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Travis Hafner and Trevor Rosenthal: Waiver Wire

Playing for upside so early in the season can be risky. The always run the risk of parting with a guy too early, and buying into a tiny sample. But if you’re going to play the waiver wire early in the year, you might as well target high-upside players. This isn’t as easy as it sounds. Most of the time, the high-upside players on the waiver wire are also the riskiest players on the waiver wire. They are imperfect, and contain at least one significant flaw. But if you’re able to hit on a guy, you’ll receive strong, cheap value for the entire season. Here are two guys who might fit that category.

Travis Hafner: UTIL 18% owned in CBSSports.com leagues

This is more of a gamble on Yankees hitting coach Kevin Long than it really is on Hafner. Long has revamped so many swings over the past couple years that it’s tempting to see it potentially happening again.* Hafner talked about working with Long in late-March, and has gotten off to a nice start. There are two major problems with investing in Hafner, even if he continues to play well. For one, he’s only eligible as a UTIL or DH in most leagues, limiting your ability to play match-ups in your league. Second, and more importantly, he has a lengthy injury history. And though Long has shown an ability to get strong results from his hitters, he can’t magically keep them healthy. Hafner’s value likely won’t get higher than it is now, and if you need an offensive fill-in, he could be worth a shot earlier in the season. Once he goes down, you can move on.

Trevor Rosenthal: RP 23% owned in CBSSports.com leagues

Depending on your league size, it may not be worth it to take a shot on a reliever that could fall into the closer role, particularly if that league doesn’t count holds. But only Mitchell Boggs stands in Rosenthal’s way, and it seems like Rosenthal is getting all the hype. I’ve liked Rosenthal for a while now, predicting he would finish with the most saves on the Cardinals in my bold predictions piece.* While we shouldn’t overreact to Boggs’ six run blowup, it’s also important to note that he’s blown another save since then.*Nope, I can’t read a game log, apparently. The Cardinals are going to be in a dogfight for first all season, and there’s going to be a lot of scrutiny if Boggs continues to blow games. Rosenthal would be next in line, and would project as a pretty effective closer. If you can afford to roster spot, he’s worth a speculative pickup, at least until Boggs figures things out.

Both players could provide significant upside at some point during the year. Hafner would be more useful immediately, but there’s no way we can expect him to stay healthy. The situation is flipped for Rosenthal. He doesn’t have a role yet, but could see his large boost in his value soon. The risks might be great, but both guys have higher upsides than your typical waiver wire pickup, at least at this point in the season.

* A short list of guys who have worked with Kevin Long:
Curtis Grandersonclick for link
Robinson Canoclick for link
Kevin Youkilisclick for link
Brett Gardnerclick for link
* I almost didn’t link to my bold predictions piece because I’m already embarrassed about some stuff in there. But I have to own it.