Let’s lay out some of what we know about Hyun-jin Ryu. He’s a 29-year-old left-handed starting pitcher for the Los Angeles Dodgers. He has two strong MLB seasons to his name after starring in Korea for seven years. Ryu hasn’t pitched since Game 3 of the 2014 NLDS because of shoulder surgery that cost him all of 2015 and the first three months of this season.
We also know that Ryu is about to end that layoff, with his rehab coming to a close and his 2016 debut right around the corner. That, along with some the items listed in the opening paragraph, makes Ryu an attractive target in all fantasy leagues.
Ryu has made seven rehab starts, slowing but surely making his way back to the Dodgers’ rotation. He had to take a few weeks off in the middle of his rehab due to shoulder soreness, but he got back on the mound on June 12 and has since taken all of his scheduled turns. Steady progress is key for any player on a rehab assignment, especially a pitcher who hasn’t taken a major league mound in 20 months. Ryu hasn’t fully checked that box, but at least has his pen to the paper.
Five of Ryu’s starts came at High A Rancho Cucamonga, with the other three at Triple A Oklahoma City. The results really don’t matter. What does is that Ryu has been able to throw all of his pitches, and he has increased his workload with each successive outing. Three starts ago, he threw 77 pitches in four innings, though, in the interest of full disclosure, he surrendered 11 hits and eight runs to Round Rock (Rangers). Unfortunately for the players and coaches trying to win a championship at Oklahoma City, that comes with the territory of being a Triple A affiliate. The Dodgers need Ryu to stretch out his arm and work on all his pitches. If it results in a shellacking in the minors, so be it.
Ryu was set to go even deeper in his following start, but a rain delay limited him to 1 2/3 innings. He threw 20 of his 26 pitches in the outing for strikes, fanning two batters and allowing one run on two hits. The Dodgers squeezed in another outing for him at Rancho Cucamonga over the weekend, and he tossed 84 pitches across six innings. The Dodgers may want to stretch him out a bit more before bringing him back to the majors, but their entire rotation behind Clayton Kershaw has been in disarray all year, and now Kershaw is dealing with back soreness. In other words, the Dodgers don’t have the luxury to keep Ryu on his rehab assignment for much longer, assuming the shoulder is structurally sound and they wouldn’t be putting him at any undue risk of suffering another injury.
The last time we saw Ryu in the majors, he was the quietly effective No. 3 starter for a Dodgers team that went 94-68. In his last start before shoulder surgery put shleved for nearly two years, he tossed six innings of one-run ball against the Cardinals, putting Los Angeles in position to take a 2-1 lead in the NLDS. They would, however, go on to lose that game, as well as the next one, bowing out in the first round. We haven’t seen Ryu since then.
There are risks tied to any injured player coming back from a lengthy absence. That goes double for a pitcher, and quadruple for one with a serious shoulder ailment. Ryu doesn’t cost you anything more than the worst player on your team, though, and you’ll be able to play around with an extra roster spot for the next few weeks before the Dodgers activate him. Ryu was the 42nd-ranked starting pitcher in standard 5x5 leagues in 2014. It would be foolish to expect him to pitch that well for the rest of this season, but his realistic range of outcomes makes a bet on him being a backend starter in leagues with at least 12 teams worthwhile.
Kevin Gausman, SP, Orioles
Why do I have to keep including Gausman in this space every week? His pedigree and performance should have him well above the threshold for inclusion, but he remains widely available in most fantasy formats. Gausman is not going to be a frontline fantasy starter, but he’s more than capable of filling staffs in leagues with at least 12 teams. He hit little hiccups against the Red Sox and Rangers, as would a lot of pitchers, in the middle of June, but that shouldn’t dissuade you from making this addition.
Junior Guerra, SP, Brewers
Guerra is the focus of this week’s Pitching Report, and we don’t want to dilute the analysis of that column here. For the purposes of the Waiver Wire, understand that Guerra has a 3.25 ERA, 3.70 FIP, 1.07 WHIP and 60 strikeouts in 69 1/3 innings. That makes him the No. 41 starting pitcher in standard 5x5 leagues with one week left in the first half. There should be room for him on a roster in just about every fantasy league.
Alex Cobb, SP, Rays
Cobb, who is still making his way back from Tommy John surgery, took an important step last week when he threw 35 pitches across two innings of live BP. He’s slated to throw a bullpen session Sunday, and if all goes well he will likely begin a rehab assignment next week. The Rays will want to see him in real game action for at least a few starts, but if he doesn’t hit any roadblocks, he could rejoin the team’s rotation at the end of July. Cobb was one of the brightest young pitching stars in baseball before the injury, racking up a 2.82 ERA, 3.29 FIP, 1.14 WHIP and 283 strikeouts in 309 2/3 innings across ’13 and ’14. He’s worth grabbing and stashing on your DL right now if you have an available spot.
Ryan Buchter, RP, Padres
With Fernando Rodney now on a contender in Miami, Buchter is expected to take over as the closer in San Diego. The 29-year old is in the midst of a great rookie season, amassing a 2.75 ERA, 2.75 FIP, 1.17 WHIP and 52 strikeouts in 36 innings. It’s certainly possible that another team could come knocking on GM A.J. Preller’s door inquiring on Buchter, but he’s overwhelmingly likely to still be a Padre on August 1. If that’s indeed the case, he will be the team’s closer for the rest of the year. He instantly jumps to the top of the last tier of closers, and could easily pitch his way into some job security with a strong couple of weeks to start July.
