Would you believe there’s a player sitting on most waiver wires who, A) hit .315/.359/.500 in his age-22 season, B) was on an 18-homer, 12-steal pace in that season, C) is now in his age-24 season, D) plays every day, and E) calls the league’s most notoriously hitter-friendly park home? I assure you, it is not too good to be true.
David Dahl made his much-awaited return to the majors last week. After the impressive debut in 2016 mentioned above, he missed the entire 2017 season because of a stress reaction in his rib cage that migrated to his back and made it impossible for him to swing a bat. Dahl has started every game since returning, going 6-for-19 with two triples and three RBI. That’s a great way to return to the majors, but, in the short term, the results aren’t that important. What matters is that the injury is fully behind him and he’s in the Rockies’ default lineup. Bud Black isn’t easing him in, either, hitting him fourth three times, and sixth in his other two starts. Dahl is going to have plenty RBI upside.
Dahl entered 2017 fantasy baseball draft season as one of the most hyped youngsters in the league, and with good reason. It wasn’t just about what he did after the Rockies promoted him in July 2016, as impressive as that was. Dahl cruised through the minors, mashing his way to the bigs at every level. He split the first half of that 2016 season between Double A Hartford and Triple A Albuquerque, slashing .314/.394/.569 with 18 homers, 27 doubles and 61 RBI. He then carried that level of performance over to the majors without a hiccup. And, again, he did all this at 22 years old.
That the Rockies promoted Dahl ahead of fellow outfielder Raimel Tapia, who nearly broke spring training with the big league club, was the first good sign that he’d be in the team’s immediate plans. That he has started every game since returning is the second. Carlos Gonzalez is on the DL, and Gerardo Parra just wrapped up a suspension, so the Rockies outfield is about to get crowded again. Still, Dahl’s upside is obvious and enormous, to the point that he should be able to secure four to five starts, at a minimum, per week. That makes him a priority target in all fantasy leagues.
With that, let’s get to the rest of this week’s Waiver Wire.
Jedd Gyorko, 1B/2B/3B, Cardinals
Gyorko has been on a tear since returning from the DL, going 8-for-19 with two homers, one double and five RBI. He has also taken six walks and sports a .421/.556/.789 slash line, As expected, he instantly became an everyday player, moving Matt Carpenter to second and Kolten Wong to the bench. His ownership rate has leapt considerably over the last week, and it’s all but guaranteed that this will be his last week in which it’s low enough for him to be eligible for this column.
Shin-soo Choo, OF, Rangers
Everything we said in this space last week about Choo still applies. He has gone 5-for-23 since then, and while that isn’t exactly ideal, his track record suggests that the batting average and OBP will come around sooner rather than later. In the meantime, he’s hitting for decent power and contributing across the four other standard fantasy categories.
TeoscarHernandez, OF, Blue Jays
Hernandez has slowed down since his first week back with the Blue Jays, but he’s still slashing .300/.375/.620 with three homers, five doubles and 10 RBI. Not only is he locked into John Gibbons’ everyday lineup, but he’s entrenched in the two-hole, a spot that will get even more valuable when Josh Donaldson returns from the DL. Hernandez impressed in his brief stint in the majors last year, hitting .261/.305/.602 with eight homers, six doubles and 20 RBI in 95 plate appearances, and that, along with his performance early this year, have earned him his manager’s trust. Strikeouts are an issue, but that doesn’t seem to matter all that much in today’s MLB, at least in terms of playing time.
Eugenio Suarez, 3B, Reds
The Reds activated Suarez on Thursday after he missed just more than two weeks because of a fractured thumb. He went 0-for-4 in his first game back, but racked up four hits on Friday in the Reds 15-9 win over the Twins. Suarez has been one of the more underrated players in the majors over the last few seasons, slashing .260/.367/.461 with 26 homers, 25 doubles and 82 RBI last year. He was off to a great start before his injury, going 8-for-27 with a pair of homers and seven RBI. Suarez should have a spot on a fantasy roster in even the shallowest leagues.
