Fantasy Baseball Waiver Wire: Top 10 Pickups for Week 19

Andrew Gould@AndrewGould4Featured ColumnistAugust 8, 2016

Fantasy Baseball Waiver Wire: Top 10 Pickups for Week 19

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    Tyler Thornburg should see save opportunities for the Milwaukee Brewers.
    Tyler Thornburg should see save opportunities for the Milwaukee Brewers.Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    So this is why everyone preaches patience when drafting closers.

    "Don't draft a relief pitcher early" has become fantasy baseball's slightly less stern version of "Never take a kicker until the final round." They're at the mercy of a manager's ideologies and his team producing save opportunities. 

    Also, closers change all the time.

    There's a high turnover rate near MLB's trade deadline, which especially caused chaos this summer. Last week's waiver-wire column discussed Dellin Betances, Tony Watson, Kelvin Herrera, Jake Barrett and Edwin Diaz, but there are three more movements to document.

    The Houston Astros reversed course by bequeathing the ninth innings to Ken Giles, whom everyone expected to serve as their closer all along. With the announcement made Tuesday, fantasy gamers have had ample time to skyrocket his Yahoo Sports ownership rate above the 50 percent barrier. 

    It's too late to tout Giles, but two more new closers remain available in over half of Yahoo leagues. Before the revolving door settles down, some gamers have one last chance to snatch a major upgrade for free.

Honorable Mentions

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    Jorge Soler homered in two of his first three games back from the disabled list.
    Jorge Soler homered in two of his first three games back from the disabled list.Rich Schultz/Getty Images

    Mixed Leagues

    Gary Sanchez, C, New York Yankees

    Martin Prado, 2B/3B, Miami Marlins

    Adonis Garcia, 3B/OF, Atlanta Braves

    Yulieski Gurriel, 3B, Houston Astros (recently added to Yahoo database)

    Eddie Rosario, OF, Minnesota Twins

    Jorge Soler, OF, Chicago Cubs

    Matt Andriese, SP/RP, Tampa Bay Rays

    Matt Boyd, SP, Detroit Tigers

    Anibal Sanchez, SP, Detroit Tigers

    Dan Straily, SP, Cincinnati Reds

    AL Only

    Jorge Polanco, 2B/3B/SS, Minnesota Twins

    Rob Refsnyder, 1B/2B/OF, New York Yankees

    Tony Kemp, 2B/OF, Houston Astros

    Casey McGehee, 3B, Detroit Tigers

    Mike Clevinger, SP, Cleveland Indians

    Trevor May, RP, Minnesota Twins

    NL Only

    Matt Reynolds, 2B/SS, New York Mets

    Scott Schebler, OF, Cincinnati Reds

    Ivan Nova, SP, Pittsburgh Pirates

    Ross Stripling, SP, Los Angeles Dodgers

    Jake Thompson, SP, Philadelphia Phillies

    Corey Knebel, RP, Milwaukee Brewers

10. Joe Mauer, 1B, Minnesota Twins (22 Percent Owned)

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    Joe Mauer has 14 hits in six August games.
    Joe Mauer has 14 hits in six August games.Sarah Crabill/Getty Images

    Joe Mauer is quietly having a strong season, but one that serves the Minnesota Twins better than standard fantasy participants.

    On the strength of a 14.1 walk percentage, the former MVP has registered a .382 on-base percentage and 114 weighted runs created plus (wRC+), which indicates above-average offensive results after netting a career-worst 94 wRC+ last year.

    Those in traditional five-by-five formats, however, will see a first baseman batting .280 with nine home runs. And they just fell asleep on the keyboard.

    Even the staunchest Mauer supporters realized years ago that his 2009 power uptick was a mirage. Without catcher eligibility, nobody will get excited over a solid batting average and runs tally. But how about two four-hit games in three days?

    The 33-year-old accomplished the feat last Monday and Wednesday, also drawing a walk each day. He's 14-for-25 with eight extra-base hits and five walks in six sizzling August games.

    He's a boring option these days, but Mauer can help in the average and run departments in deeper formats. Anyone who uses on-base percentage should especially give the streaking veteran another chance.

