Fantasy Baseball Waiver Wire Pickups: Week 26
We’ve reached the end of the line. For countless fantasy baseball gamers, months of research and effort all boils down to the regular season’s final week. While many have already tapped out or gotten knocked out, anyone still reading is still vying for a title … or at least pride.
Perhaps some head-to-head leagues even wrapped up early, which is looking more and more like a sensible move with Mike Trout, Christian Yelich, Javier Baez, Ketel Marte, Adalberto Mondesi, Lucas Giolito, and Chris Paddack among the handful of players shut down early. This doesn’t even take into account playoff-bound teams who could take it easy during the final days. The Dodgers and Braves could close shop early if the former clinches the NL’s top seed. The Cardinals and Twins could win their divisions with time to spare. Even a once chaotic wild-card race may now be decided before the weekend.
Fantasy managers must navigate these minefields over the final days while also scrutinizing every matchup. Unfortunately, it’s not a great slate for streaming starting pitchers. Only one of Tigers’ opponents meets the sweet spot of availability and usability, but Reynaldo Lopez just served up three homers to them on Sunday. The Marlins will look to eliminate the Mets in a four-game series, and one would hope Jacob deGrom isn’t on any waiver wires.
For one last time, the following players are all rostered in under 35% of Yahoo and ESPN leagues, as of Sunday. Thanks for reading, and good luck chasing that championship.
Priority Pickups – <35% Rostered
Ryan McMahon (1B/2B/3B- COL): 33%
McMahon may not have met yet another flurry of preseason hype, but he has stuck around the Rockies long enough to muster 23 homers and 81 RBIs. While that’s not too impressive for a regular who calls Coors Field home in 2019, but he’s leveraged the park to a .275/.339/.534 slash line. Colorado hosts three Milwaukee righties (Zach Davies, Brandon Woodruff, and Adrian Houser) to close the season, so McMahon could provide one last sprint to the finish line with a strong weekend. As seen a bit later, however, he’s not the club’s top impact add.
Homer Bailey (SP – OAK): 30%
Bailey made good on last week’s streaming recommendation by tossing seven shutout frames with 11 strikeouts — his most in a game since August 12, 2016 — against the Royals. Might as well keep him around. He now sports a 1.88 ERA and 45 strikeouts in his last seven starts with Oakland. He also closes the season with an even more tantalizing draw against a ransacked Angels lineup playing without Trout, Shohei Ohtani, and Justin Upton. The way he’s pitching, the A’s could even turn to Bailey on short rest if Sunday’s season-finale at Seattle determines their postseason fate. If not, the midseason acquisition could possibly pitch a tiebreaker game against Tampa Bay or Cleveland that’d count as part of the regular season.
Merrill Kelly (SP – ARI): 30%
Following his unconventional path to the majors, Kelly has had quite a bizarre debut season. Just as he appeared to morph into a viable fantasy option by offering a 2.75 ERA in June, he got spiked to a 6.66 ERA over July and August. The 30-year-old should have been dropped beyond the deepest of leagues before tossing seven scoreless frames in three of his last four turns. He has mounted 28 strikeouts in 27 innings this month with a superb 54.8% ground-ball rate and .279 xwOBA. See if he has one more strong outing in him Wednesday against the Cardinals.
Howie Kendrick (1B/2B/3B – WAS): 29%
It’s baffling that the Nationals have only allotted Kendrick 355 plate appearances during a career year in which he’s hitting .346/.394/.573. Despite the limited playing time, he’s two homers away from matching 2011’s career-high of 18. As of Sunday, only seven hitters with as many plate appearances — including the injured Trout, Yelich, and Marte — have a higher wOBA than his .400. The 36-year-old Swiss Army knife has scorched his way into more reps by batting an absurd .446 (33-for-74) since the start of August. The Nationals, who are looking to seal a wild-card spot, play eight games this week. He should at least play against most, if not all, of the six right-handed starting pitchers on the docket.
Zach Eflin (SP – PHI): 28%
Since getting pummeled for 10 runs by the Braves on July 27, Eflin has rebounded to etch out a 2.19 ERA. He avenged that beating by stifling Atlanta to one unearned run last Wednesday. On one hand, Eflin’s two-start status bolsters his streaming appeal. He’s a probably a better play, however, in leagues with daily lineup changes. The 6’6″ righty has shown far too much downside to trust against a treacherous Nationals lineup on Monday. Against the Marlins, he makes a fine streamer during the final weekend.
Kyle Lewis (OF – SEA): 28%
If someone smashes a baseball in September, does it still make a sound? Lewis remains available in plenty of leagues despite crushing six home runs in 53 big league plate appearances. He won’t hit .327 over the long haul with such a bloated strikeout rate (34.0%), but don’t worry about long-term viability. Let’s just see if the red-hot rookie has another big week in the tank.
