Fantasy Baseball Waiver Wire Pickups: Week 2
The 2020 MLB season has gotten off to a treacherous start for fantasy managers relying on … well, just about any closer.
Kirby Yates, Brad Hand, Edwin Diaz, Craig Kimbrel, Raisel Iglesias, and Hansel Robles have all struggled mightily enough to put their ninth-inning roles in instant jeopardy. Given the abbreviated schedule, MLB managers may be in no mood for second or third chances. Even if they keep the closer label, these players have inflicted early damage to your squad’s ERA and WHIP.
Meanwhile, some relievers (Nick Anderson, Sean Doolittle, Ian Kennedy) simply have yet to receive the save opportunities drafters anticipated. For those counting at home, that’s already half of the game’s closers covered. That’s before considering situations in Seattle, San Francisco, and Baltimore that didn’t open with a clear-cut favorite.
The majority of fantasy managers need to quickly address their relief corps. Luckily, this early chaos presents plenty of potential replacements to snag off the waiver wire. Note that Anthony Bass (55% rostered) and Daniel Hudson (50%) are already rostered in too many Yahoo leagues to highlight here. Beyond the bullpen, Tyler Chatwood, Cristian Javier, Teoscar Hernandez, Colin Moran, Trent Grisham, and Donovan Solano are all early streakers who were quickly snatched up in most leagues, but are worth claiming if still available.
Note: Rostered rates are from Yahoo leagues as of Monday night.
FAABulous Four: Top Waiver Targets of Week 2
James Karinchak (RP – CLE): 30% Rostered
Brad Hand has been anything but steady to start the season. Looking a lot like the reliever who unraveled (13.1 IP, 20 H, 7 BB, 9 R) last August and September, the southpaw has coughed up five runs (four earned) in his past two appearances. That led to Karinchak recording his first career save on Thursday.
We’re quickly seeing why the 24-year-old was such a trendy preseason sleeper. Through five frames, Karinchak has yielded two hits and walks apiece while accruing eight punchouts. He has toyed with the opposition at all levels, boasting a preposterous 16.4 K/9 throughout his minor league career. If he keeps getting save opportunities, Karinchak has the makings of a top-10 closer with league-winning upside. Pick him up now, regardless of your save situation, before it’s too late.
Jo Adell (OF – LAA): 32% Rostered
In the first waiver-wire column published before the season began, I advised readers not to use a roster spot on Adell. Last year’s Triple-A struggles gave the Angels too much cover to promote him this season, or so the thinking went. I’m glad I was wrong.
As first reported by MLB Network’s Jon Heyman, the Angels are promoting their star prospect. He could start alongside Mike Trout as soon as Tuesday, so it’s possible the 21-year-old is rostered in a majority of Yahoo leagues by his debut. There’s too much five-category potential not to take a flier on him if still available.
Just don’t expect the second coming of Trout so soon. He went 132 Triple-A plate appearances without a home run while striking out 43 times to just 10 walks. Adell may not end up producing enough to help the shallow mixed-league manager, but there’s a huge potential payout.
J.P. Crawford (SS – SEA): 25% Rostered
There’s nothing like a post-hype prospect finally making good on his potential. Although once a first-round pick with a bright future, most fantasy players wrote off Crawford years ago. Even if he offered 1.3 fWAR in 93 games for the Mariners last year, he hit just .223 with minimal power (7 HRs) and speed (5 SBs). Put another one in the bust pile, right?
Hold up there. Ten games into 2020, Crawford has collected 12 hits and seven walks to just five strikeouts. As a result, he’s also recorded two steals and 10 runs as Seattle’s new leadoff hitter. It may feel like he’s been around forever, but the strong-gloved infielder is only 25. Although it may just be a random hot streak, it’s worth grabbing Crawford in case this is the start of a more legitimate breakout. He could stick around as a solid middle infielder with secure playing time due to his team, batting eye, and defense.
JaCoby Jones (OF – DET): 36% Rostered
He’s a hair over the usual 35% cutoff mark, but that could fall in light of Detroit no longer playing at St. Louis to start the week. Before the latest COVID outbreak put his season on pause, Jones went 11-for-29 with three doubles and three homers. He has already foisted four barrels while thumping half of his 22 batted balls at an exit velocity of at least 95 mph.
This early success may seem entirely unprecedented, but Jones flashed promise early last season. In 53 games from May 1 to June 30, the Tigers outfielder batted .281/.347/.520 with eight home runs and five steals. A back injury sent him to the IL days later. He returned to hit .205/.301/.384 in 18 games before suffering a fractured wrist that ended his season. Now healthy, Jones is back on track, and it’s only a matter of time before Detroit moves him back up the lineup card.
Priority Pickups – <35% Rostered
Jairo Diaz (RP – COL): 30%
The Rockies placed Wade Davis on the IL with a right shoulder strain after he relinquished four runs Friday. Scott Oberg, viewed as the next in line during the preseason, could miss the entire season due to a back injury after getting transferred to the 45-day IL. The first two saves went to Diaz, but he gave up two runs before converting the second on Monday. Having stockpiled seven strikeouts across 5.1 innings, he’s still the sensible choice to keep Colorado’s closer role. Last season’s 14.3% swinging-strike rate hint hints at some major upside; just beware some Coors Field slip-ups bloating his ERA.
