Fantasy Baseball Waiver Wire Pickups: Week 3
Week 3’s waiver-wire recommendations are truly a mixed bag. Fantasy players will remember some of these names from back in the day. Then there are a few others some readers may have never heard of a month ago.
Forgiveness is key when considering several reclamation projects recovering from a down year or two. In other cases, it’s more about leveraging the schedule for a short-term boost. Either way, an open mind is necessary in a season where Donovan Solano and JaCoby Jones are hitting circles around Nolan Arenado and Cody Bellinger.
While many fantasy managers have already rushed to the waiver wire to claim them, two new closers remain available in a majority of Yahoo leagues. They headline this week’s roundup despite narrowly exceeding the usual 35% cutoff mark.
Note: Rostered rates are from Yahoo leagues as of Monday night.
FAABulous Four: Top Waiver Targets of Week 2
Rafael Montero (RP – TEX): 41% Rostered
The Rangers’ plan to replace Jose Leclerc with a committee didn’t last long. Making his season debut on Friday, Montero promptly picked up back-to-back saves. Manager Chris Woodward promptly declared Montero his new closer following the two perfect innings.
Last season, the former Mets starter took to Texas’ bullpen well, registering a 2.48 ERA, 34 strikeouts, and five walks in 29 innings. He’s made the transition by upping his fastball velocity to the mid-upper 90s. Considering his immediate placement (and success) into the ninth inning, Montero seems like a solid candidate to maintain a monopoly on the team’s save opportunities through September. Spend your FAAB dollars aggressively if he’s still available.
Trevor Rosenthal (RP – KC): 38% Rostered
It looks like Greg Holland isn’t Kansas City’s new closer after all. Rosenthal, another reliever years removed from past glory, has picked up three saves. The 10 strikeouts and 16.8% swinging-strike rate are highly encouraging, but the zero walks are particularly notable. After returning from Tommy John surgery last year, the hard-throwing righty issued 42 free passes in 30.1 professional innings.
While he may not be the one true closer just yet, the Royals likely won’t mess with what’s working if he continues to excel.
Dylan Moore (2B/3B/SS/OF – SEA): 37% Rostered
Moore hadn’t drawn a walk this season before producing two Monday night He has, however, struck out 15 times in 49 plate appearances. He’ll likely fall down to earth from his .333/.388/.689 soon, but there aren’t many other players on the waiver wire who provide power, speed, four-position eligibility, and prominent placement in his team’s batting order.
With four home runs and three stolen bases to start the season, Moore has 13 long and 14 steals in just 331 career plate appearances. Seattle has responded to his big start by batting him second, a golden lineup slot from which to optimize counting stats. Even if he’s back on the waiver wire in three weeks, squeeze any bit of value left from the streaking Moore.
Following one shaky bullpen appearance, Valdez has shined in two road starts. The 26-year-old ceded three runs (one earned) in 13.1 innings against the Angels and A’s, compiling 17 strikeouts to just one walk. He also wields a 55.1% ground-ball rate and gets his next start at home against the light-hitting Mariners. Despite his concerning Statcast metrics, fantasy gamers shouldn’t hesitate to grab a young starter with upside on a championship contender.
Priority Pickups – <35% Rostered
Chad Green (SP/RP – NYY): 33%
Targeting middle relievers early in a season with tighter innings restrictions seemed like a sound early strategy. The top contributor thus far has been Green, who pairs his 0.96 ERA, 0.43 WHIP, and 13 strikeouts with two wins. He hasn’t allowed a hit since July 29.
Although his .063 BABIP will certainly rise, this is hardly an out-of-nowhere breakout. From 2017 to 2018, Green’s 30.1% K-BB rate and 2.29 SIERA each trailed only Craig Kimbrel, Josh Hader, and Kenley Jansen among qualified relievers. Aaron Boone often has a short leash for his starters, and Green frequently receives the first call from the bullpen to record more than three outs. That’s the perfect recipe to keep vulturing wins, making the righty a valuable fantasy asset even as a reliever without any save chances on the horizon.
Max Stassi (C – LAA): 31%
Some weird stuff was bound to happen this year. Still, nobody could have called Stassi tying Christian Vazquez for the second-most home runs among catches (four) through two weeks. Last year, the 29-year-old batted .136 with one homer and a 5 wRC+ through 147 plate appearances. Now he’s a fearsome slugger making the most of a timeshare with Jason Castro. With plenty of highly drafted catchers struggling mightily, it’s worth riding the hot hand.
