Fantasy Baseball Waiver Wire: Top 10 Pickups for Week 24
As the fantasy baseball season ends for some players, other managers must gear up for an intense finish.
Many head-to-head leagues will now begin the playoffs, typically a six-team shindig awarding the top two squads an automatic pass. In a make-or-break seven days, nobody can take any roster decision lightly.
Neither can rotisserie gamers entrenched in a battle for first with three weeks remaining. While the format causes some teams to pack their packs in July, few leagues have locked in every top spot.
Even if they did, have some pride and push for fourth place instead of sixth. Consider it your Flint Michigan Megabowl.
Although the waiver wire is mostly dried out by now, the following players will help either as streamers, one-category specialists or hot hands whose fire can burn through September. Available in over half of Yahoo Sports leagues, these free agents deserve homes.
Justin Bour, 1B, Miami Marlins
Alcides Escobar, SS, Kansas City Royals
Domingo Santana, OF, Milwaukee Brewers
Chad Bettis, SP, Colorado Rockies
Colby Lewis, SP, Texas Rangers
Jose Urena, SP/RP, Miami Marlins
Derek Law, RP, San Francisco Giants
Sergio Romo, RP, San Francisco Giants
American League Only
Michael Bourn, OF, Baltimore Orioles
Jake Marisnick, OF, Houston Astros
Miguel Gonzalez, SP, Chicago White Sox
Bryan Mitchell, SP, New York Yankees
Alex Meyer, RP, Los Angeles Angels
National League Only
Kelly Johnson, 1B/2B/3B/OF, New York Mets
Roman Quinn, OF, Philadelphia Phillies
Mallex Smith, OF, Atlanta Braves
Alec Asher, SP, Philadelphia Phillies
Wily Peralta, SP, Milwaukee Brewers
10. Daniel Norris, SP, Detroit Tigers (10 Percent Owned)
During his minor league career, Daniel Norris struck out 9.8 batters per nine innings. He entered last year a hyped future ace ranked as Baseball America's No. 18 prospect, but all the buzz vanished when he accumulated an underwhelming 6.75 K/9 in 13 MLB starts.
Let's exude some patience for a 23-year-old southpaw wielding a 3.93 ERA in 112.1 career innings. He's making progress with a 3.58 second-half ERA, most recently amassing seven punchouts against the Kansas City Royals on Sept. 4.
After receiving extra rest, he's slated to pitch Monday against the Minnesota Twins, per Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press. If using Norris at his normal turn, he'd also start on Sunday against the Cleveland Indians. He won't get another chance at a two-start week in the Detroit Tigers' six-man rotation.
Both AL Central foes have produced roughly league-average results against lefties this season, and the Twins strike out versus them more than any AL team besides the Tampa Bay Rays. Norris probably won't dominate either team, but he should offer strikeouts and pitch well enough to potentially earn a win or two.
9. Jarrod Dyson, OF, Kansas City Royals (15 Percent Owned)
After Saturday night's game, per the Kansas City Star's Rustin Dodd, Kansas City Royals outfielder Lorenzo Cain said he might not return from a wrist injury this season. That would give Jarrod Dyson three more weeks to run wild.
The 32-year-old speedster has swiped 26 bags in only 93 games and 287 plate appearances, tying him with Melvin Upton Jr. for 10th in the majors.
Dyson has played in 13 of Kansas City's last 17 games and stolen eight bases in the process. Although a one-trick fantasy option, he offers the Royals tremendous value on defense, which has justified his starting status over a young September call-up.
Unless Travis Jankowski remains available, managers needing stolen bases won't find a better solution sitting on the waiver wire. The Royals have 20 games remaining, so Dyson can easily poach five or six more bags if he keeps receiving regular playing time.
8. Mike Foltynewicz, SP, Atlanta Braves (18 Percent Owned)
An intriguing young pitcher with an incredible fastball but unpredictable results, Mike Foltynewicz has long-term upside and short-term utility this week.
The 24-year-old hurler has notched a 3.23 ERA over his last five starts, stockpiling 31 strikeouts and seven walks in 30.2 innings. His 2016 ERA resides at an unflattering 4.16, but he gets an exploitable matchup when the Atlanta Braves face the Miami Marlins.
