Fantasy Baseball Waiver Wire Pickups: Week 16
Baseball is back after a brief hiatus, prompting plenty of fantasy managers to face an unpleasant reality. Injuries and unexpected busts have ravaged the game like they always do, and simple math dictates most gamers are looking up in the standings.
This isn’t the best week to fill those wounds via the waiver wire, but some buying opportunities lurk for those willing to scour underneath the cushions. A few hitters have gone on a tear in recent weeks, some after already doing so in April. Injuries and the upcoming trade deadline also open a portal for some interesting stashes. All of the following players are rostered in fewer than 35% of Yahoo and ESPN leagues, per FantasyPros’ consensus rate from Monday.
Priority Pickups – <35% Rostered
Freddy Galvis (SS – TOR): 29%
Shortstop is unbelievably loaded this year, and Galvis has rarely managed to stay hot beyond bursts during his career. After notching a 122 wRC+ in April, he predictably cooled off in May (63). Those who hopped off the bandwagon can nevertheless jump on again. He has reached base in 25 of his last 28 games, hitting .339 with six home runs and two stolen bases in the process. While the 29-year-old is bound to fade again, a slick glove will keep him in Toronto’s lineup barring a trade. Galvis is also durable, playing 90 of 95 games in his quest for a fifth straight season with more than 150 games played.
Maikel Franco (3B – PHI): 27%
Franco teased everyone with a highly anticipated breakout by slugging .505 with more walks (14) than strikeouts (12) through April. He then turned back into a pumpkin by hitting .170/.215/.261 in May. There’s plenty of justification to treat every hot streak with a grain of salt, but the third baseman has gone deep three times in his last six games.
While he’s one of a whopping 84 players to already accrue at least 15 home runs, only two (Yuli Gurriel and the injured Tommy La Stella) have a strikeout rate lower than his 12.1%. Personal highs in exit velocity, hard-hit rate, and launch angle have led to a .259 expected batting average (xBA) above his actual .238 mark but identical to THE BAT’s rest-of-season projection. Maybe the 26-year-old never morphs into Edwin Encarnacion 2.0, but he could pair 25-30 long balls with a passable average as an everyday fixture for the Phillies.
Zac Gallen (SP – MIA): 23%
The Marlins moved Elieser Hernandez to the bullpen to make room for Caleb Smith, so Gallen’s rotation spot is safe for now. For all the hype surrounding his call-up, everyone has sure gotten bored in a hurry. The rookie has reclaimed eligibility for this column as a result of surrendering 16 hits and 10 walks in 17 innings. He has also, however, tallied 21 strikeouts in those four short starts.
The wildness is not part of his M.O.; he ceded just 17 free passes in 91.1 dominant Triple-A frames. Having also posted a 63.9% first-pitch strike rate in Miami, the 23-year-old should settle down and find better control going forward. There aren’t many high-upside hurlers left on the waiver wire.
Jake Bauers (1B/OF – CLE): 23%
Bauers hasn’t validated the sleeper buzz, but he’s starting to wake up under the sunlight. The 23-year-old is batting .355 (11-for-34) in eight July games commenced by a four-hit outing. Take the query back to June 14, when another four-hit outing resulted in a cycle, and he’s gone .325/.361/.558. Although an interesting hot hand to ride, he’ll need to start stealing more bases to matter in shallow leagues using traditional scoring. After swiping 20 bags in 2017 and 16 last year, he has just two steals in five tries.
Daniel Ponce de Leon (SP/RP – STL): 15%
Starting as a last-minute replacement for Adam Wainwright, Ponce de Leon stymied Arizona to one run over six strong innings Friday. He collected seven strikeouts to no walks, giving him 38 and 11 of each, respectively, over 31.2 stout frames between the rotation and bullpen. While Wainwright returned Sunday, Ponce de Leon will take Michael Wacha‘s place in St. Louis’ rotation and make Wednesday’s turn against Pittsburgh.
A 1.99 ERA, .175 BABIP, and 93.5% strand rate won’t hold up over a larger sample. Just pitching to his 3.59 FIP, however, would make him a highly intriguing option in any mixed league. The strikeouts might not be a total mirage either, as his four-seam fastball and cutter have each solicited a double-digit swinging-strike rate. He’s at the very least a worthwhile streamer who may garner long-term staying power.
