Fantasy Baseball Waiver Wire Pickups: Week 7

by Nick Mariano | @NMariano53 | Featured Writer
May 15, 2018

Well, this week certainly hasn’t been short on the excitement! We’ve seen electric pitching debuts, a bevy of call-ups and several injuries to key players hit over the last several days, which means we’ve got a lot to talk about. I think it’s fair to say that the keystone position has been hit the hardest with Robinson Cano, DJ LeMahieu and Alen Hanson all hitting the 10-day DL. We’ll explore some alternatives for them, as well as some closer situations and plenty of starting pitchers!

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

Alex Reyes (STL – SP): 36% owned
I know he’s above the ownership threshold, but just barely and this is a special circumstance! The rehabbing fireballer toyed with the Class-A Clinton LumberKings all night long on Monday, striking out 12 over five innings and allowing just one hit and two walks. Even if he starts out as “just” a reliever in the Majors, he has a Josh Hader ceiling with room for more utility should he enter the rotation. Don’t wait until he’s activated because someone else will have scooped him by then.

Trevor Cahill (OAK – SP): 18% owned
I talked up Cahill so much last week as the headliner that you might as well just read about his merits as a pitcher when healthy over there. I’ll wait. The obvious issue facing us is that a few hours after last week’s publishing, the sinkerballer hit the 10-day DL. He then reportedly didn’t feel 100% after a bullpen session, but A’s manager Bob Melvin says Cahill is now ready to go and could start when eligible to return on Wednesday. Personally, I’d like for him to wait another turn and be truly healthy since he’s on the fragile side, but also because he already missed a start in the Bronx and missing a Fenway date with the Red Sox is as friendly a skip as you can get. I wouldn’t throw him in Boston, but the upside here is a true 3.00 ERA/1.10 WHIP pitcher with over a strikeout per inning.

Nick Pivetta (PHI – SP): 29% owned
It would appear that a couple of subpar outings have made many fantasy owners think that Pivetta has turned back into a pumpkin and that the show is over. But Nicky P responded to the exceptionally-awful 6 ER start on May 4 by tossing five innings of shutout ball against the Giants last week, striking out seven and walking none. In his two poor starts, he had issued a combined six walks over six innings, but he’s walked just four batters over his other 33 frames this season. Personally, I’m going to buy into the majority of his work and pick him up wherever someone dropped him.

Jedd Gyorko (STL – 1B/2B/3B): 20% owned
Gyorko has hit fifth and started at third base in each of St. Louis’ past three games thanks to Matt Carpenter‘s continued struggles and Gyorko’s own solid hitting and impressive 17.7% walk rate through 62 plate appearances. His usual power and unusual walk spike (7.9% BB rate for his career) has led to a .327/.452/.612 slash line thus far. This is surely over his head, but he could post an OPS north of .850 if he continues to show patience at the dish. That discipline goes well with a career-high 39.5% hard-hit rate and should continue to reward him with playing time in the middle of the order.

Other 2B options are a duo of injured-but-returning-soon guys in Josh Harrison and Dustin Pedroia, along with the currently-healthy Howie Kendrick, Daniel Descalso, and Matt Duffy.

Jack Flaherty (STL – SP): 30% owned
Flaherty is going to make his third MLB start of 2018 on Tuesday, replacing the injured Carlos Martinez for now (though CarMart may return by the week’s end). Flaherty hasn’t had his shining moment in the bigs yet this year, posting a 3.60 ERA and 1.50 WHIP with 11 Ks through 10 innings of work, but he’s dazzled on the farm thus far.

His 2.27 ERA/0.92 WHIP back the 4-1 record and a 15.3% swinging-strike rate have helped him ring up 41 in 31 2/3 IP. He’s walked just 5.6% of Triple-A hitters faced thus far compared to 12.2% in the bigs (it was also 10.6% in his MLB cup of coffee last year compared to 7.1% at Triple-A), so hopefully we can see him take a step forward with command on Tuesday and establish himself in ’18. The upside is undeniable.

Kyle Gibson (MIN – SP): 25% owned
Over the last 30 days, Gibson has posted a 3.30 ERA and 1.00 WHIP with 37 strikeouts in 30 innings, which would stand out a lot more if it came with even one victory. The lack of Ws pushes arms down when you sort for players to add despite their performing quite well, which is punishing Gibson at the moment but also makes him a savvy buy. While I would enjoy seeing the walks come down (11.6% BB rate in 2018, 8.7% in ’17), the jump in swinging-strike rate from 10% to 12.4% justifies the Ks and has me believing.

