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Fantasy Baseball Waiver Wire Pickups: Week 8

by Nick Mariano | @NMariano53 | Featured Writer
May 22, 2018

Did you see the quarter pole of the baseball season go past you? Well, it did, and now June is right around the corner, buddy. This means the Super Two deadline is fast approaching and you need to be sure you have your precious stashes…stashed! The most obvious add of the week was Juan Soto, who homered in the first at-bat of his first start, which pushed his ownership mark to 57%. If he’s available then just get him. Now, onto the show!

Ownership levels are taken from Yahoo leagues and, along with the stats, are accurate through May 22.

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Priority Pickups – <30% Owned

Travis Jankowski (SD – OF): 29% owned
Thanks to an eye-popping .440 BABIP, Jankowski has dazzled fantasy owners with his .354/.432/.462 line with 11 runs scored and seven steals over just 74 PAs in the bigs this season. He forced San Diego’s hand with Manuel Margot struggling and by delivering a nearly identical slash line at Triple-A (.363/.452/.450).

There’s no hiding his lack of pop — he’s hit nine career homers across 2,365 professional plate appearances over seven seasons — but he can fly and is currently showing astounding discipline. His zone-contact rates hadn’t cracked 90% in his prior MLB experience between 2015-17, but it sits at 94.4% for ’18. He’s paired that with a 13.9% O-Swing% that’s the third-best mark for a hitter with at least 50 PAs — ahead of guys like Joe Mauer (15.5%) and Joey Votto (16.9%). He may sit against lefties on occasion, but the speed and potential to hit around .300 all year long is worth it.

Trevor Cahill (OAK – SP): 21% owned
The return of Cahill didn’t go all that well, but you’re savvy enough to come to FantasyPros so I assume you know not to start guys immediately upon reactivation from the DL. I personally sat down at Fenway Park and watched him labor through the first inning, but then he shut Boston down over his next four frames of work. Perhaps his elbow isn’t quite 100%, he was only gone for the minimum 10 days, but judging a rusty arm against the Red Sox is harsh. I’m still treating him like a top-50 SP heading into his slated home start against the Robinson Cano-less Mariners on Wednesday.

Tyler O’Neill (STL – OF): 12% owned
I’m one of (likely many) owners who spent a few FAAB bucks on O’Neill back in April when he was first promoted, only to see him barely play before getting sent down. Then, the rookie was called up on May 18 and has ascended into the heavens alongside the three moonshots he’s hit in three straight games. He’s averaged nearly 30 homers per pro season since 2015 and has 13 jacks in just 120 Triple-A PAs in ’18, so believe in the hype. Dexter Fowler and his embarrassing .160/.281/.292 slash line won’t immediately cede all playing time, but it’d be foolish of STL to favor him.

Caleb Smith (MIA – SP/RP): 24% owned
There was bound to be a blow-up start over the course of Smith’s season, and May 17 housed it. The southpaw walked three of the first four hitters faced against the Dodgers, allowing four runners to score and leading to an early exit. I doubt the control woes ever completely go away given his track record, but if he has a feel for his fastball and slider going then he’s as lethal as anyone else. I still believe in the 31.5% strikeout rate and will see this through for a few more starts at the very least.

Nate Jones (CWS – RP): 29% owned
Jace Fry (CWS – RP): 3% owned
Jones has really picked up the pace lately. The 32-year-old now has a 3.50 ERA (3.47 SIERA) with a rock-solid 14.2% swinging-strike rate and an impressive 22.4% soft-contact rate, which is way up from 14.8% in 11 2/3 innings last season and above his 21% mark in his electric 2016 campaign. While it looks like Jones is the righty to own and probably the best bet for a save on any given night out of this ‘pen, it’s worth noting that southpaw¬†Jace Fry hasn’t allowed a hit over his last 8 1/3 innings and got the save on Monday night against Texas’ Jurickson Profar, Nomar Mazara and Joey Gallo. Fry doesn’t get many looks against righties and so we’d keep Jones ahead for now, but don’t sleep on the southpaw.

Niko Goodrum (DET – 1B/2B/OF): 16% owned
For those in need of a versatile bat with a versatile skill set, Goodrum has rattled off four homers and swiped five bags (on six attempts) in just 99 plate appearances this season. I can’t act like the current .242 batting average or .303 on-base percentage are great, and he “only” produced a .265/.309/.425 slash in 499 Triple-A PAs last season, but it came with 13 HR and 11 SB and his three-headed positional eligibility allows him to wear both corner- and middle-infield caps to boot. Those with shorter benches should definitely take notice.

Daniel Mengden (OAK – SP): 14% owned
Mengden, aka the Mustached Marvel, has gone 3-2 with a 2.18 ERA and just four walks issued in his last seven starts (41 1/3 IP). Now, I am there with all of you in worrying about how sustainable this can be given his 4.31 SIERA and low 14.2% soft-contact rate over that span. However, I’m keeping him for at least one more turn because he gets to pick on the worst-hitting team in the Majors next: the Diamondbacks. Not just a victim of the humidor, the D-backs are down A.J. Pollock and are hitting below .200 as a team over the last two weeks. I kept Mengden in my leagues because he was facing the Blue Jays, who were hitting just .223, and I’ll keep him as long as fortuitous matchups come his way.

