- A look at the best candidates to replace Robinson Cano kicks off our weekly audit of the fantasy baseball waiver wire.
The big news of the week in baseball, from both real-life and fantasy perspectives, ‘s was Robinson Cano’s PED suspension. The Mariners’ second baseman has already begun his 80-game suspension, which will keep him out until the middle of August. Cano can be safely dropped in redraft leagues, and he may not have much value in keeper leagues with next year his age-36 season.
With that in mind, we’ll kick off this week’s look at the fantasy baseball waiver wire with the best, generally available Cano replacements for the rest of this season. Players are listed in preferential order.
Dustin Pedroia, Red Sox
Pedroia is still working his way back from a knee injury, but began his rehab assignment with Triple A Pawtucket earlier this week. There’s a chance he returns by the end of May if all goes well, but, unless there’s a dramatic setback, he’s finally seeing some light at the end of the tunnel. The Red Sox have gotten little out of their second basemen this season, a mix of Eduardo Nuñez and Brock Holt, meaning Pedroia will get right back into the starting lineup once he’s ready to come off the DL. He hit .318/.376/.449 with 15 homers last season.
Josh Harrison, Pirates
An errant pitch fractured Harrison’s hand more than a month ago, but he’s nearly back to the bigs. He’s on his rehab assignment now and should be back with the Pirates in the coming days. He was hitting .263/.328/.351 before the injury, but that was in just 64 plate appearances. Harrison is a known commodity at this point of his career, providing his owners with a solid power-speed combo, as well as eligibility at third base and outfield, in addition to second.
Daniel Descalso, Diamondbacks
Descalso has looked like a completely different player from the one we’ve known for this entire decade. He’s hitting .270/.367/.522 with five homers, 10 doubles and 22 RBI in 139 plate appearances. He has made a concerted effort to get the ball airborne more often, and it shows in his career-high 48.8% fly-ball rate. Arizona’s offense is in a funk, and that’s likely to deepen with A.J. Pollock on the shelf, but Descalso is going to hit in the top-third of the order every day. Even if he experiences some regression, he’s one of the best candidate out there for fantasy owners who lost Cano.
Jonathan Villar, Brewers
Villar has turned it on of late, going 8-for-16 with a steal, a homer and three RBI in his last three games. He’s still sharing second base duties in Milwaukee, but there’s no doubt that he’s the most purely talented option for the team. What’s more, he’s the best fantasy player at their disposal, given his upside on the basepaths. If Villar can make himself the Brewers’ default second baseman, he should eclipse 30 steals, even if he doesn’t make any strides in the on-base department.
Jedd Gyroko, Cardinals
Gyorko has slowed considerably from his hot start to the season, but he’s still playing mostly every day and carrying a .292/.397/.508 slash line. He’ll give you modest production across the board, and he typically hits in the top half the Cardinals’ order. Gyorko also offers positional versatility, qualifying in most fantasy leagues at first and third, in addition to second.
Ben Zobrist, Cubs
Playing time is the one real concern for Zobrist. He’s one of the rotational players on the Cubs, along with Kyle Schwarber, Albert Almora, Ian Happ and Jason Heyward, with some at-bats opening up on the occasional off-days for Javier Baez and Addison Russell. If you’re plucking Zobrist as your Cano replacement, you have to be okay with him not playing every day. If that works for you, he can be a worthy addition. He has played in 30 of the Cubs 41 games this season, and he typically hits in the top-half of the lineup when he starts. Zobrist is slashing .286/.369/.378 with one homer, four doubles, 14 runs and 10 RBI in 111 plate appearances.
And now, on to the rest of the Waiver Wire.
Brandon Crawford, SS, Giants
Crawford has been one of the best hitters in the league in May, slashing .438/.449/.594 with one homer, seven doubles and 12 RBI in 69 plate appearances. Shortstop has gotten deeper over the last few seasons, and that has pushed Crawford to the fringes of the fantasy discussion, but he’s still capable of binges like the one he’s on now. Corey Seager owners who haven’t been able to find a reliable replacement may want to throw some love at Crawford, even if they’re Dodgers fans.
Jesus Aguilar, 1B, Brewers
With Ryan Braun on the DL, Aguilar will be in the everyday lineup for the Brewers for the foreseeable future. He's having a great season, hitting .326/.396/.558 with five homers, seven doubles and 17 RBI in 111 plate appearances. He has been hitting third since Braun went on the DL, and, even before then, was regularly slotted in the top-half of the Milwaukee lineup. This didn't exactly come from nowhere, either, given that he hit .265 with a .505 slugging percentage and 16 homers in 311 plate appearances. He should be a priority player on the waiver wire in all leagues.
Denard Span, OF, Rays
It’s time to give Span his due. He’s hitting .242/.365/.394 with four homers, six doubles, five steals, 23 runs and 27 RBI in 159 plate appearances. He’s not nearly as valuable in batting average leagues, but his 15.7% walk rate makes him a great guy to chase in OBP leagues. Span had 11 homers in 2016 and 12 last year, so the power isn’t totally out of nowhere. He’ll give you solid contributions across all four counting categories the rest of the year.
