- When Nick Senzel arrives in Cincinnati, he'll be an immediate impact player in fantasy leagues.
The first big prospect of the season is likely on his way sometime soon, and should be at a ballpark near you shortly. Especially if you live in Cincinnati.
Nick Senzel was never going to spend much time in the minors this year. The 22-year-old split his time between High-A Dayton and Double-A Pensacola last year, hitting .340/.413/.560 with 10 homers in 235 plate appearances at the latter. His demotion wasn’t a pure service-time manipulation like fellow top prospect Ronald Acuña’s. The Braves likely future star has already proved what he can do at the highest level of the minors. Senzel, meanwhile, topped out at Double-A before this season. The Reds had something of a leg to stand on saying that their prized prospect needed some more seasoning in the minors before making his way to the show.
Two developments have likely hastened Senzel’s promotion. The first was starting third baseman Eugenio Suarez fracturing his thumb. Early reports out of Cincinnati suggest that the fracture might not be as serious as originally thought, but chances are Suarez will be out at least the next four to six weeks. That opens up an avenue to regular playing time, and the need for a possible impact bat. Suarez is one of the three best, most consistent hitters in the Reds lineup, along with Joey Votto and Scooter Gennett.
The second development was the passing of Friday, which marked the day on which there were 172 days of service time remaining this season. Why does that matter? That 172-day threshold counts as a full year of service time, which places a player a year closer to free agency. By letting that day pass, the Reds extended their window of team control over Senzel, which should remove the last little bit of hesitation regarding his promotion.
Senzel is off to a slow start at Triple-A Louisville, but that doesn’t mean a whole lot in fewer than 40 plate appearances. All three major prospect-rating services—Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus and MLB.com—ranked Senzel seventh going into this season and gave him a 2018 ETA. With Suarez out at least until the middle of May, and possibly deep into June, the Reds should want someone like Senzel in their lineup every day. Acuña is the biggest prospect who will debut this year, and if anyone is a plug-and-play major leaguer, it’s him. He, however, isn’t on any waiver wires. Senzel is, and he could be the second-best prospect to graduate to the majors this season. Go get him for free while you still can, even if it means burning a roster spot for a week or two.
With that, let’s get to the rest of this week’s Waiver Wire.
Yuli Gurriel, 1B, Astros
Gurriel returned from the DL on Friday, going 1-for-4 in his season debut. He should draw most of the starts at first this season for the Astros, and slot back into the middle of the team’s order. He was one of the surprises you find on any World Series team, hitting .299/.332/.486 with 18 homers and 75 RBI last year.
Jed Lowrie, 2B, A’s
Lowrie is picking right up where he left off last year, hitting .310/.365/.517 with three homers and three doubles in his first 63 plate appearances. There was reason to be skeptical about last year’s .277/.360/.448 line, but he’s showing this year that it was no fluke. What’s more, with an improved A’s lineup around him, he has more RBI and run-scoring potential than he did last year, when he drove in 69 runs and scored 86 more.
Brian Goodwin, OF, Nationals
The Nationals placed Adam Eaton on the DL with an ankle injury, opening up an everyday gig for Goodwin. The 27-year-old has a decent power-speed combo, evidenced by his 14-homer, 15-steal season in 2016 with Triple-A Syracuse. Goodwin has swung the bat well in limited time this year, going 6-for-23 with one homer and five walks in 31 plate appearances. What’s more, he has been leading off in Eaton’s stead, hitting directly in front of Trea Turner, Bryce Harper and Anthony Rendon. That’s an awfully good spot for any hitter.
Yangervis Solarte, 2B/3B/SS, Blue Jays
One of the most perennially underappreciated players in the fantasy game, Solarte’s versatility and steady production always helps him land in one of these Waiver Wire columns at some point of the year. He has started at third, second, short and DH, and his hit third, fourth or fifth in all of his starts. If the early returns are any indication, Soalrte is going to get plenty of playng time for the Blue Jays all year. He’s slashing .286/.423/.500 with two homers and three doubles in 52 plate appearances. It’s time for the fantasy community to take notice.
