Fantasy Baseball Waiver Wire Pickups: Week 22
Hello, can anyone hear me over that football noise? I welcome those of you still tuning in here because that means you are the truly dedicated and are worthy of a late-season push onto the podium. Or perhaps you’re just trying to hold off that pesky Steve who is threatening your first-place finish. Either way, we’ve got you covered with waiver-wire goodness before rosters expand in September!
Ownership levels are taken from Yahoo leagues and, along with the stats, are accurate through August 27.
Priority Pickups – <30% Owned
Greg Allen (CLE – OF): 20% owned
Allen continues to produce despite batting ninth for Cleveland, as he’s swiped another two bases this past week. He’s ranked as the 72nd-best player over the last 30 days per Yahoo’s 5×5 scoring as of Tuesday night, and the 22nd-best over the last 14. His 45.2% groundball rate and 24.2% line-drive rate play to his strength (speed, duh) and given that he’s only been caught once this season, he should continue to coast through green lights for you and Cleveland alike.
Derek Holland (SF – SP): 26% owned
Holland had a couple of rough starts in mid-August, but even his worst turned out okay. He gave up a season-high 10 hits on Aug. 10 against PIT, yet only gave up four earned and got the win, and then danced around four walks and six hits on Aug. 15 at LAD with 4 2/3 innings of scoreless ball. He’s given up one run in each of his two starts since then (@NYM, TEX) and now has a 2.77 ERA (2.99 FIP, 3.35 xFIP) with a 26.6% strikeout rate since moving from the third-base side of the pitcher rubber to the first-base side (observable here). No, he won’t work deep into games, but how can you say no to those numbers?
Alex Cobb (BAL – SP): 23% owned
I admit that I’d blacklisted Cobb when he went to Baltimore and had seemingly lost the splitter that made him effective. I even doubted him last week after he had tossed five straight quality starts against quality opponents (TB x2, NYY, BOS, CLE) because he had to face the Yankees again. I don’t doubt the process of avoiding the Yanks whenever possible, but Cobb went and made it six straight QS with six innings of two-run ball last Saturday. I now expect the Blue Jays to bombard him on Thursday because I’m a little stitious, but in reality, Cobb is red-hot and needs to be added in most QS leagues. Unfortunately, Baltimore has given him only two wins out of the six QS.
Dansby Swanson (ATL – SS): 19% owned
Swanson is riding a neat power surge into the hearts of desperate fantasy owners, but we need to remain centered on this one. The facts are that he’s still hitting eighth in an NL lineup and has a career .687 OPS in over 1,100 MLB PAs with nothing showing that a hard-hit rate north of 50% is in the cards (it’s near 60% over the last two weeks). But he was also fast-tracked with just 569 MiLB PAs under his belt and could finally be finding his 50-grade power. Don’t hesitate to drop for the next heater, but I’m cool with adding and seeing how far this goes.
Mark Melancon (SF – RP): 28% owned
I think his ownership mark is artificially inflated by leagues that abandoned ship long ago (but still before he got hurt and lost the job). I imagine most active owners have not held on this long, but it should be noted that he’s logged saves in back-to-back games with Will Smith going through a rough patch. Giants skipper Bruce Bochy may not want to reward Hunter Strickland with the closer role after his stupidity led to injury, leaving Melancon as the next man up.
Pat Neshek (PHI – RP): 24% owned
Hector Neris (PHI – RP): 23% owned
Seranthony Dominguez has stumbled lately (but did pitch a clean frame in his last appearance) and PHI is in true “committee” mode. Neshek is a safe play with more stability for both you and Phils’ manager Gabe Kapler, but remember good ol’ Hector Neris? Yes, he’s back and seemingly better than ever. He’s struck out a whopping 15 batters across 6 2/3 scoreless innings and should reenter the fray soon. I’d rather gamble on ceiling with a committee, but Neris’ splitter command could disappear again at the drop of a hat.
Tyler O’Neill (STL – OF): 7% owned
O’Neill has ripped three homers in his last four games (three starts) and despite a troubling 38% strikeout rate over his first 92 MLB PAs, carries serious fantasy appeal. Big strikeouts don’t matter as much these days anyway, right? With the Cardinals outfield seemingly a magnet for injuries, O’Neill should be able to build on his monstrous ’18 in which he’s clobbered a combined 32 homers in just 365 PAs. That’s right, give the guy a full season and he’s easily over 50 dingers at that pace. Blind extrapolation is dangerous, but the point is to establish his power pedigree as actionable.
Luke Voit (NYY – 1B): 17% owned
Voit picked the best weekend to introduce himself to Yankees fans. Sporting his first name, “Louis,” on his back during Players Weekend, Bronx faithful everywhere swooned as he went a combined 7-for-11 with three homers over the weekend to lead a sweep of the Orioles. This also comes with Greg Bird mired in a serious slump and the Red Sox showing a hint of weakness atop the AL East, leaving Yanks manager Aaron Boone and fantasy owners in a spot where the hot hand cannot be ignored. Don’t go thinking Voit is all pop either — he has a career .288 average across 555 Minor League contests.
Austin Gomber (STL – SP/RP): 21% owned
The reality is that Gomber has a 4.83 xFIP (4.71 as a starter) and 4.76 SIERA behind his 2.79 ERA, which the 1.30 WHIP and elevated 11.7% walk rate point to. His minor league profile supports a lower .273 BABIP, though, and you’re likely here because he just marched into Coors and took his third victory in four starts by allowing one earned over six frames. I respect riding the wave, but the walks will become a real problem once his low 6.1% HR/FB rate crawls back toward the 11% mark posted throughout his last ~200 innings in the minors.
