Fantasy Baseball Waiver Wire: Top 10 Pickups for Week 23
It's time to give fantasy baseball managers their annual reminder: Baseball doesn't end once football begins.
The college season commenced on Saturday, and the NFL will follow this week. Meanwhile, MLB is five months and roughly 130-135 games into its campaign. It takes resilience to avoid complacency in favor of football, which offers a fresh slate of unlimited possibilities.
For rotisserie baseball players, every stolen base and strikeout could present the difference between first and second place. Some head-to-head participants, meanwhile, have a week remaining before the playoffs start.
Football drafts can wait a moment, as it's now time to scour the baseball waiver wire for impact free agents, all available in over half of Yahoo Sports leagues.
Brandon Phillips, 2B, Cincinnati Reds
Jarrod Dyson, OF, Kansas City Royals
Scott Schebler, OF, Cincinnati Reds
Raimel Tapia, OF, Colorado Rockies
A.J. Cole, SP, Washington Nationals
Luis Cessa, SP/RP, New York Yankees
Seth Lugo, SP/RP, New York Mets
Chad Kuhl, SP, Pittsburgh Pirates
Daniel Norris, SP, Detroit Tigers
American League Only
Dioner Navarro, C, Toronto Blue Jays
JaCoby Jones, SS, Detroit Tigers
Terrance Gore, OF, Kansas City Royals
Raul Alcantara, SP, Oakland Athletics
Jharel Cotton, SP, Oakland Athletics
National League Only
Tom Murphy, C, Colorado Rockies
Stephen Cardullo, 1B, Colorado Rockies
Socrates Brito, OF, Arizona Diamondbacks
Steven Brault, SP, Pittsburgh Pirates
Rafael Montero, SP/RP, New York Mets
10. Derek Holland, SP, Texas Rangers (19 Percent Owned)
Derek Holland is no longer a "great if healthy" hurler. The oft-injured southpaw is now just as unreliable on the mound, posting a 4.70 ERA over his last 27 starts from 2015 and 2016.
He's not a major impact add like two years ago, when he returned in September to submit a 1.46 ERA through six stellar starts. Yet he looks better since coming off the disabled list in late August.
Holland has gone six innings in all three outings and allowed four combined runs. His last start was less encouraging, as he issued three walks with two strikeouts against the Houston Astros on Saturday. With his fastball and slider velocity diminished, he has accrued 55 strikeouts in 90.2 innings this season.
Consider this a lukewarm endorsement for a 29-year-old who has seen better days. This is the same guy who surrendered 11 runs on May 5, and he unraveled last September (6.19 ERA) after a promising August (2.53 ERA).
Given his past proclivity for success in short stints, he deserves a look in deeper mixed leagues where managers don't need to monitor an innings limit.
9. Adonis Garcia, 3B/OF, Atlanta Braves (7 Percent Owned)
While only diehard Atlanta Braves fans are still closely monitoring the cellar-dwelling team in September, fantasy managers must keep close tabs on the league's laggards. As they tinker with lineups and audition forgotten players for 2017 gigs, the bad teams can swing fantasy titles.
Those who lost interest in Atlanta are missing Adonis Garcia's sizzling second half. The 31-year-old third baseman is batting .300/.352/.506 with eight home runs and 13 doubles after the All-Star break.
Before going 0-for-5 on Sunday, he recorded multiple hits in five consecutive games, culminating in a pair of home runs on Saturday. Yet his .730 OPS still lingers below last year's .790 mark.
Garcia has also improved his pitch selection during the second half, upping his walk rate from 3.8 to 6.6 percent while diminishing his strikeout percentage from 18.7 to 11.7. A popular deep sleeper heading into the season, he's far from an out-of-nowhere performer. He just took longer than expected to deliver.
Now that he's rolling, scoop him back up in deeper mixed leagues.
8. Luke Weaver, SP, St. Louis Cardinals (20 Percent Owned)
At this rate, Luke Weaver could finish with as many strikeouts as Jered Weaver.
The rookie has racked up 26 strikeouts in his first four major league starts for the St. Louis Cardinals. He has increased his tally every outing, accumulating 10 punchouts against the Milwaukee Brewers on Wednesday.