Delino DeShields, OF, Rangers
DeShields returned much sooner than expected from a broken hamate bone, and was slotted right back atop the Rangers’ lineup. He never should have been cut as widely as he was, even if the initial timetable for his return were right. DeShields hit .269 last year, which projects as comfortably better than league average this season, and owned a .347 OBP. He’s an elite base stealer who will also be a weapon in the runs department as the leadoff man in Texas. Grab him now before everyone else in your league realizes what a mistake his initial owner made in dropping him.
Michael A. Taylor, OF, Nationals
There are some obvious holes in Taylor’s game, namely the same ones that are in his swing. He has a 31.3% strikeout rate this season, which is right in line with his career norms. He’s going to whiff, and he’s going to do it a lot. At the same time, he has nine steals and two homers, and he plays nearly every day in one of the best lineups in baseball. That’s enough to overlook the holes. Plus, his walk rate this season is up to 10.4%, and that gives him plenty of opportunity to take advantage of his speed and baserunning skills.
Kurt Suzuki, C, Braves
Are fantasy owners so used to Suzuki 1.0 that they haven’t realized the 2.0 version is available? I can’t think of any other explanation for his low ownership rate. Suzuki is hitting everything in sight this year, slashing .292/.368/.523 with four homers and 12 RBI. Yes, he has taken advantage of the opportunity presented by Tyler Flowers’ injury, but Brian Snitker can’t simply throw Suzuki into a backup role given what he has done at the plate. It isn’t just this year, either. Suzuki’s second half last year flew mostly under the radar because, again, he’s Kurt Suzuki and the Braves were terrible, but he hit .311/.358/.601 with 12 homers and 26 RBI in 159 plate appearances. Add that to what he has done this season, and you get a .305/.362/.577 slash line with 16 homers and 38 RBI in 235 trips to the plate. Suzuki should be owned in all fantasy leagues.
Mallex Smith, OF, Rays
Smith has stayed the course since being the focus of last week’s Waiver Wire column, going 4-for-17 with one steal in his last five games. He’s a lesser version of DeShields, mostly because the latter is locked in as a leadoff man, but if the Rangers centerfielder is unavailable to you and you’re in need of someone with a similar skill set, Smith is an excellent consolation prize.
Max Kepler, OF, Twins
Kepler is swinging a hot bat for the Twins, slashing .311/.378/.568 with four homers in 82 plate appearances this year. He flashed that power with 19 homers in 568 trips to the plate last season, and it appears he’s growing into more of it in his age-25 campaign. He has spent the majority of the season in the bottom-third of Minnesota’s order, but hit second once and fifth twice in the team’s previous four games. Those are hopeful signs, and if he stays in the top half of the order on at least a semi-regular basis, his fantasy value would increase dramatically.
Jeimer Candelario, 3B, Tigers
Candelario is providing a flame of hope in Detroit this season, slashing .281/.355/.531 with four homers, six doubles, a league-leading three triples and 11 RBI. For the small price of Justin Wilson, the Tigers pried Canderlario away from the Cubs last season, and now it looks like the team secured a key piece of their rebuild. Just 24 years old, Candelario looked good in a 38-game sample split between the Cubs and Tigers last year, hitting .283/.359/.425 with three homers, nine doubles, a manageable 21.1% strikeout rate, and a solid 9.2% walk rate.
Tyler Austin, 1B, Yankees
In the annals of injury-related job-stealing intrigue among Yankees first basemen, Tyler Austin/Greg Bird is worth about one one-millionth of Lou Gehrig/Wally Pipp. You don’t have to adjust for inflation to see Austin’s fantasy value in 2018, though. Even with Bird working his way back, there’s simply no way Aaron Boone can sit down Austin. He has been a revelation for the Yankees this season, hitting .290/.362/.629 with five homers in 69 plate appearances. The Yankees feature one of the league’s most relentless offenses, and having someone like Austin hitting sixth or seventh every day. Sorry Bird, you’ve been Pipped.
Aaron Altherr, OF, Phillies
Altherr has showed signs of life this week, going 7-for-21 with a homer and eight RBI in his last 23 plate appearances. We saw this from Altherr last year, but he wasn’t able to maintain it over for the balance of the season. He has, however, earned some trust from Gabe Kapler, and is hitting fifth every day behind Rhys Hoskins. That can be a pretty lucrative spot, given that Hoskins is getting on base about 45% of the time right now. Altherr is worth a spin, but don’t give him too much leash.
