Fantasy Baseball Waiver Wire Pickups: Week 6
Howdy, y’all. I hope everyone has had a wonderful first week of May! I just returned to Boston from a nice Nashville getaway and I’m feeling rejuvenated and ready to take on the world. Props to Jetblue for enabling me to watch baseball from the skies, though I was admittedly hypnotized by Spikeball being televised on ESPN2 for a bit. I still can’t tell if that was cool or sad. Anyway, there’s no shortage of news to process and low-owned options to elevate so let’s get to it!
Ownership levels are taken from Yahoo leagues and, along with the stats, are accurate through May 8.
Priority Pickups – <30% Owned
Trevor Cahill (OAK – SP): 20% owned
I hope the bulk of you listened last week and got in on Cahill before his 12-strikeout masterpiece. If not, please go get him now. His 16% swinging-strike rate is elite and when batters do make contact, he’s inducing grounders on 59.6% of balls put in play. He’s added some drop to both his change and curve so far in 2018, which points to legitimate growth on the whiffs.
I don’t like to throw around “elite” but out of pitchers with 20 innings or more under their belt, that 16% SwStr rate is fifth-best in the bigs, trailing only Josh Hader, Max Scherzer, Gerrit Cole and Chris Sale. Check, please! And for good measure, his xwOBA (expected weighted on-base average) is a mere .266, which is 45th out of 346 pitchers (including relievers) with at least 50 PAs against them. For reference, only 16 out of 233 hitters with at least 75 PAs have a sub-.266 xwOBA. Get him now.
Tyler Clippard (TOR – RP): 27% owned
Ryan Tepera (TOR – RP): 17% owned
Seunghwan Oh (TOR – RP): 12% owned
John Axford (TOR – RP): 1% owned
Tuesday afternoon saw Major League Baseball put Roberto Osuna on administrative leave following his arrest on Tuesday morning for assaulting a woman, which leaves an obvious void in the ninth inning for the Jays. The 23-year-old is scheduled for a June 18 hearing and administrative leave can last up to seven days while MLB conducts its own investigation. The minimum domestic violence suspension we’ve seen in recent years has been 15 games and a conviction is not necessary for said suspension.
In the meantime, fantasy owners want to know where the saves will come from. Manager John Gibbons said how many guys could do the job, naming Clippard, Tepera and Axford specifically, though Oh can’t be ruled out either given his 1.76 ERA and prior closing experience. Tuesday night’s contest didn’t help us decipher much as the Jays were held hitless by James Paxton, but Axford was the only one of this quartet to toe the rubber and he did so in the top of ninth.
The early favorite looks to be Tepera, who has worked the eighth recently and holds a 2.70 ERA. Clippard has the lowest ERA of the lot (1.47) and that might be enough to justify keeping Tepera in his usual role and giving Clip a crack at it, but Tyler C’s 4.09 SIERA is the worst of this bunch thanks to a .128 BABIP and 100% strand rate. A 19.5% groundball rate through 18 1/3 innings is tough to sell. Axford hasn’t truly been a closer since 2015, but his 1.56 ERA and 2.48 FIP are quite lovely. I’d add them in the order I’ve listed them in, which also coincides with their ownership levels.
Ryon Healy (SEA – 1B/3B): 30% owned
We can’t say that Healy needed a DL stint to get back on track, but it’s hard to argue with the results. After opening the season with just two hits in 23 plate appearances, Healy injured his right ankle during a postgame workout and was shelved for nearly three weeks. Since returning on April 26, the 26-year-old has popped five homers with nine runs scored and 11 RBI thanks to an incredible .410 ISO and 50% hard-hit rate. He won’t maintain such a lofty power stroke, but this is just his second full season in the bigs! After producing 38 HRs over his first 888 MLB PAs for Oakland, a 30-homer campaign could be in the cards.
Alen Hanson (SF – 2B/OF): 15% owned
We always knew Hanson possessed the talent to offer upside in all five traditional fantasy categories, but his contact tool had yet to click in the Majors. The speedy 25-year-old then got off to a roaring start at Triple-A with a .403/.479/.661 slash line and six steals through 71 PAs, which led to another crack at the bigs. All he’s done since then is notch at least one hit in seven of his nine starts, yielding a .286 average with two homers, eight RBI and two steals in 33 PAs. If he’s finally realizing his 40-grade power, 50-grade contact alongside the 60-grade speed then we could see 10-plus homers, 20-plus steals and a .280s average here.
Tyler Anderson (COL – SP): 11% owned
Heading into Tuesday night, the swinging-strike rate leaders for the last 30 days were: Max Scherzer (17.1%), Jacob deGrom (16.6%), James Paxton (16.5%), Trevor Cahill (16%) and Anderson (15.8%). The southpaw has wicked stuff and seems to be trusting his fastball more in ’18, but we do have to be wary of his inconsistent control. He’s already walked four and six batters in two respective starts this season but has a combined six walks over his other five outings (26 1/3 IP). I believe in the 26.4% strikeout rate and I believe he can hold an ERA in the 3.70 range, even with Coors. I won’t start him against the Angels at home just yet, but if he shines on Wednesday night against them then I’m all aboard.
Jeremy Hellickson (WSH – SP): 15% owned
I had Hellboy queued up here heading into Tuesday night and figured I’d let the start dictate his fate. I’d say taking a perfect game into the seventh inning makes for a passable effort, as the 31-year-old looks up to his soft-contact, high-control tricks in 2018. His 2.28 ERA is too good to true, yes, but his 3.02 FIP/3.59 xFIP are still solid and he’s walked just four batters in 27 2/3 innings. With a (usually) solid Nationals team supporting him, Hellickson should offer fantasy owners some WHIP relief even as a little regression sets in.
