- The top players you should be looking to add in fantasy baseball leagues.
Mike Soroka has been here before. No, not an MLB mound, though he did make his retrun to one earlier this week after spending about a month on the DL. The “here” in the opening sentence, however, is the top of the SI.com waiver wire column. Soroka is once again a prime waiver wire target.
The ambiguous, ever-present, and vaguely threatening “shoulder tightness” sent Soroka to the DL after the third start of his career. At that point, far too many fantasy owners let Soroka go. There may be no such thing as a minor shoulder injury for a pitcher, but there didn’t seem to be too much cause for alarm. All signs pointed to Soroka making a return after a relatively short stint on the DL.
Soroka shut it down for a few weeks before beginning a rehab assignment. After two clean outings in the minors, in which he struck out 10 batters in eight innings, Soroka rejoined the Braves’ rotation. He made his last start before going on the shelf on May 12, and returned on June 13, a small price for fantasy owners to pay, given his massive upside.
Soroka returned with a bang, taking a no-hitter into the seventh against the hapless Mets. He ended up throwing 6 1/3 shutout innings, allowing one hit and one walk with four strikeouts. More importantly, he threw every pitch in his repertoire and his velocity was at its expected levels. He was efficient, as well, needing just 74 pitches to get through his 6 1/3 innings.
The only reason Soroka ended up on so many waiver wires over the last month was because he was on the DL. Now healthy once again, he needs to be added immediately in all competitive leagues. The 20-year-old has the upside of a top-40 starting pitcher for the rest of the season.
With that, let’s get to the rest of this week’s waiver wire.
Eric Thames, 1B/OF, Brewers
Thames returned from the DL earlier this week, starting one of Milwaukee’s three games since being activated. He has gone 1-for-6 in those games, but the results don’t particularly matter. Even with the emergence of Jesus Aguilar, Thames is going to play almost every day. He brings too much value to the lineup, especially considering he can hit anywhere in the first five slots in the order. The top-half of the Brewers’ order is one of the best run-scoring and –producing environments in the majors, giving Thames’ powerful bat even more value.
Matt Chapman, 3B, A’s
Chapman has been awfully hot over the last week-plus, going 10-for-20 with a homer, two RBI and four walks in his last 25 plate appearances, a stretch covering seven games. Champman’s now hitting .250/.346/.447 with 10 homers and 26 RBI in 280 plate appearances. He’s a batting average risk, but the OBP plays in any league, and he should give you 10 to 15 more homers the rest of the season.
John Hicks, C/1B, Tigers
With Miguel Cabrera out for the season after suffering a ruptured biceps tendon, Hicks will take over as the everyday first baseman in Detroit. Hicks was already spending plenty of time at first, but now there’s no one standing in his way of a spot in the regular lineup. He’s hitting .301/.339/.472 with six homers and 23 RBI in 172 plate appearances on the year. That may not play at first base in most fantasy leagues, but it makes him one of the better catchers in the league. Unless you’re really hurting at first, that’s where you should be targeting the newly minted starter in Detroit.
Matt Davidson, 1B/3B, White Sox
Davidson is what he is, a high-strikeout, high-walk, good-pop hitter. He’s basically Adam Dunn, with less power and reduced on-base ability. There should be an owner in most fantasy leagues who can use a player with a .358 OBP, 11 homers and 30 RBI in 212 plate appearances, especially those in leagues that use corner infield as a starting position.
Ryon Healy, 1B/3B, Mariners
Healy is on a hot streak, going 9-for-18 with four homers in his last five games. We’ve seen this from him before, and while it’s going to run out at some point, he’s a truly dangerous power hitter when the getting is this good. Like Davidson, he’s a useful corner infielder, even when he isn’t swinging this hot a bat. He doesn’t have Davidson’s on-base skills, but his power is more reliable. Healy has 13 homers in 208 plate appearances on the season.
Jon Jay, OF, Diamondbacks
The Diamondbacks didn’t exactly make waves when they acquired Jay from the Royals last week, but it’s time for fantasy owners to take notice. Torey Lovullo instantly placed Jay atop his lineup, and while it took the outfielder some time to get going in his new home, he has 10 hits in his last four games. Jay’s hitting .311/.376/.390, and appears safely ensconced as the Diamondbacks’ leadoff man. That spot is already lucrative in the run-scoring department, and will become even more so when A.J. Pollock returns from his thumb injury in the not-too-distant future.
