Fantasy Baseball Waiver Wire: Top 10 Pickups for Week 21
Not every fantasy baseball pickup needs to be flashy. When hunkering down for a title run, owners just need players who get the job done.
Most of this week's waiver-wire recommendations meet that mold. They're not all buzzy adds, but they're delivering to little fanfare. If they keep it up, these unheralded gems can ignite a championship push.
Even the promoted newcomers consist of a 32-year-old baseball veteran and a refined 22-year-old prospect poised to spend his career under the shadow of his position's superstar peers.
And fair warning to Arizona Diamondbacks fans: This list will conjure memories of that horrendous Shelby Miller trade. Sorry in advance.
Here's the latest batch of players to snatch off the waiver wire, where they remain in at least half of Yahoo Sports leagues.
Mike Zunino, C, Seattle Mariners
Justin Morneau, 1B, Chicago White Sox
Jose Peraza, 2B/OF, Cincinnati Reds
Chris Owings, 2B/3B/SS, Arizona Diamondbacks
Manuel Margot, OF, San Diego Padres
Reynaldo Lopez, SP, Washington Nationals
Zack Godley, SP, Arizona Diamondbacks
American League Only
Chad Pinder, 2B, Oakland Athletics
Carlos Gomez, OF, Texas Rangers
Henry Owens, SP, Boston Red Sox
Luis Cessa, SP/RP, New York Yankees
Matt Strahm, RP, Kansas City Royals
National League Only
Xavier Scruggs, 1B, Miami Marlins
Ivan De Jesus Jr., 2B/3B/SS/OF, Cincinnati Reds
Mitch Haniger, OF, Arizona Diamondbacks
Andrew Toles, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers
Jeff Hoffman, SP, Colorado Rockies
10. Yulieski Gurriel, 3B, Houston Astros (23 Percent Owned)
Over a month after signing Cuban free agent Yulieski Gurriel, the Houston Astros promoted him to the big league roster. The 32-year-old made his debut on Sunday as the designated hitter, collecting a hit and walk before leaving early with hamstring tightness that does not appear serious. Per MLB.com's Brian McTaggart, he could be good to go on Monday.
He hardly demanded attention in the minors, batting .250/.262/.429 in 15 games spread across four levels. A far cry from his .500/.589/.874 line in Cuba last year, his slow acclimation period diminished the hype of his debut.
Also an issue for prospective fantasy investors: Where will he play? Since collecting two hits over his first 10 games, Alex Bregman is 22-for-67 with seven doubles and three homers. Third base is all his.
With Colby Rasmus hurt and Carlos Gomez shipped out of Houston, there's plenty of room in the outfield if he can handle it. The third baseman played one game in left field during his minor league tour. Perhaps Bregman, a shortstop who moved to second and then third, is once again asked to relocate.
If Sunday is any indication, he'll assume DH duties when Evan Gattis catches instead of Jason Castro. The Astros should be losing patience with A.J. Reed (.196/.299/.326), but it's unclear if any of the above options can handle first base.
If Gurriel hits, Houston will find a spot for him. That's far from a sure thing, but he's worth a look in deeper mixed leagues.
9. Dan Straily, SP, Cincinnati Reds (46 Percent Owned)
Every week, Dan Straily almost makes his way into the top 10. Then a look at his peripherals causes cooler heads to prevail.
The 4.51 fielding independent pitching (FIP) behind his 3.72 ERA? Not great. Neither are his 7.31 strikeouts (K/9) and 3.16 walks (BB/9) per nine innings. Without great command or swing-and-miss stuff, he's asking for trouble with a 32.6 ground-ball percentage.
Straily, however, hasn't gone away. He boasts a 2.25 ERA in seven second-half starts, recording 38 strikeouts and six walks over 44 innings. The Cincinnati Reds righty hasn't issued a free pass since August 2.
"I understand who I am as a pitcher, and not trying to be something I’m not,” Straily told the Cincinnati Enquirer's C. Trent Rosecrans after outdueling the Miami Marlins' Jose Fernandez on Thursday.
Despite the backing of baseball's worst bullpen, he has somehow won five of his last six starts. Don't count on those victories, but all except one—he only pitched 5.1 innings in the holdout—were quality starts.
He still looks like just another mixed-league matchup play, but Straily is pitching far sharper as of late.
8. Enrique Burgos, RP, Arizona Diamondbacks (13 Percent Owned)
The song may never stop in Arizona's game of musical closer chair.
