Fantasy Baseball Waiver Wire Pickups: Week 5
One of many major unknowns regarding MLB’s bizarre 2020 season was how teams would handle prospects. A recent wave of call-ups suggests clubs are acting more aggressively.
Without any minor league games, organizations may fear hindering a player’s development by keeping him at the alternative site. And with 16 teams making an expanded postseason, the overwhelming majority of MLB is still aiming to play October baseball. Throw in an avalanche of injuries, and they’re running out of excuses not to play talented youngsters.
Just how many of these arrivals will make a fantasy impact? Highlighted last week, Alec Bohm remains a strong pick-up after batting .344/.462/.531 through 10 games. The Tigers have yet to stretch out Tarik Skubal enough to help managers, but he’s flaunted high strikeout upside in a highly limited sample.
Joey Bart and Triston McKenzie have worked their way beyond the parameters of a waiver-wire article, and Casey Mize is also already heavily rostered despite a rough start. For all of the recent promotions, only two grace the recommendations below. The others, regardless of their past pedigree, has spent the past few weeks proving their worth.
Note: Rostered rates are from Yahoo leagues as of Monday night.
FAABulous Four: Top Waiver Targets of Week 5
Jake Cronenworth (1B/2B/SS – SD): 44% Rostered
Allow me to cheat here and recommend Cronenworth despite his rapidly rising rostered late. It’s likely too late in most competitive leagues, but it’ll probably be too late in all leagues once the Padres get through this week’s four-game series at Coors Field.
For those who prefer the simple stats, the 26-year-old is batting .347/.410/.627 in 24 games. Anyone would gladly sign up for that, right? The Statcast data not only validates his torrid start, but it is even better. Way better. As on Monday, his .402 expected batting average (xBA) led all qualified hitters by a fairly comfortable margin. His .507 expected wOBA (xwOBA) places second behind Juan Soto.
Cronenworth is eligible for three positions in Yahoo leagues. While he has stolen just one base, he showed potential there in the minors with 22 steals in 2018 and 12 in just 91 games last year. This is a potential game-changer and, again, the Padres are going to Colorado on Thursday. Consider this the last call for Cronenworth.
Tommy La Stella (1B/2B/3B – LAA): 33% Rostered
On the surface, La Stella hasn’t done much to validate his unforeseen 2019 breakout. The infielder is merely batting .269 with 12 runs and RBIs apiece, hardly the stuff of a fantasy mainstay. There are plenty of signs, however, supporting his development into an above-average hitter who can help fantasy investors.
That batting average is bound to rise, as La Stella has an MLB-low 5.5% strikeout rate while donning an excellent 88.7% contact rate. Only Mookie Betts and Angels teammate David Fletcher have a lower swinging-strike rate among qualified hitters.
It’s not all empty contact either, as La Stella has three long balls and eight doubles. His .183 ISO is just nine points below his career-best mark obtained last season, when he crushed 16 homers in 80 games. Pairing his superb contact skills with an elevated walk rate has led the Angels to park him into the No. 2 slot, which is a big deal when Mike Trout and Anthony Rendon are hitting third and fourth. As of Monday, La Stella held the same wOBA (.351) as he earned before ending an excellent 2019 prematurely. The surface numbers should soon catch on to his encouraging encore.
Sixto Sánchez (SP – MIA): 32% Rostered
The Marlins promoted their premier pitching prospect, who made his big-league debut Saturday. Sánchez didn’t dominate like McKenzie, allowing three runs over five innings with four strikeouts. That modest initiation has bought some gamers more time to claim him.
Sánchez promptly put his superb stuff on display, reaching 100 on the radar gun and procuring three strikeouts with a changeup that looks like his true money-making pitch.
Sixto Sanchez's 92 mph changeup to strikeout Eric Thames.
I'm making noises. pic.twitter.com/ROmKwQNQu0
— Pitcher List (@PitcherList) August 23, 2020
Pair that repertoire with superb control — he posted a 1.7 BB/9 throughout his minor league career — and the 22-year-old has all the makings of a potential ace. It may not happen just yet, particularly in these peculiar circumstances, but Sánchez has a ceiling well worth reaching for in all leagues.
Jordan Romano (RP – TOR): 27% Rostered
Last week, I touted Romano as a speculative saves add who would at least help in ERA, WHIP, and strikeouts. He’s picked up saves in each of his last two outings, diminishing his ERA to a microscopic 0.64 in the process. The 27-year-old also has 20 punchouts, so now’s the time to run to the waiver wire add grab Romano wherever he’s still available.
