Fantasy Baseball Waiver Wire Pickups: Week 11
With roughly 40% of the baseball season in the books, I implore you to take a good, hard look at the standings, and then at your team, and then make some projections. They don’t have to be spreadsheets worthy of a math award but try to see where you’re slotting in. You need to know what requires addressing, as well as what categories you really don’t need to allocate an extra roster spot to.
Ownership levels are taken from Yahoo leagues and, along with the stats, are accurate through June 10.
Priority Pickups – <30% Owned
Mike Soroka (ATL – SP): 26% owned
After tossing a perfect 3 2/3 innings in his first rehab start, Soroka yielded just one run on three hits and one walk while fanning seven in his second rehab outing, this time at Triple-A. It’s criminal that Soroka isn’t being stashed in more places given how well Atlanta is playing, how well-positioned they are to pick on the Marlins/Mets offenses and how strong Soroka’s profile is. For the last time, the 1.70 WHIP is a sham based on a .408 BABIP that is sure to fall. I believe he can be a mid-threes ERA arm with more than a strikeout per inning, which should result in several Ws for you.
Joc Pederson (LAD – OF): 27% owned
Just when it seems like everyone’s given up on Y(o)ung Joc, he goes on a power binge and reminds us why he’s still in the bigs. Still a fresh 26 years old, Pederson has clubbed six homers in his last seven games to give him an .876 OPS through 173 plate appearances this season. It should be noted that he’s logged four non-homer hits in that seven-game span, and three of those were doubles. No one can keep up a power rate so high, but he has a fly-ball rate north of 50% and hard-hit rate above 40% in his last 20 games so it’s hard to argue with his approach. Ride him while he’s hot and don’t be afraid to cut ties down the road.
For what it’s worth, I’m still waiting on Andrew Toles to get his shot. He was recently activated from the disabled list at Triple-A and has gotten at least one hit in each of his 11 games on the farm this season. Keep your eyes open for him.
Clayton Richard (SD – SP): 28% owned
Those with a sharp eye have looked closer at Richard’s overall 4.40 ERA/1.25 WHIP on the season and seen an arm with six quality starts over his last seven trips to the hill. Even the non-QS wasn’t a blowup (6 IP, 4 ER) as his 64.5% groundball rate over that stretch has given him a 3.04 ERA/3.10 xFIP, though the whiffs remain subpar (39 in 50 1/3 IP). That’s not terrible, though, and is certainly no reason to ignore the strong ratios. Let his sinker work for you as it locks down quality outings and seeks out its third consecutive victory on June 15 against Atlanta (who he just beat on June 4).
Leonys Martin (DET – OF): 15% owned
Martin is currently on a five-game hitting streak and has now cranked four homers and stolen four bases over the last two weeks. He’s rocking a 42.1% hard-hit rate over that span, so the success is hard-earned. We’ve seen him produce modest pop and a surprisingly-high average throughout the season, but the speed — usually his one reliable trait — had yet to show up. Perhaps he just felt like embarrassing Cleveland by swiping three bags in Detroit’s series against them, but that kind of momentum will hopefully lead to more attempts.
Seth Lugo (NYM – SP/RP): 21% owned
Lugo’s six shutout innings helped halt the Mets’ eight-game losing streak as he dominated the Yankees, scattering two singles and walking none while striking out eight. The Mets have to take whatever they can get despite starting pitching not being a glaring weakness, but Lugo has to at least get one more rotation shot now. He kept the velocity he had added in the bullpen and now has an incredible 1.77 ERA/0.85 WHIP/3.12 xFIP/2.88 SIERA with 47 Ks in 45 2/3 innings. If he keeps the added heat then he could make a 2017 Danny Duffy-esque jump and force Jason Vargas to the bullpen once (sigh, if) Noah Syndergaard returns.
Jordan Hicks (STL – SP/RP): 12% owned
For all of the righteous hullabaloo about Hicks’ velocity, his lack of strikeouts was rather mystifying. We’ve seen guys throw fast but simply be “flat,” but they also weren’t touching 105 mph like Hicks can. And Hicks’ 100-plus mph fastball is really more of a sinker, thrown to get grounders and not be straight cheese. But now he’s started working on elevating the heat as well as bringing a slider on board, which has come to fruition with 12 punchouts in his last 7 1/3 innings. His peak value was realized when he notched his first career save on Saturday with Bud Norris receiving the day off after blowing a save opp. Hicks should be treated with the same respect that most top-tier middle relievers are, and if Norris stumbles then you likely have a top-five closer.
Robert Gsellman (NYM – SP/RP): 21% owned
Save chasers who picked up Gsellman once Jeurys Familia hit the 10-day DL with shoulder soreness were disappointed on Sunday night when Gsellman pitched scoreless seventh and eighth innings before Anthony Swarzak shut the door. That duo may split closing duties while Familia is out, but Gsellman’s strong 55% groundball rate and zero homers allowed over the last month make him the better add over Swarzak, who has yielded two homers in just 5 1/3 innings thus far in ’18.
Yan Gomes (CLE – C): 10% owned
Everyone got a momentary jolt of prospect hype when Roberto Perez was hit by a pitch on the hand and Cleveland called up Francisco Mejia, but it seems Perez escaped major damage and Indians manager Terry Francona said Mejia could be sent back on Tuesday if Perez can play. If not, then they won’t carry three catchers and Perez will be DL’d.
