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Riding the Waive: The Excellent Mr. Burns

The last week has been dominated by the outstanding debuts of a pair of top-notch prospects, and both Eduardo Rodriguez and Joey Gallo have seen their ownership rates rise from less than 30 percent to about 80 percent, with the likelihood that they will continue to climb.

The third player on the most-added list is also a rookie, but one who has been kicking butt and taking names much longer than either of the prospects above. He’s also still available in nearly half of CBSSports.com fantasy leagues. So let’s discuss why Billy Burns (+34 percent owned) may be right for your team.

Burns put together a pair of seasons worth noticing in 2012 and 2013, first posting a .432 OBP with 38 stolen bases in 398 at-bats at the Class A level in the first season then validating the big year with a .425 OBP and 74 stolen bases (while getting caught just seven times) in 444 at-bats across two levels the following year. Things went a bit south at the plate in 2014, as his batting average dropped from .315 to .237, causing a big decline in his offensive production while Burns maintained a penchant for swiping bags, racking up 54 stolen bases in 473 at-bats.

After a nice start to the 2015 season with Triple-A Nashville, Burns was brought to the majors, where it wouldn’t have shocked anyone to see him struggle initially, considering his downturn in 2014. That didn’t happen, to say the least: Burns collected three multihit performances his first four games and has continued to shine, hitting .328/.375/.445 with two home runs and nine stolen bases in 119 at-bats.

It would be ridiculous to expect any more power from Burns – after all, he managed just two home runs in 1,511 at-bats across since his professional debut in 2011 – but he appears capable of keeping up a high batting average while racking up stolen bases. The switch-hitter has done well against both lefty and righty pitchers. He’s in the midst of an eight-game hitting streak that featured a string of five straight games with multihit efforts. Quite succinctly, this guy is an excellent hitter, albeit one without power.

Burns has a place on fantasy rosters as the next descendant of high-BA, high-SB, low-HR hitters such as Ben Revere. I’m not worried about what happens when Coco Crisp returns from injury, as Crisp hasn’t been able to find a way to stay healthy, and Burns has become embedded atop the A’s lineup. Owners in points league that de-emphasize SBs and emphasize power hitters may not have reason to add, but Burns can be a fantasy goldmine in roto leagues and H2H category leagues.

Popular Adds

Ryan Vogelsong, SP, SF (+26 percent). Vogelsong labored through a rough April but drove his ERA down in May, going 4-0 with a 1.14 ERA in 31 2/3 innings across five starts. He was likely snatched up in a lot of leagues to take advantage of a double-start week that included matchups with the Pirates and Phillies (I made the move in one league for that purpose). Considering his low strikeout rate, I don’t think he sticks on fantasy rosters.

Joe Panik, 2B, SF (+26 percent). Vogelsong’s teammate, however, may have much better lasting power in fantasy. Panik had a strong debut in 2014, hitting .305/.343/.368 with one home run and 18 RBI in 269 at-bats. He’s grown this year, hitting .307/.378/.448 with four home runs and 22 RBI in 192 at-bats while posting an excellent 27:21 K:BB ratio. He’s in the midst of a nine-game hitting streak that has featured two home runs. While he’s unlikely to suddenly become a top-five 2B over the long haul, the relative dearth of talent at the position added with Panik’s performance at a young age have me buying in leagues.

Chad Bettis, RP/SP, COL (+26 percent). Bettis was unimpactful in his first two major-league seasons but has suddenly made fantasy owners sit up and take notice this year, posting a 2.70 ERA and 27:9 K:BB ratio in 33 1/3 innings across five starts. He dazzled in his last start of May, two-hitting the Phillies through eight innings while striking out seven and walking none in a road start. He held his own against the powerful Dodgers offense in Colorado on Wednesday, allowing two runs (one earned) in six innings. That being said, I’m still not trusting him enough to roll him out in fantasy in anything but the best of road matchups (like the one in Philadelphia). I’ll pass on adding him.

Popular Drops

Shane Greene, SP, DET (-17 percent). Greene was a popular sleeper coming into the season, striking out more than a batter per inning in his rookie year with the Yankees while posting a 3.78 ERA in 78 2/3 innings. With a rotation spot locked up in Detroit, expectations were high. He won his first three starts of the year while allowing just one earned run in 23 innings, fueling the fire for a potential breakout campaign. However, that stretch featured just 11 strikeouts, a far cry from his punchout ability of last season. That decline was a harbinger of things to come – he has posted more starts with seven-plus earned runs allowed than seven-plus strikeouts (three to one), and he carries a 5.19 ERA and 39 strikeouts in 60 2/3 innings. I’m on the side of those owners who are jumping ship.

Wilin Rosario, C/1B, COL (-14 percent). Rosario was a clear bust candidate for me heading into the season, as despite his perceived status as a top-15 fantasy catcher, the Rockies made it pretty clear they were going with Nick Hundley full-time behind the plate, leaving Rosario to scrap for at-bats off the bench. He was able to see regular at-bats in May after Justin Morneau went down with an injury, getting eight straight starts at first base as soon as the regular first baseman was hurt. Since that stretch, he’s started just six of a possible 15 games at first base as the Rockies have given more playing time to Ben Paulsen at the position. It’s clear that Rosario isn’t considering anything more than a reserve in Colorado, and there’s no reason to keep him on fantasy rosters.

Deeper Add Recommendations

Chi Chi Gonzalez, SP, TEX (14 percent owned). A highly regarded prospect, Gonzalez hasn’t seen quite the fanfare of Eduardo Rodriguez. However, he delivered a strong performance in his season debut, throwing five no-hit innings before giving up a pair of hits in the sixth. He finished with 5 2/3 scoreless innings to his credit, although that did include five walks and just two strikeouts. His Triple-A numbers didn’t wow either (4.15 ERA, 26:19 K:BB ratio), but the Rangers are in need of quality starters, and Gonzalez could make the team consider sticking with him in the majors with a strong performance against the Royals on Friday.

Ben Paulsen, 1B/OF, COL (13 percent). I mentioned Paulsen a little earlier when discussing Wilin Rosario, and while I’m all for dumping Rosario in fantasy leagues, Paulsen is also a worthy pickup. After hitting .317 with four homers in 63 at-bats with the Rockies last year, he’s managed a .333 batting average with four home runs in 51 at-bats this year. He’s shown decent power at the minor-league level, and he posted averages higher than .290 in 2013 and 2014 with Triple-A Colorado Springs. He’s worth riding while Justin Morneau remains sidelined and Paulsen is receiving regular playing time.