Jim Johnson (LAA – RP): 9% owned
Blake Parker (LAA – RP): 24% owned
I wish I could tell you that Angels manager Mike Scioscia would simply give the more-exciting Parker the closer’s role with Keynan Middleton out with a UCL injury. But that won’t happen, as Scioscia will at least start with a committee that likely has 34-year-old “Proven Closer” Jim Johnson in its first chair. Johnson and Parker look nearly identical on the stat surface (Johnson: 3.32 ERA/1.38 WHIP/20 Ks, Parker: 3.26 ERA, 1.34 WHIP 20 Ks), but Parker’s ceiling is much higher (12.3% SwStr rate vs. JJ’s 8.9% mark) and he hasn’t allowed a run in his last six appearances. I’d put these two above Cam Bedrosian and Justin Anderson for now, with Parker as my preference for the long run but JJ as the short-term add. I know that Anderson got the save on Monday night, but Johnson had worked in three of the last four games and Anderson allowed two hits and a walk in the 9th after giving up six runs over his prior three appearances.

Brad Ziegler (MIA – RP): 24% owned
Weird, right? Ziegler’s overall 6.06 ERA and 1.41 WHIP hardly inspire confidence, especially when mixed with just 12 strikeouts over 16 1/3 innings, but he actually has a fantastic 2.10 SIERA and a career-high 12.6% swinging-strike rate thus far. I’m not sure how he’s managed to settle for a 16.4% strikeout rate — the usual rule of thumb is to double the SwStr% — but it’s still mid-May and reliever ratios can take a long time to iron out.

Kyle Barraclough made some recent noise by notching a save, but Ziegler has collected three saves with just one run allowed over 5 2/3 innings in the last 15 days. It’s not world-beating stuff, but people are shelling out a ton to gamble on bullpens for LAA, CWS, DET and PHI when Z is still getting it done in Miami.

Edubray Ramos (PHI – RP): 16% owned
Ramos successfully shut the door in Philadelphia’s victory on Sunday, earning his first save of the season, lowering his ERA to 1.13 and notching his 20th strikeout in 16 innings in the process. This isn’t entirely surprising to those aboard the Hector Neris Express, as the 28-year-old closer has blown two of his last four save opportunities and had pitched on both May 10 and 11. Phillies skipper Gabe Kapler said how the team would use Neris “if he is the best option to get the hitters out that are coming up.” Very insightful. Keep Ramos at the ready, but also note that Seranthony Dominguez (a potential “closer of the future” guy) struck out two in a perfect eighth inning and hasn’t allowed a baserunner over four appearances.

John Hicks (DET – C/1B): 11% owned
Miguel Cabrera is experiencing soreness in both his hips and his back as he rehabs, meaning the hot-hitting Hicks should continue to see everyday play over the next week. Since May began, Hicks has delivered with a .354 average, two homers, eight runs scored and seven RBI in just 12 games (52 PAs) to raise his season-long slash line to .289/.329/.526. His overall 82-PA sample size is still small, but so far he’s cut his 50% ground-ball rate from last season in half, with most of those turning into fly balls in ’18. Mix that with a 50.9% hard-hit rate and you’ve got the earnest .237 ISO that he’s sporting. The righty is also hitting the ball to all fields (30% pull/37% center/33% oppo) after rocking a pull rate around 50% throughout his professional career, so perhaps he’s found a new groove here. Don’t bank on viable production beyond the week, but Miggy is sadly no lock to stay healthy these days.

Zach Eflin (PHI – SP): 28% owned
Eflin showed off a ~4 MPH velocity spike in his first MLB start of 2018, that seemed to fade in his second outing against SFG, though he still struck out nine over 6 2/3 scoreless innings. A rained-out game on May 12 saw his turn in the rotation skipped so now we must wait until May 18 against STL to see if the real Zach Eflin will please stand up. If his velo rebounds and he shows that the 94-95 MPH stuff against Miami wasn’t just adrenaline then I’ll make the add in deeper 12-teamers. If it’s back down around 91 MPH then I’ll pass.

Matt Harvey (CIN – SP): 11% owned
Admit it, you can’t quit someone who has flown at such heights as Harvey so easily. Still just 28 years old, Harvey allowed just one “hit” (Scott Schebler horribly misplayed a ball) over four otherwise perfect innings in his Cincinnati debut on May 11. He struck out two and hit 95.8 MPH with his heater, which averaged 93.6 MPH, though he managed just two swinging strikes on 55 pitches.

