Fantasy Baseball Waiver Wire: Top 10 Pickups for Week 18
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.
Some players mentioned last week—including Trevor Bauer, Danny Salazar, Austin Jackson, Chris Johnson, Chase Headley, Drew Smyly and Neftali Feliz—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 18.
Juan Francisco, 1B/3B, Toronto Blue Jays (14.5 Percent Owned)
Tyler Skaggs, SP, Los Angeles Angels (4.5 Percent Owned)
Chris Young, SP, Seattle Mariners (21.4 Percent Owned)
Matt Shoemaker, SP/RP, Los Angeles Angels (4.3 Percent Owned)
Danny Santana, SS/OF, Minnesota Twins (29.3 Percent Owned)
Emilio Bonifacio, 2B/OF, Chicago Cubs (18.4 Percent Owned)
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:
- Neftali Feliz, RP, Texas Rangers (44.5 Percent Owned)
- Jake Petricka, RP, Chicago White Sox (27.1 Percent Owned)
- Dale Thayer, RP, San Diego Padres (1.4 Percent Owned)
- Bryan Morris, RP, Miami Marlins (0.3 Percent Owned)
- A.J. Ramos, RP, Miami Marlins (0.5 Percent Owned)
- Brad Ziegler, RP, Arizona Diamondbacks (1.0 Percent Owned)
- Josh Fields, RP, Houston Astros (2.7 Percent Owned)
- Brett Cecil, RP, Toronto Blue Jays (0.3 Percent Owned)
- Aaron Sanchez, SP/RP, Toronto Blue Jays (0.1 Percent Owned)
- Neal Cotts, RP, Texas Rangers (0.8 Percent Owned)
- Ken Giles, RP, Philadelphia Phillies (2.0 Percent Owned)
- Darren O'Day, RP, Baltimore Orioles (4.3 Percent Owned)
- Daniel Webb, RP, Chicago White Sox (0.0 Percent Owned)
- Javy Guerra, RP, Chicago White Sox (0.0 Percent Owned)
- Neil Ramirez, SP/RP, Chicago Cubs (4.7 Percent Owned)
- Zach Putnam, RP, Chicago White Sox (3.7 Percent Owned)
- Adam Ottavino, RP, Colorado Rockies (0.0 Percent Owned)
- Rex Brothers, RP, Colorado Rockies (19.4 Percent Owned)
- Jeurys Familia, RP, New York Mets (0.4 Percent Owned)
- Vic Black, RP, New York Mets (0.0 Percent Owned)
No. 10: Chris Taylor, SS, Seattle Mariners (0.0 Percent Owned)
A little competition never hurt anybody, right? That's what the Seattle Mariners are hoping after they decided to (finally) call up shortstop Chris Taylor to see if that can help get incumbent Brad Miller—and his .599 OPS—untracked.
While Miller was busy slumping yet again in July, the 23-year-old Taylor had been especially hot at Triple-A of late, hitting .500 (14-for-28) the previous week. Thus, the call-up last Thursday, has led to Taylor playing three of four games since, including two starts. The righty batter went 2-for-4 with an RBI double Sunday.
Taylor isn't a well-known or especially toolsy prospect, so he's not likely to be an impact performer in fantasy. That said, he has the ability to steal bases (14 this year after 38 in 2013) and put the bat on the ball (.328/.397/.497 at Tacoma), which is more than can be said for Miller these days. Plus, shortstop is always a tough spot to fill, so Taylor is at least a semi-relevant name to know in deeper leagues.
No. 9: James Paxton, SP, Seattle Mariners (4.9 Percent Owned)
It's been a long time coming, but James Paxton appears to be on the verge of returning to the Mariners—and fantasy rotations.
The 25-year-old lefty, who won his first two turns of the season with Seattle before succumbing to a lat injury and then shoulder soreness, threw his third rehab start and second at Tacoma on Sunday. He went 4.1 innings, allowing a run on six hits and three walks while striking out five. Not the cleanest outing, but Paxton felt good afterward, according to Ryan Divish of The Seattle Times:
I felt good. No pain at all. I feel like it's getting closer. I'm still missing down with my fastball. The breaking stuff felt really good, curveball and cutter felt really good. My change-up was good. It's just finding the release point with my fastball. But I feel like I took a good step forward today.
Paxton is now traveling with the Mariners and will throw a bullpen session during the week with the hope of starting for Seattle on Saturday in Baltimore against the Orioles.
Owners should add him now, but they'd be wise to keep him benched for his return given the opposition's lineup and the fact that Paxton may not go very deep into the game. Still, there's intriguing upside here in the second half, particularly in the strikeout category, after how good Paxton looked back in April.
No. 8: Mike Zunino, C, Seattle Mariners (8.5 Percent Owned)
Yet another Mariner at the back end of this week's top 10, Mike Zunino hasn't been hitting much lately, but what he does hit, he hits a long way. You can see as much in the highlight above, which Zunino created by blasting one out on July 21.
The 23-year-old, who was the No. 3 overall pick in 2012, is here purely as a power play for owners in need of homers, as Zunino has 15 of 'em—third-most in the sport at the catcher position.
Zunino's low-.200s average isn't likely to get much better because he's striking out in nearly one-third of his plate appearances (103 whiffs in 317 plate appearances), but he can provide a boost if you've been fiddling around at catcher trying to find some pop.
No. 7: Josh Rutledge, 2B/SS, Colorado Rockies (14.2 Percent Owned)
Josh Rutledge's initial success in the majors after debuting in the middle of the 2012 campaign and hitting .274 with eight homers and seven steals in just 73 games got owners excited heading into the 2013 season. But it's time to accept him for what he is.
