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Fantasy Baseball Waiver Wire Pickups: Week 7

by Nick Mariano | @NMariano53 | Featured Writer
May 16, 2017

Has Nate Karns finally grown into an impressive fantasy pitcher?

It’s mid-May, and we’re now dangerously close to being a quarter of the way through the 2017 fantasy baseball season. Standings should feel rather settled by now, and most fantasy owners are aware of their lot when it comes to how aggressive they need to be in making transactions moving forward.

While the waiver wire is your friend, this is also the time to lean into panicky people with trade offers. That said, there’s almost always someone useful on the waiver wire — just like there’s always money in the banana stand. Ownership levels are taken from Yahoo leagues and, along with the stats, are accurate through May 15.

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Priority Pickups – <30% Owned

Nate Karns (SP – KC): 26% owned
Karns wasn’t a name I anticipated being able to write about with my cut-off point, but here we are. The 29-year-old has now struck out double-digit batters in each of his last two outings and has been the fourth best starter over the last two weeks as a result. If 29 Ks in 17 1/3 innings doesn’t impress you, then I’ve got little to speak to you about.

Perhaps you’re just not buying it? His 2.04 FIP and 1.99 xFIP in May say you should. That .294 BABIP is nothing outlandish, and his 2.08 BB/9 is quite healthy.

If one removes a terrible relief appearance, the righty’s seasonal ERA drops to 3.63 with a .227/.288/.427 slash line allowed. He isn’t suddenly Chris Sale, but his longstanding penchant for whiffs (career 9.36 K/9) means some growth is quite possible here.

Domingo Santana (OF – MIL): 25% owned
Santana has gone 13-for-28 (.464) with six runs scored, four RBIs and a stolen base over the past week to pull his BABIP up to match last season’s .359 mark. His career rate of .347 says this is a sustainable level of production for the hard-hitting 24-year-old on the whole after a horrid April (.191 BABIP,) but his hilarious .613 BABIP for May will settle down.

What’s interesting is how he hasn’t homered yet in May, as he seems to be concentrating more on contact rather than just a power drive considering his increase in line-drive rate and slashing his soft-contact rate in half. Reestablishing oneself as a hitter and seeing the ball well is a good first step, with the homers likely to fall in line shortly.

Kevin Kiermaier (OF – TB): 17% owned
If you read any of my preseason pieces, then odds are you know I had a big crush on Kiermaier heading into 2017. It appears that after playing hard to get for most of the year, he’s ready to turn it on this season after going 9-for-22 with two homers, five RBIs, and a stolen base this past week.­ The defensive stud has still given back most of the gains in power-related metrics like his fly-ball, pull and hard-hit rates, but this may the beginning of a season-long rebound as well.

Worst comes to worst, he’s on pace for 12 homers and 25 steals on the season with 80-plus runs and 40 RBIs. Surely there’s a place for that on your squad, even if it comes with an average no greater than .250.

Amir Garrett (SP – CIN): 25% owned
In case he was dropped in your league, Garrett is going to rejoin the Reds’ rotation for a May 20 start against the Rockies at home. Realize that this is far from an ideal matchup and he may be sent down shortly after that as his innings continue to be monitored, but it’s worth tracking all the same. Garrett struck out all six of the minor leaguers that he faced in a short start to stay fresh on May 12, just in case you thought his confidence might be dinged after the demotion.

Zack Godley (SP/RP – ARI): 23% owned
Godley looked divine on Monday night against the Mets, allowing just one run on one hit (and five walks, blah) while accruing seven strikeouts in 6 2/3 innings. There’s no skirting the walks, but when batters only connect for one hit and still swing at enough to K up at a batter-per-inning clip, then we can stomach the iffy control.

He’s posted a whopping 15.2 percent swinging-strike rate through his 18 2/3 Major League frames thus far for a nice 9.16 K/9, and the 3.12 FIP and 2.97 xFIP behind his 1.93 ERA aren’t so bad either. With a turn against the Padres slated for his next matchup, don’t shy away from the 27-year-old.

Justin Bour (1B – MIA): 11% owned
Bour has gone yard four times over his last five games, with two three-hit efforts thrown into the mix for good measure. He’s been bumped up to the cleanup spot from the six-hole as a result of his .318 average in the month versus his .222 April clip.

He’s still only a viable option against righties (118 plate appearances vs. RHP against just 26 vs. LHP), but we’ve seen him sniff a 25-homer campaign in 2015 with the same caveat being true. His 93.5 mph average exit velocity places him seventh in the MLB out of players with at least 50 batted balls, so don’t think he’s just hitting cheapies either.

Matt Garza (SP – MIL): 11% owned
Garza continues to impress in 2017 with three straight quality starts now after his first outing of the season resembled a tune-up affair. His 2.75 ERA over the past three trips to the hill is backed by a 3.12 FIP and 3.16 xFIP with a 15-to-2 K:BB ratio supporting his body of work. His .309 BABIP over that span certainly isn’t lucky, and he gets to face the Padres next on May 17 before facing the Blue Jays at home after that, missing an unfriendly series against the Cubs at Wrigley Field in between his slated starts.

