Tuesday, April 18, 2006

STRIPPIN' THE WIRE... WEEK 2!

Again, I apologize for the lag in writing... I was away for the holiday!


Well, we're well into Week 2 of the '06 Baseball season and many owners have holes to fill. Catchers NOT named Johjima, Lo Duca, Hernandez, and Martinez aren't producing much, 2nd Sackers such as Rickie Weeks, Chase Utley and Brian Roberts are sluggish, and well, I could go on. Let's take a look at some early season surprises who just might be available through YOUR leagues' Waiver Wire!

CATCHERS:

Atlanta Braves; Brian McCann: 'Cann may not boast the highest of batting averages (.244), but with only 3 Ks and 2 Walks in 41 ABs... the dude puts the ball in play. A trio of Dingers' and a troika of Doubles are indicative of more than a little pop as well. Given everything we've seen, the Hot-Lanta receiver has GOT to start hitting the ball where the opponents ain't. Look for a slight uptick in his average... and a season of 20-25 HRs.

Tampa Bay Devil Rays; Toby Hall: Not an All-Star, Hall, but a .333 average and but a single K in 33 plate appearances are good enough to garner Hall a spot as a backup fantasy Catcher for a strapped team.

Florida Marlins; Josh Willingham: In deeper leagues- okay, even in leagues with 8 or more teams, Willingham will be on someone's roster. That being said, it's still quite early and should his owner have a glaring hole... they may not balk at moving him in order to fill a position of need. Willingham is worth trading for! After just a dozen tilts J-Will' has already recorded 3 Homers', 5 Doubles, 11 Ribbies', and boasts an average of .318.

**Catcher is awfully thin this year, and after the established stars; Victor Martinez, Ramon Hernandez, Joe Mauer, Michael Barrett, Posada and I-Rod... the talent level dwindles precariously. This is a position many owners punted due to the iffy depth.

1st BASE:

Texas Rangers; Phil Nevin: The veteran 1st Bagger is a full-time DH now, but he still falls under the 1st base banner. Surrounded by more meat than butcher, Nevin is batting clean-up for Texas and has been the recipient of a LOT of hittable pitches. So far, you're looking at a .250/3/12, with 5 Walks and 6 whiffs. In hitter friendly Arlington, the 35 year old should crank 25-28 Home Runs by season's end.

San Diego Padres; Adrian Gonzalez: With Mark Teixeira looking like the Rangers' 1st Baseman for the foreseeable decade... and lacking the skills to play another position, the pitching-starved Rangers swapped their prize prospect for a talented by injury-prone hurler in Adam Eaton. Now, as a Pad', Gonzalez has the opportunity to play everyday. Although he may be tapering off a bit, the kid's got enough talent to maintain a .280-ish average. Displaying nothing more than gap power, Adrian Gonzalez seems to lack the punch of most 1st Basemen so he'll have to hit an awful lot of Doubles.

Minnesota Twins; Justin Morneau: With little doubt, More-No is on your 'Wire. That is, unless your belong to a 12 team league. But, after going 6 for his last 14, and with 4 HRs and 13 Ribbies' already in the bank, some astute owner WILL pick him up. Soon.

Atlanta Braves; Adam LaRoche: I pimped LaRoche last year, I pimped him in my "Pre-Draft" positional rankings this year, and now I'm pushing him as a 'Wire grab. Although his batting average is still a knuckle-scraping .224, "Roach" has flashed nice power. Of his 12 hits, 3 were Home Runs and 6 were Doubles... that leaves just 3 singles!

**1st Base is rather deep this year, and guys like Travis Hafner, Chris Shelton (a ridiculous .512 BA with an OPS exceeding 2.0!), Albert Pujols, and Richie Sexon have picked up right where they left off last season. Likewise, new blood such as Ryan Howard, Prince Fielder, and Conor Jackson are all demonstrating that indeed, their time has come!

2nd BASE:

Arizona Diamondbacks; Damion Easley: Although he's not much more than a stop-gap, the 38 year old is currently hitting .333/1/5/5 with 3 Doubles, a Triple, and 5 Walks. That kind of production, even in limited time, is enough to attract short-term attention.

Pittsburgh Pirates; Jose Castillo: What will 16 hits in 49 ABs get you? A .327 average and attention from 2nd Base strapped owners. Castillo brags base-stealing speed (2 SB, 6 RBI, 7 Runs) as well, so he's able to help out in a variety of categories.

Colorado Rockies; Clint Barmes: Barmes, who was smacking the white offa' the ball prior to a tragic venison accident that substantially abridged last season, has begun anew. As of today, Barmes is at .286/1/6/12, with a pair of 2-baggers and a triple. He does, however, need to cut-down on his strikeouts.

