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Fantasy Baseball Waiver Wire Pickups: Week 9

by Nick Mariano | @NMariano53 | Featured Writer
May 29, 2018

We’ve nearly made it through the month of May and are fast approaching the “one-third” mark of the season. There’s a sense of excitement in the air as the projected Super Two deadline should pass as the calendar flips to June, but be sure to remember the hype surrounding a fresh call-up could be worth more in a trade then gambling on a rookie to produce.

Ownership levels are taken from Yahoo leagues and, along with the stats, are accurate through May 29.

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Priority Pickups – <30% Owned

Trevor Cahill (OAK – SP): 30% owned
While Oakland’s offense couldn’t get him the win, Cahill was masterful on Memorial Day (Monday). The sinkerballer blanked the Rays over eight innings, scattering four hits among 13 groundball outs, walking none and striking out six. His 2.25 ERA has a lovely 2.84 xFIP behind it, but assuming a league-average HR rate seems unfair given his breaking stuff and the 60% groundball rate. Mix in a career-best 1.82 BB/9 (4.82 in ’17, 4.8 in ’16) and you’ve got a stew going. That said, his soft-contact rate entered Monday’s start at a dangerously low 8.6% against a 46.2% hard-hit rate, so the grass isn’t entirely green. Still, he’s an easy buy in nearly all formats right now.

Yonder Alonso (CLE – 1B): 26% owned
Guess whose luck is turning around? That’s right, Alonso’s! The 31-year-old has been crushing the ball with significant power results — 11 HRs in 188 PAs — but a .250 BABIP has suppressed his average and limited his fantasy appeal. The entire Cleveland lineup seems to be heating up after an unlucky April and Alonso himself has homered twice in the past three games after clearing the fence just once in his first 20 games of May, so don’t forget about one of the original fly-ball revolutionaries and let him wander over yonder to another team.

Ryan Tepera (TOR – RP): 18% owned
The Tyler Clippard experience has burned Toronto and fantasy owners one too many times, so manager John Gibbons has turned to Tepera twice for the save over their past four games. Neither conversion has been easy, but they’ve been saves nevertheless. It was said that Seunghwan Oh would’ve gotten the save opp on Saturday, but then Tepera was back in for the ninth on Sunday. Tepera had pitched in three of the last four heading into that game, which gives me an idea toward a rough hierarchy of Tepera, Oh, Clippard/Axford.

Jeimer Candelario (DET – 3B): 21% owned
After missing time due to left wrist tendinitis, Candelario wasted little time by slugging two homers in his second game back on May 26. He’s been immediately inserted into the order’s three-hole and now has a .242 ISO on the year — a full 100 points higher than 2017 (in 142 PAs). At just 24, it’s entirely plausible that he’s added some pop and could maintain a HR/FB rate around 15% with a plus average.

Edgar Santana (PIT – RP): 5% owned
Richard Rodriguez (PIT – RP): 2% owned
Michael Feliz (PIT – RP): 3% owned
Felipe Vazquez was lifted from Sunday’s game with left forearm tightness and reportedly lost feeling in his ring finger, but now says he’s feeling better and will be available on Tuesday. Considering it was his third consecutive blown save and that description of discomfort raises more red flags than your evil ex, I’m going to be holding a heir to the ninth for at least a week.

My first choice is Santana, who has been trusted with some late innings and has a 2.45 ERA/0.91 WHIP through 22 innings. I had been stocking up on Rodriguez, but he gave up two runs on Monday after stringing together five scoreless appearances and that may have soured his chances. Before that, he had fought through a .405 BABIP to post a 1.40 ERA with a 31-to-3 strikeout-to-walk ratio, hence my love. And lastly, there’s usual setup man Michael Feliz. He’d have been an easier choice if it weren’t for seven earned runs over his last three appearances, which makes it hard to get the keys to the ninth.

Marco Gonzales (SEA – SP): 17% owned
Gonzales hasn’t yielded an earned run in his last three trips to the hill so I’m contractually obligated to mention him (kidding). Despite walking a season-high four batters after failing to issue more than two free passes in a 2018 start, the 26-year-old was able to induce plenty of grounders (46% GB rate in ’18) and has allowed just 11 hits over his last 19 2/3 innings. After potentially being “too hittable” in the zone and thus holding a BABIP around .400 early, these last three outings have seen him tally BABIPs of .250 or lower to bring his seasonal mark down to .343. I still worry about the quality of contact holding up since he doesn’t miss many bats (9-of-102 whiffs on Monday, 11-of-102 on 5/23 and 4-of-97 on 5/17), but he does draw the Rays at home next so a fourth consecutive scoreless start is plausible.

