Fantasy Baseball Waiver Wire Pickups: Week 4
By now, it’s likely too late to add the hottest names that could have headlined a waiver-wire column a couple of days ago.
Dominic Smith didn’t receive immediate buzz after Yoenis Céspedes opted out for the rest of the season. That changed after going yard in four consecutive two-hit games. He’s now rostered in 53% of Yahoo leagues. That’s still not nearly enough.
Across the Big Apple, a freed Clint Frazier went 8-for-15 with two homers and 8 RBIs in three games following his promotion. Injuries to Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge should keep him in the lineup for the foreseeable lineup. Now that the Yankees are out of excuses not to play Frazier, his 40% rostered rate should keep rising to infinity and beyond.
Before a positive COVID test canceled Cincinnati’s weekend plans, Jesse Winker hit five home runs in as many games. He’s accounted for in half of Yahoo leagues, a mark that would soon double if he keeps up his MLB-best .496 wOBA for much longer.
The Tigers made waves Monday by announcing the arrival of three top prospects. Headlining the list is Casey Mize, the No. 1 pick in 2018. His rostered rate quickly expanded to 39% by Monday evening, and he should be claimed in a majority of leagues by the time he makes his MLB debut on Wednesday.
If any of those remain available, act now. If not, don’t sweat it. Plenty of intriguing contributors are still available in under 35% of Yahoo leagues as the season furiously pushes closer to its hastened midway mark.
Note: Rostered rates are from Yahoo leagues as of Monday night.
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FAABulous Four: Top Waiver Targets of Week 2
Jesús Aguilar (1B – MIA): 29% Rostered
Although highlighted last week, Aguilar warrants mentioning again. Take a look at his slugging percentages over the last four years and try to see which one doesn’t belong: .505, .539, .389, .508. Playing every day in the heart of Miami’s sneakily solid lineup, the first baseman has accrued 15 RBIs in 16 games.
Without sacrificing any power, Aguilar is also making some intriguing bat-to-ball gains. As of Monday, his contact rate skyrocketed from his career 73.0% to an improbable 86.5. Mookie Betts and Kevin Newman are the only qualified hitters who have made more contact inside the strike zone. Paired with his playing time and power, sustaining these improvements would make Aguilar a must-start option in all mixed leagues.
Pablo López (SP – MIA): 28% Rostered
I’m getting emotional thinking about it, but this could be the last time I get to recommend López in a waiver-wire article. Following two solid showings, the 24-year-old held the Braves to two runs Friday, stockpiling eight strikeouts. He achieved his goal of earning the Gallows Pole, which Pitcher List’s Nick Pollack awards to the day’s leader in swinging-strikes.
Speaking of which, take a look at the early leaderboard in swinging-strike rate (SwSTR%) among qualified pitchers:
Pretty nice company. While the results have not always followed López’s tantalizing peripherals, that’s not the case so far. He boasts a 2.25 ERA, 2.32 FIP, and 19 strikeouts in 16 innings, making him a must-add despite a difficult NL East schedule.
Robinson Canó (2B – NYM): 24% Rostered
Canó was featured here two weeks ago, right before a Grade 2 adductor strain halted his hot streak. Activated after the minimum 10 days, he homered in his return. Before going deep twice Monday, he had the same wOBA (.415) and expected wOBA (.428) as Nick Castellanos. Canó is now batting .412/.446/.706 with a 54.5% hard-hit rate in 56 plate appearances.
ROBBIE RAKES 💥 pic.twitter.com/cXGCQzPGR1
— SNY (@SNYtv) August 18, 2020
Even if the 37-year-old merely returns to 2019 form, when he batted .303/.374/.471 in 80 games, a healthy Canó is poised to once again wreak havoc.
Kevin Gausman (SP/RP – SF): 21% Rostered
There may not be a more toxic relationship in my life than the one with Gausman. Every now and then, the righty will look to have finally put it together before promptly surrendering six runs. Even if extending him a fifth or sixth second chance, I’m preparing for potential heartbreak this time.
