I just pound it and pound it and pound it. So picking my spots more, being smarter. You can't really challenge guys at this level. Once in a while you've got to pick your spots, but you can't challenge too many guys, even the guys you don't really know their names as much. You've still got to pitch."


Athletics to ease Coco Crisp into action this spring
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(3/1/2015) Athletics manager Bob Melvin wants to take things slow with veteran outfielder Coco Crisp this spring, reports MLB.com.

"I'll probably hold him out the first few because I'm going to cut down on his workload," Melvin said Sunday.

Crisp, who is dealing with a case of pinkeye, was held out of an intrasquad scrimmage, even though he was able to take part in batting practice.


 
 
 
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