Hunter Pence did not return from the IL when first eligible on Thursday, but he will be back soon from a hamstring injury that will ultimately cost him a couple of weeks. At that point, the Rangers will have a decision to make. They have far too many players deserving of regular playing time to accommodate all of them in the everyday lineup. That’s a great problem for manager Chris Woodward, but not for fantasy managers hoping that their guy gets plenty of opportunity. Someone deserving of regular playing time is going to get squeezed. That’s just the reality of the situation. Here’s to hoping it isn’t Willie Calhoun.
Calhoun has played just 15 games in the majors this season. He started the year at Triple-A Nashville, where he hit .302/.417/.540 with eight homers and 26 RBI before earning a promotion in mid-May. After one week with the big league club, he hit the IL with a strained quad. Since returning on June 17, he has gone 10-for-35 with two homers in 38 plate appearances. He has done most of that damage in the very recent term, going 6-for-16 with a homer in his last four games.
Calhoun has been one of the team’s top prospects for the last few seasons, but things haven’t quite clicked for him at the MLB level. He got 145 plate appearances in the majors over the previous two seasons, hitting .233/.283/.338 with three homers and 31 strikeouts against eight walks. Still, whenever he’d go back to Triple-A, he’d show that he had nothing left to prove in the minors. Calhoun’s a career .298/.361/.510 hitter at the Triple-A level and, at 24 years old, his place is in the majors. There’s some risk of him earning a Quadruple-A tag, but the Rangers owe it to him and themselves to find out.
Getting Calhoun enough playing time will be tricky. Pence is the midst of a storybook bounceback season—he is the starting DH for the American League in the All-Star Game—and he’ll play mostly every day once he returns. Joey Gallo and Nomar Mazara are lineup fixtures, and Shin-soo Choo should be, as well. That would seem to leave Calhoun as the odd man out, but there could be another way to get him at-bats. He came up as a second baseman and only moved to the outfield when he was blocked by Rougned Odor. Odor, however, is having a terrible season, hitting .178/.253/.353 in 266 plate appearances. The Rangers can get creative here, finding enough time for Calhoun by piecing together playing time in the outfield, and at DH and second base. There’s undoubtedly some risk here, but the potential reward warrants giving Calhoun a Waive Hello this weekend.
With that, let’s find some other players to Waive Hello to in this look at the waiver wire.
All players have ownership rates of 40% or lower in at least two of Yahoo, ESPN or CBS leagues.
Bryan Reynolds, OF, Pirates
We’re still doing this, huh? Reynolds returned to Pittsburgh’s lineup Thursday after missing two games with a shin injury. The 24-year-old is hitting .354/.413/.552 with six homers and 28 RBI in 213 plate appearances, yet is still available in more than 60% of leagues across the fantasy landscape. How is this possible? Forget about the fact that you may not have heard of him before the season started and buy into what he has done on the field.
Avisaíl Garcia, OF, Rays
Garcia represents cheap, easy value, even at fantasy baseball’s deepest position. He’s hitting .277/.333/.450 with 11 homers, eight steals and 35 RBI in 303 plate appearances, and is a fixture of Tampa Bay’s lineup. He’s mired in a bit of a slump, going 8-for-48 in his last 12 games, but the fact that Kevin Cash hasn’t soured on him should show just how secure his playing time is.
Yandy Diaz, 1B/3B, Rays
The Rays activated Diaz from the IL after he missed a little more than a week with a hamstring strain. He had a rough day in his first game back, going 0-for-7 in an 18-inning win over the Twins, but he did slot right back into the cleanup spot in the Rays’ order. The 27-year-old is slashing .277/.352/.487 with 11 homers, 12 doubles and 32 RBI in 256 plate appearances this season.
Cavan Biggio, 2B/OF, Blue Jays
Biggio’s on a five-game hitting streak, during which he has gone 8-for-21 with a pair of doubles and three RBI. We talked him up in this week’s Stock Ticker, pointing out that he’s doing a lot of things really well, even if that isn’t showing up in the batting average department. Just another knock against batting average, right? Biggio has the counting-stat upside to be a special fantasy player, and the plate discipline to put up a gaudy OBP.
