Fantasy Baseball Waiver Wire Pickups: Week 8
This strange, messy, crazy, and hopefully once-in-a-lifetime MLB season is set to end just two months after it began. Managers used to the 162-game grind may just now be getting a feel for their team’s strengths and weaknesses. Instead of preparing for post-Memorial Day trades and adds, they’re either prepping for the final week or looking to next year.
Didn’t make it into the championship? Don’t feel bad. Nobody is judging you for not being in the right mindset to meticulously make transactions and set optimal lineups. Besides, even this 60-game season has rapidly devolved into a battle of attrition. Injuries and mere bad luck have dashed title hopes before they could begin. This column’s planned top pick, Ryan Braun, left Friday night’s game with lower back tightness. Monitor his situation, as the Brewers are scheduled for eight games in the final week.
Still fighting for first place? Great. A win’s a win, and we could all use some right about now. Go all out to take home that championship, and don’t apologize for escaping this mysterious minefield that is 2020 with a shiny trophy. It’s not much in the grand scheme of our current reality, but it’s something.
While much has changed, plenty of tenets remain for managing a team in the season’s waning days. When possible, you want players on teams still going all out with postseason implications. Luckily, the expanded format offers far more of those than usual. The schedule — in both quantity of games and quality of opponent — matter immensely, as does the player’s current form. Don’t wait on a high draft pick to work out of a month-long funk when you add replace with someone on a two-week tear.
As long as it’s a re-draft league, you’re only making decisions with the final nine days in mind. Plenty of these players started cold and have disappointed drafters often, but they can now provide an extra push toward the finish line.
Be warned: It’s rough out there for pitchers. The streaming waters are dark and murky, and therefore may cause more harm than good. Rather than recommending someone liable to give up seven runs and torpedo your season, this final list is far heavier on hitting than usual.
Note: Rostered rates are from Yahoo leagues as of Friday night.
FAABulous Four: Top Waiver Targets of Week 5
Brady Singer (SP – KC): 28% Rostered
Hopefully you listened to last week’s advice and added Singer before he tamed the Tigers to two hits across six scoreless innings. Following Wednesday’s gem, he’s submitted eight strikeouts in back-to-back starts without ceding a single run. He’ll close the season with a neutral matchup against the Cardinals and another advantageous turn against the Tigers. Kansas City’s rookie is easily the best pitching option out there.
Ty France (2B/3B – SEA): 15% Rostered
Despite emerging in San Diego, the Padres shipped France to Seattle before the trade deadline. He has a .868 OPS before the trade and an .870 OPS after. The major difference is opportunity. France is now playing every day for the Mariners, who have a game in every remaining day of the season. While he posted a subpar 83 wRC+ in his brief major-league stint last year, he also batted .399/.477/.770 in Triple-A last season. Eligible at two weaker infield spots, France is a strong end-of-season add and an intriguing 2021 sleeper.
Kyle Freeland (SP – COL): 34% Rostered
Colorado starting pitchers typically only get mentioned in the Players to Ignore section of this article. Few rules in fantasy sports are set in stone, but you don’t trust pitchers at Coors Field. The Rockies play their last home game of the season Sunday. Germán Márquez could win leagues with two road starts (at ARI and SF), and he’s available in 28% of Yahoo leagues as a result of making three of his last four starts at Coors and the other against the Dodgers.
Most managers, however, will have to settle for Freeland. He’ll trade his unforgiving home field for San Francisco’s far more spacious Oracle Park this Wednesday. Despite making seven of 11 starts at Coors, the 27-year-old has managed a respectable 3.75 ERA and 4.29 FIP. That’s because he has yielded just seven earned runs on the road. He’s earned a quality start in each of those turns, collecting five or six strikeouts over six frames every time against some stout competition (Padres, Dodgers, Astros, and Rangers). Though the Giants’ offense has exceeding expectations — especially against lefties — in 2020, Freeland makes a fine streamer in an unappetizing list of widely available options.
Dylan Carlson (OF – STL): 12%
The Cardinals have eight more games scheduled this season, and that still leaves two more postponed games to make up against the Tigers. Since St. Louis is in the thick of a tight playoff race, MLB may need to find time to play them. Let’s assume Paul Goldschmidt, Paul DeJong, Tommy Edman, and Yadier Molina are all accounted for. Although he’s cooled off in September, Brad Miller (43%) is the best option if available.
