Fantasy Baseball Waiver Wire Pickups: Week 2
Most fast starts will wither away once opponents adjust and the hot hand freezes. By simply ignoring early producers, however, managers run the risk of missing a legitimate breakout.
Jason Heyward and Jordan Zimmermann are likely cases of veterans simply enjoying a nice stretch above their usual means. They thus must prove their worth before anyone acts in a standard mixed league. Changes in role and approach at least offer hope of the following players — all carrying a consensus ownership rate below 35% as of Monday evening — continuing to flourish. Some of them could blossom into universally rostered mainstays by the end of April.
Priority Pickups – <35% Owned
Dansby Swanson (SS – ATL): 30% Owned
Looking to finally earn a spot on Uncle Ron’s Pyramid of Greatness, Swanson is starting to show why he merited the No. 1 pick in 2015’s amateur draft. The 25-year-old shortstop has already spiked three long balls in 10 games — he didn’t hit his fourth homer until May 26 last year — while drawing six walks with just seven strikeouts. He’s chasing fewer pitches outside of the strike zone and hitting the ball with far more authority. After totaling 15 barrels all of last season, Swanson already has four to start 2019. It’s hard not to get excited about a former prized prospect showing tangible improvement inside the batter’s box.
Ryan Brasier (RP – BOS): 28% Owned
Boston’s closer situation is messier than drafters hoped to see. Either Brasier or Matt Barnes would make a top-15 option if handling all of the defending champion’s save opportunities, but manager Alex Cora has taken a case-by-case approach in the opening contests. Barnes, who has surrendered one hit and no walks in 4.1 frames, sealed the first save. He notched a win and a hold in his next two high-leverage outings, and Brasier instead closed the door for two saves. With neither yet to allow a run, both should be owned in all leagues. Anyone who drafted Barnes should especially grab Brasier in case one of them monopolizes the job.
Adam Frazier (2B/OF – PIT): 26% Owned
A preseason favorite of mine, Frazier has carried over last season’s stellar finish into 2019. Entrenched atop Pittsburgh’s lineup, the 27-year-old has batted .324/.410/.500 with a homer and two steals in nine games. He’s looking a lot like the catalyst who hit .306/.357/.533 with 20 doubles after the All-Star break, which means he should be rostered and started as a middle infielder or fifth outfielder.
Before celebrating too hard, it’s important to note that the Pirates have faced a heavy serving of beatable righties. Last year, Frazier foisted a 131 wRC+ against righties but failed to figure out southpaws (58 wRC+).
Blake Parker (RP – MIN): 26% Owned
Unlike Boston, Minnesota’s ninth-inning hierarchy looks clearer than the headache everyone prepared for once Taylor Rogers secured the first save. Parker notched the next two while Trevor May — yet to record a strikeout in four innings — has exclusively worked the seventh and/or eighth. If Twins manager Rocco Baldelli keeps playing the splits between the right-handed Parker and left-handed Rogers, the former will get a majority of the chances. Brandishing a career 3.28 ERA and 10.2 K/9, Parker will matter in all mixed leagues if he surpasses last year’s career-high 14 saves.
Christian Walker (1B – ARI): 25% Owned
Supposedly just a lefty-tormentor, Walker has wallopped seven of his eight hits and all three of his home runs against fellow righties. He’ll continue to start against all of them with Jake Lamb (quad) sidelined for at least another month. Walker, who has hit half of his 22 batted balls at least 95 mph, could be an off-brand Luke Voit if he keeps his strikeout rate in check.
Yonny Chirinos (SP/RP – TB): 24% Owned
Five shutout innings at San Francisco isn’t much to brag about it, but Chirinos commenced 2019 by ceding just two hits and a run over seven frames to defeat the Astros. Used as a starter and reliever last season, the righty has registered 11 strikeouts and one walk in a dozen innings. The biggest difference in his early turns, he has induced 11 whiffs (and no hits) on his splitter in 44 pitches. Although his long-term viability remains uncertain, he’s worth streaming at Toronto this weekend.
Yandy Diaz (3B – TB): 21% Owned
Recommended in last week’s Hitters to Target in Deep Leagues column, Diaz has quickly ascended to standard mixed-league merit. After hitting one homer in 299 prior MLB plate appearances, he has finally put his muscles to good use with three dingers. A mainstay in Tampa Bay’s turbulent lineup, he has also swiped a bag while working five walks to as many strikeouts. Just note that he has yet to significantly elevate his notoriously low launch angle, so he’s still more of a contact than power asset.
Deep League Targets – <10% owned
Freddy Galvis (SS – TOR): 7% Owned
This is mostly just a case of riding a hot streak. Galvis won’t keep hitting .327/.378/.647, but he will maintain an everyday job for the desolate Blue Jays. Having played 162 games in each of the last two seasons, the highly durable shortstop can offer a dash of power and speed. He’s still more of a short-term filler or AL-only roster stabilizer.
Hector Neris (RP – PHI): 4% Owned
Despite a 5-1 start, the Phillies didn’t record their first save until Sunday. After turning to David Robertson for two outs in the eighth, Neris retired the Twins in order with two strikeouts. So focused on a battle between Robertson and Seranthony Dominguez, everyone dismissed Philadelphia’s closer to start 2018. Despite posting a ghastly 5.10 ERA, Neris still brandished a 2.28 SIERA and 14.4 K/9 buoyed by the highest swinging-strike rate (19.1%) of any reliever with at least 40 innings pitched. Even if only in a revolving committee, there’s no much strikeout upside to overlook Neris if saves are up for grabs. Or maybe the Phillies are just messing with us, as Pat Neshek picked up the next save on Monday.
Dan Vogelbach (1B – SEA): 3% Owned
Yahoo competitors have taken notice of Vogelbach’s power surge, vaulting his rostered rate to 26%. While that jump likely isn’t fully accounted for in the consensus mark, ESPN’s 2% rate also drags down his overall ownership. The perennial sleeper has finally awoken with five home runs in just 21 plate appearances. Before rounding the bases again on Monday, he boasted baseball’s highest average exit velocity (98.8 mph) and batted-ball distance (280 feet). Ride the hot hand in case this turns into a sustained post-hype breakout.
Merrill Kelly (SP – ARI): 3% Owned
Everyone is eventually going to notice Kelly, right? After refining his craft in the Korean Baseball Organization, he went undrafted despite locking down a spot in Arizona’s rotation. He didn’t generate much excitement with a mundane quality start (6 IP, 3 ER, 3 K), but gamers should take notice of the 30-year-old righty yielding one run over eight innings against the Red Sox. He compiled nine strikeouts to no walks with 22 called strikes. Kelly shouldn’t remain available for long in deep mixed leagues.
Raimel Tapia (OF – COL): 2% Owned
David Dahl exited Sunday’s game with an oblique injury, an issue the outfielder has previously experienced. If he joins Daniel Murphy and Ryan McMahon on the IL, the Rockies would be crazy not to give Tapia a chance. The 25-year-old outfielder may not shine in one particular category, but he could contribute across the board with help from Coors Field. Even if Dahl is fine, Ian Desmond is practically daring Colorado to bench him with a -46 wRC+ — that minus sign is not a type — in nine games.
Spencer Turnbull (SP – DET): 2% Owned
No more than an AL-only option (if that) entering the season, Turnbull has quickly turned heads with 15 punchouts in two starts. He accrued 10 of them in six strong frames against the Royals, who swung and missed 15 times in the righty’s 91 pitches. Although yet to face a dangerous lineup, he’s at least a viable streamer against the floundering Indians on Thursday.