Fantasy Baseball Waiver Wire: Top 10 Pickups for Week 15

Andrew Gould@AndrewGould4Featured ColumnistJuly 11, 2016

Fantasy Baseball Waiver Wire: Top 10 Pickups for Week 15

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    Didi Gregorius has commanded attention from all fantasy baseball players.
    Didi Gregorius has commanded attention from all fantasy baseball players.Associated Press

    Fantasy baseball gamers need the MLB All-Star break nearly as much as the players.

    Managing a fake baseball squad is a thankless job with no off days. There's a reason fantasy football has commanded more mainstream popularity. Instead of setting one lineup a week, MLB fiends must monitor leagues on a daily basis for half the year.

    More than midway into the season, owners of rotting rotisserie squads are realizing an epic comeback isn't happening. But don't give up this far into the game.

    Instead, take these extra few days to recharge. Rather than worrying about the daily grind, study the bigger picture. What categories need work? Does any position stick out as a weakness or expendable strength to address before the league's trade deadline?

    Now is also a time to cut dead weight, regardless of their preseason draft slot, for a free agent in better position to help down the stretch. Let's take a look at players available in over 50 percent of Yahoo Sports leagues to grab before play resumes on Friday.

Honorable Mentions

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    David Freese is starting to treat every game like it's the World Series.
    David Freese is starting to treat every game like it's the World Series.Jeff Roberson/Associated Press

    Mixed Leagues 

    David Freese, 1B/3B, Pittsburgh Pirates

    Jose Peraza, 2B/OF, Cincinnati Reds

    Zack Cozart, SS, Cincinnati Reds

    Alex Bregman, SS, Houston Astros

    Josh Bell, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates

    Travis Jankowski, OF, San Diego Padres

    R.A. Dickey, SP, Toronto Blue Jays

    Nick Tropeano, SP, Los Angeles Angels

    Joakim Soria, RP, Kansas City Royals

    Ryan Dull, RP, Oakland Athletics

    AL Only

    Sandy Leon, C, Boston Red Sox

    Kennys Vargas, 1B, Minnesota Twins

    Nick Franklin, 1B/2B/SS/OF, Tampa Bay Rays 

    Aaron Hill, 2B/3B, Boston Red Sox

    Miguel Gonzalez, SP, Chicago White Sox

    NL Only

    Clint Robinson, 1B/OF, Washington Nationals

    Logan Verrett, SP/RP, New York Mets

    Zack Godley, SP, Arizona Diamondbacks

    Aaron Wilkerson, SP, Milwaukee Brewers

    Adam Ottavino, RP, Colorado Rockies

10. Wilmer Flores, 2B/3B/SS, New York Mets (8 Percent Owned)

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    Wilmer Flores is forcing the Mets to reconsider removing him from their everyday lineup.
    Wilmer Flores is forcing the Mets to reconsider removing him from their everyday lineup.Kathy Willens/Associated Press

    Still think the New York Mets needed Jose Reyes?

    Wilmer Flores has not taken a probable benching lying down, going 11-for-26 with five home runs over the last eight games. His OPS has spiked from .627 to .764. 

    Before setting off fireworks in July, the 24-year-old infielder dusted off a cold start by batting .289/.353/.421 in June. While his latest power outburst won't last, he has 20-homer potential given enough plate appearances. That will play from someone eligible at second, third and short. (He's also working on first.)

    Now it's a matter of receiving said playing time. Reyes has returned to predominately handle the hot corner, forcing Flores to pick up scraps at first, second and the bench. The Mets ultimately may have to decide between a man arrested and charged with assaulting his wife and a player nine years younger who became a folk hero for crying at the thought of leaving the organization.

    Or since this is the Mets, maybe someone else will get hurt. If any one of their infielders goes down, Flores is the next man up.

    His .256 season average is close to last year's .263, but his walk rate has more than doubled from 3.7 to 8.1 percent. Average plate discipline should keep him in New York's plans and earn him attention in deeper formats and dynasty leagues where owners grew impatient.

