Welcome back to Waive Hello, our weekly column on players you should be adding from the waiver wire.
Let’s play a little game. See if you can guess the identity of the pitcher with the following stats.
2-1, 0. 0.36 ERA, 0.76 WHIP, 31 strikeouts, four walks, 25 innings pitched
Pretty good, isn’t it? The ERA might have you stumped. Doesn't Joe Musgrove lead starters with a 0.81 ERA? Well, what if I told you that the opening sentence to this week’s Waive Hello was purposefully misleading? What if you knew that stat line didn’t belong to one pitcher, but was the combined efforts of three different pitchers? Could you figure it out then? Because that’s exactly what it is.
That stat line represents the individual performances of Ryan Pressly, Diego Castillo and Ty Buttrey, put together. Individually, Pressly has tossed 7 2/3 scoreless innings, racking up nine strikeouts against three hits and zero walks. Castillo’s 11 innings include 10 strikeouts, three walks and six hits and the lone earned run these three have surrendered. Buttrey has thrown 7 1/3 frames, fanning 12 batters, walking one and allowing six hits. None of the three is a regular closer, but they’re all among the best relievers in the majors.
Consider how rough this season has been on starting pitchers. Leaguewide ERA is at 4.33, while pitchers have racked up a 1.31 WHIP. More than 700 balls have already sailed over fences. Pitchers like Max Scherzer and Jacob deGrom will be able to weather this storm, but what about guys fantasy owners were counting on as safe SP2 and SP3 types? Not all of those pitchers are going to survive this offensive onslaught, and that’s going to make pitching even harder to find in fantasy leagues than it typically is.
The best way to hack this is by pairing a couple of dominant non-closers, such as two of the three above. Take Pressly and Castillo, for instance. Even if we grant that they’ll eventually allow some earned runs, they’re on pace for a combined 159 innings with a strikeout rate of 32.2%. Given the roles they inhabit, as is the case with many dominant non-closer relievers, they’re bound to pick up a handful of wins and saves along the way. Pressly and Castillo—or Pressly and Buttrey, Castillo and Buttrey or any number of pairs of top-tier relievers who don’t close games regularly—are a better bet to combine for SP numbers than, say, Miles Mikolas is to get there on his own. Yet, so many of these guys are just sitting there on the waiver wire for anyone to grab. Want to find yourself an SP2 or SP3? Forget about the trade market and grab two of these relievers while you still can.
With that, let’s find out who else deserves a Waive Hello on the waiver wire this weekend.
All players have ownership rates of 40% or lower in at least two of Yahoo, ESPN or CBS leagues.
Gregory Polanco, OF, Pirates
Polanco began a rehab assignment last week, working his way back from a shoulder injury that cut short his 2018 season. The Polanco breakout that we’ve been waiting for started to happen last season, and he finished the year hitting .254/.340/.499 with 23 homers and 12 steals. Had he not been injured to start the year, he would’ve been drafted in 100% of leagues. He should be stashed in that same number of leagues where he isn’t already owned.
Jeff McNeil, 2B/3B/OF, Mets
McNeil continues to hit everything in sight, slashing .424/.485/.542 with five doubles and 10 RBI in 66 plate appearances going into play Friday. He’s still looking for his first homer, but he’s doing more than enough elsewhere to counterbalance the lack of power. Add in his positional versatility, and McNeil should be owned in a majority of fantasy leagues.
Franmil Reyes, OF, Padres
Reyes is starting to find consistent power, hitting three homers in his last seven games. What’s more, there’s strong evidence that he’s among the unluckiest hitters to this point of the season. Reyes is slashing .212/.295/.481 with a. 322 wOBA. Statcast, however, has his expected wOBA, based on the quality of his contact, at .474, which ranks ninth in the league. Anyone dropping Reyes is being rash. Make their mistake work to your advantage.
Shin-Soo Choo, OF, Rangers
Choo has been underappreciated his entire career, so why should that change in his age-36 season? He’s hitting .345/.446/.600 with one homer, seven doubles, two triples, eight RBI, 10 runs, one steal and eight walks against 14 strikeouts. He plays every day and gets most of his time in the leadoff spot. How is he not in the neighborhood of an 80% ownership rate? What more does he need to do? Please add him.
Ryan McMahon, 1B/2B/3B, Rockies
McMahon returned from the IL with a bang on Thursday, going 3-for-4 with two homers and five RBI in the Rockies' 6-2 win over the Phillies. McMahon won a starting job in spring training, but went to the IL just one week into the season. Now that he's back, he should be playing mostly every day, whether it's at first base or second base.
