Fantasy Baseball Waiver Wire Pickups: Week 4
We’re slowly creeping up on a month’s worth of the season being in the books and you’re likely starting to feel that all-too-real itch of buying into the current state of things as what is “true.” Whether you’re an early favorite or your team is in the cellar right now, this is starting to feel real.
Outside of Eric Thames saving the world from evil on a daily basis, what can we trust in this crazy world? Identifying valid pickups from the waiver wire has always been important, but is much more so now given the insanity that the 10-day DL has brought upon the fantasy baseball universe, so let’s get to it. Ownership levels are taken from Yahoo leagues and, along with the stats, are accurate through April 24.
Priority Pickups – <30% Owned
Austin Hedges (C – SD): 27% owned
It may be confusing to see Hedges’ power outburst coming with that .183 average, but this is a bat to take seriously. He has now homered in six of his last nine games and hit safely in eight of his last 10 after opening the season hitless through his first eight games. What a wild ride that is, eh?
Perhaps you don’t believe this is anything more than a hot streak and eventually, he’ll revert to his cold ways. He won’t smash a homer a day, but there’s real growth here.
Not buying it? Then you should read this report on the minor swing tweak that led to this power surge. All it took was a small call to attention regarding how synced his hands were with his body when loading to swing. Take the results seriously.
Bud Norris (SP/RP – LAA): 14% owned
On this week’s episode of “As the Bullpen Turns” we see that Mr. Norris has found himself in the ninth inning for the Angels after Cam Bedrosian was placed on the 10-day DL. While many hoped that Blake Parker (5% owned, 15 Ks in 9 1/3 innings) would get the job, it was Norris who was called on for his first career save on April 22. To his credit, Norris has a sweet 1.86 FIP and 2.82 SIERA with a 13.7 percent swinging-strike rate and zero homers allowed thus far and had earned his shot.
Zack Wheeler (SP – NYM): 21% owned
Wheeler looked like he was in for a rough start after giving up a first-inning grand slam on Monday, only to allow three baserunners through the seventh inning after that en route to a solid 0.86 WHIP on the day. His 5.40 ERA may have some tilted, but the 1.11 WHIP and 21 Ks in 21 2/3 innings are green flags alongside his healthy 3.73 FIP, 3.58 xFIP and 3.48 SIERA.
With a strong 11 percent swinging-strike rate thus far, he should be scooped up in more leagues as those peripherals start to match reality. He’ll look to do so in a rematch with the Nats on April 29 in Washington.
Kevin Pillar (OF – TOR): 19% owned
Don’t look now, but it isn’t all bad in Toronto’s lineup right now. Pillar has reclaimed the leadoff spot with Devon Travis struggling and entered Tuesday’s game on an 11-game hitting streak that included homers in his two most recent contests.
Between that and the five-game hitting streak to open 2017, he’s hit safely in 16-of-18 games after struggling out of the gate last season. Unfortunately, he’s been caught stealing twice already on only four attempts, a trend he can hopefully reverse before losing the green light.
Josh Bell (1B/OF – PIT): 26% owned
Bell is a pretty clear beneficiary of the Starling Marte suspension, as he should get everyday at-bats now and has also logged a hit in each of his last seven starts — including two homers. While the 24-year-old may not be able to tap into the full potential of his game power yet, he still has a 15-homer bat and could produce a slash line around .275/.375/.425 as he finds a groove in the bigs.
For now, the Pirates are shifting him between hitting second, fifth and seventh in the order, with the two- and five-hole being the preferred fantasy slot. He smacked 14 homers with a .295/.368/.468 line in 484 plate appearances at Triple-A last season so don’t be too hesitant about the all-fields hitter.
Chris Tillman (SP – BAL): 24% owned
Yet again, just a simple reminder that Tillman is hoping to be activated on May 2 against Boston. He’s supposed to reach 75 pitches on April 26 in what could be his final rehab start, though don’t start him right out of the gate anyway.
Aaron Altherr (OF – PHI): 9% owned
Altherr has hit safely in all seven games that he’s appeared in since April 16, going 10-for-25 with a homer, eight runs scored, four RBIs and two steals. This has led to five straight starts for the 26-year-old who does have a potent blend of double-digit pop and plus speed. If he can keep up a strong average — something his .455 BABIP says he’ll have to fight to do — around the high .200s alongside the intermittent homer and steal, then we’ve got a useful mixed-league asset batting in the upper third of Philly’s order here.
Miguel Gonzalez (SP – CWS): 15% owned
Gonzalez made a quiet little splash last season by ramping up his cutter and attacking the strike zone more. While it didn’t yield life-changing results, he appears to have kept it up in 2017 and has now twirled two absolute gems in a row after dismantling the Royals on Tuesday night with eight frames with only an unearned run and three baserunners allowed. He won’t overwhelm with Ks, but Gonzalez is more than serviceable here.
Trevor Rosenthal (RP – STL): 30% owned
While Cardinals manager Mike Matheny will likely try to keep the bullpen’s status quo as is until things are really bad (like how Rosenthal was a year ago), Rosenthal and his absurd 11 Ks in only 5 1/3 innings make him an excellent add anyway. He has yet to walk a batter and is fighting through a .545 BABIP to post a 3.38 ERA and 1.31 WHIP in front of hilariously low metrics of: a 1.21 FIP, -0.62 xFIP and 0.32 SIERA.
