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Raul Ibanez & A.J. Burnett: Waiver Wire

One Yankee and one former Yankee in today’s waiver wire post. Coincidentally enough, expectations for both players were low coming into the season but they’ve since proven to be more useful than anticipated.

Raul Ibanez | OF | Yankees | Owned: 26% Yahoo! and 47.2% ESPN

Both Robinson Cano and Mark Teixeira got off to slow starts this season, but the Yankees survived thanks in part to Derek Jeter‘s insane April and unexpected contributions from Ibanez. The former Phillie is off to a .273/.330/.568 start with seven homers and 21 RBI through his first 97 plate appearances, and a slight uptick in BABIP (currently .233) will boost his average even more. Keep in mind that as a fly ball hitter, it’s not guaranteed to rebound all the way to his .302 career mark. Ibanez’s strikeout rate (9.3 K%) is a career-low (by far) and I have to think that at some point he’ll run into a 12 K in 20 PA slump or something like that. Hopefully not though.

Like most left-handed hitting Yankees, Ibanez has done most of his damage at home (.415 wOBA vs. .335 wOBA) though it is worth noting that Hit Tracker says four of his seven homers would have left all 30 parks and six would have left more than 18 parks. Raul’s never been a guy that hits cheap homers, though Yankee Stadium should give him his fair share of those too. With a great lineup around, the RBI opportunities will be plentiful. Just make sure you keep an eye on the daily lineups, because Ibanez doesn’t start against lefties and is best used as a platoon bat on a fantasy bench.

A.J. Burnett | SP | Pirates | Owned: 18% Yahoo! and 10.8% ESPN

I wouldn’t say that Burnett having a 5.12 ERA through mid-May is the most surprising thing in the world, but it’s not an accurate representation of how he’s pitched for his new team. Aside from that eight-out, 12-run disaster against the Cardinals two weeks ago, Burnett has thrown at least six innings and allowed no more than two runs in his four other starts. His peripherals are dynamite as well: 8.82 K/9 (23.3 K%), 1.99 BB/9 (5.3 BB%), and 54.8% grounders. I would expect the walk rate to climb as the season progresses given his career to date, but the strikeout and ground ball numbers are legit.

Two of Burnett’s four non-disaster starts have come against great hitting teams (Cardinals and Braves) and another against a league average club (Astros, in terms of runs per game). Last week’s start against the Nationals was his only real crack at a dreadful offense. Burnett started yesterday and is lined up to pitch in Detroit before home dates with the Mets and Reds. It’s not the most favorable schedule in the world and frankly I wouldn’t expect many wins being on the Pirates, but Burnett offers lots of strikeouts and a shot at decent ERA and WHIP rates given his early-season performance. Plus he offers way more upside than most number five or six fantasy starters.