Fantasy Baseball Waiver Wire Pickups: Week 8
Are you feeling it now, fantasy owners? That little bit of heat coming on that signals the approaching summer months? Okay, maybe that was just the recent heat wave that hit the northeastern U.S. getting to my head, but regardless, we’re just a week away now from being one-third of the way through the 2017 fantasy baseball season.
We’re here to serve you the waiver-wire goodness whether you’re enjoying an early lead, fighting in the middle of the pack or clinging to life support with half of your players on the disabled list. Ownership levels are taken from Yahoo leagues and, along with the stats, are accurate through May 22.
Priority Pickups – <30% Owned
Tyson Ross (SP – TEX): 29% owned
Ross will make his first rehab start of 2017 today (Tuesday, May 23) for Triple-A Round Rock, which can really only go a couple of ways — with the upside outweighing the risk. If he looks sharp and strikes out several batters while inducing groundouts with some regularity then the price of admission likely rises. If he doesn’t necessarily look impressive but also doesn’t suffer a setback, then he got his work in and is one step closer to action. If he suffers a setback then oh well, back to the rest of this list. You aren’t going to find 200-strikeout arms just growing on trees here.
Logan Morrison (1B – TB): 26% owned
I was going to write about Morrison regardless of Monday’s game, but he decided to go and hit a homer anyway so that’s just lovely. He’s now hit safely in eight consecutive starts and has smashed seven homers in his last 17 starts, which tends to lead to nice things when consistently batting cleanup. His 32 RBIs may not be predictive, but they’re no fluke either. Both his fly-ball rate (44.2 percent) and hard-hit rate (40.4 percent) are career-high marks, which further backs the power results and HR/FB-rate surge. Given the opportunity and improved metrics, why can’t LoMo vie for a 30-homer, 100-RBI season?
Justin Bour (1B – MIA): 27% owned
Last week we wrote about Bour having gone yard in four of his last five games, and this week we can accurately write that he’s cleared the fence in three of his last four games. Yes, since May 10 the six-foot-three slugger has gone 14-for-37 with seven round-trippers, though they’ve somehow only yielded 10 RBIs. While we aren’t painting him as the next 40-homer threat, it appears the 28-year-old may be raising his ceiling a bit due to his being 9-for-32 (.281) with two homers against southpaws thus far in ’17. Those are his first two homers against them in his lifetime, as he’s only been given 135 career at-bats against them (.237 average). If he can earn some more looks (and continue to deliver) against portsiders then he becomes a true 30-homer threat.
German Marquez (SP – COL): 13% owned
There is an intriguing clash of fantasy trends colliding in 2017, as the excitement for rookies is meeting the “Colorado pitcher” image of a beleaguered veteran doing their best to give the offense a chance to score 10 runs for the win. Well, Rocktober may not be here yet, but things are looking promising in the Mile High City.
Marquez is a 22-year-old righty who struck out 18 hitters in just 10 Triple-A innings before stepping into the injured Jon Gray’s rotation slot, and now there may be no turning back for the kid. His first start stunk — no bones about it — but since then he’s been strong in three of four starts, including a no-hit bid against the Cubs at Coors Field. His 3.16 FIP in that span (2.16 ERA) and healthy 22 strikeouts in 25 innings makes him just one of many useful young arms in that Rockies rotation.
Tyler Anderson (SP – COL): 17% owned
Why not just get right to it, then? Anderson was one of my favorite adds last season, posting a 3.54 ERA and 1.29 WHIP alongside 99 K’s and a 3.59 FIP and 3.84 SIERA as a rookie in Colorado. My attention was piqued. He showed healthy command and induced grounders over half of the time (50.9 percent,) leading me to wax poetic about him on SiriusXM radio as well as many preseason articles, but then April happened. The southpaw would post a 7.71 ERA with 24 Ks, 11 walks and nine homers allowed over just 24 2/3 innings.
April showers bring May flowers, however, and the 27-year-old has since logged a 3.06 ERA with 25 Ks against only five walks and two homers allowed in 17 2/3 innings. Personally, I love seeing a 34.7 percent strikeout rate that is the fifth best in the MLB thus far in the month. He gets to face the Phillies next on May 25, making him a great add considering Philly is just 22nd in wOBA (.317) in May.
Devin Mesoraco (C – CIN): 8% owned
Cincinnati isn’t going to press him hard, but Mesoraco has gone 4-for-7 in his two starts since rejoining the starting lineup on May 20 after missing four games with a hamstring injury. The durability cloud will likely hang over the backstop for the rest of his career, but if one can juggle him in and out of their fantasy lineups just like the Reds are doing then you could end up with around 18-20 homers. The off days will likely annoy you, but his showing any signs of being the same kind of hitter that he was in 2014 makes him a worthy speculative add.
Brad Peacock (SP/RP – HOU): 17% owned
Oh, sure. Why not? Peacock was brilliant in his spot start, striking out eight of the 16 batters he faced in his 4 1/3 scoreless innings of work while allowing just one hit and two walks. He’s ridden an improved slider to wonderful results in 2017, now with 30 Ks in just 20 2/3 innings with a silly 0.87 ERA and 0.97 WHIP. That said, his biggest hurdle has always been control and he’s now issued 12 free passes already (career 4.47 BB/9.) Even if Dallas Keuchel comes back on time and Houston opts to keep Mike Fiers and Joe Musgrove in the rotation over him, Peacock should be useful as a reliever in some deeper leagues. Not quite Chris Devenski-level useful, but a still useful.
