Fantasy Baseball Waiver Wire: Top 10 Pickups for Week 11

Andrew Gould@AndrewGould4Featured ColumnistJune 13, 2016

Fantasy Baseball Waiver Wire: Top 10 Pickups for Week 11

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    A new and improved James Paxton is worth adding in all fantasy baseball leagues.
    A new and improved James Paxton is worth adding in all fantasy baseball leagues.Ted S. Warren/Associated Press

    Fantasy baseball often boils down to which MLB players receive the appropriate opportunity to succeed. A talented player is useless without playing time or the right role, and favorable circumstances can elevate a middling contributor.

    Week 11's waiver-wire recommendations have always had the skills, but most only recently received the proper role. This includes two relievers instantly made relevant by save potential and a pair of first basemen who slugged their way into relevance.

    Three prospects have also arrived in the majors—two for the second time this year. With their respected clubs expressing a commitment to making this stint last, they're worth a look in all mixed leagues.

    Then there are a couple of starting pitchers who have cemented their previously unstable rotation spots with a streak of strong outings. All of these players remain available in over half of Yahoo Sports leagues, but their ownership rates should skyrocket over the next few days.

Honorable Mentions

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    Christian Friedrich escaped Coors Field with nine strikeouts and no earned runs relinquished on Sunday.
    Christian Friedrich escaped Coors Field with nine strikeouts and no earned runs relinquished on Sunday.David Zalubowski/Associated Press/Associated Press

    Mixed Leagues

    Willson Contreras, C, Chicago Cubs

    Alexei Ramirez, SS, San Diego Padres

    Jayson Werth, OF, Washington Nationals

    Chris Young, OF, Boston Red Sox

    Brandon Finnegan, SP/RP, Cincinnati Reds

    Christian Friedrich, SP, San Diego Padres

    Fernando Abad, RP, Minnesota Twins

    Hunter Strickland, RP, San Francisco Giants

    AL-Only

    Jefry Marte, 1B, Los Angeles Angels

    Darwin Barney, 2B/3B/SS, Toronto Blue Jays

    Gregorio Petit, 2B/SS, Los Angeles Angels

    Daniel Mengden, SP, Oakland Athletics

    Deolis Guerra, RP, Los Angeles Angels

    NL-Only

    Kelly Johnson, 1B/2B/3B/OF, New York Mets

    Chris Coghlan, 2B/3B/OF, Chicago Cubs

    Mac Williamson, OF, San Francisco Giants

    Tyler Anderson, SP, Colorado Rockies

    Boone Logan, RP, Colorado Rockies

10. Brandon Kintzler, RP, Minnesota Twins (24 Percent Owned)

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    Brandon Kintzler should get the bulk of the Minnesota Twins' save opportunities.
    Brandon Kintzler should get the bulk of the Minnesota Twins' save opportunities.Bruce Kluckhohn/Associated Press

    An underwhelming stopgap closer for the injured Glen Perkins, Kevin Jepsen has done more harm than good in fantasy leagues. As the stopper, he converted seven of 10 save opportunities with a 5.76 ERA and 1.76 WHIP for the last-place Minnesota Twins.

    Twins manager Paul Molitor finally saw enough. According to MLB.com's Rhett Bollinger, he declared a new closing tandem of Brandon Kintzler and Fernando Abad. 

    "We kind of had some discussions about how we're going to use our bullpen, and we're going to mix and match," Molitor said. "I don't know if it's a classic bullpen by committee, but we're kind of changing roles here in the short term. But [Kintzler] has done very well."

    Boasting a 0.79 ERA with 22 strikeouts in 22.2 innings, Abad appears the more alluring choice at first glance. Yet the southpaw is better reserved as a specialist to face fellow lefties, who have hit .107/.138/.148 against him this season.

    Kintzler received the first opportunity, nailing down his first save on Wednesday. Don't get too excited about the 31-year-old, who allowed three runs (one earned) on Sunday. Yet don't assume the bad outing against the Boston Red Sox removes him from the picture altogether.

