Fantasy Baseball Waiver Wire Pickups: Week 9
Look, there’s no replacing Mike Trout. If you have a pitching surplus and you can deal for an elite bat or two then that’s great, but most likely you’re here to try to either compensate for losing Trout’s power or his speed. Either way, you’re going to come up short, but we’ll do our best to put a nice little band-aid over that wound. Or maybe you own Bryce Harper and know you’ll need a short-term replacement. No? Well, then you probably lost Danny Duffy or Alex Wood. Yeah, it’s been bad.
Quick hits on some oft-repeated names that could help “replace” Trout: Those searching for pop should hope that Domingo Santana (33% owned) or Steven Souza Jr. (27% owned) are out there, while those requiring speed should glance at oft-repeated names like Kevin Kiermaier or Bradley Zimmer (both 17% owned.)
With essentially one-third of the season in the books, let’s see what else is out there.
Ownership levels are taken from Yahoo leagues and, along with the stats, are accurate through May 29.
Priority Pickups – <30% Owned
Hunter Renfroe (OF – SD): 29% owned
Don’t worry, there are other power bats out in the sea! Renfroe hit the second-slowest homer of 2017 for San Diego on Monday, but turning on a two-seamer that’s running in on you ain’t easy. He said he got a lot of handle on the ball but it still went 95.2 mph over the wall, which just speaks to the raw strength of Renfroe as the grand salami improved his line to .327 (17-for-52) with five homers and 14 RBIs over his last 15 games. The Padres offense might not be a fun ship to jump on, but Renfroe’s last two weeks have been quite worthwhile.
Lucas Duda (1B – NYM): 12% owned
Duda has quietly posted a .959 OPS — good for 20th in MLB out of hitters with at least 100 PAs — and yet he finds himself next to the bargain bin here. Not everyone plays with on-base percentage as a factor so I recognize that his incredible 16.5 percent walk rate may be irrelevant to some, but even when it doesn’t count as a stat, it’s never really irrelevant. This means that he’s seeing the ball quite well — a feature we like in a hitter. Combine that with his three long balls in this little five-game hitting streak he’s got going and a promotion to the cleanup spot and baby, you’ve got a stew going.
Tyler Anderson (SP – COL): 27% owned
I will stump for Anderson until I’m blue in the face, which is probably right when he’ll mess it all up — but that’s beside the point! The southpaw delivered yet again last week and now owns a 2.55 ERA with 32 strikeouts against just seven walks over his 24 2/3 innings this month. Luckily, his April was so terrible that his overall line is still bad enough where less-savvy owners might be overlooking him. No one is going to sit around and say that Coors Field is suddenly pitcher-friendly, but a home date with a Mariners team that ranks 28th in wOBA (.271) over the past two weeks isn’t going to scare me away from a hot arm.
German Marquez (SP – COL): 24% owned
Yeah, we’re doubling down again but this doesn’t even have to be about Marquez. Sure, the 22-year-old has a 2.21 ERA with a 4-1 record and 33 Ks over his last six starts, but all you need to know is that he’s facing the Padres next (in San Diego, no less.) Remember how we just said the Mariners were 28th in wOBA over the last two weeks? Well, the Pads check in at No. 29! If you can target them, then you should do so. Marquez is good on his own, but this is a great matchup.
Jimmy Nelson (SP – MIL): 13% owned
Nelson’s overall 3.83 ERA, 3.40 FIP, 3.72 xFIP and 3.83 SIERA are dandy on their own, but the 27-year-old’s May has been solely responsible for his numbers looking respectable. His 2.28 ERA and 1.16 WHIP on the month are backed by a 2.38 FIP, 2.74 xFIP, 3.07 SIERA and a nine percent rise in his strikeout rate. He says he’s gotten a renewed feel for his curveball, which undoubtedly has played a role in raising the rate at which he’s inducing soft contact from 14.1 percent to an even 25 percent of the time — tied for sixth best in the MLB. He draws the Dodgers at home next on June 2.
Mitch Moreland (1B – BOS): 14% owned
Moreland snapped out of a little skid about two weeks ago and has since gone 13-for-38 with three homers, eight runs scored and 10 RBIs over his last 12 games. While he’ll no longer draw starts against lefties, that doesn’t mean a guy who hits in the middle-third of Boston’s emerging lineup isn’t worth playing when he draws the start. He’s posted a 41 percent hard-hit rate (with a minuscule 9.8 percent soft-contact rate) in May after a 49.2 percent hard-hit rate in April, so please believe the guy puts the bat on the ball well. His 27.9 percent fly-ball rate in May should head back toward a career mark that sits 10 percent higher, making the lefty-swinger a 20-homer threat from the middle of a potent lineup.
