Fantasy Baseball Waiver Wire: Top 10 Pickups for Week 5
A new week, another batch of waiver-wire additions, just the way you like 'em: hot and fresh out of the oven.
From now until the end of the fantasy season, you'll find a rundown of the top player pickups right here every Monday as you face another week of lineup decisions and roster additions.
Some players mentioned last week—including Martin Perez, Justin Morneau, Nathan Eovaldi, Josh Beckett, Dillon Gee and Mark Melancon—are already owned in many leagues by now, but they remain quality pickups if they're still available.
In the interest of keeping the names new, though, let's avoid any repeats. Here are the top 10 waiver-wire pickups for Week 5.
All ownership percentages come from ESPN Fantasy Baseball. Players owned in more than 50 percent of leagues were not considered.
Matt Joyce, OF, Tampa Bay Rays (37.8 Percent Owned)
Scooter Gennett, 2B, Milwaukee Brewers (7.4 Percent Owned) (pictured)
Marcus Semien, 2B/3B, Chicago White Sox (6.8 Percent Owned)
Carlos Ruiz, C, Philadelphia Phillies (18.6 Percent Owned)
Tanner Roark, SP, Washington Nationals (4.0 Percent Owned)
Jonathon Niese, SP, New York Mets (5.1 Percent Owned)
Matt Harrison, SP, Texas Rangers (6.7 Percent Owned)
Dallas Keuchel, SP, Houston Astros (2.1 Percent Owned)
Robbie Ross, SP/RP, Texas Rangers (13.6 Percent Owned)
Collin McHugh, SP, Houston Astros (13.4 Percent Owned)
Because there's so much ninth-inning volatility this early in the season, the overlooked/new/replacement/interim/potential closers who are available in the majority of leagues are ranked in one location as follows:
Mark Melancon, RP, Pittsburgh Pirates (44.0 Percent Owned)
Matt Lindstrom, RP, Chicago White Sox (47.0 Percent Owned)
Joe Smith, RP, Los Angeles Angels (37.4 Percent Owned)
Kyle Farnsworth, RP, New York Mets (49.1 Percent Owned)
Luke Gregerson, RP, Oakland Athletics (32.2 Percent Owned)
Hector Rondon, RP, Chicago Cubs (5.6 Percent Owned)
Daisuke Matsuzaka, SP/RP, New York Mets (2.7 Percent Owned)
Pedro Strop, RP, Chicago Cubs (7.8 Percent Owned)
Chad Qualls, RP, Houston Astros (0.9 Percent Owned)
No. 10: Josmil Pinto, C, Minnesota Twins (3.5 Percent Owned)
One of the bigger breakout prospects of the past year, Josmil Pinto has had quite a start to his big league career so far. The 25-year-old catcher hit well during his September call-up last year (.342 BA, 10 R, 4 HR, 12 RBI in 83 PA), and when you combine that with his 2013 numbers (.230 BA, 12 R, 5 HR, 9 RBI in 79 PA), you get an overall line that looks like so: .292 BA, 22 R, 9 HR, 21 RBI in 162 PA over 40 games.
There are two reasons Pinto, who hits from the right side, isn't higher: One, he's a backstop, so his plate appearances already are limited by nature; and two, his playing time is further reduced because he's splitting duties with veteran Kurt Suzuki, who is off to a fine start himself (.305 BA, 19 RBI).
Still, Pinto has plenty of pop—watch the footage above for evidence—and he could take over the lion's share of starts behind the dish in Minnesota soon enough. For owners looking for a boost at catcher, especially in the power department, Pinto is a savvy add.
No. 9: Drew Hutchison, SP, Toronto Blue Jays (4.4 Percent Owned)
Now fully recovered after missing most of 2013 following Tommy John surgery, Drew Hutchison is back on the track that had him as one of the more underrated pitching prospects in baseball a couple of years ago.
