Fantasy Baseball Waiver Wire: Top 10 Pickups for Week 9

Andrew Gould@AndrewGould4Featured ColumnistMay 30, 2016

Fantasy Baseball Waiver Wire: Top 10 Pickups for Week 9

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    After a rough start to his career, Michael Fulmer has rattled off two impressive outings for the Detroit Tigers.
    After a rough start to his career, Michael Fulmer has rattled off two impressive outings for the Detroit Tigers.Associated Press

    Nearly one-third into the 2016 MLB season, fantasy baseball players have received plenty of reminders of the game's cruelty.

    Far too often, players take extreme detours without rhyme or reason. Remember when Gio Gonzalez allowed four earned runs over his first five starts? He has coughed up 19 in his last five outings. Anyone who picked up Mat Latos on April 25, when he boasted a 0.74 ERA, has watched his ERA balloon to 4.06.

    The Ringer founder Bill Simmons uncovered the truth to fantasy sports when he tweeted that they "only exist to make us feel bad about ourselves." He's right. Take it from someone who expected big things from Michael Pineda.

    Most of the following highlighted players are riding high, and some of those successes will inevitably prove all smoke and mirrors. Some may stick, and there's hopefully a middle ground where these hot hands normalize into serviceable fantasy options.

    All available in more than half of Yahoo Sports leagues, adding these players could make fantasy gamers feel smart for a change.

Honorable Mentions

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    After a brutal start, Adam Lind has hit four home runs in his last 10 games.
    After a brutal start, Adam Lind has hit four home runs in his last 10 games.Elaine Thompson/Associated Press

    Mixed Leagues

    Adam Lind, 1B, Seattle Mariners

    Aaron Hill, 2B/3B, Milwaukee Brewers

    Brad Miller, 2B/SS, Tampa Bay Rays

    Jurickson Profar, 2B/SS, Texas Rangers

    Coco Crisp, OF, Oakland Athletics

    Hyun-Jin Ryu, SP, Los Angeles Dodgers

    Danny Duffy, SP/RP, Kansas City Royals

    Archie Bradley, SP, Arizona Diamondbacks

    AL-Only

    Paulo Orlando, OF, Kansas City Royals

    Whit Merrifield, OF, Kansas City Royals

    Matt Boyd, SP, Detroit Tigers

    Pat Dean, SP, Minnesota Twins

    Tim Lincecum, SP, Los Angeles Angels

    NL-Only

    James Loney, 1B, New York Mets

    Wilmer Flores, 2B/3B/SS, New York Mets

    Chase d'Arnaud, 3B, Atlanta Braves

    Peter O'Brien, OF, Arizona Diamondbacks

    Jarrett Parker, OF, San Francisco Giants

10. Junior Guerra, SP/RP, Milwaukee Brewers (12 Percent Owned)

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    In his first five MLB starts, Junior Guerra has posted a 3.30 ERA with a strikeout per inning.
    In his first five MLB starts, Junior Guerra has posted a 3.30 ERA with a strikeout per inning.Morry Gash/Associated Press

    Before getting promoted to the Milwaukee Brewers, 31-year-old rookie Junior Guerra netted a 4.63 ERA in four Triple-A starts. That sounds like the perfect pitcher to target…if any of the hitters he faces are available.

    The latest example of baseball’s unpredictability, he has accumulated a 3.30 ERA, 1.13 WHIP and 30 strikeouts in 30 innings. He recorded 11 strikeouts against the Chicago Cubs, which is a matchup that makes most starters unplayable.

    Outside of the Cubs, Guerra has feasted on easier opposition, keeping the San Diego Padres and Atlanta Braves off the scoreboard. His schedule gets tougher on Memorial Day, when he’s slated to face the St. Louis Cardinals. If he handles another stout NL Central competitor, mixed-league managers must take notice.

    After failing to stick with the Braves and New York Mets, the Venezuelan righty spent years floating around independent leagues before signing with the Chicago White Sox last year. Now he holds a 12.8 swinging-strike percentage—a mark bested by seven qualified starter pitchers

    This probably won't last. In all honestly, he was tucked in the Honorable Mentions before ESPN The Magazine's Buster Olney reported a setback in Hyun-Jin Ryu's rehab. Yet along with a heartwarming story, Guerra can also offer strikeouts and strong innings against the right opponent.

