Fantasy Baseball Waiver Wire Pickups: Week 1
Honestly, fantasy baseball advice feels futile right now.
When beginning this waiver-wire column over the weekend, I prepared to write up Brian Anderson and other Marlins hitters in preparation for a four-game series (two home, two away) against the Orioles. Pablo Lopez and Elieser Hernandez would have garnered streamer buzz in the “Deep League Targets” section. Then Monday’s game got postponed after multiple Miami players and staff members tested positive for COVID-19.
As of now, the Marlins and Orioles are scheduled to forgo the two games in Miami, but play in Baltimore on Wednesday and Thursday. That’s if the season makes it to Wednesday. And even if MLB treks along, this dose of reality could cause players to opt-out. It’d also unlikely be the last outbreak to taint the season.
Winning a 2020 fantasy baseball league — if it happens in its 60-game entirety — will require day-to-day and week-to-week decisions more in line with managing a fake football squad. Such a strategy, however, is difficult when nobody has any clue which players or teams will be able to play the next day.
But yeah, you’re reading this waiver-wire column for waiver-wire recommendations. Note that some of the week’s top adds, Steven Matz (54% rostered), Nate Pearson (51%), Kyle Lewis (46%), David Fletcher (38%), and Griffin Canning (37%) already surpassed the cutoff rate of 35% rostered in Yahoo leagues.
Note: Rostered rates are from Yahoo leagues as of Monday night.
FAABulous Four: Top Waiver Targets of Week 1
Brady Singer (SP – KC): 26% Rostered
Promoted sooner than anticipated, Singer yielded three hits, two walks, and two runs in his big league debut. The 23-year-old righty, taken 18th overall in the 2018 MLB Draft, struck out seven of 20 batters faced with 14 swinging strikes in 80 pitches. As Pitcher List’s Nick Pollack noted in his GIF breakdown, the newcomer relied heavily on a slider that secured 10 of those whiffs.
It was certainly an interesting arrival for a prospect who didn’t display such crisp strikeout stuff (8.4 K/9) in the minors last season. One outing isn’t enough to change his outlook as a high-floor, low-ceiling pitcher likely to help the Royals more than fantasy managers. That said, Singer should at least have everyone’s attention.
Greg Holland (RP – KC): 23% Rostered
After removing Singer, the Royals turned to 2019 closer Ian Kennedy to work the sixth and seventh. Once they gained a lead in the 10th, Greg Holland struck out Cesar Hernandez, Jose Ramirez, and Francisco Lindor to lock down the save.
This distinction of duty makes sense for the Royals. As a former starter, Kennedy would provide them more value in a versatile, stretched-out role. While he fell apart last July, Holland had authored a 2.33 ERA through June as Arizona’s closer. The 34-year-old could bury your ERA, but he may also pile up strikeouts and saves with some extra job security on account of being a “proven closer.”
Spencer Howard (SP – PHI): 22% Rostered
While it’s likely too late to grab Pearson, another pitching prospect could make his major league debut in the same series. Per The Philadelphia Inquirer‘s Matt Breen, Howard may join the Phillies as soon as Friday.
Howard won’t light up the radar gun quite like Pearson. He’s unlikely to put forward a league-winning stretch of dominance, but the neophyte used his deep repertoire to carve his way from Rookie ball to Double-A last year. The 24-year-old should immediately serve as a solid depth piece to any fantasy rotation.
Trevor Gott (RP – SF): 13% Rostered
In his 2020 debut, San Francisco closing candidate Trevor Rogers — highlighted in this article last week — surrendered four runs to the Dodgers. When back-to-back save opportunities arose in the weekend, Gott unexpectedly picked up both.
Gott, who garnered a 4.44 ERA for the Giants last season, was hardly on the ninth-inning radar. He did, however, record a 1.10 WHIP and 57 strikeouts in 52.2 frames. While many onlookers expected Gabe Kapler to mix and match the closing duties in Philadelphia last year, Hector Neris ran away with the role and registered 28 saves. He’s not an outstanding talent, and he plays for a subpar squad, but Gott nevertheless warrants a look for anyone seeking saves.
Priority Pickups – <35% Rostered
Wil Myers (1B/OF – SD): 32%
Trent Grisham (OF – SD): 23%
Following three road games at San Francisco, the Padres close the week at the far friendlier Coors Field. Since they also conclude August with a four-game set at Colorado, the Padres are playing 11.2% (seven of 60) of their schedule at the hitter’s paradise.