Scott Kingery, 3B/SS/OF, Phillies
Kingery’s doing the post-hype thing, and the fantasy community is finally starting to take notice. A popular breakout selection last year, Kingery never put it together, hitting .226/.267/.338 in 484 plate appearances. This year, he’s slashing .414/.469/.759 with two homers, four doubles and six RBI in 32 plate appearances. The Phillies have no shortage of players who need regular playing time, but Gabe Kapler is finding time for Kingery where he can, and that shouldn’t change when Jean Segura returns from his hamstring injury.
Christian Walker, 1B, Diamondbacks
Walker is on a tear, going 9-for-17 with three homers, two doubles, five RBI and two walks in his last four games. He’s now hitting .300/.373/.683 with six homers, five doubles and 11 RBI in 67 plate appearances this season. It’s safe to say that he’ll remain a regular for the Diamondbacks when Jake Lamb comes off the IL, where he’s nursing a quad strain.
Delino DeShields, OF, Rangers
DeShields is more of a play in OBP leagues, where his improved plate discipline has helped him to a .357 OBP in 57 plate appearances. That’s allowing him to take full advantage of his speed, as he has six steals in seven attempts this season. He’s likely to hit toward the bottom of the Rangers’ order, but if he’s playing every day a .340 OBP, 30 steals and 70 runs are all within reach.
Caleb Smith, SP, Marlins
His honor takes the mound for his fourth start of the season Friday. Smith has been excellent thus far, pitching to a 2.65 ERA and 0.88 ERA with 21 strikeouts against six walks in 17 innings. His strikeout rate sits at a blistering 32.3%, with all three of his pitches—four-seam fastball, slider and changeup—registering a whiff rate of at least 16%. No matter how he pitches against the Nationals on Friday, Smith needs to be owned in more leagues.
Frankie Montas, SP, A’s
Montas was excellent in his last trip to the mound, holding the Astros to one run on three hits and two walks, striking out six in 6 1/3 innings. When Montas has his splitter working, he can be an absolute terror for hitters, especially lefties. There are going to be some stinkers mixed in given his dependence on his splitter, but the 26-year-old has a 2.70 ERA, 0.94 WHIP and 20 strikeouts against six walks in 23 1/3 innings this season.
Freddy Peralta, SP, Brewers
The Brewers sent Peralta to the IL with shoulder inflammation earlier this week. It could also be a procedural move to help Peralta get his head right. He has mostly struggled this year, racking up a 7.13 ERA and 1.53 WHIP in 17 2/3 innings. Still, he has flashed his strikeout upside, fanning 22 batters in that time, including an 11-strikeout effort against the Reds in his second start of the season. If you have an IL spot to play with, stash Peralta while you can add him for free.
Mike Soroka, SP, Braves
Soroka made his 2019 debut on Thursday, allowing one run on four hits and two walks while striking out six in a loss to the Diamondbacks. Soroka threw all four of his pitches—four-seamer, two-seamer, slider and changeup—and his velocity was strong, with the four-seamer averaging 94.2 mph and the two-seamer at 92.7 mph. Atlanta's brain trust said it was just a spot start necessitated by Mike Foltynewicz hitting a little hiccup in his rehab, but that could certainly change. Even if we grant that Foltynewicz will be back soon, there's no guarantee that Touki Toussaint will stick in the rotation. Soroka has enough upside to take a shot on him in most fantasy formats.
Hector Neris, RP, Phillies
Neris has bounced back in a big way to start the 2019 season, amassing a 2.57 ERA, 0.86 WHIP, 10 strikeouts and two saves in his first eight appearances, covering seven innings. Gabe Kapler isn’t committing to any one reliever as his dedicated closer, but it’s clear that Neris will be in the mix, even when David Robertson returns from the IL. Even if Neris ends up behind Robertson and Seranthony Dominguez in the saves pecking order, he can be a valuable reliever in the same vein as Ryan Pressly, Diego Castillo and Ty Buttrey, as laid in the opening section of this week’s Waive Hello.
Adam Wainwright, SP, Cardinals
Wainwright has been great in his last two starts, allowing three runs on eight hits with 13 strikeouts against two walks in 12 innings. He hasn’t lost any velocity compared with the previous two seasons, and is getting plenty of mileage out of his sinker, cutter and curve. The latter two offerings have been great at inducing whiffs this season, with swinging-strike rates of 13.2% and 20%, respectively. He won’t be trustworthy in every outing, and you may want to keep him on your bench when he takes the ball against the Mets on Friday, but he has shown enough to warrant a pickup in most formats.