Travis Jankowski, OF, Padres
Jankowski is a bit like Jay, but with less run-scoring upside and more speed. Jankowski is hitting .282/.346/.359 with 10 steals in 156 plate appearances. The speed is his greatest trait, and it won’t have nearly as much value if he can’t keep his batting average and OBP up. For the time being, he is doing just that. In 2016, his last full season, he was essentially a less valuable Billy Hamilton, and that is not a compliment. If he keeps getting on base, though, making himself a strong contributor to two categories, he’ll be relevant in most fantasy leagues.
Jake Bauers, 1B, Rays
Bauers has started all nine of Tampa Bay’s games since getting promoted, going 8-for-33 with one homer in 37 plate appearances. That’s even more impressive considering he was hitless in his first eight trips to the plate. Kevin Cash has tried him in a few different spots, but he has spent more time hitting second than any other position, which certainly bodes well for the rest of the season. Get the 22-year-old at the low price of the worst player on your team while you still can.
Andrew Heaney, SP, Angels
Seth Lugo, SP/RP, Mets
Junior Guerra, SP, Brewers
Steven Wright, SP/RP, Red Sox
Caleb Smith, SP/RP, Marlins
All five of these pitchers are between 40% and 50% owned, which means they’ve likely already been scooped in all but the shallowest of leagues. Still, we should include them here just in case you’re in a league where one or more is available. All five have the potential to be top-40 starters, and it’s likely that at least three of them, if not all five, end among that group. All need to be owned in any truly competitive league.
Hector Rondon, RP, Astros
Rondon has taken over as the closer in Houston, converting three straight save chances. He’s having an excellent year, pitching to a 1.44 ERA, 1.81 FIP and 1.04 WHIP with 30 strikeouts in 25 innings. Remember, Rondon had a lot of success closing with the Cubs, racking up 59 saves while amassing a 2.03 ERA, 2.48 FIP and 1.03 WHIP across 133 1/3 innings in 2014 and ’15 combined. He was serving admirably as the closer in the Cubs’ World Series season, as well, before the team traded for Aroldis Chapman. Rondon could prove to be one of the best midseason fantasy acquisitions of the season.
Carlos Rodon, SP, White Sox
Rodon had another decent outing in his second start, allowing two runs in five innings against the Indians. He struck out four, walked three and surrendered two hits. Rodon needed 100 pitches to get through his five innings, and with the White Sox still monitoring his pitch count, it was easy for Rick Renteria to get him out after five innings. It would be encouraging to see him improve his efficiency, but he has mostly handled himself in his first two starts of the season. Given the massive strikeout upside, he's an easy player to add in all leagues.
Trevor Cahill, SP/RP, A’s
Cahill is on DL because of an Achilles’ injury, but don’t let that dampen your enthusiasm for the veteran righty just yet. He has been great this year, totaling a 2.77 ERA, 3.03 FIP and 0.99 WHIP with 47 strikeouts in 48 2/3 innings. At this point, we don’t know of the severity of the injury. If it proves serious, you can cut him at essentially no cost. If it isn’t, though, he is well worth stashing on the DL.
Dylan Covey, SP/RP, White Sox
Covey pitched around 10 hits in his last start, allowing just two runs in seven innings while striking out five in a win over the Indians. He has been one of the bright spots for the White Sox this season, pitching to a 2.29 ERA, 2.16 FIP and 1.30 WHIP with 33 strikeouts in 35 1/3 innings. At this point, he has proved to fantasy owners that he is, at the very least, worth giving a tryout. He has a two-start week on the horizon, during which he’ll face the Indians and A’s.
Mike Montgomery, SP/RP, Cubs
Montgomery was great again his last time out, his fourth start since joining the rotation after Yu Darvish went on the DL. He took a tough loss after allowing one run in six innings against the Brewers, surrendering just two hits and striking out four. The lone run came on a solo homer by Lorenzo Cain, and Montgomery otherwise shut down one of the best offenses in the league. In his four starts, he has a 1.14 ERA and 0.68 WHIP with 14 strikeouts in 23 2/3 innings. Even when Darvish returns, it would be a surprise to see Montgomery sent back to the bullpen. Whether that means Tyler Chatwood becomes a reliever or the Cubs go to a six-man rotation is hard to say, but, right now, fantasy owners would be wise to bet on Montgomery holding onto his spot in the rotation.