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Danny Espinosa & Vidal Nuno: Deep League Waiver Wire

Another week, another crop of injuries open up spots for two waiver wire candidates. Me thinks there’s a pattern here. As we snorkel amid the waiver wire waters, our first contestant is no stranger to deep league fantasy owners, though his awful 2013 made him persona non grata in the vast majority of formats entering the season. Meanwhile, a Tommy John snakebite has opened up a spot in the Yankees rotation, potentially opening the door for an intriguing left-hander to aid fantasy owners.

Danny Espinosa / 2B / Washington Nationals

2 percent Yahoo / 1.2 percent ESPN / 10 percent CBS

Coming into 2014, the biggest fantasy impact Espinosa seemed primed to make was to block Anthony Rendon from getting regular playing time. Well, now that Ryan Zimmerman is hurt and Rendon is minding the store at third in DC, Espinosa is back to getting ABs, and he’s making the most of it — hitting .288/.339/.481 entering Tuesday’s play. He hasn’t provided too much help with counting statistics, belting just one home run with no steals and only a handful of runs, but was a fantasy producer not too long ago, averaging 19 homers and 18 steals between 2011 and 2012, before losing his luster in a nightmarish 2013 campaign.

Despite Espinosa’s hot start, he’s still dogged by the weaknesses that have always limited his value. The solid average is being fueled by a .378 BABIP despite an average line drive rate, and the marginal plate discipline improvements he’s shown haven’t been nearly enough to prevent him from putting up a 25 percent strikeout rate, which will only help sink his average even further once the BABIP levels out. Thing is, Espinosa doesn’t have to magically transform into a contact hitter to help fantasy owners, particularly ones in deep leagues, and if some BABIP luck and support from his manager help him regain his confidence, then we’re still talking about a middle infielder who could help in several important categories. He’ll start at second base at least through May, and hey, if Ian Desmond continues to have problems at shortstop — his two errors on Monday gave him nine for the yearn– there’s the possibility he could see some time at shortstop. Either way, Espinosa’s upside and position scarcity should make him an attractive option in most deep mixed leagues during his hot streak.

Vidal Nuno / SP / New York Yankees

1 percent Yahoo / .3 percent ESPN / 4 percent CBS ownership

Here’s where things get dicey, as Nuno has no value without a rotation spot — the status of which wasn’t clear when this post went to the digital press Monday night. But he turned in a solid five-inning performance against the Rays on Sunday, his first start of the season, and could take the ball against the Angels in the Bronx on Saturday when Ivan Nova’s spot in the rotation next comes up.

What makes Nuno, 26, so interesting is his fabulous minor league numbers, which boast a better than 5 K/BB ratio, a 1.10 WHIP and an 8.6 K/9 over 428 innings. Last year, he was positively sparkling over five Triple-A starts and pitched well in three big league starts, though a groin injury in June ended his season prematurely. On the other hand, he doesn’t throw all that hard — his fastball barely touches 90 mph — and he doesn’t keep the ball on the ground often enough for a guy who calls Yankee Stadium home. Not to mention the scheduled return of David Robertson on Tuesday gives the Yankees’ bullpen some breathing room, which might prompt Joe Girardi to slot David Phelps and his 23 career starts into Nova’s role, with Adam Warren a more distant candidate. A decision to keep Nuno in the rotation would also leave Matt Thornton as the only left-handed reliever in the Yankees pen at the moment.

But the upside of Nuno, a guy who’s had success in the minors and thus far in the majors thanks to solid control, shouldn’t go unnoticed by deep-leaguers. Even if he’s not the Yankees’ immediate answer in Nova’s absence, it’s worth putting his name on the board as a possible AL-only league addition.

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