Miles Mikolas, SP, Cardinals
Mikolas was excellent for the third straight turn on Friday, allowing two runs in seven innings in what was eventually a 6-5 loss for the Cardinals to the Pirates. He surrendered six hits, struck out seven and didn’t walk a batter. In his last three starts he has pitched to a 1.71 ERA and 0.81 WHIP with 17 strikeouts against two walks in 21 innings. Mikolas needs to be owned in all formats.
Reynaldo Lopez, SP, White Sox
Lopez had his worst start of the season on Friday, but he found a way to pitch around 10 hits to allow just two earned runs in 6 1/3 innings. He’s proving himself a key part of the White Sox rebuild, totaling a 1.78 ERA, 1.22 WHIP and 25 strikeouts in 30 1/3 innings on the season. Like Mikolas, he flew under the radar during draft season and hasn’t received the notice he deserves after his strong April. Prioritize Mikolas, but grab Lopez if the Cardinals starter is unavailable to you.
Jack Flaherty, SP, Cardinals
The Cardinals recalled Flaherty on Saturday, and he will take the ball in the second game of the team’s weekend series in Pittsburgh. Flaherty was excellent in his first start of the season, allowing one run in five innings while striking out nine in what was ultimately a 5-4 loss to the Brewers. Flaherty entered this season as a consensus top-70 propsect in baseball, reaching a high of No. 38 in MLB.com’s rankings. He’ll hold down Adam Wainwright’s rotation spot while the veteran is on the DL, and is worth adding in all fantasy leagues, even if he goes back to the minors when Wainwright returns.
Mike Foltynewicz, SP, Braves
A high pitch count limited Foltynewicz to just 4 2/3 innings in his last start, getting knocked out of the game by a two-run homer by Scott Schebler. He struck out seven in the outing, however, and is now up to 33 strikeouts in 26 innings. As we detailed last week, Foltynewicz has increased the usage of his slider and changeup this season, and those have been his two best whiff pitches. This new strikeout upside appears for real, making Foltynewicz a strong add, regardless of your league’s format.
Tyson Ross, SP, Padres
Don’t put too much stock into the ugliness of Ross’s last start. Yes, he gave up four runs and six hits in four innings, but the game was at Coors Field. Pay more attention to the fact that he struck out seven batters in the start, and now has 31 strikeouts in 29 2/3 innings. Ross has missed most of the last two seasons due to various arm injuries, but the swing and miss stuff that made him a budding star in the first half of this decade seems to be back in his arsenal. He’s worth a shot in all but the shallowest of leagues.
Carl Edwards, RP, Cubs
Brandon Morrow is locked into the closer’s role for the Cubs, and that isn’t going to change. And yet, Edwards might be Joe Maddon’s most trusted reliever. He has made 12 appearances and pitched 12 2/3 innings this year, striking out 21 batters while allowing one run. The lack of save opportunities unquestionably hurts his fantasy value, but he’s going to give his fantasy owners elite rates and nearly two strikeouts per inning, likely over about 60 more frames for the rest of the season. No matter your scoring parameters, there is value in a pitcher like that.
Vince Velasquez, SP, Phillies
Velasquez got knocked around for four runs on four hits and two walks in 4 2/3 innings against the Diamondbacks in his last start. That was discouraging, but he’s on this list because of strikeout upside, and he fanned six batters in the outing, giving him 30 in 26 innings on the season. He may not be trustworthy in every turn, but his ability to miss bats cannot be ignored.
Joe Musgrove, SP, Pirates
Luiz Gohara, SP, Braves
Musgrove and Gohara are both intriguing pitchers working their way back from injuries. Musgrove is expected to begin a rehab assignment soon after throwing a simulated game earlier this week, and Gohara will make his second rehab start this weekend. Assuming no setbacks, both will be in their respective rotations by the middle of May. If you have room to stash either on the DL, do so, with a slight preference for Gohara.