Fantasy Baseball Waiver Wire: Top 10 Pickups for Week 1

Andrew Gould@AndrewGould4Featured ColumnistApril 4, 2016

Fantasy Baseball Waiver Wire: Top 10 Pickups for Week 1

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    Yangervis Solarte quietly closed out the 2015 season as a valuable fantasy asset.
    Yangervis Solarte quietly closed out the 2015 season as a valuable fantasy asset.Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    Welcome to the waiver-wire jungle, where fantasy baseball championships are won and lost. 

    Many drafters fall in love with their original rosters, which is a dangerous mindset that could blind them from busts absorbing precious space while superior alternatives lie around free agency. Matt Duffy, Logan Forsythe, David Peralta, Kevin Pillar, Gerardo Parra, Billy Burns, Dallas Keuchel, Lance McCullers, Carlos Martinez, Jeurys Familia and A.J. Ramos all ascended from undrafted beginnings to starting stalwarts last year.

    The true fun begins once the 2016 season commences in full force. Breakout stars will materialize, but most of them are hiding deep down free agency's abyss. If everyone anticipated big things, they would already frequent someone's roster.

    To avoid any redundancies, this list doesn't feature any of the 10 guys highlighted on Friday. Eliminating more exciting guys like Vince Velasquez, Juan Nicasio and Tyler White, Week 1's waiver-wire column instead focuses on players who slipped between the cracks.

    With a couple of possible exceptions, the following players aren't breakout candidates as much as solid producers deserving a chance in deeper mixed leagues. When roles change and surprise stars manifest, the names will get more exciting in ensuing weeks.

    Consider these players, owned in under 50 percent of Yahoo Sports leagues, the misfit toys other managers don't want. Some should prove worth more than everyone thinks.

Honorable Mentions

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    Expected to work in the San Diego Padres bullpen, Drew Pomeranz instead won a spot in the starting rotation.
    Expected to work in the San Diego Padres bullpen, Drew Pomeranz instead won a spot in the starting rotation.Darron Cummings/Associated Press/Associated Press

    Mixed Leagues

    Brock Holt, 1B/2B/3B/SS/OF, Boston Red Sox

    Brad Miller, 2B/3B/OF, Tampa Bay Rays

    Leonys Martin, OF, Seattle Mariners

    Erasmo Ramirez, SP/RP, Tampa Bay Rays

    Drew Pomeranz, SP/RP, San Diego Padres

    Hunter Strickland, RP, San Francisco Giants

    AL-Only

    Daniel Nava, 1B/OF, Los Angeles Angels

    Joey Rickard, OF, Baltimore Orioles

    Kendall Graveman, SP, Oakland Athletics

    Martin Perez, SP, Texas Rangers

    Tony Zych, RP, Seattle Mariners

    NL-Only

    Adam Duvall, OF, Cincinnati Reds

    Trayce Thompson, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers

    Jabari Blash, OF, San Diego Padres

    Chase Anderson, SP, Milwaukee Brewers

    Ross Stripling, SP, Los Angeles Dodgers

10. Socrates Brito, OF, Arizona Diamondbacks (8 Percent Owned)

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    Socrates Brito could receive more playing time in light of A.J. Pollock's injury.
    Socrates Brito could receive more playing time in light of A.J. Pollock's injury.Associated Press

    Both the Arizona Diamondbacks and fantasy managers were dealt a devastating blow shortly before Opening Day. Star outfielder A.J. Pollock, who hit .315 with 20 homers and 39 steals last year, needs surgery after fracturing his right elbow on Friday. 

    According to Jack Magruder of Today's Knuckleball, manager Chip Hale plans on starting rookie Socrates Brito in center field, but middle infielder Chris Owings could shift there against southpaws. 

    Last year, Brito batted .300 in Double-A, tallying nine home runs and 20 stolen bases. His contact skills translated to the majors when he hit .303 (10-for-33) during a brief September call-up. It's too small a sample size to praise him as a batting-average asset, as he also generated an underwhelming 74.6 contact percentage and 57.7 ground-ball rate.  

    Even before Pollock went down, Brito gained traction while challenging Yasmany Tomas for the starting left field job. This could be a case of gamers falling too hard for a trendy sleeper. Given his aggressive approach, he'll struggle to reach base without a high average, and Steamer and ZiPS both project a tame .259 mark. 