Still only 23 years old, the right-hander debuted in April of 2012 and showed some flashes over his first 11 big league starts, at which point his ulnar collateral ligament failed him.
While he's not an overpowering arm, his fastball does get up to 95 (see video), and he generates all sorts of movement, cutting, sinking and running the ball to keep hitters off balance. While Hutchison isn't going to maintain his 11.4-strikeout rate, he has the stuff to post a K/9 in the range of 8.0 per nine, and if not for an awful second start (6 ER in 3.1 IP against the Yankees), his 3.46 ERA and 1.38 would look even better. Just be wary that his innings likely will be limited at some point.
No. 8: Bartolo Colon, SP, New York Mets (35.9 Percent Owned)
Yep, it's time to believe in Bartolo all over again. After a fantastic 2013, during which Colon kept being added and dropped despite ultimately posting 18 wins to go with a 2.65 ERA and 1.17 WHIP, the 40-year-old right-hander is still up to his old tricks.
Sure, his ERA sits at 4.50 and his WHIP at 1.28, but that's almost entirely due to one rough outing—nine earned on 11 hits in 5.0 innings against the hot-hitting Angels two weeks ago.
Otherwise, Colon has been his usual quality-start self, and as a bonus, now that he's in the NL for the first time in his career, his strikeout rate has spiked to 7.3 per nine, up from last year's 5.5, which was the lone pockmark on his 2013 digits.
No. 7: Corey Kluber, SP, Cleveland Indians (11.2 Percent Owned)
Owning Corey Kluber can be frustrating, because it seems like you're never quite sure whether he's about to get blown up, like he did in his first start of the year, or throw a gem, like he did with a complete-game shutout and 11 K's against the Royals last time out.
That's because Kluber, 28, has proven to be a solid-strikeout, low-walk right-hander (8.2 K/9, 2.2 BB/9 career) who also is prone to giving up hits (9.9 per nine career) and homers (0.9 per nine career).
The advice, then, is that if you're going to roster him at all, you might as well just roll with him. It might not always be pretty, but in the end, the numbers should be there. And if you try to play the guessing game too much, you'll miss out on the fun and get more of the frustrating.
No. 6: Dayan Viciedo, OF, Chicago White Sox (33.7 Percent Owned)
Prior to last season, Dayan Viciedo was a popular sleeper seeing as he was coming off a 25-homer, 78-RBI 2012 campaign in his first full season in the majors. Alas, the stout righty slugger—known as Tank on the South Side—never got untracked, and his totals in those two categories dipped to 14 and 56, respectively.
The thing is, the 25-year-old's rate stats weren't any different in 2013 (.731 OPS compared to .744 in '12), he just missed some time with injury (23 fewer games) and got lost in what was the worst offense in the AL last year.
While the season-ending injury to Avisail Garcia was a tough blow for the White Sox, it has given Viciedo, whose role was up in the air coming into 2014, a new lease, and he's running with it so far. Since Garcia went down on April 9, Viciedo is hitting .386 (22-for-57) with eight runs, seven RBI and eight extra-base hits (one homer) over 15 games. And oh yeah, he's leading the AL with a .367 batting average overall.
No. 5: Jason Hammel, SP, Chicago Cubs (37.8 Percent Owned)
Jason Hammel just couldn't get or stay healthy last season, which was a shame, because he was pretty good in 2012, when the righty posted a 3.43 ERA, 1.24 WHIP and 8.4 K/9 as an Oriole. Of course, even that performance came in an injury-shortened campaign (118.0 IP). In fact, after three straight 170-inning seasons from 2009 through 2011, Hammel hurled barely 250 frames across 2012-2013.
Picked up by the Cubs in a shrewd under-the-radar offseason move, the 31-year-old looks good—and healthy. He showed as much Sunday while throwing seven shutout innings with seven whiffs against just five baserunners in beating the Brewers, the team with baseball's best record.