    His 2.81 ERA will expand, but it shouldn't regress fully to his 4.74 fielding independent pitching (FIP). He has often outperformed his peripherals with help from his 58.1 ground-ball rate, up to 66.7 percent this season. His appeal is limited as someone sharing the spotlight on a 19-43 team, but he's worth scooping up for a few extra saves.

9. Dae-Ho Lee, 1B, Seattle Mariners (6 Percent Owned)

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    Dae-Ho Lee has hit 10 home runs in limited playing time.
    Dae-Ho Lee has hit 10 home runs in limited playing time.Associated Press

    How many home runs will it take for Dae-Ho Lee's ownership rate to crack double digits?

    The Korean first baseman has belted 10 home runs in 114 plate appearances, but he remains owned in only 6 percent of Yahoo Sports leagues. In nine June contests, he's 12-for-33 with three long balls and eight RBI. Sporting a .296/.333/.574 slash line, he's forcing his way into the Seattle Mariners lineup. 

    Going deep once every 11.4 plate appearances, he has homered more efficiently than MLB leader Mark Trumbo. Although Adam Lind has turned the corner from a brutal April, Seattle will have a tough time keeping such a prolific slugger out of the fold against right-handed pitchers.

    Playing-time issues limit his appeal, but deep-league players should see where the hot hand takes them.

8. Carlos Estevez, RP, Colorado Rockies (27 Percent Owned)

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    Carlos Estevez will take over for Jake McGee as the Colorado Rockies closer.
    Carlos Estevez will take over for Jake McGee as the Colorado Rockies closer.David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    There's a finite number of relief pitchers given the chance to compile saves. When a manager officially names one his closer, fantasy players must take notice.

    After allowing four runs on Friday, Jake McGee landed on the disabled list with a left knee sprain. Per the Denver Post's Nick Groke, Colorado Rockies skipper Walt Weiss wasted little time naming Carlos Estevez the ninth-inning replacement. 

    In the team's first test since losing McGee, the 23-year-old rookie earned his first career save on Saturday night. On Sunday, however, Jason Motte and Boone Logan collaborated for a scoreless inning with the latter recording a one-out save. Before reopening the race, the neophyte had pitched the previous two days and four times over the last five days.

    Estevez's early results aren't overly impressive. The righty sports a 4.43 ERA and 1.23 WHIP, and he has already walked 10 batters over 20.1 innings. Yet he has also flashed strikeout upside, fanning 22 batters with an 11.6 swinging-strike percentage.

    It's hard to find two pitchers with less in common than Kintzler and Estevez, who is ranked higher given his higher ceiling and firmer grip of the position. As an unpolished, erratic neophyte who will often pitch in Coors Field, there's also a far lower floor buyers must consider.

7. Tommy Joseph, 1B, Philadelphia Phillies (16 Percent Owned)

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    Tommy Joseph has usurped Ryan Howard as the Philadelphia Phillies first baseman.
    Tommy Joseph has usurped Ryan Howard as the Philadelphia Phillies first baseman.Evan Vucci/Associated Press

    Tommy Joseph is batting .301/.312/.616. Ryan Howard is hitting .150/.213/.346. One of these is better than the other.

    After remaining loyal to the veteran for years too many, the Philadelphia Phillies could not keep Howard's minus-1.1 WAR in the lineup any longer while the rookie kept raking. Placed in a precarious predicament, manager Pete Mackanin addressed the difficult decision to MLB.com's Alex Putterman.

    "I can't sit Tommy Joseph," Mackanin said. "You can't say enough about Tommy Joseph. He looks like the real deal, and it's great to have him here."

    After hitting six homers in 100 Triple-A plate appearances, Joseph has crushed seven long balls in 77 trips to the batter's box with Philadelphia. He'll have a hard time hitting above .300 with 21 strikeouts and two walks, but he's making the most of his contact with a 42.3 hard-hit rate

    The 24-year-old will fall to earth with more exposure, especially since he's his strongest against lefties (.429/.476/.737). Yet the power should play in deeper circles, and he's worth using anywhere during his scorching June. Philadelphia is not only playing him every day, but it's featuring him prominently in the cleanup spot.

