Fantasy Baseball Waiver Wire: Top 10 All-Star Break Pickups for Second Half
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 waiver-wire pickups right here every Monday as you get set to face another week of lineup decisions and roster additions.
This time, with the All-Star break upon us, the recommendations are more focused on the remainder of the season than usual. Typically, this column highlights hot hitters and promising pitchers with one eye on now and another on then. But this week, there's a longer-term outlook as the season heads into the second half.
Some players mentioned last week—including Oscar Taveras, Jake McGee, Santiago Casilla, Dillon Gee, C.J. Cron and Carlos Martinez—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 the second half of 2014.
Prospects to Keep in Mind
Although most big-name prospects are in the majors at this point in the season, there's still a batch of youngsters in the minors who would be immediate fantasy adds once (or if) promoted—if not before, as speculative stashes. Here they are, ranked in order of expected fantasy impact based on talent and, especially, proximity to the majors:
Taijuan Walker, SP, Seattle Mariners (25.9 Percent Owned)
James Paxton, SP, Seattle Mariners (4.7 Percent Owned)
Andrew Heaney, SP, Miami Marlins (4.6 Percent Owned)
Joc Pederson, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers (0.1 Percent Owned)
Alex Meyer, SP, Minnesota Twins (0.0 Percent Owned)
Archie Bradley, SP, Arizona Diamondbacks (0.8 Percent Owned)
Alexander Guerrero, 2B, Los Angeles Dodgers (1.9 Percent Owned)
Francisco Lindor, SS, Cleveland Indians (0.0 Percent Owned)
Javier Baez, SS, Chicago Cubs (1.0 Percent Owned)
Kris Bryant, 3B, Chicago Cubs (0.2 Percent Owned)
Tanner Roark, SP/RP, Washington Nationals (45.1 Percent Owned)
Wade Miley, SP, SP, Arizona Diamondbacks (16.0 Percent Owned)
Trevor Bauer, SP, Cleveland Indians (4.3 Percent Owned)
Nate Eovaldi, SP, Miami Marlins (21.0 Percent Owned)
Dexter Fowler, OF, Houston Astros (22.6 Percent Owned)*
Shane Victorino, OF, Boston Red Sox (37.1 Percent Owned)*
Adam Lind, 1B, Toronto Blue Jays (41.8 Percent Owned)
Wil Myers, OF, Tampa Bay Rays(38.6 Percent Owned)*
Michael Cuddyer, OF, Colorado Rockies (37.3 Percent Owned)*
Jimmy Nelson, SP, Milwaukee Brewers (15.5 Percent Owned)
Rubby De La Rosa, SP/RP, Boston Red Sox (1.2 Percent Owned)
*Currently on the disabled list but worth keeping tabs on as second-half return nears.
Because there's so much ninth-inning volatility—and potentially, trades coming between now and July 31 that will alter ninth-inning roles—the new/overlooked/replacement/interim/potential closers who are available in the majority of leagues are ranked on this slide as follows:
- Jenrry Mejia, SP/RP, New York Mets (45.2 Percent Owned)
- Chad Qualls, RP, Houston Astros (49.3 Percent Owned)
- Dellin Betances, RP, New York Yankees (49.1 Percent Owned)
- Joaquin Benoit, RP, San Diego Padres (34.6 Percent Owned)
- Jason Grilli, RP, Los Angeles Angels (44.8 Percent Owned)
- Grant Balfour, RP, Tampa Bay Rays (44.8 Percent Owned)
- Neil Ramirez, RP, Chicago Cubs (8.5 Percent Owned)
- Brad Ziegler, RP, Arizona Diamondbacks (3.0 Percent Owned)
- Neftali Feliz, RP, Texas Rangers (9.4 Percent Owned)
- A.J. Ramos, RP, Miami Marlins (0.3 Percent Owned)
- Joba Chamberlain, RP, Detroit Tigers (0.5 Percent Owned)
- Kevin Jepsen, RP, Los Angeles Angels (0.3 Percent Owned)
- Jean Machi, RP, San Francisco Giants (5.0 Percent Owned)
- Daniel Webb, RP, Chicago White Sox (0.0 Percent Owned)
- Jake Petricka, RP, Chicago White Sox (15.3 Percent Owned)
- Zach Putnam, RP, Chicago White Sox (1.8 Percent Owned)
- Javy Guerra, RP, Chicago White Sox (0.2 Percent Owned)
- Jeurys Familia, RP, New York Mets (0.1 Percent Owned)
- Darren O'Day, RP, Baltimore Orioles (3.4 Percent Owned)
- Bryan Shaw, RP, Cleveland Indians (1.6 Percent Owned)
- John Axford, RP, Cleveland Indians (33.8 Percent Owned)
- Tommy Hunter, RP, Baltimore Orioles (33.9 Percent Owned)
- Ken Giles, RP, Philadelphia Phillies (0.8 Percent Owned)
- Adam Ottavino, RP, Colorado Rockies (0.0 Percent Owned)
- Rex Brothers, RP, Colorado Rockies (21.2 Percent Owned)
- Josh Fields, RP, Houston Astros (0.5 Percent Owned)
- Ernesto Frieri, RP, Pittsburgh Pirates (30.9 Percent Owned)
- Juan Carlos Oviedo, RP, Tampa Bay Rays (0.1 Percent Owned)
- Vic Black, RP, New York Mets (0.0 Percent Owned)
No. 10: Mookie Betts, OF, Boston Red Sox (7.6 Percent Owned)
If you really want to get into Mookie Betts, may we suggest reading the write-up from this very space two weeks ago, when the top prospect was pumped up as the No. 3 add.