I’m all for writing off some things due to changing teams and transitioning back into the rotation on a pitch count, but I find it hard to trust that his velo suddenly returned and he still didn’t have putaway stuff. It was probably just an adrenaline-fused “screw you” toward his former team, but he gets to show us what he’s got again at pitcher-friendly AT&T Park against the Giants on May 16. That’s as good as it gets.

Deep League Targets – <10% owned

Freddy Peralta (MIL – SP): 4% owned
Peralta joined an ever-expanding list of players to flirt with a no-hitter in their MLB debut, becoming just the fifth pitcher since 1908 to ring up 13-plus hitters at their welcoming party. He victimized the Rockies despite almost everyone knowing what was coming: the four-seamer. The 21-year-old threw a whopping 90 four-seamers against just eight curveballs, but he induced 18 swinging strikes with the low-to-mid 90s heat. He had struck out 46 in 34 2/3 Triple-A innings so it wasn’t just an “out of nowhere” whiff-fest. We’ll see how he looks in a well-deserved second start in Minnesota on May 19.

Bruce Rondon (CWS – RP): (CWS – RP): 5% owned
With most of the White Sox bullpen pitching like alumni of “Our Lady of Perpetual Sorrow,” Rondon was the one to protect a two-run lead in the ninth on May 13 for his first save of the season. Now, Master Bruce has not had a great year on the surface (4.15 ERA), but his 2.53 FIP shines a light and the 16 strikeouts in 13 innings gets the job done. This is official “blood for saves” territory, but Rondon could wrest the ninth from Joakim Soria and Nate Jones. Soria has an atrocious 40.7% first-strike rate this year — the third-worst mark by a reliever with at least 10 IP — and Jones gave up homers in back-to-back outings before the weekend. 

Those needing another closer option should look at last week’s blurb on Dan Winkler, as the man is still crushing it and A.J. Minter had a shaky save on Monday night with Arodys Vizcaino and Winkler both unavailable. As such, Winkler could very well enter the committee within the week.

Franmil Reyes (SD – OF): 0% owned (N/A on Yahoo)
Reyes earned his promotion by absolutely obliterating Triple-A pitching to the tune of a 1.180 OPS with 14 homers in just 36 games (154 PAs), including an eight-homer stretch in just five games. The 22-year-old slugger had crushed 25 HRs with 102 RBI in 566 PAs at Double-A last season, but hit just .258 with a 23.7% strikeout rate. He upped his batting average to .346 on the farm while raising his walk rate by over five percentage points (from 8.5% to 13.6%) and cut whiffs down to 20.1%.

His discipline metrics were above average for outfielders with his pop and while his recent power surge is no doubt influenced by the hitter-friendly PCL, it’s not like other Minor Leaguers didn’t get to hit in the same games. He stood out there and will probably split time with Travis Jankowski as San Diego’s outfield overflows with talent. Wil Myers, when healthy, remains the only “must-play” OF on the team, though I suspect Manuel Margot will be the biggest loser here.

Brendan Rodgers (COL – SS): 3% owned
I would like to state that a Rodgers promotion in reaction to LeMahieu’s potential 6-to-8 week injury is unlikely, but the future star has made eight starts at 2B this season and owns a .289/.331/.516 slash line with seven homers and four steals over 140 PAs. Ryan McMahon, whose awful April may be responsible for added caution with Rodgers’ MLB debut, has made three starts at 2B at Triple-A so that possibility exists as well. Unfortunately, he’s hit just .213 with zero homers in 11 games there, so I really doubt he gets brought back up. The most likely course of action is that Colorado just rides the injury out with Pat Valaika and Daniel Castro, but that’s no fun to put on anyone’s radar. And while we’re poking around the Rox farm system a bit…

Tom Murphy (COL – C): 0% owned
Let’s squeeze in how Colorado’s catchers have been offensively offensive, with Chris Iannetta‘s poor 83 wRC+ looking like gold when compared to Tony Wolters‘ 36 wRC+. Wolters offers solid defensive value, but the duo is hitting a combined .197 while my man Murphy is raking. The 27-year-old has nine homers in 29 games to fuel his .297/.368/.631 slash line and I don’t know how much longer Colorado can justify keeping him down there. I know a ton of you need some help at catcher, so why not opt for some Coors while you’re at it?

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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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