Fantasy Baseball Waiver Wire: Top 10 Pickups for Week 3
Two weeks into 2016's MLB season, fantasy baseball managers will struggle to resist adding players with deceivingly gaudy stat lines.
Eduardo Nunez won't compete for a batting title, and Mat Latos won't win every start with a sub-1.00 ERA. These sample sizes will quickly change with little notice, and it's up to fantasy players to sniff out the fluky starts from the telling successes.
Enough time has passed for the surging sleepers to lose their free-agent status. Instead, the veterans are stirring on their lawns while the late bloomers blossom and the former top prospects seek redemption. Early injuries have also created opportunities for a couple of players showing up to the new season fashionably late.
Some of these players are only hot hands to exploit for a short window. Others have the potential to manifest into mixed-league impact players. All of them are available in at least 50 percent of Yahoo Sports leagues as of Sunday night.
Christian Vazquez, C, Boston Red Sox
Ben Paulsen, 1B/OF, Colorado Rockies
Asdrubal Cabrera, SS, New York Mets
Nick Markakis, OF, Atlanta Braves
Chase Anderson, SP, Milwaukee Brewers
Erasmo Ramirez, SP, Tampa Bay Rays
Mat Latos, SP, Chicago White Sox
Josh Tomlin, SP, Cleveland Indians
American League Only
Preston Tucker, OF, Houston Astros
Brandon Guyer, OF, Tampa Bay Rays
Rafael Ortega, OF, Los Angeles Angels
Ricky Nolasco, SP, Minnesota Twins
Mychal Givens, RP, Baltimore Orioles
National League Only
Tony Wolters, C, Colorado Rockies
Kelly Johnson, 1B/2B/3B/OF, Atlanta Braves
Mark Reynolds, 1B/3B/OF, Colorado Rockies
Ryan Raburn, OF, Colorado Rockies
Tyler Chatwood, SP/RP, Colorado Rockies
Tony Cingrani, RP, Cincinnati Reds
10. Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C, Detroit Tigers (9 Percent Owned)
Fantasy managers who entered the season with Kyle Schwarber, Blake Swihart, Robinson Chirinos, James McCann or Nick Hundley need an immediate replacement at catcher. Anyone suffering through early slumps from Travis d'Arnaud, Devin Mesoraco, Russell Martin or J.T. Realmuto would welcome a hot hand to ride for a few days.
In place of the injured McCann, Jarrod Saltalamacchia has sent four balls into the stands for the Detroit Tigers. He currently leads the position in home runs and will keep starting for at least one to three more weeks.
Per Baseball Savant, the 30-year-old backstop entered Sunday leading MLB with an average batted-ball distance of 283.53 feet before going yard again. He's swinging hard and aiming for the fences every time, and most managers won't care if a catcher provides power with a poor average.
He has already amassed 10 strikeouts in 28 plate appearances, so prepare for that .269 average to fall closer to .229. When it comes to catchers, those in AL-only and two-catcher mixed leagues can't be picky.
9. Brandon Moss, 1B/OF, St. Louis Cardinals (16 Percent Owned)
For two-and-a-half years, Brandon Moss gifted fantasy investors with superb power for little cost. An off 2015, when he eventually lost his everyday gig by hitting .226 with 19 homers, sent those same benefactors running.
Forced to fight for playing time on a crowded St. Louis Cardinals roster, the 32-year-old lefty is making a strong case for a featured role. Despite only receiving four starts, he has homered four times over St. Louis' past seven games. Moss told MLB.com's Jenifer Langosch:
I feel good. Obviously, there are days it feels better and days it doesn't. But I feel like this year I'm in a better position to go out and grind an at-bat out than I was last year. Even when you don't have it together every day, you can go up there and look for a pitch and make an adjustment. Whereas last year, I struggled doing that.
Even during a difficult 2015, Moss maintained a 39.2 hard-hit percentage exceeded by only 10 qualified hitters. He kept pelting fly balls, but not enough cleared the fences.
As he catches fire, Matt Adams has a .250 on-base percentage, and Jeremy Hazelbaker won't sustain his out-of-nowhere breakout. If Moss keeps raking, which isn't improbable for someone with a .453 career slugging percentage, manager Mike Matheny will be remiss to sit him against any righties.
8. Bartolo Colon, SP, New York Mets (20 Percent Owned)
Ignore him all you want. Bartolo Colon isn't going away.
