Fantasy baseball Waiver Wire: Nats' Taylor set to break out

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Eugenio Suarez is sort of in no-man’s land with regard to the waiver wire. His ownership rate is a touch too high to include him in the actual recommendations below, but it’s not quite high enough to assume he’s owned everywhere he should be. I would be doing you, dear reader, a disservice, if you’re in one of those leagues that is unjustly ignoring the Reds third baseman in what is shaping up to be a great season for the 24-year-old.

Suarez, whom the Reds laughably acquired from Detroit for Alfredo Simon at the 2014 winter meetings, hit his third home run of the season in Cincinnati’s 5-1 win over Pittsburgh on Saturday. He was pressed into action at shortstop last season after Zack Cozart’s injury and gave the Reds excellent production at the plate, hitting .280/.315/.446 with 13 homers and 19 doubles in 398 plate appearances. Despite that performance, and a guaranteed everyday job at third base this year, Suarez went largely overlooked in drafts. That’s something that should be rectified now that owners have the perspective of the last week.

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Suarez has hit second in all five of Cincinnati’s games this season. That’s a lucrative spot, with Joey Votto’s presence guaranteeing that he’ll see more than his fair share of fastballs. He’ll soon pick up eligibility at third base, a sneakily shallow position. He may not steal many bases, but he’s going to push up toward, if not beyond, 20 home runs this season. That he’s still available in about 45% of leagues is a crime. Suarez could realistically be a top-12 shortstop and third baseman this season.

Michael Taylor, OF, Nationals (Mixed: $4, NL-only: $10)

The supremely talented Taylor has an opportunity to carve out a more significant role for himself over the next month or so. Ben Revere hit the DL with an oblique strain suffered on Opening Day, giving Taylor the chance to turn his torrid spring into something more meaningful. The 25-year-old Taylor features an undeniably impressive speed-power combo. The question is whether or not he makes enough contact to take advantage of it. No matter what, he’s going to have plenty of time to show Dusty Baker that he deserves to be a larger part of the team’s plans, even when Revere comes back from the DL. Talent and opportunity create a buying window for fantasy owners. Taylor’s worth a shot in formats of all sizes.

Nick Hundley, C, Rockies (Mixed: $5, NL-only: Owned)

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Hundley is off to a good start in 2016, going 5-for-15 with a homer in his first five games. Anyone with a regular gig who plays half his games at Coors Field is an intriguing fantasy option, and Hundley is no different. He hit .301/.339/.467 with 10 homers, 21 doubles and 43 RBI in 389 plate appearances last season, and probably should have been higher on draft boards at a shallow catcher position. Yes, Hundley may be no more than a product of geographically based happenstance. He slashed .355/.393/.563 at home last year, and just .237/.275/.355 on the road. That doesn’t really bother us from a season-long fantasy perspective. His production may wane when the Rockies leave Coors, but over the course of a full season, Hundley is likely to give you top-12 catcher numbers. The lone concern could be a trade, given that the Rockies aren’t going anywhere this season and he’s not realistically a part of their future.

Chris Owings, 2B/SS/OF, Diamondbacks (Mixed: $3, NL-only: $10)

So much for Socrates Brito. Owings appears to be the primary replacement for A.J. Pollock for the Diamondbacks in center, starting against both righties and lefties this week. He doesn’t yet qualify in the outfield in most formats, but he will in a few short weeks, so you can still feel free to add him with plans to plug him into your outfield. Owings hasn’t made much of his opportunity yet, going 4-for-19 in his first six games, but the opportunity is there. He has largely been a disappointment in the majors after putting together a great track record at the plate in the minors, but the Diamondbacks are going to give him plenty of run this year. He has an enviable power-speed combo, similar to Taylor’s, and gives you eligibility at three positions, including the always-tricky shortstop.

Tyler White, 1B/3B, Astros (Mixed: $5, AL-only: Owned)

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Looks like White doesn’t want to give A.J. Reed any chances to pull a 2015 Carlos Correa by joining the Astros in the middle of the season and surging to the AL Rooie of the Year Award. Instead, the 25-year-old White could be in that discussion if he’s able to use the first week of the season as a launching pad for his rookie career. White has been among the hottest hitters in the league, going 10-for-15 with three homers in 18 plate appearances. White has been hitting in the back half of the order, and that’s not going to change any time soon, if at all. Houston, however, has one of the few lineups in the league where that’s not a value killer. It’s also a great lineup in which to have an investment, and it’s a whole lot easier to add White than it is to trade for Carlos Correa, George Springer, Jose Altuve or Carlos Gomez. White should be able to find a home in nearly all fantasy leagues.