Nick Madrigal (2B/SS – CWS): 29%
As soon as the White Sox promoted Madrigal, the contact hound morphed into a fantasy Rorschach test. On one hand, he hit .309 with only 21 strikeouts in 705 minor league plate appearances. Then again, he also drew a mediocre 51 walks while touching them all just four times. He’s going to hit, but will it matter much if they’re all singles?
Madrigal’s fantasy value will ultimately depend on his legs. He stole 35 bases across the minors, so there’s potential for a major impact at two categories. However, 2018’s fourth-overall MLB Draft pick has only batted ninth thus far. It might be best to save him for deeper leagues and dynasty formats unless batting average is a key concern.
Hanser Alberto (2B/3B – BAL): 28%
What more does Alberto need to do? Off to a torrid start, he’s gone 15-for-36 with three doubles, two homers, and a steal. Naturally, the Orioles have elevated the infielder up their lineup card. Including last year, he’s batting .313 in 147 games with Baltimore.
Spencer Turnbull (SP – DET): 22%
Gamers flocked to the wire to add Chatwood, Zach Plesac, and other hot starters. Turnbull, however, remains widely available after turning in two gems against the Reds. The 27-year-old righty permitted just three hits in each start, totaling 14 strikeouts over 11 frames. Fueled by an improved slider, Turnbull has allowed just one barrel and an 84.7-mph average exit velocity. Depending on the fallout of Detroit’s postponed series at St. Louis, he could next take the mound at Pittsburgh.
Robinson Cano (2B – NYM): 18%
Since going three games without a knock, Cano has gone 13-for-23 with two doubles and a homer in his last seven contests before leaving Monday’s game with left groin tightness. In 39 plate appearances, the 37-year-old has rocketed 16 batted balls to an exit velocity of at least 95 mph. The hot streak moved him to fifth in the order, and he can maintain that real estate now that Yoenis Cespedes has opted out for the season. Of course, that’s all contingent on him not needing to miss time.
Nick Burdi (RP – PIT): 15%
The 2-8 Pirates have not manufactured many save opportunities, but the only one went to Burdi. After suffering a grueling arm injury last year, he’s getting treated carefully, only working three times. He had struck out four of six batters faced without yielding a hit. On Monday evening, however, he entered the ninth with the game tied and relinquished the go-ahead run. There’s nevertheless a feasible scenario where he runs away with the closer’s role before Kela returns.
Taylor Williams (RP – SEA): 15%
What fools we were for not drafting Taylor Williams. What … of course I knew who Taylor Williams was before the season started. Any astute eye would have seen a future closer when he lit up the league with 22 hits, seven walks, and 16 earned runs allowed in 14.2 innings with the Brewers last season.
Williams has picked up two saves for Seattle, tallying five strikeouts in four frames. And all jokes aside, he can miss bats with a mid-90s heater and 60-grade slider that’s become his primary pitch thus far. He may not have the job by the end of August, or even this week if Austin Adams returns and swiftly usurps the gig, but Williams is one of many closers still available even in deeper leagues. Adams is an interesting deep-league stash with far more upside.
Brandon Nimmo (OF – NYM): 12%
Despite a lefty-heavy schedule, Nimmo has remained a constant in the Mets’ starting lineup. Following a season hampered by a neck injury, the Queens God of Walks (and Smiles) has returned to form with a sterling .408 OBP in 11 games. Since the start of 2016, he owns a higher wRC+ (138) than George Springer, Giancarlo Stanton, Bryce Harper, and all but seven outfielders. Although definitely more valuable in OBP or points leagues, Nimmo is an upper-echelon run source batting atop New York’s lineup against righties.
Deep League Targets – <10% Rostered
Shed Long (2B/OF – SEA): 9%
An early fixture in Seattle’s starting lineup, Long has successfully stolen three bases. Tommy Pham is the only player with more. Maintaining a keen batting eye could propel Long back near the top of the batting order; he jumped back up from sixth and seventh to hit second behind Crawford on Monday.
Cole Sulser (RP – BAL): 9%
It wouldn’t have been too shocking if Baltimore’s save leader ended the season with three. Mychal Givens and Hunter Harvey seemed set to fight for the few chances presented by a team that got worse after a 54-108 season. Cole Sulser already has three, which is more than Yates, Osuna, Chapman, and Josh Hader combined.
Drafted in the 25th round seven years ago, the righty reached the majors at age 29 and throw 7.1 scoreless innings for the Rays last September. Baseball’s unlikeliest closer has just four strikeouts in six innings, but he’s also induced 13 swinging strikes in 80 pitches. While nobody should expect many (if any) more three-save weeks, he’s available in most deep leagues if hurting for any saves.
Yusei Kikuchi (SP – SEA): 5%
Murmurs of increased velocity floated around Kikuchi before Opening Day. Before any buzz could grow, he allowed four walks and five runs to the Astros in his start. He did, however, verify the extra pitch speed by firing his four-seamer and cutter at an average velocity of 95.9 and 93.5 mph, respectively.