Lost in the rookie buzz is how Gomes is riding a seven-game hitting streak that’s been highlighted by two homers in his last three contests. Per MLB.com, Francona said, ‘“If [Roberto] is down, it’ll be a really good opportunity for Mejia to play a game or two or whatever and just be around here.” That sounds like it’s clear Gomes is still the primary C, as should be expected. With the Indians rocking a collective .817 OPS over the last two weeks (the fourth-best mark in the bigs), those looking for a spark behind the dish should give Gomes a twirl.
Jaime Barria (LAA – SP): 19% owned
Don’t be discouraged by Barria getting sent down after his latest start, as the Angels are just exercising their wealth of options available to them. As of this writing on Monday night, the Angels are throwing “TBA” on Tuesday but beat reporters have noted that Barria’s jersey is present in the clubhouse. The youngster is 5-1 with a 2.48 ERA/1.05 WHIP over his first seven big-league starts thanks to a 12.4% swinging-strike rate, but he’s actually been more effective in recent starts thanks to an increase in slider usage. If he can continue to hone that pitch into an elite weapon and finally get some semblance of consistent work with the Halos then we’ve got a real mixed-league asset here.
Lance Lynn (MIN – SP): 28% owned
After looking absolutely lost through his first eight starts of 2018, Lynn has suddenly come alive with four straight quality starts against Detroit, Kansas City, Cleveland and the Los Angeles Angels. I remain wary of his 21 strikeouts to 11 walks in that time, as well as the zero homers given his command (which the 4.23 xFIP underscores), but he’s walked this tightrope before and if that gaudy 14.2% walk rate on the year can come down a touch then he may be able to dodge his sabermetric profile once again. Remember, his 3.43 ERA from 2017 had a 4.82 FIP, 4.75 xFIP and 4.85 SIERA behind it.
Frankie Montas (OAK – SP/RP): 30% owned
Montas has opened up his 2018 Major League campaign with three straight victories, though he’s beaten the D-backs before they remembered how to hit and the Royals twice. He’s working with a .238 BABIP and 91.8% strand rate despite only inducing soft contact at a 10.9% clip, and as much as I love Oakland’s pitcher-friendly park and top-10 team defense, I can’t buy in with any confidence here.
Deep League Targets – <10% owned
Dylan Covey (CWS – SP): 5% owned
Covey has quietly tacked on nearly 2 mph to his arsenal and has been a much different pitcher as a result. His atrocious 7.71 ERA/1.67 WHIP/7.20 FIP/5.64 SIERA in 70 innings (12 starts) last season was accompanied by an awful 0-7 record and 13.3% strikeout rate. But the 26-year-old has cleaned up some mechanics and now owns a 95 mph heater that has helped him amass a 2.22 ERA/1.27 WHIP/2.29 FIP/3.62 SIERA with a 23.3% strikeout rate. He hasn’t feasted on easy opponents either, as the youngster has faced Cleveland, Milwaukee, and Boston in his last three outings. Everyone’s waiting on Michael Kopech or praying for Lucas Giolito, but they’re missing a young arm blossoming right in front of them.
Randal Grichuk (TOR – OF): 5% owned
Grichuk entered Monday hitting .181 with a .655 OPS on the season after feasting on Baltimore’s poor pitchers, which is good for those keeping an eye on hot streaks out of streaky hitters who can benefit from a batter’s bottom line scaring others away. Grichuk popped two homers with five runs and five RBIs among eight hits over the four-game series and has three homers since being activated on June 1. He’s also hit three doubles since then and completing the trifecta of impressive threes is his strikeout total over those 30 PAs. His contact will almost always be loud, it can just be quite infrequent at times. This isn’t one of those times.
Adam Plutko (CLE – SP): 3% owned
Plutko will be called up to face the White Sox on Tuesday in the hopes of notching his fourth victory in four MLB starts this season. The 26-year-old righty wasn’t sharp against CWS his last time out (5 ER in 5 IP) but Cleveland’s offense is hot and should give him (and you) a shot at the W even if Plutko isn’t on his A-game. That said, we can expect a quality start if he is, just as he delivered in his first two outings against the Blue Jays and the Cubs. Don’t expect massive Ks, but the 48-to-10 K-to-BB ratio from 59 Triple-A innings should highlight the solid control and gives him a strong range of outcomes.
Jonathan Loaisiga (NYY – SP): 0% owned (N/A)
With Masahiro Tanaka possibly out until the All-Star break with two strained hamstrings, the Yankees will at least need a temporary rotation band-aid until they decide to trade for an arm. With top prospect Justus Sheffield already ruled out as an option, it looks like Loaisiga and David Hale are the two frontrunners. Hale is fine with his 4.58 ERA and 26-to-8 K-to-BB ratio at Triple-A, but Loaisiga is having the better year (at lower levels).
Loaisiga, which I’m typing as often as I can so I learn how to spell it consistently, dazzled at High-A to the tune of a 3-0 record with 26 strikeouts, a 1.35 ERA and 1.00 WHIP (1.65 xFIP) over 20 innings before getting promoted to Double-A. All he’s done there is go 3-1 with 32 Ks, a 4.32 ERA and 1.24 WHIP over 25 frames, but his xFIP remains pristine at 2.06. He’s walked just four batters in his combined 45 innings of work! His upside makes him the speculative grab here.