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Fantasy Baseball Bests, Busts and Waiver Wire: Apr. 16

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Stay tuned each week to Athlon Sports for a 2012 Fantasy Baseball Weekend Waiver Wire every Monday and a Weekend Rundown every Thursday.

Please raise your hand if you had the Los Angeles Dodgers as the best team in baseball after two weekends of play? It's not like they have the psuedo-reigning MVP and Cy Young Award winner, right?

While the rankings, both in the fantasy world and in the real standings, are still extremely volatile, there are some trends to keep an eye on. For example, if the Dodgers stay healthy — Andre Ethier, Ted Lilly, etc — there is no reason to believe that the boys in blue won't be in contention all season. Which means great things for fantasy owners of speedster Dee Gordon (leds the MLB in stolen bases with 7), Ethier (second to only Kemp in RBI) and Chad Billingsly (No. 1-rated pitcher with 15 K in 14.1 IP).

If the Washington Nationals can get pitching like they have early from Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmerman, they too should be in contention all season. 

On the flip side, however, don't buy into the Mariners (as if I should need to tell you) as five of their six wins have come at the expense of the offensively challenged Athletics.

Here are your current Top 25 fantasy baseball hitters:

 

Name

Pos.

Team

R

HR

RBI

SB

BA

OPS

1.

Matt Kemp

OF

LAD

13

6

16

1

.487

1.549

2.

Chris Young

OF

ARI

6

4

11

2

.364

1.293

3.

Yadier Molina

C

STL

9

3

10

1

.353

1.156

4.

Josh Hamilton

OF

TEX

10

4

6

0

.390

1.137

5.

Josh Willingham

OF

MIN

7

4

7

1

.419

1.385

6.

Starlin Castro

SS

CHC

6

0

7

6

.359

.831

7.

Ian Kinsler

2B

TEX

11

4

7

1

.268

1.031

8.

David Freese

3B

STL

6

3

11

0

.406

1.111

9.

Carlos Pena

1B

TB

7

3

11

0

.353

1.185

10.

Edwin Encarnacion

1B/3B

TOR

7

3

9

2

.289

.957

11.

Omar Infante*

2B

MIA

9

4

6

0

.343

1.190

12.

Carlos Beltran

OF

STL

9

3

4

2

.324

1.013

13.

Adam Jones

OF

BAL

6

3

4

3

.343

1.052

14.

Andre Ethier

OF

LAD

5

3

15

0

.289

1.030

15.

Corey Hart

OF

MIL

7

4

8

0

.321

1.314

16.

David Ortiz

UTL

BOS

6

1

10

0

.444

1.169

17.

J.D. Martinez*

OF

HOU

5

3

10

0

.371

1.150

18.

Austin Jackson

OF

DET

10

1

3

1

.412

1.159

19.

Jason Heyward

OF

ATL

7

2

5

2

.345

1.079

20.

Jordan Schafer*

OF

HOU

8

1

2

5

.242

.738

21.

Pablo Sandoval

1B/3B

SF

7

2

8

0

.333

1.026

22.

Kelly Johnson*

2B

TOR

9

3

6

0

.270

.927

23.

Adam LaRoche*

1B

WAS

3

2

12

0

.341

.963

24.

Emilio Bonifacio

3B/2B/SS

MIA

7

0

1

5

.316

.725

25.

Miguel Cabrera

1B

DET

7

3

9

0

.242

.895

* - less than 70% owned in Yahoo! leagues

On the flip side, owners of first-round strugglers shouldn't be panicking too much. Albert Pujols currently ranks 734th while Jose Bautista sits at No. 728. Needless to say, these trends won't continue. These are the names you attack on the trading block. Others who have scuffled out of the gate like Mark Teixeira, Ryan Zimmerman, Justin Upton and Jose Reyes could be at their lowest value. 

If you jumped early on names like Josh Willingham, Jordan Schafer, JD Martinez, Omar Infante and Adam LaRoche, now would be the time to start shopping their services to vulnerable GMs. Chris Young, the No. 2 player in the game right now, is a career .241 hitter. Put him on the block now. 

Replacing Jacoby

Red Sox star outfielers Jacoby Ellsbury has landed on the DL (again) and will miss at least a month. His partially dislocated shoulder not only puts a crick in the Red Sox' AL-leading offense (53 runs) but crushes fantasy owners. He is scheduled for an exam on Monday to determine the extent of the injury. However, GM Ben Cherington is already investigating the trade martket where names like Marlon Byrd and Coco Crisp have come into play. If Crisp lands atop the Sox order, there could be some sneaky value there. They have also put a claim in on Tigers' outfielder Clete Thomas. If they stay in house, it looks like Cody Ross moves to center with Darnell McDonald getting more time in left. Looks like that Josh Reddick-Andrew Bailey trade is working out as planned. This injury could sap this lineup — especially considering how Bobby Valentine feels about Kevin Youkilis.

