Fantasy Baseball Waiver Wire Pickups: Week 3
Welcome to the middle of April, where that itch of “is this cold start going to last all year” really starts to take hold. Also, where the literal cold start across the country has led to tons of postponed games and disgruntled fantasy owners. Even indoor games aren’t safe anymore! Don’t fret, it’ll all even out by September! We’re here to guide you through the nasty jungle known as the waiver wire, with the cutoff being players owned in 30% of leagues.
Ownership levels are taken from Yahoo leagues and, along with the stats, are accurate through April 16.
Priority Pickups – <30% Owned
Mallex Smith (TB – OF): 22% owned
The speedy Smith had been playing in left field with Brad Miller out due to a groin injury, and now Mighty Mallex is to see the “bulk of opportunity” to man center field while Kevin Kiermaier recovers from a torn thumb ligament. Playing time is great, he needs all the opportunities to run that he can because he can’t generate it with a power stroke and the team around him isn’t going to help. He’s usually stuck batting in the lower third of the order, but if he continues to keep that batting average at or above .300 then he should force Kevin Cash’s hand and unseat either Denard Span or Carlos Gomez atop the order. It wouldn’t hurt him to improve his defense either, but that shouldn’t burn us here with TB desperate for a spark.
Zack Wheeler (NYM – SP): 26% owned
Aren’t you glad you read this column last week and got Wheeler’s awesome start against the hapless Marlins? Oh, you weren’t ready yet? That’s okay, I get it. Well if you missed it, Wheeler’s 2018 Major League debut saw him allow one run on just two hits and a walk while fanning seven fish over seven impressive frames. He’ll now draw a tougher opponent in the Washington
Bryce Harpers Nationals on Tuesday, but if he conquers them then we could really be onto something. That would take him from “good streamer” to “legit fantasy option.”
Eduardo Rodriguez (BOS – SP): 24% owned
Oh, Eduardo. It feels like just yesterday when I was touting you as a 200-strikeout guy for 2017 in a bold predictions piece. While the innings weren’t there to make it so, he still rung up 150 batters in 137 1/3 frames and has continued to put away hitters with 15 Ks in just 9 2/3 innings thus far. He still runs high pitch counts and seems unlikely to go deeper than the seventh inning in most contests, but that works just fine in today’s bullpen-happy environment anyway. His early 1.45 WHIP is hurt by a .409 BABIP that is sure to fall, though he’s also faced Tampa Bay and Baltimore thus far. He’ll be tested by a tough Angels lineup on Thursday.
Franchy Cordero (SD – OF): 14% owned
Not just a good pickup for potential team names, Cordero has the raw talent to be an absolute fantasy stud. My mind goes to Melvin Upton Jr. in his prime with the speed watered down just a smidge. Anyone familiar with Upton knows that this means strikeouts are a big issue, and they are! Cordero had a 44.4% strikeout rate in 99 MLB PAs last season and a 28.2% rate in 97 Triple-A Games, but the 17 HRs and 15 SBs in those 97 contests are just so tantalizing. He’s already gone deep twice and stolen a base in 18 PAs with the Pads but could be out of a job when Wil Myers and Manuel Margot return. That said, the Friars would be wise to give him a look over the struggling Hunter Renfroe, in my opinion.
Kyle Barraclough (MIA – RP): 24% owned
A.J. Minter (ATL – RP): 14% owned
Reliever stats can take a long time to even out after a cold start since they don’t work all that often, but my worry over Brad Ziegler and Arodys Vizcaino aren’t related to their stat lines. They don’t help, though. Ziegler’s name shouldn’t surprise anyone, as he’s never been able to generate strikeouts (4.98 K/9 in 2017, yuck) and is likely to be dealt for a peanut at the Trade Deadline. He’s also 0-3 to start the year, with just one save so far. That’s how many saves Vizcaino has so far, but at least Viz has nine Ks in 7 2/3 innings. But he also has six walks, which is gross.
Enter: Barraclough and Minter. While “Bearclaw” did allow two solo homers to earn the blown save on April 11, those are the only two runs he’s allowed so far and represent two of three total hits surrendered in 5 2/3 IP. He also owns a beautiful 11-to-2 strikeout-to-walk ratio. The 27-year-old has always possessed huge K upside, but if he’s turned a corner with walks (career 5.44 BB/9) then he could be a difference-maker regardless of which inning he pitches.
Meanwhile, Minter hasn’t allowed a run in his 8 1/3 innings of work and has struck out 33 hitters in 23 1/3 career frames. Yes, he’s left-handed and dominates fellow southpaws more than righties (career .172/.250/.172 allowed vs. LHP, .216/.245/.392 vs. RHP prior to 4/16) but as you can see, righties don’t do much better. Vizcaino had a rough 4.21 xFIP underneath the 2.83 ERA last season and his early 2.35 ERA has a blah 4.63 xFIP behind it.
