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

May 16, 2019
Tyler Mahle

The advanced metrics show that Tyler Mahle is on his way to having a stellar season

While trades are a way to make significant roster moves, the waiver wire can still be helpful, even in deeper leagues. It’s still early in the season, but we’re starting to see some underlying trends come alive that savvy owners can use to their advantage. Plus, most fantasy squads have had to deal with the injury bug already and need to find quick replacements for their ailing players. If you’re in need of an injury fill-in or just a general improvement to your roster, our featured pundits are here to share their knowledge by providing their top under-the-radar fantasy baseball pickups.

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

Tyler Mahle (SP – CIN) 
“I’m convinced that Mahle is going to be a tremendous asset for fantasy teams the rest of the season. He has quietly kicked his career into gear this year, carrying the 11th best xFIP in baseball, somehow ahead of Luis Castillo, Justin Verlander, and Chris Paddack. The K-rate is up from 21.7% to 26.8% this year, while the BB-rate has plummeted from 10.5% to 4.9%. All of this is masked, of course, by the 0-5 record, but the youngster is pitching extremely well thanks to a change in his repertoire. Mahle cut out his crappy slider, while reintroducing his curve and strong cutter.”
– Bobby Sylvester (FantasyPros)

“That’s right, I’m recommending you pick up Tyler Mahle, a guy with an 0-5 record and ERA near 4.00. Why? Well, Mahle ranks among the top-10 qualified starters in strikeout-to-walk ratio, and he currently has the 11th-best xFIP and 13th-best SIERA, two advanced indicators of future performance. Simply put, he’s given up many more hits and home runs than he is likely to give up going forward. Once he starts getting the batted ball results he deserves, the wins will come, too. The advanced metrics indicate that Mahle is pitching like a top-15 starter, so he should be plenty useful in fantasy leagues even if he doesn’t fully live up to his peripherals.”
– Andrew Seifter (FantasyPros)

Jalen Beeks (SP – TB) 
“Beeks has carved out a nice little role for himself in Tampa Bay and is someone I have my eye on. He is often used as the first pitcher following their designated “opener.” It is a role that fellow southpaw Ryan Yarbrough parlayed into 16 wins a season ago. That win total was seventh-highest in the American League last year. Sure enough, Beeks received the win in three of his last four appearances. He is throwing his changeup more than ever this season, and it has been his most effective pitch. Hitters are slugging a mere .250 with a 28.8 percent strikeout rate in at-bats ending in a changeup. Beeks is owned in just four percent of leagues and is a sneaky play in formats that impose start limits.”
– Mick Ciallela (Fantrax)

Jimmy Nelson (SP – MIL) 
“It won’t be long before Nelson is activated from the IL and his league ownership skyrockets. Currently, only owned in 11% of leagues, he is expected to complete his third rehab start in Triple-A this Friday. Nelson missed all of 2018 due to shoulder surgery, however, all signs seem to show that he’s now healthy and could be back in action before the end of May. He had a breakout year in 2017 prior to his shoulder injury and left fantasy owners with very high expectations for his return. While he will likely be on an innings limit, his upside is absolutely worth a speculative add in all formats.”
– Jason Johnson (Understanding Fantasy Baseball)

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

Brendan Rodgers (2B – COL) 
“This almost feels like cheating because Rodgers literally just got the call to the big leagues, but if he’s available in your league, you should pounce. MLB Pipeline’s number 10 overall prospect heading into the 2019 season, Rodgers has hit .356 with nine home runs through 35 games at Triple-A Albuquerque and will now get to call Coors Field home. Rockies shortstop Trevor Story is currently banged up, but Rodgers’ main path to regular playing time is at second base, where both Garrett Hampson and Ryan McMahon have fallen flat. Rodgers is a player who could be an immediate plus in batting average, power, and run production, and while he’s yet to steal a base this season, he did nab 12 last year. Add him.”
– Andrew Seifter (FantasyPros)

Pablo Sandoval (3B – SF) 
“Don’t look now but Sandoval is good again. His .380 wOBA is better than guys like Freddie Freeman, Francisco Lindor, and Manny Machado last year. Granted, it is a smaller sample size, but Panda is smashing the ball and San Francisco has moved him up the No. 3 in the order as a result. Perhaps it won’t last all that long, but he looks like a safe bet for batting average and some decent pop for the time being, and all at just three percent ownership.”
– Bobby Sylvester (FantasyPros)

Nicky Lopez (SS – KC) 
“The recent influx of high-end talent from the minors makes this a great week to grab some young bats off the waiver wire. There are plenty of options, and your preference may depend on team need. Lopez was called up on Monday and should immediately stick at second base with Whit Merrifield moving to the outfield. The former fifth-round pick is a contact hitter who sprays the ball to all fields. Lopez walked more than he struck out in the minors and should hit near the top of an underrated lineup. He has plus speed and will fit in nicely with Kansas City’s aggressive approach on the basepaths. Lopez should contribute right away in batting average, runs, and steals. If you missed out on the Keston Hiura sweepstakes, Lopez is a solid consolation prize.”
– Mick Ciallela (Fantrax)

Ronny Rodriguez (2B – DET) 
“Since the Tigers called up Rodriguez in mid-April, he has quietly been a top-tier producer at SS. He is striking the ball with elite quality thus far and is among the league leaders in xBA, xwOBA, xSLG, and hard-hit percentage. He is currently only owned in 15% of leagues, and would be my top choice for not only a stash, but also as an immediate plug-and-play. Rodriguez may not continue to produce at this level all year, but owners should at least continue to ride the wave while his hot streak continues.”
– Jason Johnson (Understanding Fantasy Baseball)

Thank you to the experts for giving their thoughts on some under-the-radar waiver options. For more info, be sure to follow them on Twitter and subscribe to our fantasy baseball podcast, which is featured below.

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