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10 Under-the-Radar Waiver Pickups (Fantasy Baseball)

Apr 4, 2019

Sandy Alcantara has extremely high potential if he can harness his control

Fantasy baseball’s first week is drawing to a close. Even with the minuscule number of starts and at-bats, fantasy owners are eager to pounce on the young season’s standout performers. Hot starters like Kolten Wong have probably been scooped up in your league already, but there are a plethora of low-owned names with big upside who can be grabbed for free.

It can be tough scouring through the long list of free agents and determining which ones have the most long-term value. For that reason, we’ve asked our featured experts to shed light on their favorite under-the-radar pickups who are owned in a maximum of 20% of leagues.

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Q1. What one starting pitcher should fantasy owners look into picking up that is owned in 20% of leagues or less?

Sandy Alcantara: 20% owned | Pablo Lopez: 7% owned | Caleb Smith (SP – MIA): 8% owned 
“Surprise, surprise. I’m going to talk about the Marlins. Pick any of Alcantara, Smith, or Lopez. Those three, along with Trevor Richards, combined for 24.1 IPs, 25 strikeouts, three walks, five earned runs, and an 18 percent SwStr% during their first turns through the rotation. I’d rank them Smith, Lopez, and Alcantara, but all should be above 40 percent owned.”
– Michael Waterloo (FantasyPros)

Sandy Alcantara, one of the focal points of the December trade that sent All-Star outfielder Marcell Ozuna to the St. Louis Cardinals, had the best start of all Marlins pitchers who had their first turn in the rotation. In just his seventh career Major League start, Alcantara kept the Colorado Rockies lineup scoreless through eight innings. He struck out six and only gave up four hits, but most impressively, he did not issue a walk. That is a huge sign for the right-hander who has had his issues with control and consistency. While he is a candidate to strike out one batter per inning, he’s also posted a 6.2 BB/9 rate in his first 14 MLB appearances. Seeing Alcantara display excellent control is a great indicator of his development and will provide a sense of hope with his future in the Marlins’ rotation. The 23-year-old is a significant piece of a young and potentially elite Miami staff. Miami’s pitcher-friendly park makes him no worse than a streaming option. If he can continue to harness his control, the hype surrounding Alcantara will prove to be real.”
– Dennis Sosic (Fantasy Six Pack)

Pablo Lopez is on the Marlins, so I think that will likely keep his ownership down for the time being, but it would be a mistake to overlook him. He had a killer spring with a 0.90 ERA and 0.55 WHIP across 20 innings. I know it’s only spring of course, but the added velocity looks absolutely legit. The Marlins kicking Dan Straily to the curb and banishing Wei-Yin Chen to the pen signal that they are committed to giving their young guys a long look. There is K upside here, as evidenced by the 19 swinging strikes he generated in his regular season debut against the Rockies. And his 5% BB% rate in Double-A and Triple-A last year foretell that he could also provide some beneficial ratios. Wins will be tough to come by on a bad Marlins squad, but now is the time to add.”
– Ryan Amore (Pitcher List)

Caleb Smith was one of my favorite late round targets for starting pitching this draft season. Once it was announced that he’d made the rotation, I was all aboard the hype train. Simply put, he has huge strikeout upside. Last season he produced 10.24 K/9, and in his first start of 2019, he struck out eight Rockies over five innings. While he’s not impervious to matchups, he’s a high-upside option in a great park that could win you a league if he breaks out.”
– Kyle Miller (KMill Sports)

Jordan Zimmermann (SP – DET): 13% owned 
“Maybe it’s the Tigers fan in me that wants this to be true, but it’s possible that Zimmermann is healthy and back to his old, Nationals self. Through two starts, Zimmermann has his highest strikeout-to-walk percentage since 2014 at 18.4% and also is currently sporting career lows in line-drive percentage (13%) and extra-base-hit percentage (2%). There is some luck involved here. Zimmermann won’t keep up this performance all year, but at only 13% owned, you can probably get him with a late waiver claim still. If you are desperate for pitching, Zimmermann is worth a shot.”
– Kyle Richardson (The Fantasy Headliners)

Michael Pineda (SP – MIN): 18% owned 
“Pineda was impressive in his 2019 debut, limiting Cleveland to just two baserunners over four shutout innings, striking out five. The Twins are still being cautious with the right-hander, who missed the entire 2018 season following Tommy John surgery. This may reduce his chances to post a bunch of wins and/or quality starts. But Pineda should be able to post solid ratios as he continues to build up his stamina. Playing in the offensively-challenged AL Central should only enhance his 2019 outlook. Pineda will get a home date with Detroit next week. The Tigers have been among the most anemic offenses in all of baseball in nearly every metric in the early going, including a league-worst .460 OPS against RHPs through Wednesday’s games. Pineda makes for an excellent streaming option for next week and beyond.”
– Mick Ciallela (Fantrax)

Josh James (SP – HOU): 18% owned 
“While there may never be another Josh Hader again, the closest thing going this year may be James of the Houston Astros. Before a minor spring training injury, he was a favorite starting pitcher sleeper. Now that he is in the pen, we could see 80 innings with 100+ strikeouts and sparkling ratios from the fireballer. Don’t be surprised if the Astros stretch him back out into the rotation the moment a spot opens back up.”
– Bobby Sylvester (FantasyPros)

Q2. What one hitter should fantasy owners look into picking up that is owned in 20% of leagues or less?

