Injuries always create opportunities. When one player goes down, another one steps up into his place, getting a chance to show what he can do. Sometimes, however, the opportunity created in fantasy leagues by an injury regards the injured player. Sometimes that player gets dropped in too many leagues, allowing patient or opportunistic owners to grab a guy who never should have been available in the first place. Such is the case right now with Matt Adams.
Adams quickly became a key player for the Nationals this season, mashing his way to a regular job after beginning the year as a platoon player. He entered the team’s game on June 15 hitting .275/.351/.575 with 13 homers and 36 RBI in 171 plate appearances. He left that game in the third inning, however, suffering a broken finger after getting hit by a pitch on his left hand. Adams ultimately spent about a month on the DL, which sent him to the waiver wire in far too many leagues.
The Nationals activated Adams earlier this week. In his first start since getting back on the field, he went 4-for-5 with three singles and a double in the team’s dramatic 14-12 come-from-behind win over the Marlins. He’s now slashing .290/.361/.580 in 180 plate appearances on the season, while providing fantasy owners with eligibility at first base and in the outfield. Adams shouldn’t be available in any competitive leagues, let alone this many. Do whatever it takes to secure his services. It’s rare that a player of his caliber is available at the cost of the worst player on your roster at this stage of the season.
With that, let’s get to the rest of this week’s waiver wire.
Shohei Ohtani, DH, Angels
Ohtani is back, and it looks like he’ll be in a full-time DH role. He has gone 2-for-12 with a double and six strikeouts in his four games since returning, and is now slashing .278/.359/.508 with six homers, nine doubles and 20 RBI on the season. If Ohtani is an everyday hitter over the second half, he could be a single player who swings fantasy championships, given that he’s available for free in so many leagues. We see league-winners in fantasy football quite a bit, but rarely in baseball. Ohtani presents a unique opportunity.
Addison Russell, SS, Cubs
Since the start of June, Russell is hitting .304/.369/.446 with three homers, four doubles, nine walks and 13 RBI in 103 plate appearances. He’s doing a little bit of everything, playing mostly every day, and getting on base at a high clip for one of the best offenses in baseball. Russell’s OBP through May was .340, which is nothing to dismiss, but made him nowhere near the fantasy asset that he is when he’s getting on base in nearly 40% of his trips to the plate. For those of you in NL-only leagues, there seems to be much less risk of him being traded now than there did a few weeks ago.
Josh Reddick, OF, Astros
It took Reddick about a week to shake off the rust after returning from the DL early last month. After going 2-for-12 with three strikeouts in his first four games back, though, he found his stroke. Since then, he’s hitting .365/.392/.486 with two homers, three doubles and eight RBI in 80 plate appearances. Reddick will give you a little bit of everything and has the potential to be a top performer in your league’s rate category, no matter if it’s batting average or OBP.
Joc Pederson, OF, Dodgers
Pederson continues to mash since we discussed him in last week’s waiver wire column, belting two homers and a double in 21 plate appearances in that time. He’s now hitting .256/.338/.540 with 13 homers and 34 RBI on the season, and is spending most of his time at the top of the Dodgers’ order. It has been quite the midseason turnaround for the 26-year-old.
Ben Zobrist, 2B/OF, Cubs
Zobrist doesn’t give fantasy owners much power or any speed, but he is still a valuable three-category contributor, especially considering where he’s eligible to play in most fantasy leagues. He’s hitting .293/.389/.427 with six homers, 40 runs and 33 RBI this season. He’s one of 12 players to clear those batting average, OBP, run and RBI thresholds. Those stats may be cherry-picked, but they still illustrate how and where he can provide value.
Johan Camargo, 2B/3B/SS, Braves
Camargo had a nine-game hitting streak snapped earlier this week, during which he went 13-for-36 with two homers, three walks and six RBI. He’s playing nearly every day, getting most of his time at third, but also filling in at second and short when need be. The 24-year-old is hitting .256/.357/.449 with nine homers, 11 doubles and 37 RBI in 241 plate appearances on the season. This has all the makings of a young player beginning to realize his potential.
Jorge Polanco, SS, Twins
Polanco made his season debut earlier this week after serving an 80-game suspension for violating the league’s performance-enhancing drugs policy to start the year. He has started all five of Minnesota’s games since getting back with the team, going 6-for-18 in 20 plate appearances. Polanco hit .256/.313/.410 with 13 homers, 13 steals and 30 doubles in 544 plate appearances last year, and has enough potential to warrant a pickup in most leagues.
Steven Souza, OF, Diamondbacks
Souza has had plenty of trouble staying healthy this year, but there’s little doubt as to what he can do when he’s on the field. He hit .239/.351/.459 with 30 homers, 16 steals and 78 RBI a year ago, and will be asked to be that sort of player for the Diamondbacks, as well. He returned from a six-week absence, his second DL stint of the season, earlier this week. Souza is 1-for-7 with two RBI since being activated.
Steven Matz, SP, Mets
Matz continues to turn his season around right before our eyes. He allowed one unearned run on three hits and two walks in 5 1/3 innings against the Marlins in his last start, striking out six. In 11 starts since the beginning of May, Matz has a 2.92 ERA, 1.20 WHIP and 50 strikeouts in 61 2/3 innings. He has done more than enough to make himself worthy of adding in all but the shallowest of leagues. Matz will take the ball against the Rays on Saturday.
Matt Harvey, SP, Reds
Talk about turning a season around right before the watchful eye of the fantasy community. Harvey, rightfully left for dead in fantasy leagues after the dreadful end of his Mets’ tenure, seems to have found himself in Cincinnati. He has a 2.31 ERA, 0.90 WHIP and 16 strikeouts against four walks over his last four starts, a stretch covering 23 1/3 innings. What’s more, his velocity has bounced back, with his average fastball velocity eclipsing 95 mph in the four games. He hasn’t had it easy in terms of opponents, either, facing the Cubs, Braves and Brewers, which rank third, seventh and 14th, respectively, in wOBA, in his last three starts. He gets the Cubs again on Saturday.
Joe Jimenez, RP, Tigers
Jimenez blew his first save opportunity since Shane Greene went on the DL, but bounced back to convert a save in his next outing. He was the Tigers’ best reliever even when Greene was healthy, and he’s easily the team’s best option in the ninth inning. He has pitched to a 2.85 ERA, 2.53 FIP and 1.15 WHIP with 46 strikeouts in 41 innings this season.