Howie Kendrick (WSH – 2B/OF): 16% owned
The reliable veteran is getting things done in the batter’s box, hitting over .325 in the last two weeks while hitting either fourth or fifth in a rather stout Nationals lineup. It seems like most people don’t want to buy in because, alongside being a “boring, known commodity,” his playing time will take a hit when Daniel Murphy returns. That’s fine, but Murph’s not here yet. Folks like Kendrick and Nick Markakis are out there helping future fantasy champions march to victory.
Kyle Freeland (COL – SP): 10% owned
Freeland has twirled exactly seven frames in each of his last three starts, posting a 2.14 ERA and 0.81 WHIP with 21 Ks in those 21 innings. This came with a home start against the Padres and road outings versus the Cubs and Mets, so not astoundingly-good opponents but not the Reds or Orioles either. The young lefty showed promise during his rookie campaign in ’17 and has lowered his walk rate from 9.2% to 7.7% this season alongside a swinging-strike rate bump from 7.5% to 9.9%. He’s surrendering hard contact on just 26.5% of batted balls, good for 14th out of 91 qualified starters, which is great to see complement improved control.
Jose Bautista (ATL – OF): 18% owned
With 3B eligibility on the way, Joey Bats makes for a perfect power flier in 12-plus team formats. Just being in Atlanta’s lineup makes him a worthy watch and he’s gotten a hit in each of his first three MLB starts. He’ll be a better asset in points leagues or OBP formats (he has four walks against just three Ks in his first four games), but hitting fifth or sixth with this new wave of Bravos could see him produce enough counting stats to make him useful without requiring >25-30 homers. Of course, we know he’s capable of such feats when healthy.
Deep League Targets – <10% owned
Travis Jankowski (SD – OF): 1% owned
Do steals have you hurting? Are you looking for a spark? Well, the Padres said the same thing about their leadoff slot and have turned to Jankowski as a result. Popular breakout pick Manuel Margot has faltered (and gotten hurt) in the early going, which has opened the door for Jankowski to slide in as the table-setter after hitting .363 with four steals in 22 Triple-A contests. The 27-year-old has led off San Diego’s last three games and notched a combined five hits with four runs scored and a swipe in that span. That OF will get crowded upon Wil Myers‘ return, but it looks like Margot is the odd man out with Franchy Cordero (19% owned, another premier add but I’ve talked him to death by now) performing well and Jankowski off to a hot start. He even broke up Hellickson’s perfect game in the seventh game, so he’s really standing out these days.
Dan Winkler (ATL – RP): 4% owned
There are some underrated relief pitchers out there in this bullpen era of baseball and Winkler is no exception. Sorting by RP rankings usually leads to closers, who are ranked highly due to save totals, and those who have gotten a handful of rogue wins. But Winkler, who used to be a starter in the Colorado farm system and suffered a horrible fracture in his elbow in April 2016, has found his place in Atlanta’s ‘pen.
When he couldn’t throw during recovery, he strengthened his legs and upped his fastball into the mid-90s. He tallied a 2.51 ERA and 0.91 WHIP in 14 1/3 IP last year and is doing even better in ’18 with a 1.17 ERA and 0.65 WHIP. He’s got 22 strikeouts in 15 1/3 innings for a supportive 1.47 FIP and 2.17 SIERA. He’s racked up four holds and has seen plenty of usage in the eighth inning, so those speculating against Arodys Vizcaino would be wise to remember this name alongside A.J. Minter.
Andrew Suarez (SF – SP): 5% owned
Suarez picked up his first career Major League victory on Sunday, dancing around seven hits to allow only one unearned run over 5 1/3 innings against the high-octane Braves. He’s been a bright light with San Francisco’s rotation hurting, collecting a 3.06 ERA with an impressive 0.96 WHIP and 18 strikeouts over 17 2/3 frames. The 7.7% swinging-strike rate says the strikeouts are sure to fall from the current 27.7% rate, but his 3.01 xFIP and 2.88 SIERA love what he’s shown thus far. Calling spacious AT&T Park home only helps matters, so those in deep waters should see how the rookie progresses.
Eric Lauer (SD – SP): 1% owned
Looking at Lauer’s game log may result in one thinking he had one awful start, one pretty bad outing and then a good one against LAD most recently. That’s somewhat accurate, but the first start — his MLB debut — did come at Coors so I’ll cut him some slack, and the second one saw him allow three runs in the first inning and then shut it down beyond that. This momentum carried over into his home debut against the Dodgers on May 6, allowing him to notch his first career MLB victory with six scoreless frames. His overall 3.43 FIP points to brighter days, though his 4.43 SIERA is more skeptical — likely due to the low 7.2% swinging-strike rate. The rookie posted rates above 10% at every pro level beforehand, though, so there’s potential for growth in that arena as well.
Carson Kelly (STL – C): 4% owned
With Yadier Molina out for a month due to living out many a man’s worst nightmare, an emergency surgery to address a groin hematoma, Kelly is set to serve as the Cards’ primary catcher. I write this not because Kelly is the next rookie phenom, but because many NL-only leaguers need ABs from their catcher and Kelly should at least deliver some power with his active bat. He owns a horrid .165 batting average in 93 career MLB PAs, but did notch a .283/.375/.459 slash line with 10 dingers in 280 Triple-A PAs last season. He’s gotten off to a colder start in ’18, slashing .234/.337/.364 with two homers in 89 PAs, but the plate discipline and modest pop are still there, giving him some promise to find his footing in the bigs.