- Taking a look at the best players to grab off the waiver wire in fantasy baseball leagues.
It’s an odd week on the Waiver Wire in that, after assembling the names of fantasy baseball’s most eligible free agents, no one jumped out as an obvious candidate to be the lead subject. Every other week, it was easy to pick someone to highlight, from Reynaldo Lopez to Mallex Smith to David Dahl. This week, no one seems worthy of the honor. Well, I suppose I could do Lopez again, but you can only bang your head against the wall over the same topic so many times, you know?
With that in mind, we’ll take a more egalitarian approach to this week’s Waiver Wire. No featured player, just a quick-hitting list of the available players you should be considering for your roster.
Dustin Fowler, OF, A’s
The A’s promoted Fowler earlier this week, completing a return to the majors after he suffered a season-ending knee injury in the first inning of his first MLB game last June. He has started one game since his call-up, going 1-for-6. Fowler has a ton of speed, and will be an asset for fantasy owners in need of stolen bases. He was swinging the bat quite well at Triple A Nashville, hitting .310/.333/.484 with three homers and seven doubles in 132 plate appearances. He may not be an everyday player right away, but he can certainly force his way into the regular lineup if the bat translates.
Ryon Healy, 1B/3B, Mariners
All Healy has done since returning from an ankle injury late last month is hit, slashing .333/.358/.725 with six homers in 53 plate appearances. He’s still manning a spot in the bottom-third of Seattle’s order, and that isn’t likely to change. With Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz, Kyle Seager and Mitch Haniger locked into the 3-4-5-6 slots, Healy is going to have to live with hitting seventh. Still, few No. 7 hitters get the sort of RBI opportunities Healy will with those four guys in front of him. There’s no reason he shouldn’t be owned in a majority of leagues.
Jeimer Candelario, 3B, Tigers
Candelario continues to stick, slashing .286/.367/.521 with five homers, 12 doubles and 16 RBI in 158 plate appearances. Frankly, I’m not sure what more he needs to do to get more attention from fantasy owners. He plays every day, hits second in Detroit’s lineup, and has earned every bit of his performance. His walk rate is up, his strikeout rate is flat, and his .347 BABIP, while high on its face, is lower than last year’s .351 mark and is supported by a 36.8% hard-hit rate. Candelario is for real.
C.J. Cron, 1B, Rays
Cron is getting a chance to play every day and taking full advantage, slashing .269/.320/.463 with seven homers and 21 RBI in 147 plate appearances. Cron always flashed this sort of ability with the Angels, but never carved out an everyday role. Still, in four years as a part time player, he hit .262/.308/.450, with 162-game averages of 23 homers and 85 RBI. He could hurt you in the rate categories, though low batting averages and OBPs aren’t what they used to be. In fact, Cron’s career .262 average is comfortably better than the league average, while his OBP isn’t a deal-breaker.
Mallex Smith, OF, Rays
Consider this our weekly check-in on Smith. Since we published last week’s Waiver Wire column, in which he appeared, he has gone 3-for-12 with a pair of doubles, two steals and four walks. He’s slashing .313/.393/.404 for the season, with seven extra-base hits and eight stolen bases. He’s a strong asset in two categories, and could add a third to the mix if he elevates to the top of Tampa Bay’s lineup.
David Dahl, OF, Rockies
Bud Black is still figuring out his ideal mix in the outfield around Charlie Blackmon, and Dahl is showing that he deserves to be a major part of it. He has started three of Colorado’s six games since last week’s Waiver Wire column, going 6-for-16 with a pair of doubles and a walk. What’s more, he has been better in his starts than his pinch-hitting appearances, producing two multi-hit games as a starter, and is now slashing .300/.352/.480 in 54 plate appearances on the season. He may never be a true everyday player with the logjam of position players in Colorado, but he’ll be a worthy fantasy player in all formats if he can get four starts per week, plus a handful of pinch-hitting opportunities.
