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Waiver Wire: Get them while you can!

Michael Hurcomb
Fantasy Writer
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Every year as we gear up for Fantasy drafts, we always come up with a list of players that are "our guys."

You know what I'm talking about. It's the player you try to draft in all formats. The guy that you hope falls to you or you have so much confidence in that you don't mind reaching for him in drafts.

One of those players on my list this spring was Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado. If you have listened to our podcast, you have heard me on more than one occasion go to bat for the second-year third baseman, and I've mentioned quite a few times I drafted him in the majority of leagues. Well, over the weekend I got a hard lesson in why putting all your eggs in one basket can backfire.

Like many Fantasy owners, I was left scrambling to find a replacement on waivers after it was announced this weekend Arenado will be sidelined several weeks while recovering from a broken finger. Unfortunately, as many Fantasy owners probably learned, there are slim pickings out there.

I've debated with my colleague Scott White about the depth at third base this season. I've made the argument that I was able to wait on players like Arenado and Anthony Rendon in drafts this spring, and was rewarded for my patience. It wasn't until last week while I was working on my rankings that I realized how right Scott was.

If you look at the top 10 Fantasy scoring third basemen in Head-to-Head leagues, you will find the likes of Arenado, Rendon, Todd Frazier, Yangervis Solarte and Trevor Plouffe. All of these guys weren't ranked among the top 10 Fantasy third basemen going into the season. You're probably thinking, well that's good, right? That means there are plenty of serviceable options off waivers to replace Arenado, who is the fourth-highest scoring third baseman.

Not so fast.

Most added players on CBSSports.com
Player Own %
1. Garrett Jones, 1B, MIA 81 (+38)
2. Lonnie Chisenhall, 3B, CLE 46 (+36)
3. Sean Doolittle, RP, OAK 73 (+32)
4. Mitch Moreland, 1B, TEX 38 (+22)
5. Phil Hughes, SP, MIN 84 (+21)
6. Ronald Belisario, RP, CHW 24 (+21)
7. Drew Hutchison, SP, TOR 84 (+20)
8. Nick Tepesch, SP, TEX 29 (+20)
9. Ryan Vogelsong, SP, SF 56 (+18)
10. David Murphy, OF, CLE 58 (+17)

It should have been a plus for Fantasy owners that Carlos Santana gained third-base eligibility, but it hasn't been thus far. Still, third base is such a weak position, Scott, Al Melchior and I still rank him among the top 10 options at the hot corner despite an awful start.

Then there's Pedro Alvarez. Even with his batting average near the Mendoza Line and his high strikeout rate, Alvarez is the 10th-highest scoring Fantasy third baseman in points leagues. Let that sink in for a moment.

Sure there is potential at the hot corner. Ryan Zimmerman's return will help boost the position. Manny Machado, Xander Bogaerts and Martin Prado have all underachieved. But for those needing waiver wire replacements for Arenado, it's not a pretty picture.

Some of the best options (owned in less than 71 percent of CBSSports.com leagues) are Trevor Plouffe, Chase Headley, Juan Francisco, Matt Dominguez, Casey McGehee, Nick Castellanos, Lonnie Chisenhall and Mark Reynolds. Players like Dominguez and Chisenhall are on an upward swing and might help in the short-term, but it could be a situation where you mix and match until Arenado returns, which it looks like it's going to be a while.

There are two guys I haven't talked about yet that are the most intriguing waiver wire options at third base ... and sadly they aren't even in the majors. They are Cubs prospect Kris Bryant and Phillies prospect Maikel Franco.

Bryant continues to destroy minor-league pitching. He is batting .337 with a .641 slugging percentage and 1.072 OPS in 49 games at Double-A this season and has a career .337 average, .660 slugging percentage and 1.075 OPS. Working against Bryant is the current Cubs' brass (Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer) do not have a predisposition to rush prospects through the minors without logging significant playing time at Triple-A, and Bryant has logged just 84 games in the minors since being the second-overall pick in last year's amateur draft. However, he's proving little service time might not be an issue. I still believe if you can afford a roster spot for Bryant in seasonal formats, then you do it.

As for Franco, as expected, he's heating up as the weather does. After batting .172 in April, Franco is batting .291 with a .465 slugging percentage and .849 OPS in 22 May games. Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro said Sunday that Franco is in play to be promoted to the majors with Cody Asche landing on the disabled list. I actually added Franco in one of my leagues as a potential longer-term replacement for Arenado, while I start Castellanos in the meantime. Franco is a guy who can be an impact bat, and the intrigue is heating up as a promotion seems imminent.

However, my best advice is that if you have outfield or starting pitcher depth, then consider making a trade for a third baseman.