Sure, we could avoid the headache altogether, but what if this is finally his moment? After opening 2020 in the bullpen, the 29-year-old has posted a 3.50 ERA in four starts. Keep in mind that his last three came at Coors and against the Dodgers and A’s. More impressively, he’s amassed 32 strikeouts to four walks.
The righty has sustained massive improvements in swinging-strike (14.5%), first-pitch strike (64.3%), and contact (70.7%) rate made last year. This progress didn’t receive much traction because a ghastly 5.72 ERA concealed a career-high 18.2 K-BB% (which he’s currently shattering at 27.1%) and 3.98 FIP earned in the rotation and bullpen. Gausman now gets to pitch in San Francisco, and his next scheduled start against the Angels represents his most manageable matchup of the season. He may burn you again, but Gausman could finally be on the verge of a breakout buoyed by a tweaked pitch distribution that de-prioritizes his poor four-seam fastball.
Priority Pickups – <35% Rostered
Asdrúbal Cabrera (1B/2B/3B – WAS): 26%
Cabrera was already playing most days over Carter Kieboom. Now that Starlin Castro is on the shelf with a wrist injury, the 34-year-old no longer needs to look over his shoulder. Not only is he starting, but Cabrera has belted five homers this season and risen to third or fourth in Washington’s lineup without Castro. Such prominent placement alongside Trea Turner and Juan Soto will allow him to keep piling up counting numbers with above-average rates. The floor is quite sturdy for Cabrera, who has batted at least .260 with a wOBA above .330 in each of the last four seasons.
David Peterson (SP – NYM): 22%
Not a part of their opening plans, Peterson is suddenly the Mets’ most reliable starter behind a banged-up Jacob deGrom. The newcomer has commenced his career with a 2.91 ERA and 1.15 WHIP in four starts. Expect regression, as he also has a 4.01 ERA and 4.90 SIERA with an underwhelming 17 strikeouts and eight walks. Although not a rest-of-season fixture in 12-team mixed leagues, he’s a viable streamer Tuesday against the Marlins. Given their lineup’s recent rash of high-profile injuries, a weekend home matchup with the Yankees may even be palatable in deeper leagues.
Alec Bohm (3B – PHI): 21%
Fantasy players clearly don’t see Bohm as a league-altering talent. Five days into his promotion, the third baseman is still widely available. He’s held his own (4-for-14, two 2Bs, a walk) thus far, but hasn’t done anything to demand their attention.
Although his immediate upside is in question, Bohm is capable of producing right out of the gate. He showed plenty of polish when batting .305/.378/.518 with 21 homers and a 13.5% strikeout rate last year. The 24-year-old’s call-up would probably be drawing more attention if he had the opportunity to face Triple-A pitching in a normal season. Bohm can make an instant impact as a corner infielder or utility batter without any true flaws.
Austin Nola (C/1B/2B – SEA): 20%
Having played 18 games behind the plate this season, Nola should have catcher eligibility in most leagues. That ups the urgency on grabbing the late bloomer, who has followed his 114 wRC+ as a 29-year-old rookie by batting .273/.334/.509 for Seattle. He’s striking out far less (16.4%) this season while upping his average exit velocity by 2.8 mph.
Freddy Peralta (SP/RP – MIL): 17%
The Brewers have found the perfect role for Peralta, who has tallied nine scoreless innings in three long-relief outings. He stockpiled 19 strikeouts to just two walks in those appearances and picked up a win Friday when relieving Brandon Woodruff in the fifth.
Peralta has teased stardom with a gaudy strikeout rate, but he faltered in Milwaukee’s rotation as a two-pitch starter with spotty command. Now he’s excelling in the bullpen with the addition of a slider that has netted a .215 wOBA thus far. With as many strikeouts (22) as Patrick Corbin and Chris Paddack, Peralta is a major fantasy difference-maker in this capacity. Anyone who grabs him should hope the righty doesn’t return to the rotation.
