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Fantasy Baseball Waiver Wire Pickups: Week 6

by Andrew Gould | @andrewgould4 | Featured Writer
Sep 1, 2020

Brandon Belt caught fire in August.

MLB’s unusual August trade deadline produced more activity than anticipated. While several key players will change places for September, not too many deals hold instant and sweeping fantasy ramifications.

A few smaller moves that might fall underneath the radar could make the biggest waves. Yet a few returning players and continuing influx of prospect call-up maintain a stronghold over the week’s waiver-wire recommendations. As strange as it feels, only four weeks remain to this (hopefully) once-in-a-lifetime season.

Note: Rostered rates are from Yahoo leagues as of Monday night.

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FAABulous Four: Top Waiver Targets of Week 5

Brandon Belt (1B/OF – SF): 28% Rostered
Belt has never hit 20 home runs or slugged above .481 in a single season, and his wRC+ had fallen precipitously in each of the last three years prior to 2020. A heel injury forced him to open the season on the all-too-familiar IL, so drafters had every reason to shun him. Of course, since it’s 2020, Belt emerged as one of baseball’s most ferocious power hitters in August.

Through 28 games, the 32-year-old is hitting a formidable .313/.400/.590 with five home runs and 15 RBIs. Per Statcast, he’s lasered half of his batted balls at an exit velocity of at least 95 mph. Only seven hitters have a higher rate of barrels per batted balls than Belt’s 19.0%. He may not stay locked in for another full month, but gamers might as well grab the streaking first baseman for a two-game excursion to Coors Field.

Gregory Soto (RP – DET): 26% Rostered
When pulling Joe Jiménez from the closer role last week, the Tigers sounded poised to implement a committee. They instead appear to have gifted fantasy managers quick clarity by deploying Soto for saves on Saturday and Sunday. Aside from having a leg up on the role, the 25-year-old lefty is also the best candidate for the job. In 17.1 innings, he’s allowed just 10 hits and five walks while compiling 21 strikeouts. Gaining two mph on his heater has led to a 68.0% contact rate, so Soto is a completely different pitcher from the one who posted a 5.77 ERA last year. Grab him now if needing saves or strikeouts.

Dane Dunning (SP – CHW): 17% Rostered
Dunning, who underwent Tommy John surgery before the start of 2019, certainly isn’t the most marquee rookie pitcher to debut this season. To little fanfare, the 25-year-old pocketed seven strikeouts to one walk in each of his first two starts. While he surrendered three runs in just 4.1 innings to the Tigers, he held the Royals hitless through five frames Sunday, demanding everyone’s attention in the process.

In just 79 pitches against the Royals, Dunning induced 13 swinging-strikes. His slider is a dangerous wipeout pitch, and his sinker has kept the opposition in check thus far. The schedule also makes him a high-priority buy, as Dunning is in line to get another crack at both the Royals and Tigers.

Kevin Pillar (OF – COL): 16% Rostered
As if their roster conundrums weren’t infuriating fantasy players enough, the Rockies acquired Pillar from the Red Sox. One would assume they didn’t bring in the 31-year-old to ride the pine. Along with providing Gold Glove-caliber defense, the center fielder also sported a 109 wRC+ before the trade. His 470 slugging percentage continues a trend of upticking the power clip in each of the past four seasons.

Although he stole just one base for Boston, which has attempted just 16 steals as a team, Pillar had notched at least 14 stolen bases in each of the last five campaigns. He arrives just as the Rockies are set to play 11 of their next 17 games at Coors Field. It may seem like a minor transaction, but Pillar is handily fantasy’s biggest deadline winner.

Priority Pickups – <35% Rostered

Diego Castillo (RP – TB): 33%
Despite losing Oliver Drake, José Alvarado, and Nick Anderson to injuries, the Rays stood pat at the deadline. They may not have one undisputed closer, but Castillo is the best candidate. He’s already picked up three saves with a 1.98 ERA and 16 strikeouts in 13.2 innings. That success comes with seven walks, a 98.2% strand rate, and .143 BABIP that surely won’t last. Yet the strikeouts are nothing new for Castillo, whose career 3.17 ERA would play just fine. Beware, however, that Anderson could be back to reclaim his closer’s role this week.

Ryan Mountcastle (OF – BAL): 25%
Mountcastle belted the first two home runs of his MLB career Sunday, so the chance to add the neophyte could quickly disappear. Firmly entrenched into a starting spot, he has 12 hits and four walks in nine contests. He’s flaunting the four-category upside immediately, so at least ride the hot hand.

Mychal Givens (RP – COL): 24%
The Rockies bolstered the back end of their bullpen by acquiring Givens from the Orioles. Someone who couldn’t close for the Orioles certainly won’t receive save chances elsewhere, right? Not so fast. His performance had nothing to do with Baltimore keeping Givens away from the ninth. If anything, his success might have motivated the surprising playoff hopeful to deploy him in other high-leverage spots.