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Outfield Help

Looking for some outfield help in the early weeks? Here are two names that could fit the bill: Chicago's southsider Alejandro De Aza and Minnesota's Denard Span. The two lead-off hitters are off to solid starts for two offenses that don't figure to supply much fantasy help. However, Span is a career .287 hitter with the potential to score 75-80 runs and swipe 25-30 bases. He has 10 hits in is last 19 at-bats, including four doubles. With a healthy Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau, Span could easily return to 2009 form should he stay healthy. De Aza crushed the ball down the stretch in 2011 and has picked-up where he left off. Is a 10-HR, 30-SB, 90-R season that far-fetched for a guy who knows to get on base?

Current Top 25 fantasy pitchers:

 

Name

Team

IP

W

SV

K

HLD

ERA

WHIP

1.

Chad Billingsly

LAD

14.1

2

0

15

0

0.63

0.63

2.

Aroldis Chapman*

CIN

8.0

2

0

15

1

0.00

0.38

3.

Javy Guerra

LAD

6.0

1

5

5

0

0.00

0.67

4.

Roy Halladay

PHI

15.0

2

0

8

0

0.60

0.53

5.

Lance Lynn*

STL

12.0

2

0

13

0

1.50

0.75

6.

Matt Garza

CHC

14.2

1

0

14

0

1.23

0.75

7.

Kyle Lohse*

STL

13.1

2

0

5

0

1.35

0.53

8.

Stephen Strasburg

WAS

13.0

1

0

14

0

0.69

0.85

9.

Fernando Rodney*

TB

3.2

1

3

2

0

0.00

0.00

10.

Edwin Jackson*

WAS

14.0

1

0

15

0

2.57

0.64

11.

Barry Zito*

SF

16.0

1

0

8

0

1.12

0.69

12.

Matt Cain

SF

15.0

1

0

15

0

3.00

0.60

13.

Brandon League

SEA

6.0

0

4

4

0

0.64

0.83

14.

Jake Westbrook*

STL

14.0

2

0

4

0

0.64

0.86

15.

Jonathon Niese*

NYM

12.2

2

0

12

0

2.13

0.95

16.

Bryan Shaw*

ARI

6.0

0

2

8

2

0.00

0.50

17.

Justin Verlander

DET

16.1

0

0

14

0

2.20

0.55

18.

Kyle Drabek*

TOR

12.2

2

0

10

0

1.42

1.03

19.

Matt Harrison*

TEX

14.0

2

0

7

0

0.64

1.07

20.

Frank Francisco

NYM

4.0

0

3

7

0

0.00

0.75

21.

Colby Lewis

TEX

12.2

1

0

15

0

1.42

1.03

22.

Craig Stammen*

WAS

7.2

2

0

10

0

1.17

1.17

23.

Grant Balfour

OAK

7.0

0

2

5

0

0.00

0.57

24.

Jim Johnson

BAL

4.2

0

4

3

0

0.00

1.07

25.

Jerad Weaver

LAA

14.0

1

0

17

0

3.21

0.86

* - less than 70% owned in Yahoo! leagues

Looking For Spot Starts

Some of this advice might seem obvious, but do you know where to look when snagging a spot start here or there? Look for those pitching against Pittsburgh (18 runs in nine games), Oakland (28 runs in 10 games), Minnesota (28 runs in nine games) and San Diego (34 runs in 10 games). But the Ryan Howard-less Phillies are actually 15th (second-worst) in the NL in runs scored thus far. The Mets just got three quality starts from RA Dickey, Jonathan Niese and Mike Pelfrey on the road in Philly. This offense might never return to its peak 2008 form and could (shockingly) provide some value to opposing pitchers.

Not Buying St. Louis' Starters

No Dave Duncan. No Tony LaRussa. No Albert Pujols. No Chris Carpenter. No problem. The Cards are still in first place thanks to hot starts from David Freese, Carlon Beltran and Rafael Furcal. However, the performance of starters Lance Lynn, Kyle Lohse and Jake Westbrook has been the real reason for early success from the defending champs. They rank as the No. 5, No. 7 and No. 13 pitchers in all of fantasy baseball. While Lynn offers some intriguing K-rates (career 10.2 K/9) and the other two should win their share of games, it is hard to officially buy any of these names yet. Lohse and Westbrook have combined for nine strikeouts in 27.1 IP and each boast nearly identical career ratio's of 4.61/1.39 and 4.30/1.39. Jaime Garcia and Adam Wainwright have struggled out of the gate but are still the better longterm fantasy options.

Just Like Brian Wilson Did

Be it a Barenaked Ladies song, Beach Boy singer and Giants' closer, Brian Wilson has seen better days. Wilson looks to have structural damage to his pitching elbow and may require his second Tommy John surgery. This leaves Sergio Romo, Javier Lopez and Santiago Casilla left to clean up the ninth for Bruce Bochy. He claims he will go by committee in the short team, but Romo and Casilla are the two names to invest in. In 48.0 innings, Romo was filthy last year in the set-up role with a 1.50 ERA, 0.70 WHIP and a downright insane 70:5 K:BB ratio. Casilla wasn't too far behind as his 1.74 ERA and 1.12 WHIP were more than servicable last year. However, his walk totals (25 in 51.2 IP) may push Bochy towards Romo first. Lopez is the lefty of the group and has been the least productive. Keep an eye on how and when Bochy handles his end game situations. 

Keep this link handy as Athlon keeps its Closer Grid up to date all season long.

-by Braden Gall

Follow @bradengall