Consider Carlson as a high-risk, high-reward wild card. Entering MLB with high expectations, the rookie outfielder .162 in his first big-league foray before getting sent to the alternative site. He returned Friday night to go 2-for-3 with a home run. Carlson who tallied 26 homers and 20 steals in 126 minor-league games last season, still has plenty of power and speed upside if seeking a last-minute lottery ticket.
Priority Pickups – <35% Rostered
Kolten Wong (2B – STL): 32%
While Carlson provides more upside, Wong is the best compiler to add. The second baseman is batting just .259, and he hit his first homer of 2020 on Friday. He has nevertheless maintained positioning atop St. Louis’ lineup card. A couple of extra runs or hits from Wong, who has 21 hits this month, could pay major dividends.
Richard Rodriguez (RP – PIT): 22%
Rodriguez has a 0.83 WHIP, 26-3 K-BB ratio, and a handle on Pittsburgh’s closing gig. The last-place Pirates have led him to just three saves, but their final two opponents (Cubs and Cleveland) may not have too much motivation with a playoff bid firmly in hand.
Shogo Akiyama (OF – CIN): 21%
Akiyama is quietly salvaging a disappointing debut season, batting .333 with 13 walks and four steals (on seven attempts) in 15 September games. Having reached base in 10 of the last 11 contests, the Reds have bumped the 32-year-old back up to the leadoff role. Now that he’s adapted to MLB pitching, Akiyama can help in batting average, steals, and runs over the final few games and serve as a sleeper in 2021 drafts.
Manuel Margot (OF – TB): 18%
Fighting for playing time earlier in the year, Margot has incredibly stolen eight bases in 13 games this month. Only 18 players have eight or more steals all season. Even if he’s not contributing much elsewhere, that elite production at a scarce position makes him a valuable add.
Stefan Crichton (RP – ARI): 18%
Crichton has recorded saves in each of his last four outings without permitting a hit or walk. If he started picking up saves in May of a normal season, I’d advise caution. A 1.26 WHIP, 4.22 SIERA, and 9.0% swinging-strike rate don’t create much cause for excitement despite his 2.55 ERA. The 28-year-old is likely just a short-term replacement for the recently traded Archie Bradley until Arizona locates a new closer during the offseason. For now, however, he clearly has the job entering the final week. An extra save or two could go a long way.
Nate Lowe (1B – TB): 13%
The Rays waited for everyone to forgot about Lowe before finally unleashing him again. Their treatment of the first baseman has been baffling; he inexplicably fell out of favor despite posting a 107 wRC+ in 50 games last season. Suddenly given another chance this September, he’s sporting a .404 OBP and .565 SLG. The Mets (who may not have Jacob deGrom healthy) and Phillies don’t have the left-handed starters to push Lowe out of next week’s lineup.
Matt Carpenter (3B – STL): 10%
The pickings are slim in St. Louis, so Carpenter is a pure volume play for managers in need of every last hit, run, or RBI. He has gone hitless all week after collecting four last weekend, but he could contribute in OBP or points leagues.
Deep League Targets – <10% Rostered
Jedd Gyorko (1B/3B – MIL): 3%
Last season, Gyorko slugged .250 with a 35 wRC+ in 101 dreadful plate appearances. He’s currently batting .282/.364/.588 with eight homers and a 144 wRC+ in 99 PAs for the Brew Crew. While he has particularly torched lefties, the 31-year-old has worked his way from a platoon to a full-time gig at first base. Capitalize on the hot streak and extra volume through Milwaukee’s final eight-game week.
Keegan Akin (SP – BAL): 3%
Akin hasn’t yielded an earned run in three of his last four outings. In the other, however, the Yankees chased him out of the game with a four-run opening inning. Only the truly bold called the Baltimore rookie’s number Wednesday against the Braves. Those who did received five shutout frames, nine strikeouts, and a victory. The 31.3% strikeout rate makes Akin an intriguing upside play in a streaming cesspool, but you’re playing with fire. Managers in a points or weekly-lineup league where strikeouts are needed could potentially get the most use of his two road starts against the Red Sox and Blue Jays.
Daulton Varsho (C/OF – ARI): 3%
Sure, he’s only hitting .156, but Varsho is nevertheless getting more playing time behind the plate and in the outfield. He’s flashed some power and speed with three home runs and two steals this month, hardly a fluke given he went 18/21 in Triple-A last year. The neophyte even batted leadoff Thursday. Sub him in for a middling placeholder in two-catcher formats.