Results followed in his second start against A’s, whom Kikuchi. Pitcher List’s Alex Fast broke down the eye-opening performance:
Yusei Kikuchi went:
6 IP, 0 ER, 3 H, 1 BB, 9 K
20 SwSt is a career high
38% CSW career high
Sitting 95 mph
10 whiffs / 7 called strikes on cutter
— Alex Fast (@AlexFast8) August 2, 2020
If not for beginning 2020 against a forceful lineup of right-handed mashers, Kikuchi may already be rostered in 50% of Yahoo leagues instead of 5%. He looks entirely different from the hurler who posted a 5.46 ERA and 16.1% K rate in last year’s U.S. arrival. This Kikuchi is worth adding in all mixed leagues.
Rowan Wick (RP – CHC): 5%
Kimbrel has unfortunately picked up where he left off last year. After issuing four walks in his first outing, the formerly dominant stopper surrendered two home runs in his second showing. When asked if Kimbrel is still the closer, per MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian, Cubs manager David Ross said, “I’ll get back to you on that one.”
We appeared to get an answer Monday night, as Wick finished off a four-out save. More managers speculated on Jeremy Jeffress as the ninth-inning replacement, but Wick has now recorded the team’s only two saves this season. Having posted a 2.43 ERA, 35 strikeouts, and a 55.6% ground-ball rate in 33.1 innings last season, the 27-year-old can miss bats and keep the ball in the park.
Rio Ruiz (1B/3B – BAL): 4%
Ignored Baltimore batters have quickly become a staple of this section. Renato Nunez has finally more recognition after going yard in back-to-back games, and Alberto at least graduated to the Priority Pickup section. Left in their shadow, Ruiz has quietly smacked three home runs in just six games. The Orioles have far too few options to sit anyone who’s producing.
Evan Longoria (3B – SF): 8%
Wilmer Flores (1B/2B – SF): 7%
Alex Dickerson (OF – SF): 3%
Brandon Belt (1B/OF – SF): 3%
While the Giants have gotten off to a solid start at the plate, this grouping of San Francisco hitters amounts to them having three more games at Coors Field. Note that Donovan Solano would have made his way into his column if not hitting his way out of consideration with a 48% rostered rate.
Longoria is the top add here as an everyday player most likely to return value beyond this week. He’s deposited two doubles and a homer since returning from the IL last Thursday. Belt, on the other hand, went hitless in his first two starts back in the Giants’ lineup. Yet the Rockies have two righties (German Marquez and Jon Gray) on tap Tuesday and Wednesday, so the first baseman could heat up in a hurry.
Boasting a career .350 wOBA against righties, Dickerson might be the better lefty slugger to deploy for a short-term jolt. He manned the cleanup role when in the lineup before Belt’s return bumped him up to second. Flores has mostly stuck in the starting lineup regardless of the opposing starter’s handedness. While he’s drawn just one walk, the aggressive swinger has hit safely in all but one game. His propensity for contact should play well in Colorado’s high altitudes.
Dominic Smith (1B/OF – NYM): 3%
Cespedes opting out vacates the DH gig for Smith, who batted .282/.355/.525 with 11 homers in 197 major league plate appearances last season. The 25-year-old posted a .368 wOBA against both lefties and righties last season, so there’s no need to find the lefty a platoon partner.
Daulton Varsho (C – ARI): 3%
Varsho has yet to start since getting promoted last week. He’d be awfully interesting if that changes. He batted .301/.378/.520 with 18 home runs and 21 steals in Triple-A and is athletic enough to play in the outfield. A catcher-eligible player with five-category ability could quickly become a fantasy goldmine if given the chance.
Higher-Rostered Players to Ignore – 35-50% Rostered
Rougned Odor (2B – TEX): 46%
Last year, Odor batted .187 through June. He’s once again ice cold out of the starter’s box with just three hits (and nine strikeouts) to his name. Even if the oblique injury that took him out of action Sunday isn’t serious, the season is too short to wait on the maddeningly streaky second baseman. Don’t risk Odor torpedoing your batting average another week.
Wade Davis (RP – COL): 39%
Davis was going to get mentioned here before going on the IL. No saves are worth the damage he does to your ERA and WHIP. Don’t bother stashing him.
Mike Foltynewicz (SP – ATL): 36%
Following a poor 2020 debut, the Braves made the stunning decision to designate Foltynewicz for assignment. It certainly seems like a short-sighted move to give up on a 28-year-old starter who submitted a 2.85 ERA and 202 strikeouts in 2018. Dynasty managers should think about the future before cutting ties with Foltynewicz. With just eight weeks left in this season, re-drafters have little choice but to walk away after an alarming velocity decline.
Brett Gardner (OF – NYY): 35%
An unheralded contributor last season, Gardner has only two hits (both home runs) this year. He’s sitting regularly against lefties, and it may only be a matter of time before the talented Mike Tauchman wrestles some starts away from the veteran versus right-handed starters.
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