Fantasy Baseball Waiver Wire Pickups: Week 23
Howdy, all, and welcome to the first week of September! I hope you US readers enjoyed your Labor Day weekend by doing nothing but preparing for a strong finish to your fantasy baseball season. Let’s jump right in and get to some familiar names you need to reassess, as well as a few newer ones to learn!
Ownership levels are taken from Yahoo leagues and, along with the stats, are accurate through Sept. 3.
Priority Pickups – <30% Owned
Adalberto Mondesi (KC – 2B/SS): 15% owned
Mondesi’s bat has kept pace with his wheels recently, as the speedster’s last six starts have seen him go 10-for-23 with two homers and two steals. Despite a poor 2.8% walk rate and 26.1% strikeout rate, Mondesi’s six homers and 18 steals over just 180 PAs churns out a ~20 HR/50 SB campaign over a full season. Those in OBP leagues will hurt more than the rest, but the category juice is worth the squeeze.
Tyler Glasnow (TB – SP/RP): 25% owned
Considering Glasnow got a bit burned by the Royals back on Aug. 23, I can understand why folks dropped him with a road date against the Indians on tap. But if you ditched him then you missed one heck of an effort, as he limited the AL Central leaders to just one run on two hits (one a solo HR) with six strikeouts and one walk over seven innings. He lost because Corey Kluber shut down the Rays, but the lack of Ws doesn’t take away from his 3.26 ERA and a stellar 33% strikeout rate that ranked sixth in August for qualified SPs.
Joey Wendle (TB – 2B/3B/OF): 28% owned
Wendle’s three-hit Monday gives him seven multi-hit efforts in his last eight contests, a stretch in which he’s swiped four bases as well. The stolen bases of late only help call attention to how good of a hitter Wendle’s been in recent months, as the versatile 28-year-old owns a .356 average in 49 games since July 1, but five homers (a 15-homer full-season pace) are light in today’s world. Perhaps some of the 15 doubles in that stretch will clear the fence in September and vault Wendle and his owners to fantasy greatness.
Jose Alvarado (TB – RP): 23% owned
Sergio Romo hasn’t pitched since Aug. 25 without any real comment from the Rays or any of their writers, with Alvarado picking up two saves since then. Romo may have been getting the saves lately, but Alvarado still has a 2.20 ERA, 1.12 WHIP and 64 strikeouts across 57 1/3 frames. He’s hardly someone you’re settling for!
Luke Voit (NYY – 1B): 24% owned
Voit has swatted three homers over his last five games to prove that he wasn’t a one-weekend wonder for the Yanks. Since truly stepping into the starting lineup over the struggling Greg Bird on Aug. 24, Voit has gone 14-for-37 while popping six homers to fit into the Bronx Bomber fold. Anyone with regular playing time in this lineup and that hitter’s park deserves ownership well above the 50% mark. Do your part!
Franmil Reyes (SD – OF): 6% owned
The Padres have seen Hunter Renfroe‘s power come back online and Luis Urias debut, but Reyes smashed two rockets on Monday night to give him six homers in his last nine games and 15 moonshots over 194 PAs. He can’t help the fact that he has just 23 RBI to show for the power, but it’d be nice if he could help the 31.4% strikeout rate. Still, his first taste of MLB has seen him somehow exceed the 32% HR/FB rate from Triple-A, and his 92 mph average exit velocity (not counting Monday’s power jolt) is 20th out of 368 players with at least 100 batted balls in ’18.
Mike Minor (TEX – SP/RP): 24% owned
Minor was here last week and promptly posted another quality start, this time with seven strikeouts over six innings of two-run ball against the Dodgers on Aug. 29, and now has four QS in his last five turns. His 27/6 K/BB ratio is promising, though he’s still given up four dingers over that span and has a troubling 1.47 HR/9 in ’18 after posting a 0.58 HR/9 in the ‘pen last season. He won’t stay this lucky for long — that LAD start had a .000 BABIP — but it’s worth noting how this stretch has seen him mow down the Astros, Yankees, Athletics and Dodgers (…and the Orioles). He’ll test his luck again on Wednesday against the Angels.
Jordan Hicks (STL – RP): 21% owned
Dakota Hudson (STL – RP): 5% owned
Bud Norris served up a pair of homers en route to a loss on Sunday and then yielded a game-tying homer to Bryce Harper on Monday for a blown save which leaves Cardinals manager Mike Shildt in a bit of a pickle. Shildt gave the verbal equivalent of shrugging with his hands up when asked about the closer role after Monday’s loss, which is enough for scrappy save-hunters to look at Hicks and Hudson. Hicks hasn’t been too sharp lately but offers way more strikeout upside compared to Hudson, who has 10 punchouts in 17 2/3 IP.
Jakob Junis (KC – SP): 23% owned
Don’t think that Junis has simply had a good couple of games, as his last six starts have been solid. Of course, the last two have been exceptional — one a complete-game victory over the Tigers and then Monday saw him scatter two measly hits over seven shutout innings to beat the Indians. The win also boosts his K/BB ratio to 39/5 over the last six starts, in which he’s given up just eight earned over 39 IP with no severe BABIP or strand rate outliers. He’s set to face the Twins in Minnesota next on Sept. 9.
