Fantasy Baseball Waiver Wire: Top 10 Pickups for Week 20

Andrew Gould@AndrewGould4Featured ColumnistAugust 15, 2016

Fantasy Baseball Waiver Wire: Top 10 Pickups for Week 20

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    Aaron Judge homered in each of his first two MLB games.
    Aaron Judge homered in each of his first two MLB games.Rich Schultz/Getty Images

    Tepidness isn't a trait fantasy baseball managers can exude during the final weeks of a championship run.

    There's no time to keep waiting for disappointments to turn the corner. The trade deadline has passed in most leagues, so gamers now have limited methods to fortify their rosters.

    Anyone searching for a spark will have to rummage the waiver wire for unheralded gems. 

    This week's top-10 list features a wide assortment of options, including far more catchers than usual. Since the finish line is in the periphery, a couple of starting pitchers will return to the column because of favorable matchups this week.

    As always, every player is available in at least half of Yahoo Sports leagues. Some will pass the halfway line soon, so don't procrastinate.

Honorable Mentions

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    Tyler Austin went deep in his first career at-bat with the New York Yankees.
    Tyler Austin went deep in his first career at-bat with the New York Yankees.Rich Schultz/Getty Images

    Mixed Leagues

    Tyler Austin, 1B, New York Yankees

    Derek Dietrich, 1B/2B/3B/OF, Miami Marlins

    Matt Duffy, 2B/3B, Tampa Bay Rays

    Ender Inciarte, OF, Atlanta Braves

    Homer Bailey, SP, Cincinnati Reds

    Luke Weaver, SP, St. Louis Cardinals

    David Phelps, SP/RP, Miami Marlins

    Alex Reyes, SP/RP, St. Louis Cardinals

    Fernando Salas, RP, Los Angeles Angels

    Deolis Guerra, RP, Los Angeles Angels

    AL-Only

    Dixon Machado, SS, Detroit Tigers

    Shawn O'Malley, SS/OF, Seattle Mariners

    Teoscar Hernandez, OF, Houston Astros

    Aaron Hicks, OF, New York Yankees

    Wade LeBlanc, SP, Seattle Mariners

    Ross Detwiler, SP, Oakland Athletics

    NL-Only

    Manny Pina, C, Milwaukee Brewers

    Ryan Howard, 1B, Philadelphia Phillies

    Ben Paulsen, 1B/OF, Colorado Rockies

    Matt Szczur, OF, Chicago Cubs

    Brett Anderson, SP, Los Angeles Dodgers

    Clayton Richard, SP/RP, San Diego Padres

10. Tom Koehler, SP, Miami Marlins (42 Percent Owned)

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    Tom Koehler has succeeded with better control over his past few starts.
    Tom Koehler has succeeded with better control over his past few starts.Rob Foldy/Getty Images

    Tom Koehler will probably revert back into a league-average starting pitcher, but he's currently performing better than one.

    The 30-year-old righty has amounted to no more than deep-league depth over his four-year career. He has shown spurts of utility, but they're typically lost within a career 4.06 ERA, 6.76 strikeouts (K/9) and 3.53 walks (BB/9) per nine innings.

    This is probably just one of those spurts. In his last five starts, Koehler has yielded five runs while compiling 28 strikeouts over 33 frames. Perhaps the most encouraging stat of all, the typically erratic hurler has limited the opposition to seven free passes.

    His 7.24 K/9 is nearly identical to 2014's 7.20, but this rate is fueled by a career-best 9.8 swinging strike percentage. Throwing more strikes and missing more bats make a great recipe for improvement.

    He's a decent matchup play while hot and a worthy late-rotation arm for those playing beyond basic mixed leagues.

9. Keon Broxton, OF, Milwaukee Brewers (6 Percent Owned)

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    Keon Broxton is running wild with seven steals since the All-Star break,
    Keon Broxton is running wild with seven steals since the All-Star break,Mike McGinnis/Getty Images

    A deep preseason sleeper has awoken from a long hibernation. Now he's intent on making as much noise as possible.

    In 16 games since his latest promotion, Keon Broxton is hitting .367/.467/.633 with two home runs and seven stolen bases. Including his Triple-A numbers, he has stolen 32 bags this season.

    Broxton has embodied the Milwaukee Brewers' patient style of reaching base at the expense of strikeouts. He's batting .230 with a 37.0 strikeout percentage, but a 15.6 walk rate nevertheless gives him a noteworthy .351 on-base percentage. 

    Only 11 players—including teammates Jonathan Villar and Hernan Perez—have 20 or more steals this season. The way he's going, Broxton will join this club by September despite playing his 46th game on Sunday. 

    Having now earned a full-time gig in center field, Broxton is a poor man's Villar for anyone in search of stolen bases. He's especially valuable in leagues that substitute batting average for on-base percentage or award walks. 

8. Sandy Leon, C, Boston Red Sox (29 Percent Owned)

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    Sandy Leon has bizarrely turned into a star slugger.
    Sandy Leon has bizarrely turned into a star slugger.Adam Glanzman/Getty Images

    Let's get the major disclaimers out of the way. Sandy Leon is a catcher who hit .187 with one homer in 235 plate appearances entering 2016. He has more MLB hits this season (49) than the 39 he accumulated from 2012 to 2015.