Leury García (2B/SS/OF – CHW): 31%
Even though García batted .279 with 15 steals and 93 runs last season, drafters gave him the cold shoulder. Volume atop the White Sox lineup fueled his 2019 breakout, but rookie Nick Madrigal was bound to push him out of the 2020 starting lineup. Days after his debut, the rookie went on the IL with a separated shoulder.
García has spent the past week as the starting shortstop, but he should slide back to second base once Tim Anderson makes his anticipated return this week. While he has already hit three home runs with a higher contact rate, he should hopefully pick up some steals regardless of his lineup spot. The multi-position eligibility is also more valuable than ever given the threat of game cancellations.
Brian Anderson (3B/OF – MIA): 28%
Anderson would most likely not apply for waiver-wire consideration had the Marlins not lost a week of the season. While he might not have warranted stashing while Miami was MIA, he’s now a viable contributor to scoop up.
Having started every game as their No. 5 hitter, Anderson has accrued nine RBIs in 10 contests while batting .303/.410/.545. Last year, he notched a 140 wRC+ in 39 second-half games before injuring his hand in late August. The underrated steady hand will round out a roster nicely as a corner infielder or fifth outfielder.
Pablo López (SP – MIA): 22%
A frequent resident of this column last year, López has allowed two earned runs in a pair of starts this season. Alongside his 11 strikeouts in 10 innings, his early batted-ball distribution is also highly encouraging. Among his 27 batted balls, FanGraphs classified 18 as grounders and two (of just four fly balls) as pop-ups. I still believe.
Mitch Moreland (1B – BOS): 22%
It’s time for the annual Mitch Moreland hot streak. We know by now that it’s unlikely to last, as the 34-year-old has yet to tally more than 23 home runs in a single season. But hey, he’s slugging .935 with six home runs in 33 plate appearances. He’s a dangerous platoon piece who typically has one or two hot streaks in him every season. See where this one takes you when Boston opposes a right-handed starter.
Sam Hilliard (OF – COL): 15%
A top recommendation before the season began, Hilliard has more strikeouts (12) than games played (eight) thus far. His rostered rate has understandably dropped, as managers have little patience for slow-starting players. Consider giving him a second chance, as the Rockies have five more games at Coors Field this week. Four are against righties. With nine of the ensuing 11 contests on the road, streamers can move on next week unless he makes a truly compelling case at home.
Jesús Aguilar (1B – MIA): 13%
Seeking redemption from a dreadful 2019, Aguilar had belted two homers in the Marlins’ first three games before a COVID outbreak halted their season. He has gone deep twice more since returning and is batting .306/.341/.694 after tallying two hits in each of his last three games. It’s only been two years since the powerful first baseman deposited 35 home runs, 108 RBIs, and a .374 wOBA for the Brewers. Locked into the heart of Miami’s lineup, Aguilar looks poised to prove the down 2019 was more of an outlier than the breakout 2018.
Tyler Alexander (SP/RP – DET): 13%
On August 2, Alexander turned heads by amassing 10 strikeouts — nine in a row — in just 3.2 innings from the bullpen. It marked the most punchouts in a relief outing since Randy Johnson in 2001.
Tyler Alexander faced nine batters.
— Detroit Tigers (@tigers) August 2, 2020
The dominant display also earned the 26-year-old southpaw a starting nod. If you’re not comfortable using Alexander for his first start of 2020, pay close attention to Tuesday’s turn against the White Sox.
Jake Arrieta (SP – PHI): 13%
Arrieta looked like the latest ace to bite the dust last year, posting a 4.64 ERA while matching his lowest strikeout rate (18.5%) since 2013. This year, however, he followed up a passable turn against the mighty Yankees (5 IP, 3 ER, 0 BB, 4 K) with six scoreless innings against Atlanta. He’s not throwing harder or missing many bats, so it’s likely more a mirage than a rejuvenation. Still, he’s a viable Week 3 streamer with Baltimore on the docket.
Deep League Targets – <10% Rostered
Todd Frazier (1B/3B – TEX): 9%
A boring veteran nobody bothered to draft, Frazier is a mainstay in Texas’ lineup, usually batting either third, fourth, or fifth. After quietly upping his batting average to .251 with the Mets last year, the 34-year-old is batting .308/.379/.519 with a pair of home runs. The volume makes him a sturdy corner infielder in 15-team mixed leagues and deeper. This week, however, anyone can grab Frazier in anticipation of a three-game series at Colorado.
