Shopping for an outfielder on the waiver wire this weekend? Cast your gaze to the southeastern corner of the MLB world. There’s something for everyone in the Tampa Bay outfield, no matter what your team needs.
Let’s start with regular DH and sometime left fielder Corey Dickerson. All that matters for our purposes here is that he qualifies in the outfield and, of course, that he puts up numbers. Dickerson is locked into the former and has been doing the latter this season, slashing .317/.358/.603 with four homers and eight RBIs. He starts mostly every day, and when he is in the lineup he is Tampa Bay’s leadoff man, without question. That may limit his RBI upside, but it also results in more plate appearances, a tradeoff fantasy owners should be willing to take for a player with Dickerson’s skill set.
The 27-year-old has typically struggled against lefties in his career, slashing .254/.302/.381 without the platoon advantage. That forces him to the bench occasionally when the Rays are facing a lefty starter, but that might not be the case for much longer. Dickerson has handled southpaws this season, going 7-for-16 with four doubles and a homer against them. If Dickerson turns into an everyday player, and isn’t a total black hole against lefties, he could be in for a monster season. Even if he gives up the short side of a DH/leftfield platoon, he’s well worth a look in all fantasy formats.
Next, we move on to Kevin Kiermaier, Tampa Bay’s center fielder. We’ve already discussed Kiermaier in this space this season, after he shined for the Rays in the first week of the season. He has kept it going since then, carrying a .294/.385/.412 slash line into Saturday’s action. Kiermaier is a free man on the basepaths, where he has swiped four bags, and he hit his first homer of the season on Thursday, to go along with the three doubles and a triple he’s notched so far this season.
Kiermaier stole 21 bases and hit 11 homers in 414 plate appearances last season. Extrapolated over a full season, that comes out to 32 steals and 17 homers. Even if Kiermaier goes into the tank at the plate, he’s going to be in the Tampa Bay lineup every day because of his glove, one of the best in the league at the most important position in the outfield. That is to say that, so long as he’s healthy, Kiermaier should play all but a handful of games, and rack up somewhere in the neighborhood of 650 plate appearances. If he can maintain even just a .340 OBP, a 30-steal, 15-homer season could be in order.
Finally, we get to right field and Steven Souza. You’ll likely have to act in orde to get Souza on your roster—has the highest ownership rate of the three Rays players mentioned here, and is the most obviously roster-worthy player in Tampa Bay’s outfield. Souza is off to a great start this season, hitting .343/.429/.582 with three homers and 15 RBI. We know the power is for real. Souza hit 16 homers in 426 plate appearances in 2015, and 17 jacks in 468 trips to the plate last year. He’s going to be a plus in the power categories, without a doubt. The question is whether he can do enough elsewhere to warrant a regular spot in most fantasy formats.
That is still up for debate, but there are two encouraging signs through the first three weeks of the season. First, Souza’s strikeout rate is down at 24.7%. It was 33.8% in 2015 and 34% last year. Second, his walk rate has spiked to 13.7%. That’s two percentage points better than it was in 2015, and three percentage points higher than a season ago. Whiffing in one-quarter of your plate appearances is still awfully high, but Souza makes up for that with what he does when he makes contact. He can live with a 25% strikeout rate, especially if he’s walking in about 13% of his trips to the plate. Souza may be turning a corner, and that will only result in Kevin Cash writing his name on the lineup card every day. A 30-homer season is not out of the realm of possibility.
Tampa Bay is the center of the waiver wire universe this week. For those of you with other needs, though, there’s plenty more shopping to be done.
Michael Conforto, OF, Mets
Conforto was the focus of the waiver wire column last week, and he is still worthy of your attention. Playing time remains an issue, but that could improve with Yoenis Cespedes out for a few days with a hamstring injury. Even if Cespedes doesn’t miss much time, this is a huge opportunity for Conforto. It’s likely that he’s already one of the best hitters on the Mets roster. If he gets a chance to show what he can do with a consistent spot in the lineup, Terry Collins might have no choice but to give him more start. If and when Conforto becomes a regular, he will be an easy fantasy starter in all formats.
Brandon McCarthy, SP, Dodgers
McCarthy has turned in three strong outings for the Dodgers this season, totaling a 2.12 ERA, 3.03 FIP, 1.18 WHIP and 16 strikeouts in 17 innings. McCarthy may have a new ceiling after losing most of the last two years to arm injuries, but remember that the last time we saw him healthy for a full season, he racked up a 4.05 ERA, 3.55 FIP, 1.28 WHIP and 175 strikeouts in 200 innings. Those might not be standout numbers, but they are good enough to land McCarthy on a fantasy roster in all competitive leagues. Neither you nor the Dodgers need every pitcher to be Clayton Kershaw. There’s plenty of value in a pitcher who can give you an 8 K/9 to go along with decent rates over 170 innings.
Lance Lynn, SP, Cardinals
Lynn has rebounded well from missing the entire 2016 season, amassing a 3.12 ERA, 1.10 WHIP and 13 strikeouts in 17 1/3 innings across his first three starts this year. Think of Lynn like McCarthy. His best days are likely behind him after losing his age-29 season to Tommy John surgery, but there’s still a lot to like here. Lynn never really depended on velocity to get by, instead using three different fastballs and a changeup to keep hitters off balance. The question for him is whether he can get back to an 8 K/9 or better. If he can’t, he might not do enough elsewhere to warrant being more than a spot starter in all but deep leagues. For now, though, we’ve seen enough good from him to give him a shot in most formats.
Tyler Glasnow, SP, Pirates
Glasnow lasted just 4 2/3 innings against the Yankees on Friday, but he was done in partially by his defense, which saddled him with two unearned runs and extra work he should not have had to do. He struck out five and walked two in the outing, on the heels of striking out seven and walking a pair against the Cubs last weekend. The results haven’t been great this season, but Glasnow is one of the most promising pitching prospects in the league, and you’ll likely be able to live with the bad he brings when you’re also getting the good.
Tyson Ross, SP, Rangers
Ross experienced a setback in his recovery from thoracic outlet surgery when he suffered back spasms last week, preventing him from starting his rehab assignment. The good news, though, is that the setback isn’t related to the shoulder issues Ross dealt with last season, and the Rangers still expect him back in mid-May. Stashing a player on your DL always makes sense if you have the space to do so. It makes even more sense when the player you’re stashing struck out 9.4 batters per nine innings across 391 2/3 frames in 2014 and 2015 combined.
As always, we will keep a list at the bottom of our weekly waiver wire column of relief pitchers who are not closers, but can still be fantasy assets because of their strikeout rate, ERA and WHIP. The relievers are listed in order of fantasy value. Go get Chris Devenski while you still can. Format doesn’t matter; he will be a major asset all season.
Chris Devenski, RP, Astros
Hector Neris, RP, Phillies
Brad Brach, RP, Orioles
Kyle Barraclough, RP, Marlins
Adam Ottavino, RP, Rockies
Justin Wilson, RP, Tigers
David Phelps, RP, Marlins