That is an occasionally useful waiver-wire addition, primarily because he has eligibility at both middle infield positions and enough pop and speed to contribute in homers and steals—when he's going well. Luckily, that's the case now, as the 25-year-old is filling in for the injured (yet again) Troy Tulowitzki, who is out with a hip injury.
Sure, Rutledge went 0-for-5 Sunday and is likely to be a streaky hitter if his career to date is any indication, but he also has five multi-hit games in his past seven, during which he's 12-for-32 (.375) with six extra-base hits, including one homer, and nine RBI.
No. 6: Francisco Liriano, SP, Pittsburgh Pirates (27.8 Percent Owned)
Since coming back from injury in mid-July, Francisco Liriano has made three starts and has been better each time out.
In his most recent turn, the 30-year-old southpaw gave up just six baserunners and one run in 7.0 frames and struck out four for the win over the NL West-leading Los Angeles Dodgers.
His season numbers aren't that pretty—two wins, 4.18 ERA, 1.43 WHIP—but Liriano does have 93 strikeouts in 88.1 innings overall and is the kind of arm that can go on a nice run over a handful of starts. That could happen here, as Liriano has the kind of matchup that's worth rolling the dice on if you need to make a push: He gets the San Francisco Giants in pitcher-friendly AT&T Park on Tuesday.
No. 5: Chris Tillman, SP, Baltimore Orioles (44.2 Percent Owned)
After breaking out as an All-Star in 2013, Chris Tillman's 2014 hasn't gone quite as smoothly. He has, however, been fairly trustworthy of late.
Since the 26-year-old was obliterated in a five-runs-in-one-inning disaster back on June 5 in Texas' tough park, Tillman has put up a 2.40 ERA and 1.17 WHIP over his last nine starts.
He's only struck out 28 across those 60.0 innings, so he's been getting a little lucky, as his .244 BABIP in that time indicates. Plus, there's this to be wary of: He goes against the Los Angeles Angels on Tuesday. Then again, Tillman's last trip to the mound resulted in a six-inning, one-run effort against the very same Angels.
Due to the decreased strikeout rate (7.8 K/9 in 2013 to 5.7 K/9 this year), Tillman is strictly a matchups play, but he's one to consider while he's going well.
No. 4: Angel Pagan, OF, San Francisco Giants (29.4 Percent Owned)
Grabbing Angel Pagan isn't necessarily the sexiest move, but it's the kind of pickup made ahead of time by the savvy owner in need of a specific category or two.
The 33-year-old has been out with an injury since June 14 but is working his way back and has been running and taking live batting practice, per Ryan Hood of MLB.com.
Provided there are no setbacks here, there's a good chance Pagan could be activated by the first week of August. He might not be what he was over the first two-and-a-half months, when he hit .307, scored 37 runs and stole 11 bases in 63 games, but Pagan should be owned in just about every league in case he regains his run-scoring, base-stealing, high-average-hitting form.
No. 3: Jimmy Nelson, SP/RP, Milwaukee Brewers (7.1 Percent Owned)
Because Jimmy Nelson's first start as a full-time member of the Milwaukee Brewers rotation in mid-July didn't go well, many a fantasy owner lost interest in him immediately.
That's a silly way to handle this sort of situation, though, especially because Nelson is the club's top prospect and a legitimate arm. Even though he's a bit old on the prospect side at 25, he was too good to ignore at Triple-A this year, posting a 1.46 ERA, 0.92 WHIP and 9.2 K/9.
Following a quality start against the Cincinnati Reds in his previous outing, Nelson threw well in a loss to the New York Mets on Sunday, hurling a career-high 7.0 innings and tying a career best with six strikeouts.
Nelson is a better option for the Brewers than homer-happy Marco Estrada, and with another 10-12 turns to come, he should be starter-worthy for fantasy owners most times out too. Like Saturday, when he faces the Cardinals in St. Louis.
No. 2: Danny Duffy, SP/RP, Kansas City Royals (23.3 Percent Owned)
The 25-year-old has been great for most of 2014, but he's been especially fantastic over his last 10 starts, with a 1.86 ERA, 0.98 WHIP and 52 strikeouts in 63.0 innings.
Folks, this is real.
Remember, Duffy was a highly regarded prospect when he was making his way through the Kansas City Royals' system in the late 2000s, only to have his progress interrupted by Tommy John surgery. The club actually has done a solid job of handling him so far after he started the season in the bullpen, and now he's putting it all together.
This is the last time we're going to tell you to add Duffy (you know, for now). Be sure you're starting him Wednesday against the lowly Minnesota Twins.
No. 1: Marcus Stroman, SP/RP, Toronto Blue Jays (26.2 Percent Owned)
This is not the first time Marcus Stroman has been recommended in this column, either. Please do what you can to make it the last by picking him up and getting his ownership percentages to spike.
The 23-year-old former first-round pick has been flat-out dominant since joining the Toronto Blue Jays' five-man in the middle of the season. How dominant? Let's put it like this: Over his past six starts, Stroman owns a 1.83 ERA, 0.76 WHIP and 36 strikeouts over 39.1 innings—and that includes an eight-hit, five-run blowup in 3.2 frames against the potent Angels July 9.
He continued his hot stretch by taking a no-hitter into the seventh inning against the Red Sox last Thursday. Stroman, who allowed just one hit and whiffed seven in seven frames, will face the Red Sox again Tuesday. Given what he just did to them, go for it.
And while you're at it, tell your friends.
All ownership percentages courtesy of ESPN Fantasy Baseball. Players owned in more than 50 percent of leagues were not considered. Statistics are accurate through July 27 and courtesy of MLB.com, Baseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs, unless otherwise noted.
To talk baseball or fantasy baseball, check in with me on Twitter: @JayCat11