Fantasy baseball Waiver Wire: Grab Jackie Bradley Jr.
The 2013 season is all of one day old, but it's never too early to start improving your roster. Every Monday this season, we'll offer up the most attractive options likely to be on your league's waiver wire. While player availability will obviously differ from league to league, we'll use ownership percentage stats from Yahoo!, ESPN and CBS to ensure we're giving you information you can use. And now, for the first batch...
• OF Jackie Bradley Jr., Red Sox: Bradley played his way onto the Red Sox's Opening Day roster with a huge spring, hitting .441 with two homers, 12 RBI and two steals. He'll start in left field and will likely hit toward the bottom of the order. He split his 2012 season between High-A Salem and Double-A Portland, hitting .315/.430/.482 with nine homers, 63 RBI and 24 steals. His starting spot will probably be in jeopardy when David Ortiz returns to health, but that should leave Bradley plenty of time to make an impact, and perhaps even an impression that the Red Sox should keep him in the everyday lineup.
• SP Bud Norris, Astros: Following another season in which he walked too many batters and couldn't quite take the leap to the next level, Norris tumbled down draft boards entering this season. While he may never be anything more than a No. 3 or 4 starter in real life -- on a contender, that is, not on the Astros -- he traffics in that most valuable fantasy currency: strikeouts. He has 553 of them in 563.2 career innings, and has fanned at least 8.5 batters per nine innings in each of his three full seasons in the majors. He probably won't win a ton of games given that the Astros won't win a ton of games, and the transition to the American League will likely keep his ERA north of 4.00, but a starter who's going to punch out a batter per inning can always have a spot on my team. Norris got the win on Opening Night after allowing two runs and fanning five Rangers in 5.2 innings, and he's a two-start pitcher this week.
• RP Joaquin Benoit, Tigers: With Bruce Rondon back down at Triple-A Toledo, the Tigers' closer chair is wide open. Manager Jim Leyland said he could call on anyone, but for now fantasy gamers should consider Benoit the odds-on favorite to get the first shot at proving he's the man for the job. He has been a strikeout artist each of the last three seasons, fanning 222 batters in 192.1 innings. Last year, he posted a 17.3-percent swinging-strike rate, and after throwing a fastball in the low 90s most of his career, he has upped that to 94 mph in all of the last three seasons.
• SS Jed Lowrie, A's: Lowrie played well in limited duty with the Astros last year, hitting .244/.331/.438 with 16 homers. He has also hit well this spring, posting a .273/.375/.509 slash with three homers and 13 RBI. You're only going to be chasing after him if you're in a deep league, but there is value here for leagues with more than 12 teams or leagues where you have to start a middle infielder. In two of the last three years, his home run/fly ball ratio was at least 11 percent. While that doesn't make him a huge power hitter, it's pretty darn good for a shortstop who will come this cheap.
• SP Edinson Volquez, Padres: Now is the time of the season to take a shot on a high upside guy who might totally flame out. If he achieves that upside, you'll get maximum value out of him. If he doesn't, you can cut bait and he won't have that much of an impact on your season. Volquez fits that mold perfectly. Petco Park injected some life back into him last year: In 100.2 innings at home, he posted a 2.95 ERA, 3.27 FIP and 1.29 WHIP. Even through all his struggles, he remained a potent strikeout pitcher, and last year he struck out 174 batters in 182.2 innings. He won't be matchup-proof, but if you get him in your lineup when he's starting at home, you could make quite the profit on him.