Fantasy Baseball Waiver Wire Pickups: Week 6
We’re a week into May and baseball is, for the most part, still pretty weird in 2017. The 10-day DL is taking away many of our favorite players, but it also means plenty of opportunities for waiver-wire gems to make themselves known. We’ve seen some early surgers come down to Earth while others who have populated earlier iterations of this article are now well beyond the 30-percent threshold. Let’s see what this week has in store for us, shall we?
Ownership levels are taken from Yahoo leagues and, along with the stats, are accurate through May 8.
Priority Pickups – <30% Owned
Byron Buxton (OF – MIN): 29% owned
It’s no secret that Buxton kicked off 2017 by hitting just .105 (6-for-57) with zero homers, zero rib-eyes and one measly steal over his first 18 games. It burned many a breakout-chasing fantasy owner, but there just might be light at the end of the tunnel here.
He’s gone 7-for-24 (.292) with a triple, a homer, seven runs scored, three RBIs and two steals over his last eight games, but most important might be the five walks to five strikeouts as he’s cut his swinging-strike rate down by eight percent. After hitting just four balls over 100 mph from Opening Day through April 28, he’s hit five over his last five games. He still needs to make more consistent contact, but at least he’s making it count more now.
Tyson Ross (SP – TEX): 30% owned
Threw a 30-pitch simulated game on May 8 and should eventually mix in some live batting practice en route to a rehab assignment. It appears as though June is a doable target, with late May being an optimist’s dart throw. While Texas won’t be the Petco Park of old, it was just two years ago when Ross racked up 212 Ks in 196 frames. Monitor his rehab closely, but if you somehow have stash space left to play with then he’s a worthy candidate.
Jesse Hahn (SP – OAK): 21% owned
If you’re reading this then Hahn is likely scooped up in your league, but on the off-chance someone dumped him after his recent 3 2/3-inning clunker then here’s your green light to pick him up. The age-27 arm went five-for-five in the quality starts department in April and still holds a pristine 2.86 FIP behind the 3.03 ERA. He’ll need to be sure that he doesn’t make a habit of walking four guys each outing, but his off-speed pitches (change-up, slider, and curve) can all be used handily.
Aaron Altherr (OF – PHI): 18% owned
Altherr was mentioned here two weeks ago and deserves another blurb considering he’s triple-slashing .338/.427/.631 through 75 plate appearances. He’s always housed a nice combination of power and speed throughout the Minors but suffered through a 30.4 percent strikeout rate and .202 average in his first real taste of the Majors last season before requiring season-ending wrist surgery.
Now, his swinging-strike rate is back down to 9.7 percent (11.7 percent in ’16) near where it sat in his 39-game cup of coffee back in 2015 and his hard-hit rate is at a gorgeous 42.2 percent. Do you want specifics? In May alone, Altherr has hit the ball at an exit velocity of 100 mph or greater eight times in just 27 plate appearances! Five of them were 108 mph or greater! He won’t stay this hot forever and that .439 BABIP and 30.8 percent HR/FB rate will settle, but it can still be above-average the rest of the way, providing fantasy owners with a 15/15/.280 candidate in 2017.
Danny Valencia (1B/3B/OF – SEA): 12% owned
Valencia started the season on a 9-for-62 (.145) skid, but has worked with way back into everyday play by hitting safely in eight of his last 10 games — including a current six-game streak — with three homers, eight runs scored and nine RBIs. Heck, he even stole a base — the scoundrel. His current .227/.283/.381 triple slash might have some owners not realizing what’s happening, but the 32-year-old notably hit 18 homers with a .290 average in just 378 plate appearances only two seasons ago. He’ll always be a better play against lefties (career .321 hitter vs. LHP, .244 vs. RHP) but even that alone can be worth the plunge in deeper formats.
Junior Guerra (SP – MIL): 21% owned
The “just so you know this injured guy is coming back soon” blurb worked nicely with Chris Tillman, so here’s another. Guerra is slated to throw a bullpen session on May 10 followed by two rehab starts, but notably (and annoyingly, if we’re being honest) turned in a 2.81 ERA and 1.13 WHIP last season despite a 4.42 SIERA. Maybe he’s just an outperformer, though even if he’s just a 3.70 ERA arm (he did have a 3.71 FIP) then he’d still be useful to many fantasy owners.
A.J. Griffin (SP – TEX): 32% owned
This writer still firmly believes that Griffin allows too much hard contact to hold up in the long-term (46.3 percent hard-hit rate, 1.77 HR/9 currently — after a 2.12 HR/9 last season) but he’s worthy of attention at this point. The 29-year-old has a career-best 10.1 percent swinging-strike rate and 10.18 K/9 through four starts alongside a healthy six percent walk rate (nine percent in 2016) that all combines to form a 3.34 SIERA behind the 3.54 ERA. His .220 BABIP should regress a bit, but his .254 career mark means he can sustain a relatively low rate…though that’s mostly due to homers not counting against it. The ownership surge in the last day (23 percent when I began writing this on Monday afternoon) is due to his facing the Padres in San Diego on May 9. Enjoy that one!
