Welcome back to Waive Hello, our weekly column on players you should be adding from the waiver wire.
Shohei Ohtani won the AL Rookie of the Year in 2018 as much for his bat as his arm. He likely wouldn’t have won the award without both components, but if either side of his game was more responsible for him earning the hardware, it was his hitting. Ohtani slashed .285/.361/.564 with 22 homers, 21 doubles, 10 steals and 61 RBI in 367 plate appearances. Now consider the fact that a full season’s worth of health typically results in 550-plus trips to the plate, and think of what Ohtani could’ve done if he also wasn’t amassing a 3.31 ERA, 1.16 WHIP and 63 strikeouts in 51 2/3 innings on the mound.
Guess what? We’re about to find out. Ohtani started facing live pitchers earlier this week, and if all goes well he’ll join the Angels lineup in early May. The team does not expect to send him on a rehab assignment, but will rather activate him assuming he doesn’t suffer any setbacks in extended spring training. Once active, Ohtani is likely to be the everyday DH for the Angels, hitting in the middle of the order.
Fantasy owners don’t typically get the chance to acquire a player of Ohtani’s caliber one month into the season, and have it cost them nothing more than the worst player on their roster. Ohtani could be a top-50 hitter—or even better—from the moment the Angels activate him through the rest of the season, and all you need to do to get him is cut ties with a guy you might not even realize is on your team. Every manager in every fantasy baseball league should be trying to get Ohtani off the waiver wire while they still can.
With that, let’s get to the rest of this week’s Waive Hello.
Shin-soo Choo, OF, Rangers
Perennially underappreciated, Choo is once again putting up monster numbers while getting far less attention than he deserves from the fantasy baseball community. The 36-year-old is hitting .310/.408/.524 in 98 plate appearances. He plays every day for the Rangers and has led off in all but two of his starts this season. This is a player who should have an ownership rate of at least 80%.
Franmil Reyes, OF, Padres
Reyes got off to a terrible start this season, hitting .063/.105/.125 through his first seven games. Since then, he’s slashing .260/.351/.640 with six homers, nine RBI and seven walks against 13 strikeouts in 57 plate appearances. San Diego’s crowded outfield will prevent him from earning an everyday job without an injury, but he has started 19 of the team’s 25 games to date. That puts him on pace for 123 starts this season.
Renato Nuñez, 3B, Orioles
Should we trust what we’ve seen from Nuñez to this point of the season? Probably not. Before this year, he had all of 292 MLB plate appearances to his name, and slashed .248/.308/.402 in that time. Has he shown enough this year to prove he’s deserving of a shot in most fantasy leagues? Absolutely. Nuñez has started all but one game for the Orioles this season and is hitting .301/.356/.538 with six homers and 18 RBI in 101 plate appearances. The 25-year-old has all but guaranteed himself a regular spot in the lineup for the entire season, with the Orioles already casting an eye on 2020. For what it’s worth, he showed plenty of power in the minors, belting 32 homers with Oakland’s Triple-A affiliate in Nashville in 2017, and 23 jacks with Nashville the prior year.
Brett Gardner, OF, Yankees
Gardner’s .239/.340/.467 slash line leaves a bit to be desired, but he’s piling up the counting stats that make up a huge chunk of every player’s fantasy value. He has five homers, 11 steals, 11 RBIs and 16 runs in 106 plate appearances. He’s a bit more palatable in OBP leagues, thanks to a 11.3% walk rate against a 8.5% strikeout rate, but fantasy managers should be able to find a spot for him in batting average leagues, as well. His status in the lineup could change when the Yankees finally get healthy, but he should still be getting enough playing time to be worth rostering in most fantasy formats when that happens.
Chad Pinder, 2B/3B/OF, A’s
Pinder continues to get the job done for the A’s at the plate while being versatile in the field. He’s hitting .320/.342/.507 with three homers, five doubles, 11 RBI and 13 runs in 79 plate appearances, and has appeared at six different positions, drawing his most time in left field. That versatility will help keep him in the lineup when Matt Olson returns from a broken hamate bone, a return that appears to be right around the corner. Pinder’s versatility is an asset in fantasy leagues, as well, providing valuable flexibility with his multi-position eligibility.