Mike Minor (TEX – SP/RP): 14% owned
Minor has been fighting back stiffness in the second half and Texas has been spacing out his starts as a result, but when he’s taken the hill boy, he’s been good. In 29 2/3 innings after the All-Star break, he’s allowed a hilarious .181/.211/.327 slash line with 25 strikeouts against four walks. His opponents over that stretch? The Athletics twice, the Astros, the Yankees and the Orioles. Four out of five lineups are strong playoff contenders in the top-heavy American League, which further highlights Minor’s effectiveness lately.
Ramon Laureano (OAK – OF): 8% owned
Laureano’s biggest MLB highlight thus far has been an insane 321-foot throw that would make a cannon blush, as he doubled up a runner from the wall. But we’re here for the offense, as he’s smashed three homers and swiped a pair of bags while hitting .300 over the last two weeks. His 54.6% hard-hit rate in August ranks 10th out of 303 players with at least 40 PAs this month, largely thanks to a robust-yet-compact swing. He had 14 HRs and 11 SBs with a .297 average and .905 OPS over 284 Triple-A PAs this season, which shows off the modest five-category potential. Those in points leagues should note he’s striking out roughly one-third of the time, though.
Deep League Targets – <10% owned
Tyler Austin (MIN – 1B): 4% owned
Now freed from the Bronx’s playing-time limitations, Austin has taken off with three homers in his last two games and six homers in 12 August contests as a Twin. This appears to be a true win-win trade for both ballclubs thus far, but the soon-to-be 27-year-old Austin should be on more fantasy radars as he pushes for everyday play. He and Joe Mauer can trade between 1B and DH with Logan Morrison out, which could make Austin a stone-cold stunner of an add down the stretch.
Thomas Pannone (TOR – RP): 7% owned
Pannone’s first MLB start went so well — seven innings of shutout ball with three baserunners allowed and three strikeouts against the Orioles — that Toronto will give him another outing against the same O’s next. Baltimore is an established streaming target by now, and the three Ks belie his putaway potential. The 24-year-old righty had 53 punchouts in 50 1/3 minor league frames before being promoted with swinging-strike rates above 12%. I don’t love big-league lineups getting a second look at someone so raw, but this second outing could be even better!
Ryan O’Hearn (KC – 1B): 2% owned
Oh, O’Hearn can swing it alright. With Kansas City out to analyze any young, cost-effective help they can get, the 25-year-old southpaw is flexing with a 93.6 mph average exit velocity that’s tied with Nelson Cruz for fifth-best in August (25 batted-ball minimum). His six dingers in just 69 PAs are surprising after he managed just 11 round-trippers in 406 Triple-A PAs this year, but he’s no stranger to HR/FB rates north of 20%. He won’t steal and probably won’t bat higher than .250, but if you missed out on the Kendrys Morales power extravaganza then O’Hearn is a decent consolation.
Luis Urias (SD – 2B): 2% owned
The Padres announced that they were kicking off the Luis Urias Era on Monday evening. The 21-year-old prospect had delivered a .296/.398/.447 slash through 533 Triple-A PAs, but the eight homers and two steals aren’t likely to make fantasy headlines. Interestingly enough, he had a nearly identical .296/.398/.380 slash in Double-A last season, which shows both the plate discipline and emerging pop. He’ll still be 21 come Opening Day 2019 and has plenty of time to develop his power stroke, but his strong eye and plus contact tool are already evident. Those in keeper formats shouldn’t wait around, while deep redrafters in need of MI/average assistance should jump in.
Wei-Yin Chen (MIA – SP): 3% owned
Plenty will write off Chen’s 10-strikeout gem against the Braves as all luck, and I wouldn’t blame them. Chen hasn’t been fantasy relevant for a long while now. However, Chen’s average fastball velocity crept up into the 92-93 mph range on June 27 and hasn’t turned back — we haven’t seen this from him since 2015. In 10 starts since then, he’s delivered six quality starts, two outings of 5 2/3 IP with a combined two earned surrendered, and then two clunkers. His 3.34 ERA (3.88 FIP, 4.14 xFIP) over that span will play in many formats, especially if the 19 strikeouts over his last 17 2/3 IP can continue.
Billy McKinney (TOR – OF): 7% owned
Already with three homers for Toronto across nine games, McKinney has now cleared the fence 19 times in 321 total PAs this season. While the power is there, please mind the lofty average is very unlikely to stick despite his reaching base in all eight games that he’s stepped to the dish for the Jays. He owned a power-tilted .226/.299/.495 slash through 56 Triple-A contests for the Yankees before being traded north, but pop is pop.
Framber Valdez (HOU – RP): 4% owned
Another starter that’s only RP-eligible on Yahoo, but you’re deploying him as a starter. After twirling five solid innings over the weekend, Valdez is penciled in for another turn on Friday against the Angels. He’s looked decent through two MLB appearances thus far, but three wild pitches in his most recent outing underscore some command woes. His stuff errs on the electric side — he’s posted K/9s above 9.0 across the minors — but his current .160 BABIP is very different than the .360 BABIP from the minors. Just be aware of the low floor here, though anyone starting for Houston is usually worth a stream in deep formats.