Since the All-Star break, Miami ranks No. 26 in weighted on-base average (wOBA) with the fewest home runs (37) in baseball. Worried about Atlanta offering run support? Deadline acquisition Matt Kemp and rookie Dansby Swanson have quietly led the Braves to above-average offense.
Depending on how Atlanta arranges its rotation, Foltynewicz could also close the week with a second start against the Washington Nationals. It'd be better for prospective buyers if he instead took the hill twice next week against the New York Mets and Marlins, both in the opponent's helpful ballpark.
There's certainly a high risk factor to playing the erratic pitcher, but any productive NL East arm warrants a close look during these final weeks.
7. Andrew Bailey, RP, Los Angeles Angels (22 Percent Owned)
Remember those special days in late July and early August when Dellin Betances, Edwin Diaz, Kelvin Herrera, Ken Giles, Tyler Thornburg and Tony Watson all ascended into closer roles? Now Andrew Bailey is among the best remaining options.
Yes, the same Bailey with a 5.70 ERA in 36.1 innings, his highest season workload since 2011. Five years ago also marks the last time he posted a fielding independent pitching (FIP) below 4.50. He'll need a strong September to bolster his current 4.66 FIP below that high barrier.
Bailey garnered some bizarre preseason buzz as the Philadelphia Phillies' possible Opening Day closer. That plan never came to fruition, and they designated him for assignment after 33 horrible outings far removed from any save opportunities.
He has received another chance with the Los Angeles Angels, whose bullpen represents the barren wasteland that everyone mistakenly envisioned for the Phillies. Huston Street is on the disabled list. Promising replacement Cam Bedrosian quickly followed, and Fernando Salas got traded to the New York Mets.
Bailey is basically the last man standing, and he has capitalized by converting three saves this month. The 32-year-old has tossed four hitless frames with four strikeouts for his new squad. He hadn't compiled as many straight scoreless outings since early June.
Proceed with substantial caution, but he's someone to add for managers in grave need of saves.
6. Carlos Gomez, OF, Texas Rangers (47 Percent Owned)
Carlos Gomez's ownership rate might be misleadingly high. Several of his inactive owners likely checked out months ago before dumping the former fantasy superstar.
A first-round pick as recently as 2015, the 30-year-old has cratered (.214/.284/.349) this season. While never a contact fiend, his 31.8 strikeout percentage hovers far above his 23.3 career clip.
Now's not the time to invest blindly on name recognition, but Gomez is earning his way back onto rosters. Since moving to the Texas Rangers, he is slugging .473 with four homers and three steals in 17 games.
No matter how ill-conceived, the Rangers have batted him leadoff over the last two games. He doesn't reach base enough to justify the extra plate appearances, but fantasy investors can exploit the beneficial slotting anyway.
Even though he's no longer the .284, 20-30 hitter from his elite 2013 and 2014 seasons, Gomez still offers power and speed on a strong offense playing in a favorable ballpark. Give him a second chance.
5. Nick Hundley, C, Colorado Rockies (13 Percent Owned)
One of several catchers to disappoint, Nick Hundley is hitting .256 a year after boasting a .301 batting average. He has replicated last season's 10 homers in nearly 100 fewer plate appearances, but he also hasn't accumulated many runs (28) and RBI (46) in 77 games.
The 33-year-old also hasn't utilized the gift of Coors Field, wielding a .736 OPS in the hitter-heavy park. He finished 2015 with a .957 OPS at home.
Nevertheless, there aren't even enough catchers to go around in a 12-team mixed league. When one gets hot, most managers need to take notice. Homering five times in his last 10 starts, Hundley is getting hot.
It's a good thing he heated up when he did. Otherwise, September call-up Tom Murphy would have challenged for his job after homering twice in seven major league games. Now Hundley will keep receiving most of Colorado's starts this week, when it takes a trip to Chase Field to face the Arizona Diamondbacks before returning to Coors.
He's playing in two venues conducive to offense, so grab the Rockies backstop for this pivotal week.