Brought back by the New York Mets for another year, the 42-year-old starter has paired 13 strikeouts with one walk while allowing three runs. His victory over the Cleveland Indians, where he began his career in 1997, tied him with Pedro Martinez for second among Dominican-born hurlers.
One of these days, Colon will get rocked. It's inevitable for someone who pounds the strike zone with fastballs rarely hitting 90 mph on the radar gun. He also won't keep fanning a batter per inning.
Fortunately, baseball's sage veteran calls the National League East home. Per MLB.com, he's scheduled to face the Philadelphia Phillies, who have scored 34 runs through 13 games, on Wednesday.
If the Mets keep their rotation in order, Colon is slated for an even better Week 4, where he'd face the Atlanta Braves before opposing the reeling San Diego Padres at Petco Park. That gives gamers three chances to rack up solid innings and victories before selling high or tossing him back onto the waiver wire.
7. Adam Conley, SP, Miami Marlins (20 Percent Owned)
When a little-known prospect goes wild in September, does it make a sound?
After laboring through his early opportunities with the Miami Marlins last year, Adam Conley posted a 2.62 ERA in his final six starts. He compiled 32 strikeouts in those 34.1 innings, and opponents generated a minuscule .609 OPS.
Dubious drafters, however, didn't jump for a 25-year-old who pitched well against the Philadelphia Phillies after years of mundane minor league numbers. Even after a strong spring, the careful mixed-league gamer stored Conley's name away rather than spending draft capital.
Everyone's doubts materialized when he allowed three runs against the Washington Nationals and only recorded three outs. But before anyone could erase his name from memory, he flummoxed the Mets in his next outing, compiling nine punchouts through six scoreless frames.
Granted, he caught a break avoiding d'Arnaud, Lucas Duda and the streaking Michael Conforto in an afternoon game. He's not a must-own, but Conley will make a great matchup play when his path eventually aligns with the Phillies and Braves. As long as he flashes high-strikeout upside, he's worth a test drive.
6. Jarrod Dyson, OF, Kansas City Royals (19 Percent Owned)
Set to receive the most playing time of his career, Jarrod Dyson strained his oblique in his first spring training plate appearance. The speedy outfielder has spent the past week rehabbing in Triple-A, but Kansas City Royals manager Ned Yost told the Kansas City Star's Blair Kerkhoff that they're not rushing his return.
“No time frame,” Yost said. “When we get back home, [general manager Dayton Moore] and I are going to discuss it. The fact remains he didn’t have a spring training. One at-bat.”
Nevertheless, his 2016 debut looks imminent. The 31-year-old appears ready to roll, hitting .314 (7-for-22) with four walks and four stolen bases. Paulo Orlando and Reymond Fuentes are each slugging below .300, and neither can match Dyson's abilities on the basepaths and in the outfield.
Before injuring his oblique, which hasn't deterred him from running in the minors, Dyson was a sneaky candidate to lead the league in stolen bases. Despite never logging more than 330 plate appearances in a single season, he swiped 126 bags over the past four years combined.
With Alex Rios gone, the Royals should reward their longtime fourth outfielder by playing him regularly against right-handed pitchers. Those opportunities will prove enough for Dyson to again poach at least 30 bases with a passable batting average.
5. Drew Pomeranz, SP/RP, San Diego Padres (21 Percent Owned)
On Thursday afternoon, Phillies starter Vince Velasquez exclaimed his arrival with a complete-game, 16-strikeout shutout against the Padres. Hidden behind his gem, Drew Pomeranz also pitched well, allowing six baserunners and two runs over six innings while recording eight strikeouts.
Expected to work in the bullpen after issuing a 2.61 ERA there in 2015, the 27-year-old lefty instead earned a rotation spot. While the move salvaged his chance of offering immediate value, it also erased his sleeper appeal as a stealth saves candidate.
The former top prospect has validated the decision through two starts, striking out 15 batters in 11 innings. Despite opening the season at Coors Field, he limited the Colorado Rockies to two runs.
The oft-injured hurler has never accumulated 100 or more major league innings in a single season, and his imperfect command will pose WHIP concerns. Yet he showed spurts of turning the corner with the Oakland Athletics, so fantasy gamers might like what they see out of a prolonged rotation stint from Pomeranz.
4. Enrique Hernandez, 2B/SS/OF, Los Angeles Dodgers (39 Percent Owned)
Enrique Hernandez is probably the only person alive who wishes he could face Madison Bumgarner every day.
