Fantasy Baseball Waiver Wire: Top 10 Pickups for MLB Week 7
A new week, another batch of waiver-wire additions just the way you like 'em: hot and fresh out of the oven.
Some players mentioned last week—including Noah Syndergaard, Avisail Garcia, Marlon Byrd, Torii Hunter, Jimmy Nelson and Shin-Soo Choo—are already owned in many leagues, but they remain quality pickups if they're 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 7.
David Phelps, SP/RP, Miami Marlins (12.8 Percent Owned)
Chase Anderson, SP, Arizona Diamondbacks (15.9 Percent Owned)
Hector Santiago, SP/RP, Los Angeles Angels (31.2 Percent Owned)
Rubby De La Rosa, SP, Arizona Diamondbacks (17.9 Percent Owned)
Brett Cecil, RP, Toronto Blue Jays (41.4 Percent Owned)
Brad Ziegler, RP, Arizona Diamondbacks (8.9 Percent Owned)
Shawn Tolleson, RP, Texas Rangers (1.5 Percent Owned)
Yunel Escobar, 3B/SS, Washington Nationals (44.7 Percent Owned)
Freddy Galvis, SS, Philadelphia Phillies (20.4 Percent Owned)
Kyle Lohse, SP, Milwaukee Brewers (7.9 Percent Owned)
Jesse Chavez, SP/RP, Oakland Athletics (36.1 Percent Owned)
Brett Anderson, SP, Los Angeles Dodgers (7.7 Percent Owned)
Logan Forsythe, 1B/2B, Tampa Bay Rays (24.6 Percent Owned)
Cory Spangenberg, 2B, San Diego Padres (3.4 Percent Owned)
Roenis Elias, SP, Seattle Mariners (3.4 Percent Owned)
Mike Foltynewicz, SP/RP, Atlanta Braves (6.8 Percent Owned)
Raisel Iglesias, SP, Cincinnati Reds (3.7 Percent Owned)
Matt Duffy, 2B/3B, San Francisco Giants (1.9 Percent Owned)
Nick Franklin, 2B, Tampa Bay Rays (1.5 Percent Owned)
No. 10: Lance McCullers, SP, Houston Astros (4.4 Percent Owned)
While fantasy owners await the arrivals of the Houston Astros' top two prospects, shortstop Carlos Correa and right-hander Mark Appel, they'll first get a look at Lance McCullers Jr., who is getting called up from Triple-A before he even had a chance to take a turn there.
The hard-throwing righty, who was drafted in the supplemental round in 2012, is set to make his big league debut Monday against the Oakland Athletics. While the A's offense still ranks among the five best in runs scored, the lineup has cooled in May (tied for 15th), so this matchup isn't quite as rough as it might look at first glance.
McCullers, whose father pitched as a reliever in the majors from 1985-92, has a big fastball but has battled his command and control (4.5 BB/9 career) while also working on developing a third pitch to go with his curveball. Because of those issues, some project him to wind up as a reliever, but he's just 21 and deserves a full chance to start.
Plus, McCullers has been nasty in his first taste of the Double-A Texas League. In his first 29 frames above A-ball, he has allowed just two earned on 15 hits with a 43-to-11 strikeout-to-walk ratio. There's enough promise here to take a shot and see what happens.
No. 9: Mike Wright, SP, Baltimore Orioles (0.4 Percent Owned)
Mike Wright isn't entirely unlike Lance McCullers Jr. as an underrated right-handed pitcher who throws hard but doesn't get as much attention as some other youngsters in his club's system. In this case, the top two Baltimore Orioles prospects are fellow righties Dylan Bundy and Hunter Harvey, but both of them are still working their way back from injury, so Wright is getting his chance.
In fact, the 25-year-old already got said chance—and was mighty impressive. He hurled 7.1 scoreless innings, permitting only four hits while whiffing four against the Los Angeles Angels on Sunday.
This came after Wright posted a 2.64 ERA and 1.11 WHIP with 30 strikeouts in 30.2 frames at Triple-A. The 2011 third-rounder has steadily made his way up the ladder, and he looks ready to help the O's—and fantasy owners, as a streaming option with some upside.
No. 8: J.A. Happ, SP, Seattle Mariners (33.2 Percent Owned)
At this point, it's time to acknowledge what J.A. Happ is doing.