4. Seth Lugo, SP/RP, New York Mets (44 Percent Owned)
For all of their explosive young pitchers, the Mets are red-hot with Seth Lugo serving as their No. 3 starter.
Since moving from the bullpen to the rotation, the 26-year-old rookie has recorded a 2.27 ERA in five starts. He has also reaped the rewards of a revitalized offense, winning each of his last four outings.
For those who use the category, wins are a fickle but necessary evil. Past results are a poor indicator of future success, but a heavy dosage of the NL East certainly helps his chances.
After facing the Twins this week, the Mets finish the season exclusively against the Marlins, Braves and Phillies. While the Foltynewicz section mentioned Atlanta's improved offense, all three teams rank in the bottom 10 of wOBA this season. The Marlins and Phillies are two of baseball's coldest lineups.
Although Lugo's middling 6.84 K/9 and lack of track record forebode a regression, a fortuitous schedule should extend his unlikely run through September.
3. Hunter Strickland, RP, San Francisco Giants (10 Percent Owned)
The San Francisco Giants lost patience with Santiago Casilla, who has allowed five runs over his past six outings and blown an MLB-worst eight saves this season.
According to the San Francisco Chronicle's Henry Schulman, Giants manager Bruce Bochy declared his intentions to use a closer-by-committee.
"We're going to use everybody and put out the guy we think is the right guy to get us through the inning," Bochy said before Friday's game.
On Sunday, that guy was Hunter Strickland.
The 27-year-old recorded two of his four outs via strikeout to earn his first save of 2016. In the process, he improved his ERA to 2.56.
Sergio Romo and Will Smith could also factor into a committee. So could Derek Law, who registered a 1.94 ERA before landing on the disabled list. Per Schulman, Bochy said the 25-year-old may receive save opportunities as soon as he returns this week.
For now, grab Strickland. Bochy has never mixed and matched before, so the veteran skipper may nix his plans if the first man up does nothing to force another change.
2. Jung Ho Kang, 3B/SS, Pittsburgh Pirates (43 Percent Owned)
Let's preface this with the more important information involving Jung Ho Kang. Around two months ago, the Chicago police said they were investigating a sexual assault allegation against him. No charges have been filed against the Pittsburgh Pirates infielder.
Before July's All-Star Game, per the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Stephen J. Nesbitt, commissioner Rob Manfred said MLB would wait for the investigation before deciding whether to discipline Kang.
“There is a certain amount of work that has to be done by law enforcement—and can only be done by law enforcement—before we can wade into those waters,” Manfred said.
The 29-year-old has not received any punishment as the investigation remains ongoing.
For fantasy managers willing to follow MLB's lead, he is hitting .301/.393/.581 with seven home runs during 31 second-half games.
With 12 hits in September, he has already surpassed his July and August outputs of 10 each month. Kang, who notched a .913 second-half OPS during his rookie season, now has an .885 OPS this season. His power makes him a useful fantasy resource at shortstop or third base.
1. Kevin Kiermaier, OF, Tampa Bay Rays (32 Percent Owned)
Kevin Kiermaier delivered late value last year, hitting .302 with six homers and seven steals from August 1 onward. Over that same time frame this season, he's batting .293 with six homers and seven steals.
Known for his glove, the Tampa Bay Rays outfielder has garnered attention at the plate by going 15-for-37 with six doubles, two long balls and three steals during eight scorching-hot September games. A 13-game hitting streak snapped on Sunday inflated his once-deformed slash line to a solid .249/.329/.430.
With 11 homers and 16 steals, the 26-year-old has nearly matched last year's respective tallies of 10 and 18. He has done so, however, in 88 games. He has also elevated his walk percentage from 4.5 to 10.2 and spiked his hard-hit rate up from 24.6 to 33.2 percent.
Kiermaier is also pulling the ball more and seeking damage with a career-high 39.1 fly-ball rate. If he stays healthy and carries over this change of approach into 2017, he'll delight drafters by chasing a 15-25 campaign.
Yet gamers have to worry about winning now, and he's on fire because of refined improvements, suggesting this streak can last.
Note: All advanced stats courtesy of FanGraphs unless otherwise noted.