Mike Tauchman (OF – NYY): 9%
After initially taking a back seat to Aaron Hicks and Brett Gardner, Tauchman has started six of the Yankees’ last seven games. That includes playing both ends of doubleheaders last Wednesday and Saturday. He has already stolen four bases, a feat topped only by Tommy Pham. Since joining the Yankees last year, Tauchman is batting .280/.361/.495 with 13 homers, 10 steals, and 50 RBIs and runs apiece in 98 games. He should continue to play regularly now that the Bronx Bombers placed Giancarlo Stanton on the IL.
Matt Kemp (OF – COL): 9%
Kemp has played more than some fans would like, but he’s sporting a .356 wOBA through 46 plate appearances. Dust off the 35-year-old for this week’s homestand.
Tyler Mahle (SP – CIN): 7%
Mahle looked like a high-priority pickup poised to make two starts this week against Kansas City and Pittsburgh. Instead, he’s the odd man out of Cincinnati’s rotation to make room for the returning Wade Miley. Don’t forget about him entirely; he proved more than worthy of a starting spot by tossing six scoreless innings of one-hit ball against Cleveland last Tuesday. He could vulture wins and pad your ratios in a long-relief role while waiting for another rotation vacancy to arise.
Andrés Giménez (2B/SS – NYM): 3%
The streaking Robinson Cano graced last week’s column before landing on the IL. In his place, Giménez has delivered far more offense than anticipated. A 21-year-old prospect more known for his glove, he surprised onlookers simply by making the team. Giménez is now one of the Mets’ few bright spots, going 11-for-37 with three steals. Don’t expect any power, but the newcomer can at least offer a nice speed jolt in deeper leagues while Cano is sidelined.
Tommy Milone (SP/RP – BAL): 2%
Milone hasn’t twirled an ERA south of 4.75 since 2015, so his strong start is receiving virtually no recognition. Even in deep leagues, the 33-year-old remains widely available despite posting a 3.21 ERA, 22.4% K-BB rate, and 2.47 FIP in three starts.
Could this be legit? His contact rate has tumbled a full 10% from last season. A sterling 13.9% swinging-strike rate, buoyed by a crafty changeup, puts him ahead of some scrubs such as Clayton Kershaw, Gerrit Cole, and Walker Buehler. He also throws a highly hittable fastball in the mid-80s and plays for the Orioles, so proceed with caution. Milone could go full Tyler Chatwood on buyers, but he’s looking like a serviceable deep-league option with the potential for universal viability.
Higher-Rostered Players to Ignore – 35% or Higher
Craig Kimbrel (RP – CHC): 70%
Kimbrel has yet to keep the opposition off the scoreboard in a single outing. That’s especially telling considering he recorded just one out twice. He has more walks (five) than strikeouts (two), and his outside-swing rate has tumbled from 31.7% — right around his career norm — down to 2.7.
Oh yeah, he’s not the closer anymore. Rowan Wick has recorded two saves for the Cubs, and Jeremy Jeffress’ one save is one more than Kimbrel has. Kimbrel looks every bit as lost as last year, and there’s likely not enough time to rebound, reclaim his job, and salvage the shortened season.
Mallex Smith (OF – SEA): 51%
You can’t be this desperate for steals in a standard league. Smith has swiped two bags, but he’s also 5-for-37 with two walks and 11 strikeouts. This offensive futility has banished him to the bottom of Seattle’s lineup, and it may not be long until he loses the starting gig altogether. The Mariners demoted Smith last April, so don’t be surprised if they eventually decide to test out a young talent (probably not Jarred Kelenic, but a boy can dream) during the final weeks.
Kyle Freeland (SP – COL): 50%
Touting a 2.41 ERA and 54.9% ground-ball rate through four starts, Freeland is now rostered in half of Yahoo leagues. Those in the other half should be in no rush to add him. His early success has come with just 11 strikeouts in 18.1 innings, and his opposing contact rate is up from last year. Worst of all, Freeland still pitches for the Rockies. Coors Field will strike eventually, perhaps as soon as Tuesday’s scheduled home start against Arizona.
Yadier Molina (C – STL): 46%
Can fantasy gamers afford to keep any Cardinals on their roster? The answer varies depending on your roster allotment and league settings. Some leagues also have expanded IL slots to stow Molina, Paul DeJong, and Carlos Martinez, all of whom are on the COVID IL. If that option isn’t available, cut Molina for an active catcher like Stassi. The 38-year-old hadn’t registered an extra-base hit before their season came to a screeching halt.
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.