Fantasy Baseball Waiver Wire Pickups: Week 20
Did you know it’s still not football season! No, fantasy baseball is not ready to give up the spotlight yet, with some of the biggest highlights coming from notable starters heading to unfamiliar places. The Dodgers announced Kenta Maeda and Ross Stripling would both help their beleaguered ‘pen, and the Cardinals will do the same with Carlos Martinez to finish out ’18. Wil Myers is off to third base and Robinson Cano will see time at first when he returns from his 80-game suspension. There’s never a dull moment in baseball! Except for the fourth pitching change of an inning, that is.
Ownership levels are taken from Yahoo leagues and, along with the stats, are accurate through August 13.
Priority Pickups – <30% Owned
Tyler Glasnow (TB – SP/RP): 27% owned
Glasnow has been lights out as a Ray, posting a combined 12 IP, 3 ER, 3 BB, 20 K line in three “openers.” The interesting thing is how his latest opener on Sunday actually looked like a real start — he threw 48-of-79 pitches for strikes and went five innings. He’s thrown 124-of-178 (69.7%) pitches for strikes as a Ray after managing just 97-of-163 (59.5%) in July for Pittsburgh. He’s pounding the zone with tantalizing results, so go get a piece of the action!
Jose Leclerc (TEX – RP): 25% owned
Leclerc locked down a crisp two-strikeout save on Tuesday night, giving him 62 punchouts in 43 2/3 IP (12.78 K/9) and trimming his ERA to 2.06 on the season (2.13 FIP). At first, I thought his ownership rate hadn’t changed since last week because perhaps only one-quarter of you are still active. But then Scott Alexander shot up to 41% owned when Kenley Jansen hit the DL, so I know that’s poppycock. Just because save opps haven’t been there for Leclerc doesn’t mean he isn’t a solid closer to own. Don’t wait until the saves start coming in to add him.
Jackie Bradley Jr. (BOS – OF): 24% owned
It’s that time of the year again! Yes, that glorious time where JBJ seems to get hot and take advantage of the strong bats around him to ride a wave onto the leaderboards. As I write this, he stands as the 10th-best player per Yahoo’s 5×5 ranking system over the last two weeks thanks to three homers, a steal and 14 R+RBI alongside a .296 average. He’s got the pop, the wheels and the offensive environment to be a top-100 overall player, but the shift snuffs out so many hits. If the power is waking up then I’m here, but be ready to bail if he stops hitting it over the infielders.
Derek Holland (SF – SP): 16% owned
I don’t want to completely let Holland off the hook for his most recent outing (6 1/3 IP, 4 ER, 10 H, 5 K) because he yielded way too many line drives, but he had made it through a quality start before his bullpen made a bad inning worse. The southpaw opened up the seventh frame with a strikeout, but then a walk and single forced his exit with 105 pitches. Two batters later, Pierce Johnson gave up a grand slam to Francisco Cervelli.
The funny part is that he actually got the win — the first since June 20 — thanks to 13 runs of offense. Anyway, the point is it wasn’t that bad and the Giants usually don’t let him go that deep into a game. He still has a 3.12 ERA, 3.20 FIP and 3.25 xFIP with 77 strikeouts in 66 1/3 innings since June began and remains a premier pickup in pitcher-friendly AT&T Park.
Matthew Boyd (DET – SP/RP): 21% owned
Boyd’s name has elicited many a shrug from fantasy owners over the last few seasons, but 2018 has been different. While I hold that his early-season success was more due to luck (.194 BABIP and 5.78 xFIP in April, 4.49 xFIP in May, 4.91 in June), he’s started throwing harder lately.
His Brooks Baseball card gives him average four-seam velos of 89.54 mph in April, 90.54 mph in May, 90.82 mph in June, 91.33 mph in July and 92.44 so far in August. Perhaps more important is that his slider speed rose from April to May, but has dropped back down to 80 mph. His curve has also slowed a couple of ticks. It all came together with a 2.88 FIP/3.47 xFIP month of July with a beautiful 22.9% K-BB rate — his previous monthly high in ’18 was 13%. I’m not saying he’s a world-beater, but he’s not just getting lucky.
Willy Adames (TB – 2B/SS): 13% owned
Adames’ overall .250/.297/.375 line across 165 MLB PAs is not enticing, but his five HR and five SB already would give him roughly an 18/18 pace over a full year if the Rays will stomach the 30% strikeout rate. Only that’s not the Willy we’ve seen in August. No, this 22-year-old rookie has the audacity to be hitting .405 (15-for-37) with two dingers and four steals with a more palatable 17.5% strikeout rate over 40 PAs thus far. It’s a very small sample size and I wouldn’t expect much more power, but he should keep running since he’s got his timing down. Mix in some batted-ball fortune and you’ve got a strong MI add on your hands.
Jeremy Hellickson (WAS – SP): 24% owned
Hellboy had a very strange no-hit bid thanks to a loss of command in the sixth inning on Aug. 10, when he took a no-decision with two earned runs with just four walks allowed across 5 2/3 IP. You don’t have to be blown away by Hellickson, but he has a 3.67 ERA/1.04 WHIP over the last month and he pitches in the weakest hitting division in baseball. Their bullpen is a mess, but the Nats are still a solid source of starting pitchers for fantasy purposes. Speaking of that bullpen…
Koda Glover (WAS – RP): 17% owned
On this week’s episode of, “As the Nationals Bullpen Turns”…we find Glover as one of the last men standing after it was revealed Ryan Madson was dealing with a recurring back injury. That’s a funny way to spell David Bote-induced whiplash, but okay. Sean Doolittle is supposed to get in some mound work this week, but some of you need that interim piece.
