Just because it’s the All-Star Break doesn’t mean you have to take a vacation from the waiver wire….
Brandon Maurer, P, Padres: Fernando Rodney now pitches in South Beach, which presents an open audition for the vacant closer’s role. Contestant number one hails from Newport Beach, CA, is a former 20th round draft pick of the Mariners and sports a fastball that he dials up to the tune of 94.5 mph per toss. Owned in 11 percent of polled leagues, Maurer’s 5.67 ERA and 1.41 WHIP entering Friday’s play shouldn’t scare you off since the Padres will give him an extended look in the role. He’s viewed as the club’s closer of the future by many in the organization, and while he’s been shaky at best since his debut on Throwing for Saves, the 11.1 K/9 rate just might get Maurer to the Showcase Showdown, where his heater could make him (and owners rooting for him to hold down the position) lots and lots of money.
We’re banking that he’s The Chosen One; yet, if his Demolition Man style for closing out games continues, the smart money will be on Ryan Buchter and his 13.1 K/9 to be the next on stage.
David Freese, 3B/1B, Pirates: What the hell? Is this 2012 all over again? If it was, then I would be in…oh, forget it. Freese won’t stop hitting, as he’s ripped off an eight-game hit streak that included a homer off Jake Arrieta on Friday night. He has four multi-hit games during his blistering run, which has seen his batting average zoom up to .296. He’s swatted 10 homers (equaling his total with the Angels last season) and sports a .865 OPS, making him a desirable option for deeper mixed leagues. Freese is owned in just over ten percent of polled leagues, and with Jung Ho Kang’s newfound legal issues hovering over him, Freese could see more time at third, while John Jaso will eventually have to compete with….
Josh Bell, 1B, Pirates: …..for playing time. The third-ranked player in the Bucs’ minor league chain (and 43rd in MLB.com’s Top 100 prospects) made his big league debut on Friday and recorded his first hit, a pinch-hit single off Arrieta. He’s nicknamed “Tinker” because he’s constantly tinkering with his batting stance. Bell was batting .324 with a .407 OBP and — evidenced by his 13 homers — appears to have finally added power to his game. While he’s expected to return to Triple-A after this weekend, expect Bell to be up much longer the next time he returns to PNC Park. At this point, he’s more of an NL-only play, yet once he does seize the first base job either later this season or next spring, Bell should develop into a .290-20-90 caliber hitter with considerable upside.
Tyler Naquin, OF, Indians: Um…uh, where did the power come from? It’s not as if the 11 percent of polled league owners who are currently benefiting from his surge care a whit about his heavy hitting origins, it’s that Naquin had never hit more than nine homers in a season before this year. He slammed his eighth of this campaign on Thursday and entered the weekend with a .982 OPS after a minor league career in which it hovered just above .700. Our only concern with Naquin is a 29.2 percent strikeout rate which could spell “sell-high” if pitchers begin to figure him out. For now, he’s worth the ride. Here’s hoping it’s an extended trip rather than a trip around the block.
Seth Smith, OF/DH, Mariners: Plug him in against right-handers and watch Smith maul them to the tune of a .865 OPS. All but 20 of his 220 at-bats entering Friday have been against righties, as the veteran has all 11 of his homers and 38 of his 41 ribbies at their expense. Owned in almost 14 percent of polled leagues, Smith has been hotter than the temperatures in Central Texas this month, swinging it at .409/.435/.955 with a 1.390 OPS. With a bevy of mediocre pitching in the American League West, Smith and his 20-HR potential translates into a solid play in deeper mixed leagues.
Joakim Soria, P, Royals: Well, lookie here…another potential closer. Unlike the Padres, winning the Royals’ closer job actually presents more frequent save opportunities, which could be bequeathed to the man who saved 160 games in KC from 2007-11. With Wade Davis on the 15-day DL, manager Ned Yost could hand the ball over to Soria, whose ownership has quietly climbed to nine percent of polled leagues. Soria’s 8.45 K/9 doesn’t scream lights-out stopper, but the veteran’s four-pitch arsenal would be a good, cheap option for saves if Yost begins to get queasy about the prospect of Kelvin Herrera closing things down. Keep in mind that Davis isn’t expected to be sidelined long, so don’t foolishly throw your FAAB bucks around for a hurler whose stint as a closer will be shorter than the average summer fling.
Edwin Diaz, P, Mariners: Sweet Jeebers, is this kid thin! The M’s top pitching prospect is 6’3”, yet his 165-pound frame suggests a few trips to the buffet table. Thin be damned, Diaz can dial it to 98 mph and was averaging 11.9 K/9 before being called up to the Pac-Northwest (Brandon’s home away from home) last month. That 1.41 WHIP is a wee worrisome and offsets his 2.65 ERA, but my word…a 17.2 K/9 rate. You can’t do that on Playstation, folks. He’s owned in just seven percent of polled leagues, but if you’re in a deeper league and in need of a quick boost in strikeouts, let us point you in the direction of Diaz, who appears to be on the fast track to eventually push Steve Cishek out of the closer’s role. We’re thinking his role will be more significant in the second half, which suggests grabbing him NOW and riding up from the ground floor.
Brad Miller, SS, Rays: This Golden Age of shortstops in the American League does not include Miller, yet he’s productive enough to merit consideration in mixed leagues. The .248 batting average and .298 OBP makes young kids weep in shame, but the power (13 homers entering Friday) is his calling card. Miller is owned in 19 percent of polled leagues and would make a useful option for an owner in need of reasonable production from the middle infield spot. He’s on pace for 26 homers and could be on the trading block, which would greatly increase his ownership. It would also be a welcome change of pace for Miller, who is batting only .218 at home. Perhaps a #FreeBradMiller campaign is in order.