Jordan Romano (RP – TOR): 16%
While Romano relinquished his first run of the season on Saturday, the righty remains the breakout star of Toronto’s bullpen. In 10 innings, the 27-year-old has yielded just three hits while tallying 13 strikeouts and a 17.2% swinging-strike rate. Anthony Bass, meanwhile, has only one more strikeout (four) than save (three). Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo said Romano could receive some save opportunities before Ken Giles returns from the IL. If not, he can still fortify your ratios.
Tarik Skubal (SP – DET): 15%
Not everyone views Mize as the premier prospect joining Detroit’s rotation. Drafted eight full rounds and 254 picks later, Skubal also deserves some hype. Armed with an upper-echelon fastball, the 6’3″ southpaw submitted a 2.42 ERA and 179 strikeouts in 122.1 innings. Although yet to pitch above Double-A, the 22-year-old could at least induce plenty of whiffs from the get-go. Just remember that without the benefit of pitching in minor league games, the Tigers could treat Skubal with increased caution and limit his initial workload.
Elieser Hernández (SP/RP – MIA): 15%
Those too late on Lopez can pivot to another Miami teammate. Hernández has held the opposition scoreless in two of three turns, issuing two walks with 19 strikeouts — nine against Atlanta on Sunday — in 14.2 innings. A towering 52.9% fly-ball rate could eventually lead to home run woes like he endured last year. Yet he followed López’s lead by generating 15 swinging-strikes in just 81 pitches against the Braves, so there’s more than enough strikeout upside to take the plunge.
Andrew Miller (RP – STL): 13%
Shunned from the Cardinals’ closer conversation after two down years, Miller has picked up two saves since they resumed play last Saturday. This is hardly a done deal; the presumed front-runner, Giovanny Gallegos, has five strikeouts in three perfect outings this season. Multiple seven-inning doubleheaders will especially make this situation difficult to handicap, perhaps amplifying the need for them to deploy multiple relievers in save opportunities. The once elite Miller has gotten the call twice in three days, so that’s enough reason to add him everywhere.
Wilmer Flores (1B/2B – SF): 12%
Playing time has eluded Flores throughout his career. That’s changed this year, as the 29-year-old has logged San Francisco’s second-most plate appearances (83) behind Mike Yastrzemski. Looking to post a wRC+ above 100 — the league-average baseline — for the fifth-straight season, he is batting .291 with four long balls and his usual microscopic strikeout rate (10.8%). Think of him as a cheaper version of Cabrera who exchanges some power for contact.
Deep League Targets – <10% Rostered
Stephen Piscotty (OF – OAK): 9%
After plastering three homers and 11 RBIs in five games last week, Piscotty’s 127 wRC+ and .352 wOBA stood in near lockstep from rates earned in 2018. He has a steady job in a stout Oakland lineup, making the 29-year-old a tremendous depth piece in deeper five-outfielder formats.
Tanner Rainey (RP – WAS): 8%
Washington’s bullpen somehow presents a major problem every year. At least the struggling group has one standout in Rainey, who has registered a 0.87 ERA, 0.58 WHIP, and 17 strikeouts in 10.1 innings. He’s allowed just two hits with the seventh-lowest contact rate (57.2%) and second-highest swinging-strike rate (21.1%) of all qualified relievers. Rainey is here for his ability to help in ERA, WHIP, and Ks, but Daniel Hudson’s new position as the Nationals’ closer could be in jeopardy after blowing a three-run lead Monday night. That blown save suddenly makes Rainey a top speculative add for saves as well.
Tyler O’Neill (OF – STL): 6%
Assuming the opportunity has passed to add Carlson, the returning Cardinals’ offense doesn’t offer much in terms of waiver-wire talent. Their main available hitter of intrigue, O’Neill is finally getting regular reps to manifest his 70-grade raw power. So far, so good. He’s socked three home runs in just eight games, including one in St. Louis’ first day back from a 16-day pause. O’Neill has also batted cleanup in the last four games, but that’s not even the biggest sign of encouragement. Strikeouts have plagued the righty (35.4% career K rate) in the majors thus far, but he’s struck out just six times in 33 plate appearances this season. It wouldn’t be too shocking to see O’Neill out-perform Carlson and work his way into universal rostering.