Jose Berrios, SP, Twins
Alex Reyes, SP, Cardinals
Berrios and Reyes are two of the most likely pitcher prospect promotions looming on the horizon. We’ve already seen Berrios in the majors this season, and while that was a small disaster, he has righted the ship at Triple A Rochester. In 68 2/3 innings in the minors, he has a 2.62 ERA, 3.27 FIP, 1.03 WHIP and 73 strikeouts. The Twins aren’t going to go the rest of this lost season without learning a bit more about what they have in him. At the same time, they’re likely going to cap his innings at some point. That means we should see him up in the majors sooner rather than later.
Reyes is in a different spot. The Cardinals are in the thick of the NL Wild Card race, so they’ll only promote their top pitching prospect if they’re certain he can contribute right away. There’s plenty of evidence that indicates he can. He has a 4.93 ERA in 34 2/3 innings with Triple A Memphis, but his FIP is nearly a full run lower and he has fanned 52 batters. At the very least, there’s likely a bullpen role they can find for him, much as they did with Adam Wainwright in 2006. If they do promote him with the intention of putting him in the rotation, he’ll be immediately relevant in all fantasy formats.
Nate Jones, RP, White Sox
Kyle Barraclough, RP, Marlins
Tyler Thornburg, RP, Brewers
David Phelps, RP, Marlins
Jake Diekman, RP, Rangers
Hunter Strickland, RP, Giants
Brad Brach, RP, Orioles
Kelvin Herrera, RP, Royals
This is the latest group of non-closing relievers with rates and strikeout totals that are strong enough to carry fantasy value without picking up any saves. Jones and Thornburg could both be in line to get saves should their teams deal their current closers, but all eight listed above are worth your time.
Brandon Moss, 1B/OF, Cardinals
Moss was the focus of the Waiver Wire last week, so we won’t spend too much time repeating his case here. In the week since then, Moss is 6-for-23 with a homer, two doubles and three RBI, running his season line to .252/.344/.571 with 17 jacks. Moss starts mostly every day for the Cardinals, and while it’s not ideal to have someone in your lineup who frequently sits against left-handed starters, Moss does enough damage against righties to make him valuable in all fantasy formats.
Justin Bour, 1B, Marlins
We talked about Bour in this space last week, as well, and he has continued show why he deserves a bit more attention. Bour has made five starts since then, getting three hits, including a homer, and five walks. He’s now slashing .268/.347/.526 with 15 homers on the year. This one is pretty simple. If you need some cheap power and help at your first base or corner infield spots, Bour is here to help.
Devon Travis, 2B, Blue Jays
How? Why? How and why is Travis still available in more than 50% of leagues. Travis has been healthy for about a month of the season, and he spent a few of those weeks shaking off the rust. He still already has five homers to go along with a .273/.307/.447 slash line. When he went on the shelf last season, he was one of the five best fantasy second basemen. He’s back atop the Toronto lineup, giving him oodles of run-scoring upside. Want to improve your team? One of the easiest things you can do is stop reading this now—but come back, please!—and add Travis.
David Peralta, OF, Diamondbacks
Peralta is still on the DL with a lower back strain, and there’s nothing new to say about him since we included him in last week’s Waiver Wire column. He’s a good enough player with plenty of upside to make him worth a DL stash.
Marcus Semien, SS, A’s
This is another recommendation that feels pretty academic. You’ll have to square yourself with taking on a player who is going to be a drag on your rates, but few shortstops offer the power/speed combo Semien does. He has 17 homers and five steals this year. If you can absorb the hit to your rate categories, Semien is an excellent addition.
Dae-ho Lee, 1B, Mariners
Lee already started every game against lefties, and he’s starting to get more playing time against right-handed pitchers as well. It was only a matter of time, given how he and Adam Lind have compared with one another this season. The 34-year-old Lee is now hitting .294/.339/.519 with 11 homers and 35 RBI. He’s essentially the same as Bour, without the same guarantee to an everyday spot in the lineup. You’d rather have Bour, but Lee is a nice consolation prize.
Aaron Judge, OF, Yankees
The Yankees are still figuring out if they’re going to be full-on sellers at the trade deadline, but no matter what their contender status is, we should soon see Judge in the majors. The 24-year-old struggled through the first two months of the season, but really started to turn things around in June and has been on an absolute tear recently. In his last 14 games, Judge is 18-for-50 with seven homers and 16 RBI. He has a ton of power potential, and his .359 OBP this season speaks to his plate discipline, a weapon for him even when he’s having trouble putting the ball in play.
Max Kepler, OF, Twins
Kepler, the No. 39 prospect in baseball according to MLB.com, has started to figure things out over the last three weeks. In his last 17 games, he’s 19-for-61 with four homers, seven doubles, 16 RBI, six walks and two steals. The Twins have already turned the page to next season, and they certainly bank on Kepler being a major part of their future. He’s going to play mostly every day, and that makes him an outfielder of note in deeper fantasy formats. The 23-year-old Kepler hit .282/.367/.455 at Triple A Rochester before his promotion, and dominated the Double A level last year to the tune of a .322/.416/.531 slash line.