Fantasy Baseball Waiver Wire Pickups: Week 15
As awesome as baseball is, the All-Star break is a welcome respite for everyone. Setting lineups can wait a few days, and managers get a much-needed pause to study the early results and keep track of current developments. Without an influx of games overwhelming us with new data, now is the ideal time to reaccess rosters and attack the waiver wire.
Looking back at the opening half, plenty of players emerged as impact contributors. Max Kepler, Dansby Swanson, Hunter Dozier, Omar Narvaez, Brandon Lowe, Mike Soroka, Mike Minor, Lucas Giolito, Brandon Woodruff, Matt Boyd, and Hector Neris all went undrafted in most leagues. A new supply of unheralded performers will refill the well after the All-Star break.
Before getting to the players with a consensus rostered rate below 35%, this pause also gives us a moment to reflect on a wider scale. All earlier guests of this column, the following players are still surprisingly available in a majority of leagues and should take first priority.
- Franmil Reyes (OF – SD): 49%
- Sonny Gray (SP – CIN): 43%
- Christian Vazquez (C – BOS): 43%
- Liam Hendriks (RP – OAK): 40%
- Ramon Laureano (OF – OAK): 39%
- Justin Smoak (1B – TOR): 39%
Priority Pickups – <35% Rostered
Keston Hiura (2B – MIL): 28%
Highlighted last week, Hiura’s rostered rate has risen one measly point. Combining his Triple-A and MLB work, he strolls into the break with 26 home runs and 10 steals. It’d take a massive slump for the Brewers to demote him again.
Brett Gardner (OF – NYY): 22%
I had Gardner buried in my rankings throughout the first half. That was foolish. The 35-year-old outfielder posted the quietest 15 home runs, eight stolen bases, 54 runs, and 41 runs humanly possible. He did it for the New York Yankees. Gardner homered in each of his last three games before the break and reached base in the last nine contests. Playing time was the biggest concern, but the Bronx Bombers have chosen the veteran — who is well on his way to posting a fWAR of 2.5 or higher for the seventh straight season — above Clint Frazier. He’s done everything but hit for a high average, but the .246 hitter has his lowest strikeout rate (15.5%) since 2009. A .248 BABIP is well below his career .307 clip despite contact rates on par with his career norm. I’ve seen the error of my ways and encourage everyone else to give Gardner some love.
Adam Frazier (2B/OF – PIT): 20%
One of my favorite preseason sleepers, Frazier has hardly satisfied expectations with four home runs and three steals. He did, however, pocket 49 runs in 82 games and went a resounding 18-for-30 with seven doubles in seven July contests. This resembles the second baseman who batted .306/.357/.533 with 20 two-baggers and seven long balls after last year’s All-Star break. The power and speed upside is negligible, but he’s a useful source of average, OBP, and runs in deeper leagues.
Emilio Pagan (RP – TB): 20%
Diego Castillo (RP – TB): 17%
A week after returning from personal leave, Jose Alvarado allowed eight runs in 3.1 innings before suffering an oblique strain. He’s expected to miss six to eight weeks. Castillo, meanwhile, is expected to return from shoulder inflammation shortly after the All-Star break. He posted a 2.48 ERA before blowing up in two outings prior to his IL placement.
Castillo still probably won’t receive all of Tampa Bay’s save opportunities. Pagan, who picked up his fifth save Sunday, wields a superb 1.75 ERA, 0.83 WHIP, and 47 strikeouts in 36 innings. Add him for ratio help and hope he closes intermittently. Just don’t expect the Rays to suddenly give fantasy gamers clarity rather than a committee.
Evan Longoria (3B – SF): 19%
Here’s a fun fact I came across while looking up San Francisco’s third baseman: The top question people ask on Google is “Are Evan Longoria and Eva Longoria married?” They are not. Not much else of intrigue has occurred during his season, as the 33-year-old looked entirely washed up when batting .222/.300/.371 through June. He stormed into the break, however, with five home runs over his last six games. He previously had seven in 74 games. Take a chance on the intermission not messing with his momentum.
Renato Nunez (3B – BAL): 16%
Baltimore’s streaky slugger has found the on switch again, depositing four home runs in his last seven games. For all his ups and downs, the 25-year-old has submitted 20 long balls and 49 RBIs as an everyday designated hitter.
Roberto Perez (C – CLE): 13%
It’s 2019, so Roberto Perez might as well be a star slugger. After previously hitting 21 homers in his past 963 MLB plate appearances, the 30-year-old catcher already has 16 (nine since the start of June) at the break. Despite a 28.3% strikeout rate, he’s hitting .256/.345/.527 with the sixth-highest wRC+ (123) of catchers with at least 150 plate appearances. His 19 barrels already comfortably set a career high, and Statcast’s expected stats (.244 xBA, .500 xSLG) at least suggest the bottom may not fall out entirely. Perez at least looks like a legitimate top-20 option at his position.
Alex Young (SP – ARI): 13%
Everyone is inevitably going to flock to a rookie pitcher who tossed six no-hit innings Sunday. Don’t get too excited. Young posted a 6.09 ERA between the rotation and bullpen before his Triple-A promotion, so he’s merely a hot hand to test out in deep leagues. Pitching is virtually impossible to find, so it’d seem wrong to ignore the righty entirely.
Dinelson Lamet (SP – SD): 12%
Making his return from Tommy John surgery, Lamet allowed three runs with seven strikeouts in five innings. That’s not bad for his first major league start since 2017, but it was especially impressive coming against the Dodgers. His four-seam fastball sat in the mid-90s, and his slider dominated in the other half of his 80 pitches. Grab him for the strikeouts and hope for a solid ERA in the high threes or low fours.
Deep League Targets – <10% Rostered
Danny Duffy (SP – KC): 7%
Duffy has delivered a 3.78 ERA in five starts since getting clobbered at Texas and against the Red Sox. There’s not much exciting about his profile, but any decent AL Central starter is worth monitoring as a streamer and AL-only depth piece.
Kurt Suzuki (C – WAS): 6%
In a timeshare with Yan Gomes, Suzuki’s 11 homers and .515 SLG have fallen under the radar. He has received fewer plate opportunities (176) than Gomes (190) thus far, but that should change with the latter slugging .303.
Sean Manaea (SP – OAK): 5%
Sidelined since last August with rotator cuff tendonitis, Manaea returned for a Triple-A rehab outing Monday night. If all goes well, the lefty could return to Oakland’s rotation next month. He registered a 3.59 ERA in 160.2 innings last year, so he’s an interesting stash in AL-only and larger mixed leagues.
Dominic Smith (1B/OF – NYM): 4%
What more do you all want from Smith? Even if he’s playing over his head, a 150 wRC+ in 157 plate appearances is enough to take notice of a 24-year-old who has forced his way into regular reps. At least ride the hot hand in deeper leagues.
Austin Slater (OF – SF): 1%
Promoted at the start of July, Slater went 6-for-14 with two doubles, a triple, two home runs, and 9 RBIs in five games. Prior to his call-up, the 26-year-old torched Triple-A to a .308/.436/.529 slash line with 12 long balls and six steals. He hasn’t stuck in the Giants’ lineup in the last two years, but a desolate outfield gives him an opening for a plonged audition.