Fantasy Baseball Waiver Wire Pickups: Week 5
Congratulations to all of you fantasy baseball marathon runners who have persevered through the first month of 2017. We’ve seen some truly miraculous beginnings, such as the renaissance of Ryan Zimmerman and the most epic “Welcome Back” party ever hosted in Milwaukee for Eric Thames — heck, Bud Norris is a good closer! — but we all know it takes more than one good month to win this game. Let’s jump into some waiver-wire action and see what May flowers those April showers brought us.
Ownership levels are taken from Yahoo leagues and, along with the stats, are accurate through May 1.
Priority Pickups – <30% Owned
Eduardo Rodriguez (SP – BOS): 30% owned
Rodriguez made me eat some freshly-baked crow on Sunday night by striking out nine Cubbies while allowing just one earned run (on a Kris Bryant solo shot, nothing to be ashamed of) across six innings after I recommended perhaps not trusting him for the start against the defending World Champions. His last two starts have seen him ring up 16 hitters against just six hits allowed in 12 innings, though he has walked seven and holds an overall 5.4 BB/9 on the season. He’ll need to have more nights like Sunday — when he only issued two free passes — but he and his 14.9 percent swinging-strike rate deserved to be owned in more leagues.
Domingo Santana (OF – MIL): 24% owned
Santana has had more downs than ups this season, but his last four games have seen him go 5-for-11 with a double, three homers, four runs scored and seven RBIs. The slugger’s strikeout rate has fallen from 32.4 percent to 24.7 percent thanks to a 2.5 percent dip in his whiffs and a 3.5 percent rise in his zone-contact rate. His hard-hit rate is still a very respectable 34.6 percent so the tremendous drop in BABIP — from .359 last season to .220 now — for a guy who has regularly posted BABIPs around .350, sometimes even .400 in his professional career, should normalize. Mix in some hitter-friendly Miller Park magic and sneaky speed, and you’ve got a bat worth owning.
Jose Reyes (3B/SS – NYM): 20% owned
Reyes kicked off a little six-game hitting streak on April 23 that saw him go for 9-for-23 with a double, a triple, two homers, six runs scored, three RBIs, two steals and three walks against just one strikeout. It’s tough to dig too much into a hot week, but this is a guy who had only notched six total hits over his first 18 games (70 plate appearances). Reyes is just 33 and still has plenty of speed to burn alongside a non-zero power bat. He’s worked his way up into the two-hole with so many injuries befalling the Mets, which makes his opportunity all the more noteworthy.
Patrick Corbin (SP/RP – ARI): 28% owned
Corbin may not have immediately delivered for those of you who took a late-round flier on him, but if you’ve held on for his last three starts then you know why he’s listed here. The southpaw has allowed just four earned runs with a 23-to-4 K:BB ratio in his last three starts (19 1/3 innings), which means you pay attention — even if two of them did come against the Padres. My buddy Alex Chamberlain enthusiastically noted how he has an absurd 29.7 percent whiff rate on his slider over his last three starts, so it looks as though he could actually build on his strong 2013 numbers for a career-best season. And the humidor hasn’t even been installed yet!
Alex Wood (SP – LAD): 25% owned
Wood may only have one start left before being moved back to the bullpen with Rich Hill‘s return looming and Julio Urias being promoted, but not only is one start good enough for action after a guy takes a no-hitter into the sixth inning, but who here thinks Hill can remain healthy? And if Hill does stay healthy, there are plenty of other injury candidates. I kid you not, as I’m writing this article it just dropped that Hyun-Jin Ryu was being placed on the 10-day DL. It is Wood’s destiny to be a starter!
Okay, so Wood allowed just one hit and one walk in six scoreless innings before being lifted with 77 pitches — a fair call given he’s still somewhat fresh out of the ‘pen — to give him a pristine 2.29 ERA and 0.97 WHIP through 19 2/3 innings (three starts). There’s no dancing around a .197 BABIP, that’s going to rise, but his 2.97 FIP says he’s still well above average even as some more hits start to fall in. Fire him up for his May 2 start against San Francisco and see if he can dazzle again to stake his claim in this rotation for good.
Tim Beckham (1B/2B/SS – TB): 21% owned
Beckham, 2008’s No. 1 overall draft pick, has gone 18-for-52 (.346) with four homers, 10 runs scored and 10 RBIs over his last 14 games for the Rays. He’s also struck out a quarter of the time in that span, but if he’s making the contact count then it becomes difficult to complain. The 27-year-old already has nine “barrels” on the season, tying him with names such as Nolan Arenado and Bryce Harper, and his 17 percent barrels-per-batted-ball metric ranks 15th out of all hitters with at least 30 batted-ball events. His contact rate may not hold, but this is a name many are used to ignoring that should really get a second look.
