This weekly waiver-wire watch column is designed to help you monitor and pick up players in the coming weeks. These are the players you’ll want to add now before becoming the hot waiver commodity in a week or two. Using underlying and advanced metrics, this “watchlist” will help you get ahead of the competition in your league and reap the rewards from your pickups later.
The players could be anyone from a prospect in an ideal situation close to the Majors, a reliever in a saves+holds league, or even a starter doing well with misleading surface-level stats like earned run average (ERA). They might even be hitters with quality underlying stats. Or they could be none of those types of players and entirely different.
The point is that they’ll help you find success in your fantasy league while staying ahead of the curve against your league mates.
Fantasy Baseball Waiver Wire Watch List
Sanchez has quietly enjoyed a quality season for the Philadelphia Phillies this season, pitching to a 3.48 ERA and a 4.02 FIP in 98.1 innings this season, logging 95 strikeouts compared to surrendering just 16 walks and 16 home runs in 98.1 innings of work.
He’s allowed more than three earned runs in just two of his 18 starts, though in one of those two starts, he gave up four earned runs in a September 13 start against Atlanta in which he also struck out 10 batters over 7.1 innings.
Speaking of that Atlanta start, it was one of two outings in the last two weeks that Sanchez has logged in which he’s struck out 10 batters. The other coming Sunday against the New York Mets when the right-hander logged a 36% CSW rate while scattering three hits, two earned runs, a home run and a walk in seven innings while earning the pitcher win.
The flipside to that coin is that in the start that came between the outings, the hurler threw just four innings in Atlanta, allowing seven hits, three earned runs, a home run and a walk while only striking out a pair of batters.
Still, the recent spike in strikeouts isn’t incredibly surprising considering what Sanchez has done this season when diving into his underlying metrics.
Sporting a pitch arsenal featuring a sinker, slider and changeup, the left-hander sits in the 96th percentile league-wide in terms of chase rate with a 34.7% metric. Much of that is likely due to his changeup, which is sporting a 42.5% whiff rate so far, the seventh-highest among starters who have thrown at least 200 changeups this season.
Changeup Whiff Rate Leaderboard For Full-Time Starters Who’ve Thrown At Least 200 Changeups:
- Shane McClanahan, 54.1% whiff rate, 470 changeups thrown
- Tarik Skubal: 51.0% whiff rate, 277 changeups thrown
- Blake Snell: 47.3% whiff rate, 561 changeups thrown
- Spencer Strider: 43.2% whiff rate, 215 changeups thrown
- Patrick Sandoval: 42.8% whiff rate, 661 changeups thrown
- Cristopher Sanchez: 42.5% whiff rate, 474 changeups thrown
- Taj Bradley: 42.0% whiff rate, 247 changeups thrown
- Andrew Abbott: 39.8% whiff rate, 304 changeups thrown
Sanchez also sits in the 98th percentile league-wide in walk rate (4.1%), which certainly doesn’t hurt when considering deploying him in fantasy lineups in the final week of the playoffs. And while he has struggled a bit with home runs at times — Sanchez has allowed 1.46 homers per nine frames and has given up at least one in each of his last four starts — the 26-year-old is well worth a look in the right matchup.
And it just so happens his final outings, or matchup rather, of the fantasy season will come against the same New York Mets lineup he just dominated on Sunday — assuming Philadelphia’s rotation continues without any interruptions. If you’re in need of rotation options for the season’s final week, add Sanchez on waivers and confidently start him this week.
Back in June, June 20 specifically, Carlos Hernandez was mentioned in this column as someone to consider as a saves option in Kansas City if the Royals traded away Aroldis Chapman and Scott Barlow at the trade deadline.
Chapman and Barlow were eventually traded, though Kansas City’s save distribution since June 20 has been a little all over the shop:
Royals Saves Leaders Since June 20:
- Scott Barlow: 6
- Carlos Hernandez: 4
- Taylor Clarke: 3
- James McArthur: 3
- Collin Snyder: 1
- Austin Cox: 1
And while Hernandez leads the way in terms of relievers still on Kansas City’s roster, he has struggled as of late. The right-hander has surrendered 12 hits, nine earned runs, nine walks and a pair of home runs in his last 7.2 innings spanning 10 appearances. In addition to the sudden spike in baserunners allowed, the reliever also notably has just one save in that period.
In other noteworthy news, Hernadez has four holds in his last 10 appearances, potentially signaling a bit of a shift in the ninth-inning role – at least for now — in Kansas City.