Because he has relinquished a home run in every start, his 3.86 ERA and 1.33 WHIP aren't overly impressive. Yet the strikeouts keep him on the mixed-league radar, especially considering his 7.7 strikeout-to-walk ratio in the minors (almost entirely Double-A) this season.
Bolstering the case for an immediate pickup, he's in line to make two starts this week. After facing an average Pittsburgh Pirates offense, he'll get another opportunity to pad his strikeout total against the Brewers, who hold MLB's highest strikeout percentage.
Weaver has the look of a steady hand who should produce well in strikeouts and WHIP despite the long ball damaging his ERA. Utilize him as a matchup play this week.
7. Byron Buxton, OF, Minnesota Twins (24 Percent Owned)
OK, let's try this one more time.
At 22 years old, Byron Buxton is already receiving his fourth second chance. The ballyhooed prospect has not sniffed the gaudy hype, hitting an atrocious .216/.261/.363 with 125 strikeouts in 113 games. Yet the Minnesota Twins outfielder is suckering everyone back in due to his latest strong return.
In four September games, Buxton is batting 9-for-16 with three doubles and three home runs. While speed is his main talent, he unlocked his raw power by belting 11 home runs and a .568 slugging percentage in 49 Triple-A games this season. He prompted a promotion by homering in four straight games from August 24-27.
Even Minnesota manager Paul Molitor isn't completely buying his latest turnaround, per Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press.
“It’s just such a small sample size that you can’t take it too much farther than that,” Molitor said. “I think it builds confidence, if anything, that he gets a mistake and he’s been able to do some damage. I’m looking for consistency of contact. When the home runs come, that’s always a bonus.”
He can't keep coasting on expectations and short glimpses of stardom, but Buxton still wields a sky-high ceiling as a five-category stud. One of a few teams out of the playoff picture, the Twins might as well give him another month to solidify his place in their future plans.
If the power uptick is real, his breakout could lead patient fantasy gamers to a title. Just understand there's a great possibility of him falling flat again.
6. Jose De Leon, SP, Los Angeles Dodgers (33 Percent Owned)
The Los Angeles Dodgers probably should have called up Jose De Leon much sooner.
Besides Kenta Maeda, all of their regular starters have spent time on the disabled list this season. Yet they waited until September to promote someone sporting a 2.61 ERA and 0.94 WHIP in Triple-A.
In Sunday's laborious major league debut, the 24-year-old righty allowed four runs over six innings. He also, however, flaunted a significant fantasy ceiling by stockpiling nine strikeouts without any walks.
That's nothing new for De Leon, who recorded 111 punchouts and 20 walks over 86.1 minor league innings. As long as he stays healthy over a full season in the bigs, he'll chase the 200-strikeout benchmark throughout his career.
Along with getting Rich Hill back, Clayton Kershaw is set to return on Friday, per the Los Angeles Times' Mike DiGiovanna. Yet there's still room for the newcomer if the Dodgers bump Ross Stripling, preserve Julio Urias or employ a six-man rotation. Imperfect debut aside, he's far too talented for the battered Dodgers not to utilize down the stretch.
5. Joe Panik, 2B, San Francisco Giants (31 Percent Owned)
Four qualified hitters have drawn more walks than strikeouts this season. The exclusive list is comprised of Bryce Harper, Buster Posey, Ben Zobrist and…Joe Panik.
Jose Iglesias is the only qualified hitter with a lower strikeout percentage than Panik's 9.5. Given his advanced plate approach, the San Francisco Giants second baseman should spend the final weeks repairing a .252 batting average far below his norm.
The career .288 hitter finished each of his two prior seasons above .300, posting a .312 clip last year. Despite the significant decline, he has a lower strikeout rate, higher walk rate (10.0 percent) and identical contact percentage (89.7).
For readers who only care about surface results, he is beginning to enact the expected positive regression by hitting .316 (24-for-76) since August 10. The 25-year-old has already surpassed last year's less impressive marks with 10 home runs and five stolen bases.
At his best, Panik will still help the Giants more than five-by-five fantasy players who rely on clearing fences and poaching bases. On the other hand, contact hitters are rare these days, and he's an exceptional one despite the misleadingly low batting average.