Wilmer Difo, 2B/3B/SS, Nationals
Injuries to Anthony Rendon and Daniel Murphy opened the door to regular playing time for Difo, and he has barged right through with a .270/.368/.380 slash line in X119XX plate appearances. He’s not going to hit for much power, and he’ll likely spend most of his time in the bottom-third of the order, but that’s not terrible for run-scoring upside when the lineup turns over to the likes of Trea Turner and Bryce Harper. Rendon is back from the DL, but Murphy still doesn’t appear close. Dave Martinez likes to get Howie Kendrick regular at-bats, as well, but with Adam Eaton also on the DL, Kendrick can play the outfield with Difo at second base. So long as he’s getting consistent playing time, he’s worth a shot in all fantasy formats.
Jose Bautista, OF, Braves
After a brief stint in the minors, Bautista joined the Braves last weekend. He has started six of seven games since the call-up, though two of those were at DH with the Braves in Tampa Bay earlier this week. Still, the fact that he started three games at third base in his first series with the team bodes well for his playing time. He hasn’t done much yet, going 3-for-21 in 25 plate appearances, but there’s enough upside here to take a shot on him in all fantasy leagues. He has hit fifth or sixth in all of his starts, a spot that should provide plenty of RBI upside in Atlanta’s potent lineup.
Franchy Cordero, OF, Padres
We know that Cordero is going to hit for power and strike out. He has six homers and a 31.3% strikeout rate in 112 plate appearances. What he does in between, however, will determine how viable a fantasy player he is. What’s nice is that he’s going to give his owners some speed, with four steals already on the season. In other words, he isn’t just a masher with a proclivity to swing and miss. He provides value with his legs, as well, and that makes it easier to deal with all the strikeouts. At this point, he has shown enough to be a worthy add in all leagues. So long as the strikeouts don’t totally get in the way, 15 homers and 10 steals the rest of the season certainly seems realistic.
Jedd Gyorko, 1B/2B/3B, Cardinals
Gyorko is another one of our usual Waiver Wire suspects, having been in the column for three straight weeks now. He starting mostly every day for the Cardinals, though he faces a problem similar to Dahl’s. St. Louis has more infielders it wants to get consistent at-bats than starting spots available, which means Gyorko isn’t likely to be a true everyday player. He is doing enough with his opportunities, though, to warrant a spot on a team in most fantasy leagues. Gyorko is slashing .366/.481/.707 with four homers and seven RBI in 52 plate appearances this season.
Daniel Descalso, 1B/2B/3B/OF, Diamondbacks
Descalso entered this season as a career .240/.318/.359 hitter in 2,276 plate appearances. We were pretty sure we had the book on him down cold. Something has gotten into the 31-year-old, however, and he’s now slashing .263/.357/.516 with four homers, eight doubles and 18 RBI. Descalso has never hit more than 10 homers in a season, and he did that once, last year. He could surpass that total by the All-Star break with the way he’s swinging the bat. Players generally don’t change who they are 2,300 plate appearances into their career, so take this surge for what it’s worth. At the very least, you could get some solid production out of Descalso while he’s hot, and his positional versatility makes him a nice guy to have around in case of injuries.
Tyler Clippard, RP, Blue Jays
Major League Baseball placed Roberto Osuna on administrative leave after the close was charged with assault. Administrative leave lasts only a week, but Osuna’s short- and long-term future is in doubt, at least until the case further develops. Clippard got and converted the team’s first save opportunity after the charges against Osuna, and that’s reason enough to believe he’ll be the closer for the time being. He was arguably the team’s best reliever all season, posting a 1.33 ERA and 0.89 WHIP with 24 strikeouts in 20 1/3 innings. Ryan Tepera and Seung Hwan Oh could factor into the mix, as well, but Clippard has to be considered the Blue Jays reliever to own for now.
