MLB waiver wire: Howard's return worth an early investment

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The Waiver Wire is here to offer up the choicest cuts of waiver wire goodness, paying attention to mixed, as well as AL- and NL-only leagues. Every league is different, and some players listed here may not be available if you play in a deep mixed league. However, we'll try to address everyone's needs, whether the depth of your league resembles a kiddie pool or the Atlantic Ocean.

Ryan Howard, Phillies -- Howard is expected to begin a rehab assignment sometime in the next week as he continues to recover from the ruptured Achilles he suffered in the Division Series against the Cardinals last year. Considering he'll need a decently long rehab stint to get ready to play in meaningful games, don't look for him on a major league field before the All-Star break. Still, if all goes well, he should return sometime in mid-July, giving him a solid 10 weeks to make a fantasy impact. This remains a speculative play at this point in shallow leagues, and it's certainly possible someone has been stashing Howard on the DL all season. Now is the time to act though, especially if you have a DL spot with which to play.

Trevor Bauer, Diamondbacks -- Bauer will make his long-awaited MLB debut Thursday against the Braves, taking the place of the injured Joe Saunders. The hard-throwing righty made 16 starts in the minors this year, eight with Double-A Mobile and eight with Triple-A Reno, going 11-1 with a 2.23 ERA. In 93 innings across the two levels, he struck out 116 batters while walking 48. His strikeout numbers remained steady as he jumped to Triple-A, where he fanned 56 hitters in 44.2 innings. Now that he's up in the big leagues, the Diamondbacks will be hard pressed to send him back down, especially with their rotation struggling. If Bauer remains available, stop reading this now and grab him. Then come back and continue reading.

Jair Jurrjens, Braves -- After a two-month stint in the minors, Jurrjens returned to the Braves on Friday, and tossed 7.2 innings against the Red Sox, allowing just one run on three hits and a walk. He actually struggled in the minors, posting a 5.18 ERA across 10 starts, but it's possible he just needed a reality check to get his head right. Unless I'm in a very shallow league, I'm willing to bet that the Jurrjens of old, or even just someone resembling the Jurrjens of old, is back. At the very least, he's worth adding and playing based on matchups. He's currently on pace to make three more starts before the All-Star break against the Diamondbacks, Cubs and Phillies, none of which are exactly reminding anyone of the '27 Yankees.

Todd Frazier, Reds -- Frazier's playing time appeared to take a hit when Scott Rolen returned from the DL, but there's a good chance he takes over as the primary left fielder in place of Ryan Ludwick. With the way he has hit this year, Dusty Baker really can't justify having Frazier's bat on the bench most nights. In 144 at-bats, Frazier is hitting .264/.331/.535 with seven homers, 12 doubles and 22 RBI. Even if he doesn't permanently take the job from Ludwick, he should get enough time spelling both Ludwick and Rolen to warrant a spot on a roster in most fantasy leagues. Plus, with more time in the outfield, he will gain added positional eligibility.

Bobby Parnell, Mets -- This one is as straightforward as it gets. With Frank Francisco on the DL, Parnell takes over as the Mets closer. Feel free to add him as needed. He has 31 strikeouts against eight walks in 31 innings this year, to go along with a 3.19 ERA and 1.32 WHIP.

Chris Archer, Rays -- Archer, the centerpiece of the Matt Garza trade, made his first career start last week, allowing one run on three hits and a walk, striking out seven against the Nationals. He may not be up for long as Jeremy Hellickson shouldn't require more than the minimum on the DL, but he draws the friendly Royals in his next start.

Jeff Keppinger, Rays -- Sticking in Tampa, Keppinger came off the DL over the weekend and promptly went 5-for-5 in his first game back. We recommended him in this space right before he hit the DL, and the song remains the same. He'll likely see most of his time at third until Evan Longoria returns, at which point he'll get time at second and as Longo's backup.

Luis Valbuena, Cubs -- Ian Stewart's rehab of a wrist injury has not progressed as the Cubs hoped, so Valbuena will remain the starter for the time being. The rates aren't pretty, but he has decent pop.

Jordany Valdespin, Mets -- Again, the rates here aren't pretty, but he keeps finding his name in the Mets' lineup. He has good pop and positional flexibility.

Chat with me on Twitter, @MBeller.