9. Brandon Guyer, OF, Tampa Bay Rays (13 Percent Owned)

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    Brandon Guyer has hit his way into a regular role for the Tampa Bay Rays.
    Brandon Guyer has hit his way into a regular role for the Tampa Bay Rays.Mike Carlson/Associated Press

    Is highlighting a Tampa Bay Rays lefty-smashing veteran becoming a new weekly tradition? A week after examining Steve Pearce's torrid stretch, Brandon Guyer commands recognition.

    The 30-year-old is batting .311/.406/.549 with six home runs in 144 plate appearances. Usually relegated to facing southpaws, he has started Tampa Bay's last nine games. During that stretch, he's 12-for-37 with five doubles and two deep flies. With Kevin Kiermaier injured, the Rays don't have any better alternatives against right-handed pitchers.

    Like Pearce, the added playing time could expose Guyer's limitations. He has never hit more than 16 homers in a professional season, and his average will pay the prize of regular plate appearances. And oddly enough, his on-base skills result from drawing more hit-by-pitches (49) than walks (48) during his career.

    Guyer has consistently improved throughout his big league tenure, so it's hasty to write off his sizzling May entirely. He's not a lasting contributor in shallow mixed leagues, but he's worth utilizing as a fifth outfielder while he rakes.

8. CC Sabathia, SP, New York Yankees (12 Percent Owned)

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    CC Sabathia has allowed one earned run in three May starts.
    CC Sabathia has allowed one earned run in three May starts.Associated Press/Associated Press

    Anyone who started following baseball after 2012 won't remember CC Sabathia's glory years. From 2013 to 2015, the big lefty erased all memories of his pinnacle by issuing a 4.81 ERA for the New York Yankees.

    By spring, no fantasy players expressed any interest in the decaying 35-year-old. He didn't convince anyone otherwise in April, relinquishing three runs in each of his four starts with 15 strikeouts and 11 walks.

    Just when he turned the corner on May 4—tossing seven shutout innings against the Baltimore Orioles—he went on the disabled list with a strained left groin. There goes any chance of mixed-league relevancy, right?

    Maybe not. After sitting the minimum 15 days, Sabathia has returned strong. In two starts since getting activated, he limited the Oakland Athletics and Toronto Blue Jays to one combined earned run while amassing 15 strikeouts to two walks.

    That gives the veteran a 0.45 ERA in May. Opponents have mustered a .186 slugging percentage, and nobody has generated a lower hard-hit rate than his 16.3 percent.

    He hasn't posted an ERA below 3.00 since 2008, so don't bank on his 2.83 clip sticking. Treat Sabathia as a hot hand to ride in deeper mixed leagues. If May's success matriculates into something more, all the better.

7. Jose Ramirez, 2B/3B/SS/OF, Cleveland Indians (29 Percent Owned)

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    Jose Ramirez compiled two homers and steals apiece last week.
    Jose Ramirez compiled two homers and steals apiece last week.Tony Dejak/Associated Press

    In one week, Jose Ramirez went from a sneaky deep-league resource to a popular pickup in all mixed leagues.

    On Monday, the 23-year-old homered in both ends of the Cleveland Indians' doubleheader against the Chicago White Sox. On Friday, he went 4-for-4 with two doubles. He ended the eventful seven days going 8-for-24 with two homers, two steals and seven runs.

    He played four different positions during the week, and fantasy managers can also use him across the diamond. Ramirez is eligible at second base, third base, shortstop and outfield, where he spends most of his time with Michael Brantley on the shelf.

    This flexibility is more valuable to deep mixed-league players, who will find somewhere to utilize a .304/.378/.449 hitter. Although the batting average will likely fall, he also carries more upside than his four swipes suggest.

    While Ramirez is unlikely a high-impact contributor, he'll help enough everywhere as a middle infielder or utility option.