Suffice it to say this time around that the 21-year-old top prospect needs more love after owners added him for his debut only to drop him en masse when he didn't meet their enormous expectations immediately.
Betts' place on the Boston Red Sox's 25-man roster is a bit tenuous—especially if the ghost of Shane Victorino can ever make it back—but he has the skills to stick if given the chance.
He possesses enough pop that he won't be a non-factor in the homer category—he already has one in just 37 plate appearances—but it's Betts' wheels (on display above) that should make him worth using as a fantasy fill-in at outfield and second base or middle infield (if eligible).
No. 9: Kolten Wong, 2B, St. Louis Cardinals (38.9 Percent Owned)
Kolten Wong's rookie season hasn't been without interruptions. First, there was the early demotion back to Triple-A in late April after he struggled out of the gate. More recently, the 23-year-old was sidelined for 14 games with a shoulder injury.
Since returning July 6, however, here are Wong's stats: 9-for-28 (.321), eight runs, five homers, eight RBI and three steals.
While the power spike is unexpected—and unlikely to continue—Wong does put the bat on the ball a lot (11.3 percent strikeout rate) and has used his baserunning savvy to swipe 12 bases in his limited action.
Here's betting the second half goes a lot more smoothly for Wong, who can be a fine backup at second or middle infield in most fantasy formats.
No. 8: Jon Singleton, 1B, Houston Astros (13.9 Percent Owned)
As already discussed with Kolten Wong earlier in the program, just about every rookie goes through some sort of adjustment period when transitioning to the majors. Jon Singleton is in the middle of his right now.
The highly regarded 22-year-old first-year player began his big league career with a bang by homering for his first-ever hit. But at the moment, his average has plummeted to .184, and he's whiffed in a ghastly 36.7 percent of his trips to the plate.
Look, you don't want to snatch up Singleton if you need batting average help—or if you can't afford to roster a player who might not hit much north of .200—but the power has been there, as he's homered six times and driven in 21 in his first 38 games.
This is the kind of youngster who will run hot and cold, which makes him a quality add-and-stash for owners with some bench space to spare. If so, they'll enjoy plugging Singleton in when he starts figuring things out.
No. 7: Clay Buchholz, SP, Boston Red Sox (25.6 Percent Owned)
Sometimes, owners ignore Sunday games because, hey, it's the middle of the summer, you've had a long week and you're preparing for the start of another one. So it's easy to miss out on big performances that might make you think about grabbing a player or two come Monday morning.
Like the performance Clay Buchholz just had.
The soon-to-be 30-year-old looked fantastic in throwing a complete-game shutout with a career-best 12 strikeouts Sunday (highlights above). Granted, it came against the Houston Astros, so the outing probably should be graded on a curve, but what's important is that Buchholz finally appears healthy after falling apart last year and battling through a knee injury that cost him a month this season.
Over his four starts since coming back, Buchholz has allowed just nine runs on 20 hits in 29.2 innings to go with a that's-more-like-it 23-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
Is he going to replicate his first-half run from a season ago? Unlikely, but if you're in a gambling mood, Buchholz could go from fantasy scrap-heaper to free-agent keeper.
No. 6: Jake Odorizzi, SP, Tampa Bay Rays (12.8 Percent Owned)
Whether because Jake Odorizzi is a rookie or because he happens to pitch for a team that has been one of the biggest disappointments in baseball over the first half, owners have been slow to act. But minus a few misfires, the 24-year-old has been much better than his ownership percentage would indicate.
Since a rough April, Odorizzi is sporting a 3.14 ERA, 1.19 WHIP and a 94:27 K:BB over 77.1 innings (14 starts).
Since his last poor showing, back on May 31, Odorizzi has been even better with a 2.79 ERA, 1.12 WHIP and a 53:14 K:BB over 48.1 frames (eight starts).
Here's a former solid prospect who is having success in his first real shot at the majors and who is capable of helping in at least three fantasy categories (ERA, WHIP, K). And despite all that—as well as the fact that he was recommended as the No. 2 pickup in late June—Odorizzi is probably sitting on the waiver wire in your league, isn't he?
No. 5: Marcus Stroman, SP/RP, Toronto Blue Jays (12.0 Percent Owned)
Prior to his most recent outing, Marcus Stroman was throwing just about as well as any rookie over the past month or so. And while surrendering five earned on eight hits in only 3.2 frames certainly didn't do any favors for owners who had him active, perhaps they shouldn't have—he was going up against the red-hot Los Angeles Angels, the highest-scoring offense in baseball.