For now, the upcoming visit leads to a few San Diego inclusions. Highlighted last week, Myers has started all four games for the Friars. Locked in as their starting center fielder, Grisham has opened the season with four hits (one HR) and three walks. Last year, he tallied 30 homers and 13 steals across all levels, exploiting Triple-A’s advantageous environment to a scorching .381/.471/.476 slash line.
Dellin Betances (RP – NYM): 26%
After converting his first save on Opening Day, Edwin Diaz relinquished a game-tying home run to Marcell Ozuna the following day. The gopher ball plagued the closer throughout a tumultuous 2019, which is likely the reason new Mets manager Luis Rojas said he could explore a ninth-inning committee.
Prior to Diaz’s blown save, Betances recorded two outs in his team debut. Don’t forget how dominant he was before a shoulder injury limited him to one appearance last season. (He suffered a partially torn Achilles tendon in that lone September outing.) Betances led all relief pitchers in strikeouts (474) from 2014 to 2018 while posting a 2.47 ERA as the Yankees’ shut-down setup man. While he’ll likely continue inhabiting that role in New York, another Diaz misstep could lead to a few save chances for Betances. If he returns to pre-2019 form, the 32-year-old would still be worth rostering without those opportunities.
Jose Peraza (2B/SS/OF – BOS): 20%
Following rave reviews of a refined swing, Peraza commenced the season with a four-hit party from the ninth spot. While he went hitless over the weekend, it’s encouraging that Boston not only kept him in the lineup against a righty, but then had him lead off against southpaw Wade LeBlanc on Sunday.
Last year, Peraza hit .239 with the fourth-worst wRC+ (62) of all batters who logged at least 400 plate appearances. So why bother adding him after one big game at Baltimore’s expense? Before a nightmarish 2019, he swiped more than 20 bases in each of the previous three seasons. While Peraza rarely walks (4.0% BB), he’s also a career .274 hitter with just a 12.6% strikeout rate. He plays in a potent Red Sox lineup and carries eligibility at three positions. Five games at third base last year give a fourth in some leagues.
Anthony Bass (RP – TOR): 14%
The Blue Jays placed Ken Giles on the IL with a strained right forearm. It didn’t take long to find out who would close in his absence; Bass recorded the save Monday evening. Even with a fortuitous .203 BABIP and 68.3% strand rate, he only posted a 3.56 ERA in 2019. He’s not particularly exciting, but saves are saves.
Spencer Turnbull (SP – DET): 12%
Last season, Turnbull deposited a 2.84 ERA through his first dozen starts. His quest for an early encore began by limiting the Reds to three hits and a run at Great American Ball Park. While he issued four walks, the 27-year-old also accrued eight strikeouts over five frames. The decision to throw fewer sinkers — which relinquished a .420 wOBA in 2019 — in favor of more four-seam fastballs and sliders could continue to pay dividends
Kyle Seager (3B – SEA): 10%
Although not the most interesting Kyle in Seattle’s lineup, Seager is continuing last year’s quiet resurgence. Out until last May due to a left hand injury, the third baseman was a shell of himself before blasting 14 home runs in his final 51 games. He’s commenced 2020 with three doubles and a home run against a challenging Astros pitching staff.
Before the wheels fell off in 2018, Seager was as steady as they came. He offered 25-30 homers in four straight campaigns, often with a fair batting average and high supply of RBIs. Now that he’s regularly batting third or fourth for the rebuilding Mariners, the 32-year-old is a terrific corner infielder in 15-team leagues. He’s even worth a volume add in smaller mixed formats.
Deep League Targets – <10% Rostered
Austin Hays (OF – BAL): 9%
Hanser Alberto (2B/3B – BAL): 8%
Anthony Santander (OF – BAL): 8%
Volume matters in this abbreviated season, and these three hitters are locked into Baltimore’s lineup. Prior to the postponement at Miami, the Orioles didn’t have an off day scheduled until August 6. Once they resume play, this trio all make quality plug-in plays for deeper leagues.