After moving Brad Ziegler and Tyler Clippard, Jake Barrett received a crack at taming the ninth inning. He didn't succeed, surrendering 17 baserunners and nine runs in six August innings. Feeling no attachment to a temporary stopgap, the Diamondbacks will give someone else a chance.
The next stab belongs to Enrique Burgos, who recorded his first save of the season on Saturday night. He's riding a far hotter hand than Barrett this month, allowing two runs and accumulating 16 strikeouts over 10.2 frames.
He also struggles with command, issuing 15 walks in 29.1 innings this year. It'd be easy enough to copy and paste a blurb from Barrett about adding him because he strikes guys out and has a chance to stockpile saves.
Also, the Diamondbacks are running out of options.
They may grow bored of Burgos after a bumpy outing or two, but anyone scouring the waiver wire for saves in late August can't be picky.
7. Dansby Swanson, SS, Atlanta Braves (17 Percent Owned)
The Swanson Pyramid of Greatness will soon need another wing for Dansby Swanson's achievements.
Last week, the Atlanta Braves called up the shortstop, last year's No. 1 pick bizarrely given up by Arizona in the Miller haul. Given his .261/.342/.402 Double-A slash line, the promotion came far sooner than anticipated.
Yet the 22-year-old has not looked overmatched against major league pitching. Armed with a bat from Uncle Ron's woodworking shop, Swanson has picked up four hits in his first four games. Hey, it beats playing Erick Aybar.
Swanson is not poised to join the likes of Corey Seager, Xander Bogaerts, Carlos Correa and Francisco Lindor. Instead, he'll serve as the steady hand drafters turn to rounds later when they miss out on the top tier. He's skilled everywhere but not a major difference-maker anywhere.
He's a valuable dynasty asset as a poor man's Derek Jeter, but don't set the bar too high this summer. He's more of a deep-league middle infielder with a low immediate ceiling but higher floor than most newcomers plucked straight from Double-A.
6. Chad Green, SP/RP, New York Yankees (31 Percent Owned)
Great, more nice things for the New York Yankees.
If Gary Sanchez's Mike Piazza impersonation didn't offer enough optimism, Chad Green channeled his inner Roger Clemens last Monday, baffling the Toronto Blue Jays with 11 strikeouts and no walks through six shutout innings.
Per River Avenue Blues' Katie Sharp, the 25-year-old is the youngest Yankee to have submitted as many strikeouts with two or fewer baserunners during the last century.
He delivered another encouraging outing on Sunday, stifling the Los Angeles Angels to one run over six innings.
Although not a blue-chip prospect, Green also hasn't arrived from nowhere. He showcased his way into a rotation spot by wielding a 1.52 ERA, 100 strikeouts and 21 walks in 94.2 Triple-A innings. In four minor league seasons, he posted a 3.06 ERA, 8.6 K/9 and 2.2 BB/9.
According to ESPN.com's Wallace Matthews, Green will stay in the rotation for the remainder of the season alongside Luis Cessa, who tossed six spotless frames in his first career start on Saturday. Don't expect an ace going forward, but he's yet another intriguing young Yankee who can contribute during the final few weeks.
5. Ender Inciarte, OF, Atlanta Braves (26 Percent Owned)
As Atlanta welcomes Swanson, another player stolen from Arizona is heating up.
In 35 games since the All-Star break, Ender Inciarte is batting .343 with 26 runs scored. Even in a putrid offense, a leadoff hitter will score if he keeps getting on base like the outfielder has recently.
Based on his 90.8 contact percentage, this is more than a momentary hot streak. Instead, it's a course correction from a career .285 hitter still repairing a .270 average. While incredible defense in center field hasn't directly helped fantasy investors, it secured his starting spot as Atlanta's most valuable position player after Freddie Freeman despite early offensive struggles.
Is this a bad time to mention Miller's 7.14 ERA? Sorry again, Diamondbacks fans.
Inciarte hasn't stolen a base yet this month, but the 25-year-old has swiped 11 bags in 94 games after poaching 21 last year. He should start running again and help gamers in five-outfielder formats as a plus contributor in steals, average and runs.
4. Cesar Hernandez, 2B/3B/SS, Philadelphia Phillies (25 Percent Owned)
Cesar Hernandez was a useful spark for parts of last season, batting .297 with 14 steals in June and July. Then he slowed down at the plate and on the basepaths, and gamers quickly lost interest.
