Fantasy Baseball Waiver Wire: Top 10 Pickups for Week 16
At a previous time as recent as June, seeing these MLB players on the fantasy baseball waiver wire would have seemed ridiculous.
As the unofficial second half of the baseball season kicks into gear, ailing managers can locate relief from familiar options. A 2015 All-Star has resurfaced, as has a former saves leader and slugger pegged to go bonkers this season.
Last year's best second-half add is available in more than half of Yahoo Sports leagues. With a clean bill of health, he could once again make an impact down the stretch.
One top prospect is waiting for the call to join the ruckus. Another who debuted four years ago finally has a chance to realize his star potential.
Then there are two second-year players who took drastic turns from studs to duds. Impatient gamers abandoned the young sophomores, but there's plenty of time for both to find their footing and resume their journeys to stardom.
Here are this week's top waiver-wire adds.
Yasmani Grandal, C, Los Angeles Dodgers
Howie Kendrick, 1B/2B/3B/OF, Los Angeles Dodgers
Yulieski Gurriel, 3B, Houston Astros (Not in Yahoo Database)
Eduardo Rodriguez, SP, Boston Red Sox
Mike Foltynewicz, SP, Atlanta Braves
Alex Cobb, SP, Tampa Bay Rays
Adam Ottavino, RP, Colorado Rockies
Tyler Thornburg, RP, Milwaukee Brewers
Drew Pomeranz, SP, Boston Red Sox
Ji-Man Choi, 1B, Los Angeles Angels
Ryon Healy, 3B, Oakland Athletics
Carson Fulmer, SP, Chicago White Sox
Keone Kela, RP, Texas Rangers
Tommy Pham, OF, St. Louis Cardinals
Juan Lagares, OF, New York Nets
Reynaldo Lopez, SP, Washington Nationals
Edwin Jackson, SP, San Diego Padres
Ian Krol, RP, Atlanta Braves
10. Jim Johnson, RP, Atlanta Braves (12 Percent Owned)
Need saves? How desperate are you?
After pitching for the first time in 11 days on Friday, the Atlanta Braves placed closer Arodys Vizcaino on the disabled list with a right oblique strain. Since he has only recorded 10 saves in 13 opportunities, readers are probably just now remembering that he was their ninth-inning option.
Before assuming the stand-in won't receive any openings, forecasting save chances is a dangerous game. Cody Allen and Hector Rondon have recorded fewer saves on first-place teams than Jeremy Jeffress has for the Milwaukee Brewers. Philadelphia Phillies closer Jeanmar Gomez led MLB in saves at one point.
So maybe Atlanta starts racking up fluky victories by narrow margins. Look for Jim Johnson to accrue whatever opportunities arise, as he shut the door right before the break with Vizcaino unavailable.
The 33-year-old, who notched 101 combined saves in 2012 and 2013 for the Baltimore Orioles, holds an unappealing 4.13 ERA but a more promising 3.63 fielding independent pitching (FIP). He continues to generate ground balls with regularity while amassing a career-best 7.71 strikeouts per nine innings (K/9).
As long as expectations stay tempered, anyone in the saves-chasing game should grab Johnson.
9. Travis Jankowski, OF, San Diego Padres (3 Percent Owned)
Seven players have more stolen more bases than Travis Jankowski, who has logged 134 plate appearances this season. Now he's playing frequently and occasionally batting leadoff for the San Diego Padres.
Since June 20, the 25-year-old outfielder has swiped 11 bags over 20 games. He's not much of a hitter, but he's creating chances to run with a 15.7 walk percentage.
He has also helped on defense, which will persuade San Diego to keep using him in place of the injured Jon Jay. Why not start and begin the batting order with a speedster sporting a .371 on-base percentage?
Jankowski is a pure steals play in standard five-by-five leagues, but such assets are growing increasingly rare. Only 35 players have compiled double-digit steals, so someone with 16 in a short sample size commands attention in deeper rotisserie formats.
8. Hector Santiago, SP, Los Angeles Angels (33 Percent Owned)
A case study in the All-Star Game occurring too soon, Hector Santiago made last year's American League squad with a 2.33 ERA. Regression and all opponents hit him hard the rest of the way, saddling him with a 5.47 second-half ERA.
The Los Angeles Angels southpaw is attempting a reverse outcome this season. He has yet to allow an earned run in three July starts, and the break didn't stall his momentum. On Friday night, he tossed seven scoreless frames with seven strikeouts against the Chicago White Sox.
“It’s a combination of really good stuff with command,” manager Mike Scioscia said after Santiago's latest gem, per the Los Angeles Times' Pedro Moura. “You didn’t see many mistakes from Hector.”
Such stellar command, however, is atypical from the 28-year-old, who issued four walks in each of his prior three starts. His 3.76 walks per nine (BB/9) is close to his 3.96 career norm.