Ross Stripling (LAD – SP/RP): 13% owned
With Rich Hill likely out for the next month with blister woes and the Dodgers fighting injury curses all over, Stripling appears to be locked into the rotation for as long as his performance merits. Sporting that precious SP/RP dual eligibility, the 28-year-old has posted an overall 2.08 ERA and 1.24 WHIP with 40 strikeouts in 34 2/3 innings. More notable is how he’s struck out 16 and walked none in his last two outings, which were largely “get extended” looks for him as he transitions out of the bullpen role. He isn’t the next Clayton Kershaw, but the NL West is weaker than we thought and he could be a big beneficiary.

Luiz Gohara (ATL – SP): 10% owned
Gohara has had an uncertain role for Atlanta throughout the 2018 season, and while he’s going to make his first start on Wednesday in Philly, he will then go to Brazil to see his sick mother. I won’t try to predict how a health-related family issue will play out timing wise, but I imagine the Braves hope Gohara can go four or five innings in the transition back to starting before taking some time away. He has top-30 SP upside so don’t sleep.

Seranthony Dominguez (PHI – RP): 19% owned
Dominguez is one of those “closers of the future,” but the future might just be now after he notched a two-inning save on Sunday. Of course, he then locked down the eighth inning against the top of the Braves order before Hector Neris had a clean save of his own on Monday. I think it’s telling how Dominguez had to face Albies-Acuna-Freeman, but the job is far from “his.” Oh, and the hit he gave up on Sunday was his first MLB hit surrendered over 25 batters. His high prospect status came with good reason!

Ervin Santana (MIN – SP): 20% owned
Santana is set to begin his rehab assignment this coming weekend, in case you wanted to get ahead of that news curve and snag him without an FAAB dollar being spent. Friendly reminder that pitching for the Twins means he gets to face three below-average offenses in the Royals, Tigers and White Sox.

Deep League Targets – <10% owned

Joe Musgrove (PIT – SP/RP): 10% owned
Musgrove is tentatively penciled in to make his Pirates debut on Friday against the Cardinals after completing four rehab starts. While he did give up six runs in his most recent outing on the farm, the 25-year-old posted a robust 17-to-2 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 17 2/3 innings and therefore has my interest. While most dislike Musgrove for making Nick Kingham the odd man out, there’s little harm in seeing if getting away from the more homer-happy Houston environment turns him into a fantasy-viable arm.

Dustin Fowler (OAK – OF): 5% owned
Through his first 10 games for Oakland, Fowler has already hit a homer and stolen two bases alongside 10 R+RBI from the bottom third of the A’s order. Well, that last part isn’t entirely true as Oakland moved him up to leadoff for Sunday’s game, woo! I realize he’s hitting an ugly .207, but he won’t deal with a .200 BABIP forever — especially if his early 38.5% hard-hit and 97.4% zone-contact rates have anything to say about it. He can be a .300 hitter with plus speed and double-digit pop. The A’s know it, and soon the fantasy world will realize it too.

Adam Plutko (CLE – SP): 0% owned
Plutko will replace Josh Tomlin in Cleveland’s rotation and draws the Cubs in a home start on Wednesday. The 26-year-old righty was bad in 2017, posting a 5.90 ERA/1.52 WHIP with an 8.6% K-BB% in 135 2/3 Triple-A innings. He’s put that behind him with a 2.25 ERA/0.82 WHIP and a 15.5% K-BB% through his first seven Triple-A outings, which earned the spot start last week (7 1/3 IP, 2 ER, 6 K) and this opportunity. Having the Indians support you can go a long way, so deep leaguers should see what the kid can do.

Austin Riley (ATL – 3B): 2% owned
In case you missed it, the Braves released Jose Bautista and have handed the hot corner over to Johan Camargo. You may remember his brief spikes of usefulness in 2017, but he’s mostly just an empty batting average as far as fantasy owners are concerned. But the Braves boast one of the top 3B prospects in Austin Riley, who posted a .333/.394/.677 triple slash through 109 Double-A PAs before heading to Triple-A. All he’s done in 12 games there is continue the onslaught with a .306/.352/.510 slash. Atlanta has a real shot in 2018 and they may feel fine with Camargo or bringing in a veteran stopgap via trade, but those speculating on the Super Two deadline should scoop Riley just in case.

Other youngsters to note, Super Two or otherwise:

Nick Senzel (13%), Michael Kopech (13%), Willie Calhoun (12%), Eloy Jimenez (11%), Kyle Tucker (6%), Willy Adames (3%), Brendan Rodgers (3%), Garrett Hampson (1% owned), Luis Urias (1%), Tom Murphy (0%), Shane Bieber (0%), and of course, the 40% owned Vladimir Guerrero Jr.

While I don’t suggest sacrificing current production for stashing too many rookies, I do think there is one exceptional reason to hoard a player or two from this group in most leagues. Fantasy owners are always after that “shiny new toy” and more often than not, you can use them as a sizeable trade chip before they’ve even appeared in an MLB game. Use this to your advantage.

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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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