Nick Castellanos, 3B, Tigers (Mixed: $6, AL-only: Owned)

Castellanos was one of our favorite undervalued players back in draft season, and he;s showing why the first week of the year. With a murderer’s row in front of him in Detroit’s lineup that includes Ian Kinsler, Justin Upton, Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez and J.D. Martinez, Castellanos is free to ambush pitchers from the 6-hole. He also figures to have more at-bats with runners on base and in scoring position than your average No. 6 hitter. His career hasn’t taken off the way many expected, but he’s still just 24 years old, and has steadily progressed since becoming a major league regular in 2014. It’s worth betting on him being a top-12 third baseman.

Javier Baez, 2B/3B/SS, Cubs (Mixed: $3, NL-only: $11)

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The Cubs vaunted depth will be tested immediately after Kyle Schwarber suffered a season-ending knee injury. Baez, who is still on the DL himself with a thumb injury, won’t become a regular, but he’s in line for more playing time that initially anticipated. He was already going to slot into a super-utility role made famous by Ben Zobrist, but Schwarber’s absence could accelerate the process. Yes, the Cubs have plenty of other options. Jorge Soler will see more time in left, and Tommy La Stella will likely get more starts at third, with Kris Bryant moving into the outfield. Still, there’s no doubt that Baez has the most raw talent of the players who will be called on to replace Schwarber. If he shows a matured approach at the plate, he could garner enough playing time to be a factor in all fantasy formats.

Joey Rickard, OF, Orioles (Mixed: $3, AL-only: $11)

Rickard is making Buck Showalter look good for making him a regular in the outfield. In the team’s first week, Rickard has gone 7-for-15 one home run. The 25-year-old spent all of 2015 in the minors, playing at three different levels. His combined slash line was .321/.427/.447, but it was his performance at Triple-A Durham that was most impressive. Rickard slashed .360/.437/.472 in 104 plate appearances at the highest minor league level. Rickard really doesn’t offer much in the way of power, but he does have decent speed—he swiped 19 bags last year—and he has led off in two of his four starts. Those looking for an upside play in the outfield would be wise to give Rickard a shot over the next couple weeks.


Ross Stripling, SP, Dodgers (Mixed: $0, NL-only: $5)

Whether or not you agreed with Dave Roberts’ decision to remove Stripling in the middle of a no-hit bid in his major league debut—I did, for the record, though I can see both sides of the argument—make sure you don’t lose sight of the actual story. Stripling looked great for the balance of his 7 1/3 frames, striking out four and walking just as many. Despite the outing, Stripling is really only mixed league relevant in the deepest of leagues. He’s still a 26 year old without overpowering stuff who never even pitched at the Triple-A level in the minors. NL-only leaguers, however, should take his waiver wire candidacy a bit more seriously.

Hector Santiago, SP, Angels (Mixed: $4, AL-only: Owned)

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Santiago, who was a first half wonder last season, got his 2016 campaign off on the right foot, allowing two earned runs on four hits and two walks in six innings while fanning seven in a no-decision against the Rangers. It’s a bit surprising that Santiago is so widely available, given that his numbers over the full 2015 season were solid. The 28-year-old lefty posted a 3.59 ERA, 1.26 WHIP and struck out 162 batters in 180 2/3 innings. Those are the stats of a bottom-of-the-rotation pitcher in most fantasy formats. Perhaps too many owners put an emphasis on what he did in the second half, but pitching-needy owners shouldn’t concern themselves with why he’s available. Just go out and get a go who’s a reliable rotation filler.

Matt Moore, SP, Rays (Mixed: $7, AL-only: Owned)

The results of Moore’s first start of the 2016 season weren’t great; the 26-year-old lefty allowed three runs on five hits, including a homer, and two walks in five innings. On the plus side, he whiffed six batters and his stuff, especially his breaking pitches, had their crispness. There’s always going to be an injury risk associated with Moore that’s higher than the average pitcher, but his ceiling is significantly higher than your typical waiver-wire fodder. If Moore is capable of making 25 starts this season, he’ll be universally owned in all fantasy formats. That you can get him for free right now is remarkable. Go ahead and make this no-brainer gamble.

Joaquin Benoit, RP, Mariners (Mixed: $2, AL-only: $6)

We have our first speculative closer of the season. Steve Cishek, who famously pitched his way out of the Marlins closer role, and then out of Miami altogether, last season. Cishek hasn’t had a save opportunity yet this season, but he did surrender a game-winning homer to Chris Coghlan on Friday. He also allowed a double before getting out of the inning. Benoit has been a reliable setup man for most of his career, including the last three seasons, his age-35 through -37 seasons. At some point this year, the bet in this space is that he’ll be closing games for the Mariners. That point could arrive sooner rather than later if Cishek struggles in the early going.