Fantasy Baseball Waiver Wire Pickups: Week 25
This late into the season, the weekly waiver wire column essentially turns into a streaming guide.
Managers must live fully in the moment while chasing a title during the penultimate week. For example, some readers will probably notice Johnny Cueto’s conspicuous absence. Why no love for a former ace who returned from Tommy John surgery to blank the Pirates and Marlins? He’s scheduled to make his final two starts against the Braves and Dodgers. Sure, Cueto looked good in 10 shutout innings last week, but I’m not trusting him against the NL’s top-two scoring offenses in crunch time.
Pay close attention to the schedule before adding anybody. Recent form, of course, doesn’t hurt either. Before diving in, see if John Means (37% rostered) or Aaron Civale (45%) are still available before each encounters the Tigers.
Priority Pickups – <35% Rostered
Renato Nunez (3B – BAL): 33%
Anthony Santander (OF – BAL): 26%
Hanser Alberto (2B/3B – BAL): 22%
The Orioles are slated for seven games against the Tigers and Blue Jays next week. Per FantasyPros’ Hitter Planner, just the Dodgers (in just five games) and the Yankees receive a more favorable batch of starting pitchers. Luckily for fantasy gamers pursuing a championship, Jonathan Villar and Trey Mancini are the only Orioles position players rostered in over 35% of leagues.
Just as importantly for Nunez and Alberto, three of the opposing starters (Daniel Norris, Tyler Alexander, and Anthony Kay) are lefties. Nunez is slugging .524 with 13 of his 29 homers against southpaws, making him an excellent power play. Alberto, meanwhile, is batting a blistering .408 against them and rocks a minuscule 9.3% strikeout rate this season. He should collect plenty of knocks this week.
While the switch-hitting Santander has gone ice cold this month, he’s still plastered 14 homers after the All-Star break. Take a chance despite the outfielder snapping a five-game hit drought Sunday.
Anibal Sanchez (SP – WAS): 30%
While those who know how to use YouTube watched Sanchez get pounded for seven runs by the Mets on September 4, he responded with two strong starts against the Twins and Braves. He has allowed three runs or fewer in 22 of 28 outings. The schedule gets much easier, as he’s slated to pitch at Miami this weekend. This is a great spot to chase a win and/or quality start.
Sandy Alcantara (SP – MIA): 28%
Once again, go add Sandy Koufax Alcantara. Since getting shelled for seven runs by the Twins on July 31, the 24-year-old righty has registered a 2.59 ERA and 0.97 WHIP in eight starts. He’s worked through seven innings in six of his last seven turns, and that endurance led to 44 strikeouts. Unfortunately, Alcantara isn’t aligned to pitch at Marlins Park again this season. He’ll get a fairly neutral matchup at Arizona before closing 2019 with a two-start week against the Mets and Phillies. The matchups are no longer favorable, but he’s proven strong enough to trust anyway.
Brandon Nimmo (OF – NYM): 25%
Nimmo is actually better saved for deeper leagues, and the other Met highlighted in the Deep League Target section can be added in 12-team mixed formats. This bloated rostered rate likely contains a handful of dead teams that drafted and never dropped the ebullient outfielder despite missing more than three months with a neck injury. Since returning, Nimmo has drawn 12 walks in 13 games and recorded 2019’s fastest home run trot. He’s not playing every day, but the hope here is that he starts against all three of Colorado’s feeble righties (Antonio Senzatela, Tim Melville, and Jeff Hoffman) at Coors Field. He’s particularly useful in OBP leagues.
Homer Bailey (SP – OAK): 23%
Bailey has relinquished nine combined runs in his last six starts, a span which includes road outings against the Yankees and Astros. After holding his own in those brutal environments, the righty gets a far easier draw against the Royals, who rank 28th in wRC+ (83) as of Sunday. He should at least replicate the minimal quality start (6 IP, 3 ER) when facing Kansas City with a strong chance of tallying his seventh victory with the A’s.
Mike Leake (SP – ARI): 21%
After yielding two earned runs in consecutive outings against the Reds, Leake has a golden opportunity to notch a victory against the Marlins. Just don’t bank on many strikeouts from a veteran with a lower ceiling than even Sanchez and Bailey.
Dylan Bundy (SP – BAL): 17%
Feeling dangerous? Bundy is in line to make two starts against the Blue Jays and Mariners, who respectively rank 23rd and 27th in strikeout rate against righties. Proceed with caution, as the erratic starter could also torpedo your ERA and WHIP.
