Fantasy Baseball Waiver Wire Pickups: Week 1
Drafters spent the entire offseason studying every article and podcast possible to construct the perfect team. Less than a week into the season, it’s time to make some alterations.
Nobody should drop a ninth-round pick who stumbled out of the opening gate. However, it’s not too early to cut bait on an end-of-draft flier who didn’t land a starting gig. Managers should implement a revolving-door policy with their bottom bench slots, even if that aggressiveness occasionally leads to cutting a meaningful contributor. A proactive approach can just as easily result in snagging 2019’s biggest breakouts.
Throughout this season, this waiver-wire column will explore players available in a majority of all leagues, per FantasyPros’ consensus ownership rates. When not available, the percentage will defer to Yahoo. Since one player from a pivotal positional battle creeps above 30%, the cutoff mark opens at 35.
Also, keep in mind that I’ll typically avoid duplicates from my deep-league hitter column published on Monday. Greg Bird is now a viable 12-team add with Giancarlo Stanton (biceps) and Miguel Andujar (shoulder) both sidelined.
Priority Pickups – <35% Owned
Ryan McMahon (1B/2B/3B – COL): 34% Owned
Garrett Hampson (2B/SS – COL): 29% Owned
McMahon or Hampson? After spending weeks wondering which young player would win a starting role for the Rockies, the answer might quickly become “both.” Daniel Murphy landed on the IL with a finger injury. If reason prevails, McMahon will slide to first, ceding second base to Hampson.
This is the Rockies, so of course they started Mark Reynolds on Sunday. Hampson and McMahon, however, both graced Saturday’s lineup. (All three played on Monday under AL rules in Tampa Bay.) Each young infielder earned playing time with a sensational spring and will matter in all mixed leagues if given the opportunity. A popular 2017 sleeper, McMahon has started every game. While playing time is less secure for Hampson, he offers more fantasy upside as a major average and speed contributor.
Franmil Reyes (OF – SD): 29% Owned
Wait, the same Reyes who has reached base once (a single) in five games? That’s the one. Rather than panicking over the slow beginning, celebrate the outfielder starting four times despite San Diego’s crowded outfield. Playing time was the only preseason impediment for a 23-year-old who belted 16 homers with a .360 wOBA in 285 plate appearances last season. Reyes offers 30-homer upside if he sticks as the Padres’ starting right fielder. The same thing, however, could be said of Hunter Renfroe, another lefty-destroyer who could earn more reps if his teammate continues to falter.
Jeff McNeil (2B – NYM): 27% Owned
Another case study in drafting skills over roles, McNeil was in danger of losing his starting role when the Mets beefed up their infield. That problem never materialized, as Jed Lowrie and Todd Frazier opened 2019 on the sidelines.
An organizational depth piece emerged to bat .342/.411/.617 through Double-A and Triple-A before hitting .329/.381/.471 in the majors last season. McNeil cumulatively tallied 22 homers and 13 steals across all levels, brandishing most of the power in the minors and speed for the Mets. After falling a home run shy of a cycle during a four-hit Saturday, he rode the pine against lefty Patrick Corbin on Sunday. Let’s hope they don’t stick with a strict platoon, as he garnered a .348 wOBA against southpaws last year. McNeil would not be eligible for any waiver-wire articles had the Mets stood pat this winter, so grab the potential five-category contributor — who should eventually add third-base eligibility — before everyone else wakes up.
Taylor Rogers (RP – MIN): 27% Owned
Although Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said he plans to mix and match save opportunities, most onlookers still expected Trevor May or Blake Parker to get the first stab. It instead went to Rogers, who struck out three of four batters faced (including Jose Ramirez) to shut down Cleveland on Opening Day.
The 28-year-old southpaw closed out 2018 with 26 consecutive scoreless innings, during which he amassed 29 strikeouts to three walks. Given last year’s .202 wOBA against lefties, he’s too valuable to limit to the final frame. There’s virtually no chance of him emerging as Minnesota’s undisputed closer, but he could pair strong strikeouts and ratios with 10-15 saves.