Stephen Drew, SS, Red Sox

Ownership in CBSSports.com leagues: 23 percent (up 8 percent)
Drew is back with the Red Sox after it seemed like a reunion with Boston wasn't going to happen, but a shaky start from Xander Bogaerts and Will Middlebrooks forced the Red Sox to make a move. Drew is going to log a little time in the minors before he's brought to the majors, but he should play regularly once active. There's probably not a lot of untapped upside with the 31-year-old Drew. However, he could develop into a startable low-end option in mixed leagues. He seems to like Fenway Park, where he had a .283/.367/.491/.859 slash line in 68 games last season. Drew also seems to heat up when Fantasy owners need him the most down the stretch, producing a career slash line of .275/.466/.815 in August and a .283/.477/.822 slash line in Sept./Oct. I'll give you Drew is a streaky hitter and injury prone, but he's certainly worth owning in a fair amount of Fantasy leagues.
Leagues worth owning him: 10-team Rotisserie, 14-team Head-to-Head

Mitch Moreland, 1B, Rangers

Ownership in CBSSports.com leagues: 38 percent (up 22 percent)
Moreland is back playing first base on a regular basis due to Prince Fielder's season-ending neck injury. Playing in the field seems to have rejuvenated Moreland's offensive game, as he's batting .273 with a .485 slugging percentage, .818 OPS, one home run, four doubles and eight RBI in his last eight games. However, maybe that has more to do with the Rangers facing a bevy of right-handed starters in that span. Moreland is still having his issues with lefties, batting just .167 with no home runs and two RBI against them in 16 games. Don't think playing first base has a huge impact on Moreland's performance. He has just a career .248 average and .423 slugging percentage while playing at first base. The most interesting aspect is Moreland has moved into the third spot in the lineup and could see some good pitches to hit in front of Adrian Beltre. As of now, I'm just willing to call it another hot streak for Moreland, but I'll be keeping tabs to see if he can stay in the third spot in the lineup.
Leagues worth owning him: Deep formats

Ryan Vogelsong, SP, Giants

Ownership in CBSSports.com leagues: 56 percent (up 18 percent)
Vogelsong has bounced back in a big way following a horrendous start, going 3-1 with a 1.35 ERA in his last six starts. Vogelsong didn't have a good year in 2013, largely due to injury. However, he seems to have finally returned to the level he was at in 2011 and 2012, when he won 13 and 14 games, respectively. Vogelsong now has a 3.20 ERA, 1.24 WHIP and is allowing 8.1 hits, walking 3.0 batters and striking out 7.3 batters per nine innings, all numbers that are eerily close to what he produced in '11 and '12. In case you were wondering, Vogelsong was the 36th-highest scoring Fantasy pitcher in '11 and 32nd in '12, while he was the 33rd-ranked pitcher in Rotisserie in '11 and 39th in '12. Vogelsong has proven he can be a top 40 Fantasy starting pitcher, so maybe you shouldn't wait too much longer to consider adding him off waivers.
Leagues worth owning him: 10-team Head-to-Head and Rotisserie

Tommy Milone, SP, A's

Ownership in CBSSports.com leagues: 30 percent (up 15 percent)
The A's look pretty smart for not booting Milone from the rotation after a poor start to the year. He is 3-0 with a 1.03 ERA in his last four starts after going 0-3 with a 5.86 ERA in his first five starts. It seems the key for Milone has been better success with his fastballs. Opponents are batting just .125 against his four-seam fastball in May after batting .364 against it in April, and .174 against his sinker as opposed to .360 in April, per BrooksBaseball.net. The velocity is slightly up on both pitches this month as well, so it's not like he's throwing it much harder. It just seems Milone was due for a market correction, as his numbers have returned to where he's pretty much been in the past. In fact, Milone's numbers -- this season and past -- look pretty close to what Ryan Vogelsong has done, and we just pointed out how valuable Vogelsong can be in Fantasy. Both pitchers are often overlooked because they aren't hard throwers and don't have great strikeout rates, but as long as they get the job done, does it really matter?
Leagues worth owning him: 12-team Head-to-Head and Rotisserie

Denard Span, OF, Nationals

Ownership in CBSSports.com leagues: 49 percent (up 12 percent)
Span has been on a decent offensive run since late April. He is batting .278 with a .398 slugging percentage and .713 OPS in his last 30 games. For him, though, that's pretty par for the course since his career slash line is .282/.387/.735. Span has averaged 18.8 points over the previous five scoring periods, which made him a top 15 Fantasy outfielder over the last 28 days in points leagues and a top 30 option in Rotisserie formats in that span. Still, perhaps the most disappointing stat for Span this season has been his seven stolen bases in 44 games, which puts him on pace for just 22 in 139 games. It puts Span on his way to achieving his goal of at least 20 stolen bases -- which he set in the offseason -- but it's still a moderate number for a leadoff hitter. Span doesn't hurt you in points leagues with a high strikeout rate, but his poor home run total hurts him in Rotisserie leagues. I could see Span finishing as a top 60 Fantasy outfielder -- maybe even top 40 in Head-to-Head leagues like he did last season -- but he's a guy that could bounce in and out of your lineup.
Leagues worth owning him: 10-team Rotisserie, 14-team Head-to-Head

