With the All-Star break upon us, we finally don’t have to worry about our fantasy teams for a few days. It’s always nice to have that little break, especially when you run multiple teams. Rather than the usual daily waiver wire shtick, let’s take a look at four players who have gone from undrafted and afterthoughts to key contributors in all formats.
Carlos Ruiz | C | Phillies | Preseason ADP: 290 | Owned: 89% Yahoo! and 100% ESPN
Chooch has been, my far, the best hitting catcher in baseball this season. He came into the year with a .265/.357/.393 career batting line which is solid but not exactly worth a fantasy roster spot. The 33-year-old Ruiz carries a .350/.412/.584 (!) line into the break this summer, having already hit a career-best 13 homers with 21 doubles that are just eight shy of his career-high. He’s moved into a more premium lineup spot — fourth or fifth depending on whether or not Ryan Howard plays — and the result has been 46 RBI that are the second most among qualified catchers and eight short of his career-high. His 523 ottoneu points lead all catchers by a significant margin.
Ruiz’s production will likely step back for a number of reasons in the second half, mostly because catchers tend to wear down in August in September. A .362 BABIP and 18.3% HR/FB don’t exactly scream sustainable either. That said, Chooch’s first half production is already in the bank and anyone who grabbed him off waivers in April is surely thrilled.
Josh Reddick | OF | Athletics | Preseason ADP: N/A | Owned: 82% Yahoo! and 100% ESPN
The 25-year-old Reddick always had power, with four 18+ homer seasons to his credit (2007, 2008, 2010, 2011) between the Majors and minors combined coming into 2012. No one saw this coming, however. Reddick moved out of friendly Fenway Park and into the cavernous Coliseum in Oakland, and has somehow managed 20 homers in the first half. He’s also stealing some bases (8-for-8), drawing more walks than ever before (10.6%), and hitting lefties (.391 wOBA). Put it all together and you have a .268/.348/.532 batting line and 546 ottoneu points, ninth most among outfielders.
Reddick is an extreme fly ball hitter — 48.5%, fifth highest rate in baseball — and only five of his 20 homers qualify as “Just Enoughs” per Hit Tracker, so it’s not like these are sneaking over the fence. The power is very real though the ability to mash lefties may not be. We need more than 114 plate appearances to know either way. Reddick isn’t just one of the best waiver wire fantasy pickups of the year, he’s one of the game’s best young power hitters.
R.A. Dickey | SP | Mets | Preseason ADP: 229 | Owned: 93% Yahoo! and 100% ESPN
Only Justin Verlander has been a more fantasy dominant pitcher this season than the Mets knuckleballer. Dickey, 37, pitched to an excellent 3.08 ERA (3.71 FIP) during his first two seasons in Flushing, but he wasn’t really on the fantasy radar because he didn’t win a ton of games (19 from 2010-2011) or strike guys out (5.59 K/9 and 15.0 K%), plus you always had to be skeptical about his WHIP given the history of knuckleball guys and their propensity for the free pass. He was an ERA booster for the back of the rotation, that was it.
Obviously Dickey has taken his game to the next level this season by apparently becoming the first man in baseball history with the ability to command a pitch that is, by definition, unpredictable. His strikeout (9.23 K/ and 26.6 K%) and walk (1.95 BB/9 and 5.6 BB%) rates are just silly, as was his eight-start stretch from late-May through the end of the June. Who knows how long this will last, but I hope it lasts forever. Dickey represents all that is right with baseball.
Ernesto Frieri | RP | Angels | Preseason ADP: N/A | Owned: 76% Yahoo! and 99.9% ESPN
If you were putting together a list of middle relievers who had a chance to pick up saves before the start of the season, Frieri probably would have been one of the last guys you considered. From 2009-2011, the 26-year-old right-hander had the fourth lowest gmLI (0.66) in baseball (min. 90 IP). The Padres just never used him in a big spot, but now he’s become the late-inning extraordinaire following the trade to the Angels.
In 26.1 IP for the Halos, Frieri has allowed just eight hits and none have been for extra bases. A .205 BABIP sounds unsustainable, but we’re talking about one of the most extreme fly balls pitchers in baseball (55.0% career). Only ten of the 105 batters he’s faced with Anaheim have hit a ground ball. When you have Mike Trout and Peter Bourjos roaming the outfield and a pitcher friendly home park, having the opposition put the ball in the air in a damn fine strategy. Add in a boatload of strikeouts (15.38 K/9 and 42.9 K%) and you have a dominant reliever. Frieri has been splitting save chances with Scott Downs depending on the matchups, but he’s been worth a roster spot simply because of the brutal effectiveness.
Preseason ADPs courtesy of Mock Draft Central.