    He and the Boston Red Sox owe major gratitude to a wildly unsustainable .468 batting average on balls in play (BABIP). Villar is the only qualified hitter with a BABIP above .400, and he can credit his blazing speed for beating out infield hits. Ty Cobb retired with a .378 BABIP, the second-highest mark ever behind Tom McCreery's .390.

    Leon's .389 batting average is going to sink. That's not really up for debate. The real question, however, is whether his power uptick will stick.

    The 27-year-old's success isn't all empty average. He also boasts a .246 ISO (slugging percentage minus average) on the strength of 12 doubles, two triples and five homers. Extra-base hits are much tougher to luck into, and his 37.6 percent hard-hit rate is a positive sign within a short sample size.

    Besides, beggars can't be choosers when searching for catcher production. He's already the No. 13 catcher on ESPN.com's Player Rater despite arriving in June. Since the alternatives are so feeble, ride the hot hand, but first see if the next guy is available instead.

7. Cameron Rupp, C, Philadelphia Phillies (25 Percent Owned)

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    Cameron Rupp has produced better than other big-name catchers owned in more mixed leagues.
    Cameron Rupp has produced better than other big-name catchers owned in more mixed leagues.Denis Poroy/Getty Images

    Wilson Ramos, Jonathan Lucroy, Buster Posey, J.T. Realmuto, Salvador Perez and Yadier Molina—those are the six catchers ahead of Cameron Rupp on ESPN.com's Player Rater.

    Is he quietly that good, or is the position that bad for him to hold starting value? Probably both. 

    The 27-year-old is hitting .277/.331/.486 with 13 homers in 305 plate appearances for the Philadelphia Phillies. Although he has raked his way into steady playing time, the extra starts will likely damage his slash line. 

    Rupp inflicts most of his damage against left-handed pitchers, against whom he wields a 1.034 OPS. His .764 OPS off righties is workable, but not as a No. 1 catcher in a 10- or 12-team mixed league. It'd take a massive bench to justify a catcher platoon in such a format.

    So why rank him above Leon? His success makes far more sense after watching him blast seven homers last August. The batting average will fall—he's a career .250 hitter with a 25.3 strikeout percentage—but the power isn't a fluke.

    Leon is hitting out of his mind, but Rupp is the safer and boring short-term catcher upgrade. 

6. Jorge Soler, OF, Chicago Cubs (30 Percent Owned)

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    Jorge Soler has returned from a hamstring injury with a vengeance.
    Jorge Soler has returned from a hamstring injury with a vengeance.Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

    Jorge Soler can't keep leaning on his momentarily awesome debut two years ago, when he batted .292/.330/.573 in 97 plate appearances. He also has to scratch and claw for playing time on a crowded Chicago Cubs roster.

    As a result of his .223/.322/.377 slash line and playing-time concerns, Soler didn't stand out as a notable add when he returned from the disabled list. He needed just seven games to change that.

    Since coming back from a hamstring injury that cost him two months, the 24-year-old outfielder has gone 9-for-23 with three homers. Yet he has made two of five starts under National League rules after spending three contests as a designated hitter.

    On the heels of his hot return, Soler has repaired his slash line to .248/.335/.444. His strikeout rate, which rose to an alarming 30.0 percent last year, has deflated back to 22.7. His walk percentage, on the other hand, has risen to 10.2.

    Soler still brandishes star upside, especially in the power department. Don't lose patience on someone who can make a major fantasy impact if given the opportunity.

5. Robbie Ray, SP, Arizona Diamondbacks (20 Percent Owned)

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    Robbie Ray is scheduled for two highly favorable starts this week.
    Robbie Ray is scheduled for two highly favorable starts this week.Rich Schultz/Getty Images

    Rather than stashing guys who may help in September, add someone who will pay immediate dividends this week.

    Last Wednesday, Robbie Ray tossed seven scoreless innings against the New York Mets. Guess who he faces again on Monday?

    The Arizona Diamondbacks southpaw has relinquished 15 homers and a .790 OPS to righties. That's usually a major problem, but not against a Mets lineup missing Yoenis Cespedes, David Wright, Asdrubal Cabrera and Juan Lagares.  

    Anyone who adds him gets double the fun when he closes the week at Petco Park against the San Diego Padres. Ray has an 11.7 K/9 away from Chase Field, and the Padres have the third-highest strikeout percentage versus lefties

    San Diego also sports the fourth-best OPS off southpaws, but Matt Kemp and Melvin Upton Jr. played a major role in that success. Moving this game outside of Arizona's homer-friendly environment gives Ray two plus matchups this week.

    At the very least, he'll bolster his already-impressive strikeout tally (156) while getting two chances for wins against subpar offenses.

4. Gary Sanchez, C, New York Yankees (22 Percent Owned)

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    Gary Sanchez went 4-for-5 with his first career MLB home run on Wednesday.
    Gary Sanchez went 4-for-5 with his first career MLB home run on Wednesday.Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    As a catcher and New York Yankees newcomer, Gary Sanchez fits two of this week's top themes.