Jaime Garcia, SP, Cardinals

Ownership in CBSSports.com leagues: 48 percent (up 13 percent)
Garcia might not have a pretty ERA (4.26) through two starts, but he's pitched a lot better than his ERA indicates. He hasn't issued a walk, he's struck out 12 batters in 12 2/3 innings and has a 0.87 WHIP. He's even averaged 16 Fantasy points per start. However, Fantasy owners still remain hesitant to give up a roster spot for an injury-prone pitcher. Hopefully you can look past that and potentially swap out Garcia for one of your underachieving arms. Maybe the guy doesn't have a good history with durability, but he's a pretty good pitcher when he's on the mound. From 2010-13, he had a .613 winning percentage and 3.38 ERA in 89 starts. Garcia does get hit hard at times, but he's good at not compounding the problem with walks, yielding just 2.3 walks per nine innings from 2011-13. Garcia pitches for a perennial contender, so the wins could certainly be there. He's not going to be a Fantasy ace, but Garcia is good enough to shore up your rotation problems.
Leagues worth owning him: 12-team Head-to-Head and Rotisserie

Carl Crawford, OF, Dodgers

Ownership in CBSSports.com leagues: 56 percent (up 11 percent)
Crawford has had a pretty productive May, batting .333 with a .520 slugging percentage and .871 OPS in 21 games, reviving memories of Crawford's heyday with the Rays. It's been pretty well covered that Crawford has been awful since leaving Tampa, but a large part of his demise the last few seasons has been durability issues. Crawford has dealt with some injury issues already this season -- a shoulder injury in March and tightness on his right side in April -- but for the most part the 32-year-old outfielder has avoided any major injuries and has appeared in 43 of 52 games. His May surge beckons the question: Has the Crawford of old returned? Still, the Dodgers continue to have an outfield conundrum. They have four outfielders for three spots and highly-touted prospect Joc Pederson is beating down the door to the majors, which means the pressure is on Crawford, Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp to produce. Crawford seems to be answering the call. Given Crawford's past success -- although it's been a few years -- he could be worth a flier in deeper formats. It's just not time to mortgage the farm to get Crawford on your roster.
Leagues worth owning him: Deep formats

Junior Lake, OF, Cubs

Ownership in CBSSports.com leagues: 30 percent (up 4 percent)
Lake is one of my least favorite options in Fantasy. I didn't buy into his fast start last season, and Lake proved me right by hitting .254 with two home runs and nine RBI in his final 48 games after batting .358 with a .582 slugging percentage, .959 OPS, four home runs and seven RBI in his first 16 games. Lake just didn't have the profile of being a big-time offensive contributor in the minors. He hit .271 with a .411 slugging percentage and .732 OPS in 619 minor-league games, and wouldn't you know he finished with a .284 average, .428 slugging percentage and .760 OPS as a rookie in 2013. Many will want to buy into Lake being just 24 years old and believing there is still plenty of untapped potential, but I just don't see Lake developing into a big-time power threat, even if he is slugging .472 hrough 46 games.
Leagues worth owning him: Deep formats

Michael Bourn, OF, Indians

Ownership in CBSSports.com leagues: 53 percent (up 8 percent)
Even after going 0 for 5 Monday, Bourn has really elevated his offensive game of late. Coming into Monday, he was batting .338 with a .392 on-base percentage, .500 slugging percentage and .892 OPS in his previous 15 games. However, even amid this hot streak, the stolen bases still aren't there for Bourn, which was the stat that made him such a valuable Fantasy option before he started developing hamstring problems with Cleveland. That's the most concerning issue with me. If Bourn isn't willing to open it up on the base paths in fear of having another setback, then he's going to have to hit like Albert Pujols the rest of the season to instill confidence in Fantasy owners. Bourn has been good recently, averaging 22 Fantasy points the last two scoring periods. I just don't know if I really want to make the investment in Fantasy leagues if Bourn isn't going to be aggressive on the base paths. Right now, he's on pace for 13 stolen bases.
Leagues worth owning him: Deep formats

