Fantasy baseball Waiver Wire: Villar's speed a valuable commodity
The Astros will try to accomplish two goals for the remainder of the season. First, they'll try to avoid becoming the third team to win fewer than 50 games since MLB went to a 162-game schedule in 1962. That seems a goal well within reach, as they only need to go 13-36 to avoid such a fate. The second, and perhaps more substantive goal, will be to get as many pieces of the future as much playing time as possible for the rest of this season. They've already brought up a few of those guys, and one can really help fantasy owners down the stretch. That would be shortstop Jonathan Villar.
Villar (available in 92 percent of Yahoo leagues, 76 percent of CBS leagues, and 86 percent of ESPN leagues) may be just 22 years old, but he already has one skill that translates to the major league level and makes him relevant for fantasy rosters: speed. In 16 games with the Astros thus far, Villar has swiped 10 bags. He was always an efficient base stealer in the minors, so this is nothing new. In 91 games with Triple-A Oklahoma City this year, Villar stole 31 bases and was caught seven times. With Double-A Corpus Christi in 2012, he stole 39 bags in 47 attempts. He may not do much else for your fantasy team, but his elite base-stealing could make a difference at this crucial point of the fantasy season. He's dealing with a thumb injury right now, but is expected to be back in Houston's lineup Monday. If you need help at short, Villar is well worth adding.
• Will Middlebrooks, Boston Red Sox (73, 60, 80): Middlebrooks took his medicine at Triple-A Pawtucket, and earned a promotion back to the majors ahead of super-prospect Xander Bogaerts. He hit .268/.327/.464 with 10 homers at Pawtucket, and will assume the starting role at third base for the Red Sox again. He struggled mightily before being sent down, but we're talking about the 24-year-old who hit .288/.325/.509 with 15 homers in 75 major league games last season. There's still a whole lot of potential here. Those of you in deeper leagues should give him a chance.
• Gordon Beckham, Chicago White Sox (89, 68, 83): Injuries have limited Beckham to just 63 games, but he's having arguably the best season of his five-year career. Even after a rough weekend series against the Twins, the second baseman is hitting .299/.348/.415 on the season. His walk rate is a respectable seven percent, and the strides he has made with his plate discipline are visible in not only that, but also a career-best 12.8-percent strikeout rate. He's making more contact than ever, and his current 21.9-percent line-drive rate would also be the best of his career. He still has modest power, and has stolen five bases, just two off his career high despite all the time he has missed this season.
• Josh Reddick, Oakland A's (67, 41, 70): Reddick has been a major disappointment this year, but if this weekend is any indication, he has finally discovered his power stroke. Heading into the series against the Blue Jays, Reddick had five homers in 315 plate appearances on the season. In three games in Toronto, he had five in 14 plate appearances. While Reddick's HR/FB ratio has dipped four percentage points, the real cause for concern has been his fly-ball rate, which has fallen nearly six percentage points. His HR/FB ratio is still a decent 10.1 percent. If he hits more fly balls, the homers could start coming in bunches.
• Dane de la Rosa, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (91, 94, 94): After struggling for large chunks of the season, Ernesto Frieri is finally out as closer. De la Rosa got the first save opportunity in place of Frieri, converting against the Indians on Friday while allowing just a walk. In 53 innings this year, he has a 3.74 ERA, 3.03 FIP and 47 strikeouts. This one is pretty straightforward: If you need some help in the bullpen, de la Rosa is your man.
• Ernesto Frieri, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: While Mike Scioscia did not call the move permanent yet, it's hard to see Frieri getting back in the closer's role any time this year. Scioscia said he'd be used in low-leverage situations for the time being, so he won't even hold any value in leagues that use holds. He pitched a clean inning on Saturday, but allowed a combined seven runs in his five previous outings, a stretch covering 3.1 innings.
• Ryan Howard, Philadelphia Phillies: With the word coming last Tuesday that Howard has yet to be cleared to hit, it's time to abandon any hope that he might return -- and be worth having on your roster -- this season. The aging slugger could perhaps be a factor again next year, but consider his 2013 finished.