Daniel Vogelbach (1B – MIL): 2%
On his third team this season, Vogelbach has finally found a place to play. Since landing in Milwaukee, he has regularly batted fourth or fifth as their designated hitter. The mountainous slugger has re-discovered his early-2019 form, going 13-for-32 with two doubles and a homer in 10 games. It was only 14 months ago Vogelbach was an All-Star with a 136 wRC+ through 85 games, and the Brewers are scheduled to face six starting righties. The platoon advantage makes him a better add than Gyorko.
Luis García (2B/SS – WAS): 2%
Washington has a whopping 11 games left on the schedule, but their damaged lineup doesn’t offer much assistance beyond superstars Juan Soto and Trea Turner. They do have García. Promoted earlier than anticipated, the 20-year-old infielder is batting .296 through 101 plate appearances. He has six multi-hit games this month and has done almost all of his damage against righties. The Nationals are scheduled to face at least seven more of them.
Matt Andriese (RP – LAA): 2%
With the back end of the Angels’ bullpen in shambles, Andriese picked up two saves last weekend. He also has a 5.13 ERA, so save him for needy save-hunters in deep leagues.
Higher-Rostered Players to Ignore – 35% or Higher
Miguel Sanó (1B/3B – MIN): 80%
The Twins are the only team who plays just five games over the final week. While the light schedule isn’t enough to move on from a stalwart like Nelson Cruz or Eddie Rosario (or even a red-hot Byron Buxton in deeper leagues), Sanó is droppable in a small mixed league. Although he’s offered a dozen homers, he’s also batting .216 with the highest strikeout rate (42.8%) of all qualified hitters. Exchange him for a hotter slugger with more remaining volume.
Austin Meadows (OF – TB): 79%
Meadows had struck out in 25 of his last 26 contests before exiting Thursday’s game early with oblique soreness. Despite often batting atop of Tampa Bay’s lineup, he hasn’t recorded a multi-hit game since August 28. He inspired sky-high expectations following a breakout 2019, and 36 poor games after beginning 2020 on the COVID-19 IL list aren’t enough to ding his long-term outlook. Yet unless he suddenly turns the corner this weekend, managers vying for a title in re-draft leagues need to find a hitter in better form. The decision is easier following his injury scare.
Kyle Schwarber (OF – CHC): 76%
Schwarber is batting 6-for-49 this month, and his only extra-base hit was a home run on September 1. Swap out the ice-cold slugger for his Dollar Tree replacement, Vogelbach.
Sean Manaea (SP – OAK): 70%
This could draw some resistance, as Manaea rebounded to relinquish just one earned run in four straight starts before falling one out shy of a quality start (5.2 IP, 3 ER, 7 K) at Coors Field. But if the A’s stick with their six-man rotation, the southpaw will make his one and only remaining start on the road against the Dodgers. Don’t drop him for any scrub, and this is more of a consideration in leagues with set weekly lineups, but make the tough cut if you can still replace Manaea with Singer.
Eduardo Escobar (2B/3B – ARI): 63%
Plenty of people expected Escobar to regress from a career year, but they probably didn’t anticipate his wRC+ falling from 109 to 49. His average exit velocity has actually increased, but the 31-year-old has hit more ground balls and infield flies during a forgettable 2020. He’s attempted one steal all year and has yet to go yard in September. You can get better results from France or more plate appearances from Carpenter or Gyorko.
Shohei Ohtani (DH – LAA): 55%
Ohtani hasn’t started in any of the Angels’ last six games. There’s no justification to still rostering him in re-draft leagues.
Garrett Hampson (2B/SS/OF – COL): 50%
Ryan McMahon (1B/2B/3B – COL): 43%
The Rockies play eight games in the final week, but all of them are on the road. That makes their hitters outside of Trevor Story, Nolan Arenado, and Charlie Blackmon droppable once they wrap up their weekend’s final series at Coors Field. (It wouldn’t be that crazy to pick up a high-caliber replacement for Arenado or Blackmon.) Playing time is all over the place for the rest of their lineup after acquiring Kevin Pillar and bringing David Dahl back from the IL, so Hampson and McMahon may be lucky to play five or six those games anyway. Hampson, who hasn’t drawn a walk this month, has batted .210/.306/.355 on the road this season. McMahon has fared even worse (.155/.231/.241) outside of Colorado.
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.