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

Jun 13, 2019

If you haven’t noticed, Garrett Cooper is crushing the ball in Miami

Naturally, as the season progresses deeper, fantasy owners begin to check the waiver wire and quickly move their attention elsewhere as things look bleak. However, this is when owners need to pay the most attention. You may or may not have noticed, but there’s prospect action happening with the call-up of Yordan Alvarez in Houston. While we don’t know the exact date of the Super Two cutoff, you can be sure that players are nearing the time of year where teams can gain an extra year of control of a player’s services. Essentially, prospect movement is going to get hot sooner than later.

Outside of prospects who are waiting for their chance at the Major League level, there are also a group of players that are simply flying under-the-radar because of lower name recognition or they were injured early on and have slipped from the minds of many. Regardless of the reason, we asked a group of industry experts (featured below) to help identify some of the diamonds in the rough. See who they named at the hitter and pitcher positions that currently have under 20% consensus ownership.

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

Garrett Cooper (OF/1B – MIA): 13% Consensus Ownership
“Even if this isn’t a legitimate breakout, Garrett Cooper has shown enough to add in 12-team mixed leagues. The 28-year-old, who clobbered Triple-A pitching to a .366/.428/.652 slash line during his last full season in 2017, has a 211 wRC+ in 10 June contests. Emerging as Miami’s star slugger, he’s batting .296/.384/.491 with a .380 xwOBA indicating he has fully earned this strong start. Cooper has comfortably entrenched himself as the Marlins’ No. 2 hitter, and he shouldn’t lose that role anytime soon.”
– Andrew Gould (FantasyPros)

“I own Garrett Cooper in Tout Wars and have been playing him regularly since he has come back. He is now hitting .296 on the season with 6 HRs in only 31 games played this season. His Hard Hit Contact rate is at 45%, and he has cut his strikeout rate down. He will get plenty of playing time on the rebuilding Marlins – so pick him up now while you still can!”
– Ariel Cohen (FanGraphs)

“Coming off of a massive performance Wednesday where Garrett Cooper went 3-for-5 with a grand slam, a triple, and two runs scored, the Marlins first baseman/outfielder is unlikely to stay under the 20% ownership threshold for long. Cooper notably earned a spot on the Marlins’ opening day roster, but was quickly sidelined with a hand injury and forgotten in many fantasy circles. Since returning in mid-May, he’s slashed .320/.405/.530 with six homers, 21 runs, and 20 RBIs in 26 games. He’s settled into the second spot of the Marlins lineup and is certainly worth a look in all formats.”
– Wayne Bretsky (BretskyBall)

David Bote (2B/3B – CHI): 10% Consensus Ownership
“Bote has always done a serviceable job when called upon, and he’s taken it to another level now that he’s getting the chance to play regularly for the most part with Ben Zobrist away from the team. In fact, he’s started seven of the team’s last eight games while basically relegating Addison Russell and Daniel Descalso to minor roles. Bote has been an absolute beast over his last 28 games, hitting .361/.418/.689 thanks to an astronomical .425 BABIP. Even if you just get his .282/.359/.494 season line over the rest of the year, that plays well at 2B/3B while getting regular at-bats, and that’s certainly a reasonable projection after he did something similar at the minor-league level last year. I’ve also scooped up Garrett Cooper just in case his breakout can be sustained, and the longer he continues to mash — he went 3-for-5 with a grand slam and a triple on Wednesday — the more confident I am he’ll be usable over the rest of the year. He owns a stunning .330/.410/.560 line over the last 28 days, and while a .364 BABIP is unsustainable, it’s not so high that you’d expect his numbers to completely crash. Cooper has had a history of success at the minor-league level (albeit at an older age than much of the competition), so it’s not like this production is coming out of nowhere. At this point, you have to figure he’s locked into a prime spot of the Marlins lineup for the rest of the season, so he should certainly get the opportunity to prove he’s for real.”
– R.J. White (CBS Sports)

Oscar Mercado (OF – CLE): 14% Consensus Ownership
“How is Mercado continuing to fly under the radar?! The once-promising Cardinal shortstop prospect has proven that the redefinition of his game since moving to the outfield is completely legit. He has been getting regular playing time in Cleveland, who’s dearth on the OF depth chart should promise to provide a long leash. He’s at just 14% ownership, has shown a little pop, and hasn’t even shown his most coveted aspect yet – his speed. The .280’ish BA, with a high amount of runs, the occasional homer, and the threat of double-digit steals should push his usage to rosterable in all formats.”
– Andy Singleton (Expand The Boxscore)