9. Luis Severino, SP, New York Yankees (21 Percent Owned)

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    Luis Severino will move back into the New York Yankees rotation.
    Luis Severino will move back into the New York Yankees rotation.Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    Luis Severino elevated hopes with a spectacular debut, posting a 2.89 ERA over 62.1 innings last season. The New York hype machine combusted into sports-radio shouting when he relinquished 30 runs over seven starts to open 2016.

    Saddled with a 7.46 ERA and .920 opposing OPS, the New York Yankees gave their groomed ace over two months to regroup in Triple-A. He climbed back to the big leagues with a 3.25 ERA before briefly joining a bullpen ransacked by deadline departures.

    He embraced the temporary new role, allowing one hit through 8.1 frames while compiling 10 strikeouts. The Yankees stretched him out on Wednesday, when the 22-year-old tossed 4.1 strong innings to clean up Chad Green's mess.

    Per the New York Daily News' Mark Feinsand and Peter Botte, Severino will make his first MLB start since May 13 on Tuesday. Stash him now, but hold up on inserting him into the starting lineup, as his first test comes against the Boston Red Sox. 

    Severino would make the Yankees and fantasy investors happy by replicating last year's late spark. If his return to the rotation fizzles, he could salvage some value as a poor man's Betances in their middle innings.

8. Orlando Arcia, SS, Milwaukee Brewers (11 Percent Owned)

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    Orlando Arcia scored four runs while batting No. 2 on Saturday.
    Orlando Arcia scored four runs while batting No. 2 on Saturday.Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images

    Last year, fantasy gamers couldn't wait for Orlando Arcia's arrival. Now he's here, but nobody seems to care.

    Nearly a week after making his MLB debut for the Milwaukee Brewers, the 22-year-old shortstop has a stagnant 11 percent ownership rate in Yahoo Sports leagues. Is this a sign of prospect fatigue, or are managers simply projecting a limited short-term ceiling?

    Last year, the speedy infielder entered everyone's radar by batting .307 with 25 steals in Double-A. His production diminished at the next level, as he was hitting .267 with 15 steals in 100 Triple-A games before the promotion. This isn't someone who will set the fantasy landscape on fire, even during his peak years.

    After last year's unprecedented rookie class, several newcomers have fizzled out of the gates. For all the Alex Bregman excitement, he's batting 6-for-48. Maybe spurned managers are punishing Arcia for his peers' shortcomings and shielding themselves from more heartache.

    Arcia isn't a must-add, but he has the speed to help deep-league gamers down the stretch. Everyone should especially take note of Milwaukee's 15-6 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks on Saturday, during which the neophyte reached base four times from the No. 2 hole.

    The Brewers have nothing to lose by letting him sink or swim atop the batting order, so don't ignore him in deeper rotisserie formats.

7. Andrew Benintendi, OF, Boston Red Sox (29 Percent Owned)

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    Andrew Benintendi made his MLB debut last Tuesday.
    Andrew Benintendi made his MLB debut last Tuesday.Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    By the time most top prospects get promoted, eager fantasy managers have usually spent weeks or months anticipating the move. Not in the case of Andrew Benintendi, whom the Red Sox surprisingly plucked from Double-A last week.

    Last year's No. 7 draft pick vaulted to No. 7 on MLB.com's top prospect rankings by batting .312/.392/.540 with 20 homers and 26 steals in 151 career minor league games. Yet a call-up didn't appear imminent for the 22-year-old, who skipped Triple-A to join baseball's most dangerous lineup.

    Per Evan Drellich and Jason Mastrodonato of the Boston Herald, team president Dave Dombrowski cited Benintendi's well-rounded hitting arsenal when discussing the aggressive promotion.

    “He can use the whole field,” Dombrowski said. “He struck out 39 times and has walked 39 times. He has extra-base power. We don’t look at him as just, ‘He can hit the ball out of the ballpark.’ He uses the whole field. Double-triple type guy. But it’s an adjustment, there’s no question.”

    The left-handed rookie will take the long end of a platoon and start against righties, which gives him a chance to become this year's Michael Conforto with speed. Although the future five-category stud can't be expected to dazzle right out of the gates, he has all the tools to generate steady short-term gains across the board.

