Fantasy Baseball Waiver Wire: Top 10 Pickups for Week 25
It's probably too late to add two of fantasy baseball's most intriguing waiver-wire candidates.
Although it feels like years ago, Taijuan Walker caused giddy drafters to pat themselves on the back after posting a 1.44 ERA, 25 strikeouts and three walks in April. As everyone rejoiced the Seattle Mariners starter's breakout, his season unraveled.
Walker decayed into free-agent fodder—until last Tuesday, when he struck out 11 batters during a three-hit, complete-game shutout. The dominant display against the Los Angeles Angels, who 10 days earlier tagged him for six runs before he could escape the first inning, put the 24-year-old righty back on the map.
Meanwhile, 35-year-old outfielder Curtis Granderson also faded into obscurity by hitting .221 on the heels of last year's resurgent campaign. For all of his struggles, the veteran outfielder has compiled 28 homers after going deep twice in extra innings on Saturday.
Despite batting a moribund .193 after the All-Star break, he also has 13 homers. For those critical of his 51 RBI—part anomaly and part a byproduct of leading off most of the season—the New York Mets are now batting him cleanup behind Yoenis Cespedes.
Walker and Granderson both would have made the cut if their Yahoo Sports ownership rates hadn't climbed above 50 percent. Look their way if still on the waiver wire, but everyone else can focus on these players instead.
Tom Murphy, C, Colorado Rockies
Lucas Duda, 1B, New York Mets
Derek Dietrich, 1B/2B/3B/OF, Miami Marlins
Marwin Gonzalez, 1B/2B/3B/SS, Houston Astros
Freddy Galvis, SS, Philadelphia Phillies
Roman Quinn, OF, Philadelphia Phillies
Ubaldo Jimenez, SP, Baltimore Orioles
Brad Peacock, SP/RP, Houston Astros
Albert Suarez, SP, San Francisco Giants
Juan Nicasio, SP/RP, Pittsburgh Pirates
Billy Butler, 1B, New York Yankees
Joey Wendle, 2B, Oakland Athletics
Hunter Dozier, 3B, Kansas City Royals
Brett Eibner, OF, Oakland Athletics
Alex Meyer, SP/RP, Los Angeles Angels
Jorge Alfaro, C, Philadelphia Phillies
T.J. Rivera, 2B/3B, New York Mets
Matt Szczur, OF, Chicago Cubs
Mat Latos, SP, Washington Nationals
Gabriel Ynoa, SP, New York Mets
10. James Shields, SP, Chicago White Sox (38 Percent Owned)
This one is not for the queasy.
No qualified starting pitcher has a worse ERA and more home runs allowed (37) than James Shields' 5.84. Having allowed six or more runs in eight separate starts this season, his floor is buried lower than a grave.
Streaming Shields may end horribly. It could also pay off handsomely against the Philadelphia Phillies, baseball's worst offense in terms of on-base percentage and weighted runs created plus (wRC+).
The 34-year-old squandered an encouraging July by yielding 38 earned runs over his next seven starts. He has since hurled two quality starts, recently limiting the Cleveland Indians to one run with his highest strikeout tally (eight) since May 12 on Thursday.
Only a daring gamer can stomach Shields in standard mixed leagues, but an advantageous matchup on National League soil makes him worth a look.
9. Sean Rodriguez, 1B/2B/3B/SS/OF, Pittsburgh Pirates (6 Percent Owned)
Even diehard baseball followers will come across a stat line that catches them off guard. "Wait, he's doing what this year? When did that happen?"
Wait, Sean Rodriguez has an .871 OPS this season? When in the world did that happen?
That's right: The career .232/.302/.390 hitter is suddenly sporting a .265/.348/.523 slash line with 17 home runs—all career highs. The 31-year-old has bolstered his 2016 portfolio during a groundbreaking week over which he went 12-for-29 with five homers. He went yard in both halves of Saturday's doubleheader and once again on Sunday.
