There’s a little bit of everything, other than starting pitching in this week’s Waiver Wire Report. Those of you hurting up the middle in your leagues will especially want to give this week’s options a look, as three middle infielders are making themselves more valuable to fantasy owners than they may have seemed just a few short weeks ago.
D.J. LeMahieu, Rockies (Mixed: $7, NL-only: $15)
LeMahieu has gone a bit overlooked in a lineup that includes Troy Tulowitzki, Corey Dickerson and Nolan Arenado, but he, too, has been swinging the bat really well this season. Through 63 plate appearances, he’s slashing .414/.452/.552 with a homer, three doubles and 12 RBI. He has been aided by a .469 BABIP, but don’t assume LeMahieu is simply getting lucky out there. He also has a 28-percent line-drive rate, evidence that he’s earning most of his hits. The one troubling fact is that he slots seventh in the Colorado lineup, a spot that limits his run-scoring and RBI upside. Second base remains shallow, however, and some widely owned and started players at the position—Brian Dozier, Chase Utley and Jason Kipnis, just to name three—have really struggled this season. LeMahieu may not hit at the top of the Colorado order, but he’s still part of one of the best offenses in the league, and he gets half of his trips to the plate at Coors Field. If you’re in need of help at second base or in your middle infield position, LeMahieu is worthy of, at least, a two-week tryout.
Josh Hamilton, Angels (Mixed: $7, AL-only: $13)
That team designation looks set to change any day now, with the Angels and Rangers working on a deal that would send Hamilton back to Texas. There’s no sugar coating Hamilton’s tenure with the Angles, a two-plus year stint that did not go how either player or team anticipated. At 33 years old, Hamilton has many flaws as a player that just aren’t going to go away at this point. He has a tendency to chase, and whiffs a lot. Of course, he also had those issues when he was starring for the Rangers in the first part of this decade. No fantasy owner should expect Hamilton to magically became a 40-homer player again once he’s back in Texas. The fact remains, though, that there’s some pop in his bat and power is at a premium in fantasy leagues. On top of that, Globe Park in Arlington is one of the best stadiums for left-handed power hitters. The added bonus here is that you can stash him on your DL until he’s ready to return.
Tony Watson, Pirates (Mixed: $5, NL-only $12)
Mark Melancon’s fastball velocity is down to the high-80s, and he has already surrendered six runs in 8 1/3 innings. Watson, meanwhile, has had a mostly clean season since allowing three runs on three hits against the Reds on Opening Day. In the 10 innings he has thrown after that blow-up, he has surrendered just one run and three hits while striking out nine batters. Watson did pick up a save against the Cubs last week, though it came one day after threw 25 pitches and blew a save, so he was simply unavailable. Still, the writing appears to be on the wall here. Clint Hurdle can’t keep turning to Melancon when it appears that something is amiss with his arm. Expect Watson to be the closer in Pittsburgh before long.
Adeiny Hechevarria, Marlins (Mixed: $3, NL-only: $11)
During a month in which Christian Yelich and Marcell Ozuna have sputtered at the plate (though the latter is starting to get it going), Hechevarria has been one of Miami’s three best hitters, along with Giancarlo Stanton and Dee Gordon. Normally, that wouldn’t be a great thing, and the Marlins will still be better off if Yelich and Ozuna overtake him eventually. It’s not as though Hechevarria has earned that honor by default, however. He’s hitting .328/.353/.438 with a homer, four doubles, 10 RBI and 14 runs scored. You can sort of think of Hechevarria as the shortstop version of LeMahieu, with not quite as much value. His bat is going to cool off at some point, he isn’t in as great a lineup as Colorado’s, and Marlins Park isn’t nearly the hitter’s paradise that Coors Field is. Shortstop is still one of fantasy’s shallowest positions, and players such as Alexei Ramirez, Elvis Andrus and Erick Aybar, who were drafted as starters, have not brought much value to their owners. Hechevarria is likely only a potential long-term solution in NL-only leagues, but he can be of use in deeper mixed formats, as well.
Chris Young, Yankees (Mixed: $3, AL-only: $9)
Young has slowed a bit over the last few days, but the veteran outfielder is hitting .326/.392/.696 with four homers and nine RBI in 52 plate appearances. He has been up and down the lineup, but Joe Girardi appears to have settled on him as the No. 6 hitter, which we can call value neutral for fantasy purposes. His old bugaboo, the strikeout, hasn’t been an issue through the first three weeks, but it’s likely just a matter of time before that shows up. He’s swinging at more than 30 percent of pitches he sees out of the strike zone and has an 11.4-percent whiff rate. Even with his issues, he can be a season-long factor in deeper leagues.
Wilmer Flores, Mets (Mixed: $3, NL-only: $12)
Flores bat has started to come around over the last week, and that’s good because he’s one of the few shortstops in the league who’s not at all in his position for his glove. Flores is 12-for-30 with three homers on his current eight-game hitting streak, and it’s that power potential that really makes him a sleeper. Flores is also rare among shortstops in that he has a 20-homer ceiling. That alone makes him an intriguing player in fantasy leagues. As we just discussed with Hechevarria, a few name-brand shortstops have really struggled this season. Flores can help those owners in the short term, but he’ll have staying power if he can consistently hit for power.