Priority Pickups – <35% Rostered
Matt Barnes (RP – BOS): 29%
The Red Sox shipped Brandon Workman to the Phillies on Friday. It didn’t take long to find out who would take over as Boston’s closer; Barnes picked up the save that evening. The righty has surrendered nine runs and walks apiece this season, so managers risk torpedoing their ratios in pursuit of saves and strikeouts. His strikeout (25.0%) and swinging-strike rate (10.1%) have also tumbled from typically elite rates, so don’t feel compelled to grab Barnes unless you need the saves.
Colin Moran (1B/2B/3B – PIT): 27%
A popular pick-up after homering five times in his first eight games, Moran found himself back on the waiver wire in most leagues. Depending on his status after leaving Sunday’s game following a collision, it might be time to give him another look. Buoyed by consecutive three-hit games on Friday and Saturday, the 27-year-old is batting .259/.326/.531. The Statcast data amplifies this power burst. Moran wields a .309 xBA, .631 xSLG, and .419 xwOBA with 10 barrels and an average exit velocity 5.2 mph above his career norm. He’s now perched into the cleanup spot, and even the Pirates will score some runs. No more than a warm body to use in deep leagues over the last two years, Moran is now looking like a worthwhile corner infielder if healthy.
Justus Sheffield (SP/RP – SEA): 24%
Sheffield narrowly missed the top section, mostly due to his limited strikeouts. Yet the 24-year-old is dealing as of late, allowing two combined earned runs in his last three starts. Despite a rocky beginning to 2020, Sheffield now sports a 3.51 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, and 2.40 FIP. It’s possible he simply benefitted from golden home matchups against the Rockies and Rangers while catching a disappointing Astros lineup at the right time. Sheffield is also bound to cough up a home run eventually. He’s a decent play this week against the Angels, a matchup that will allow managers to further evaluate his viability as a September option.
Brandon Nimmo (OF – NYM): 23%
The Mets are scheduled to play three doubleheaders this week, giving them nine games in the next six days. Prior to their Subway Series against the Yankees getting postponed, Nimmo had played in every contest, typically as the leadoff hitter. His .430 OBP, while not directly helping all standard-category fantasy players, has led to 19 runs scored in 26 games.
Ty Buttrey (RP – LAA): 20%
Hansel Robles imploded early in the season to lose a grip on the Angels’ ninth-inning duties. Buttrey wasn’t much better, however, relinquishing four runs in his first four outings. He’s since accumulated three saves in 8.1 innings without allowing an earned run. Robles has also rebounded recently, but Buttrey appears to have the job at the moment. Just don’t bid too much or drop anyone too valuable, as he only has six strikeouts.
Danny Duffy (SP – KC): 20%
Duffy’s 3.99 ERA isn’t commanding much attention on the waiver wire. But how about his 0.99 WHIP and 34 strikeouts in 29.1 innings? Before getting too psyched, neither seems sustainable. Duffy’s .225 BABIP is well above his career .292 norm, and he’s not missing enough bats (10.5% SwSTR, 77.2% Contact) to support such a steep strikeout uptick. Yet after facing the Twins in each of his last three starts, Duffy is scheduled to face a far less powerful St. Louis lineup this Wednesday. The Royals then play all but four of their games (vs. White Sox on Sept. 3 – 6) against teams outside the bottom 10 in wOBA.
Brad Miller (2B/3B/OF – STL): 14%
Not many people noticed that Miller belted 13 home runs with a 126 wRC+ in 170 plate appearances last year. Perhaps that’s because he deposited eight of those long balls in September. His current play should open more eyes. The 30-year-old, who didn’t see the field until the Cardinals returned from their season pause, has batted .367/.500/.633 in 11 contests. Despite Paul DeJong’s return, Miller has batted second at the hot corner in each of the last two games. With 12 hard hits in 20 batted balls and an eye-popping .505 xwOBA, he’s a hot hand well worth riding.
Ryan Mountcastle (OF – BAL): 12%
Promoted last week, Mountcastle has registered three hits in three starts at left field. He seemed ready for Opening Day after spending all of 2019 in Triple-A, where he batted .312 with 25 homers in 127 games. Although he never walked much in the minors, Mountcastle nevertheless hit .295 across all levels through five seasons.
Josh Staumont (RP – KC): 11%
An unheralded bullpen stud through the opening month, Staumont has stockpiled 23 strikeouts over 11.1 innings with the 10th-lowest contact rate (59.8%) of any reliever. Per MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand, Royals closer Trevor Rosenthal is drawing significant interest prior to next Monday’s trade deadline. A deal could open the door for Staumont to take his 0.79 ERA into the final frame.