Christian Walker, 1B, Diamondbacks
Walker is back in the good graces of the fantasy community, hitting .304/.366/.543 with six homers and 17 RBI over the last month. He has been even better of late, going 11-for-33 with two homers and eight RBI in his last 35 plate appearances. That translates to a slash line of .333/.371/.576. Jake Lamb did return on Wednesday, but Walker should still see the majority of the starts at first base. The Diamondbacks can also play Lamb at third, and move Eduardo Escobar to second and Ketel Marte to center.
Alex Verdugo, OF, Dodgers
Verdugo is making the most of his everyday gig with the Dodgers, hitting .302/.351/.492 with eight homers, 18 doubles, four steals and 34 RBI in 268 plate appearances. With Corey Seager out, he’s spending most of his time hitting in the top-third of the order. Seager is on track to return right around the All-Star break, but Verdugo has value no matter where he’s hitting in the Dodgers’ loaded lineup.
Jarrod Dyson, OF, Diamondbacks
Dyson is another favorite of the SI.com Waive Hello, spending more time in this space than any other play this season. The argument for him is simple. He has 19 steals and a .343 OBP, and is the default leadoff man for a team ranked ninth in runs per game. That’s the type of player who should be owned in every competitive fantasy league.
Todd Frazier, 3B, Mets
There’s nothing exciting about Frazier, but the bottom line is that he’s producing. He has been excellent for a month running now, hitting .295/.397/.545 with eight homers and 24 RBI since May 25. He’s locked in as the Mets everyday third baseman, typically hitting in the heart of the order. The good times may eventually run out, but he’s worthy of an add given what he has shown us over the last month.
Joe Musgrove, SP, Pirates
Musgrove hit a lot of waiver wires after a four-start run in which he amassed 7.71 ERA and and 1.76 WHIP in 23 1/3 innings. He's made two starts since then, allowing one run while striking out 14 batters in 13 innings against the Padres and Astros, two of the most dangerous offenses in the league. Musgrove isn't trustworthy in every spot, but he should still be owned in most leagues.
Jesse Chavez, SP/RP, Rangers
Chavez made his first real start of the season on Tuesday, tossing 6 1/3 shutout innings against the Tigers, striking out seven while allowing five hits and walking none. He was solid as a reliever for the Rangers this season, pitching to a 3.18 ERA and 1.28 WHIP with 41 strikeouts in 45 1/3 innings out of the pen, and as a sometime opener before Tuesday’s start. He’s worth a shot, though it might just be in the short term.
Liam Hendriks, SP/RP, A’s
With Blake Treinen out for the foreseeable future, Hendriks will serve as the A’s closer. He has been the team’s best reliever all year, amassing a 1.42 ERA, 1.08 WHIP and 54 strikeouts against 17 walks in 44 1/3 innings. He has converted both of his save opportunities since taking over for Treinen.
Aníbal Sanchez, SP, Nationals
Sanchez has been quietly effective over his last five starts, pitching to a 2.45 ERA and 0.85 WHIP with 24 strikeouts against four walks in 29 1/3 innings. He’s not someone you’ll want to trust in every trip to the mound, but he’s showing again that he can be a valuable fantasy pitcher in the right spots. Remember, he had a 2.83 ERA, 1.08 WHIP and 135 strikeouts across 136 2/3 innings last season.
Ty Buttrey, RP, Angels
Brandon Workman, RP, Red Sox
Sam Gaviglio, SP/RP, Blue Jays
Adam Ottavino, RP, Yankees
Amir Garrett, RP, Reds
Tommy Kahnle, RP, Yankees
Scott Oberg, RP, Rockies
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, Kahnle and Oberg all rack up gaudy rates and strikeout numbers over a significant enough number of innings to generate fantasy value as setup men.