No, the negative mark wasn’t a typo. That’s just goofy. If you’re the type who likes setup men who can be K/9 anchors while having a decent chance at the ninth, Rosenthal fits your mold.
Eduardo Rodriguez (SP – BOS): 14% owned
E-Rod once again showed his upside by fanning seven Orioles in six innings of one-hit ball on Monday, though the five walks proved that his control hasn’t fallen in line yet this season. He has that potential though — we saw it in the second half last season when he had a decent 3.24 BB/9 alongside the 9.15 K/9. Maybe don’t tap him for his next start against the Cubs, but the southpaw’s ceiling is quite high.
Jacob Barnes (RP – MIL): 17% owned
Yes, everyone probably went a little overboard after he recorded his first Major League save after Neftali Feliz had thrown too many pitches the prior day (and gave up four runs in a blown save) but this is another intriguing setup man with plus Ks to be aware of. If one lowers the minimum IP requirement to 10 on the swinging-strike leaderboard for relievers, it reads: Chris Devenski at 19.7 percent and then Jacob Barnes at 19.4 percent.
Is that good? I think that’s good. He’s also second in O-Swing at 41.2 percent. I like what you’ve got, Jacob.
Deep League Targets – <10% Owned
Trevor Cahill (SP/RP – SD): 3% owned
Cahill has not only logged a 3.44 ERA and 1.04 WHIP through his first three starts of 2017 but has beaten that with his fielding-independent metrics. The sinkerballer’s 3.34 FIP, 2.89 xFIP, and 3.02 SIERA are big fans of how he’s opened the season. While he’ll likely give back some of his current 10.31 K/9, he did post a 9.05 K/9 as a bullpen arm in ’16 for the Cubbies.
What will really make or break him is whether he can maintain a low BABIP again (.246 in ’16, .233 currently), something the Cubs defense undoubtedly aided him greatly with. He’ll have a big test at how low he can keep the ball when he takes on the D-backs in Arizona on April 26.
Chad Kuhl (SP – PIT): 9% owned
I know, I know — he just got shelled by the Cubs for nine runs in a 1 2/3-inning outing on Tuesday. Honestly, I wasn’t buying beforehand, but now too many deep leaguers may be jumping ship despite his strong quality starts in his two previous outings. His one-run start against the Red Sox in Fenway with six strikeouts against no walks was closer to his true talent level, but the 24-year-old still needs to develop consistency.
Don’t judge him solely by his outcome against the defending champs when he clearly didn’t have his stuff going for him. He’ll face the Marlins in Miami on April 30 next.
Jesse Hahn (SP – OAK): 6% owned
Hahn will look to tally his fourth straight appearance of 2017 in which he goes six innings and allows three or fewer runs when he takes on the Angels on Wednesday. Hahn has quietly posted a 3.00 ERA and 1.22 WHIP (3.23 FIP) with 14 Ks in 18 innings thus far. His batted-ball rates read more like his useful 2014 (3.07 ERA, 1.21 WHIP) and 2015 (3.35 ERA, 1.17 WHIP) campaigns rather than last season’s abbreviated ugliness.
Tom Murphy (C – COL): 8% owned
Rare is the fantasy owner that has DL-stash capabilities left, but Murphy is worth noting as we approach the end of April. Coors Field is the perfect place for him to smash the baseball, even if he does have to split time with Tony Wolters. There are more two-catcher and NL-only leagues out there than just eight percent, right?
German Marquez (SP – COL): 0% owned
Last week we identified Marquez as the likely fill-in for Jon Gray and would you look at that, he’s getting the start on Wednesday. This comes on the heels of two outstanding Triple-A showings where he struck out a combined 16 batters against zero walks and two earned runs over just eight innings. Don’t go in expecting an 18.00 K/9 and he isn’t totally stretched out yet, but boy does he have some momentum going at zero percent owned.
Yonder Alonso (1B – OAK): 3% owned
Alonso has long been known as a James Loney-type — a guy who makes solid contact but really does nothing of use with it for fantasy purposes. He didn’t hit enough fly balls to be a power bat, but he wasn’t going to hit .300 either so we all went about our business without him. However, he’s opened this season with a 48.6 percent fly-ball rate and a 40.5 percent hard-hit rate that has more than tripled his HR/FB rate from 2016 (5.1 percent to 16.7 percent) and has yielded three homers.
That makes him nearly halfway to his seven homers from all of 2016 in nearly 10 percent of the plate appearances. Intriguing, no? For what it’s worth, his diamond-mate Trevor Plouffe (also 3% owned) has been blistering the ball and is worth a look himself.
Christian Arroyo (SS – SF): 8% owned
Well, he’s shortstop-eligible for now but is going to be playing third base for San Fran as Eduardo Nunez takes over in left field. The 21-year-old prospect had been obliterating Triple-A to the tune of a .446/.478/.692 slash line in his 69 plate appearances (three homers, two steals) so he’s showing some juice after a pretty uninspiring 2016. While he went 0-for-4 from the six-hole in his Major League debut on Tuesday, he still offers some NL-only viability and should be given a glance.
Devin Mesoraco (C – CIN): 6% owned
Yup, it’s weird. Mesoraco will be activated on Friday after Cincinnati will have squeezed all they could get out of his rehab assignment calendar. Even though he’ll be splitting duties with Tucker Barnhart to start, he could earn his way into the lion’s share of playing time if he can show that his bat is back and his body can handle the grind. That’s a big ask, but we’ve seen what a locked-in Mesoraco can produce.