The 32-year-old nine-year veteran really has taken to pitching for the Seattle Mariners, notching a 2.98 ERA and 1.13 WHIP on the season over his first seven starts.
While Happ had a rough turn in giving up six earned over as manny innings on the road against the Houston Astros on May 3, the lefty otherwise has not surrendered more than two runs in any of his other outings.
For now, it's worth grabbing Happ and enjoying this run. But be careful in how you deploy him considering he's not a big strikeout guy and probably works best as a spot starter when going at pitcher-friendly Safeco Field, where he has a 2.05 ERA and 1.03 WHIP.
While we wouldn't recommend actually starting Happ against the potent Baltimore Orioles in Camden Yards on Thursday, if he passes that test, he'll earn some more trust going forward.
No. 7: Delino DeShields Jr., 2B/OF, Texas Rangers (22.4 Percent Owned)
Delino DeShields Jr. suddenly is a very intriguing fantasy option now that he's getting fairly regular playing time for the Texas Rangers.
Don't forget: Although the 22-year-old was a Rule 5 pick this past offseason, he was the No. 8 overall pick by the Houston Astros back in 2010, so there is some talent and pedigree here. And like his fast father, Delino Sr., the younger version also possesses some serious wheels, which makes him a savvy pickup for owners needing some stolen bases.
To wit, Delino Jr. swiped 54, 51 and 101 bases in 2014, 2013 and 2012, which is, like, a lot. And he already has registered nine thefts (in 10 attempts) in just 23 games in 2015. Better yet, seven of those have come just in his 14 May contests, over which he also is hitting .343 with 13 runs scored.
DeShields won't keep that up all year, but he has shown a solid approach at the plate, with 10 walks in his 59 plate appearances. It'll be interesting to see if the Rangers give DeShields a look at second base, where he began his pro career before converting to outfield, especially now that Rougned Odor is back in the minors. If so, his fantasy value will get a big boost from the extra eligibility.
No. 6: Luis Valbuena, 2B/3B, Houston Astros (30.0 Percent Owned)
If you need a pick-me-up in the power department, consider Luis Valbuena, who also is a sneaky add for the fact that he's eligible at both second and third base. He fits the current Houston Astros model of low-average hitters with good pop.
The 29-year-old is hitting just .206 this year—and owns a .228 career average—but he does have 10 home runs in 149 plate appearances after smacking 16 out in 547 as a not-quite-full-timer a year ago. Put those together, and you have 26 homers in about a full season's worth of trips to the plate (696).
The other good thing about Valbuena? You know that you only need to start him versus right-handed pitchers, against whom he has an .828 OPS and has hit eight of his long balls. The lefty swinger doesn't do much of anything when it comes to southpaws and never has (.649 OPS, seven homers).
No. 5: A.J. Ramos, RP, Miami Marlins (37.6 Percent Owned)
Based on how things were going to start the season, it appeared inevitable that A.J. Ramos would take over the closer role for the Miami Marlins.
Incumbent ninth-inning man Steve Cishek, who has done a great job since breaking in full time in 2011, has struggled mightily so far, what with more blown saves (four) than actual conversions (three) and a ghastly 8.78 ERA and 1.88 WHIP.
Enter Ramos, who always has been a big strikeout pitcher (10.2 K/9 career) in the late innings. But because Cishek had held things down, the 28-year-old hadn't managed a single save in his first two-plus seasons in the bigs. Plus, Ramos has battled control problems, as his 5.0 career walks-per-nine rate proves.
Now, however, it's Ramos' turn, and he looks like he could run with the role, as he is sporting the best strikeout (11.5 K/9) and walk rates (3.0 BB/9) of his career. Plus, this is a guy who totaled 83 saves in the minors, so the ninth inning isn't exactly foreign to him. As long as Ramos, who converted his very first opportunity of 2015 last week, doesn't have any hiccups over his next few outings, he has the potential to be an RP2 for fantasy.
No. 4: Jake McGee, RP, Tampa Bay Rays (48.1 Percent Owned)
Jake McGee is our second closer in the top five this week, because fantasy owners always need saves, right?
The 28-year-old has been a really, really good late-inning arm over the past two seasons, including when he successfully proved he could close, with 19 saves after earning the gig in mid-June last year. McGee also had a 1.89 ERA, 0.90 WHIP an 90 strikeouts in 70.1 frames.