Matt Garza (SP – MIL): 20% owned
Garza had to settle for the no-decision against the Padres his last time out despite allowing just five base runners over six strong innings of one-run ball. His last four starts have now all been of the quality variety and his 18-to-3 K:BB ratio is pristine, which leads to a hearty 3.00 FIP behind the 2.45 ERA in that span to make him a worthwhile waiver target heading into a home matchup with the Blue Jays on May 24. This could be a dangerous spot, and I won’t begrudge you for benching him here, but the 33-year-old is showing life on his pitches that hasn’t been seen since 2014. It’s easy to miss out on production from “has-beens” with so many young, new toys to get excited about, but that’s just a market inefficiency to be exploited.
Cameron Maybin (OF – LAA): 9% owned
Maybin stuffed Monday’s stat sheet with a homer, two runs scored, an RBI, a stolen base and two walks to raise his seasonal slash line to .244/.370/.348 through 162 plate appearances. He’s now rather quietly been successful on 10-of-11 steal attempts and has scored 25 runs this season, but it’s this last week or so that has really jumped out. It all started on May 14 when Maybin swiped three bags in a three-walk game, only to rap out five hits two days later as the Angels’ newly-appointed leadoff hitter. He’d follow that up with a three-hit game and just appears to be locked in. Don’t expect the world here, but he’s earned the right to run and should deliver solid value for deep-leaguers hunting speed, runs and a decent average.
Adam Frazier (2B/OF – PIT): 11% owned
Look, no one is just going to step in and replace Starling Marte. Ain’t happenin’. But Frazier has done well to get on base and let good things happen around him lately in Marte’s stead. The 25-year-old entered play on Monday having collected two or more hits in each of his last six starts with six runs scored and seven RBIs from the leadoff spot.
He would only get one hit on Monday, ruining the streak, but his .368/.427/.471 slash line still looks awfully okay, I suppose. The drawback here is his lack of pop and only being one-for-five on steal attempts thus far, which really hinders his fantasy appeal. Those in deeper leagues should definitely chase the opportunity, but it’ll be tough for him to sustain viability if he can’t use his double-digit speed to contribute.
Jimmy Nelson (SP – MIL): 14% owned
Nelson has struggled with consistency thus far in his career, but right now he seems to have a good feel for his curveball and it shows. The 27-year-old has struck out eight in each of his last two outings with his first May start being an impressive perfect three-inning stint that was shortened by a rain delay. He holds a 2.53 FIP behind his 1.15 May ERA and has boosted his strikeout rate by over 10 percent while maintaining his palatable 7.9 percent walk rate. This isn’t marketed as a sexy move, but if he turns in a strong start against the Blue Jays on May 23 then owners in 12-team leagues will likely want to catch this wave.
Deep League Targets – <10% owned
Chad Pinder (2B – OAK): 1% owned
Pinder did not own the most prolific power profile in the Minors, averaging roughly 14 homers in each of his last three seasons on the farm, but he’s made quite the name for himself so far in the MLB. The 460-foot rocket that he smashed onto Oakland’s plaza reserve level on Saturday was no fluke (only Larry Walker and Mark McGwire had ever reportedly done so before him.)
Out of all hitters with at least 30 batted-ball events, StatCast has Pinder’s 94.7 mph average exit velocity as trailing only Miguel Sano’s outstanding figure. Yes, the rookie is ahead of Aaron Judge, Joey Gallo and teammate Khris Davis. His average batted-ball distance of 259 feet leads the MLB. While there’s definitely some small-sample size action going on, this is a legitimate trend from a touted young bat that needs to be paid attention to.
Mark Canha (CI/OF – OAK): 1% owned
Not far behind Pinder on that average-distance list is Canha, whose 232-foot mark is tied with teammate Yonder Alonso for sixth best in the bigs. The 28-year-old has shown 20-homer potential in the Minors and socked three homers in just 44 plate appearances for Oakland last season. He’s matched that figure in 51 PAs here in ’17 while also more than halving his strikeout rate. The guy has a track record of pulling the ball, hitting the ball in the air and holding a hard-hit rate of around 38 percent. Mix in some non-zero speed and this hot-hitter should be worth spinning in AL-only formats.
Yan Gomes (C – CLE): 7% owned
Gomes took a bit of the air out of this by going 0-for-4 on Monday, but I think his body of work in the rest of May will still shine bright enough. He entered play on May 22 having gone 15-for-39 (.385) with six doubles, two homers six runs scored and nine RBIs over 12 games, which is a vast improvement over his .176-average, two-RBI April. Perhaps the most pleasant sign is that he’s struck out just six times in 49 plate appearances this month compared to 12 Ks in 59 April PAs, though I’ve now likely doomed him to a golden sombrero or something. Still just 29 years old and three years removed from a 21-homer season, Gomes is worth eyeing if you’re hurting at catcher in 2017.
Robbie Grossman (OF – MIN): 2% owned
Grossman has been starting on my on-base percentage teams for most of the season, but he’s now logged two hits in four of his last five games and really could be of use to others in 2017. In case you missed him last season, the 27-year-old posted a solid .386 OBP with 11 homers in 99 games (389 PAs.) He’s already swatted four homers and has a mean .417 OBP through 33 games (127 PAs) in ’17, with a three-percent drop in his swinging-strike rate leading to even better plate discipline from the former Pirate farmhand. This isn’t to say he’ll turn into a star, just that he’s getting on base a ton and that leads to useful three-run games like Monday’s.
Yolmer Sanchez (2B – CWS): 3% owned
Sanchez had a nice 13-game hitting streak going in games that he had started in before going 0-for-4 with three strikeouts on Monday, but that means he’s now failed to log a hit in just two games this month. He’s hitting .364 with nine runs scored and nine RBIs in May, and while he’s only two-for-five on steal attempts in that span, the South Siders have penciled him into the leadoff spot in two of their last three games now. His bat will cool off soon — perhaps Monday marked the start of that — but his hitting and usage is worth noting for those in deeper formats.