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Waiver Wire: Russell Branyan and Matt Joyce

Two weeks into the fantasy season, frustration can mount pretty easily. Even though “small sample size” has been pounded into your head, it’s still tough to deal with two weeks worth of failure. Thankfully, there’s still value out on the waiver wire. Some popular pre-season sleepers may have been dropped (or not even drafted) in your leagues. While it may have taken two weeks, these players are heating up and you might be able to take advantage of their hot streaks. Matt Joyce and Russell Branyan are two players that fit this bill perfectly.

Matt Joyce (owned in only 7.2% of ESPN leagues) was a popular sleeper entering the season due to the belief that he would finally receive more playing time. Joyce got off to a slow start, causing some owners to lose faith after only a week of games. Lately, Joyce has been on fire. Over his last six games, Joyce has drilled eleven hits. While we shouldn’t make much of such a small sample, Joyce seems to be heating up.

It couldn’t come at a better time either, as the Tampa Bay Rays need Joyce now more than ever. Manny Ramirez’s abrupt retirement left the Rays pretty thin in the outfield, and now Johnny Damon may be looking at some time on the shelf after being hit on the hand. Joyce, who owns a career .509 slugging percentage against right-handers, can provide some nice pop off the bench as well.

Joyce should be owned in all AL-Only leagues right now. In mixed leagues, Joyce jumps to an OF3 when he plays against righties. Much like real life, however, you’re going to want to make sure you platoon him against lefties. Either way, he deserves to be owned way more than 7.2% of ESPN leagues.

Russell Branyan (owned in just 0.5% of ESPN leagues) may be playing himself into a full-time role in Arizona. Kirk Gibson may have initially committed to Juan Miranda as his first baseman, but Branyan’s performance has garnered him more playing time as of late.

We know what to expect from Branyan at this point in his career (lots of home runs, lots of strikeouts), but his potential in such a tiny park is tempting. He’s also far from the safest option at first, as he suffered from back injuries for much of last season. Still, Branyan has clubbed 57 home runs over his last 960 plate appearances. That’s a lot of power left out on the waiver wire.

At the very least, Branyan could be used as a short-term fix at first base. If you have injuries, or your first baseman has jumped out to a poor start, Branyan could be a useful pickup. If he continues to grab playing time, he might even be worth a reserve spot in mixed leagues. He comes with plenty of warts, but Branyan could be a cheap pickup if you are desperate for power of the next couple of weeks.

It’s still far too early to give up on players that have gotten off to slow starts, but smart owners can find value on the waiver wire until the players they drafted start living up to expectations. It’s unlikely that Joyce or Branyan will lead your team to a championship, but they might be able to provide decent stats for a few weeks.