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Stock Watch: The Best Hitters on Your Waiver Wire (and Mine)

Who you should pick up on the waiver wire or free agent list depends entirely on what your team needs. If you're leading the league by a wide margin in steals (or in dead last by a ton), picking up a speedster won't help you. If you're fighting tooth and nail for every point of batting average, then you don't need the power hitters (who'll kill that average) on the list below.

That said, there are quite a few good players (or players having useful seasons, anyway) on a lot of waiver wires. Maybe this reflects how many owners have given up on their season, as these players might be the most help for those near the bottom of their leagues--those who could use a shot in the arm in one or two categories at the expense of another. Not every hitter on this list will be available in your league, but chances are a few of them are. Hopefully they match up with your team's needs.

Listed in order of Yahoo! league ownership, below are my very scientifically selected* Best Hitters on Your Waiver Wire.

James Loney (50%), 1B, TAM -- It feels very strange to promote Loney, but he's been great this year. I don't know what happened, but he's a BA force again, hitting in a good lineup, and a worthwhile addition for just about every team. Probably he's only available in the shallowest half of leagues, but he's still got value there.

J.P. Arencibia (42%), C, TOR -- Presumably he's owned in all two-catcher formats. If not, it's almost a guarantee that he's more valuable than your second catcher. Of course, he's only useful if you're in a position to trade average for homers.

Kelly Johnson (41%), 2B/3B/OF, TAM -- Though not the ideal starter, Johnson's eligiblity makes him very useful in leagues with MI and CI slots. 2B/3B eligibility is one of the most useful combos in baseball, and he hits for a little power. Perfect for almost anyone's bench or as an injury replacement.

Mike Moustakas (41%), 3B, KAN -- He's cooled off a little since regaining his stroke, but his recent hitting coupled with his prospect history of talent makes him a perfect high-upside add. Especially considering the lack of depth at third.

Will Venable (40%), OF, SDP -- Unless the steals take off in the next month, he'll probably miss going 20/20--but not by that much. As a bonus, he doesn't kill your average. Quite underrated.

Russell Martin (39%), C, PIT -- He's a catcher and he's got nine steals--how is that not better than your current #2 catcher? His average is bad, but not an Arencibia-style disaster.

Jedd Gyorko (33%), 2B/3B, SDP -- Basically Kelly Johnson without the OF eligiblity, but with more promise. He's the kind of young player that could turn a corner and put up a red-hot month without surprising anyone. How many already-useful bench bats have that much upside?

Ike Davis (33%), 1B, NYM -- One of the top bargains to be had. A slow start since returning from minor league banishment has been replaced by good play in the last month. His power history makes him a tremendous upside play. At the very least, he's on a hot streak worth riding out.

Rajai Davis (31%), OF, TOR -- If you need steals, there's no excuse for leaving Davis on the wire. I refuse to believe that 69% of leagues don't have stolen bases as a category. 

Brandon Moss (28%), 1B/OF, OAK -- One of the best power sources widely available. His bad-but-not-terrible average makes him especially useful for those wishing to improve in homers and RBI's without giving up too much BA.

Junior Lake (26%), 3B/OF, CHC -- Young player, hitting well, eligible in the infield and the outfield...hmmm...yes, you should pick him up. Whether his good hitting stays or not, he's certainly worth a shot.

Nick Franklin (24%), 2B/SS -- No, he isn't great. But how good is your starting shortstop? How about your second and short backups? Chances are, the backups are worse than Franklin. If you drafted the likes of Starlin Castro, Jimmy Rollins, or Alcides Escobar, Franklin might be better than your starter.

Chris Carter (23%), 1B/OF, HOU -- Possibly the best of the great homers, terrible average crowd. Surely there's a team in each league that has given up on batting average for the sake of the longball, right? 

Xander Bogaerts (23%), SS, BOS -- This guy's ownership seriously went up three percent while I was writing this article. (Or I looked at the numbers wrong.) An exciting prospect, a shortstop, cool name...pick him up in every league! Shortstops who can hit are few and far between, every team can make use of them.

Justin Smoak (20%), 1B, SEA -- Smoak has been hitting well for a couple months now, far too long for 80% of leagues to leave him on the waiver wire. I don't know if he's really turned into the player Seattle was hoping to get when they dealt Cliff Lee for him, but I do know he'd help any fantasy team that picks him up.

Emilio Bonifacio (19%), 2B/OF, KAN -- Bonifacio could lead the league in steals playing half a season. (Especially with Everth Cabrera suspended.) Even on your bench, he steals so often and has such convenient eligiblity that he's a highly valuable spot starter. If you play in a daily changes format and are competing in steals at all, he's almost a must-own. But remember, he gives no other contribution but the steals.

Khris Davis (16%), OF, MIL -- Easily the second best player in baseball with "hris Davis" in his name. Also, he's relatively young, raking this month, and by far the brightest spot on the beleagured Brewers. There's no way Milwaukee stops playing him, and hot streaks like his can help any fantasy team.

Juan Pierre (14%), OF, MIA -- Pierre has 20 steals in under 300 AB. And he's basically an elderly part-timer. A great steals option off the bench. His batting average isn't even awful.

Eric Young (14%), OF, NYM -- The last in our all-speed train (including Rajai Davis, Juan Pierre, and Emilio Bonifacio, for those with short memories), Young has been stealing like crazy for the Mets (28 bags in fewer than 400 AB). With a batting average that won't kill you,  and more playing time than Pierre, Young might be the best of the group, as well as the least-owned. 

Ryan Raburn (11%), 2B/OF, CLE -- Tigers fans remember the cold streaks that ran Raburn out of Motown, but his batting line for this season shows no signs of them. Returning from injury, Raburn is better (while hot) than most second sackers and plenty of outfielders. 

Ryan Ludwick (9%) OF, CIN -- One of my favorite players to target before the season began, Ludwick was hurt on the season's first day. I had to drop him in three or four leagues. Anyway, he's back and not hitting yet. He showed such great power last year, though, that it's almost impossible not to take a chance on him. He could be worthless for the year--but he could also be the best player on the waiver wire in any league.

Hopefully some of these guys are available in your leagues...if not, well, enjoy the fact that you play against sterling competition, I guess. Next week (unless something more urgent comes up) we'll look at the best pitchers widely available.

*I perused my All Players list, sorted by ownership rates and noted the names that stuck out. Like I said, very scientific. If I left out an important player available in your league--let me know who I missed in the comments. (After picking him up, of course--no need to share information with your own league....)

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