Christian Walker (1B – ARI): 18% owned 
“Walker has put up impressive power numbers in the minors throughout his career, but he was stuck behind first baseman Paul Goldschmidt with the Diamondbacks. Now that Goldschmidt is with the St. Louis Cardinals, Walker may finally have found the opportunity to see some regular MLB at-bats to carry that success over in the big leagues. The right-handed hitting Walker has been part of a first base platoon with Jake Lamb, who notoriously cannot hit southpaws. Walker had an excellent spring and has taken full advantage of this opportunity by starting this season on fire, slashing .368/.400/.797 with three home runs, six RBIs, and a 1.346 OPS. Lamb pulled up hobbling while legging out a double in Wednesday’s game and is scheduled to go in for an MRI to evaluate the severity of the injury on Thursday. With the possibility that Lamb will be headed to the injured list with what is being called a strained quadriceps, this injury opens up regular at-bats and playing time for Walker, and more importantly, a possibility to run with the first base job. Even when Lamb comes back, it’s difficult to envision that the Diamondbacks won’t continue with Walker if he keeps hitting the ball well. He has emerged as must-own in all formats and a hitter to pick up immediately.”
– Dennis Sosic (Fantasy Six Pack)

“With Jake Lamb going down with a strained quad, his platoon partner, Christian Walker, will have a chance to shine in a full-time role. Walker might not ever be a .280 hitter, but he has bonkers power and comes with Jesus Aguilar-type upside. After shredding Triple-A year after year, Walker has started the MLB season on a tear, swatting five extra-base hits in 19 trips to the plate. You can scoop him up now in the vast majority of leagues before everyone else catches on.”
– Bobby Sylvester (FantasyPros)

Yandy Diaz (3B – TB): 10% owned
“It’s still very early, but maybe we should be paying more attention to Diaz, who is only owned in 10% of leagues. Diaz has seen his strikeout percentage drop to 12% from 15.8% last year and his walk percentage rise to 16% from 9.2% in 2018. So, let’s ask ourselves, hot start or the real thing? The batting average is not an issue; it’s the power we are waiting on. But at only 27 years old, the power could come at any moment and Diaz could be a solid contributor to your lineup for the rest of the season if it comes soon. Diaz is currently hitting at the top of the order against left-handers and in the middle of the order against right-handers. The opportunity will continue to be there.”
– Kyle Richardson (The Fantasy Headliners)

Yandy Diaz is a guy that should see his ownership climb drastically in the not-so-distant future. He’s been a fixture in a lineup that is constantly subbing guys in and out — even hitting leadoff in some games. He has a high exit velocity and very good contact skills. He’s approaching 12-team mixed league relevancy.”
– Michael Waterloo (FantasyPros)

Teoscar Hernandez (OF – TOR): 5% owned
“The Blue Jays recently shipped out the veteran Kevin Pillar so they figure to give their current crop of outfielders a long look. Hernandez had got some swing and miss to his game and he’s off to a shaky start, but the power/speed potential with Hernandez shouldn’t be ignored. There’s a short sample caveat, of course, but last year he hit the ball exceedingly hard with a 91.8 average exit velocity, which was inside the top 7% in the league.”
– Ryan Amore (Pitcher List)

Ryan Zimmerman (1B – WSH): 12% owned 
“Zimmerman makes for an ideal replacement for those who may have lost corner infielders Daniel Murphy, Miguel Andujar, or Jake Lamb this week. The veteran is perennially among the league leaders in hard-hit percentage and exit velocity. He hits in a good Washington lineup behind Anthony Rendon and Juan Soto, which will lead to a ton of RBI opportunities even without Trea Turner. Zimmerman also has a friendly upcoming schedule, with trips to Citizens Bank Park and Coors Field sandwiched around matchups against Pittsburgh, San Francisco, and Miami over the next three weeks.”
– Mick Ciallela (Fantrax)

Dansby Swanson (SS – ATL): 10% owned 
“Swanson has been one of the more disappointing number one draft picks in recent memory, but I believe he’s turning the corner. While watching the Braves’ two-game, warm-up series in Atlanta before the season, I saw Swanson take two outside pitches and put them over the wall for home runs. He had offseason wrist surgery, which I believe will lead to more power. He has two regular-season home runs already, including one opposite-field shot. This is a former top prospect that is rounding into form.”
– Kyle Miller (KMill Sports)

Thank you to the experts for naming their under-the-radar pickups. Be sure to give them a follow on Twitter and subscribe to our podcast below for all the latest discussions this season.

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