Fantasy Baseball Waiver Wire Pickups: Week 17
A full week of MLB action helped pepper the waiver wire with more palatable options.
Some notable hitters have yet to receive proper recognition, which is a bit surprising given their production and/or prospect pedigree. And for the first time in a while, there are actually a handful of pitchers who warrant a dart throw. Most of them maintained a consensus rostered rate below 10% as of Monday, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re only addable in deep leagues.
Although enough time remains for fantasy gamers to maintain a long view, they also must make every week count. The highlighted players try to take both goals into account.
Priority Pickups – <35% Rostered
Kevin Gausman (SP – ATL): 32%
Gausman supporters can all recall at least one moment where the righty ripped their heart in half. Maybe it was when he followed April 17’s 10-strikeout gem by ceding 11 runs in his next two starts. Perhaps it was when he rebounded, only to get decimated by eight runs in just one inning against the Nationals on May 29.
After spending over a month on the injured list because of plantar fasciitis, he returned to stifle those same Nationals to one run over seven innings. He collected eight strikeouts and no walks in just 83 pitches. While Gausman did too much damage to fully repair his 5.71 ERA anytime this season, the promising righty still also registers a 3.86 FIP with 72 punchouts in 69.1 innings. Always an erratic option, he has also shown several spurts of ace upside when his splitter is working. Let’s see if Gausman’s got a hot streak in him.
Oscar Mercado (OF – CLE): 28%
Once in a while, someone whom I assumed is already rostered in a majority of leagues surprisingly qualifies for this article. There may not be a stronger example of that than Mercado, who is batting .297/.350/.488 with eight homers and nine steals in 54 games for Cleveland. Entrenched in the second slot behind Francisco Lindor, the 24-year-old rookie has gone 14-for-38 with four long balls, three steals, and just six strikeouts in 10 games since the All-Star break.
While the power is an unexpected treat that likely won’t last in full earnest, he should keep swiping bags and scoring runs with a steady average. This is likely the last chance to add Mercado following a week featuring a two-homer, one-steal game and another five-hit outburst
Garrett Cooper (1B/OF – MIA): 28%
Maybe everyone just assumed Cooper would fade. His breakout continues to go strong, as he’s slashing .309/.382/.502 with 11 home runs in 61 games for the Marlins. Even raking in the middle of a putrid lineup yields dividends; he has 40 runs scored and 37 RBIs as their regular No. 3 hitter. With numbers backed up by a .288 expected average and .372 expected wOBA, Cooper has proved enough to claim a roster spot in leagues of all sizes.
Merrill Kelly (SP – ARI): 27%
Kelly has surrendered three earned runs or fewer in eight of his last nine starts, refining his ERA to 3.77 with a 1.22 WHIP. The 30-year-old is probably pitching to his limit, but he’s a decent back-end depth piece for managers who had hoped J.A. Happ or Rick Porcello would fill the role. More important, his next two scheduled starts are against Baltimore on Tuesday and Miami next Monday.
Jeff Samardzija (SP – SF): 24%
This is admittedly a lukewarm endorsement, as Samardzija still sports an underwhelming 4.55 FIP and 20.7% strikeout rate alongside a passable 4.08 ERA. He’s also trending in the right direction, posting a 2.70 ERA in four July starts. That includes a surprisingly strong turn at Coors Field, where he yielded two runs over 6.2 innings with a season-high nine strikeouts. He closed the two-start week with seven punchouts and no walks against the Mets, so the strikeouts are gradually inching back to his career norm.
As usual, Shark is providing a favorable 1.18 WHIP with help from a 6.3% walk rate. Although an especially viable option at Oracle Park, he’s also a steady play when the Giants visit Petco Park this Friday.
Nate Lowe (1B – TB): 20%
The Rays have spurned us too many times before by shuttling Lowe back and forth from Triple-A to Tampa Bay. Having stuck around since his July 4 promotion despite Ji-Man Choi’s return, the rookie finally looks like he’s here to stay. Lowe has worked his way into the heart of a solid lineup by batting .277/.358/.518 in 95 major league plate appearances. A 91.5-mph average exit velocity and .395 expected wOBA make his debut a highly encouraging start. The reward of him staying in the bigs and raking offset the limited risk of dropping the lefty if he gets sent back to the minors.
Luis Urias (2B – SD): 13%
Of the premier prospects on the cusp of a second-half promotion, Urias rejoined the Padres on Saturday. His first test run resulted in two measly hits, but the 22-year-old has since displayed an extra level of power in Triple-A that makes his outlook particularly promising. A contact hitter who always profiled as a “better in real life than fantasy” performer, Urias shredded that label by batting .315/.390/.600 with 19 home runs — matching his previous career total through four seasons — and seven steals. He’ll need to hit in San Diego to stick around as the starting second baseman over Ian Kinsler, but Urias is well worth a speculative add.