Brendan Rodgers (SS/2B – COL): 10% Consensus Ownership
“I can’t fathom how Rodgers is still available in 90% of leagues despite starting nearly every day for the Rockies. He is a former top 10 prospect with a potential All-Star bat, and while it hasn’t happened yet, he is bound to explode any day since he plays half his games in Coors.”
– Bobby Sylvester (FantasyPros)

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

Merrill Kelly (SP – ARI): 14% Consensus Ownership
“After tossing 7.2 shutout innings at Philadelphia, Kelly has a 0.81 ERA in three June starts. He’s gone at least seven frames each time, compiling 18 strikeouts with a 12.0% swinging-strike rate well above his 2019 clip of 9.2. This stretch is probably the best it gets, as his ERA estimators (4.31 FIP, 4.80 SIERA) call for regression while none of the 30-year-old rookie’s five pitches has yielded a wRC+ below 100. Kelly isn’t an ace, or even 2018 Miles Mikolas, but he has at least surfaced as a usable option in the right spot. He’s particularly a good matchup play at home, where he owns a 2.35 ERA despite his last two gems coming on the road.”
– Andrew Gould (FantasyPros)

Merrill Kelly been impressive in his past 3 starts – giving up only 2 ER, and just 12 hits and 2 walks in 22.1 innings. He won all 3 decisions, lowering his ERA from 4.83 to 3.73 in that span. In one of those games, he struck out 10 batters. Kelly was a pre-season sleeper, and its time to take a serious look at him once again on a surprising Diamondbacks squad.”
– Ariel Cohen (FanGraphs)

Jesus Luzardo (SP – OAK): 13% Consensus Ownership
“It is finally time to stash Luzardo. He should be back within 4 or 5 weeks for the A’s, and when he does, we may be getting a top 30 pitcher in fantasy baseball for the rest of the season. Prior to his spring training injury, it was speculated that he would be the A’s Opening Day ace. He was supposed to be Chris Paddack or Mike Soroka before either of those two broke out. It may still happen now that he is healthy.”
– Bobby Sylvester (FantasyPros)

Pablo Lopez (SP – MIA): 19% Consensus Ownership
“We’re going to stay in Miami and shift over to the rotation where we find the 19%-owned Pablo Lopez rounding into form. Looking past a dreadful 3-inning, 10-run blowup outing on May 10th, Lopez has posted a fantastic 69:17 strikeout-to-walk ratio on the season with six quality starts in his last nine outings. The 23-year-old right hander rebounded from that awful start in early-May to post a 1.88 ERA and 0.87 WHIP over his past five turns while striking out 27 batters in 28.2 innings. Lopez has a home start against Pittsburgh next on tap and makes not only a fantastic streaming candidate for that matchup, but warrants heavy consideration to stick on your roster well beyond that point.”
– Wayne Bretsky (BretskyBall)

Pablo Lopez is only 19% owned? What?! How is this possible? What leagues are these? He is arguably the Marlins top pitching option (not named Zac Gallen), is loved by the manager, and is in no jeopardy of losing his spot in the rotation. What’s more, he goes innings, averaging 5.4 per contest. A step further, (thanks to my fellow NY amigo Matt Modica) he’s increased his changeup usage over his last 5 outings from 17% to just under 30% (29.8%), and the results have been dramatic. He should be owned everywhere, at minimum as a back end guy who offers mid-level rotation returns. I’m not afraid to start Lopez and think you should view him as more than a streamer as well.”
– Andy Singleton (Expand The Boxscore)

Zac Gallen (SP – MIA): 6% Consensus Ownership
“Gallen is a nice stash if you have the bench space, as he could make a big impact before the season is through. He’s been one of the minors’ best pitchers this season, going 8-1 with a 1.57 ERA and 0.70 WHIP that’s supported by a 10.9 K/9 rate and 1.7 BB/9 rate at Triple-A New Orleans. He’s not going to be as unhittable on the major-league level, but there’s a good chance he can be good enough to be worth starting week in and week out, and the Marlins should be champing at the bit to get a look at what he can do for the major-league team. I’m surprised they called up Jordan Yamamoto for Wednesday’s start instead of Gallen, but his time is coming, so get in now before it’s too late.”
– R.J. White (CBS Sports)

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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