6. Matt Shoemaker, SP, Los Angeles Angels (6 Percent Owned)

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    Matt Shoemaker has recorded 23 strikeouts in his last two starts.
    Matt Shoemaker has recorded 23 strikeouts in his last two starts.Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    The world's finest scholars and sabermetricians could devote their life's work to figuring out Matt Shoemaker, and they still wouldn't come close.

    Two years ago, the little-known Los Angeles Angels righty posted a quiet 3.04 ERA and 1.07 WHIP. Yet he failed to sustain the rookie breakout last year by issuing a 4.46 ERA and 1.26 WHIP. He fared even worse early in 2016 and received demotion after exiting April with a 9.15 ERA.

    His brief Triple-A stay didn't seem to make a difference; he allowed 13 hits and seven runs in two starts back. In his latest pair of outings, however, he's suddenly Clayton Kershaw. 

    Shoemaker has tallied double-digit strikeouts in consecutive starts, totaling 23 without issuing a walk. Per Baseball Savant's Daren Willman, he induced 49 swing-and-misses in those tilts against the Baltimore Orioles and Houston Astros.

    Per the Los Angeles TimesPedro Moura, Angels manager Mike Scioscia should have given fantasy gamers a heads-up about the Shoemaker revival he saw coming.

    “We always felt that at some point he was going to get back to where he was,” Scioscia said. “None of us feel that a couple years ago was a fluke. We’re not at all surprised with the last two games he’s pitched.”

    Is this Shoemaker here to stay? Probably not, but nobody knows for sure. Underneath a ghastly 5.96 ERA, he sports a 3.99 fielding independent pitching (FIP) with 8.93 strikeouts and 2.58 walks per nine innings. Despite the maddening range of outcomes, his latest success is too impressive to ignore.

5. Matt Adams, 1B, St. Louis Cardinals (16 Percent Owned)

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    Matt Adams is hitting .373 with four home runs in May.
    Matt Adams is hitting .373 with four home runs in May.Associated Press

    The St. Louis Cardinals have more useful position players than available spots.

    Stephen Piscotty is breaking out. Randal Grichuk has rebounded from a harsh April, and a healthy Matt Holliday is once again a solid slugger. Brandon Moss has also returned into a decent power bat, but Matt Adams is clamoring for regular playing time.

    The 27-year-old first baseman is hitting .320/.377/.563 with six homers—three in his last eight games. He even went deep against a southpaw, which is a rare feat for the left-handed slugger. He is looking more like the guy who accrued a .457 slugging percentage in 2014 than the one who stumbled through an injury-shortened 2015.

    Let's be careful, however, not to embellish Adams' past. The career .280/.321/.461 hitter has never tallied 20 or more homers in a single season. Despite a decline in contact percentage, he is enjoying an unsustainable .397 batting average on balls in play (BABIP).

    The Cardinals will have some difficult lineup decisions, especially when Jhonny Peralta returns from the disabled list. For now, the red-hot Adams will factor into manager Mike Matheny's plans against righties, so he's worth grabbing in deeper mixed leagues.

4. Yangervis Solarte, 1B/2B/3B, San Diego Padres (8 Percent Owned)

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    The recently returned Yangervis Solarte has six extra-base hits in his last four games.
    The recently returned Yangervis Solarte has six extra-base hits in his last four games.Associated Press

    This is breaking a self-imposed rule. Yangervis Solarte frequented Week 1's waiver-wire column before the season began. A week later, he went on the disabled list with a right hamstring strain.

    Either nobody listened, or they didn't have an open DL slot for the San Diego Padres infielder, who is owned in 8 percent of Yahoo Sports leagues. Since returning on May 21, he has wasted little time working his way back to relevancy.

    Solarte has collected seven hits—including three doubles and three home runs—in his last four games. On Friday night, he homered from both sides of the plate against the Arizona Diamondbacks. In a bite-sized 52 plate appearances, the 28-year-old is batting .311/.404/.644 with six walks, eight strikeouts and 12 RBI.

    Let's recall what brought him here in early April. When given full-time duty at third base, he hit .292/.336/.470 with nine long balls in 70 games after the All-Star break. He accompanied the power boost with an 8.7 strikeout percentage.