Manuel Margot (OF – SD): 10%
Who else always seem to drop a preseason target after a slow start, only to watch him then do what you had hoped for on the waiver wire? Stephen Piscotty bounced back after a delay last season. Now it’s Margot’s turn.
Quite frankly, there was no justification for holding Margot in a re-draft mixed league. He lost his starting role by batting .238/.282/.323 through June 23 and the strikeouts rose to alarming rates. Over the past month, however, he has respawned with a .295/.419/.623 slash line. Through those 74 plate appearances, he has tallied four homers and steals apiece with more walks (12) than strikeouts (11). This strong play has recently earned him prominent real estate in San Diego’s two-hole between Fernando Tatis Jr. and Manny Machado. Although he narrowly skirts the deep-league cutoff point, Margot should be added in mixed leagues of all sizes.
Deep League Targets – <10% Rostered
Reynaldo Lopez (SP – CWS): 9%
Countless fantasy gamers are likely saying “never again” to Lopez. The maddening righty imploded after briefly flashing ace upside with a 14-strikeout masterpiece on April 28. Yes, this is a pitcher with a 5.78 ERA, but he has ceded two combined runs in back-to-back road starts at Tampa Bay and Oakland. While the strikeouts waned in recent months, he picked up 15 in those outings. This would still be a wait-and-see recommendation if not for Lopez scheduled to next toe the rubber against the Marlins on Wednesday. Daring managers could receive at least one gem for their troubles.
Andres Munoz (RP – SD): 7%
Munoz has quickly taken San Diego’s bullpen by storm. Armed with an average fastball velocity of 100.5 mph, the 20-year-old newcomer has tallied six strikeouts in 4.1 scoreless innings. He didn’t dominate in Triple-A, notching a pedestrian 3.79 ERA in 19 innings, but Munoz comes with immense strikeout upside as a middle-relief weapon. There’s also the off chance he works his way into save opportunities if the Padres trade All-Star closer Kirby Yates.
Tyler Beede (SP – SF): 6%
At this time last month, not even NL-only managers would have messed with Beede. Now he’s an intriguing mixed-league add, and that doesn’t only apply to deep formats. Along with seemingly every other San Francisco player, the 26-year-old righty has heated up in July. He has sewn a 1.66 ERA in three starts, providing 16 strikeouts to just one walk (to Jacob deGrom of all people) in 21.1 innings.
Perhaps there’s something to this unexpected stretch. Beede has implemented a slider to complement a strong changeup. Per Brooks Baseball, he has induced 39 swinging strikes in these three starts after previously averaging 9.7 per turn. San Francisco’s spacious home park at least gives him a cushy landing as a streamer.
Joe Jimenez (RP – DET): 4%
Onlookers have referred to Jimenez as Detroit’s future closer so long that he’s beginning to feel like the next Bruce Rondon. While he continues to stockpile strikeouts (53 in 37 IPs), the 24-year-old righty has also gotten staked to a 5.35 ERA. He nevertheless could receive save opportunities over the final two months if the Tigers trade Shane Greene. There’s also, however, a chance Detroit moves Jimenez. The Mets and Rays have reportedly expressed interest.
JaCoby Jones (OF – DET): 2%
Jones was on a roll, registering a 134 wRC+ in June before going on the IL with a back injury. He has promptly returned to Detroit’s leadoff role to amass five hits (including a double and home run) in three games. The 27-year-old outfielder is now hitting .283 with nine long balls and five steals in 57 games since the start of May. Jones would probably be rostered in 20% of leagues or more if the injury didn’t halt his hot streak.
Matt Wieters (C – STL): 1%
Filling in for the (yet again) injured Yadier Molina, Wieters wields a .961 OPS in 11 July contests. The 33-year-old never came close to reaching his once lofty ceiling, but he could now make a solid second catcher in leagues cruel enough to feature that spot.
Asher Wojciechowski (SP – BAL): 1%
Wojciechowski has bounced around seven organizations over his 10-year career, never once making more than eight major league starts in a season. But hey, taking a no-hitter into the seventh against the Red Sox and exiting with 10 strikeouts is a great way to get attention. The 30-year-old righty suddenly has a 3.91 ERA and 31 strikeouts in 23 innings following Sunday’s Woj bomb. For now, he’s still better off as someone to monitor beyond truly deep mixed and AL-only leagues.