Yet he has also managed a 3.67 career ERA, routinely defying his peripherals. A 39.2 ground-ball percentage and 16.4 infield fly rate has helped him maintain a 4.27 ERA despite his 4.88 FIP this season.
Although his 7.95 K/9 is down from last year, his swinging-strike percentage has increased from 8.5 to 10.0. It adds up to a matchup play in most mixed leagues, but Santiago is a hot hand who can compile above-average strikeout rates with a solid ERA.
7. Tyler Naquin, OF, Cleveland Indians (13 Percent Owned)
Wait, Tyler Naquin was never mentioned here? Better late than never.
Now that he's finally getting his overdue recognition, the inevitable downfall will probably ensue. Even with a 41.6 hard-hit rate, the Cleveland Indians rookie outfielder won't maintain a .417 batting average on balls in play (BABIP). It's fishy for a career .287/.359/.417 hitter in the minors to bat .314/.373/.598 in the big leagues, so fantasy managers have exuded caution.
With 10 homers, all belted since June 3, he has matched his professional high earned three years ago between Single-A and Double-A. There are plenty of reasons to remain skeptical, but the guarded negativity has everyone missing out on elite production.
His .406 weighted on-base average (wOBA) is higher than marks accrued by Jose Altuve, Kris Bryant, Paul Goldschmidt and Manny Machado. The fun won't last, but see if the ride lasts a little longer.
6. Pedro Alvarez, 1B/3B, Baltimore Orioles (7 Percent Owned)
Pedro Alvarez, who hit 27 home runs for the Pittsburgh Pirates last year, joined the Orioles to play half of his games in a slugger's paradise. He was a preseason breakout power pick on par with new teammate Mark Trumbo.
While Trumbo has capitalized on his new situation with an MLB-high 28 home runs, Alvarez hit .194 with three home runs, 11 RBI and six runs through May 31. Accumulating more strikeouts (27) than hits (20) is a foolproof recipe for getting dropped by all fantasy owners.
Since then, he's hitting .325 (26-for-80) with eight long balls and 18 RBI. His 2016 slash line is up to .254/.322/.497, better unadjusted rates than he produced in Pittsburgh.
His batted-ball, strikeout and walk rates are all close to career norms. The only problem for potential fantasy investors? Baltimore has smartly limited him to a platoon role against right-handed pitchers, against whom he holds an .879 OPS.
Although the counting numbers won't come in bunches, a streaking Alvarez is worth rostering for home runs alone. He's oddly hitting far better on the road, but utilizing Camden Yards will help him collect another 10-15 dingers during the second half, which he began with two bombs in as many starts.
5. Dylan Bundy, RP, Baltimore Orioles (17 Percent Owned)
Four years after momentarily dipping his foot in MLB's waters, Dylan Bundy made his first career start on Sunday.
Entering 2013 as Baseball America's No. 2 prospect, the 2011 No. 4 pick underwent Tommy John surgery right as he was about to crack the Orioles roster. Setbacks wiped off the last two years before working his way back to the rotation this season.
Unfortunately, there isn't a happier story to report. He struggled against the Tampa Bay Rays, relinquishing four runs, three walks and three homers over 3.1 innings. Before the game, per the Baltimore Sun's Eduardo A. Encina, Baltimore manager Buck Showalter framed the start as a positive step despite whatever outcome arose.
“I think we’re all, I wouldn't say anxiously or whatever, just looking forward to [it],” Showalter said. “You think about all the trials Dylan has fought his way through to get back to this opportunity tomorrow. So, regardless of what happens, it’s got a lot of good things about it.”
Bundy earned the opportunity by submitting 22 strikeouts over 14.1 straight scoreless frames. In his last appearance before the All-Star break, he recorded all seven outs via punchout. If he goes back to the bullpen, he could become a sneaky middle-relief asset.
Despite the long, arduous path to the majors, he's still a 23-year-old rookie once envisioned as a future ace. The only prospect ranked above him three years ago, Jurickson Profar, has enjoyed a post-hype breakout in a similar development.
There'd be a stronger case had he mowed down the Rays, but everyone would have jumped on the bandwagon if he dazzled. Now gamers have a chance to take a flier on Bundy before it's too late.
4. Alex Bregman, SS, Houston Astros (22 Percent Owned)
OK, here's the long-awaited Alex Bregman post.
It's odd timing, as the Houston Astros made their infield more crowded by signing Cuban star Yulieski Gurriel. The 32-year-old hit .500/.589/.874 with 15 homers in 49 Cuban National Series games last year, so Houston won't waste much time before utilizing him this year.
According to Jon Heyman of Today's Knuckleball, he will still require a minor league tuneup before debuting. Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal said the Astros plan to bring him up to play third base in three weeks. As a result, Bregman should beat him to the majors.