The 30-year-old righty left town brandishing a 1.38 ERA and 19 strikeouts in 13 innings, and Colorado gave up a noteworthy package (Tyler Nevin, Terrin Vavra, and a player to be named later) to land him. Considering the Rockies’ stubbornness to deploy Wade Davis in the ninth, they seem more inclined to name a traditional closer, particularly one with past experience. Givens could slide right into save opportunities in place of Jairo Díaz and Daniel Bard.

Deivi García (SP – NYY): 22%
Making his MLB debut against a Mets offense leading the majors in OBP, García garnered six strikeouts and no walks in six frames, ceding just one unearned run. He’s likely not what anyone would envision from a pitcher who posted a 12.7 K/9 throughout the minors. The 5’9″, 163-pound righty won’t blow anyone away with a fastball that averaged a 92.5-mph velocity Sunday. It’s a sweeping curve that has fueled his success. García may not stick around for all of September, but he’s scheduled to face the Orioles — who have quickly faded from an explosive start — this Friday. Grab the 21-year-old, even if just as a streamer.

Willy Adames (SS – TB): 21%
Drafters weren’t particularly interested in Adames following two solid, yet unspectacular seasons. Perhaps they overlooked his late gains; the shortstop batted .278/.340/.467 with 10 home runs after last year’s All-Star break. He’s looked even better this season, hitting .297/.376/.532 with a 47.1% hard-hit rate. The 24-year-old has also continued to uplift his launch angle, leading to 12 doubles, a triple, and four homers. His batting average will fall unless the 32.0% strikeout rate depreciates first, but Adames is a quality middle infielder for managers seeking a bit some pop and job stability.

Devin Williams (RP – MIL): 19% 
Despite some pre-deadline whispers, Josh Hader stayed in Milwaukee. While he’s unlikely to surrender the closer’s role, it’s hard to ignore a five-walk blown save. Williams has issued six many free passes all season. More importantly, he has a 0.64 ERA and 29 strikeouts in 14 innings. His 52.7% K rate leads all qualified relievers, and only Amir Garrett has yielded a lower contact rate from the bullpen. Even without saves, Williams is a dominant hurler worth rostering for everything else.

Josh Staumont (RP – KC): 17%
Greg Holland (RP – KC): 13%
Jesse Hahn picked up the first save after the Royals traded Trevor Rosenthal to San Diego. It came under unusual circumstances, however, as Kansas City opened the inning with a six-run lead before the righty eventually entered to strike out the final two batters. Up 2-1 over Cleveland on Monday night, the Royals turned to Holland for a more conventional save. It’s not too surprising to see Kansas City prefer its lights-out stopper from 2012-15, especially since he registered a save in the season’s opening week. Yet as discussed last week, Staumont’s 0.61 ERA and 43.1% K rate would make him an immediate top-shelf fantasy option if given any save chances. If not, he’s still helping your squad.

Michael Pineda (SP – MIN): 13%
Pineda is scheduled to rejoin Minnesota’s rotation once eligible to return from a 60-game suspension on Tuesday. Before getting caught for taking a banned diuretic, the righty had recorded a 4.01 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, and 5.0 K/BB rate in 26 starts. He was especially stellar in the summer, submitting a 2.62 ERA over his final 11 outings and 27 strikeouts in his last three turns. While buyers won’t want to use him immediately against a potent White Sox lineup, Pineda could then take his next turn against the Tigers.

Taylor Clarke (SP -ARI): 10%
Since moving into Arizona’s rotation, Clarke has permitted three runs (two earned) on just five hits while stockpiling 11 strikeouts in nine innings. Nobody will mistake the 27-year-old righty for a blue-chip prospect, but he’s scheduled to make his next start at San Francisco.

Deep League Targets – <10% Rostered

Tyler Mahle (SP/RP – CIN): 9%
Briefly shunned from Cincinnati’s rotation, Mahle is once again replacing the injured Wade Miley. He has no interest in going back to the bullpen this time, as he just procured 11 strikeouts over 6.2 innings of two-run, two-hit ball against the Cubs last Friday. While a 3.91 ERA and 4.18 FIP are nothing special, Mahle now has a superb 33.0% strikeout rate with a 13.8% swinging-strike rate. He appears to have transformed a woeful cutter into a lethal slider that has yielded a strikeout one-third of the time when thrown with two strikes (putaway rate). Mahle could be a major difference-maker in leagues of all sizes, and he’s scheduled to make his next appearance against an average St. Louis lineup.

Bobby Dalbec (3B – BOS): 8%
Right after the Red Sox dealt Mitch Moreland, Dalbec promptly homered in his big-league debut. Although unlikely to hit for much contact in the majors, the 25-year-old brings plenty of power potential to Boston. Maybe you can catch lightning in a bottle with a short-lived hot streak out of the gate, a la Austin Riley last season.