Jose Bautista, 3B/OF, Braves
Bautista is still trying to find his footing in Atlanta, hitting .143/.250/.343 with two homers and five RBI in 40 plate appearances. We’re still early enough into his Braves tenure to be encouraged by the fact that he’s playing every day, however. When Dansby Swanson returns, he could give up some at-bats at third to Charlie Culberson, but, for the time being, it appears he’s going to have a spot on Brian Snitker’s default lineup card.
Vlad Guerrero Jr., 3B, Blue Jays
Guerrero got everyone’s hopes up with a little Instagram misdirection earlier this week, but he remains at Double A New Hampshire. He’s hitting everything in sight, though, slashing .407/.456/.676 with seven homers, 16 doubles and 41 RBI in 170 plate appearances. Chances are we see him in a Blue Jays uniform at some point this season, and he could make an instant impact in fantasy leagues. If you have a roster spot to burn, Guerrero is well worth the stash.
Willie Calhoun, OF, Rangers
With Adrian Beltre joining Elvis Andrus on the DL, speculation has kicked up again that the Rangers will soon promote Calhoun. That ignores the fact that Calhoun isn’t holding up his end of the bargain, hitting just .255/.317/.373 with three homers at Triple A Round Rock. Still, Calhoun is an immensely talented 23-year-old who is a key part of the Rangers rebuild. Even with his rough line at Round Rock thus far, we will undoubtedly see him in the majors eventually this season. Like Guerrero, he’s worth stashing if you can afford the roster spot.
Tyson Ross, SP, Padres
Ross didn't exactly light the world on fire in his last trip to the mound but picked up another quality start, holding the Pirates to two runs on five hits in six innings. He struck out two and walked four, extricating himself from trouble on more than one occasion to come away with the win. He has made nine starts on the year, pitching to a 3.35 ERA, 3.46 FIP and 1.19 WHIP with 55 strikeouts in 53 2/3 innings.
Tyler Chatwood, SP, Cubs
That Chatwood entered his start against the Braves earlier this week with a 3.35 ERA and 1.54 WHIP seemed a minor miracle, given that he issued 32 walks in 37 2/3 innings. Chatwood came out against the Braves and had one of his best starts of the season, waking just two batters while allowing one run in 5 1/3 innings. After the game, Chatwood said he fixed a mechanical flaw that was driving much of his wildness. If that’s the case, then there’s a chance he can get back to the pitcher he was last year, when he led the majors in road ERA, looking like a useful fantasy pitcher so long as he avoided Coors Field.
Jack Flaherty, SP, Cardinals
Flaherty should be in the Cardinals’ rotation for the foreseeable future, and likely for the rest of the season. He looked good in his last start, allowing one run on five hits and one walk in 5 2/3 innings, striking out three in a no-decision against the Twins. He has thrown 15 2/3 frames on the year, surrendering five runs and 15 hits with 14 strikeouts against six walks. The 22-year-old entered this season as one of the top pitching prospects likely to make the majors this season, reaching a high watermark of prospect No. 38 in MLB.com’s rankings. He should be owned in all competitive fantasy leagues.
Joe Musgrove, SP, Pirates
Musgrove was excellent in his most recent rehab start at Triple A Indianapolis earlier this week, tossing 5 2/3 perfect innings with six strikeouts. His next start could come with the Pirates this week, but even if the team decides to run him through one more rehab start, he’ll be with the big league club by the end of the month. Get him while you still can. Remember, he was the centerpiece of the Gerrit Cole trade for a reason.
Andrew Heaney, SP, Angels
I know you’ve been hearing about the possibility for years, but Heaney might finally be breaking out. He has made six starts this season, pitching to a 3.93 ERA, 2.88 FIP and 1.19 WHIP with 39 strikeouts in 34 1/3 innings. He was electric in his last start, holding the mighty Astros to one run on four hits and one walk in eight innings, fanning 10 batters. Heaney should be a priority add this week, even if you feel set in your rotation.
Mike Soroka, SP, Braves
Soroka went on the DL with right shoulder tightness earlier this week, but an MRI came back negative. The Braves don’t expect him to miss much time, and he’ll get right back in the rotation when he’s ready to return. The 20-year-old has a 3.68 ERA, 1.70 WHIP and 15 strikeouts in 14 2/3 innings this season.
Jordan Lyles, SP, Padres
Forget about the near perfect game, if you can, for just a second. Lyles spent the first month of the season as a shutdown reliever for the Padres, earning himself a shot in the rotation. In his first start of the season, he limited the Cardinals to two runs, one earned, on five hits in five innings, with six strikeouts against one walk. His second outing was this week’s dominance of the Rockies, in which he took a perfect game into the eighth. That’s more than enough to make him worth a shot in all fantasy leagues.
Trevor Cahill, SP/RP, A’s
Cahill returned from the DL earlier this week, allowing three runs on five hits and one walk in five innings against the Red Sox. The results weren’t great, but there’s no shame in a line like that against one of the best offenses in baseball. Furthermore, Cahill reported no issues with his elbow after the game. He sports a 2.79 ERA, 3.01 FIP and 1.00 WHIP with 32 strikeouts in 29 innings on the season.