Fantasy Baseball Waiver Wire: Top 10 Pickups for Week 17

Andrew Gould@AndrewGould4Featured ColumnistJuly 25, 2016

Fantasy Baseball Waiver Wire: Top 10 Pickups for Week 17

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    Hector Neris could claim the Philadelphia Phillies closer role by next week.
    Hector Neris could claim the Philadelphia Phillies closer role by next week.Nick Wass/Associated Press

    A proactive fantasy baseball manager already has an eye ahead to August 1's MLB trade deadline.

    The moves are bound to create new opportunities by way of playing time and role improvements. Nobody can predict every impact deal, but now is the time to anticipate possible shake-ups before the competition acts first.

    This particularly applies to a relief pitcher in line for saves if the closer gets peddled by next week. Tyler Clippard has already become the beneficiary of such a move, and someone else could emerge if the Arizona Diamondbacks flip him as well.

    Besides, the waiver wire isn't flooding with talent otherwise. This list breaks the normal practice of not mentioning the same player more than once, as the circumstances have changed enough to warrant another look.

    The following players are available in over 50 percent of Yahoo Sports leagues, so give them a look during July's final week.

Honorable Mentions

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    Ryan Schimpf has homered nine times in July.
    Ryan Schimpf has homered nine times in July.Lenny Ignelzi/Associated Press

    Mixed Leagues

    Sandy Leon, C, Boston Red Sox

    James Loney, 1B, New York Mets

    Ryan Schimpf, 2B, San Diego Padres

    Joey Gallo, 3B/OF, Texas Rangers

    Delino DeShields, OF, Texas Rangers

    Kendall Graveman, SP, Oakland Athletics

    Zach Eflin, SP, Philadelphia Phillies

    Nathan Eovaldi, SP, New York Yankees

    AL-Only

    Dan Vogelbach, 1B, Seattle Mariners

    Justin Morneau, 1B, Chicago White Sox

    Nori Aoki, OF, Seattle Mariners

    Matt Boyd, SP, Detroit Tigers

    Jesse Hahn, SP, Oakland Athletics

    NL-Only

    Manuel Margot, OF, San Diego Padres

    David Dahl, OF, Colorado Rockies

    Braden Shipley, SP, Arizona Diamondbacks

    Jose Urena, SP/RP, Miami Marlins

    Jake Barrett, RP, Arizona Diamondbacks

10. Jose De Leon, SP, Los Angeles Dodgers (13 Percent Owned)

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    Jose De Leon has made a strong pitch for a promotion in Triple-A.
    Jose De Leon has made a strong pitch for a promotion in Triple-A.Norm Hall/Getty Images

    Prospect hunting for pitchers hasn't worked well this season. Jose Berrios, Tyler Glasnow, Lucas Giolito and Julio Urias haven't made the wait worthwhile for redraft investors. The best of the newcomers, Michael Fulmer didn't arrive to much fanfare and speculative stashing anyway.

    Yet it's time to take a plunge on an upcoming neophyte again in deeper mixed leagues. As the Los Angeles Dodgers scavenge for healthy arms, Jose De Leon is dominating in Triple-A.

    In 43.1 innings, the 23-year-old righty has deposited a 2.49 ERA, 1.02 WHIP and 64 strikeouts to 14 walks. He has collected 29 punchouts over his last three outings, most recently pitching a shutout in a season-high eight innings.

    The longevity was a major step for the top prospect, who had previously only lasted six or more frames once in 2016. Protected in the minors, Urias wasn't prepared to go deep enough into games to help the Dodgers or fantasy owners as a starter. 

    The teenage prodigy got optioned back down to Triple-A. Clayton Kershaw, Alex Wood and Hyun-Jin Ryu are all on the disabled list, and the Dodgers can only hope Brandon McCarthy doesn't join them. Unless they acquire someone before the deadline, they can use a strikeout machine like De Leon over the final two months.