Deep League Targets – <10% Rostered
Richard Rodríguez (RP – PIT): 8%
Because Keone Kela sat out this weekend due to forearm tightness, Rodríguez recorded Sunday’s save for Pittsburgh. He has ceded just five hits in 11.2 innings, accumulating 16 strikeouts without a single walk. There’s more home run risk that one would like from a high-leverage reliever, but the 30-year-old could help everywhere else (including WHIP) even if he’s never an ERA asset out of the bullpen. If the Pirates truly just removed Kela from Friday’s contest as a precaution, they could be preparing to trade him before the deadline anyway.
Victor Reyes (OF – DET): 7%
Despite the high demand for speed, Reyes continues to hide under the radar. A deep-league sleeper after batting .304 with nine steals in 69 games last season, the outfielder has swiped five bases in 2020. Short on options, the Tigers have inserted Reyes into the leadoff role despite his career .297 OBP. More plate appearances mean more chances to reach base, steal bases, and score runs. If this lineup placement sticks, he’ll demand attention in any mixed league that starts five outfielders.
Chance Sisco (C – BAL): 6%
Given limited chances early, Sisco sports a seismic .456 OBP, .326 ISO, and 187 wRC+ in 57 plate appearances. The Orioles have begun to more frequently use the DH to play both Sisco and the red-hot Pedro Severino, who exited Saturday’s game with a leg injury. If Severino requires an IL stay, Sisco becomes a worthwhile add even in single-catcher formats. If not, he still needs to be rostered in all two-catcher leagues.
Raimel Tapia (OF – COL): 4%
The Rockies seem to pick their leadoff hitter by spinning a wheel at random, Garrett Hampson went from the bench to first on the lineup card, only for Tapia to take his spot over the last five games. While he’s never stuck around for the long haul, Tapia is batting .306 with a .397 OBP and four steals. Starting Thursday, the Rockies play 15 of their next 21 games at Coors Field.
Alex Young (SP/RP – ARI): 4%
Young has already served up six home runs in 18 innings and did not last five frames in either start since moving back to the rotation. He also has 19 strikeouts, a 50.0% ground-ball rate, and 3.56 SIERA. More importantly, he’s scheduled to host the Rockies (last in wOBA on the road) and Giants at Chase Field this week.
Andrés Giménez (2B/SS – NYM): 4%
Giménez could lose playing time with Robinson Canó and Amed Rosario back in the fold. But given the Mets’ busy schedule, the rookie should see some action this week. His six steals put Gimenez in a multi-player tie for second behind Jonathan Villar’s MLB-best eight.
Magneuris Sierra (OF – MIA): 1%
There aren’t many speedsters available, but Siera is a burner currently getting playing time for the Marlins. He’s already swiped four bags and flashed solid plate discipline with five walks and seven strikeouts in 4 p4late appearances. Possessing the same Statcast Sprint Speed as Mallex Smith (28.8 mph), Sierra will at least steal bases as long as he stays in the starting lineup.
Higher-Rostered Players to Ignore – 35% or Higher
Carson Kelly (C – ARI): 49%
Kelly, who batted .192 in last season’s final two months, is hitting .196/.268/.275 this season. He has a career 61 wRC+ against righties, which has led to an also floundering Stephen Vogt receiving more starts behind the plate. Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo said he plans on distributing playing time evenly between his two catchers. Swap out Kelly, even it means going with Austin Romine or Jacob Stallings in a deeper league.
Antonio Senzatela (SP – COL): 41%
Have we learned nothing from German Marquez? Much like in 2019, anyone celebrating the starter’s early success watched in horror as a 10-run outing at Coors Field decimated his early progress. While Senzatela conversely tossed eight scoreless innings at Houston, he then surrendered six runs in a road start against the Dodgers. The 25-year-old has posted a solid 3.96 ERA, but he’s made just two of six starts at his unforgiving home start. Besides, a 16.8% K rate and 4.57 FIP make him no more than a matchup streamer anyway. Don’t stick around long enough to let a disastrous outing at Coors decimate your ERA and WHIP.
Ian Kennedy (RP – KC): 40%
Rosenthal has a 1.59 ERA as Kansas City’s closer. Kennedy has a 1.63 WHIP. Although he recorded 30 saves last year, Kennedy has already served up as many home runs this season (six) as he did in 2019. He’s far from next in line to reclaim his role if the Royals trade Rosenthal, so there’s no reason to roster the 35-year-old in any league.
Oscar Mercado (OF – CLE): 38%
Mercado mustered just five hits in 17 games before Cleveland optioned him to its alternative sites. Some drafters may feel like they invested too much draft capital in the talented outfielder to give up, but there’s little choice unless your league features N/A spots.
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.