If there was any redeeming aspect to that July 9 turn, it's that Stroman, 23, continued a trend of getting strikeouts without walking many, as he whiffed four against just a single free pass. That brought his strikeout-to-walk mark to 43-to-12 since he joined the Toronto Blue Jays rotation eight starts ago in late May. In his 47.0 innings in that time, Stroman has a 2.87 ERA, 1.13 WHIP and 8.2 K/9.
Even if those numbers fall off some as he stumbles on occasion, they should remain at least spot starter-worthy more often than not. Maybe just avoid any more Angels matchups.
No. 4: Jacob deGrom, SP, New York Mets (19.1 Percent Owned)
While on the topic of rookie pitchers on a roll, here's Jacob deGrom, who's as hot as any pitcher in baseball—not just first-year ones—over the past week.
On July 8 against the NL East division rival Atlanta Braves, the 26-year-old twirled the best start of his first dozen in the majors by throwing seven scoreless, tying a career high with 11 strikeouts and walking nary a batter for the first time.
deGrom then followed that up with his second straight win Sunday, this time beating the Miami Marlins by giving up only seven baserunners and one run with eight strikeouts in 7.0 more innings.
After his lone real non-fantasy-friendly effort so far on June 16, deGrom has put up a 1.65 ERA, 1.16 WHIP and 10.5 K9 over his last five starts (32.2 innings).
Surely, he won't be able to keep this type of run going, but deGrom needs to be rostered in all leagues and started until his performance says otherwise.
No. 3: Kevin Gausman, SP/RP, Baltimore Orioles (2.9 Percent Owned)
If you're tired of reading all about rookie pitchers—this is the fourth in a row!—then you're in luck. Kevin Gausman is the last, because that's where the best gets saved.
Upon being given more consistent turns in the Baltimore Orioles five-man, Gausman, 23, has gone from flashing to fulfilling the potential that made him the fourth overall draft pick in 2012.
Including Sunday night's rain-shortened win over the New York Yankees in which he allowed just one run on four hits in 5.0 frames, Gausman has a 2.36 ERA and 1.11 WHIP in 34.1 innings over six starts since Jun 7.
Although his 6.3 strikeouts-per-nine rate in that time might not seem all that impressive, his mid- to high-90s heat and put-away changeup are. Enjoy the footage up top as you imagine the swings and misses piling up over a second half in which Gausman could do for the playoff-racing O's—and fantasy owners—what Michael Wacha did for the St. Louis Cardinals last year.
No. 2: Danny Duffy, SP/RP, Kansas City Royals (18.0 Percent Owned)
A month ago, Danny Duffy got his due in this column as the No. 4 pickup at the time. Well, he's moved up in the waiver-wire world.
The 25-year-old has continued his breakout campaign by posting a 2.64 ERA, 1.08 WHIP and 7.3 K/9 in five starts since.
That has brought the southpaw's season-long stats as a starter to the following: 2.83 ERA, 1.11 WHIP and 6.6 K/9 over 13 cycles through the Kansas City Royals rotation, which he joined at the outset of May. And over his eight most recent starts, Duffy's strikeout rate has spiked to 7.8 per nine.
In other words, as great as he's been, there's potential for more. Fantasy owners should show Duffy at least as much love as they have for another young, hard-throwing lefty, Alex Wood of the Atlanta Braves, owned in 85.6 percent of ESPN leagues.
No. 1: Arismendy Alcantara, 2B/SS, Chicago Cubs (7.5 Percent Owned)
As a prospect, Arismendy Alcantara is a notch below elite. He's also not a part of a lineup that will provide much of a boost to his numbers. And let's not forget that inevitable adjustment period we mentioned when discussing Jon Singleton. So maybe having Alcantara as the top waiver-wire pickup heading into the second half is riding a bit high on the hot start to his major league career.
But the 22-year-old emerged as an intriguing youngster around this time last year—in the middle of a breakout 2013, he hit a homer in last year's Futures Game—and was having quite the campaign in his first go at Triple-A.
To wit, the switch hitter was batting .307/.353/.537 and showing a power-speed combo—46 extra-base hits and 21 stolen bases—that should translate to the majors and ensure that he offers something to owners who take a chance on him.
In fact, Alcantara already has done just that, as alluded to above, by getting nine hits in his first 23 at-bats (.391), including his first career homer Sunday, in his fifth game with the Chicago Cubs. He also has scored six runs, swiped a base and hit leadoff three games in a row.
At this stage of the fantasy season, there aren't many intriguing players with both Alcantara's potential and versatility—depending on your format, he may be eligible at second, short and outfield—still available in most leagues.
The usual young-player caveats apply here, but Alcantara's upside is that of a starting second baseman or shortstop (if applicable) in 10-team play. With 2014 half over, it's time to go bold or go home.
To talk baseball or fantasy baseball, check in with me on Twitter: @JayCat11