Glover was recalled on Aug. 8 and made two scoreless appearances before getting tagged with a Paul DeJong walk-off homer on Tuesday night. But Justin Miller gave up two earned before that, leaving Greg Holland’s clean two-out appearance as the only non-disaster of the night. That said, Holland still has a 7.07 ERA and I think the usage patterns here show Glover is Dave Martinez’s guy for now.
Edwin Jackson (OAK – SP): 22% owned
Jackson hasn’t allowed an earned run while ripping off three consecutive victories over the past couple of weeks. The eternally-wandering E-Jax shut down a Mike Trout-less Angels lineup on Aug. 11 with his longest start of the season (7 1/3 IP) to trim his ratios to a 2.48 ERA and 1.03 WHIP. I still don’t want to start him at home against Houston for his next scheduled start on Aug. 17, but he should be rostered in most 12-team formats.
Trevor Richards (MIA – SP/RP): 12% owned
Richards and his wicked changeup continue to wreak havoc on opposing hitters, though his overall 3-7 record, 3.98 ERA, 1.37 WHIP and 8.9 K/9 don’t endear him to fantasy owners. But this is a 25-year-old who has battled through early command struggles and looks to have found magic over the last month (five starts). He’s posted a 1.53 ERA with a sub-one WHIP and a 32-to-9 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 29 1/3 IP, with a 2.88 FIP, 3.74 xFIP and 3.55 SIERA to back it up. The .232 BABIP and 91.3% strand rate in that span are never going to last, though being a fly-ball pitcher (45%) in this window helps.
Deep League Targets – <10% owned
Anthony DeSclafani (CIN – SP): 7% owned
The player affectionately known as “Tony Disco” has shown off quite a few moves lately. After injuries kept him back from the majors all of 2017, DeSclafani might be shaking off the rust in August. He’s won his last two starts in convincing fashion, with seven innings of one-run ball against the Nationals and seven innings of shutout ball against the D-backs. The latter saw him fan a season-high nine batters and walk none for the first time in ’18, which puts him on my radar for his slated Aug. 17 start against the Giants at home.
Harrison Bader (STL – OF): 10% owned
Tyler O’Neill (STL – OF): 5% owned
The Cardinals are down to one true (and widely-known) outfielder in Marcell Ozuna with Dexter Fowler injured, which paves the way for Bader and O’Neill to shine down the stretch.
Bader has done more in ’18, but hasn’t had the consistent playing time until recently. He went 4-for-9 with two homers during a weekend series against the Royals and now has eight dingers and 12 steals in just 262 PAs. Give him a full-season pace and he could sniff a 20HR-25SB campaign.
Then there’s O’Neill, who is set to return from the DL on Tuesday (minor groin strain) to a .309/.333/.491 slash with three homers and a steal over 60 MLB PAs thus far. This comes after he mashed 26 taters with a .311/.385/.693 line in 273 Triple-A PAs. Bader is more well-rounded thanks to the speed, but O’Neill has a 70 raw-power grade and isn’t afraid to use it.
Touki Toussaint (ATL – SP): 10% owned
Toussaint’s major-league debut against the Marlins went much better than fellow Bravo Kolby Allard’s did. To be fair, Touki had better weather. Anyway, the 20-year-old righty allowed a lone run over six solid innings with four strikeouts, notching a quality start and the win. He only induced six whiffs on 82 pitches — three on his curve, three on his splitter — but notched 18 called strikes and Statcast had him throwing 25 curves, 21 four-seamers, 20 splitters and 16 sinkers. He’s likely headed back to the minors for now, but keep an eye on him in case he gets another crack at it in ’18.
Taylor Ward (LAA – C): 2% owned
Ward is only catcher-eligible on Yahoo for now, but the Angels have been working him at third base all 2018 and it seems to have yielded a dynamite stick. The 24-year-old has a .349/.446/.531 slash with 14 homers and 18 steals in 446 PAs between Double- and Triple-A thus far. He didn’t even attempt a steal in ’17. His BABIP has been over .430, though, so let’s put more stock in the 25% line-drive rate that allows for good luck when blended with speed and the ~15% walk rate reflected in that OBP. We need to see what rookie-averse manager Mike Scioscia will do with him, but fantasy owners should err on the side of being early here.
Cedric Mullins (BAL – OF): 5% owned
Mullins’ call-up wasn’t trumpeted but he joins Baltimore having gone 21-of-22 on the basepaths with 29 doubles, eight triples and 11 homers in 485 minor-league PAs in ’18. We know the Orioles don’t run a lot and that dampens enthusiasm for his biggest fantasy skill — let alone that he was already caught stealing in the bigs — but those in need of speed, especially with a modest strikeout rate for points-leaguers, should give Mullins a shot.
Danny Jansen (TOR – C): 5% owned
Two catcher-eligible prospects! I’d rather have Ward and take the less sure playing time situation over Jansen, but some of us need all the help we can get. Jansen has popped 12 homers with a .275/.390/.473 line across 360 Triple-A PAs thus far, plus a low 4.4% swinging-strike rate that deserves highlighting. Let’s see how serious they are about letting Russell Martin get some mileage at third.