Fantasy Baseball Waiver Wire: Top 10 Pickups for Week 18
Fantasy baseball's biggest Major League Baseball trade deadline winner isn't eligible for waiver-wire recognition.
Days after dealing Aroldis Chapman to the Chicago Cubs, the New York Yankees continued to gut their dominant bullpen in favor of elite prospects. Baseball fans woke up Sunday morning to news of them sending Andrew Miller—who was next in line for saves behind Chapman—to the Cleveland Indians for a package led by minor league outfielder Clint Frazier and pitcher Justus Sheffield.
Anyone constructing rest-of-season reliever rankings should now catapult Dellin Betances to No. 1.
The lone remaining stud in New York's three-headed monster will take his 2.50 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, 1.27 fielding independent pitching (FIP) and 45.0 strikeout percentage into the closer's role. He was far too valuable as a seventh-inning dynamo to rot away on the waiver wire, but anyone should have grabbed him immediately after the Miller trade (or probably the Chapman transaction) where available.
He's already owned in 82 percent of Yahoo Sports leagues, and that number should keep rising until he's on a team in every league with at least one active owner. Nevertheless, this week's top free agents are still littered with relievers available in at least half of Yahoo leagues.
Monday's non-waiver deadline and a couple of non-related promotions and injuries have created an array of talent to cover as the calendar turns to August.
Cesar Hernandez, 2B/3B/SS, Philadelphia Phillies
Aaron Altherr, OF, Philadelphia Phillies
Kevin Kiermaier, OF, Tampa Bay Rays
Kennys Vargas, 1B/DH, Minnesota Twins
Homer Bailey, SP, Cincinnati Reds
Jose Berrios, SP, Minnesota Twins
Cam Bedrosian, RP, Los Angeles Angels
Neftali Feliz, RP, Pittsburgh Pirates
Raul Mondesi, 2B/SS, Kansas City Royals
Mike Aviles, 2B/3B/SS/OF, Detroit Tigers
Billy Burns, OF, Kansas City Royals
Lucas Harrell, SP, Texas Rangers
Ricky Nolasco, SP, Minnesota Twins
Austin Hedges, C, San Diego Padres
Martin Maldonado, C, Milwaukee Brewers
Jabari Blash, OF, San Diego Padres
Jarred Cosart, SP, San Diego Padres
Felipe Rivero, RP, Pittsburgh Pirates
10. Alex Dickerson, OF, San Diego Padres (22 Percent Owned)
A weekend wasted due to a hip injury isn't enough to forget about Alex Dickerson, who will return to an even emptier San Diego Padres outfield.
The 26-year-old teed his way into consistent playing time by hitting .303/.343/.621 during a July culminated with home runs in four consecutive days. His power barrage coincides with San Diego trading Melvin Upton Jr. to the Toronto Blue Jays and shipping Matt Kemp to the Atlanta Braves.
While the moves could create an opening for Hunter Renfroe and/or Manuel Margot, it won't come at the expense of a healthy Dickerson.
According to Padres.com's Bill Center, Dickerson won't require a trip to the disabled list despite needing more rest. On Sunday, Padres manager Andy Green told Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune that the outfielder is "feeling much better."
Players in casual leagues can afford to wait a few days until he returns. Keeper-league managers will pay much more attention to the prospects with higher ceilings capable of contributing if given the chance.
For everyone else, stash Dickerson now, as an ill-timed injury is the only reason the opportunity remains present. He also raked in the minors to little fanfare—most recently slashing .382/.425/.622 in 62 Triple-A games—so last week's homer tear may be more than a mere mirage.
9. Joey Gallo, 3B/OF, Texas Rangers (24 Percent Owned)
Having lost Prince Fielder for the season, the Texas Rangers recalled slugger Joey Gallo on Tuesday. He promptly responded with a dinger. According to ESPN Stats & Info, the moonshot against Sonny Gray traveled 450 feet with an exit velocity of 108.8 mph.
The game-changing power forces fantasy managers to take notice, but his strikeout woes haven't dissipated since last season's underwhelming arrival. As a result, short-term expectations must remain tempered.
Despite teasing his sky-high power upside in 2015, he also struck out 57 times in 123 plate appearances. After accruing a 30.7 strikeout percentage in Triple-A, the 22-year-old has already punched out nine times in 16 trips to the batter's box. The homer represents his only hit in six games.
With Jurickson Profar replacing Shin-Soo Choo in left field, Gallo should get the bulk of Fielder's reps as a designated hitter. Yet regular playing time is not guaranteed, as the Rangers also recently recalled Delino DeShields.