Tyler Anderson (SP – COL): 16% owned
Anderson threw his change nearly 40 percent of the time in his beautiful 10-strikeout dismantling of the D-backs on May 6. It took him seven starts to log his first quality outing of the season, but he’s showing healthy signs of returning to his solid rookie form rather than that ghastly April being his new norm.
The sophomore southpaw posted a 50.9 percent ground-ball rate in 2016 and induced them on 75 percent of batted balls in this most recent start, easily his best rate of ’17. His 3.89 xFIP points to the kind of guy he can be when not sporting a 2.23 HR/9 (0.94 in ’16) and now that he’s shown he can command the ball low in the zone, fantasy owners should take notice.
Matt Andriese (SP/RP – TB): 21% owned
Andriese has the good fortune of facing the anemic Royals’ offense on May 9, so he gets a mention. His current 3.09 ERA and 1.29 WHIP with 30 Ks in 35 innings (six starts) is also worthy of speaking on, though his 4.63 FIP, 3.96 xFIP and 4.16 SIERA does cool those jets a bit.
He’s been riding his strong changeup to solid results, but can’t outrun a 40.8 percent hard-hit rate forever — especially considering his 49 percent ground-ball rate. Those hard-hit grounders should result in a BABIP higher than .268, but here we are. Take advantage of the matchups, but don’t expect a long-term stud here.
Deep League Targets – <10% owned
Jose Berrios (SP – MIN): 8% owned
Okay, okay, now I really think Berrios is coming up soon. We wrote about him last week and all he did after that was allow one run in 6 2/3 innings of work with four strikeouts and zero walks on May 7. I honestly don’t care if he posted an 8.02 ERA in 14 starts last season, it could’ve been 108.02 and I’d still be here stumping for him.
He’s a top prospect for a reason and has a lengthy Minor League track record showing why (and it isn’t checkered with durability concerns or terrible control like Tyler Glasnow’s or Lucas Giolito’s.) If it pains you that much to make a speculative pickup, you probably shouldn’t be reading this far into this piece anyhow. For what it’s worth, Twins’ beat LaVelle Neal III thinks Berrios gets the call on Saturday. Also, he threw 169 2/3 innings last season so there’s little concern for a limit.
T.J. Rivera (1B/2B/3B – NYM): 2% owned
Rivera offers some nice positional flexibility and has pretty much hit .300 or better at every single level that he’s ever stopped at in the Minor Leagues. He won’t offer much by way of power or speed, but he did swat 14 combined homers and 101 RBIs between Triple-A and the bigs in 555 combined plate appearances last season. Look beyond the one homer in the bigs thus far and you’ll see six doubles, so the power could creep in pretty easily.
The Mets’ depth is being stretched paper thin right now and Rivera has been a bright spot for them, so he should continue to play every day at first until Lucas Duda returns and after that, he may still have a place to slot in around the diamond. He’s batted second in three of his last four games, making him a nice deep-league add
Steve Pearce (1B/2B/OF – TOR): 6% owned
Pearce has failed to deliver even just one homer in the opening month of 2017 after finally (seemingly) being given a chance to play every day after posting ISOs of .200-plus in each of his last three seasons in a part-time role. The powerful 34-year-old kicked off May by going 4-for-4 with a double and two homers before going yard again the very next day.
While he’s gone hitless in the three games since it’s still worth noting that 13 of his 19 batted balls over his last 10 games have clocked in at 95 mph or greater. He was also bumped up to fifth in the order on Monday. Deep-league speculators can’t be too stingy here, and Pearce has shown lots of power in the past. Plus Toronto needs all the help they can get.
Matt Garza (SP – MIL): 5% owned
Old friend Matt Garza has done pretty well for himself in his last two starts, walking zero batters against 11 strikeouts and just four earned over 13 2/3 innings. Throwing out his four-inning season debut since it was an abbreviated rust-shaker (unfair, I know, but it’s my article) leaves him with a 2.34 FIP, 2.72 xFIP and 3.06 SIERA between those two starts.
Really, I’m just a sucker for a guy showing fantastic control. All of this could change in the blink of an eye, of course, but the 33-year-old shouldn’t be overlooked considering it was just in 2014 for Milwaukee when he posted a 3.64 ERA and 1.18 WHIP in 163 1/3 innings.
James Hoyt (RP – HOU): 0% owned
Hoyt is a bad man, in case you weren’t aware. Judging by his ownership level, I’m going to venture a guess that you haven’t been. It’s okay, there’s a lot to get excited about in Houston’s bullpen and that just means you’re all the better for reading this and noticing now. The 30-year-old has used his low-to-mid 90s fastball, a good slider and splitter to dominate hitters to the tune of 13 Ks (with just one walk) over 5 2/3 scoreless innings thus far.
He had struck out eight over five clean frames at Triple-A prior to his promotion and had set down a hilarious 93 hitters in 55 Triple-A innings last season before racking up 28 Ks in 22 innings with Houston down the stretch (4.50 ERA, 1.14 WHIP.) His 20 percent swinging-strike rate is enough to cause me to break a sweat when looking at the leaderboard, so those looking for cheap relief should give him a glance.