Delino DeShields, OF, Rangers
Forget about DeShields’s ugly .200 batting average for a second. He has a 15% walk rate that has helped to a .333 OBP. If DeShields can get on base 33% of the time, he could steal 40 bases this season. He may be no more than a two-category player, but that’ll play in plenty of fantasy leagues.
Luke Weaver, SP, Diamondbacks
Weaver is enjoying a bounceback season in his first year with the Diamondbacks. The 25-year-old has a 3.33 ERA, 1.19 WHIP and 31 strikeouts against six walks in 27 innings covering five starts. He has been excellent in his last three trips to the mound, allowing three runs on 15 hits while striking out 24 and walking just two in 17 2/3 frames. He hasn’t made any dramatic changes in pitch usage or velocity, but that’s no reason to doubt what we’ve seen. Remember, he was supposed to be Jack Flaherty before Flaherty became Flaherty. The latter’s emergence, and Weaver’s struggles, made him expendable for the Cardinals, but he still has that sort of potential.
Jordan Lyles, SP/RP, Pirates
Lyles got roughed up by the Diamondbacks in his last start, allowing four earned runs on eight hits, including two homers, in five innings. That shouldn’t dampen your enthusiasm for him, though. Even after that start, he has a 2.05 ERA and 1.05 WHIP in 22 innings. He’s fanning 25% of the batters he faces, while his walk rate is at a perfectly manageable 6%.
Jeremy Jeffress, RP, Brewers
The Brewers have yet to use Jeffress in a high-leverage situation, but it likely won’t be long before that changes. He has made four appearances since coming off the IL, tossing 3 2/3 scoreless innings while allowing one hit and two walks with four strikeouts. It’s also worth noting that the Brewers are 2-6 since he returned, so there haven’t been many leads to protect. It’s only a matter of time before Craig Counsell starts using him late in games in the spots that generate fantasy value.
Andrew Heaney, SP, Angels
Heaney has been on the IL all season because of an elbow issue, but there’s finally a dim light at the end of the tunnel. He’ll throw a bullpen session Wednesday, his first since the team shut him down just before Opening Day. Assuming that goes well, it will kick off a series of bullpen sessions and a rehab assignment that, without setbacks, would have him in the rotation sometime in the middle of May. If you have room for an IL stash on your team, Heaney should be one of your primary targets.
Ryan Pressly, RP, Astros
Pressly’s ownership rate is always going to do a poor job of reflecting how good he is because the community as a whole is still behind the curve on how to properly value relievers in the modern game. There’s admittedly a chance that he’s already owned in the vast majority of leagues where he has value, but we’re still going to mention him here until his ownership rate climbs at least a few more percentage points. Pressly has thrown 9 2/3 innings across nine appearances and hasn't allowed a run yet. He's sporting a 0.310 WHIP with 10 strikeouts and no walks.
Diego Castillo, RP, Rays
You can basically just copy and paste Pressly’s blurb and put it here, changing out the particulars. Castillo has a 2.08 ERA and 1.00 WHIP with 15 strikeouts against four walks in 13 innings this season.
Ty Buttrey, RP, Angels
Buttrey is another reliever in the Pressly/Castillo mold, but he may be getting an upgrade. Brad Ausmus said that Cody Allen will no longer close for the Angels, and while he didn’t name a permanent replacement, it’s clear that Buttrey is the team’s best reliever. Given Ausmsus’s old-school leanings, it’s more likely than not that Buttrey becomes the dedicated closer before long. He has a 0.75 ERA, 1.167 WHIP and 16 strikeouts against three walks in 12 innings this season.
Freddy Peralta, SP, Brewers
Peralta is on the IL with a shoulder injury, but all signs point to him making his return soon. He has thrown a couple of bullpen sessions without incident this week, confirming the team’s initial belief that he wouldn’t need to spend much time on the shelf. He struggled in his first four starts of the season but showed promise last year with a 4.25 ERA across 16 appearances (14 starts).