Gallo is more Chris Carter than Kris Bryant, but few fantasy free agents are capable of clearing the fences as often. Gamers who can tolerate a bad average—or play in a league that instead counts on-base percentage—should take the plunge and see if his raw strength keeps him around this time.
8. Hernan Perez, 2B/3B/OF, Milwaukee Brewers (26 Percent Owned)
Teams trapped down the standings are a great place to locate fantasy bargains down the stretch, when trades create playing opportunities for young talent. A prime example is Hernan Perez, who is contributing in all five categories and frequently batting No. 2 or 3 for the Milwaukee Brewers.
Used primarily at third base with Aaron Hill gone, the versatile 25-year-old finished July batting .312 (24-for-77) with four homers and nine stolen bases. A year after hitting .243/.257/.327, he's sporting a .288/.312/.445 slash line with seven long balls and 18 steals.
The speed alone lends him fantasy credence in most leagues, especially since he's eligible at three positions. It's also sustainable if he keeps playing regularly; he stole over 20 bags in four consecutive minor league campaigns.
The power is a bit more perplexing from someone who never offered more than eight homers in a professional season. Given his eight walks in 205 plate appearances, he needs to keep making strong contact, which is unlikely considering how often he chases pitches off the plate.
Even when he cools off, Perez will help deep-league owners in the steals department. In standard leagues, he's more of a hot hand to ride.
7. Edwin Diaz, RP, Seattle Mariners (14 Percent Owned)
It takes a special pitcher (and small sample size) to post a 1.80 ERA despite a .458 batting average on balls in play (BABIP). Edwin Diaz has done just that, overcoming his batted-ball misfortune by striking most opponents out anyway.
The Seattle Mariners rookie has registered 49 strikeouts over 25 innings, giving him a 45.0 strikeout percentage right in line with Betances. On the strength of a wicked slider, hitters are whiffing on 19.1 percent of his pitches and flailing at 33.9 percent of offerings off the plate.
The 22-year-old newcomer has yielded one walk and no runs in his last seven frames, earning five holds and 14 punchouts. Unlike some flamethrowers out of the bullpen, he has the control to significantly improve his 1.28 WHIP once his BABIP regresses.
Adding fire to the flame, Steve Cishek squandered a three-run lead on Sunday night after Diaz fanned three batters. The 30-year-old closer's ERA jumped to 3.26 following his sixth blown save.
Nevertheless, grabbing Diaz isn't about chasing saves, but stockpiling strikeouts. He has morphed into an elite middle reliever gamers—especially in leagues with daily lineup changes and an innings limit—can utilize a la Betances before the Chapman and Miller deals.
6. Mitch Moreland, 1B, Texas Rangers (27 Percent Owned)
Texas originally planned on giving Gallo reps at first base, but Mitch Moreland quickly extinguished those intentions.
Finally waking up from a sluggish start, the 30-year-old starter has gone deep seven times in 14 games since the All-Star break. Since batting .185 in May, he has hit .290 (38-for-131) with 11 homers.
This is what drafters expected from Moreland, who revived his career by hitting .278/.330/.482 with 23 homers and 85 RBI last season. Pundits have spent most of the season calling for Gallo or Profar to replace him, but he now boasts a .478 slugging percentage.
Injuries to Fielder and Choo create room for Moreland, Gallo and Profar to all play regularly, but the veteran is least likely to fall out of the fold. The Rangers stood by his side as he slumped with strong backup plans looming, and he rewarded them for their patience.
Fantasy players were far less forgiving, so he's available in most leagues. Use the red-hot Moreland as a corner infielder or utility option until he cools off.
5. Jake Barrett, RP, Arizona Diamondbacks (22 Percent Owned)
Three weeks after trading Brad Ziegler to the Boston Red Sox, the Arizona Diamondbacks officially sent reliever Tyler Clippard to the Yankees. Jake Barrett would have warranted recognition regardless, but the move leaves no doubt of his closer status.
Before getting dealt, Clippard yielded seven runs over his last three outings. Widely expected to assume the ninth-inning duties, he didn't pick up a single save with Ziegler gone. Barrett, a 25-year-old righty with a 2.79 ERA and 9.08 K/9, has instead converted two opportunities.
Before shipping the veteran back to New York, Diamondbacks manager Chip Hale endorsed Barrett as his closer, per AZCentral.com's Nick Piecoro.
"He will get plenty of chances," Hale said. "I think of the guys this season, the young kids especially, he’s the one kid who has sort of earned it, earned that chance."
The rookie didn't pitch this well in the minors, issuing a 3.31 ERA and 1.35 WHIP inflated by 3.6 walks per nine innings (BB/9). In 38.2 frames for Arizona, he has relinquished a 3.03 BB/9. Throw in his 4.04 FIP, and investors should expect some regression.