In all, Hammel has gone 5-for-5 on quality starts and sports a 2.08 ERA and 0.69 WHIP. Might as well pick him up and use him while he's active.
No. 4: Adam Dunn, 1B, Chicago White Sox (21.3 Percent Owned)
Look, you don't have to like owning Adam Dunn, but if you need power, you really should at least have him on your roster. The 34-year-old is what he is and isn't going to change, but a perennial 30-homer slugger can be a useful reserve and a more-than-useful starter when he's hitting well. Which is what Dunn's been doing at the start of the season.
The lefty masher already has smacked five homers while driving in and scoring 11 runs apiece—and he's actually hitting .265 (18-for-68) so far while OPSing over .900. Hey, you might drop him in a week when he cools off, but 30 homers is still 30 homers.
Oh, and before you scoff for the second time while reading this, realize that the White Sox currently have the highest-scoring offense in MLB, and Dunn continues to hit in the middle of that lineup.
No. 3: Jhonny Peralta, SS, St. Louis Cardinals (36.2 Percent Owned)
Jhonny Peralta might be hitting under .200—to be exact, he's at .195 on the year—but at least the hits he's getting are doing damage. Consider this: Of his 16 knocks in 82 at-bats, 11 of them have gone for extra bases, with five doubles and six homers. Heck, the 31-year-old is leading all shortstops in the latter number after cranking two more out Sunday. Such a player needs to be owned.
Besides, do you really think Peralta—like the rest of the slumping Cardinals lineup—is going to continue to post such a poor average all season long? Despite walking at a career-high 11.8 percent of his plate appearances, the guy has a dreadfully unlucky .167 BABIP. In other words: No.
No. 2: Gregory Polanco, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates (3.7 Percent Owned)
Unless you're the kind of owner who pays no attention to prospects whatsoever, you've heard of Gregory Polanco by now. You know, the Pirates' sinewy strong 22-year-old top prospect with the sweet lefty swing that inspires poetry—and has been killing baseballs at Triple-A.
To that last point, Polanco is hitting .402/.458/.655 in his first real taste of the minor leagues' highest level. He's also scored 20 runs, tallied 23 RBI and swiped four bases in 22 games. In the middle of a 2-8 stretch that has dropped the club to 10-16 overall, Pittsburgh is floundering, and its offense has been the main culprit—the Pirates rank in the bottom six in average, on-base percentage and slugging.
How much longer can the franchise really afford to hold Polanco down? While it's possible we won't see him until the Super Two deadline passes in June, per Paul Zeise of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, fantasy owners should be adding Polanco sooner than later—like, now—in the hopes that he gets the call in May. Otherwise, the Pirates might be risking all the good will they gathered by having a winning campaign and reaching the postseason for the first time in 21 years last season.
No. 1: Garrett Richards, SP, Los Angeles Angels (43.1 Percent Owned)
OK, folks, we're going to hit on Garrett Richards for the second time this season already in this space, because apparently enough of you didn't listen when he was covered initially two weeks ago. Or maybe you did, but then you chose to treat the power-armed 25-year-old as a streaming starter, rather than as one to keep around going forward.
Richards was filthy yet again Sunday night in consistently hitting the mid-to-upper-90s heat—and with crazy movement—while making the Yankees look foolish and take some ugly swings. (Seriously, click the play button on the highlight above and see for yourself.) Richards ultimately wound up with a no-decision despite lowering his ERA to 2.53 and WHIP to 1.00 and, yes, out-pitching Masahiro Tanaka.
Is Richards going to have some growing pains along the way? Sure, that's what happens when you walk 16 in 32.0 innings so far, but Richards also has limited the damage by surrendering the same number of hits (16) and allowing but one home run.
Simply put, this is the kind of electric, high-upside, lightning-in-a-bottle type of arm that owners need to let fail or flourish while on a fantasy roster. The risk is real, but so, too, could be the reward.
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