Raimel Tapia (OF – COL): 6%
Tapia continues to lead off the Rockies, who continue to call Coors Field home. Despite batting .307 with a .404 OBP and four steals, he’s still not attracting any buyers. Colorado’s unreliability in terms of playing time is likely to blame, and that’s particularly in peril after the Rockies traded for Pillar. Yet both of them could start alongside Charlie Blackmon, at least until David Dahl returns. For now, one cannot ignore 10 straight starts atop the lineup. The Rockies, apparently, have not overlooked Tapia’s rapid rise in walks (12.5%).

Yoshihisa Hirano (RP – SEA): 6%
The Mariners unloaded their bullpen by sending Austin Adams and closer Taylor Williams to the Padres. There’s no clear-cut replacement, nor anyone who will cause a mad rush to the waiver wire. The likely front-runner is Hirano, who has worked four scoreless innings since returning from a positive COVID-19 test. He has a career 3.36 ERA and 24.0% K rate following two seasons in Arizona. Anthony Misiewicz and Yohan Ramirez are other possible candidates, but you’d have to be desperate for saves to speculate on them beyond an AL-only league.

Manuel Margot (OF – TB): 5%
Once a renowned prospect, Margot fell out of favor for both the Padres and fantasy players. Given another chance by the Rays, he’s batting .294 with four steals in 93 plate appearances. This seems more driven by an uncharacteristically high BABIP (.348) than any tangible changes to his quality of contact, so just consider the career .250 hitter a source of deep speed — and maybe a few runs — in deeper leagues.

Sam Haggerty (2B/OF – SEA): 5%
Another producing Mariner you might have heard of a month ago, Haggerty has stolen four bases in 12 games. A career .249/.355/.376 hitter in the minors won’t elicit much excitement, and he’s needed a .375 BABIP just to manage a solid .277/.320/.426 slash line. He’s just a deep-league dice roll for speed, but he did swipe 49 bags in 2017.

Rowdy Tellez (1B – TOR): 3%
Tellez has slugged .500 and crushed six homers in 26 games. That’s par for the course for a big popper with 31 long balls in 160 career MLB contests. However, a highly diminished strikeout rate (17.6%) makes this start particularly intriguing. A .230 BABIP has hidden that progress. While Tellez is unlikely to match his .296 expected batting average, these gains could at least yield a .250-.260 hitter with noteworthy power. He may warrant recognition in shallower mixed leagues by the end of the month.

Garrett Cooper (1B/OF – MIA): 2%
Since returning from the COVID-19 IL on Friday, Cooper has gone 5-for-18 with two doubles and two home runs. The Marlins have slotted him right back into the third or fourth slot in all four contests, so he’s a solid volume play with nice pop in meatier mixed leagues.

Higher-Rostered Players to Ignore – 35% or Higher

Ross Stripling (SP/RP – TOR): 53%
Back in the spring, reports of the Dodgers sending Stripling to the Angels prompted celebration before the exchange fell apart. Now, a done deal to Toronto is sadly irrelevant to the typical fantasy player. Stripling got a chance in the Dodgers’ rotation, but he surrendered a 5.61 ERA and 1.46 WHIP in seven starts. His 7.23 FIP ties fellow Blue Jays newcomer Robbie Ray as the worst clip among all starters with at least 30 innings pitched. Opponents are hitting him harder (92.4 mph average exit velocity) and more often (84.9% contact), so Stripling is currently unrosterable regardless of his uniform.

Mike Fiers (SP – OAK): 38%
Why are so many people messing around with a pitcher posting a 4.86 ERA and the lowest strikeout rate (13.0%) of any qualified starter? Innings are hard to find, but Fiers is mostly offering empty calories that won’t help managers outside of points leagues. Since MLB postponed two of Oakland’s three games at Seattle, and Jesús Luzardo is scheduled to start Thursday, everyone can safely find another streamer despite Fiers’ strong performance (6 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 7 K) at Texas.

Kevin Newman (2B/SS – PIT): 37%
Newman, who hit .308 last year, currently possesses a .301 OBP and .316 SLG. He’ll probably increase his .253 average, but it won’t matter much considering he has mustered just four extra-base hits (three 2Bs and a HR) without a single stolen base. Although the Pirates continue to pencil him in regularly as the No. 2 or 3 hitter, he’s tallied a minuscule nine runs and eight RBIs. At this point, he needs to heat up just to re-establish his worth as a decent middle infielder in 15-team mixed leagues.

Hunter Renfroe (OF – TB): 35%
From July 1, 2018 to June 30, 2019, Renfroe registered 46 home runs and a .323 ISO, both of which trailed only Christian Yelich. He’s batting .173 in the last 94 games. The maddening outfielder has two extra-base hits since touching them all twice on August 13, so he’s not offering empty power either. If you’re starving for home runs, swap out Renfroe for Tellez, Riley, or Dalbec.

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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.

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