Alex Reyes (RP – STL): 6%
Perhaps another wild card in St. Louis’ ninth-inning picture, Reyes struck out all three batters in his first and only 2020 outing. He struggled with control as the opener of Monday’s second contest, issuing three walks but escaping with two strikeouts and one run allowed. This is a once-elite pitching prospect bestowed with ace upside before injuries derailed his ascent. He’s only 25 and was throwing 96-99 mph Saturday, so ample potential remains if St. Louis finds the right way to utilize him. Reyes might be best served in a long-relief/piggyback role in line with Peralta.
Keibert Ruiz (C – LAD): 5%
Perhaps lost in the sea of other promotions, Ruiz touched them all in his first major league start. While Will Smith arrived first, Ruiz is the more polished catching prospect from the Dodgers’ farm. He doesn’t possess the same power, but the 22-year-old brings a better hit tool and glove to the bigs. Grab Ruiz now in two-catcher formats, and keep close tabs on his progress everywhere else.
Erik González (3B/SS/OF- PIT): 3%
Not a name on the typical fantasy gamer’s radar, González has gone 15-for-43 with six doubles and a homer. While that alone wouldn’t garner recognition for a utilityman, he already has more barrels (five) than all of last year (three). As seen below, his Statcast page is a sea of red, so keep close tabs on the Pittsburgh infielder in case he’s the latest out-of-nowhere breakout performer.
Isaac Paredes (3B – DET): 1%
The final member of Detroit’s call-ups, Paredes doesn’t come with nearly as much upside as Mize and Skubal. The infielder batted .282/.362/.416 with 13 home runs in Double-A last year, so managers shouldn’t hope for more than a Cabrera or Flores type.
Higher-Rostered Players to Ignore – 35% or Higher
Matthew Boyd (SP – DET): 66%
Well, we found this year’s Nick Pivetta. Boyd has gotten tattooed to a 9.64 ERA with eight home runs allowed in five starts. There was promise of the lefty re-discovering his early-2019 form, but we’re instead seeing the mess who surrendered a 5.51 ERA after the All-Star break. You can’t possibly trust Boyd in your starting lineup, so find someone else who’s usable.
Justin Upton (OF – LAA): 48%
Instead of bouncing back from dismal 2019, Upton now looks even worse. He’s collected just one of his six hits this season in August. That’s partially because his chances are dwindling; the Angels have sat the veteran outfielder in five of their last eight games. He’s matched last year’s troubling 68.7% contact rate and has struck out 22 times in 63 plate appearances.
Jon Gray (SP – COL): 48%
Gray may bring some investors back on board after tallying first win and quality start (7 IP, 3 ER) of the season on Sunday. It came at Coors Field, where he has made his last four starts. While Gray recorded just two strikeouts in each of the previous three turns, he accrued seven against Texas. The righty is capable of shining any time at any place, but Gray is simply too erratic to trust. That doesn’t just extend to his unforgiving home park, as he’s posted a higher road ERA in each of the last four seasons. Besides, managers will want no part of Friday’s scheduled matchup with the Dodgers even though it’s away from Colorado.
Khris Davis (DH – OAK): 44%
Davis made a tempting buy-low after a hip injury clearly derailed his 2019. After all, he crushed an MLB-high 133 home runs from 2016 – 2018 while batting .247 each season. With just seven hits on the season, it’d take a major hot streak just to reach that middling mark. Making matters worse, the formerly stout slugger has just one double and homer apiece. These slumps have pushed him down Oakland’s lineup, and it may be a matter time before he begins losing playing time against righties.
Scott Kingery (2B/3B/SS/OF): 40%
Kingery, who detailed his coronavirus symptoms experienced before the season began, is still searching for his first extra-base hit. Bohm looked to bump him out of the starting lineup, though Jean Segura’s injury could re-open second base. Either way, managers can’t afford to roster a player brandishing a -14 wRC+, a stat in which 100 — not zero — is the average baseline.
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.
Andrew Gould is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Andrew, check out his archive and follow him @andrewgould4.