Charlie Morton (SP – HOU): 10% owned
Morton put his big strikeout foot forward with a fantastic 12-strikeout outing against Oakland on April 28. While it was the A’s and he still gave up four runs, it was due to two of the four fly balls he allowed leaving the yard (last I checked 50 percent HR/FB rates aren’t sustainable.) He didn’t walk a single batter and has a nifty 2.57 BB/9 through 28 innings. His curveball has been a true hammer, as he’s one of five pitchers to record a whiff on over half of the swings induced by the pitch (51.06 percent, 50-pitch minimum.) Also, his .338 BABIP should come down a bit as his ERA works toward his 3.49 FIP, 3.40 xFIP and 3.37 SIERA when he takes on the Rangers at home on May 3 next.
J.J. Hoover (RP – ARI): 8% owned
Someone threw a tomato at my computer just for typing that name, but it’s 2017 and Fernando Rodney has allowed eight runs in his last two trips to the hill, which means we’re looking at who’s behind him. Hoover has quietly rebounded nicely in Arizona after a horrid 2016 campaign, with a solid 1.86 ERA and 1.34 WHIP to show through 9 2/3 innings. He’s posted 10 consecutive scoreless appearances and should be next in line for saves in Arizona for those who want to speculate on Rodney losing the job despite his receiving the foreshadowing vote of confidence on Monday.
Jorge Soler (OF – KC): 16% owned
Soler has about a week left on his rehab assignment, of which Kansas City will use the full 20 days of allotted time so as to not rush him back. He’s currently 6-for-24 with two homers and five RBIs at Triple-A, so it isn’t as though his power that saw him swat 12 long balls in just 264 plate appearances last season has gone anywhere. Look for the 25-year-old to get a healthy dose of playing time considering their dead-last .336 team slugging percentage as he challenges for a 20-homer season in less than five months of play.
Deep League Targets – <10% owned
J.C. Ramirez (SP/RP – LAA): 8% owned
Ramirez has entered the rotation in style thanks to a 12.1 percent swinging-strike rate and 10.08 K/9 through four starts (27 2/3 innings.) His 4.23 ERA might have some owners in shallower leagues shrugging him off, but his 3.17 FIP/3.38 xFIP/3.34 SIERA profiles him as a viable arm that could offer even greater results if he regains his 54.9 percent ground-ball rate from last season (37.7 percent currently). Of course, if that means sacrificing the Ks then keep on doing what you’re doing instead, J.C — like throwing a slider that has the fifth-best whiff-per-swing rate (48.15 percent) in MLB. He squares up to face the Astros at home next.
Jose Berrios (SP – MIN): 6% owned
Berrios has quickly made a strong case for another shot at the bigs in 2017, as he has turned five Triple-A starts into a 2-0 record with 35 strikeouts in 33 innings alongside a 1.09 ERA and 0.79 WHIP. The 23-year-old has enjoyed a low .200 BABIP thus far but is showing rejuvenated control (2.18 BB/9) alongside the strikeout stuff. The rumblings around the Twin Cities portend his next opportunity coming soon — perhaps as soon as May 6 — and while 2016’s audition wasn’t pretty, this is not a train you want to miss.
Kolten Wong (2B/OF – STL): 6% owned
Wong’s production out of the bottom third of St. Louis’ batting order has been steady over the past two weeks, in case you haven’t been looking there. He’s hit safely in 11 of his last 13 games — 14-for-43 (.326) in all — with a homer, eight runs scored, seven RBIs and two steals. That’s nothing to scoff at, especially since we’ve seen first-hand that the 26-year-old is capable of hitting double-digit homers alongside 15-plus steals at the MLB level before. His counting stats won’t be all that fun hitting so low in the order, but he’s making a case for steady playing time here and that means fantasy owners need to know about it.
Tommy Kahnle (RP – CWS): 2% owned
Kahnle has always been armed with a lights-out arsenal, but he simply couldn’t locate consistently enough to be truly reliable. Well, the 27-year-old — and also your current FIP leader with a hilarious -0.87 mark — appears to have flipped that script by walking only one batter in his nine innings of work thus far in 2017. Did I mention that he’s also struck out 19 along the way?
Yes, in a full game’s worth of work he has allowed one run on six hits (no homers) and a walk alongside 19 Ks. His teammate Anthony Swarzak (four percent owned) has also been incredible with only three hits and a walk allowed in 12 1/3 innings of work with 14 Ks, but Kahnle is on another level. If you missed out Chris Devenski, don’t feel bad about “settling” for Kahnle.
Michael A. Taylor (OF – WAS): 3% owned
Taylor hasn’t changed his big-swinging, low-average ways here, but the opportunity has risen for him to step into Adam Eaton’s everyday role in this beyond-potent lineup. His first two games have seen him go 5-for-11 with three runs and two RBIs, though he’s also struck out three times. Prior to that illustrious two-game sample, he had gone a mere 2-for-22 with zero extra-base hits, but we’ve seen what he can do before when he’s on. It was only two years ago that he hit 14 homers and stole 16 bases for the Nationals, though it came with a .229 average. He’ll strike out a lot, but if he can produce enough pop and speed to stay in the lineup then you’ve scored a quiet 15/15 candidate here.