But McGee needed to have his elbow cleaned up over the offseason, which is why he didn't get into a game until Sunday this year. In his stead, fellow hard-thrower Brad Boxberger has pitched brilliantly (1.29 ERA, 0.93 WHIP, 10-for-10 in saves), much like he did last year as one of seven relievers to strike out 100-plus batters.
The good news for owners investing in McGee is, over six appearances during his minor league rehab assignment, he gave up no runs on two hits with six whiffs, so he looks good to go. He also struck out two without allowing a baserunner in his first outing in the majors over the weekend.
Because McGee is a lefty and Boxberger is a righty, this could be a ready-made split-closer situation, which appears to be the case, per Bill Chastain of MLB.com, and the progressive Tampa Bay Rays are the kind of organization that would take just that approach. While it will limit both pitchers' fantasy value, McGee is a must-add if he was dropped along the way while an impatient owner grew tired of waiting for him to get healthy.
No. 3: James Paxton, SP, Seattle Mariners (28.1 Percent Owned)
After we highlighted J.A. Happ earlier, James Paxton is the second Seattle Mariners left-hander in this week's top 10 pickups—and he has a lot more upside.
Granted, the 26-year-old Paxton isn't as steady as Happ, but he has much better stuff and could be a legitimate SP4 in fantasy if everything clicks. That includes staying healthy, which has been Paxton's biggest problem to date in his career.
While he did top the 150-inning mark between the majors and minors in 2013, Paxton managed only about half as many last year due to injury. He also hurt his forearm early this spring but has been OK since.
Between those concerns and Paxton's rough start—he had an 8.40 ERA after three turns—it's understandable that fantasy owners cast him aside. But it's time to bring him back in again now that he's healthy (fingers crossed) and throwing well, including a 1.38 ERA and 1.13 WHIP over his past five starts.
In fact, Paxton hasn't tolerated a single run across his last 20 frames overall, helping get his season mark down to 3.59, to go with a 1.26 WHIP. He could stand to strike out a few more (7.0 K/9), and you might want to avoid starting him next Saturday on the road against the Toronto Blue Jays—owners of MLB's highest-scoring offense—but Paxton clearly should be owned in most formats.
No. 2: Maikel Franco, 3B, Philadelphia Phillies (14.7 Percent Owned)
It's been only three games since the Philadelphia Phillies recalled top prospect Maikel Franco, but already, his second shot at the majors is going better than his first.
Whereas the 22-year-old third baseman hit just .179 with 13 strikeouts in 58 plate appearances at the tail end of 2014, Franco smacked his very first big league home run while going 2-for-4 on Sunday.
Called up Friday after hitting .355/.384/.539 with 17 extra-base knocks in 33 games at Triple-A, Franco also doesn't have to worry about playing time. He has the hot corner all to himself now that the Phillies sent down Cody Asche to transition to the outfield.
Look, the Phillies aren't good, and their offense isn't going to do Franco any favors when it comes to accumulating counting stats like runs and RBI. Plus, there are bound to be tough times as big league pitchers look to exploit Franco's aggressiveness.
But he also could be a capable fill-in at third base and corner infield in most leagues, and Franco has the talent and potential to become a borderline starting third baseman in fantasy once he figures things out. That probably won't happen in 2015—but then again, it might.
No. 1: Brandon Belt, 1B, San Francisco Giants (27.8 Percent Owned)
The Brandon Belt breakout that was supposed to happen last year never did, so it's evident most owners have given up on the San Francisco Giants first baseman by now, especially after he was hitting just .235 with only two runs, five RBI and no homers through April.
That's not entirely fair, though, as Belt's 2014 season was interrupted by multiple stints on the disabled list for a broken finger and then a concussion, limiting him to 61 games.
Belt, however, is a former top prospect, only just turned 27 years old and he's been on fire since the start of May. Over his past 16 games, the lefty hitter has gone 24-for-61 (.393) with 14 runs and nine RBI. He also has 12 extra-base hits in that span, including a home run in each of his last three contests.
Beyond that, the return of Hunter Pence should help the Giants lineup—and Belt—too. You might have grown weary of waiting for Belt to make good on his potential, but if you don't add him now, you might miss out on the good part after wading through all the bad.
All ownership percentages courtesy of ESPN Fantasy Baseball. Players owned in more than 50 percent of leagues were not considered. Statistics are accurate through Sunday, May 17, and courtesy of MLB.com, Baseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs unless otherwise noted.
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