All Alberto does is accumulates hits. After batting .305 last season, he already has six in three games. He’s a contact fiend with an everyday job and multi-position eligibility. Hays, who batted .309/.373/.574 in 75 big league plate appearances last year, has spent every game occupying the leadoff role. After producing 20 homers in 93 games to little fanfare, Santander has smacked another long ball and two doubles in three contests. He’s batted second against righties and cleanup versus lefties.
Jurickson Profar (2B/OF – SD): 7%
Although the Padres acquired Jorge Mateo shortly before Opening Day, Profar has started every game thus far. He’s even batted cleanup against southpaws. The results have yet to follow beyond one stolen base, but he’s drawn five walks to just one strikeout in 16 plate appearances. Give him a spin once San Diego goes to Colorado.
Oliver Drake (RP – TB): 6%
Drake surprisingly notched Tampa Bay’s first save instead of Nick Anderson, who recorded the preceding four outs. Just like it was foolish to assume Anderson would receive the unimpeded closer’s role, it’s short-sighted to now anticipate Drake getting all of the opportunities. However, having recorded a 3.21 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, and 32.0% K rate last season, the 33-year-old is more interesting than Holland, Gott, and Bass on a pure skills standpoint.
Austin Voth (SP – WAS): 6%
Voth’s scheduled starts are up in the air due to Stephen Strasburg’s injury and the Marlins’ coronavirus outbreak. At the moment, he’s currently scheduled to host the Blue Jays on Tuesday. If Washington is given the green light to go to Miami, he’d be in line to face the Marlins over the weekend. He could then potentially make his next two starts against the Orioles. Planning so far ahead may be a pointless task these days, so let’s just worry about his first start for now.
Victor Caratini (C/1B – CHC): 5%
The catcher-eligible Caratini has already started two games as a DH and another behind the plate. Unlike Isiah Kiner-Falefa, whose short-lived excitement vanished due to an ill-timed injury, Caratini has already produced when given a chance. He posted 11 homers and a 108 wRC+ in 279 plate appearances last season. If sustaining that type of production with steady playing time, he could easily develop into a top-12 fantasy catcher.
Homer Bailey (SP – MIN): 3%
With a favorable schedule and mighty lineup at his disposal, Bailey is more than capable of churning out a useful stretch. Just look at last season’s final 10 starts, during which he twirled a 3.22 ERA and 53 strikeouts in 58.2 innings. He’s set to toe the rubber twice this week against St. Louis (Tuesday) and Cleveland (Sunday).
Higher-Rostered Players to Ignore – 35-50% Rostered
Dakota Hudson (SP – STL): 46%
Going off his 16 wins and 3.35 ERA, Hudson enjoyed a stellar 2019 worth celebrating. The 1.41 WHIP, 6.6% K-BB rate, and 4.93 FIP tell a far different story. Regression struck on Sunday, as he yielded seven hits and four homers across 4.1 frames against a Pittsburgh squad lacking a power punch. Hudson is no more than a streamer in standard mixed leagues, but he just proved unreliable against the NL Central’s weakest adversary.
Miguel Andujar (UT – NYY): 45%
In a 162-game season, it’d be wise to stash Andukar and wait for an opportunity to arise. That chance could easily arrive in August, but he has yet to start against a righty. Unless you have ample bench spots at your disposal, most managers can’t afford to wait on a talented player currently trapped in a part-time role.
Jose Quintana (SP – CHC): 39%
This rate likely consists of many spring drafters who checked out when MLB suspended play. Quintana cut his pitching thumb while washing dishes during the break. He suffered nerve damage and is out for the foreseeable future. Quintana hasn’t recorded an ERA below 4.00 since 2016, and his strikeout rate dipped in each of the last two seasons. Barring a surplus of IL spots, he’s not worth stashing beyond the deepest of mixed leagues.
Brendan McKay (SP – TB): 35%
Copy and past the Andujar section, but make it for a pitcher. McKay was missing from camp weeks before Opening Day, so he didn’t make the 30-man roster. Although he should eventually re-join the club if healthy, the 24-year-old righty may simply function as a long reliever or spot-starter. Find someone who can contribute now.
If you want to dive deeper into fantasy baseball, be sure to check out our award-winning slate of Fantasy Baseball Tools as you navigate your season. From our Lineup Assistant – which provides your optimal lineup, based on accurate consensus projections – to our Waiver Wire Assistant – that allows you to quickly see which available players will improve your team, and by how much – we’ve got you covered this fantasy baseball season.