    ZiPS also aggressively gives him 10 long balls and 20 steals, which would make him mixed-league relevant in spite of his projected .669 OPS. That's his 2016 upside, not a realistic bar to set. Don't go overboard, but a speedy player in line for playing time matters in deeper formats.

9. Adam Conley, SP, Miami Marlins (7 Percent Owned)

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    Adam Conley has the makings of a solid back-end fantasy starter.
    Adam Conley has the makings of a solid back-end fantasy starter.Brynn Anderson/Associated Press

    Adam Conley, who entered spring training battling for a position spot, leaves as the Miami Marlins' No. 3 starter.

    Per MLB.com, the 25-year-old is slated to start on Thursday behind Wei-Yin Chen and Jose Fernandez. After delivering a 3.76 ERA in 67 innings last year, he cemented a starting spot by relinquishing two runs in 9.2 spring innings.

    “Adam had a great spring,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly told the Miami Herald's Andre C. Fernandez. “He’s been sharp with all of his stuff. He’s really been a guy on a mission.”

    Conley is not a popular sleeper or breakout candidate. In a 10- or 12-team mixed league, he's currently no more than a matchup play. (Hey there, Philadelphia Phillies.) Speaking of the Phillies, he faced them three times in his final eight starts, whirling six solid innings each time to give him a 2.78 ERA over the full stretch.

    He won't finish 2016 as a top-30 starter, but a top-60 slot is possible. Give him a look as deep-league rotation depth.

8. Chris Coghlan, 2B/OF, Oakland Athletics (4 Percent Owned)

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    Chris Coghlan has reinvented himself at the plate over the past two seasons.
    Chris Coghlan has reinvented himself at the plate over the past two seasons.Matt Slocum/Associated Press

    Don't tell anyone, but Chris Coghlan is pretty good.

    The 2009 National League Rookie of the Year continued his career renaissance last year by batting .250/.341/.443 with 16 homers and 11 steals in 503 plate appearances. He became an even sneakier deep-league value by gaining second-base eligibility during the season.

    Although he transformed from dead weight to Ben Zobrist Light on the Chicago Cubs, he needed a change of scenery once Chicago splurged on the brand name and signed Zobrist. He found the perfect home with the Oakland Athletics.

    Few teams employ lefty-righty platoons as aggressively as the thrifty Athletics, and the 30-year-old lefty recorded an .831 OPS against right-handed pitchers in 2015. Despite their crowded depth chart, they'll find room for him all over the diamond to exploit those splits.

    Only 20 qualified hitters netted a higher walk percentage than Coghlan's 11.5. As a result, his .337 weighted on-base average (wOBA) matched marks from Starling Marte, Adrian Beltre and Dee Gordon. It also beat out Robinson Cano, Troy Tulowitzki, Adam Jones and Albert Pujols.

    Even in a platoon role, Coghlan is an underrated hitter who can round out a deep roster.

7. Danny Valencia, 3B/OF, Oakland Athletics (21 Percent Owned)

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    Most fantasy owners are skeptical of Danny Valencia's 2015 breakout.
    Most fantasy owners are skeptical of Danny Valencia's 2015 breakout.Associated Press

    Let's keep the Oakland lovefest going with another undervalued outcast. The Toronto Blue Jays felt confident enough in their offense to waive a man slugging .506, and the A's reaped the rewards.

    In 47 games in Oakland, Danny Valencia hit .284/.356/.530 with 11 homers and 37 RBI, and he finished 2015 with a .290/.345/.519 line. Paying for a repeat performance would have been a mistake, but drafters instead ignored his breakout entirely.

    The 31-year-old journeyman previously operated as a lefty-destroying specialist, so his .374 wOBA against righties should raise eyebrows. He walked far less and struck out much more versus them, but he also crushed 13 long balls. 

    Upon closer inspection, 27.1 percent of his fly balls cleared the fence—an unsustainable clip that could revert him to a platoon player if regressed. Desperate for third-base production post-Josh Donaldson, Oakland at least owes him the opportunity to stick.

    Valencia sports a solid .736 OPS, but he hadn't received regular playing time since 2011 before uniting with the A's. He could take a step back and still help as a .260, 15-homer hitter at the hot corner.