Trevor Richards (SP – MIA): 21% Owned
The first of Miami’s young hurlers to dazzle, Richards validated the preseason buzz by allowing one run over six innings. Despite issuing an unspectacular two walks and four strikeouts, he also elicited 12 called strikes and 10 swinging strikes in 81 pitches. He unveiled a slider alongside an elite changeup that netted a .227 wOBA last season, so the 25-year-old righty could morph into a mixed-league mainstay with help from the new secondary pitch.
Michael Pineda (SP – MIN): 17% Owned
Making his first big league appearance since July 5, 2017, Pineda returned from Tommy John surgery to allow just one hit with five strikeouts over four scoreless frames. The erratic righty has proven impossible to trust on a game-by-game (or inning-by-inning) basis, but he has also weaved a 3.58 FIP and 18.9 K-BB% over his career. Minnesota’s putrid AL Central competition at least makes Pineda an intriguing sleeper if he does not perform consistently enough to earn universal ownership.
Corbin Burnes (SP/RP – MIL): 17% Owned
Sure, Burnes relinquished four runs (three homers) in his first career major league strike. He also tallied a dozen strikeouts with 18 swinging strikes in 87 pitches. All fantasy managers must take notice. After excelling in the bullpen for the Brew Crew last season, the 24-year-old brings his wipeout slider and lively heater to the rotation. Although Burnes won’t pile up the innings, he can parlay his spin rate to elite strikeout production in a limited workload. The players are listed by descending ownership, but he’s the best add among all the highlighted starting pitchers.
Sandy Alcantara (SP – MIA): 14% Owned
Despite possessing the most prospect pedigree of the bunch, Alcantara wasn’t receiving as much preseason buzz after issuing 23 walks in six major league starts. On Sunday, however, he didn’t allow a single free pass in eight scoreless frames against the Rockies. The 23-year-old notched six strikeouts with 14 called and swinging strikes apiece, so he’s at least an intriguing home streamer with a high ceiling moving forward.
Deep League Targets – <10% owned
Jeimer Candelario (3B – DET): 9% Owned
An everyday starter who has either batted leadoff or cleanup in every game this season, Candelario should graduate from this tier by next week. Don’t give up on a 25-year-old who wielded a .856 OPS before injuring his wrist last May. He likely captured everyone’s attention by stockpiling five hits atop Detroit’s lineup on Sunday.
Anthony Swarzak (RP – SEA): 9% Owned
Swarzak is slated to make his season debut after Seattle sidelined Hunter Strickland with a Grade 2 strain of his right lat muscle. Strickland, who recorded saves in both Tokyo games, will miss at least two months. The Mariners may not peg a set closer, but Swarzak posted a 2.33 ERA and 91 strikeouts in a breakout 2017 before injuries dragged him back down to earth last year. He’s an interesting dice roll for deep-league gamers searching for saves.
Pablo Lopez (SP – MIA): 7% Owned
Just take all the Marlins starting pitchers. A spring standout, Lopez carried over his elevated velocity into the season. While the Rockies still recorded three runs against him in 5.1 innings, he also collected 19 swinging strikes and seven strikeouts. Those skills could make him an excellent deep find when paired with a spacious home park and 2018’s 50.0% ground-ball rate.
Clint Frazier (OF – NYY): 7% Owned
The Yankees are doing a Freaky Friday with the Mets, resulting in their entire lineup getting injured. Sorry, but it wasn’t an April Fools’ Day joke when they placed Stanton and Andujar on the IL while Aaron Boone admitted that Aaron Hicks is still weeks away from returning. The promoted Frazier could suddenly start immediately, making the 24-year-old worth a post-hype flier with power and speed potential. Also keep an eye on Mike Tauchman, who drew the start on Monday night.
Delino DeShields Jr. (OF – TEX): 4% Owned
Don’t expect many more Combo Meals from DeShields, who smacked a grand slam for his first hit of 2019 on Sunday. He’s still all about speed. Despite batting .216 in 2018, he swiped 20 bags in just 106 games played with help from a 10.9% walk rate. Although only leading off against southpaws, the 26-year-old at least commences 2019 with an everyday role that could lead him to 30-plus steals if he merely hit closer to his .243 career average.
Mark Reynolds (1B – COL): 1% Owned
Hey, if the Rockies are going to be the Rockies … Reynolds went deep 30 times as their starting first baseman in 2017, so he’s worth a deep-league look as a home streamer.