As that clip increases, he will offer sneaky middle-infield value. Those who stick around for a bounce-back September should also remember him as a 2017 draft sleeper.
4. Alex Cobb, SP, Tampa Bay Rays (14 Percent Owned)
In his first MLB start since 2014, Alex Cobb reminded everyone what a talented hurler he is when healthy.
Returning from Tommy John surgery on Friday, the Tampa Bay Rays righty registered seven strikeouts and one walk over five frames against the Toronto Blue Jays. While he also surrendered two runs in a no-decision, everyone should tack that as a victory given the circumstances.
"It was almost like a major league debut feelings again," Cobb said after the game, per the Tampa Bay Times' Roger Mooney.
He has yet to last 30 starts or 175 innings in a single season, but the 28-year-old has delivered when healthy. Through 82 starts, he wields a 3.22 ERA, 7.74 strikeouts per nine innings and a 56.6 ground-ball percentage.
Keeper and dynasty players can't depend on any long-term gains, but an active Cobb will help redraft managers finish the season strong. After passing a tough first test, it's safe to add and start him.
3. Asdrubal Cabrera, SS, New York Mets (27 Percent Owned)
Welcome back, Asdrubal Cabrera.
Since returning from a knee injury on August 19, the New York Mets shortstop has hit 22-for-54 with five doubles and six home runs. He's now hitting .274/.325/.464 with his highest home run tally (19) in five years.
The veteran also caught fire in the second half last year, when he batted .328/.372/.574 after a sluggish start. He would have made last week's list if not for exiting August 28's game early, but he has since gone yard three times in five games.
Cabrera is far from an exciting option, and fantasy players typically desire speedy middle infielders. Yet he's a steady source of power who usually starts in the No. 2 slot above Yoenis Cespedes.
There are far worse shortstops out there, so gamers prioritizing power over speed should add him while he's hot.
2. C.J. Cron, 1B, Los Angeles Angels (26 Percent Owned)
When C.J. Cron is hot, he's hot.
The Los Angeles Angels slugger demanded attention in early July by recording a dozen hits and five homers over five games. A few days later, he went on the disabled list with a broken hand.
He has picked up right where he left off, going 19-for-56 with four homers in 14 games since returning in late August. On the heels of those separated hot streaks, he boasts a .288/.335/.500 slash line. Even though it's a contextual stat that often says more about one's surroundings, 61 RBI over 91 games have certainly delighted his fantasy investors.
Regardless of how he performs, he probably won't sustain the pace of 108 RBI prorated to 162 games. Yet batting behind Mike Trout and Albert Pujols can't hurt.
Cron was on his way to earning mixed-league notoriety before suffering an untimely injury, but the slugger has resumed his crusade to universal attention. If even for a short-term jolt, he deserves it.
1. Yoan Moncada, 2B, Boston Red Sox (41 Percent Owned)
Yoan Moncada has "fantasy superstar" written all over him.
Ranked as MLB's top prospect by MLB.com and Baseball America, the 21-year-old stockpiled 23 home runs and 94 stolen bases over 187 career minor league games. Although he spent a majority of 2016 in Single-A, the Boston Red Sox couldn't wait any longer to unwrap the prized talent, lifting him straight from Double-A as a September call-up.
Before getting promoted, Moncada swapped speed for power, batting .277/.379/.531 with 11 long balls and nine swipes in 45 games. He also carried an alarming 30.9 strikeout percentage, so expect a bunch of whiffs from the unpolished neophyte.
Few thought Boston would rush him up while already boasting baseball's premier offense with no significant holes. Yet Moncada started at third base over Travis Shaw and Aaron Hill on Saturday and Sunday.
Per the Boston Globe's Peter Abraham, manager John Farrell plans to play the newcomer often against right-handed pitchers.
“He wouldn’t be here if we didn’t feel like he could step in and contribute,” Farrell said.
Don't expect earth-shattering results immediately, but Moncada is too talented to sit on the waiver wire. Years from now, he'll challenge Mookie Betts as a five-category stud and first-round draft selection. This month, he's a high-upside lottery ticket worth purchasing in all mixed leagues.
Note: All advanced stats courtesy of FanGraphs unless otherwise noted.