6. Jedd Gyorko, 2B/SS, St. Louis Cardinals (10 Percent Owned)

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    Injuries will cause the St. Louis Cardinals to play Jedd Gyorko at shortstop.
    Injuries will cause the St. Louis Cardinals to play Jedd Gyorko at shortstop.Associated Press

    As a power-laded middle infielder, Jedd Gyorko's departure from the San Diego Padres should have been a joyous occasion. Instead, he looked destined for the short stick of a second-base platoon with Kolten Wong, halting the never-ending post-hype sleeper cycle.

    Then Jhonny Peralta had surgery to repair a thumb injury, which will sideline him until at least June. But before anyone could comfortably cannon Gyorko up the ranks, the St. Louis Cardinals signed Ruben Tejada to take some reps at shortstop.

    He's hurt now, too. The injury replacement will join Peralta on the disabled list with a quadriceps strain, which brings us back to Gyorko.

    Starting him at short is a dangerous move for the Cardinals, whose pitchers could take a hit if he can't handle the demanding position. From a pure fantasy lens, however, his power bat offers major profit potential as a middle infielder off the waiver wire.

    He's better off playing exclusively against lefties as St. Louis probably originally intended, but that's not our concern. The only time he logged over 500 plate appearances in a season, he clubbed 23 dingers. Reminding everyone of his potential, the 27-year-old hit .259 with 13 homers after the All-Star break last year.

5. Jose Berrios, SP, Minnesota Twins (19 Percent Owned)

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    Jose Berrios shouldn't have to kill much more time in the minor leagues.
    Jose Berrios shouldn't have to kill much more time in the minor leagues.Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

    Over the last two years, Ricky Nolasco has allowed 123 earned runs over 196.1 innings, amounting to a 5.64 ERA. He's opening 2016 in the Minnesota Twins' starting rotation.

    Meanwhile, Jose Berrios is waiting for the chance to immediately become Minnesota's ace. The premier pitching prospect shined last year by registering a 2.87 ERA and 1.05 WHIP in the minors. His late performance begged for a promotion, but the Twins ended his season early as a precautionary measure.

    While other prized pitching arms still need to fine-tune their commands, Berrios collected 175 strikeouts and 38 walks over 166.1 pristine innings. Some prospects stumble at a higher level, but he notched a 2.62 ERA and a 5.93 strikeout-to-walk ratio in a dozen Triple-A starts.

    He was ready last summer, and he's ready now. Tyler Duffey has a bigger gripe over losing the final rotation spot to Nolasco, but he's not treasured enough to stash in most leagues. Berrios, on the other hand, is a mixed-league option the second Minnesota calls him up.

    If there's a minor leaguer worth storing in standard mixed leagues, it's this guy. He should be up by June, and that's if Minnesota takes its sweet time.

4. Matt Moore, SP, Tampa Bay Rays (43 Percent Owned)

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    After a strong September, Matt Moore has looked sharp during spring training.
    After a strong September, Matt Moore has looked sharp during spring training.Chris O'Meara/Associated Press

    A case study of spring stats meriting consideration, Matt Moore compiled 11 strikeouts and no walks in 10.1 innings. Although usually meaningless, an exception is warranted for a talented pitcher recovering from Tommy John surgery.

    The Tampa Bay Rays starter faltered during his MLB return and registered a 5.43 ERA in 63 innings. He also turned up the heat over his final six starts and notched a 2.97 ERA. Now he also has a promising March to support a 2016 rebound.

    Here's the important question: If Moore returns to normal, is he a mixed-league starter? For all the hype, he sports a career 3.82 ERA and 1.36 WHIP, and he issues a ghastly 4.16 walks per nine innings. 

    Sure, he recorded a 3.29 ERA and 17 wins in 2012, but he also registered a 3.92 fielding independent pitching (FIP) and 4.55 BB/9. Along with returning healthy, Moore needs to harness his command, which makes spring's zero free passes encouraging.

    Although far from a lock to produce, there's too much strikeout upside to let Moore wither away on the waiver wire. Give him a trial run of two or three starts. The opportunity will vanish by then if those outings go well.

3. Yangervis Solarte, 1B/2B/3B, San Diego Padres (14 Percent Owned)

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    Yangervis Solarte flourished when asked to play third base regularly after the All-Star break.
    Yangervis Solarte flourished when asked to play third base regularly after the All-Star break.Associated Press

    One of Yangervis Solarte's most endearing qualities may have hindered him last year.