9. Tyler Anderson, SP, Colorado Rockies (12 Percent Owned)

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    Tyler Anderson wields a 3.03 ERA despite making four of his first six starts at Coors Field.
    Tyler Anderson wields a 3.03 ERA despite making four of his first six starts at Coors Field.David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    A different Colorado Rockies pitcher named Tyler is receiving more attention. Tyler Chatwood is a popular streamer due to his 1.30 ERA away from Coors Field, but Tyler Anderson has impressed everywhere in a short sample size.

    In his first six MLB career starts, the 26-year-old southpaw has recorded a 3.03 ERA and 1.26 WHIP. He has amassed 32 strikeouts and six walks over 35.2 innings with a superb 2.97 expected fielding independent pitching (xFIP) and 59.8 ground-ball rate.

    Four of those games took place at his pitcher-adverse home, where he sports a 2.63 ERA despite a .304 opposing batting average. Although he doesn't yet command trust at Coors, few others can muster a 6.5 strikeout-to-walk ratio while battling the high altitude and humidity.

    He missed all of 2015 with an elbow injury and only made three Triple-A starts before getting promoted. This is a lukewarm endorsement for a newcomer who may soon feel Coors' wrath, but his encouraging start makes him a more interesting flier and streamer than Chatwood.

8. Nate Jones, RP, Chicago White Sox (19 Percent Owned)

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    Nate Jones has emerged as an elite middle reliever for the Chicago White Sox.
    Nate Jones has emerged as an elite middle reliever for the Chicago White Sox.Charles Krupa/Associated Press

    Nate Jones is climbing into the elite tier of middle relievers worth utilizing for his ratios. There's also an outside chance of him ascending to the ninth inning.

    The 30-year-old righty sports a 2.45 ERA and 0.87 WHIP with 42 strikeouts over 40.1 frames. He hadn't walked a batter since June 1 until Saturday, when he earned a four-out save with David Robertson unavailable. Even without saves, that type of dominance comes in handy.

    Robertson hasn't pitched since Wednesday due to a leg strain, but the break may save him from a trip to the disabled list.

    “It’s making it tough for me to pitch right now because I can’t move that well,” Robertson said, per CSN Chicago's JJ Stankevitz. “Doctors are saying a couple of days, so I’m thinking right after the All-Star break I’ll be ready to roll.”

    For the majority of managers without a team full of indispensable studs, Jones is worth an insurance add in case those ailments linger. In leagues with daily lineup changes—and he should already be owned in any format counting holds—he will provide ERA and WHIP enough relief to matter anyway. There's also a chance, albeit an improbable one, of Chicago trading its established closer before the deadline.

7. Luis Valbuena, 1B/3B, Houston Astros (8 Percent Owned)

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    Luis Valbuena has cemented his spot in the Houston Astros' starting lineup.
    Luis Valbuena has cemented his spot in the Houston Astros' starting lineup.George Bridges/Associated Press

    After nearly mentioning him every week, Alex Bregman was about to finally make the cut. The main reason for hesitance was the Houston Astros premier prospect not yet advancing beyond Double-A. But he now has a 1.310 OPS through eight Triple-A games.

    Although the 22-year-old infielder is ready for the bigs, Luis Valbuena isn't going anywhere.

    Since exiting April hitting .183 with no home runs, the third baseman is batting .295/.387/.544 with a dozen homers. He closed out the first half with three long balls last week, including a walk-off blast on Friday night.

    Despite the brutal April, his 2016 slash line is nearly identical to those of George Springer and Carlos Correa. Less steals and playing time lower in the batting order widen the fantasy gap, but an injury is the only way Bregman replaces him.

    The prospect will instead have to supplant A.J. Reed, who has reminded everyone to temper expectations from newcomers. Valbuena, meanwhile, is quietly on track for another 20-homer season with a double-digit walk rate.