Josh Tomlin (SP – CLE): 13% owned
Tomlin was sharp yet again on May 12 against the Twins, striking out seven over eight innings of one-run ball after allowing just one run over seven frames against the Royals on May 6. His improved May form comes after a woefully unfortunate April that saw him slog through an 8.87 ERA despite a 3.75 FIP and 3.37 xFIP on the month, but he somehow survived a .412 BABIP and 50.3 percent strand rate to come out on the other side with recent success. While the 32-year-old won’t be quite this good moving forward, a mid-threes ERA should be more than attainable with a solid matchup against the Rays on the slate for May 17 before going to Cincinnati next.

Deep League Targets – <10% owned

Justin Smoak (1B – TOR): 8% owned
Smoak has been a nice surprise within an otherwise sluggish Toronto offense in 2017, as he’s now triple-slashing .283/.333/.535 through 39 games (138 PAs) with eight homers and 25 RBIs. This puts him on pace to easily post career-high marks across the board, especially with the rib-eye production being boosted from regularly batting fourth or fifth.

The newfound success is due to a new approach in the batter’s box where he’s focusing more on contact rather than power and letting the chips fall. This is quite the flip from his low-average, decent-pop ways that we’re used to seeing, and therefore many might not be valuing his little 2017 breakout appropriately.

Delino DeShields (OF – TEX): 7% owned
DeShields should benefit the most from Carlos Gomez being shelved for four-to-six weeks with a hamstring injury. He shifted over to Gomez’s spot in center field from left on May 14 and went 2-for-4 with two runs scored, an RBI and a stolen base, and is now 5-for-15 over the past week.

The speedster still needs to improve against lefties this season (4-for-23) but is hitting .291 against righties and should be leading off against RHP as long as he keeps it up. The steals and runs should follow for fantasy owners who make the add.

Luis Perdomo (SP/RP – SD): 4% owned
Perdomo hasn’t factored into the decision in any of his six starts thus far, and along with an uninspiring 4.19 ERA and 1.28 WHIP, I can see why the needle isn’t moving here. That said, the 24-year-old is quietly sporting a 2.93 FIP, 2.91 xFIP and 2.82 SIERA underneath the surface and has struck out 34 in his 34 1/3 innings of work thanks to an improved 10.3 percent swinging-strike rate (8.6 percent in ’16.) His struggles with the long ball seem to be in the past (1.41 HR/9 in ’16, 0.52 so far) as he’s regained his command from the minors where he posted a career 0.5 HR/9 mark, so at the very least tune into his next start on May 20 against the D-backs.

Leury Garcia (OF – CWS): 5% owned
Garcia has recorded a hit in each of his last eight games — notably launching two homers and swiping a bag while tallying six runs and RBIs each over the past five games. The speedy 26-year-old has profited by hitting leadoff in each of the South Sider’s last four games now and looks to be fixed atop the batting order for the foreseeable future. This means more opportunities to produce, which we’re always trained to go after.

While his 20 percent HR/FB rate will likely come back toward 10-12 percent, his speed should be valued considering how he’s topped 30 steals in four Minor League seasons already in his career. That said, the White Sox rank in the bottom-five in steals thus far with 12, but perhaps he can be the spark.

Ezequiel Carrera (OF – TOR): 2% owned
Carrera has ridden a resurgent 21.5 percent line-drive rate and 93.7 percent zone-contact rate to surprisingly excellent results early on in 2017. The 29-year-old’s .314/.340/.441 slash line was mainly due to an 11-game hitting streak that he ended his April with, but he then posted multi-hit games in four straight contests from May 10-13 to bump his stats up again. Unfortunately, he only has 11 runs and 11 RBIs on the season due to the aforementioned Toronto sluggishness, but if he keeps hitting like this, then good things will follow.

Alex Meyer (SP/RP – LAA): 1% owned
Meyer, a first-round draft pick in 2011, has struggled to control his electric fastball over the years but just struck out seven Tigers against a season-low two walks in his first quality start of 2017 on Sunday. The six-foot-nine righty now has 21 strikeouts in just 19 1/3 innings, but it’s the accompanying 14 walks that have hurt his ability to command and work deep into a game. While it’d be premature to declare his control woes gone after just one solid game, there’s no doubting that he can provide a healthy good K count if he can stay on the bump.

Jesus Aguilar (1B – MIL): 1% owned
Aguilar made the Brew Crew’s Opening Day roster on the back of a tremendous spring but failed to turn that opportunity into enough of a hot start to break into the starting lineup. He’s socked the occasional pinch-hit homer, but had by-and-large been on the bench too much to be a fantasy option.

However, with Ryan Braun hurt he’s seen more time at first base (with Eric Thames sliding into left field) and has now laced six hits over his past three games, including two doubles, two triples and a homer alongside four RBIs. Those looking for deep-league pop should take note that his bat and playing time are both on the rise.

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Nick Mariano is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Nick, check out his archive and follow him @NMariano53

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