SHORTSTOP:

Florida Marlins; Hanley Ramirez: Once Boston's most-prized prospect, the Red Sox's serious need for frontline pitching led the team to send the Marlins their hot shot Shorty' in exchange for fireballer Josh Beckett. Given Ramirez's rock-solid play of late (before Wednesday's game: .364/2/7/15, with 5 Doubles and 2 Triples) his availability will be suspect in all but the most shallow of leagues. But then again, given his awful Walk to Strikeout ratio which is nearly 1:3 (6 BBs to 16 Ks inc. today's tilt), Hanley might be had for the right offer. Given that he possesses 25 steal, 18-20 Homer power... teams in need of Stolen Bases could do far worse.

Pittsburgh Pirates; Jack Wilson: The '04 Buc' bombshell (200+ hits and a .308 BA) suffered a bombed-out '05 "cam-pain" (.257 BA and a SLG % that fell by almost 100 points). Has the "sha-wing" returned to Wilson's game? I dunno' as it's still quite early, but so far Jack's belted-out an awfully nice .333 BA, a SLG % exceeding .600, and has already hit 4 Home Runs (he hit just 8 last year). If nothing else the Pirate middle infielder should make for an excellent short-term pickup, and if he maintains his hot hitting... well, then, you scored yourself a very productive back-up.

Texas Rangers; Ian Kinsler: Kinsler, who is listed as a Shortstop in many leagues and a 2B in still others, went on the DL with a dislocated thumb on April 12th. Expected to miss up to 4 weeks, many owners have already opted to cut bait and part with the 25 year old Ranger who was hitting, at the time he suffered his bum thumb, at a scorching .476 clip. Granted, Kinsler's sample was a scant 21 plate appearances but he appears to have a very nice command of the strike-zone and is patient enough to work a Walk. And, hitting amid the po-tent Texas lineup... Kinsler has stud potential.

Cincinatti Reds; Rich Aurilia: Another guy who sneaks in as a Shortstop due to 30 games played at the position in '05, Aurilia has started to tattoo the ball. One of the most appealing aspects of the 2nd year Red is his versatility. Last year, Aurilia played 2nd, 3rd, and Shortstop, and he's already logged a game at 3rd this year due to Edwin Encarnacion's stone-handed, 3 error game. As of Wednesday, 4/19, Rich is hitting a more than acceptable .286/3/10, with a Slugging % of .571.

Milwaukee Brewers; J.J Hardy: After being so highly regarded on draft day, Hardy's hardly hit. He is, however, much too talented to stay down for long, and his sparkling leather-work will keep him on-field. A streaky hitter so far, the 24 year old Brewer is hitting .259/2/7 with a swiped bag out of the 2-hole.

3rd BASE:

Tampa Bay Devil Rays; Ty Wiggington: Wiggy' became just the 3rd Devil Ray to hammer at least 5 Dingers' through the first 13 games. Currently swatting a sweet .289/6/14 and boasting an OPS over 1.0, ride the Ray while he's hot. At this point in his career the 30 year old corner infielder is a known quantity and probably won't be turning into a .290/35 hitter. Still, he's been piling up quality fantasy points and should continue to do so as long as both Huff and Baldelli are on the DL.

Boston Red Sox; Kevin Youkilis: As with the previously mentioned SS Hanley Ramirez, Boston drafted Youkilis and had him pegged as a future everyday player. Although the club was forced to trade Ramirez, Youkilis has indeed become an everyday player and is producing at a high level. At .318/0/8/7 and with 5 Doubles and an OBP of .426, Youkilis may lack traditional hot-corner power but he should still be picked up in most Mixed-League formats. Rest assured, if you don't grab him... someone will!

Cleveland Indians; Casey Blake: Predicated upon your leagues' rules and minimums, Blake qualifies at 3rd due to the 6 games he played there last season. Another athlete who has knocked around various minor league systems and big clubs for several years, Blake is no spring chicken at age 33. Nevertheless, a .447 BA, 14 RBIs, 2 Home Runs, 5 Doubles, and 9 Walks out of 47 total ABs capably explain a white-hot line of .447/.681/.536 (BA/SLG/OBP). Another killer "Utility" or plug-in position player, jump on Blake with both feet while he's still seeing the ball so darn well! You can always cut him after/if he cools off.

Cincinatti Reds; Edwin Encarnacion: A ghastly-bad show of defense prompted a benching last week, thus allowing the above-mentioned Rich Aurilia to wield his still lethal lumber. Yeah, yeah, yeah, whatever. "Double-E" has above average power as evidenced by today's 6th Double, and after going 7 for 19... Encarnacion won't be benched. He may, however, be avilable via trade or 'Wire in shallow leagues.

OUTFIELDERS ARE LISTED IN THE 4/19 ARTICLE!:

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