Steven Matz (NYM – SP): 19% owned
Matz has bounced back from a DL stint bookended by two ugly starts with three strong outings to regain your trust. Two dates against the Giants and one against the Nats have yielded a line of: 19 IP, 10 H, 4 ER, 3 BB, 23 K. If anything caught your attention lately with Matz, it was his most recent 11-strikeout gem on Sept. 1. The Pitchf/x data is crediting him with more sliders rather than curveballs in those three outings, so perhaps he’s feeling comfortable with that out pitch again. He’ll look to stay hot against Philly on Sept. 7.
Victor Robles (WAS – OF): 10% owned
After an ugly left elbow injury that initially had us thinking Robles’ 2018 was lost turned out to “just” be a severe hyperextension, the Nationals announced they will recall the promising 21-year-old on Tuesday, though it’s unclear how many starts he’ll get. He only had a .273/.352/.377 slash line with two homers over 178 Triple-A PAs, but has collected 14 steals in those 39 games. The solid average and plus speed are ready now while the power will blossom in the coming years. I’d rather have him and be disappointed that he doesn’t play enough rather than see him explode on another squad.
Chris Stratton (SF – SP): 13% owned
This one may take more faith than other adds given how his season cratered, but Stratton has ripped off three consecutive quality starts without issuing a walk since rejoining San Fran’s rotation on Aug. 21. No, the .217 BABIP isn’t going to hang around forever, especially not with a 50.8% groundball rate, and yes, he faced the Mets twice (D-backs were the other), but the 2.61 FIP and 3.44 xFIP over this small stretch isn’t sending up red flags. He misses the Coors Field series against Colorado and will take on the Brewers in Milwaukee next on Sept. 8 for those of you who want a “real test.”
Deep League Targets – <10% owned
Touki Toussaint (ATL – SP): 9% owned
Toussaint went from debuting against one of the worst teams in the baseball (Marlins) to facing the best team (Red Sox) in his second start. Touki had coasted through six innings of one-run ball against Miami for the win and looked to be on a similar path against Boston on Monday, but four hitless frames to open the game were quickly dashed by a rough fifth inning. Still, Atlanta may (should) let him run with the rotation in September given his pedigree and the fact that he’s looked dominant in all but one inning thus far.
Josh James (HOU – SP): 9% owned
James largely lived up to the hype by striking out nine hitters across five innings in his MLB debut, though three Angels did cross the plate on a Kole Calhoun homer and three walks were issued. The hard-throwing 25-year-old has taken massive strides in ’18 after a 4.81 ERA in ’16 and 4.38 ERA in ’17, as he owns a 3.23 ERA with 171 strikeouts in just 114 1/3 IP between Double- and Triple-A, though it came with a 3.9 BB/9. Major league hitters will (presumably) not chase as much and the MLB strike zone is a bit tighter, but being able to touch 100 mph with Houston supporting him is worthy of a look on its own. Charlie Morton may return and bounce him from the rotation, but this is a speculative add worth making now.
Ryan O’Hearn (KC – 1B): 2% owned
Well, if O’Hearn’s marvelous two-homer Monday isn’t enough for you to take his power surge seriously then I don’t know what will. We noted his fantastic exit velocity to begin his MLB tenure last week and he’s now cleared the wall nine times in just 91 PAs. For context, he’d slugged 11 homers in 406 PAs at Triple-A, so the 25-year-old southpaw has really started swinging it. That’s not to say he was a slouch in the minors — he had 95 homers with a .821 OPS in 558 MiLB games — but this is definitely another level. Don’t be afraid to bail should several cold days string together, but the muscle is real.
Wei-Yin Chen (MIA – SP): 9% owned
Chen continues to dazzle the Miami faithful, as he held the Blue Jays to one run on just three hits over eight innings on Sept. 1 to notch his fourth win in his last five home starts. This gives him a sparkling 1.77 ERA at home (3.18 FIP, 4.11 xFIP) compared to an ugly 9.35 ERA on the road (6.80 FIP, 5.83 xFIP). What makes little sense to me is how his 7.6% pop-up rate at home is nearly doubled to 14.5% on the road, his hard-contact rate goes from 36.5% at home to 27.2% on the road while his soft-contact rate rises from 13% at home to 21% on the road.
Those are all significant gains on the road! But his strikeout rate goes from a homely 23.4% to a barren 12.6% on the road. It’s easy to get caught up in the home/road splits and overlook the 25.5% K-BB rate and 2.74 xFIP against lefties versus a 6.9% K-BB mark and 5.35 xFIP against righties. Mind the context, but Chen’s recent success cannot be ignored. Unfortunately, his next start comes in Pittsburgh, though the Pirates’ lineup is rather lefty-heavy with Gregory Polanco, Corey Dickerson, Colin Moran and Adam Frazier.
Chris Shaw (SF – 1B): 1% owned
Shaw’s first MLB hit was quite loud, as he slugged a pinch-hit missile 468 feet (at Coors Field) after going down 0-2 on Monday. He’s now made two starts and two pinch-hit appearances in four games but should start against most righties. The power is well-known by SF — he mashed 24 taters in just 422 Triple-A PAs this season — but it came with a 34.1% strikeout rate alongside a mere 5% walk rate. Even Joey Gallo draws walks (and boasts more power). But NL-only owners seeking some pop should give Shaw a chance to hit his stride in the bigs — I liked SF Giants beat writer Andrew Baggarly’s comment about Shaw potentially mirroring Trevor Story’s development arc.