6. Aaron Altherr, OF, Philadelphia Phillies (12 Percent Owned)

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    Aaron Altherr has immediately flashed power and speed upon starting his season in late July.
    Aaron Altherr has immediately flashed power and speed upon starting his season in late July.Drew Hallowell/Getty Images

    Aaron Altherr had "sleeper" written all over him. 

    Making the most of a summer call-up last season, the Philadelphia Phillies outfielder accrued an .827 OPS in 39 games. An oversimplified prorating exercise would extend his five homers and six steals into a 20-20 campaign over a full season. (Include his 2015 minor league numbers, and he finished one dinger short.)

    Unfortunately, few players stay healthy for 162 games. The 25-year-old instead missed the entire first half with an injured wrist, but he has quickly regained traction among astute deep-league gamers.

    In his return on July 28, Altherr went 3-for-4 with a homer, and he's now batting .268/.362/.463 with two long balls and three steals over 47 plate appearances. He's once again a tantalizing power-speed combo who now boasts a career 10.6 walk rate in a limited sample size. 

    Playing time down the stretch also isn't an issue; he's already the Phillies' second-most valuable outfielder behind lone All-Star Odubel Herrera. Altherr, who will regain his sleeper appeal next spring, is a valuable contributor in all but the shallowest of mixed leagues.

5. Joe Musgrove, SP, Houston Astros (30 Percent Owned)

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    Joe Musgrove quickly found a spot in the Houston Astros rotation.
    Joe Musgrove quickly found a spot in the Houston Astros rotation.Bob Levey/Getty Images

    A week ago, the Astros called up Joe Musgrove to help their bullpen. On Sunday, he made his first career start.

    Houston's plans changed in a hurry when Lance McCullers exited Tuesday's start—and later landed on the disabled list—with elbow discomfort. Beginning his career in unconventional fashion, Musgrove allowed one hit and compiled eight strikeouts over 4.1 scoreless innings out of the bullpen.

    Taking McCullers' rotation spot to end the week, the 23-year-old righty held the Texas Rangers to one run over seven innings. He retired them in order the first time through the lineup, finishing with six strikeouts and no walks.

    While he left Triple-A with an unimpressive 3.81 ERA, he also registered 57 strikeouts to seven walks in 59 innings. Beforehand, he quickly outgrew Double-A by accruing 30 strikeouts, three walks and one earned run allowed over 26.1 frames. 

    His impressive debut feels reminiscent of the hurler he replaced. Last year, McCullers reached new heights in the majors, harnessing his command and baffling big league batters with his lethal curveball. Musgrove's weapon of choice, a slider, has given the Astros another promising starter with a plus pitch to replace their injured one.

    Both outings came against tough adversaries, the Toronto Blue Jays and Rangers, so grab Musgrove to find out how he follows a sensational opening week.

4. Jameson Taillon, SP, Pittsburgh Pirates (45 Percent Owned)

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    Jameson Taillon has walked six batters in nine MLB starts.
    Jameson Taillon has walked six batters in nine MLB starts.Dylan Buell/Getty Images

    Highlighted as a stash candidate prior to his promotion, a rolling Jameson Taillon remains free-agent fodder in far too many leagues.

    The 24-year-old righty has cemented his recovery from Tommy John surgery with an encouraging MLB debut. In nine starts for the Pittsburgh Pirates, he has notched a 3.29 ERA and 1.15 WHIP.

    A desirable stash because of his 61-6 strikeout-to-walk ratio in Triple-A, he has maintained pinpoint control with 43 punchouts and six free passes over 52 major league innings. Since returning from the disabled list after the All-Star break, he holds a 2.63 ERA, 22 strikeouts and one walk in 24 frames.

    Including his Triple-A numbers, Taillon has yielded 13 walks in 19 starts. So he's Bartolo Colon, only 19 years younger with more strikeouts and a 54.8 ground-ball percentage. The portly veteran has a roughly similar Yahoo ownership rate (42 percent).

    A skeptic will point to Taillon's favorable schedule; he has faced a gamut of National League rebuilders (Brewers, Phillies and Cincinnati Reds) lately. It's a valid point, but he may not run into any tougher matchups too soon.

