The second half is upon us! I hope you all enjoyed the All Star game and its festivities. The home run derby was outrageous with the most homers ever hit and it was nice to finally see the NL take home an All Star victory.
In the fantasy world, not much has changed since last week but that doesn’t mean there aren’t still plenty of quality free agents out there. As always, I’ve broken down this week’s recommended waiver adds into categories where they’re most likely to benefit you. All players listed are rostered in less than or close to 50% of Yahoo leagues and should be considered before Monday’s weekly cutoff time.
Without further ado, here are this week’s top pickups based on category. Enjoy the second half, everyone, and good luck!
Fantasy Baseball Category Pickups
How much longer can the Reds afford to keep CES in the Minor Leagues? I understand the Big League club is functioning at full strength and has been performing well, but there are more than a few adjustments that could be made to make room for one of the best hitters in Triple-A. Encarnacion-Strand combines a powerful uppercut stroke with a keen eye at the plate that has led to a ridiculous 1.028 OPS over 311 plate appearances this year. He’s hitting .327 with 20 homers which is on par with his Minor League production since he was drafted. The 23-year-old should be the next man up in the Reds’ youthful takeover, and it could be coming any day now. If you wait to add him you’ll likely miss out, so put in a bid for CES now and thank me later.
O’Hearn has been acting as the O’s cleanup hitter for the last month, and for good reason. While his production hasn’t been among the elite, he is driving the ball with authority (59.8 hard hit%) and knocking in runs. Over the past eight games, the veteran first baseman is 11 for 28 (.393 BA) with seven RBIs and four extra-base hits. He’s hitting .312 on the year and has an OPS of nearly .900. The 29-year-old is also striking out at a career-low clip of 23.2% and has been fairly consistent batting in the middle of the order. With three excellent hitters directly in front of him, O’Hearn should continue to see plenty of RBI opportunities in the coming days. Add the 6-foot-3, 220-pound lefty now to help boost your RBIs and batting average.
I’m not sure what’s gotten into Ji Man, but suddenly he’s hitting homers. After mashing three dingers over a six-game rehab assignment, Choi has launched homers in back-to-back games surrounding the All-Star break. He did very little to start the season in Pittsburg, but after a lengthy injury absence, Choi looks re-energized and rejuvenated, ready to contribute in the heart of the order. We’ve seen hot streaks from Choi in the past so it may be worth riding the wave while he’s hot. It’s a trend not likely to continue, but while he’s locked in and clubbing the ball with an ideal launch angle and velocity, he’s worth a look in deeper leagues.
Kemp was dismal for the better half of the season but has come on strong of late. Since June 15th, the Oakland second baseman/outfielder has collected 23 hits on 73 at-bats (.315 BA) while stealing six bases. He also only struck out five times during that span. The steals have been coming more recently, as five out of the six have come over the last 11 games. Kemp had already moved back into the leadoff spot with Esteury Ruiz struggling and now with Ruiz nursing a shoulder injury, there’s little to challenge Kemp’s bid to stay there. He will sit occasionally versus lefties, but for those in deeper leagues, he can help boost your steals while hitting for a decent average.
Julian’s batting second for the Twins, and besides hitting homers (seven in 136 at-bats), he’s scoring runs. The two-hole is usually saved for a club’s best hitter; lately, Julian’s been just that. Over the past six games, the Minnesota rookie is hitting .500 with three homers, five RBI, and four runs scored. Julian’s power is real, and his ability to work a walk and get on base is an excellent plus (10.3 BB%, .355 OBP).
After putting up an impressive resume in the Minor Leagues, where he averaged nearly a 43% on-base rate while slugging close to .500, Julian continues to impress. With his high OBP and exquisite 15.9 barrel percentage, the youthful second baseman is in a prime spot to score plenty of runs. He will likely continue to add to your other categories as well and should be rostered in much more than just 4% of leagues.
Kremer has always been on my radar, but just when I get ready to add him, he throws a clunker. Well, he continues to do just that, but the good news is, he’s been pitching extremely well in between the bad outings, and they’re coming a lot less often.
Over Kremer’s last 10 games, he only surrendered more than two earned runs four times. And that’s including two quality starts where he lasted 7 and 6.1 innings and allowed just three earned runs in each. He did have two stinkers, but if you started him for all 10 games, Kremer would have earned you five wins and 64 Ks with a modest 4.28 ERA. Obviously, a low-four ERA isn’t great, but if you take away the two bad outings, his ERA drops to a fine 2.58 over eight starts.
Notably, Kremer’s been at his best lately. In his last two outings, the righty held the Yankees to just one run over seven innings and the Marlins to a single run over six. The fourth-year starter was filthy, striking out 18 batters and earning the victory in both. He doesn’t have the easiest schedule coming up, but while he throwing like this, he deserves attention in most leagues.
German has been through a rollercoaster of a season, but the one thing that has remained consistent is the strikeouts. Through 91.2 innings pitched, the breaking ball specialist has struck out 92 batters. German’s curveball continues to be his greatest asset racking up 63 strikeouts with just a .182 batting average against. The 30-year-old Yankee has K’d 27 over his last 22.2 innings and is a strong candidate to get you whiffs the rest of the season. Just be careful playing the matchups because German can get into a rut at times.
Sanchez was drafted by the Rays when he was just 17 years old, and now 10 years later, he’s earned a spot in the defending NL champs rotation. Through six starts (30 innings), Sanchez has produced a pristine 0.99 WHIP to go along with a 3.26 ERA and 27 strikeouts. The crafty southpaw controls the strike zone well with a three-pitch repertoire of which he throws in any count. Sanchez only allowed five walks all season which has led to an impressive 18.6 K-BB%. He also induces a ton of worm burners with a strong 55.1 ground ball %.
Sanchez has given up a few homers lately but continues to limit base runners and has been pitching deeper into games. He’s worth a flier in most leagues, especially for those looking to shrink their WHIP.
Manning was the ninth overall draft pick in 2016, and while he’s had his ups and downs and plenty of time spent on the injured list, he’s proven to be a serviceable fantasy pitcher in the right matchups. In 2022 he finished with a 3.43 ERA with a 1.17 WHIP over 12 starts, and this year he’s produced a 3.72 ERA and a 1.03 WHIP. The California native doesn’t strike out a ton of hitters, but he does keep the ball in the yard and limits walks. The 6-foot-6 Manning is set up for a two-start week against Kansas City and then the Padres at home, where he’s performed much better. Nothing in baseball is certain, but with a little luck, the lanky right-hander could earn you two victories this week.
I’ve been extremely hesitant to add May all season, but he’s pitched better lately. He also has some favorable matchups at home coming up where he’s fared much better. The A’s don’t win many games, but when they do, they are usually closely fought affairs leading to save opportunities. If you’re in dire need of saves and May is available, I’d suggest adding him but just do so quickly because he could be traded by the end of the month (nice to get out of Oakland, but he won’t be closing for his new club).
Austin Lowell is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Austin, check out his archive.