April 07, 2011

The season has been live for a week and we already have role changes, injury fallout and interesting manager machinations. Let's check out the waiver wire with this week's High Wire Act.

Jordan Walden, Angels: The first closer casualty of the season came early, as it took Fernando Rodney five days (seriously, I had the under) to lose his job to Walden. If you're in a first come, first served-style league when it comes to free agents, Walden is certainly gone. But this is a guy you should be spending a nice chunk of your FAAB on or grabbing with the No. 1 waiver claim. Walden flourished in a small sample after the Angels converted him to a reliever last season. He has typical closer's stuff, as his average fastball clocked in at 98.8 miles per hour last season to go along with a power slider that is deadly against righties. Without any real competition for the job (remember, Fernando Rodney), it wouldn't be a surprise if Walden ended the season in the top half of closers in the majors. Get him now.

Joel Peralta, Rays: The way the Rays are scoring, no one is going to get a save opportunity out of that bullpen. But if you're paying attention to the way Joe Maddon is using his relievers, if and when someone finally does get a chance to close out a win, circumstantial evidence suggests Peralta will be the guy. Twice this week, Peralta has entered the game in the ninth with the Rays trailing by two runs. In both of those games, Kyle Farnsworth pitched the eighth. Jake McGee faced one hitter in the seventh in one game and didn't appear in the other. Reading between the lines, it appears Peralta has Maddon's confidence more than the other two members of a potential committee, yet he remains the least owned since it was believed Farnsworth and McGee would split closing duties entering the season. The Rays have yet to have a save opportunity, so we can't be 100 percent sure, but if I had to rank the Rays relievers in terms of fantasy value right now, I'd put Peralta at the top with Farnsworth second and McGee third.

Willie Bloomquist, Diamondbacks: Yes, that Willie Bloomquist. He doesn't seem like the most fantasy relevant player in the world, but he has displayed his value filling in for the injured Stephen Drew at shortstop. Bloomquist has already proved a threat on the bases, and new manager Kirk Gibson is committed to giving his guys the green light to steal. In his one 300-plus plate-appearance season of his career, Bloomquist stole 25 bases. Drew remains on the shelf/ever-fragile, and even when he does return, Bloomquist should see some time at third base. This isn't a guy to break the bank on, but if you're looking for a cheap source of short-term steals, he could by quite valuable to you.

Zach Britton, Orioles: Given a chance to show his stuff with Brian Matusz on the DL, Britton did not disappoint in his first start of the season, allowing one run on three hits and three walks in six innings, striking out six. Even before Matusz hit the DL, Britton was going to have a chance to pitch his way into the big league rotation at Triple-A. With Matusz out three-to-six weeks, Britton will make at least a few more starts for the Orioles, and even if he gets sent back down, he's a valuable addition to 12-team mixed leagues and all AL-only leagues in the interim. If he pitches as well as he did in his first start, the Orioles might have no choice but to keep him up and bump someone else to the bullpen.

Alexi Ogando, Rangers -- He may have been facing the putrid Seattle offense, but Ogando impressed in his first career start, pitching six shutout innings and allowing just two hits and two walks with four strikeouts. The Rangers don't appear concerned about the blister he developed in the sixth inning, and you shouldn't either when considering adding Ogando to your roster. He has high strikeout potential, and even though the Rangers plan on returning him to the bullpen when Tommy Hunter returns from a groin injury, he could end up forcing Ron Washington to reconsider, similar to what Britton could do in Baltimore. Ogando could be a risky play against certain lineups at home, but he's in line for a ton of run support with that Texas offense backing him.

Russell Martin, Yankees -- From fantasy darling to fantasy afterthought, Martin has ridden a roller coaster in terms of value the last few seasons. His reverse-Joe Torre, going from the Dodgers to the Yankees, didn't get a ton of attention, but he has had a nice first week in the Bronx, going 6-for-17 with a homer and two steals. He'll play nearly every day with Jorge Posada at DH, and there's no doubting the environment upgrade, in terms of lineup and home park. If you don't have an elite backstop, you might as well take a shot at the highest upside guys this early in the season. Martin fits that bill, and is worth adding in 12-team mixed leagues.

Michael Pineda, Mariners -- I talked up Pineda big time before the season started, and he looked great opposing the aforementioned Ogando in Texas on Tuesday. He went six innings against the scorching Rangers offense, allowing three runs on five hits and walk, striking out four. Not bad for a 22-year old making his first career start in a tough park to pitch in against one of the league's best offenses. His fastball averaged 95.2 MPH as he showed off the powerful arm that has the Mariners so excited about pairing him with Felix Hernandez at the top of their rotation. He struggled against Texas' lefties, as Josh Hamilton and Mitch Moreland combined to go 3-for-5 with two doubles and a triple against the young Seattle righty, but all things considered, it was a great debut. No matter the format, if Pineda is available in your league, do what it takes to get him.

Got any waiver wire questions or comments? Let me know on Twitter, @MBeller.

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