    The San Diego Padres infielder tried his hand at first, second and third base, which made him a versatile player in fantasy formats. Yet he didn't hit enough to hold his own in any spot until establishing permanent residency at third base.

    He responded to a consistent role by hitting .292/.336/.470 in 70 games after the All-Star break. When playing the hot corner in 2015, he hit .283/.334/.471. According to the San Diego Union-Tribune's Dennis Lin, Solarte identified a significance to those splits.

    "Especially when they give me the opportunity in the second half (of last season)—'Hey, that's yours'—I go to the stadium, like, OK, I know I play third base," Solarte said. "They let me play every day. It made me a little more comfortable."

    He'll focus on one position, but fantasy owners can keep employing him at first and second. Someone with a 88.2 contact percentage and 9.8 strikeout percentage should flirt with a .300 average instead of .270, and there's enough power potential to play at third or second. There's a Daniel Murphy brewing under the surface.

2. Darren O'Day, RP, Baltimore Orioles (36 Percent Owned)

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    Darren O'Day offers an elite source of ERA, WHIP and strikeouts.
    Darren O'Day offers an elite source of ERA, WHIP and strikeouts.Frank Franklin II/Associated Press

    Barring an injury to unheralded star closer Zach Britton, Darren O'Day won't get more than a few saves for the Baltimore Orioles this season. That's fine—he still matters.

    The veteran continued his climb to setup stardom last season by submitting a 1.52 ERA, 0.93 WHIP and a career-high 82 strikeouts in 65.1 innings. With only six saves (and six wins) to his name, he finished as Yahoo Sports' No. 18 reliever and No. 28 on ESPN.com's player rater. 

    Over the last four years, O'Day has earned a 1.92 ERA and 9.68 K/9. He also keeps getting better, deflating his contact percentage and improving his swinging-strike percentage in each of the past three seasons. 

    After Dellin Betances, who could receive save opportunities with Aroldis Chapman suspended and Andrew Miller hurt, O'Day is the game's best middle reliever to roster for ERA, WHIP and strikeouts. This hurts to type, but he also obtained at least five wins in each of the last four seasons. Considering he has made 68 or 69 appearances every time, perhaps those victories aren't 100 percent random.

    Anyone looking for speculative saves should instead target Alex Colome, Joaquin Benoit or Jason Grilli. Anyone interested in the best available reliever should instead grab O'Day.

1. Marcell Ozuna, OF, Miami Marlins (41 Percent Owned)

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    Marcell Ozuna responded to an unusually lengthy minor league demotion by notching a .469 slugging percentage.
    Marcell Ozuna responded to an unusually lengthy minor league demotion by notching a .469 slugging percentage.John Raoux/Associated Press/Associated Press

    When a slumping MLB player gets demoted, it's usually a short-term wake-up call. When he responds to the call to action by hitting .317/.379/.558 in Triple-A, he almost always gets welcomed back in no time. When he crushed 23 homers the previous year and plays for a power-starved team fighting for third place...

    You get the picture by now. The Marlins made their point by sending down Marcell Ozuna, who was hitting .249/.301/.337 before the punishment. A 10-day lesson instead turned into a 40-day sentence, possibly with nefarious intentions of delaying his arbitration window.

    Upon returning, he batted .279/.320/.469 and lowered his ground-ball rate from 53.3 to 38.9 percent. A slugger can't offer much when he's not elevating pitches, but the 25-year-old remedied the situation in time to help fantasy gamers during the final two months.

    *Checks to make sure Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria didn't send him back down to Triple-A or abandon him at a random bus stop.* Nope, all good. Ozuna should go back to playing regularly in 2016 for Miami, which lowered and moved in Marlins Park's fences to give sluggers a fighting chance.

    If he harnesses his raw power to replicate 2014's 23 homers and 85 RBI, his 41 percent Yahoo ownership rate will skyrocket closer to 90. It's also possible we haven't seen his best, so he's the perfect low-risk, high-reward flier to take heading into the opening week.

    Note: All advanced statistics courtesy of FanGraphs unless otherwise noted. Ownership rates obtained from Yahoo Sports.

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