6. Randal Grichuk, OF, St. Louis Cardinals (31 Percent Owned)

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    Randal Grichuk returns to the majors with Matt Carpenter on the disabled list.
    Randal Grichuk returns to the majors with Matt Carpenter on the disabled list.Jeff Roberson/Associated Press

    The St. Louis Cardinals had too many hitters to play, until they all got hurt.

    Brandon Moss went on the disabled week last week, and Matt Carpenter soon followed. Carpenter's absence frees up second base for Kolten Wong, which opens center field back to Randal Grichuk.

    St. Louis demoted the struggling outfielder, who notched a .623 slugging percentage in 15 Triple-A games. Recalled to replace Carpenter on Tuesday, Grichuk has since gone 9-for-22 with a double and two homers.

    He was probably never as good as last year's .276/.329/.548 slash line suggests, as a .365 batting average on balls in play (BABIP) helped overcome a 31.4 strikeout percentage. While his average has predictably tumbled, so has his strikeout rate, which sits at a reasonable 22.7. 

    The power and spare speed remain intact, so owners can squeeze out 10 homers and a couple steals from the 24-year-old if he plays. Carpenter won't likely return quickly from an oblique injury, so Grichuk should get an extended chance to supply another explosive second half.

5. Didi Gregorius, SS, New York Yankees (29 Percent Owned)

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    Despite starting slow, Didi Gregorius enters the break batting .298 with a career-high 11 homers.
    Despite starting slow, Didi Gregorius enters the break batting .298 with a career-high 11 homers.Frank Franklin II/Associated Press/Associated Press

    Didi Gregorius is hitting .298 with 11 homers and five steals. When did this happen?

    The New York Yankees shortstop soared into the All-Star break, hitting .341 with seven long balls and three steals since June 1. He has recorded an extra-base hit in seven of nine July contests. 

    As noted by SB Nation's Pinstripe Alley, he held a .555 OPS on May 9. It has since skyrocketed to .796.

    How is someone with 11 walks hitting so well? His contact rate has ballooned from 79.5 to 85.1 percent, and his swinging-strike percentage tumbled to a career-best 7.8. More plate patience would be nice, but he has demonstrated the skills necessary to keep his average elevated.

    More importantly for most fantasy gamers, the 26-year-old has already set a career high in long balls and matched last year's five steals. Sustaining this torrid hitting will prove difficult, and anyone adding him now may be crashing the party too late. Yet it's worth seeing if he can carry over this breakout into the second half.

4. Tyler Clippard, RP, Arizona Diamondbacks (43 Percent Owned)

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    Tyler Clippard is likely the new Arizona Diamondbacks closer after they traded Brad Ziegler.
    Tyler Clippard is likely the new Arizona Diamondbacks closer after they traded Brad Ziegler.David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    Fantasy players woke up Saturday morning to news of the Boston Red Sox acquiring Brad Ziegler from the Arizona Diamondbacks. Since Craig Kimbrel landed on the disabled list, don't drop Ziegler, a low-strikeout sidearmer who notched a 2.82 ERA and 18 saves as Arizona's closer.

    USA Today's Bob Nightengale said Tyler Clippard is Arizona's likely saves candidate, but it's possible he also moves before August 1's non-waiver trade deadline. Daniel Hudson is also receiving attention from MLB and fantasy teams, but he's a less appealing option with a 4.91 ERA and 9.1 strikeouts-minus-walks (K-BB) percentage.

    Clippard has made a living defying sabermetrics. Despite owning a career 4.05 xFIP, he also sports a 2.89 ERA, which has only once exceeded 3.10 since 2009. Given his long track record and 15.7 infield-fly rate, it's safe to stop waiting for regression to strike.

    The gap isn't as drastic this season, as he owns a 2.97 ERA and 3.47 xFIP. After accruing 8.11 strikeouts per nine innings (K/9) last year—his worst rate over a full season—the 31-year-old has repaired his K/9 to an appetizing 11.07. 

    He has also slashed his walk rate from 3.93 to 2.97 and succeeded despite a .316 BABIP well above his career .237 clip. It might not last if Arizona trades him as well, but Clippard is the closer worth owning for now.