Last Tuesday, ESPN's Jim Bowden said the Astros would promote Bregman as soon as last weekend. It didn't happen, but the report still foreshadows an imminent call-up. The 22-year-old infielder, who is blocked from his natural shortstop position by Carlos Correa, is hitting .378/.414/.800 with five homers in 10 Triple-A games after notching a .974 OPS in Double-A.
A.J. Reed has struck out more times (17) than he has reached base (12), so Houston can swap rookies while keeping the underrated Luis Valbuena in the lineup. Things will get messy when Gurriel is ready, but the Astros can make room for both by sending Bregman to the outfield in place of the slumping Carlos Gomez.
Valbuena catching fire and Gurriel joining the fray should cool down the immense hype for last year's No. 2 overall pick, but Bregman's torrid hitting won't let the excitement wane. Stash him in leagues with a spacious bench, as he'd contribute in all formats if afforded playing time.
3. David Peralta, OF, Arizona Diamondbacks (42 Percent Owned)
Last year, David Peralta culminated a feel-good story of the journeyman who clawed through the independent circuit to rake for the Arizona Diamondbacks. Formerly a name only hardcore gamers bothered to remember, he stormed into the national spotlight with a .360/.401/.577 second-half slash line.
The sequel hasn't transpired as well. He has hit a robust .259/.308/.442 during a season limited to 41 games with two trips to the disabled list. The 28-year-old has missed the last month with a lower-back sprain, but he's inching toward a return.
On Sunday, the left-handed slugger moved his rehab from the Arizona League to Double-A, a promising sign that he's closer to coming back. Arizona hasn't offered a timetable, but he should return soon barring a setback.
Don't expect the same Peralta from last summer, but he's a worthwhile upgrade if healthy. Even before his 2015 breakout, he hit .286/.320/.450 in limited work the previous year. He's most valuable to studious owners who will play him exclusively against righties, against whom he holds a career .313/.360/.523 slash line.
2. Aaron Nola, SP, Philadelphia Phillies (48 Percent Owned)
On June 11, Aaron Nola entered his 13th start of the season boasting a 2.65 ERA with an inside track on representing the Phillies in the All-Star Game.
Five disastrous games later, he's available in more than half of Yahoo leagues with a 4.69 ERA.
The 23-year-old righty has relinquished 30 runs (27 earned) over his last 15 innings. Philadelphia skipped his turn before the break, but he'll rejoin the rotation on Monday, his first start since July 1. According to MLB.com's Todd Zolecki, Nola said the rest has helped him more physically than mentally.
"Mentally, I feel fine," Nola said. "I feel like the past month I struggled. The ball was up. My command wasn't where it should be. I wasn't getting ahead of guys, and they make you pay for it. I think that's [the] main part. My body is going to be a lot healthier. My arm is going to be a lot healthier. I feel great."
The breather could help the hurler recover late in his first full MLB season. Per Brooks Baseball, his sinker velocity dipped throughout his rough patch. Over his nightmare stretch, the pitch netted a 6.90 whiff percentage and .568 batting average against.
For all these troubles, Nola's incredible start still shines through his overall numbers. He wields a 3.20 FIP, a 55.1 ground-ball rate and the ninth-highest strikeouts-minus-walks percentage among all qualified starters. David Price and Michael Pineda are the only players above him to not receive an All-Star invite.
Nola is getting shelled too hard to start, but someone with such elite peripherals deserves more patience. If available, grab the talented righty and stash him on the bench until he rights the ship. If he's owned, now is the time to send his owner a buy-low offer.
1. Michael Conforto, OF, New York Mets (32 Percent Owned)
Two months ago, Michael Conforto was a top-100 overall contributor and star in the making. Now he's once again positioned to deliver second-half value off the waiver wire.
Following an unnecessarily long delay, the New York Mets promoted the outfielder around this time last year. He responded by hitting .270/.335/.506 with nine home runs in 56 games. Seemingly stuck in a platoon with Juan Lagares, he instead became their everyday No. 3 hitter by batting .365/.442/.676 this April.
How the heck did that guy end up in Triple-A? He hit .148 with 48 strikeouts over 44 games, forcing the Mets to replace him with Brandon Nimmo. The arrangement ended on Sunday, when the Mets recalled Conforto.
Although everyone should take a major league hitter's Pacific Coast League numbers with a grain of salt, he made progress by batting .344/.420/.623. Conforto is the far superior hitter to Nimmo, and the Mets need offense to counteract Lucas Duda and David Wright's absences. Besides, the 23-year-old makes too much strong contact to keep batting .222.
Despite his low average, the 2014 first-round pick accrued a 41.7 hard-hit percentage topped by nine batters with at least 200 plate appearances. Per MLB.com's Statcast data, he recorded an average exit velocity, batted-ball distance and launch angle better than league average rates.
Back in Flushing, Conforto will look more like last year's budding star than the young player who lost his way in May and June.
Note: All advanced statistics courtesy of FanGraphs unless otherwise noted.