Jason Castro, C, Astros

Ownership in CBSSports.com leagues: 62 percent (up 2 percent)
If you are looking to catch a player due for a hot streak, then maybe adding Castro right now is a good idea. Castro has a slash line of just .229/.386/.687 through 43 games, which is well below what he produced last season (.276/.485/.835). Castro's biggest weakness right now is his contact rate. His strikeout rate is 31.2 percent -- which is a career worst -- according to FanGraphs.com. It's no surprise his swinging strike rate is 14.5 percent and his contact rate is 70 percent, which are also career worsts. Castro is really struggling with breaking pitches and is seeing a lot of them from left-handers when he falls behind in the count and with two strikes. I'm not totally convinced Castro is going to finish as a top 10 Fantasy catcher like he did in 2013 given the depth at the position this season. But the numbers suggest Castro is off the norms right now, so you might be able to squeeze a good hot streak out of him eventually. Hopefully, his contact rate will rise.
Leagues worth owning him: Deep formats

American League options

Michael Saunders, OF, Mariners

Ownership in CBSSports.com leagues: 10 percent (up 3 percent)
Here we go again with Saunders. He's on another impressive run, batting .394 with a .405 on-base percentage, .636 slugging percentage and 1.042 OPS with 10 RBI in his last nine games. But excuse me if I'm not feeling it because of how many times we've seen this before from the 27-year-old outfielder. Every time he goes on a hot streak, we always ask ourselves: Is this the one that finally sends Saunders on his way to being a breakout Fantasy player? He's just entering the prime of his career, so it's possible. But I'm going to refrain from telling Fantasy owners that Saunders is a must-add. He's let us down time and time again, and to me he remains an interchangeable option in deep Fantasy formats.
Leagues worth owning him: Deep formats

National League options

Josh Harrison, OF, Pirates

Ownership in CBSSports.com leagues: 7 percent (up 6 percent)
Harrison has earned regular starts in right field as of late because of Jose Tabata's hamstring injury. He's had a pretty productive May when he's been in the lineup, batting .311 with a .525 slugging percentage and .878 OPS in 19 games (14 starts). Harrison proved in the minors to be a decent contact hitter, batting .308 in 456 games. He also has very good plate discipline. But he is not a very good home run hitter and has average gap power. Harrison is more useful to the Pirates as a utility player than a regular in the starting lineup. Also, Harrison will not be the player that keeps Gregory Polanco in the minors. The Pirates are cashing in right now since Harrison is on a productive run, but there's no need to make a great investment in him.
Leagues worth owning him: Deep formats

Player you might reconsider dropping

Kole Calhoun, OF, Angels

Ownership in CBSSports.com leagues: 69 percent (down 5 percent)
This is not the time to give up on Calhoun because he's been ice cold in five games since returning from the disabled list. I would like to remind you the 26-year-old outfielder had a .500 slugging percentage and .797 OPS before he went on the DL in mid-April. He also averaged 16.3 Fantasy points over the first three scoring periods, which if you extended over a full season would have given him 424 points. That would have made him a top 20 Fantasy outfielder in points leagues last season and ahead of the likes of Jose Bautista, Allen Craig, Shane Victorino and Domonic Brown. You know this guy has potential and he's just shaking off the rust following a little more than a month layoff. Calhoun hit .320 with a .403 on-base percentage, .545 slugging percentage and .948 OPS over 358 games in the minors. He's a good player battling a bit of a slump, so if you can afford to keep him on your roster, you should make the call. Heck, even if you can't afford it, I would still clear a roster spot for Calhoun.
Leagues worth owning him: 10-team Head-to-Head and Rotisserie

Q &A

Should I drop Kole Calhoun, Austin Jackson or Adam LaRoche to add Oscar Taveras? It's a Head-to-Head categories league, and I need runs, RBI and average. I have Allen Craig and Matt Adams at first base. -- @MTCollegeman

MH: I wouldn't hesitate dropping LaRoche to add Taveras. I just explained why it's a bad idea to drop Calhoun, and I'm not ready to write off Jackson because of a so-so start. Even with modest numbers, Jackson has still had less than 10 Fantasy points just once through the first eight scoring periods. Perhaps the most encouraging sign with Jackson is that his walk rate is up, his strikeout rate is down, his contact rate is up and his swinging strike rate is down. The hits just need to start falling for him, so this would be a bad time to drop him. It also helps that you have Craig and Adams, who are two players that have more upside potential than LaRoche.

I'm in a 10-team, Head-to-Head categories dynasty league, and I want to add Drew Hutchison. Should I drop Justin Masterson, Drew Pomeranz, Rick Porcello or Tony Cingrani? -- @Connor_Time

MH: Since it's a dynasty league, I'm definitely not dropping Cingrani or Pomeranz. Masterson and Porcello are pretty much the same pitchers, but Masterson has a little better strikeout rate. I feel Porcello is due for a little bit of a regression, while Masterson could trend the opposite way after a disappointing start. Porcello might not remain on waivers, but I would rather take the chance on Masterson bouncing back.

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