Michael Kopech (CWS – SP): 11% owned
While Kopech’s second start of 2018 wasn’t as great as his first, he’s still allowed just one run in 10 innings alongside an 11-to-4 strikeout-to-walk ratio. We already know he can bring the heat and rack up whiffs, but if he can keep the walk totals tame then we’ve got a fantasy-relevant arm on our hands. Err, shoulders? Anyway, the 22-year-old had a 5.02 BB/9 in ’16 at High-A for Boston and a 4.53 BB/9 in ’17 at Double-A for the ChiSox. His 3.6 BB/9 right now is about as high as I want to see it, but it’s also early and fluctuations are part of the game. Another neat nugget: He’s only allowed 11 homers in 301 2/3 professional innings alongside his 381 strikeouts.
Teoscar Hernandez (TOR – OF): 10% owned
Hernandez had plenty of buzz heading into the regular season thanks to an electric spring (.358, 4 HR, 15 RBIs), but the toolsy outfielder had nowhere to play. With Kevin Pillar, Curtis Granderson, Steve Pearce, and Randal Grichuk in the bigs, Hernandez was the odd man out and sent to Triple-A. He hit two dingers and swiped two bags in just 18 PAs there before Josh Donaldson’s DL stint warranted a call-up. He got the start on Friday and went 2-for-5 with two RBI and a stolen base. Grichuk has a -16 wRC+ thanks to a .071/.149/.167 slash line through 47 PAs, and Toronto could (should) reward the hot hand and see what they’ve got in Teoscar. Don’t wait.
Deep League Targets – <10% owned
Luiz Gohara (ATL – SP): 9% owned
Gohara is set to make his first rehab start with Double-A Mississippi on Tuesday, and if that goes well then you know the hype train will raise the FAAB price and lower your likelihood of getting a young stud for free. He made his Major League debut at age-20 and struck out 31 hitters in 29 1/3 innings with a gorgeous 2.75 FIP behind the 4.91 ERA. Keep an eye on the control during his rehab outings, but don’t wait for the buzz to build up for this Bravo.
Victor Arano (PHI – RP): 0% owned
Everyone’s rightfully hot and bothered by what Adam Ottavino is doing, but Arano has faced 22 batters so far in 2018 and he has retired each and every one of them. Oh, and he sat down the final five hitters faced in ’17 (when he posted a 1.69 ERA/0.94 WHIP in 10 2/3 IP), so he’s really thrown a perfect game. Those are good, yes? Arano boasts an improved sinker (that he picked up through conversing with Sergio Romo this past weekend), a low-to-mid 90s fastball and a slider. He changes eye levels extremely well to set up the sinker and could be a dynamite closer one day soon.
Aledmys Diaz (TOR – SS): 8% owned
With Troy Tulowitzki out indefinitely (recovering from ankle surgeries) and Devon Travis playing some terrible ball to open 2018, Diaz and his four homers in just 39 PAs have been a bright spot north of the border. The 2016 breakout is more than unlikely to sustain a 28.6% HR/FB rate, but his .179 BABIP should also climb toward his career .294 mark to help produce value for fantasy owners. Throw in the occasional SB (he’s already got one) and we could see a useful couple of months, if not the full season, out of the 27-year-old infielder.
Ketel Marte (ARI – 2B/SS): 8% owned
Marte is only hitting .270 with zero homers and zero steals, so why are we talking about him? Well, the 24-year-old (he feels older, right?) is on a 10-game hitting streak and is Arizona’s regular two-hole hitter. He’s scored six runs and knocked in four over his last six contests as the Snakes start to warm up, making him an intriguing middle-infield replacement as injuries start to take their toll. Even though he’s drawn only three walks, his 4% swinging-strike rate is the fifth-lowest in the bigs. If he cools then you can move along, but he should help stem any bleeding from lost MIs.
Ronald Guzman (TEX – 1B): 4% owned
Guzman had gone 7-for-17 with four walks and four strikeouts in 21 Triple-A PAs prior to being called up on April 13. The 23-year-old went 1-for-3 in his MLB debut before homering in his second game and going 1-for-4 with a double in his third. He hit either fifth or sixth in each contest. While he only hit 12 homers in 527 AAA PAs last year, he hit .298 and only struck out 16.1% of the time. Those starved for a first baseman or CI that need a BA boost should give Guzman a look.
Craig Gentry (BAL – OF): 0% owned
Gentry really doesn’t get what Baltimore baseball is all about right now. The speedy outfielder has already racked up four steals this year for a team that seems to pride itself on finishing near the bottom of the steals leaderboard. Crafty Craig only nabbed five bags in 117 PAs last season, so this hot start signals that ol’ Buck Showalter is okay with giving him the green light. Those in AL-only leagues with a need for speed should scoop him up.