Do you recall back in the winter when we said in our outfield primer that you can afford to take risks at the position because of how easy it is to find replacements should some of your riskier investments go awry? Of course you do, I’m sure you commit all our genius words here to memory. Anyway, this week’s edition of the Waiver Wire report will show you just how easy it is to find help in the outfield at this, and any, stage of the season.
Dexter Fowler, Cubs (Mixed: $5, NL-only: $15)
Fowler has taken well to hitting atop the Cubs lineup, slashing .282/.351/.412 in 94 plate appearances this season. He stole 11 bases last year and 19 the season before, but he has been unleashed by Joe Maddon during his first year in Chicago. He already has six steals on the season, and the Cubs as a whole are third in the majors with 25 swiped bags. There’s a team-wide mentality to be aggressive on the bases, and Fowler is right at the center of it. Fowler has always been an on-base machine, and with the Cubs improved offense behind him, he could very well push up toward 90 runs if he stays healthy all season.
Josh Reddick, Athletics (Mixed: $5, AL-only: $15) .
It was just three years ago that Reddick hit 32 homers and drove in 85 runs. In that season, Reddick had a 14-percent HR/FB ratio. Through 72 plate appearances this year, Reddick has three bombs and a 16.7-percent HR/FB ratio. There is admittedly reason to be a bit dubious concerning his ability to keep it up all year. For one, his fly-ball rate is just 30 percent. When he hit 32 homers in 2012, his fly-ball rate was 49.6 percent. Still, there’s enough reason for optimism here for fantasy owners to buy in. Reddick’s hitting .385/.444/.615 on the year, to go along with his three homers and 18 RBI. If nothing else, you’ll be getting some cheap pop that could potentially have staying power for the rest of the year.
Andre Ethier, Dodgers (Mixed: $3, NL-only: $12)
When the season began, Ethier was a complete fantasy afterthought as the fourth outfielder on the Dodgers. With both Yasiel Puig and Carl Crawford on the DL, Ethier has been among the team’s best hitters. The 33-year-old outfielder is hitting .308/.413/.615 with four homers and nine RBI. It appears that Puig will require only the minimum stint on the DL, but with the way Ethier’s hitting, Don Mattingly will have to keep his bat in the lineup. Crawford, however, is expected to be on the shelf for the foreseeable future, and that will keep a spot open in the Los Angeles outfield. Even with Alex Guerrero forcing his way into the lineup, Ethier has done more than enough to remain a starter, as well as a factor in all fantasy formats.
Billy Burns, Athletics (Mixed: $3, AL-only: $11)
Burns nearly made the big league club out of spring training, but he ended up getting sent to Triple-A Nashville for a bit more seasoning. After the 25-year-old hit .315/.378/.404 in 99 plate appearances, the A’s weren’t able to keep him down any longer. Burns got the call to the majors over the weekend and went 2-for-5 in his first game. Of course, Burns greatest fantasy asset is his speed. He stole 51 bases at Double-A Midland last season, and 74 the prior season at the High-A and Double-A levels combined. With regular plate appearances, Burns could steal in the neighborhood of 25-to-30 bases this year. That makes him relevant in fantasy leagues of all shapes and sizes.
J.J. Hardy, Orioles (Mixed: $3, AL-only: $15)
Hardy has been out all season with a shoulder injury he suffered during the spring, but he’s starting to turn the corner. He’ll begin a rehab assignment on Monday, playing three games with Double-A Bowie. If all goes well there, he could jump right back to the majors. Hardy’s offense fell off a cliff last season, as he hit just .268/.309/.372 with just nine homers, but he had at least 22 homers in each of the previous three years. Even if he doesn’t get all the way back to that level, he could hit 15 homers the rest of the way, and has a presence in the middle of a solid lineup. Any owner looking for help at shortstop or at a middle infield spot should turn to Hardy now with his impending return to Baltimore.