9. Francisco Cervelli, C, Pittsburgh Pirates (35 Percent Owned)

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    Back from the disabled list, Francisco Cervelli can provide stability as a No. 2 catcher.
    Back from the disabled list, Francisco Cervelli can provide stability as a No. 2 catcher.Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    Guys with slugging percentages below .300 typically don't hang out around these parts. Especially not 30-year-olds with 17 career home runs over 1,511 plate appearances.

    Luckily for Francisco Cervelli, he's a catcher who finished each of the last three seasons with an on-base percentage of .370 or higher. Only Buster Posey has matched those rates behind the plate.

    The power-starved backstop returned from a five-week absence on Tuesday, but owners in one-catcher formats have little reason to rush to the waiver wire. He hasn't homered in 216 plate appearances this season, and a .257 batting average doesn't offset the major power shortcomings. Yet now that he has recovered from a broken bone in his right hand, Cervelli should return closer to his career .281 norm.

    He's not exciting, but he's certainly helpful as a placeholder in deep mixed leagues and for those who need two starting catchers. His high walk rate also boosts his values in scoring systems beyond the basic five-by-five settings.

8. Ryan Dull, RP, Oakland Athletics (12 Percent Owned)

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    Ryan Dull stands to benefit if the Oakland Athletics trade Ryan Madson or remove him from the closing role.
    Ryan Dull stands to benefit if the Oakland Athletics trade Ryan Madson or remove him from the closing role.Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

    Buried down the American League West standings, the Oakland Athletics figure to sell before the deadline. The exodus could include 35-year-old closer Ryan Madson, who has netted 21 saves despite his 3.40 ERA and 4.44 fielding independent pitching (FIP).

    If Oakland again exploits the culture of overvaluing saves, Ryan Dull is next in line to supplant Madson. The 26-year-old is having a far superior season, sporting a 2.13 ERA, 53 strikeouts and 10 walks over 50.2 frames.

    His 3.24 FIP also indicates some looming regression, but he'd still make a solid closer if given the opportunity. Heck, it may not require a trade if Madson continues to struggle. The veteran reliever has relinquished eight runs over his last 11 outings. Dull, meanwhile, has coughed up 12 earned runs all season.

    Sean Doolittle could poach some opportunities when the matchups favor the southpaw, but Dull has vaulted up Oakland's ladder as the primary setup man. Although it's far from guaranteed Madson goes anywhere, grab his understudy a week early just in case.

    As long as gamers aren't dropping anyone too essential, he's worth a speculative add in most spots. At the worst, he either delivers as a middle reliever or gets dropped right back into the available player pool.

7. Andrew Cashner, SP, San Diego Padres (22 Percent Owned)

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    Andrew Cashner's promising last two starts will draw interest from fantasy gamers and MLB teams needing rotation depth.
    Andrew Cashner's promising last two starts will draw interest from fantasy gamers and MLB teams needing rotation depth.Associated Press

    To the San Diego Padres' delight, Andrew Cashner is auditioning for attention as a deadline acquisition.

    With his contract set to expire for the last-place Padres, the 29-year-old starter acknowledged the writing on the wall after his latest start, per MLB.com's AJ Cassavell.

    "What good is worrying about it going to do?" Cashner said after allowing one run over 5.2 innings on Thursday. "I know I'm going to be traded. It's just part of the game, part of where the season's at."

    After surrendering eight runs to the Dodgers on July 8, the righty has rebounded to yield one run in each of his last two outings. He also tallied 17 combined strikeouts while walking nobody.

    Two starts don't fix all of his problems. He still holds a 4.79 ERA and 4.78 FIP. Leaving Petco Park should worry prospective buyers given his 6.59 ERA and .913 OPS on the road this season. Before blaming his microscopic four wins on San Diego's offense, he has only pitched beyond the sixth inning once this season.

    Yet as noted by FanGraphs' August Fagerstrom, Cashner found a successful formula by leaning more on his slider, which he has thrown faster since returning from the disabled list early in July. A move to the AL East—the Baltimore Orioles, Boston Red Sox and Toronto Blue Jays all need starting pitching—would derail his return to fantasy relevance before it gets off the ground, but he'd become far more interesting on the Miami Marlins or Los Angeles Dodgers.