    The 23-year-old beat some of his former Triple-A teammates to the Big Apple by a few days. and he has split regular playing time between catcher and designated hitter. Through 11 games, the early returns (11-for-40, three doubles and two homers) are enough to attract eyeballs beyond the plate.

    Sanchez batted .282/.339/.468 with 10 homers in 71 Triple-A games. Just as interesting for prospective fantasy buyers, he swiped seven bags in eight tries. Realmuto and Posey are the only major league pitch-receivers who have poached more than five this year.

    As examined earlier, catcher is an uglier slog of despair than usual. It's also the toughest position for an arriving rookie to master, as he must handle a completely new pitching staff in addition to hitting better pitchers. Yet the Yankees didn't rush Sanchez up, and he's getting eased into catching duties with DH reps.

    Playing time and pop are enough to make him a starter in two-catcher formats, and his upside is higher than other veteran placeholders and waiver-wire alternatives.

3. Ervin Santana, SP, Minnesota Twins (43 Percent Owned)

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    Ervin Santana gets golden matchups against the Braves and Royals this week.
    Ervin Santana gets golden matchups against the Braves and Royals this week.Brian Blanco/Getty Images

    Ervin Santana has submitted a 2.41 ERA in four second-half starts and a 2.05 ERA over his past nine outings. If that data manipulation isn't enough to warrant him a second shoutout this season, look at the Minnesota Twins' schedule.

    On Tuesday, the 33-year-old righty is scheduled to face the Atlanta Braves, baseball's worst offense according to their dead-last weighted on-base average (wOBA). Barring a change in their rotation, he'll celebrate the weekend against the Kansas City Royals, who have the sixth-worst wOBA and fourth-fewest homers. 

    Caveat: Santana surrendered six runs in his last start against the Royals. Caveat to that caveat: That was on May 24, and he pitched well against them in April. More recently, he allowed two runs over nine frames in a tough-luck loss to Atlanta on July 26.

    His 6.61 K/9 is subpar for a mixed-league starter. A 4.40 skill-interactive ERA (SIERA) doesn't bode well for his 3.62 ERA, either. If not for the juicy matchups, he wouldn't be here on the laurels of a hot streak.

    For a guy facing two bottom-tier opponents, he's a great plug-in play.

2. Adam Ottavino, RP, Colorado Rockies (46 Percent Owned)

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    Adam Ottavino has allowed the same amount of runs as his jersey number this season.
    Adam Ottavino has allowed the same amount of runs as his jersey number this season.Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

    Adam Ottavino, who has yet to allow a run since 2014, is now in line for save opportunities.

    That's a misleading factoid, as his 2015 campaign ended in April. He assumed the Colorado Rockies' closer role before undergoing Tommy John surgery, and he won the position back in short order.

    In his two months on the mound over the past two years, Ottavino has amassed 28 strikeouts to five walks in 23.1 scoreless innings. When not fanning batters, he has kept a majority of batted balls on the ground and away from Coors Field's high altitude.

    On Thursday, the 30-year-old struck out the side to earn his first save of the season. While Rockies manager Walt Weiss won't handcuff his best reliever exclusively to the ninth inning, he talked about Ottavino assuming the role from Carlos Estevez last week.

    “That’s not to say I won’t use him in the eighth if it’s a right-handed inning,” Weiss said, per the Denver Post's Nick Kosmider. “There’s some pieces we can move around, but for the most part it will be Ottavino.”

    He'll eventually watch some baserunners cross home plate, but Ottavino can thrive as a No. 2 or 3 closer if health finally allows a prolonged stint in the seat.

1. Aaron Judge, OF, New York Yankees (34 Percent Owned)

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    Aaron Judge hit a massive home run in his first career MLB plate appearance.
    Aaron Judge hit a massive home run in his first career MLB plate appearance.Rich Schultz/Getty Images

    For the first time in this writer's lifetime, the Yankees have entered a vibrant youth movement.

    A day after Alex Rodriguez played his final game, the Bronx Bombers ushered in the new era by promoting Tyler Austin and Aaron Judge. Austin, a 24-year-old first baseman, was a fringe prospect before turning into Lou Gehrig in Triple-A. His sudden dominance (.323/.415/.637 in 57 games) warrants a look, but he's someone to monitor before adding in standard mixed leagues.

    Judge, however, wields too much power upside for patience. The 6'7", 275-pound right fielder belted 19 home runs in Triple-A, and he wasted no time showcasing his mouth-watering potential. 

    He showed what he can do in his first MLB at-bat, going back-to-back with Austin. While Austin's homer narrowly cleared Yankee Stadium's short porch, Judge towered one over Monument Park in center field. Per MLB.com's Bryan Hoch, the dinger traveled 446 feet at 109 mph off the bat.

    He encored with another homer on Sunday.

    The newcomer will hit some bumps in the road, and nobody should expect a high average from a career .278 minor league hitter. But good luck finding a free agent who can do this.

    Note: All advanced statistics courtesy of FanGraphs. Probable pitchers obtained from MLB.com.