Luis Arraez (2B – MIN): 20%
Everyone is going to want Arraez in 2020 drafts, but not nearly enough managers warmed up to the hit machine this summer. The 22-year-old’s .343 batting average isn’t a mere mirage. He’s maintained the highest contact rate (92.9%) of anybody with at least 300 plate appearances while tallying more walks (35) than strikeouts (29). While he can’t be expected to send many souvenirs into the bleachers, he has flaunted plenty of gap power by popping 20 doubles. The Twins have put these skills to good use by having Arraez lead off a historically strong lineup more often in recent weeks. They’ll look to wrap up the AL Central against the feeble Royals and Tigers, who respectively rank 26th and 28th in team ERA.
Garrett Hampson (2B/SS/OF – COL): 15%
It only took five and a half months for Hampson to validate the spring optimism. After squandering his opportunity at early playing time, the 24-year-old has received plenty of late work in the Rockies’ injury-plagued outfield. He’s finally putting his abilities to proper use by hitting .357 (20-for-56) with three homers and seven steals in September. Expanding the sample size further, he wields a .292/.357/.467 slash line in 52 games after the All-Star break. It’s the ultimate case of “better late than never” for Hampson, who could swing some leagues by swiping a couple of more bags during Colorado’s last six games.
Joey Wendle (2B/3B/SS/OF – TB): 11%
Although a far cry from 2018’s late success, Wendle is attempting to salvage a lost season by batting .297 with four steals in September. The left-handed infielder is a career .283 hitter against righties, and Tampa Bay is scheduled to face at least five of them with its season on the line. With ample motivation to win, he’s a solid deep play for batting average and steals.
Vince Velasquez (SP – PHI): 11%
When Velasquez last faced the Marlins on August 23, he got rocked for seven runs at Miami. He’s the type of unpredictable hurler who can dominate or falter against anyone on any given day, making him a dicey streamer with so much at stake. In deeper leagues, it’s still hard to ignore someone with 127 strikeouts in 113.1 innings who gets to face an offense last in home runs and wOBA.
Deep League Targets – <10% Rostered
Trent Grisham (OF – MIL): 6%
Eric Thames (1B/OF – MIL): 5%
Despite losing Yelich, the Brewers have taken over the NL’s second wild-card spot. Even if they clinch with time to spare, they could fight to either claim home-field advantage over the Nationals or even steal the division from the Cardinals. They’re slated to face six right-handed starters in as many games. Three of them take place at Great American Ball Park. The other three are at Coors Field. That makes Thames and Grisham easy adds in leagues of all sizes. Thames crushed two of his 21 home runs against righties on Sunday, and he should start throughout the week with the platoon edge. Sliding into a featured role in place of Yelich, Grisham is batting .263/.348/.474 with regular leadoff work. Both could pay major dividends.
Shed Long (2B – SEA): 5%
Since returning to Seattle as a September call-up, Long has batted .367 (22-for-60) with four walks, doubles, and home runs apiece in 17 games. He’s spent each of the last 11 bouts in the leadoff spot, scattering 19 hits in the process.
Tyler Beede (SP – SF): 5%
Beede has teased us throughout the season, but he ultimately holds an unflattering 5.23 ERA and 5.22 FIP. Just as he looked to heat up again by keeping the Dodgers and Marlins off the scoreboard in consecutive outings, the 26-year-old righty got tagged for six runs at Atlanta. This is less about the pitcher than it is the matchup. Oracle Park has proven MLB’s least-conducive venue to home runs this season, and Beede has capitalized with a passable 4.02 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, and 17.5% K-BB rate. The Rockies, meanwhile, rank 29th in wOBA and 28th in strikeout rate on the road. For those same reasons, managers in shallow mixed leagues should search for Jeff Samardzija (43% rostered) on the waiver wire.
Ji-Man Choi (DH – TB): 3%
Let’s revisit Tampa Bay’s righty-heavy slate of starting pitching. Choi has continued to serve the strong side of a platoon, which makes sense given his .351 wOBA versus righties. He often bats cleanup in those situations, and he’ll face some highly vulnerable opponents in Jhoulys Chacin, T.J. Zeuch, Trent Thornton, and Clay Buchholz. While he doesn’t brandish the power typical of a part-time DH, Choi could drive in and score some runs as the Rays compete for a playoff spot.
Tim Melville (SP – COL): 2%
Your competitors might not be lining up to stream a pitcher with a 5.40 ERA and 7.17 FIP. Yet Melville has made four of his six big league starts at Coors Field. In the other two turns, he held the Diamondbacks to one run in seven frames and posted eight strikeouts with just two runs relinquished against the Padres. The rookie will go from MLB’s worst pitching park to its best when facing the Giants at San Francisco. An intriguing one-off play in deep leagues, Melville is not worth the dice roll in weekly formats where gamers must also use him for a final home contest.