Jake Lamb (3B – ARI): 14%
Lamb is hitting .194 (6-for-31) in a dozen games since returning from a quad strain, so he hasn’t quite incited a mad dash to the waiver wire. But he has drawn six walks and got hit by three pitches. A source of 29 and 30 homers in 2016 and 2017, respectively, is gradually regaining his power with two deep bombs in his last four starts. Although his skill set is not in low supply these days, the 28-year-old is worth adding in OBP or deeper mixed leagues while monitoring in all formats.
Spencer Turnbull (SP – DET): 14%
Managers were justified in dropping Turnbull when shoulder fatigue sent him to the IL. Yet despite returning after the break, he remains widely available as a result of relinquishing five runs (four earned) to the Royals in just three innings. Nobody should start the Detroit righty until seeing a better performance, but don’t forget about a starter who punctuated a 3.31 ERA and 84 strikeouts in 89.2 first-half frames.
Deep League Targets – <10% Rostered
Josh James (SP/RP- HOU): 7%
As detailed by the Houston Chronicle‘s Hunter Atkins, the Astros pinpointed an alteration in James’ delivery that has led to domination in recent outings. Over his last five appearances, the popular preseason sleeper has submitted 11 strikeouts in six innings while hitting 100 mph five times. A Brad Peacock setback leaves a vacancy in the rotation. While James opened for Framber Valdez on Monday, the latter was only available because he got chased out of the first inning Thursday night. After struggling yet again, Valdez may not receive another chance too soon. James could either pile up punchouts in the bullpen or validate the spring buzz by closing the year as a high-ceiling starter.
Felix Pena (SP/RP – LAA): 6%
Doing the heavy lifting behind opener Taylor Cole, Pena threw seven frames in the Angels’ no-hitter Friday night. Although his 4.36 ERA in this role is nothing spectacular, it comes with a 1.13 WHIP and 72 strikeouts in 64 innings. Buoyed by a slider that has induced a 43 wRC+ and 21.8% swinging-strike rate, he has also notched seven victories while not needing to work at least five frames. He takes a major bump in leagues that count quality starts, but his value skyrockets in points leagues where managers can exploit his reliever eligibility.
Aaron Bummer (RP – CWS): 4%
Alex Colome is a prime candidate to get traded before the July 31 deadline. Since Kelvin Herrera has imploded, Bummer would become the best bet to make his name an oxymoron for those who stash him. The 25-year-old lefty has registered a 1.83 ERA with 34 strikeouts and 11 walks in 34.1 innings. Evan Marshall is the only other White Sox reliever beyond Bummer and Colome with an ERA below 3.90, so there’s little competition for the gig.
Daniel Hudson (RP – TOR): 4%
With Ken Giles unavailable, Daniel Hudson picked up a save Saturday. While Toronto’s closer hopes to avoid the IL, this at least gives a sneak peek at who’s next in line should the Blue Jays trade Giles. A 4.48 FIP and 4.57 SIERA underly Hudson’s 2.85 ERA, but the two-time Tommy John surgery recipient has at least struck out 41 batters in as many innings.
Travis d’Arnaud (C – TB): 2%
This rostered rate is from Monday night. Chances are flocks of gamers grabbed him following his three-homer outburst against the Yankees. The oft-injured catcher is now batting .282/.342/.511 in 146 plate appearances with the Rays, so fantasy managers might as well take a chance on the 30-year-old breaking out a few years later than anticipated in AL-only and two-catcher leagues.
Mark Canha (1B/OF – OAK): 2%
Only 13 players with at least 200 plate appearances have a higher wRC+ than Canha’s 148. After starting the season is his usual condensed role, the A’s have stopped platooning him now that he’s performing even better (168 wRC+, 10 of his 13 HRs) against righties. He’s batting fifth in a solid lineup and is one of just seven players (with at least 200 PAs) who’s posting a walk rate above 15% (15.8) and strikeout rate lower than 20% (19.8).
Bubba Starling (OF – KC): 1%
Once a top prospect drafted fifth overall by the Royals in 2011, Starling made his major league debut eight years later as an afterthought. Underwhelming play and injuries nuked any lingering buzz before he bounced back to hit .310 with seven homers and nine steals in Triple-A this season. The 26-year-old doesn’t have the plate approach to make a sustainable splash, but he still possesses enough power and speed to track in 14-team mixed leagues or larger.