Dinelson Lamet (SP – SD): 15% owned
This is the perfect time to transition to a Padres’ pitcher, right? Lamet shined through five innings of one-run ball with eight strikeouts against the Mets in his Major League debut, and today (May 30) he gets a real test against the Cubs at home. After that, he would line up to face the D-backs at Chase Field. But Lamet has that 11.0 K/9 potential and long-term ace viability if he could just keep the walks down (4.62 BB/9 at Triple-A prior to the promotion). You don’t have to play him against the Cubs — I wouldn’t either — but if he does really well against them then you can bet your bottom dollar that his ownership will be above 30 percent come next week.
Andrelton Simmons (SS – LAA): 12% owned
Simmons is an interesting case in that he’s become synonymous with “great real-life player, terrible fantasy asset.” But it’s 2017 and anything can happen, so here we are touting the suddenly useful Simmons. He went yard Monday night for his fifth homer of the season, and in case you didn’t know, that total surpasses his mark from both 2015 and ’16 despite only having 200 at-bats so far. The star defender’s hard-hit rate has jumped up from 23.4 percent to 33.7 percent this season, which means the modest pop isn’t fluky at all. His hard-earned 15-homer potential alongside a capacity for 10 steals makes him a viable option in deep formats.
Ty Blach (SP/RP – SF): 11% owned
Blach stays true to his name by causing many fantasy owners to go “blach” when they realize he has just 19 strikeouts in 49 1/3 innings of work this season. Yes, the 26-year-old is tied with Jeremy Hellickson — who is absolutely terrible this season, by the way — for the lowest strikeout rate in the Majors at 9.5 percent. That’s lower than R.A. Dickey and Jered Weaver, for crying out loud. That said, he struck out a season-high five in his last start en route to his third straight victory and his fourth consecutive quality start. There’s no erasing that horrid eight-earned effort from May 6 against Cincinnati from the history books, but it’s neat to note that without it, he has a 2.21 ERA over 40 2/3 innings. With plus control and usually-sturdy command, Blach gets to face the team ranked 30th — dead last — in wOBA over the last 14 days next in the Phillies on June 2. You could do worse.
Deep League Targets – <10% owned
Whit Merrifield (2B/OF – KC): 4% owned
Merrifield extended his hitting streak to 14 games in quite glorious fashion on Monday night. The 28-year-old ended up falling a single shy of the cycle, scoring three runs with two RBIs on his 3-for-4 day. He now has a .289/.341/.488 triple slash through 133 plate appearances and has noticeably tuned up his swing toward fly balls in 2017. His fly-ball rate is up eight percent compared to last season, and he’s still more than capable of swiping a bag or two, so perhaps it’s time to give this Royal a shot.
Robert Gsellman (SP – NYM): 7% owned
Gsellman now owns a 2.81 ERA in his 16 innings of work (two starts, two ‘pen appearances) since being removed from the rotation on May 13 as a little “reset button” of sorts. It seems to have worked. Prior to the removal, the 23-year-old had posted a horrid 7.27 ERA thanks in part to an awful .361 BABIP and 54.2 percent strand rate. While he manufactured some of his own terrible luck, his 4.24 SIERA over that same time span pointed to the potential for brighter days. Combine that with his solid 2.42 ERA in 44 2/3 innings last season and one has to accept that what we’re seeing right now could be sustainable. He’ll face the Pirates at home on June 3 next.
Jorge Bonifacio (OF – KC): 5% owned
Bonifacio profiles as a more typical free-swinging slugger, with seven homers and a 25.7 percent strikeout rate over his first 31 games (109 plate appearances.) While his 31.8 percent HR/FB rate will undoubtedly tumble toward the 10-15 percent range, one can’t simply ignore his 20-homer potential in today’s day and age of injuries. Even if the Royals’ offense continues to sputter and provide lousy counting stats alongside the pop, deep-leaguers would do well to realize that the 24-year-old hit 19 homers with 86 RBIs and a healthy .277 average in 558 Triple-A PAs last season.
Chase Utley (1B/2B – LAD): 2% owned
Utley’s overall .233/.328/.388 slash line belies his recent success as he’s socked three homers over his last five games. The smooth-swinging 38-year-old has been playing every day at the keystone position for the Dodgers to help fill in the gaps with Justin Turner out, and he’s simply been producing. Heck, he even has three steals so far. It’s unlikely to last, but he did hit 14 homers last season and still has some pop in that bat of his for those in deep formats looking for someone getting playing time.