He's back again. The Philadelphia Phillies infielder has quietly hit .321 since May 31, and the added trips to first have led to him poaching 10 bags.
The 26-year-old has also expanded his repertoire behind slap hitting. This August, he has already registered three doubles, two triples and two homers, giving him an uncharacteristic .515 slugging percentage.
Hernandez has also taken a page out of speedy teammate Odubel Herrera's playbook and morphed into a patient tactician. Since the All-Star break, he has netted a 15.0 walk percentage well above his 8.4 career norm.
Philadelphia has taken notice, regularly slotting him atop the batting order. A contact hitter with wheels and a keen batting eye will do a lot of fantasy damage in the leadoff role. Just look at the 15 runs he has scored in 17 August games.
These improvements may not stick over the long haul, but he at least warrants a short-term look as a dangerous middle infielder.
3. Homer Bailey, SP, Cincinnati Reds (34 Percent Owned)
Let's rewind to 2013, when Homer Bailey ascended into a potential ace with a 3.49 ERA and 199 strikeouts over 209 innings. Invested gamers may recall targeting him as a breakout starter in 2014 drafts, but the unfortunate fallout is fresher in everyone's mind.
After an uneven 2014, the Reds righty underwent Tommy John surgery early last year. On July 31, he returned from a 15-month hiatus and has since strung together two encouraging starts.
Rebounding from a five-run outing against the Pittsburgh Pirates, Bailey submitted 11 strikeouts over six innings against the Milwaukee Brewers. He then tossed five more solid frames (one earned run, one walk, six strikeouts) against the Marlins.
Not sold yet? Understandable. The Marlins are hardly an offensive dynamo without Giancarlo Stanton, and no team in baseball strikes out more than Milwaukee. It will take a larger sample size to regain everyone's trust, but time isn't a luxury afforded to fantasy gamers in late August.
The 30-year-old has a risky two-start week ahead against the Los Angeles Dodgers and at Chase Field versus the Diamondbacks. If he masters two tricky matchups, he'll prove his value as a meaningful arm for a September title push.
2. David Phelps, SP/RP, Miami Marlins (48 Percent Owned)
A valuable middle-relief option, David Phelps has quickly proven he can also help fantasy gamers as a starter.
Given his immense success in the bullpen (2.65 ERA, 11.43 K/9), a move to the rotation didn't initially make sense. There's a reason the Marlins changed his role in the first place: He was a middling starter with a career 4.19 ERA and 7.24 K/9.
In four starts, the 29-year-old has struck out 26.2 batters in 20.2 innings. Opponents, including the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field, have hit .192/.263/.288 against him. He passed his biggest hurdle on Saturday, offering longevity with six scoreless innings versus the Pirates.
Shifting roles isn't usually ideal for a pitcher, but players have seen another hurler flourish when given another chance to start. It took some time to stretch Danny Duffy out, but he now sports a 2.62 ERA and 5.55 strikeout-to-walk ratio in the Kansas City Royals rotation.
That's a high bar to set for Phelps, but his 2016 breakout now looks like more than the simple story of an average starter shining in short-inning duty. With his improvements carrying over into a larger role, he could make a major mark in September.
1. Brandon Moss, 1B/OF, St. Louis Cardinals (42 Percent Owned)
Brandon Moss has homered 23 times in 327 plate appearances, giving him a dinger every 14.2 trips to the plate. Mark Trumbo, who has belted an MLB-high 37 bombs, has a homer per 13.9 trips to the batter's box.
If Moss had enough plate appearances to qualify, his .576 slugging percentage would rank fourth behind David Ortiz, Daniel Murphy and Jose Altuve. He'd also probably have a lower slugging percentage on account of facing more lefties, but isn't someone with a 1.000 OPS against righties worth the few minutes of research?
The St. Louis Cardinals slugger has decked five homers over his past 10 games. As a result of his mighty power and other injuries, he's now awarded the cleanup role when starting. He even played against southpaw Dallas Keuchel when playing under American League rules.
Mashers of his ilk are prone to massive highs and horrible lows, and a 30.3 strikeout percentage poses a grave threat to his steady .262 batting average. He may fall off, but Moss is still a terrific power hitter who deserves recognition in all mixed leagues.
Note: All advanced statistics courtesy of FanGraphs unless otherwise noted.