3. Koji Uehara, RP, Boston Red Sox (44 Percent Owned)

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    Koji Uehara scooped up the Boston Red Sox's last two saves with Craig Kimbrel injured.
    Koji Uehara scooped up the Boston Red Sox's last two saves with Craig Kimbrel injured.Charles Krupa/Associated Press

    Are any healthy All-Stars actually left to play the All-Star Game? Another selection bit the dust on Saturday, when Boston placed Kimbrel on the disabled list with a knee injury. He's expected to miss three to six weeks, via ESPN.com's Scott Lauber.

    In his absence, Koji Uehara picked up saves on Friday and Saturday. After initially slated for a committee, Red Sox manager John Farrell changed course after Saturday's game.

    "Koji's our closer," he said following a save, per Lauber. "On days when (Uehara) isn't available, we've got Brad (Ziegler) to turn to."

    Having never previously held an ERA above 3.00, the 41-year-old is currently saddled with a 4.81 clip despite collecting 48 strikeouts and nine walks in 33.2 innings. He has surrendered five home runs over his past nine outings, so owners should expect a committee at best.

    Then again, the Red Sox have received elite relief work from him over the past three years, so loyalty could have awarded him more opportunities. He'll repair his ERA by tempering the long ball, thus serving as a solid stopgap for Kimbrel.

2. Drew Smyly, SP, Tampa Bay Rays (48 Percent Owned)

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    As his ERA skyrockets, Drew Smyly's fantasy ownership rate has plummeted below 50 percent.
    As his ERA skyrockets, Drew Smyly's fantasy ownership rate has plummeted below 50 percent.Steve Nesius/Associated Press

    Wait, the Drew Smyly with a 5.47 ERA who has relinquished 44 runs over his last 44.1 innings? Yep, that's the one.

    A couple months ago, the Tampa Bay Rays hurler looked like a mid-round steal. He opened 2016 as a legitimate American League Cy Young Award contender, registering a 2.60 ERA, 0.69 WHIP and 41-6 K/BB ratio in April. 

    Then his season spiraled out of control. He has allowed at least four runs in eight of his last 11 starts, relinquishing at least seven hits seven times. Having dished up 20 home runs, he's six away from a tie for the most long balls yielded.

    This all stinks. And yet his peripherals have not also cratered. Although his 4.12 xFIP and 3.78 skill interactive ERA (SIERA) aren't great, it's far better than Smyly's reality. His 18.9 K-BB percentage ranks No. 12 among qualified starting pitchers, ahead of All-Stars Jon Lester, Julio Teheran, Johnny Cueto, Danny Salazar and Jake Arrieta.

    His prognosis seems bleak now, but he could soon enact a turnaround a la Michael Pineda, who netted a 2.75 ERA in June after getting clobbered for two months. With his ownership dwindling, see if Smyly makes some forgiving investors happy with a second-half recovery.

1. Marcus Semien, SS, Oakland Athletics (49 Percent Owned)

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    Marcus Semien has not received the recognition a shortstop with 19 homers deserves.
    Marcus Semien has not received the recognition a shortstop with 19 homers deserves.Associated Press

    What will it take to make Marcus Semien universally owned?

    Trevor Story is the only shortstop with more home runs than Semien's 19, which ties Manny Machado for second. He has also swiped five bags for the Oakland Athletics with 47 RBI and 42 runs as an everyday contributor.

    His overall numbers are comparable to Danny Espinosa, whose ownership rate has inflated to 71 percent. Is Semien ignored for scattering his power throughout the season? The Washington Nationals middle infielder received recognition last week because of a monster stretch, but he also needed said tear to rise from free-agent fodder to valuable option.

    It didn't seem necessary to write up Semien. He's a 25-year-old shortstop who hit .257 with 15 homers and 11 steals last year. Besides, every next homer should have pushed him over the plateau. Better to highlight the lesser-known choices.

    Then again, it's July and his ownership has stagnated right below 50 percent. So let's see if this spotlight helps guide him over that hurdle.

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

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