Our column took a one-week hiatus due to an Ireland vacation, but we’re back and ready to find some waiver wire gems. We featured Alexi Casilla in the shortstop section in our last article, and he’s had a wonderful June, but no waiver-wire property can top the June that J.J. Hardy has put together.
Hardy has shown in the past the potential to be a top fantasy shortstop — after all, he clubbed 50 HRs in two consecutive seasons with the Brewers back in 2007 and 2008 while posting averages of .277 and .283, respectively. A disappointing 2009 season got him shipped to the Twins, where he continued to underwhelm in 2010. Considering he ended May with a .239 average, .687 OPS and just two HRs, it looked like Hardy would never turn the corner.
June brought a different outlook — forget turning a corner, he obliterated it. He smacked homers in his first two games of the month while posting multiple hits in each contest, raising his average to .270. That would only be the start, as Hardy has posted an eye-popping .419 average and 1.223 OPS in June, bringing his line to .296/.368/.489 on the season. Astute fantasy owners that jumped on the bandwagon after his decent end-of-May numbers are laughing all the way to the bank, while everyone else better jump on to the 33%-owned player before it’s too late.
Also at SS: Alexi Casilla (15%), Dee Gordon (15%), Alcides Escobar (13%).
John Buck, FLA (42%). Buck was a nice mid-round catcher heading into this season after coming off a 20-HR campaign in 2010. Unfortunately, his .281 average was not destined to last, and it predictably tanked, with his average sitting at .204 through the first two months of the season. He’s heating up in June, hitting .333 to bring his average up to .230. If he can manage something around last season’s .280 mark while contributing a homer a week (he has two in June thus far), he’ll be a fine C1 for the rest of the season.
Also: Miguel Olivo (47%), Jarrod Saltalamacchia (12%), Yorvit Torrealba (4%).
Luke Scott, BAL (24%). Scott has proven to be a great source of HRs when healthy, but a shoulder issue has limited him to just seven games in June to date. However, he did manage to play the outfield in his most recent game, so it appears the shoulder won’t be an issue moving forward. That’s great news, as Scott is 8-for-15 with two HRs since June 7, bringing his average up 27 points to .251. Expect it to continue to rise while Scott contributes nicely to the homer totals of fantasy teams nationwide.
Also: Todd Helton (46%), Justin Smoak (45%), Freddie Freeman (27%).
Justin Turner, NYM (31%) and Daniel Murphy, NYM (18%). One of the biggest question marks in baseball during the pre-season was the player the Mets would settle on at second base. It’s still been a revolving door even into June, but two players that have manned the position this season have turned into decent fantasy threats. One is Turner, who has split time between second and third base, hitting .284 with two HRs and five SBs in 141 at-bats. The other is Murphy, who has played first, second and in the outfield while compiling a .300 average to go along with four HRs and four SBs in 207 at-bats. Both are doing more help than harm to fantasy teams — if I was looking to add one, I’d go with Murphy.
Also: Casilla, Adam Kennedy (17%), Scott Sizemore (1%).
Chase Headley, SD (19%). Right after we featured Wilson Betemit as a waiver wire pickup in our last article, the Royals decided it was time to recall Mike Moustakas. Obviously, that means Betemit is waiver wire material while Moose is on the Royals roster. One guy who doesn’t have to worry about losing playing time is Headley, who mixes in 0-fers at the plate with multi-hit performances. Unfortunately, the former tend to outweigh the latter, but a 4-for-5 game on Tuesday has Headley’s average sitting at .281, its highest level since Headley opened the season 3-for-10. The Padre is deceptively good on the basepaths, as his seven SBs this season indicate. He could hit .280 for the remainder of the season while stealing 12-15 bags and adding a handful of HRs, making him a useful CI in most mixed leagues.
Also: Turner, Kennedy, Sizemore, Chris Johnson (7%), Edwin Encarnacion (4%).
Justin Ruggiano, TB (2%). The Rays seem to turn out more unexpected fantasy stars in the outfield position than any other team. First, Sam Fuld wowed us with an incredible few weeks at the beginning of the season. Next, Matt Joyce demolished the competition in May, hitting seven HRs while posting a .414 average. Now, June looks to be the month of Justin Ruggiano. The Austin native hadn’t played in the majors since 2008 before joining the Rays on May 20, and the way he’s hitting, the team can’t keep him out of the lineup. After homering Tuesday night against the Red Sox, Ruggiano has managed 15 hits (two HRs) over 31 at-bats in his last eight games (all starts). He’s a great short-term option while hot, but be ready to make another switch once he cools off.
Also: Angel Pagan (46%), Austin Jackson (37%), Seth Smith (27%), Jordan Schafer (4%), Ben Revere (2%), Carlos Peguero (1%).
Jonathon Niese, NYM (29%). Colon had the bad luck to hit the DL after we recommended him in our last column, so we’ll now turn our attention to … wait, a Met? It’s not a typo — Niese found his way onto our “Also” list in our last article, and he’s been even better as of late. He’s 4-1 in his last six starts with just seven earned runs allowed in 40 innings, good for a 1.58 ERA. It’s not a fluke either, as Niese has a very nice 37:11 K:BB ratio over that span. He started the season with a 6.88 ERA after his first three starts, but that’s come all the way down to 3.46 after his current string of four consecutive quality starts. I have no problem sending him out there every fifth day at this point.
Also: Tim Stauffer (39%), Randy Wolf (26%), Mike Leake (13%), Carlos Carrasco (7%), Jeff Karstens (7%), Paul Maholm (6%), Chris Capuano (4%), Juan Nicasio (3%).
Mark Melancon, HOU (48%). With Brandon Lyon coming off the DL, it looked like Melancon wouldn’t be long for the closer role, not through any fault of his own. While Melancon had pieced together a nice 1.78 ERA and six saves at that point of the season, the Astros seemed committed to sticking with the veteran once he proved he could handle the job. Lyon then allowed a solo HR in his first appearance before coming unglued his next time out, allowing four runs on three hits and a walk (one HR) without recording an out. His next appearance wasn’t much better, as the veteran gave up three runs in an inning, allowing yet another home run. With an 11.48 ERA, Lyon has made Melancon’s job all the more safer. Melancon should still be owned by any team looking for saves, while Lyon only belongs on deep-league rosters, and on the bench in those leagues at that.
Also: Jon Rauch (41%), Matt Thornton (33%), Mike Adams (31%), Koji Uehara (22%), Hong-Chih Kuo (15%), Sergio Romo (13%), Jason Isringhausen (6%).
R.J. White is the head editor at the Cafe, writes for FanDuel and has previously written for FanHouse. Catch up with him in the forums under the name daullaz. Follow him on Twitter; don't follow him in real life.
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