The beauty of fantasy baseball lies in the fact that, unlike fantasy football, your draft isn’t everything. With plenty of injuries, mid-season call ups, and diamonds in the rough, a waiver wire pickup or two can really change the course of your team.
Two years ago, Cliff Lee’s 20 wins could be claimed in May. Last year, Marco Scutaro, Casey McGehee, Garrett Jones, Tommy Hanson, and Ben Zobrist were all waiver wire claims.
Even if you think your team is sheer perfection, injuries will have you scouring through free agents to fill out your roster by June. After all, this is baseball; guys get hurt sneezing and reading the newspaper.
Because there’s so much turnover in this sport, it’s a good idea to have several free agents in mind so that you can beat your opponents to them, if need be. I have gone through the league and picked out sleepers team-by-team for you to keep an eye on in 2010.
The National League list is below:
Gerardo Parra – Parra starts the year as a backup, but if Chris Young continues his struggles from last year, AJ Hinch could be inserting last year’s Rookie of the Year candidate into his everyday lineup sooner, rather than later. Parra is available in 99.9% of ESPN leagues.
George Sherrill – If the big righty, Broxton, should go down or play his way out of the closer’s role, the Dodgers won’t skip a beat when George Sherrill is plugged in.
He won’t help your ERA, but if you have Broxton on your roto league team, it might not be a bad idea to piggyback him with the lefty. It could turn out to be a worthwhile insurance plan.
Buster Posey – The Giants top hitting prospect is ready for the majors. Or, at least he seemed to be.
Then the Giants resigned Molina and sent Posey back down to the minors. However, the moment Molina goes down with an injury or gets into a nasty slump, Po-Po’s ready to pounce.
He could very well get the call in May if Molina isn’t working out, and become the boost that a weak Giants offense needs.
Clayton Richard – Richard was the top major-league-ready pitching prospect in the White Sox organization last year, and a big piece in the Peavy trade. He put up respectable numbers in Chicago last year, and his peripherals supported those numbers.
Look for him to improve in Petco Park, and enjoy a very fine season with the Padres. The Padres may not get him a ton of wins, but he should help your ERA and Ks.
Chris Iannetta – Although he’s splitting time at catcher with Olivo, Iannetta’s a good pickup. He’ll strikeout fairly often, but his ability to crush the ball and get on base will be really helpful when you’re in need of a catcher.
Kaz Matsui – Matsui is one of those players who, when healthy, will get you points every night. While he’s not going to light the league on fire, he’s still got game.
Whether it’s a stolen base, a hit, a walk, or even a home run, Matsui will find a way to contribute night in, and night out. He’s a quality starter, available in 97% of leagues.
Mat Gamel – If the much anticipated Casey McGehee regression ever comes, Gamel should be ready to come up and perform. After a slump in 2009, he’s out to prove that he still is the Brewers’ top prospect.
He needs to lower his unacceptable strikeout rate, but when he does make contact, the ball usually drops. The fact that he’s maintained a BABIP of over .360 since 2007, means that it’s more than just luck. And he shows no signs of stopping.
Felipe Lopez – With Tony Larussa using the double switch more than most polygamists do, having a switch hitting utility infielder can be very valuable. Lopez will get plenty of late inning at bats with runners on base, but that’s not why you should add him.
I find it very hard to believe that Lopez won’t work his way into the regular starting rotation by the All-Star break. And he will absolutely rake in that lineup. With his OBP in front of Holliday and Pujols, Lopez could potentially lead your fantasy team in runs. And he’s only spoken for in roughly 3.5% of leagues.
Tyler Colvin – It seems strange that the Cubs would ride Colvin’s hot spring and put him on the big league roster where he will waste away on the bench. However, if Soriano, Fukudome, or Byrd goes down with an injury, the former first round pick could be a valuable pickup.
If Jaramillo can teach him patience at the plate, his hitting should follow. He’s available in 99% of leagues.
Ryan Church – Church has seen his share of ups and downs, but at least he appears to be done with his post-concussion syndrome. If Garrett Jones gets moved back to 1st base, Church will take over as an everyday outfielder.
Then he could produce decent numbers for your team if you find yourself strapped by injuries.
Orlando Cabrera – Cabrera finds himself in a friendlier ballpark and a friendlier lineup than he has in the past. He’s generally underrated, as CHONE actually projects him to be the 8th best fantasy shortstop in all of baseball.
Wednesday night, he showed what he can do, going 2/4 with a 2B, HR, SB, and 3 RBI. He’s available in nearly 80% of leagues, which is pretty ridiculous.
Takashi Saito – Saito was added so that the Braves would not only have a quality setup man, but so that they would have a quality replacement for Wagner, should he get hurt. Watch that closer situation closely, as Saito could find himself as the closer on a very good Braves team.
Cameron Maybin – Last year, Maybin was the consensus pick for Rookie of the Year. He flopped. Now it’s just a matter of figuring out which Cameron Maybin is the real one, and which is the fraud. Just remember, there’s a reason the Marlins were willing to give up Miguel Cabrera for him.
John Maine – Somehow, John Maine is available in 93% of leagues. After being bit by the injury bug, he’s set for a healthy, successful 2010. Give him a little time to get back in the routine, though. He might get beat up early in the year.
Christian Guzman – Sure, Guzman lost the starting SS job in Washington. But that doesn’t mean he’s not going to play. He’ll split time with Ian Desmond at short, as well as in the outfield. And if Desmond falters, he could find his way back in the starting job.
Ben Francisco – With lots of power and patience at the plate, Francisco will find at bats in Philly this year. How many at bats remains to be seen, but you can be sure that he’ll make the best of them.