Nick Kingham (PIT – SP): 17% owned
Once more into the fray goes Kingham, who will come up and start for Pittsburgh with Ivan Nova hitting the 10-day DL. Kingham has put together an impressive 3.44 ERA/0.76 WHIP with 21 strikeouts over 18 1/3 Major League innings over his first three starts, with peripherals (FIP/xFIP/SIERA) that sit in the mid 2’s. He’s been just as dominant through six Triple-A outings and simply needs to be owned in all leagues if given a crack in the bigs.

Jimmy Nelson (MIL – SP): 11% owned
Nelson was shut down from throwing for 10 days after a visit with Dr. Neal ElAttache but is now good to resume testing his arm. The soon-to-be 29-year-old righty was a godsend for fantasy owners last year as he struck out 199 in 175 innings with a 3.49 ERA. He had started throwing out to 150 feet before this brief break in the action, so monitor his progression and don’t wait too long to stash him before any rehab-start hype kicks in.

Brandon Nimmo (NYM – OF): 19% owned
With Yoenis Cespedes recovering from a hip injury and Juan Lagares out for the season, Nimmo and his .408 OBP have been a steady presence at leadoff for the Mets. It doesn’t hurt that he’s also slapped four doubles, four triples and five homers alongside three steals in 130 PAs thus far. His emerging pop could easily lead to an OPS that holds around the .850-.900 range for those of you that employ that metric. His RBI tally will be a letdown up top, but he could score 100-plus runs in a season if given an everyday job. Sadly, he’ll probably only be of mixed-league use until Cespedes returns.

Deep League Targets – <10% owned

Shane Bieber (CLE – SP): 3% owned
Reports indicate that Cleveland will call Bieber up to start on Thursday in Minnesota in order to give Trevor Bauer an extra day of rest. We named Bieber as a rookie to watch last week and all he did to reward the mention was twirl seven innings of no-hit ball in a rain-shortened victory. The prospect owns an unbelievable 61-to-3 strikeout-to-walk ratio and will put his extraordinary command to the test against Major Leaguers, hopefully to the delight of his fantasy owners.

Devin Mesoraco (NYM – C): 7% owned
After being pushed to Cincinnati’s bench and then traded to the backstop-needy Mets in early May, Mesoraco looked to be of use only to the most desperate NL-only owner. He’s too injury prone and couldn’t deliver the power we had fallen in love with. But now he’s 53 PAs into his Mets tenure and has already cracked five homers and drawn six walks to nine strikeouts. I doubt the power of his prime is suddenly back, but 20 homers from a catcher in 2018 is worth 12-team consideration.

Isiah Kiner-Falefa (TEX – 2B/3B): 3% owned
Kiner-Falefa doesn’t jump off the page with his overall .253/.329/.370 slash line, but he’s chipped in two homers among seven doubles and two triples with four steals in 168 PAs and most importantly, is regularly hitting third for the Rangers. The 23-year-old utilityman is named here due to opportunity, as that spot in the lineup plays well for anyone with a robust 95% zone-contact rate and a 25% line-drive rate. He’s not up there mashing lasers, but he offers modest wheels (17 SBs on the farm in ’17) and carried a six-game hitting streak into Monday. He’ll go back to the bench when Adrian Beltre returns, but he makes for a nice AL-only stopgap until then.

Ben Gamel (SEA – OF): 1% owned
Gamel’s last two weeks of play have seen him smack four XBH (three doubles, one homer) and swipe three bases while going 16-for-43 thanks to a .455 BABIP. A 30% line-drive rate can buy you several hits, but not a .455 BABIP. However, his .340 BABIP from last season was surely above average and if he can finally bring some of that 20-steal potential that he’s shown in the minors up to the bigs then he could be a mixed-league asset.

Carlos Rodon (CWS – SP): 8% owned
I’m not quite sure how Rodon escaped his latest rehab start without major damage after he took a comebacker off the noggin, but all he needed was a laceration stitched up. It’s an additional pain because he was rolling in the Triple-A outing with six strikeouts in 2 2/3 innings. The southpaw is just 25 despite having three big-league campaigns under his belt, which have been amassed with several peaks, valleys and injuries. But his last seven outings of ’17 saw him post a 3.00 ERA with 45 strikeouts in as many innings, which is the ceiling you’re chasing with this free, preemptive add.

Ryan Yarbrough (TB – SP/RP): 8% owned
Since being moved into a long-relief/”starter” role in late April (when he started pitching four innings at a minimum), Yarbrough has posted a 2.78 ERA (3.14 FIP, 2.88 xFIP, 2.71 SIERA) with a 33-to-4 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 32 1/3 innings (six appearances). His most recent performance was his best yet, as he yielded just one run to Baltimore across seven innings while punching out eight and walking none. His .272 BABIP isn’t particularly lucky and two metrics really jump out underneath the hood: His 23.5% soft-contact rate and the 18.5% pop-up rate over this span. Let’s see where Tampa Bay’s unorthodox pitching journey takes us, shall we?

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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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