Hunter Pence's resurgence with the Rangers makes him a smart pickup for fantasy owners.

By Michael Shapiro
May 24, 2019

Welcome back to Waive Hello, our weekly column on players you should be adding from the waiver wire.

It’s easy to root for Hunter Pence. The 36-year-old outfielder often looks pulled right from the Sandlot, wielding a funky batting stance and reckless abandon when patrolling the outfield. Pence has been in our life for 13 years, three All-Star games and two World Series. He’s been a fan favorite with each of his three franchises before Texas.

Rooting for Pence is easy, but keeping him on a fantasy roster has been all-but-impossible from 2015-18. Pence battled the injury bug and a power outage in each of the last four years, wilting away in San Francisco as the Giants cratered down the NL West hierarchy. Pence posted a .590 OPS in 97 games last season, with the end of his career looming after a dismal 2018. We didn’t know if we’d ever see him in uniform again. The Rangers took a chance on Pence with a minor-league deal in February, and the move paid dividends quickly.

Pence has a career-best 1.015 OPS in 121 plate appearances with 10 home runs and 31 RBI. He’s one of just three American League players currently in the .300-10-30 club as of Friday, joined by Astros sluggers George Springer and Michael Brantley. Pence has turned back the clock to the start of the decade as Texas sits one game above .500. The Rangers would be closer to the AL West cellar without him.

With that, let’s get to the rest of this week’s Waiver Wire:

Hitters

Josh Reddick, OF, Astros

Most Astros hitters warrant roster consideration even with a moderate share of at-bats due to Houston’s elite lineup. The Springer, Altuve, Bregman, Brantley, Correa quintet is a 21st-century murderer’s row, and the rest of the Astros' bats have thus far reaped the rewards. Robinson Chirinos boasts an .872 OPS and Jake Marisnick has five homers in less than 100 plate appearances. This week’s breakout belongs to Reddick, who is zooming toward fantasy relevance as June approaches.

The former A’s Gold Glove winner is slashing an impressive .331/.386/.459 in 2019 with 52 hits in 44 games. Reddick is feasting with runners on base and driving home Houston’s signature star. Pencil Reddick in as a quality fantasy asset as long as he continues to earn significant playing time.

Jonathan Lucroy, C, Angels

Catcher is often a fantasy wasteland aside from a few power bats, and 2019 is no different. Just four catchers have 30-plus RBI and just two have double-digit homers. So when shopping the waiver wire, even passable production is desired. Lucroy may be worth a look.

The 32-year-old is currently registering his best offensive season since 2016, an All-Star campaign with the Brewers. He’s been particularly hot in May, smacking four home runs en route to a .609 slugging and .962 OPS. He’s a professional hitter with a low career strikeout rate; he won’t rack up negative point totals. Los Angeles’s offense is middling aside from Mike Trout, but Lucroy remains a viable fantasy option and a potential waiver wire gem.

Keston Hiura, 2B, Brewers

We’ve seen plenty of impressive efforts from rookies in 2019. Nick Senzel is already a fixture atop the Reds lineup and Vlad Jr. appears to be finding his groove. Add in Fernando Tatis Jr., Michael Chavis and Mike Soroka among others, and the 2019 class could be one of the most productive in recent memory.

It may be time to add Keston Hiura to the list. The Brewers’ 5’11” second baseman made his big-league debut on May 14 and blasted his first career homer on May 19. His second dinger came on Wednesday night against Cincinnati, outdueling Senzel in a 11-9 Brewers victory. Hiura has seven hits in his last 21 at-bats, looking increasingly comfortable against major league pitching. It would be wise to snag Milwaukee’s top prospect sooner than later.

Gio Urshela, 3B, Yankees

It’s encouraged to scoop up any Yankee with sizable playing time as New York rolls to the top of the AL East. Urshela has been key to the Yankees’ success as they battle a rash of injuries, slashing .336/.387/.478 in 124 plate appearances. Only three Yankees have more hits and only Gleyber Torres has more doubles. New York has won eight of its last ten, with eight RBI and one game-winning hit from Urshela. Life is good in the Bronx.

Urshela is in theory prone to a quick departure out of the Yankees' lineup, but for now, New York’s injured list continues to cooperate. Miguel Andujar is out for the season and Didi Gregorius’s return is still likely a couple weeks away. Urshela can be a quality waiver wire pickup on a short-term basis, racking up the points as long as he stays on the diamond.

Pitchers

Aaron Sanchez, SP, Blue Jays

The talent isn’t really in question with Sanchez. The 26-year-old starter won the AL ERA title while posting a 15–2 record in 2016, fanning 161 batters in 192 innings. His lone All-Star campaign followed a promising sophomore season in 2015, where Sanchez finished the year with a 3.22 ERA in 11 starts. As Toronto turned to a rebuild in 2017 and 2018, Sanchez looked to be a foundational piece.

Toronto’s plan for Sanchez went awry each of the last two seasons. The 2010 first-round pick threw just 141 combined innings in 2017 and 2018 with a 4.72 ERA, adding a ghastly 1.60 WHIP with over a homer allowed per inning. Owners who gave Sanchez the benefit of the doubt were burnt, and Sanchez largely fell off the fantasy radar entering 2019.

There may be reason to revisit Sanchez now. Aside from blister issues on May 19, Sanchez has gone six-plus innings in each of his last three starts, striking out 22 batters in the process. An improving Toronto lineup (thanks, Vlad Jr.) could net Sanchez his first win since April 27 in his next trip to the mound. If Sanchez’s health remains steady, so should his fantasy value.

Touki Toussaint, RP, Braves

Adding Atlanta’s latest young arm is a bit of a risky bet, but the rewards of snagging Toussaint early could be sizable. The 22-year-old recently entered the Braves' unsteady bullpen on May 16, logging a trio of relief appearances since. Atlanta has already tried Luke Jackson and Sean Newcomb in the closer role, and Toussaint has the talent to stick in the eighth inning or potentially seize the closer competition. He entered 2019 as Atlanta’s No. 5 prospect, sporting a wicked curveball as a quality out pitch. Command issues could send Toussaint back to the minors–Craig Kimbrel could, too. But keep an eye on Atlanta’s new reliever as a potential high-leverage piece to round out a roster.

Ryan Pressly, RP, Astors

If you’re searching for reliever help, how about a guy with 40 straight shutout appearances? Houston’s Ryan Pressly is currently mowing down opponents at a historic rate, highlighted by an incredible 22:0 strikeout to walk ratio. For teams frustrated with their closers, Pressly is an appealing option.

It’s a shame Pressly won’t get to enter the save column for the considerable future. Roberto Osuna has 12 saves and a 0.42 ERA, firmly entrenched as Houston’s go-to-guy in the ninth. It will likely take a Ken Giles-level implosion to remove Osuna from his role, and the 2017 All-Star isn’t trending anywhere near that direction. Yet as Houston racks up the wins, Pressly’s point totals should climb even outside of the ninth inning.

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