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Back in the Bigs, Nick Pivetta Needs to Be Picked up in Fantasy Leagues

The players fantasy managers should be targeting on the waiver wire.

Allow me to take you back to a place in time where Virginia wasn’t the reigning champion of college basketball, where Kyler Murray wasn’t an Arizona Cardinal and where Cody Bellinger wasn’t a wrecker of souls. Are you there? OK, great.

Nick Pivetta had a 27.1% strikeout rate last year, good for 13th in the majors, which had him ahead of Aaron Nola, Corey Kluber, Mike Clevinger and Jose Berrios. Inconsistency limited him to 164 innings and he completed six innings in just 11 of his 32 starts. Given what he has shown to this point of his career, there’s good reason to bet on enough growth in his age-26 season, which doubles as his third full year in the league, to get him to 190 innings this season. He fell just short of the 200-strikeout mark last season, fanning 188 batters. If he throws 190-plus innings and maintains a 27% strikeout rate, he’ll cruise past 200 strikeouts this year.

Did I write the above paragraph in March? Yes. Did Pivetta make me look foolish by putting up an 8.35 ERA and 2.13 WHIP before being sent back to the minors to right the ship? He did. Now that he’s back in the majors, am I backing off the spirit of the prediction above? Absolutely not. Especially after what he has done since returning to the majors.

Pivetta surrendered three runs to the Cardinals in his first inning after getting the call back to the Phillies. Since then, he has tossed 10 shutout innings, striking out 15 batters while walking just two. He tossed a gem in his last start, holding the mighty Dodgers scoreless across six innings, allowing three hits and no walks to go with nine strikeouts. If dominating one of the three or four best offenses in the league isn’t reason enough to believe in a pitcher who came into this year with massive upside, I don’t know what is. I’ve already bought back into Pivetta everywhere I can, and I suggest you do the same.

Now let’s just hope he doesn’t get rocked by the Reds on Saturday. And with that, let’s find some other players to Waive Hello to in this week’s look at the waiver wire.

All players have ownership rates of 40% or lower in at least two of Yahoo, ESPN or CBS leagues.

Jorge Alfaro, C, Marlins

Alfaro is on a tear over his last 15 games going 20-for-57 with four homers and 15 RBI in 60 plate appearances. That translates to a .351/.383/.632 slash line. Alfaro is now hitting .275/.328/.461 with nine homers and 25 RBI on the season, and is the 10th-ranked catcher in standard 5x5 leagues.

Travis Shaw, 1B/2B/3B, Brewers

That the Brewers sent Keston Hiura back to the minors upon activating Shaw is the surest sign that the latter is going to get every opportunity to play his way into Craig Counsell’s good graces yet again. That fact on its own makes him a worthy pickup in all fantasy formats. Since returning from the IL, Shaw is 2-for-7 with a double and a walk in eight plate appearances.

Carlos Gonzalez, OF, Cubs

Gonzalez has started three games for the Cubs since joining the team earlier this week, going 2-for-9 with a double, two walks and two RBI. He was a total bust with Cleveland to start the year, but he hit .276/.329/.467 with 16 homers, 32 doubles and 64 RBI in 504 plate appearances with the Rockies a season ago.

Bryan Reynolds, OF, Pirates

Lost amid Josh Bell’s breakout season, Reynolds is quietly putting together an impressive rookie year. The 24-year-old is hitting .346/.404/.549 with five homers, 10 doubles and 18 RBI in 146 plate appearances. He earned a quick promotion from Triple-A Indianapolis, where he hit .367/.446/.735 in 57 plate appearances before joining the Pirates. That was his first taste of professional ball higher than the Double-A level, but he always displayed a strong hit tool, carrying a career minor league slash line of .312/.373/.472. There’s more than enough here to believe in Reynolds in all fantasy formats.

Cavan Biggio, 2B, Blue Jays

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Biggio is just 6-for-28 in his first 35 MLB plate appearances, but he has drawn seven walks against 10 strikeouts, helping him to a .371 OBP. What’s more, he has one homer and two steals, showing off some counting-stat potential. He has started eight of Toronto’s 11 games since getting the call, so there’s no reason to be concerned about his playing time, or him getting Keston Hiura’d.

Garrett Cooper, OF, Marlins

Cooper is one of the hottest hitters in baseball over the last two-plus weeks, going 19-for-76 with five homers and 16 RBI in 88 plate appearances. That comes out to a slash line of .329/.409/.539, making him the No. 13 hitter in standard 5x5 fantasy leagues over the last 14 days. He’s never had much of a shot in the majors and is in his age-28 season, which suggests he’s merely in midst of a hot streak and not breaking out, but he’s still a player to target on the wire in most fantasy leagues.

Kevin Kiermaier, OF, Rays

Kiermaier is doing his usual thing this season, providing plenty of speed and a little bit of power while exacting a toll on his fantasy owners’ rates. If you can live with the bit he’ll take out of your batting average and OBP, his counting stats make for a nice addition. The 29-year-old has six homers and 10 steals in 212 plate appearances this season.

Brandon Belt, 1B/OF, Giants

Belt is providing boring value this season, hitting .246/.360/.481 with nine homers, 13 doubles, two steals and 27 RBI in 222 plate appearances. He plays every day, typically hits fourth, and brings multi-position eligibility to the table. It isn’t flashy, but it should land him on a team in most fantasy leagues.

Jarrod Dyson, OF, Diamondbacks

Dyson continues to get on base at a high clip, carrying a .354 OBP into play Friday. So long as he’s doing that, he can make the most of his blazing speed, which he has done to the tune of 12 steals this year. He’s in a bit of a slump, hitting .213/.275/.298 over his last 51 plate appearances, and he hasn’t stolen a base since May 17, but there’s still more than enough here to give him a shot in all fantasy formats

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Lance Lynn, SP, Rangers

Lynn has been excellent in his last five starts, pitching to a 2.97 ERA and 1.08 WHIP with 41 strikeouts against six walks in 33 1/3 innings. He’s been quietly effective for most of the year, with a couple of terrible starts in April, in which he allowed 15 runs in nine innings against the Cubs and A’s, largely responsible for his 4.50 ERA and 1.35 WHIP. He takes the ball against the A’s again on Friday, but he’ll be worth looking into on the wire this weekend, no matter what he does in that outing.

Ty Buttrey, RP, Angels
Brandon Workman, RP, Red Sox
Sam Gaviglio, SP/RP, Blue Jays
Adam Ottavino, RP, Yankee
Amir Garrett, RP, Reds
Tommy Kahnle, RP, Yankees

As always, we close out the Waive Hello with a group of non-closer relievers worthy of attention in all fantasy leagues, even if they don’t save another game all season. Buttrey, Workman, Gaviglio, Ottavino, Garrett and Kahnle all rack up gaudy rates and strikeout numbers over a significant enough number of innings to generate fantasy value as setup men.