Teeing off against the fierce San Francisco Giants ace on Friday night, the Los Angeles Dodgers utilityman went deep twice and scooped up a double. He also went 2-for-3 against the star southpaw on April 9, making him a career 10-for-16 with three homers and four doubles in their head-to-head encounters.
He entered the season as a likely platoon piece against lefties, but Hernandez has earned regular reps in left field by collecting a dozen hits in as many games. Buoyed by his unheralded 2015 performance, he now boasts a .295/.345/.484 slash line in 384 career plate appearances.
Sweetening the pot, he should have second-base eligibility in all leagues and shortstop in some as well. If the Dodgers keep using him in the spot vacated by the injured Andre Ethier, Hernandez's unassuming power will play well at middle infield.
3. Kevin Gausman, SP, Baltimore Orioles (20 Percent Owned)
A post-hype sleeper derailed by an early trip to the disabled list, Kevin Gausman is approaching a return to action. The Baltimore Orioles starter made his first rehab outing on Friday, striking out eight High-A batters in 3.1 innings.
Gausman, who opened 2016 on the sidelines due to shoulder tendinitis, gave a thumbs-up to the Baltimore Sun's Eduardo A. Encina after his rehab start:
Right now, I feel like I’m ready. We’ll see how my body reacts tomorrow and kind of go from there. But I think right now, it’s kind of up to them whether I’m ready or not. I feel ready, but pitching in a High-A game and throwing 80 pitches is a lot different than a major league game. I will say that. Right now, I feel good, arm feels good. I’m recovering very quickly, so that’s definitely a good sign.
If the 25-year-old comes to Camden Yards healthy, he's in line to finally make good on his first-round billing. The former No. 4 overall pick issued a career-low 2.32 walks per nine innings (BB/9) in 2015. While manager Buck Showalter foolishly shuttled him to the bullpen and back, the young hurler authored a 3.74 expected fielding independent pitching (xFIP) in the rotation.
Even if he doesn't take any massive strides, Gausman is probably Baltimore's best starter and a serviceable matchup play in mixed leagues. He would have warranted a speculative late flier if not for the delayed debut, so grab him now before he gives everyone else a reason to act.
2. Carlos Beltran, OF, New York Yankees (38 Percent Owned)
Last season, Carlos Beltran didn't hit his third home run until May 23. He wasted no time this year, capturing dinger No. 3 on Saturday.
Since May 1, the New York Yankees outfielder is batting .299 with 22 homers in 126 games. Manager Joe Girardi rewarded the surging veteran by batting him No. 3 on Sunday, and he should remain in the role against righties while Alex Rodriguez struggles.
Sounds like a slugger who needs to be owned across the board. Instead, he's up for grabs in 62 percent of Yahoo Sports leagues.
The 38-year-old may break down before reaching the finish line, and his .341 batting average will obviously fall closer to his career .281 clip. His power, however, has not vanished when healthy. Take advantage of his second wind in pinstripes.
1. Aledmys Diaz, 2B/SS, St. Louis Cardinals (48 Percent Owned)
Hidden under the honorable mentions section last week, Hazelbaker has now soared over the 50 percent threshold. Let's not ignore a red-hot Red Birds bat again.
Aledmys Diaz is making the Cardinals forget all about Jhonny Peralta, batting .406/.441/.813 with two homers, five doubles and a triple. The 25-year-old rookie has brandished a dangerous combination of contact and gap power through a limited sample size.
While the aggressive newcomer has only drawn two walks, he has also only struck out twice, entering Sunday with a 91.1 contact percentage and 4.1 swinging-strike percentage. It'd be a lot easier to scream for regression if not for those extra-base hits and an average exit velocity on par with Miguel Cabrera and Jose Bautista, per Baseball Savant.
Diaz's hot streak stretches back to last year. He caught fire at the end of 2015, when he churned out a .380/.448/.620 line in 14 Triple-A games. The Cuban prospect, who batted .341 as a 17-year-old, then tore up the Arizona Fall League with four homers.
He can't keep up this torrid pace, but he carries plus contact and power upside. Now that he should have comfortably snatched the starting job away from Jedd Gyorko, he's certainly looking like a middle infielder who needs to be owned in all mixed leagues.
All advanced statistics courtesy of FanGraphs unless otherwise noted.
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