- These players should be in your waiver wire plans heading into the second week of the MLB season.
This is the second Waiver Wire column of the season, and the White Sox will continue batting 1.000 in leading off our weekly look at the most intriguing among the game’s widely unowned players. Last week, it was Matt Davidson. This week, we shift our attention to the mound where we find Reynaldo Lopez.
Lopez was the least ballyhooed of the three pitching prospects the White Sox acquired in the Chris Sale and Adam Eaton trades last year. Lucas Giolito, who came from the Nationals, grabbed the headlines all spring, and Michael Kopech, who came from the Red Sox, projects as the future ace of the rotation if all goes according to plan, but Lopez’s ceiling isn’t much lower than either of his teammates’. He put that on display in his season debut earlier this week.
Lopez tossed six innings of one-run ball against the Blue Jays in his first start of the 2018 campaign. The lone run he surrendered came on a solo homer by Josh Donaldson, and that was one of just two hits the Blue Jays managed off the 24-year-old. Lopez walked two and struck out six, and while the White Sox ultimately took a 4-2 loss, they got everything they could have realistically hoped for out of the righty.
A three-pitch pitcher, Lopez lives mostly on the strength of his four-seamer, which sits 95-97 mph. He’s mostly by the book with his slider and changeup, favoring the former against righties and the latter when he lacks the platoon advantage, though he can break out the slider as an out-pitch against lefties, as well. He dabbles with a curveball, though, at least for now, it isn’t much more than a show-pitch. He got 14 whiffs in the outing against the Blue Jays: six with the four-seamer, four with the change, three with the slider and one with the curve.
Between 2016 and 2017, Lopez racked up too many innings to be considered a prospect heading into this year. Going into last season, Baseball Prospectus ranked him the 30th-best prospect in the game, while Baseball America had him 31st. Take that pedigree and add to it what he showed in his first start of this season, and there is plenty of good reason to make a bet on him right now. Lopez has top-of-the-rotation potential, but he doesn’t need to fully realize it this year to turn a major profit in all fantasy formats. With pitching as thin as it has ever been, Lopez should be a priority add in all leagues.
With that, let’s get to the rest of this week’s Waiver Wire.
Tyler Mahle, SP, Reds
Mahle dominated the Cubs in his first start of the season, twirling six shutout innings and allowing one hit and two walks with seven strikeouts. He looked electric in the outing, getting 10 whiffs on 86 pitches while shutting down what figures to be one of the best offenses in the league. Mahle never projected as a top-of-the-rotation starter, and he had all of 59 1/3 innings above Double-A ball under his belt before this season. Still, anyone who pitches that well against an offense like the Cubs’ is worth a look in all fantasy leagues. His next start comes on Sunday against the Pirates, and if he throws the ball well in that one, you could have some competition for his services.
Michael Brantley, OF, Indians
The Indians activated Brantley (ankle) on Friday, and he went 1-for-4 with two RBI in his season debut. Injuries have crushed his output the last two seasons, but he has been good when healthy, slashing .299/.357/.444 with nine homers and 11 steals in 375 plate appearances last year. He may not be an everyday player with the Indians modulating his playing time to keep him on the field, but he should get enough plate appearances to be a worthy starter in any league that requires its members to start five outfielders.
Yuli Gurriel, 1B, Astros
Like Brantley, Gurriel started the season on the DL. He’s still working his way back from a fractured bone in his left hand, but the Astros expect to activate him next Friday. When he returns, he’ll take over as the everyday for baseman in Houston, hitting in the middle of arguably the best order in baseball. He hit .299/.332/.486 with 18 homers and 75 RBI last season, numbers he can match, at least on a per-game basis, this year.
Dansby Swanson, SS, Braves
Swanson has been in the vanguard of the Braves' turnaround since the team acquired him from the Diamondbacks before the 2016 season, and he has started to break through this year. He's hitting .370/.370/.556 with three doubles and a triple in 27 plate appearances on the young campaign. He was written off in many fantasy circles after last season, which was silly on its face since he was a former first overall pick still in his early 20s. Much of the budding-star focus in Atlanta is now on Ozzie Albies and Ronald Acuña, but Swanson can be just as much an impact player in both the short and long term. Given his upside, he should be owned in nearly all formats.