6. Derek Norris, C/1B, San Diego Padres (39 Percent Owned)

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    Derek Norris is heating up from a dreadful start to re-establish his worth in one-catcher mixed leagues.
    Derek Norris is heating up from a dreadful start to re-establish his worth in one-catcher mixed leagues.Associated Press

    Catcher is rougher than ever this year. Despite hitting .217/.268/.381 for the San Diego Padres, Derek Norris ranks No. 14 on ESPN's Player Rater.

    He's one of eight catchers who has received over 200 plate appearances, and only three (Jonathan Lucroy, Buster Posey and Wilson Ramos) have scored more runs. Yes, this is the same Norris who hit .156 in April.

    He looks far more capable in June, going 14-for-38 with two doubles, two homers and a steal. Even if his career norm is a .244 average, he'll do well by returning to that subdued mean. 

    Norris' bleak start has verified last year's sudden plate-discipline decline. After netting walk percentages of 12.0 and 12.2 in 2013 and 2014, respectively, the once-stellar rate dipped to 6.3 in 2015 and 5.9 this season. Yet he still batted .250 during last year's decline.

    Nobody is asking too much here. If he's a borderline mixed-league play at his worst, he's a steady starter at his best and a low-end placeholder when putting all the puzzle pieces together. Adding him is especially imperative if someone lost patience in a two-catcher format.

5. Zach Davies, SP, Milwaukee Brewers (29 Percent Owned)

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    Zach Davies maintained his hot streak with a stellar start on Sunday.
    Zach Davies maintained his hot streak with a stellar start on Sunday.Associated Press

    Zach Davies doesn't throw hard, and he probably gets mistaken for a teenager when not wearing his Milwaukee Brewers uniform. (This is written by someone who still gets carded at R-rated movies.) But why argue with results?

    The 23-year-old righty has allowed four earned runs over his last four starts, accruing 25 strikeouts and four walks in 26.2 innings. On Sunday, he allowed three hits off a depleted New York Mets lineup featuring two of its Opening Day starters (Curtis Granderson and Yoenis Cespedes), which dropped his 2016 ERA to 3.88.

    Some observers will recall Davies surrendering 13 earned runs over his first three starts, but he has since registered a 2.55 ERA. His last four starts have all come at home, and Milwaukee will play its next nine games on the road. Then again, pitching at Miller Park is hardly an advantage.

    He's not a heralded prospect with overwhelming stuff, so treat him more as a hot hand and matchup play. Think of Davies as a poor man's Kyle Hendricks, which is better than it sounds.

4. Peter O'Brien, OF, Arizona Diamondbacks (9 Percent Owned)

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    Peter O'Brien forced his way back to the majors by torching Triple-A pitching.
    Peter O'Brien forced his way back to the majors by torching Triple-A pitching.Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press

    Fantasy players longed for Peter O'Brien's promotion last year, when the bat-first prospect held catcher eligibility in most places. Unfortunately, he only made a late cameo as a pinch hitter for the Arizona Diamondbacks, who permanently moved him away from the backstop.

    Nevertheless, he still garners attention as an outfielder. After hitting .330/.356/.670 with 17 homers in 51 Triple-A games, O'Brien earned a ticket back to Arizona. In his second start over three days, he took Adam Conley deep on Sunday afternoon.

    Although Arizona's playing card is crowded, D-backs manager Chip Hale told AZCentral.com's Nick Piecoro that O'Brien will play regularly at left field.

    “We’re going to give him an opportunity,” Hale said on Friday. “He’s earned it.”

    O'Brien padded his numbers in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League, but nobody has ever questioned his immense power. Instead of anticipating a stud, expect a slugger who offers pop with a low on-base percentage and high strikeout rate. If he stays in the starting lineup, he'll matter in most mixed leagues.