James McArthur has stepped in to convert three of the team’s last five saves, with all three coming in the last week. The Royals have suddenly won 10 of their last 11 games, mostly against the Houston Astros and Cleveland Guardians, so they certainly have the momentum to potentially be in more save situations in the season’s final week.
McArthur has pitched to a 5.31 ERA in his first 20.1 Major League innings this season, but he’s also sporting a 3.21 FIP during that span and has given up just three hits in 13.1 September innings so far.
The 26-year-old, who’s found considerable success with his curveball so far, looks like an ideal late-season add for saves, especially with Hernandez seemingly moving into a setup role.
James McArthur’s 2023 Pitch Arsenal* Metrics:
- Curveball: 38.4% usage rate, 82.1 MPH, .204 xwOBA against, 31.6% whiff rate, +2 run value, 113 pitches thrown
- Sinker: 34.7% usage rate, 93.9 MPH average, .405 xwOBA against, 7.5% whiff rate, x run value, 102 pitches thrown
- Slider: 24.5% usage rate, 86.3 MPH average, .204 xwOBA, 28.9% whiff rate, x run value, 72 pitches thrown
- Four-Seamer: 2.0% usage rate, 92.8 MPH average, .000 xwOBA against, 0.0% whiff rate, x run value, six pitches thrown
*Statcast also has McArthur credited with throwing one cutter this season.
Dynasty Addition/Trade Target of the Week
Zack Gelof’s debut-season production might get lost in the fact that his team, the Oakland A’s, have struggled so mightily on the field this season.
It really shouldn’t, though.
Before we get any further, here’s a quick blind resume test featuring four rookie infielders who’ve shot to fantasy prominence this season. As you might guess, one of them is Gelof.
- Rookie Infielder A: 403 plate appearances, 16 home runs, 14 stolen bases, .332 xwOBA, 10.8% barrel rate, .290 average, .357 on-base percentage, 7.7 BB%
- Rookie Infielder B: 579 plate appearances, 21 home runs, 24 stolen bases, .309 xwOBA, .386 xwOBAcon, 9.4% barrel rate, .207 average, .284 on-base percentage, 8.8 BB%
- Rookie Infielder C: 384 plate appearances, 14 home runs, 3 stolen bases, .347 xwOBA, .449 xwOBAcon, 12.9% barrel rate, .261 average, .379 on-base percentage, 15.6 BB%
- Rookie Infielder D: 273 plate appearances, 13 home runs, 14 stolen bases .340 xwOBA, .424 xwOBAcon, 11.4% barrel rate, .273 average, .344 on-base percentage, 9.2 BB%
Overall, Gelof is one of just 16-second basemen this year to log double-digits in both home runs (13) and stolen bases (14), which is impressive enough as a rookie, but the infielder has also done all that in just 63 games. He’s also added a .249 ISO this year, and his power production has been anything but fluky so far, with the aforementioned 11.4% barrel rate. His overall quality of contact metrics has been similarly encouraging as well.
There is the obvious caveat here that, long-term, staying in Oakland is going to be unideal for Gelof’s fantasy upside, at least compared to if he was playing in a different ballpark. McClain in Cincinnati is a perfect example of the polar opposite where home parks are concerned in terms of boosting his fantasy upside even more so.
Case in point with Gelof being hindered to a degree by Oakland’s home park, he’s logged 13 home runs, but his expected home run number at home would’ve been 10 this season. Still, continuing to hit near the very top of Oakland’s lineup – as he has so far in 2023 – should paper over those team-related concerns, even if the A’s continue to field a lineup that struggles to score runs.
Regardless though, the fantasy upside is too significant to ignore here, especially with the potential for even more power and speed production in a larger sample size, considering what Gelof already has done as a rookie.
Just for context, here’s another less-rookie-specific blind resume test. Player A (spoilers) is Gelof.
- Player A: 273 PA, .249 ISO, 13 home runs, 14 stolen bases
- Player B: 639 PA, .171 ISO, 19 home runs, 18 stolen bases
- Player C: 518 PA, .184 ISO, 18 home runs, 20 stolen bases
- Player D: 509 PA, .158 ISO, 16 home runs, 13 stolen bases
If you’re in need of a long-term solution at second base in your dynasty league, Zack Gelof probably should be top of the list, especially if anyone is relatively lower on him, considering he plays for the A’s.