    Two months ago, his contact skills and rising power earned a Daniel Murphy comparison, but that was before the Washington Nationals second baseman transcended into Ted Williams. Wielding eligibility at first, second and third, Solarte should offer solid stats across the board (minus steals).

3. Jorge Soler, OF, Chicago Cubs (31 Percent Owned)

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    Jorge Soler has homered three times in his last eight games played.
    Jorge Soler has homered three times in his last eight games played.Associated Press

    Most waiver-wire candidates receive recognition for their stellar performances. Other new arrivals get glamorized when optimists fill in the blanks by imagining their untapped upsides. 

    Jorge Soler doesn't apply to either category.

    The Cuban outfielder met both descriptors when making his highly anticipated arrival to the Chicago Cubs in 2014. By netting a .573 slugging percentage in 97 plate appearances, he had fantasy gamers envisioning a future star.

    He instead hit a pedestrian .262/.324/.399 last season, and playing-time concerns hampered his 2016 breakout appeal. Although a spot quickly opened due to Kyle Schwarber's torn ACL, Soler has not capitalized. His .211/.308/.377 slash line has sent the 24-year-old back to the waiver wire in most leagues.

    Rewind to that last sentence. He's only 24 years old with 168 MLB games under his belt. For all his struggles, he has improved one of last year's greatest flaws by shrinking his strikeout percentage from 30.0 to 25.6. However, his BABIP has plummeted from .361 to .247. 

    Just as impatient gamers gave up, he has shown signs of life by homering three times over his last eight games. The last one barely stayed inside Wrigley Field. Don't be surprised if a post-hype sleeper blossoms in baseball's most dangerous offense.

2. Eduardo Nunez, 3B/SS, Minnesota Twins (42 Percent Owned)

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    Eduardo Nunez has flaunted uncharacteristic power this month, hitting five home runs and seven doubles.
    Eduardo Nunez has flaunted uncharacteristic power this month, hitting five home runs and seven doubles.Stephen Brashear/Associated Press

    Eduardo Nunez has never hit more than five home runs in a season. He has five in May.

    He batted .373 with five steals in April, but it was easy to write off the 28-year-old's average without any accompanying pop. Suddenly he's hitting .338/.368/.510 with five long balls and nine steals. The Minnesota Twins infielder also added seven doubles to this month's power surge.

    In his defense, Nunez has never received regular playing time over a full year. Even with shortstop Eduardo Escobar back from the disabled list, that should change. He's rolling too much for a team ranked near the bottom of weighted on-base average (wOBA) to sit. 

    If he plays regularly, he can contribute to deeper leagues without any power. When playing a career-high 112 games for the New York Yankees in 2011, he poached 22 bags. He won't have much trouble hitting that mark this season.

    Whether he sticks around in most mixed leagues depends on his newfound slugging skills. The safe bet is against the light-hitting utility man suddenly discovering 15-homer pop, but crazier things have happened.

1. Michael Fulmer, SP, Detroit Tigers (18 Percent Owned)

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    Michael Fulmer has lasted at least seven strong innings in his last two starts.
    Michael Fulmer has lasted at least seven strong innings in his last two starts.Ben Margot/Associated Press

    Even when Michael Fulmer got hit like a pinata, he showed promise. While the Detroit Tigers rookie surrendered 29 hits and 14 earned runs over his first four starts, he also compiled 22 strikeouts in 19.1 innings.

    On Friday night, he registered a season-low three punchouts against the Oakland Athletics. He also yielded four baserunners in 7.2 scoreless frames, following up last week's one-run, 11-strikeout gem versus the Tampa Bay Rays. His ERA now resides at a respectable 3.97. 

    More importantly, he earned job security. 

    Fulmer has shown all the skills of a valuable fantasy hurler, amassing a 9.53 K/9, 2.91 BB/9 and 51.0 ground-ball rate. If the newcomer can perform consistently and limit damaging long balls, his 3.47 skill-interactive ERA (SIERA) and 3.38 expected fielding independent pitching (xFIP) hint at continued success.

    The 23-year-old righty, acquired from the Mets for Yoenis Cespedes last summer, has upgraded from a promising pitcher to watch into a vital add.

    Note: All advanced statistics courtesy of FanGraphs unless otherwise noted.

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