Yet he's still a closer surrounded by little competition who can miss bats, making him a valuable mixed-league commodity.
4. Tyler Skaggs, SP, Los Angeles Angels (36 Percent Owned)
Nobody should ever expect immediate results from a pitcher returning from Tommy John surgery. Fantasy players far too often incorrectly assume hurlers will return as good as new without any hiccups, but even the successful comebacks require patience.
Throw that out the window with Tyler Skaggs, who didn't allow a run in his first two starts in two years.
The Los Angeles Angels southpaw hadn't made a major league appearance since July 31, 2014, before returning last week. Exactly two years removed from tearing his ulnar collateral ligament, he accumulated eight strikeouts over 5.1 scoreless frames against the Boston Red Sox, baseball's premier offense.
Skaggs posted a 4.73 ERA in 31 previous starts before returning, so only the most desperate and hardcore managers stashed him. A middling week would have kept him hidden, but a triumphant two outings has the former top prospect back on everyone's radar.
If he can handle Boston this soon, he's capable of making a big difference during the final two months. Just don't assume his comeback will keep carrying on without any complications.
3. David Dahl, OF, Colorado Rockies (36 Percent Owned)
A Colorado Rockies hitting prospect with five-category fantasy upside, David Dahl demands everyone's attention.
Called up last Monday, the 22-year-old outfielder knocked a base hit in each of his first seven games, all on the road. Given Gerardo Parra's .274 on-base percentage, the left-handed newcomer should assume the heavier portion of a platoon.
After hitting .278/.367/.500 with 13 homers and 16 steals in 76 Double-A games, Dahl went 30-for-62 with six doubles, two triples and five homers in what turned into a quick Triple-A pit stop. On his path to the majors, he displayed improved plate discipline, recording an 11.3 walk percentage.
Yet his contact skills will play especially well in Coors Field, where the Rockies play their next eight games. According to ESPN's MLB Park Factors, the high-altitude park conduces more base hits and doubles along with homers. Dahl should utilize the favorable environment to do what drafters thought Parra would accomplish.
His ceiling isn't as high as Gallo's, but Dahl is a great add in mixed leagues with five outfield slots. He'll help a bit everywhere, especially for diligent managers who play the matchups.
2. Tony Watson, RP, Pittsburgh Pirates (50 Percent Owned)
With Tony Watson setting up closer Mark Melancon, the Pittsburgh Pirates have enjoyed a rare luxury of late-inning stability. After they moved Melancon to the Washington Nationals, the long-standing pecking order will change.
Per the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Stephen J. Nesbitt, manager Clint Hurdle plans to reward Watson for his years of service as a setup man with a ninth-inning promotion.
“[Watson] has been there waiting, so we’re going to give him the first shot,” Hurdle said.
Although the 31-year-old lefty boasts a 2.64 ERA, he has amassed an underwhelming 39 strikeouts and 15 walks over 44.1 innings. His 3.70 FIP suggests some bumpier times ahead, but Watson has recorded a lower ERA than FIP in every season of his career.
A 47.5 ground-ball percentage and 14.6 infield-fly rate will offset his other shortcomings, and there's nothing to the myth of relievers cracking under the pressures of closing. Neftali Feliz is also worth watching and adding in some formats, but expect Watson to keep the job for two months.
1. Kelvin Herrera, RP, Kansas City Royals (45 Percent Owned)
When Wade Davis went on the disabled list to open July, there was no chance to tout Kelvin Herrera, whose ownership rate instantly skyrocketed above 50 percent. Not everyone, however, kept the Kansas City Royals reliever once the closer returned after the All-Star break.
In some leagues, owners have a second chance to add Herrera, who boasts a 1.58 ERA, 0.88 WHIP and 57-to-7 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Even as a setup man, those numbers play in any five-by-five format. But they won't need to for at least two weeks.
After sending Davis for an MRI, the Royals placed him back on the disabled list with what they labeled a flexor strain. Herrera will go right back to the ninth inning, where gamers should treat him as a top-10 fantasy closer.
The way he's pitching, it's odd so many managers dumped him back on the waiver wire two weeks ago. Before Davis' setback, this section would have delved into the possibility of Kansas City trading the closer, who raised some alarm bells with his 8.55 K/9 and 4.01 BB/9.
Kansas City has fallen out of the playoff picture by dropping eight of its last nine games, so there's no reason to rush Davis back when his first return lasted two weeks. If he only requires the minimum time off again, Herrera will pick up some saves during the 15 days before delivering value as an elite setup man.
All advanced statistics courtesy of FanGraphs unless otherwise noted.