Mike Soroka, SP, Braves
Soroka will make his third start of the season Saturday against the Marlins. He wasn’t nearly as sharp in his second outing as he was in his first, allowing four runs on seven hits and three walks in a loss to the Giants. Despite that, he received good news after the start when David Snitker said he would be sticking in the rotation, with Anibal Sanchez shifting to the bullpen once he’s ready to return from the DL. That means all systems are go for the talented 20-year-old starter. He can be a real difference maker in all fantasy formats the rest of this season.
Tyson Ross, SP, Padres
Ross will take the ball for the Padres Saturday in the third game of their four-game series with the Cardinals. He has been roughed up in two of his last three tips to the mound, but there’s no shame in struggling against either the Rockies or Nationals, with the former start coming in Colorado. Ross is still getting the job done this season, pitching to a 3.67 ERA, 3.43 FIP and 1.20 WHIP with 46 strikeouts in 41 2/3 innings, giving hope to all pitchers who are forced to undergo thoracic outlet surgery.
Junior Guerra, SP, Brewers
Guerra got knocked around by the Indians in his last start, allowing four runs on six hits in five innings. The bigger story, though, was that he fanned nine batters, and now has 34 strikeouts in 32 innings this season. Guerra was a bit of a breakout performer in 2016, totalying a 2.81 ERA and 1.13 WHIP with 100 strikeouts in 121 2/3 innings. Injuries limited him to 14 starts last year, and while they also mostly robbed him of his prior effectiveness, he still struck out 67 batters in 70 1/3 frames. There’s a chance he’s putting it all together this season, certainly enough of one to give him a short-term spin in most fantasy leagues.
Domingo German, SP, Yankees
German made his first career start last weekend, tossing six shutout, hitless innings with nine strikeouts and two walks against the Indians. That should grab any fantasy owner’s attention. At the very least, German is worth a preemptive play on the waiver wire to see what he might become. He made 14 appearances, including 13 starts, with Triple A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre last year, totaling a 2.83 ERA, 1.06 WHIP and 81 strikeouts in 76 1/3 innings. He really might be a viable starter for both the Yankees and fantasy owners this season. He’ll make his next start Saturday against the A’s. If it goes as well as the first one, you’re going to have some competition for his services on the wire.
Reynaldo Lopez, SP, White Sox
How? How is it possible that Lopez is still so widely available in fantasy leagues? He was great again in his last turn, allowing two runs on three hits and two walks while striking out six Pirates in 7 1/3 innings. Lopez now owns a 2.44 ERA and 1.13 WHIP with 31 strikeouts in 44 1/3 innings this season. His FIP is more than two full runs higher than his ERA, a reflection of his low strikeout total. On the flip side, he has induced a ton of soft contact, with his 25.4% soft-hit rate ranking eighth in the majors. The seven pitchers ahead of him? Chris Sale, Jacob deGrom, Jose Berrios, Charlie Morton, Dallas Keuchel, Clayton Kershaw and Sean Newcomb. That’s pretty good company.
Alex Reyes, SP, Cardinals
Reyes made his first rehab outing earlier this week, striking out six batters in 3 1/3 innings with High A Palm Beach. He’s eligible to return to the Cardinals on May 28, and it’s likely he’ll join the team on or near that date, assuming he doesn’t suffer any setbacks. There’s still a chance the team puts him in the bullpen once he’s activated, but if he’s throwing 3 1/3 innings in his first rehab start, chances are he’ll slot into the rotation where he can be much more valuable, for both real-life and fantasy purposes. Now is the time to grab and stash him if he’s available in your league. Reyes is one of the brightest pitching prospects in the game, and could already be a top-40 fantasy starting pitcher.
Joe Musgrove, SP, Pirates
Musgrove looked great in his second rehab start at Double A Altoona, allowing one run on two hits in four innings, striking out four and walking none. He has moved up to Triple A Indianapolis, where he will make at least one more rehab start, and more likely two, before joining the Pirates rotation. Assuming he stays on his current timetable, he’ll be with the big league club by the end of the month.