6. Jedd Gyorko, 1B/2B/3B/SS, St. Louis Cardinals (23 Percent Owned)

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    Jedd Gyorko hit three home runs during a doubleheader against the San Diego Padres.
    Jedd Gyorko hit three home runs during a doubleheader against the San Diego Padres.Jeff Roberson/Associated Press

    Want to go from trapped in obscurity to a suddenly popular add? Hit four home runs in three games—three on the same day.

    From Monday to Wednesday's doubleheader, Jedd Gyorko went 7-for-10 with four dingers. Just like that, the 27-year-old infielder buried down the St. Louis Cardinals depth chart is hitting .257/.315/.476. He has gone deep 12 times in 203 plate appearances.

    Formerly stuck in the short end of the platoon, he is now launched back into an everyday role with Matt Carpenter and Jhonny Peralta on the disabled list. That usually adds to diminished performance, but Gyorko has commanded the full slate with a .610 slugging percentage.

    Maybe he just wanted revenge on the Padres, who dealt him to St. Louis last offseason. Yet there are positive signs beyond his nuclear week, most notably a career-low strikeout percentage (19.7) and career-high contact rate (78.4). 

    If these trends continue, he can keep hitting for a solid average with his 20-homer potential intact. He's also now eligible at all four infield positions in most leagues, but his optimal value remains as a middle infielder for deep-league owners searching for a power spike.

5. Ryan Zimmerman, 1B, Washington Nationals (27 Percent Owned)

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    Ryan Zimmerman expects to return from the disabled list on Tuesday.
    Ryan Zimmerman expects to return from the disabled list on Tuesday.Alex Brandon/Associated Press

    According to MLB.com's William Ladson, Ryan Zimmerman expects to return to the Washington Nationals on Tuesday. The veteran first baseman, who has missed nearly three weeks with a strained left rib cage, homered in his rehab game on Saturday.

    Then again, should fantasy owners and the Nationals want him back in the lineup? Before going down, the 31-year-old was hitting .221/.284/.402 with a minus-0.4 WAR. His absence has allowed Trea Turner to finally get an excited opportunity, during which he has brandished blazing speed.

    Everyone has done this dance long enough to realize Turner won't stay in the lineup. Nationals manager Dusty Baker waited patiently for Danny Espinosa to snap out of a slump to deliver the best production of his career, so the franchise's longest-tenured star won't get summoned to a bench role.

    After entering last year's All-Star break with a .209 average, Zimmerman caught fire with a .311/.372/.652 second-half slash line. Strong finishes are a common practice for him, as he's a career .303/.368/.510 hitter following the Midsummer Classic.

    Turner won't steal the starting spot, so take a shot at Zimmerman again heating up down the stretch.

4. Yasmani Grandal, C, Los Angeles Dodgers (31 Percent Owned)

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    Yasmani Grandal has hit six home runs in 16 July games.
    Yasmani Grandal has hit six home runs in 16 July games.Associated Press

    Yasmani Grandal is a career .235 hitter who has never procured a higher batting average in a single full season. So why is it so hard to steer away from him?

    The Los Angeles Dodgers catcher is currently tip-toeing the Mendoza Line with a .209 average. Yet he has reminded everyone of his untapped ceiling by batting .308/.446/.654 in July with six of this season's 13 home runs.

    The 27-year-old has gathered a 15.0 walk percentage and 35.8 hard-hit rate, but a ghastly 19.2 infield fly rate explains his minuscule average. He has helped the Dodgers more than five-by-five fantasy managers, posting a 106 weighted runs created plus (wRC+) despite his pop-up woes. 

    This is the same guy who hit .282/.401/.526 in 2015's first half before a shoulder injury derailed his breakout campaign. If he can ever erase those harmless bloopers and stay healthy, he's a top-five fantasy catcher. 

    If not, he'll forever tease investors with excellent tools that don't fully translate into standard leagues. For now, he's a hot hand with more power upside than the typical free-agent catcher.

