Ryan Madson, Philadelphia Phillies (67 percent owned, +47 percent)
Madson, in the eyes of many including our own Mike Petriello, was the closer of choice in Philadelphia back before the season began, but it seems as if the Phillies have done everything in their power short of giving Danys Baez the job in order to keep it from Madson. Now that Jose Contreras is down with his own injury, Madson finally has the gig thanks to the fine quality of being the last man standing.
Madson has struck out 9.9 batters per nine with a 4.1 K/BB ratio since 2009 (140 1/3 innings pitched), has a 2.95 Run Average in that stretch, and has even finished 52 games without the world ending, so instead of asking yourself if you should acquire him until Lidge comes back, you should be asking why Charlie Manuel waited this long to give him the gig in the first place. Based on the way he uses relievers—did I mention Danys Baez is involved?—it's probably not because he prefers Madson in a relief ace role.
Darwin Barney, Chicago Cubs (46 percent owned, +35 percent)
Just last Friday, I suggested Barney as an NL-only pick, given his ownership was just starting to rise and he had hit double digits. He has become a very popular fellow in the past seven days, but how could he not be? He is hitting .325/.353/.438 and has shortstop eligibility in many leagues in addition to his second base standing, meaning he is possibly one more name on the list of shortstops that don't totally suck. It's a short list, so if it turns out you squandered a few FAAB dollars for the opportunity to test drive Barney and see if he is the real deal, the thought still counted.
He won't hit .325 all year—or, at least, he shouldn't, though players have had much higher than .357 BABIP last throughout a season—but even if he hits .280, he's firmly planted in the realm of "not terrible". That is more than you can say about many shortstops and keystoners.
Ryan Roberts, Arizona Diamondbacks (51 percent owned, +33 percent)
Is Ryan Roberts this year's Jose Bautista, or is it just April 29 and we like to wishcast that kind of production on all of the supposed gems we unearth from the waiver wire? The tendency is to feel brilliant about ourselves and our actions, but that self-satisfaction can often lead to keeping someone like Brennan Boesch on your roster well past his expiration date.
Roberts, even including his nifty 1015 OPS start, has a career line of .259/.344/.418, and had a TAv of .267 heading in to 2011. Sure, he could be a solid fantasy utility bat, but the idea here would be to sell high before his numbers begin to dwindle. It's best to sell a week early rather than a week late on these guys, as there is always someone out there who wants to believe.
Kyle Lohse, St. Louis Cardinals (85 percent owned, +30 percent)
I have a hard time getting excited about Kyle Lohse, despite his 4.8 K/BB and 1.64 ERA. He is striking out hitters at his career rate of 5.6, and his 1.2 walk rate—a full 1.5 walks per nine below his career average—is the source of most of his production.
If you need another arm to pitch innings that won't hurt you, then Lohse is your man, but don't get too attached to the shiny numbers, as they won't last. If it's the same old Lohse we always knew, and 2009 is the exception, then we are still talking about an average arm that doesn't contribute to punch outs.
Alex Avila, Detroit Tigers (73 percent owned, +24 percent)
Avila hit .279/.375/.590 in 2009 (72 plate appearances) and has pulled nearly the same trick to start 2011, but in between he cobbled together a 656 OPS in 333 plate appearances. Granted, his career line of .246/.331/.408 is the envy of many a catcher, especially in AL-only leagues, but given he is just 24 years old and has himself a better offensive reputation than he has shown, we should see improvement in that area.
His .299/.356/.537 showing in 2011 is more than a solid start, even if it's not a realistic gauge of expectations. PECOTA pegged him for .286/.369/.433 at his 90th percentile, a line that would more than suffice in any format. Just remember it also thinks he'll be average at the weighted mean, before you go out and spend heavily on Avila with FAAB dollars or a trade.
Mitchell Boggs, St. Louis Cardinals (64 percent owned, +22 percent)
You folks realize that Ryan Franklin is all but done in his role as St. Louis closer, right? Why is it that I have to tell you to pick up Mitchell Boggs two weeks in a row? Is it the 10.7 K/9 holding you back, or is it the 2.13 ERA (3.38 since last year)? He pitches in a park that more than helps mounds men, has quality control, and can fool his share of batters with his stuff—what more do you need out of a closer?
Philip Humber, Chicago White Sox (9 percent owned, +6 percent)
You may think I'm kidding, but Humber has a decent track record, and is the perfect fit for a short-term acquisition in AL-only leagues. In Baseball Prospectus 2011, a certain Prospectus author penned this within Humber's comment:
Humber's prospect status has dried up, but he spent most of the season as a starter for Omaha anyway. From the glass-half-full perspective, Humber could be another Kyle Davies
Davies is certainly not something all the kids want to be when they grow up, but Humber, as long as he has the gig in Chicago, can pull off that impression. As long as it comes with an ERA south of five—and it should, as he has a 4.58 career mark in the majors in the limited chances he has had to stick—he works as starting pitching depth in deep leagues.
Daniel Murphy, New York Mets (13 percent owned, +9 percent)
Murphy is probably creeping past the point of being available in NL-only leagues, if he isn't already past it already, but snag him if you still can. He has hit .277/.334/.442 in his 772 plate appearance career, and while that won't fly at his previous positions of outfield and first base, it more than makes do at second base, his current home.
It's fantasy, so you don't have to worry about his defensive shortcomings. As long as the Mets don't fret too much over them, you will have yourself a fine second baseman off the waiver wire that could outproduce many of those that went on draft day.