Sean Murphy (C – OAK): 13%
The first of many September call-ups swinging a sizzling bat, Murphy is hitting .423/.464/1.038 — that’s not his OPS; he’s slugging 1.038 — with four home runs in nine games for the A’s. This comes after slashing .308/.386/.625 in Triple-A. Adding to his viability in any format, Oakland is scheduled to oppose four left-handed starters this week. Consider swapping out the slumping Carson Kelly, James McCann, Buster Posey, or Yadier Molina for Murphy.
Adam Plutko (SP – CLE): 12%
It’s time to play another round of America’s favorite streaming game: Who’s Facing the Tigers? Our first eligible contestant is Plutko, who’d be someone to avoid in nearly any other circumstance. Underneath a passable 4.42 ERA lies a putrid 5.39 FIP and 5.26 SIERA. He doesn’t miss many bats, as depicted by an 8.5% swinging-strike rate and 66 strikeouts in 97.2 innings. But this is the Tigers, who pose MLB’s highest strikeout rate and second-worst wRC+ against righties. Plutko produced a season-high nine strikeouts in a victory at Detroit on August 27. His previous high was six, which occurred all the way back on June 14 against … the Tigers.
Kyle Lewis (OF – SEA): 11%
Want to get everyone’s attention in September? All it takes is going yard in each of your first three major league contests and once more days later for good measure. Even then, Lewis remains available in plenty of spots. A highly touted recruit when selected with the 11th pick in 2016, his buzz has since fizzled because of injuries and middling production. While Lewis didn’t demonstrate much pop when hitting a humdrum .263/.343/.398 in Double-A, the 6’5″, 210-pound outfielder has always brandished raw power. The Mariners get some manageable opposition at Pittsburgh and Baltimore this week, so the 24-year-old could keep making the most of his late-season tryout.
Dylan Cease (SP – CWS): 10%
Not everyone will have any interest in deploying a rookie with a 6.18 ERA and issues locating the strike zone. Cease has made progress, however, by yielding one run in back-to-back starts after compiling 11 punchouts against Cleveland. His strikeout upside is especially through the roof when opposing Detroit.
Deep League Targets – <10% Rostered
Nico Hoerner (SS – CHC): 8%
Most of the hitters highlighted here would have far higher rostered rates if hitting this well in June. Prospects like Nicky Lopez got heavily hyped when promoted in the heart of the season. Hoerner, meanwhile, has quietly gone 11-for-29 with three walks, a triple, and two homers in seven games since his September call-up. The Cubs’ top prospect, per MLB.com, will keep getting regular starts at shortstop with Javier Baez (thumb) out for the regular season. The 22-year-old only deposited three homers in 315 plate appearances before reaching the majors, but now’s the time to ride the hot hand rather than worrying about Hoerner’s sustainability.
Trent Grisham (OF – MIL): 5%
Alongside Baez, another major injury rocked the NL Central when the Brewers ruled out Christian Yelich with a season-ending fractured kneecap. That solidifies a role (at least against righties) for Grisham, who has totaled 10 hits in his last six starts. Milwaukee plays six of this week’s seven games versus right-handed starters, giving the rookie ample opportunities atop the lineup card. While he hasn’t set the world ablaze, Grisham has held his own in the majors with an above-average 102 wRC+.
Todd Frazier (3B – NYM): 5%
As mentioned above for Nimmo, the Mets play a three-game series at Coors Field. Locked into New York’s starting lineup on a nearly regular basis, the 33-year-old third baseman is batting .296/.406/.704 in September.
Mauricio Dubon (2B – SF): 2%
Getting a chance to prove his worth as San Francisco’s starting second baseman, Dubon is batting .326 (14-for-43) with three homers and steals apiece in a dozen September contests. Although there’s limited upside positioned at the bottom of a subpar lineup, the 25-year-old newcomer has added power to his contact and speed profile this season.
Mike Ford (1B – NYY): 2%
The Yankees have done it again. Ford, a 27-year-old rookie stuck in their farm system for over six seasons, is sporting a 117 wRC+ after swatting six homers in his last 13 games. Playing time remains a concern, but he could force his way into the lineup with Edwin Encarnacion back on the shelf. Facing three Angels southpaws to open the week shouldn’t banish Ford to the bench; he has crushed seven long balls in 35 plate appearances against fellow lefties.