    If Pittsburgh keeps using him in turn, he'll play the San Diego Padres next week before going to the pitcher-friendly AT&T Park. Rotations rarely stay stagnant for the long haul, but he's currently in position to miss the Chicago Cubs at the end of August. Instead, he'd face the Brewers twice more. 

    Once a prized prospect before missing two years, Taillon has quickly resurfaced as a polished rookie who induces contact on the ground and avoids walks while gradually missing more bats. It's time to take him seriously as a mixed-league mainstay.

3. Devon Travis, 2B, Toronto Blue Jays (31 Percent Owned)

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    Devon Travis hasn't lost his power stroke despite missing 10 months due to shoulder injuries.
    Devon Travis hasn't lost his power stroke despite missing 10 months due to shoulder injuries.Ed Zurga/Getty Images

    Devon Travis also received a write-up before making his delayed 2016 debut on May 25. More than two months later, he's still falling through the cracks despite sustaining his torrid rookie success.

    What will it take for the second baseman to regain everyone's attention? He's hitting .293/.333/.489 with 10 homers and three steals through 57 games. Including his 2015 cut short by a shoulder injury, he carries a career .299/.347/.491 slash line and 18 long balls over 119 games.

    Not too shabby for a 25-year-old middle infielder. He continued to plead for recognition by going yard twice on Friday and once more on Saturday. By the end of the eventful weekend, his 119 wRC+ fell in striking distance of Ben Zobrist, Ian Kinsler and Brian Dozier. 

    There were legitimate reasons not to stash the Blue Jays youngster this spring. Nobody knew if he would return healthy and sustain last year's small-sample breakout, which was fueled mostly by an incredible April. After the opening month, he went deep twice in 150 plate appearances.

    Travis, however, has resoundingly washed away those worries and resumed his rise up the second-base hierarchy. The position is deeper than usual, but he's still making a case as a top-15 play. 

2. Cam Bedrosian, RP, Los Angeles Angels (37 Percent Owned)

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    Cam Bedrosian's fantasy value received a major boost when Huston Street went on the disabled list.
    Cam Bedrosian's fantasy value received a major boost when Huston Street went on the disabled list.Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

    Why did it take an injury for Huston Street to forfeit the Los Angeles Angels' closing gig to Cam Bedrosian?

    Before landing on the disabled list with an injured knee, Street yielded 16 runs and 12 walks in 22.1 innings. All the "closer experience" in the world can't conceal the stench of his horrible performance.

    Bedrosian, meanwhile, boasts a 1.12 ERA in 40.1 innings, allowing the same amount of earned runs all season (five) as Street did in his last outing. The 24-year-old righty has also tallied 51 strikeouts.

    On Wednesday—a day after earning his first career save by striking out the side—he surrendered a run for the first time since May 31. He's entitled to one bad day, especially since Street was afforded several.

    Even if Street returns in short order, this could be a situation where Bedrosian runs away with the job and never looks back. Angels manager Mike Scioscia wouldn't yank the longtime closer from the role, but his reluctance to change the status quo may now work in Bedrosian's favor if he succeeds during Street's absence.

1. Tyler Thornburg, RP, Milwaukee Brewers (43 Percent Owned)

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    Tyler Thornburg should receive save opportunities with Jeremy Jeffress and Will Smith traded.
    Tyler Thornburg should receive save opportunities with Jeremy Jeffress and Will Smith traded.Stacy Revere/Getty Images

    He's not as flashy as Betances and Diaz, but Tyler Thornburg should quickly join them as new closers owned in all active leagues.

    With Jeremy Jeffress traded to the Rangers and Will Smith moving to a town called San Francisco for the Giants, the Brewers created a ninth-inning vacancy. The proud owner of a 2.22 ERA, 0.94 WHIP and 12.29 strikeouts per nine innings, Thornburg is the clear top candidate to fill the position.

    Although Brewers manager Craig Counsell never declared a new closer, actions speak louder than words. In the first save opportunity after the deadline, Thornburg recorded two strikeouts in a 1-2-3 inning on Tuesday.

    His primary competition is Corey Knebel, a preseason sleeper who suffered an oblique injury right before Opening Day. While the 24-year-old has struck out 16 batters over 11.1 frames, he has also relinquished seven walks and five runs.

    It's Thornburg's job to lose, and he has done nothing to worry investors about such a scenario.

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