Hunter Renfroe, OF, Padres
Wil Myers hit the 10-day DL earlier this week with what’s being described as nerve irritation in his right arm. That sounds like something that’s going to keep him out longer than the minimum 10 days. Renfore is expected to start in right field while Myers is out. In the four games since Myers went on the DL, Renfroe is 4-for-13 while hitting fourth or fifth in the three he started. The Padres’ lineup may not afford him the same volume of RBI opportunities other cleanup men enjoy, it’s still not a bad place to be hitting every day. He also has enough talent to hit his way into a regular job, even when Myers is back.
Cameron Maybin, OF, Marlins
Maybin, too, finds himself holding down an everyday gig due to injury. He likely should have been an everyday player already, but that’s neither here nor there since Don Mattingly no longer has a choice. Maybin’s not going to hit for any power, but he’ll get on base and swipe bags. He’s Billy Hamilton with less speed, but with enough on-base ability to actually take advantage of his wheels on a consistent basis. Give him a shot if you’re in need of some speed.
Yolmer Sanchez, 2B/3B, White Sox
Sanchez is off to a good start this season, going 8-for-20 with a homer, a double and two triples in his first 24 plate appearances. Admittedly, playing time could be an issue. Tim Anderson, Yoan Moncada and Matt Davidson are locked into the everyday lineup. Sanchez is splitting time with Tyler Saladino for now, but he's on the long side of that platoon. Sanchez has proved a much more viable option than Saladino, both in the early part of this season and over the balance of their respective careers. Sanchez brings eligibility at a couple of the shallower positions in fantasy baseball, too, which helps mitigate some of the playing-time risk. That risk may go away, however, if the already yawning gap between Sanchez’s and Saladino’s performance continues to widen.
Jakob Junis, SP, Royals
Junis was great in his season debut, shutting out the Tigers across seven innings, allowing three hits and a walk while striking out six. Junis pitched piretty well at Triple-A Omaha last year, totaling a 2.92 ERA, 3.57 xFIP, 1.07 WHIP and 86 strikeouts in 71 innings, but things took a bit of a turn when he joined the Royals. He threw 98 1/3 innings with the big league club last year, pitching to a 4.30 ERA, 4.77 xFIP and 1.28 WHIP with 80 strikeouts against 25 non-intentional walks. All things considered, it wasn’t a terrible showing for a 24-year-old rookie, but it also didn’t portend big things to come in year two. This lone start may not do that, either, and the Tigers are almost certain to have one of the worst offenses in the league, but this could be the start of something. Junis has an admirable five-pitch mix, leaning heavily on his two-seamer, slider and four-seamer.
Mike Foltynewicz, RP, Braves
Foltynewicz impressed earlier this week in a win over the Nationals, striking out eight while allowing one run on four hits and two walks in 5 1/3 innings. He now has 15 strikeouts against three walks in 10 1/3 frames this season. The 26-year-old righty hasn’t made any substantive changes to his repertoire, so this could be no more than a decent two-start sample, but there’s value in nearly all fantasy formats in guys who can be reliable SP5 types. Foltynewicz certainly has that club in his bag, with the possibility for more.
The rise of bullpenning has created a class of high-inning, high-strikeout, low-rate relievers who aren’t closers, but still produce plenty of fantasy value. We’ll give you a list of the best ones in our Waiver Wire column every week.
Chris Devenski, RP, Astros
Kenyan Middleton, RP, Angels
Nate Jones, RP, White Sox
Carl Edwards, RP, Cubs
Pedro Strop, RP, Cubs
A.J. Minter, RP, Braves
Tony Watson, RP, Giants
Jordan Hicks, RP, Cardinals
Robert Gsellman, RP, Mets