Jurickson Profar, OF/2B, Rangers
Once the top prospect in baseball, Profar is getting one more chance with the Rangers. Elvis Andrus will be on the DL for the foreseeable future after an errant fastball from Keynan Middleton fractured his elbow. He joins fellow middle infielder Rougned Odor, who was already on the DL with a hamstring injury. With both out, Profar will get another long look as an everyday player. The 25-year-old has never been able to stick, but he won’t have any shortage of opportunity this time around.
Willie Calhoun, OF, Rangers
The Rangers could also look to the minors to add reinforcements, especially since they’ve got a good one waiting in the wings. Calhoun was always going to be with the big league club at some point this season, and the injuries to Andrus and Odor could hasten his promotion. He has serious pop, hitting .300/.355/.572 with 31 homers and 27 doubles between the Triple-A affiliates of the Dodgers and Rangers last year. He’ll be of immediate interest in all fantasy leagues once he gets the call, and that could be coming any day now.
Nick Pivetta, SP, Phillies
I wrote at length about Pivetta’s great start to the 2018 season. Please click the link and read that for an in-depth breakdown of what has been working for the second-year pitcher this season. In short, Pivetta has made the sort of substantive change that suggests his early-season turnaround could be for real. Remember, he struck out 140 batters in 133 innings last year, so the potential was clear heading into this season. With pitching always at a premium, there are few fantasy owners without good reason to kick the tires on Pivetta.
Reynaldo Lopez, SP, White Sox
Lopez is off to a great start this season, amassing a 0.69 ERA and 0.85 WHIP with 11 strikeouts in 13 innings. One of the big pieces of the Adam Eaton trade, Lopez has been overshadowed in both his Washington and Chicago careers by Lucas Giolito. Lopez, however, has nearly as high a ceiling as Giolito, and he may be closer to his ceiling than Giolito is to his. No matter what, though, he needs to be owned in all competitive fantasy formats. Not only is he throwing the ball well, but he has the pedigree to suggest that he can keep it rolling all year.
Sean Newcomb, SP, Braves
Newcomb showed his best stuff his last time out, tossing six shutout innings in Colorado, striking out nine Rockies in a 4-0 win. Newcomb was an intriguing deep sleeper after striking out 108 batters in 100 innings last year, flashing a legitimate top-of-the-rotation repertoire. There are going to be speed bumps, like his first start of the year in which he surrendered five earned runs on five hits and four walks to the Nationals, but there’s enough upside here to make a play for Newcomb. And just for the record, he struck out six Nationals in that start.
Joey Lucchesi, SP, Padres
Lucchesi has posted a couple of nice turns against the Rockies, allowing zero earned runs across 11 innings, striking out 15 while surrendering five hits and four walks. Lucchesi never pitched above the Double-A level before this season, and even there he had just 60 1/3 innings under his belt. That’s your take-this-with-a-grain-of-salt disclaimer. Lucchesi has a big, sweeping curveball, but his four-seamer sits in the low-90s. In other words, he’s going to need to develop a third pitch if he’s going to remain consistent. For the time being, however, he’s worth a look in most formats.
Yonny Chirinos, SP/RP, Rays
Chirinos has been the de facto starter for the Rays’ bullpen days, but he might be forcing manager Kevin Cash’s hand. He has thrown 14 1/3 innings this year and has yet to allow a run, striking out 12 batters while walking just two. Chirinos doesn’t have anywhere near the ceiling of Pivetta, Lopez or Newcomb, but, like Lucchesi, he has proven himself a worthy dart throw at this point. There could be an issue of workload, although he did throw 141 innings at Triple-A Durham last year. He struck out just 120 batters in those 141 frames, so the strikeout upside here is minimal.
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
Adam Ottavino, RP, Rockies