3. Tim Anderson, SS, Chicago White Sox (27 Percent Owned)

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    The Chicago White Sox promoted speedy shortstop Tim Anderson last week.
    The Chicago White Sox promoted speedy shortstop Tim Anderson last week.Jeff Haynes/Associated Press

    Tim Anderson isn't a 5-star prospect who will torpedo MLB pitchers, but he can sure run fast.

    On Friday, the Chicago White Sox called up the 22-year-old shortstop, who was hitting .304 with four homers and 11 stolen bases in 55 Triple-A games. Last year, he swiped 49 bags in Double-A. With Jimmy Rollins designated for assignment, the newcomer should receive regular playing time.

    Don't expect massive production out of the gate. He left the minors with a microscopic 4.4 walk percentage, which has him batting at the bottom of Chicago's batting order. Factor in a 22.6 strikeout rate, and his contact skills likely won't translate fully at the highest level.

    Anyone adding Anderson in redraft leagues should do so solely for speed. As long as he hits for a decent average and gets the green light, he should reasonably steal 10-15 bases. That makes him a worthy middle infielder in deeper leagues and someone to target aggressively in AL-only formats with a bidding system.

2. James Paxton, SP, Seattle Mariners (22 Percent Owned)

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    James Paxton has piled up the strikeout with added velocity resulting from a lower arm slot.
    James Paxton has piled up the strikeout with added velocity resulting from a lower arm slot.John Froschauer/Associated Press

    Formerly a pitcher with better promise than peripherals, a completely new James Paxton has emerged this year.

    In three eye-opening starts, the Seattle Mariners southpaw has struck out 24 batters over 16 innings. On Saturday, he hurled 6.1 scoreless frames against the Texas Rangers.

    This Paxton is suddenly a fire-breathing monster on the mound. Per Brooks Baseball, he's throwing his four-seam fastball at an average velocity of 98.5 mph. As noted by Rotoworld's D.J. Short, he ended his last superb outing with a heater touching 99 on the radar gun.

    Such an uptick doesn't happen randomly. According to Shannon Drayer of 710 ESPN Seattle, the 27-year-old lowered his arm slot during this year's Triple-A stint on the advice of pitching coach Lance Painter.

    “It just feels natural coming out from that slot,” Paxton said after recording 10 strikeouts versus the Cleveland Indians on June 6. “I was just working on getting everything on target and staying through the glove instead of to it, and it worked out really good.”

    Having already allowed seven unearned runs, his 2.25 ERA is misleading. But prospective investors should focus on the improved velocity and accompanying strikeouts, especially now that his rotation spot is safe with Felix Hernandez out another four to six weeks.

1. Blake Snell, SP, Tampa Bay Rays (19 Percent Owned)

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    Blake Snell, who made one start for the Tampa Bay Rays in April, will get promoted again to start on Thursday.
    Blake Snell, who made one start for the Tampa Bay Rays in April, will get promoted again to start on Thursday.Frank Franklin II/Associated Press

    Take two. Let's see if Blake Snell sticks around this time.

    On Sunday, the Tampa Bay Rays announced their plans to call up Snell and move Matt Andriese to the bullpen. Also per the team's Twitter page, the rookie southpaw will start Thursday against the Seattle Mariners.

    The 23-year-old briefly popped up in April, allowing one run in five innings at Yankee Stadium. In a dozen Triple-A starts, he has registered 90 strikeouts over 63 frames with a 3.29 ERA. Once a little-known minor leaguer, he began 2015 by throwing 49 straight scoreless innings and garnered attention as MLB.com's No. 12-rated prospect.

    Expect a healthy amount of strikeouts from the crafty lefty, who amassed a season-high 13 punchouts on Friday. He has also, however, showcased iffy command, walking 4.4 batters per nine innings through the minors. Barring an unlikely turnaround, the rookie won't help in the WHIP column.

    Owners will forgive him if he brings the strikeouts with a solid ERA. His ceiling is higher than any other free-agent arms, and he's too popular of a prospect to tentatively watch for a start or two. Grab him now before it's too late. (It may already be too late.)

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

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