3. Hector Neris, RP, Philadelphia Phillies (13 Percent Owned)

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    Hector Neris could receive save opportunities if the Philadelphia Phillies move closer Jeanmar Gomez.
    Hector Neris could receive save opportunities if the Philadelphia Phillies move closer Jeanmar Gomez.Matt Slocum/Associated Press

    Jeanmar Gomez's trade value has reached its peak, and the Philadelphia Phillies should cash out.

    The 28-year-old reliever has recorded a career-best 2.76 ERA and 26 saves for the Phillies, who remain out of the playoff race despite exceeding expectations. Those saves will give him extra leverage in arbitration, but it will also attract contenders needing bullpen help.

    According to ESPN's Buster Olney, the Pittsburgh Pirates are one team eyeing his services. If the Phillies pawn him off to Pittsburgh or any other buyer, Hector Neris lurks as the next man up.

    Although the 27-year-old has cooled off from a remarkable start, he still owns a 2.66 ERA and 62 strikeouts in 50.2 innings. He resides right around the top 10 in contact rate and swinging-strike percentage, so those punchouts should keep coming.

    Still technically a rookie, Neris will stay put as Philadelphia unloads more veterans for prospects. Its minus-97 run differential doesn't support a 45-55 record, but he'd still receive save opportunities behind a promising young rotation.

2. Howie Kendrick, 1B/2B/3B/OF, Los Angeles Dodgers (42 Percent Owned)

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    Entering July with a .237 batting average, Howie Kendrick is now hitting .274.
    Entering July with a .237 batting average, Howie Kendrick is now hitting .274.Associated Press

    A career .292/.333/.421 hitter, Howie Kendrick batted .220/.266/.287 as of June 10. Something had to give.

    The veteran infielder has since repaired his slash line to .274/.334/.395 with a scorching July. In 20 sizzling games, he rewarded the Dodgers' patience by hitting .377 (29-for-77). His nine doubles and three homers already exceed the 10 extra-base hits accrued through the first three months.

    It's easy to explain his hot streak by citing the law of averages, but there are more tangible changes behind his recovery. After spawning ground-ball rates of 65.8 and 68.9 in May and June, respectively, he has limited the mark to 57.4. Still subpar, but at least workable.

    He has exchanged those grounders for fly balls while not hitting a single pop-up, and he's going the opposite way on 44.3 percent of his batted balls. 

    But also, yeah, the law of averages. Kendrick ended each of the last five seasons hitting .285 or better, so this 16-game hitting streak feels long overdue for one of baseball's most trustworthy contact hitters. He's a handy plug-in as a middle infielder or fifth outfielder.

1. Jurickson Profar, 1B/2B/3B/SS, Texas Rangers (27 Percent Owned)

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    Jurickson Profar should play every day with Shin-Soo Choo and Prince Fielder on the disabled list.
    Jurickson Profar should play every day with Shin-Soo Choo and Prince Fielder on the disabled list.Gregory Bull/Associated Press

    Less than a week ago, MLB.com's T.R. Sullivan said the Texas Rangers had received "a ton of calls" for infielder Jurickson Profar. While the 23-year-old is finally healthy enough to break out, Texas didn't have an opening for the infield.

    Those problems tend to work themselves out. The following day, Texas placed Shin-Soo Choo and Prince Fielder on the disabled list. Now there's plenty of room for Profar, who started working in the outfield prior to news of Choo missing time with an injured back. Per the Dallas Morning NewsEvan Grant, Rangers manager Jeff Banister discussed their effort to find playing time for the blossoming star.

    "Young players find a way to either force you to play them or not, and he's forcing us to find ways to play him," Banister said. "He's continued to play well and put together good, quality, professional at-bats."

    There's now no excuse to sit the .289/.342/.409 hitter, whose rise to the top halted due to shoulder injuries. He can replace Choo in the outfield, fill in for Fielder as the designated hitter or bump any of the other infielders off the diamond. It'd take a colossal effort not to award Profar regular at-bats.

    A starting gig was the only thing standing in his way of universal recognition. Even though he made the waiver-wire list after shining during Rougned Odor's suspension, he warrants recognition again with added plate appearances and position eligibility.

    Note: All advanced statistics, updated as of Sunday night, courtesy of FanGraphs unless otherwise noted.

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