Along with previously cited personal bests, Rodriguez has set more new plateaus with a 10.1 walk percentage and 43.2 hard-hit rate. Only seven players with at least 200 plate appearances have made harder contact more often.
Along with a red-hot hand, he offers extreme flexibility for fantasy gamers. Aside from catcher and pitcher, he's eligible everywhere in standard Yahoo leagues.
This September surge probably isn't sustainable, but he's worth adding in deeper mixed leagues.
8. Ariel Miranda, SP, Seattle Mariners (10 Percent Owned)
Any other time of the season, Ariel Miranda would be someone to monitor. The Little Mermaid puns can wait.
In the latter half of September, gamers can't ignore a starter who has allowed two earned runs over his last three starts.
Acquired from the Baltimore Orioles for Wade Miley, the 27-year-old rookie has registered a 3.47 ERA in 46.2 innings for the Seattle Mariners. He had his best start yet on Sunday, accumulating eight strikeouts over seven frames while limiting the Houston Astros to four baserunners.
Sure, he has benefited from a .235 batting average on balls in play (BABIP). His 5.03 fielding independent pitching (FIP) also forebodes regression. Miranda shouldn't headline any sleeper lists next spring, but that doesn't mean he'll immediately fall back to earth.
The schedule offers insurance against a steep decline, as he's in line to face the Minnesota Twins this week before closing 2016 versus the Oakland Athletics. A rolling hurler with a couple of above-average matchups justifies a look in deeper formats.
7. Chad Bettis, SP, Colorado Rockies (34 Percent Owned)
Chad Bettis has allowed 21 home runs this year. Guess how many he surrendered at Coors Field?
Probably 15, right? Nope—only six.
The Colorado Rockies righty has a 4.84 ERA away from his hitter-friendly park. Those season splits don't support his status as a suitable streamer on the road.
He has also, however, looked much better over his last pair of away outings, during which he allowed two runs over seven frames in each. In between those outings, he tossed a two-hit, complete-game shutout at home against the San Francisco Giants.
On Sunday, the 27-year-old offered a more standard Coors line of three runs over 5.1 innings. This week, he'll instead pitch at Dodger Stadium, which has stifled runs more than any park outside of Minute Maid Park this season, per ESPN's MLB Park Factors.
Some more encouraging splits also help Bettis' chances against the lefty-heavy Los Angeles Dodgers, who often feast on right-handed batters. Contrary to most righties, Bettis fares far better against opposite-handed hitters, whom he has limited to a .694 OPS.
It's not enough of a sample size to make him a strong start, but he's a solid play on the road. He can also stay away from Coors next week against the Giants, who play in a spacious venue.
6. Scott Schebler, OF, Cincinnati Reds (10 Percent Owned)
This is coming from someone who said the Cincinnati Reds should bench Scott Schebler, a replacement-level outfielder due to his subpar defense.
Of course, offense only matters for fantasy gamers, and the Reds luckily didn't notice that advice. Entering the All-Star break batting .188, he has since hit .297 with seven home runs in 44 games.
While he has cooled off in the power department this month, the 25-year-old is nonetheless providing value by hitting .362 (21-for-58) with a .439 on-base percentage. He now wields a respectable .770 OPS this season.
After placing center fielder Billy Hamilton on the disabled list, the Reds have replaced him with fellow speedster Jose Peraza without sacrificing playing time for Schebler. Still available in plenty of leagues, Peraza is the more valuable outfielder in a vacuum.
Yet at this juncture of the season, it all depends on team need. Add Schebler in deeper mixed leagues for pop. Grab Peraza for steals wherever they're needed.
5. A.J. Cole, SP, Washington Nationals (10 Percent Owned)
A.J. Cole's five starts weren't all pretty, but the strikeout tallies are.
The rookie hurler has racked up 31 punchouts over 28.2 innings for the Washington Nationals, who let him work at least five innings each time. That's not a given for most young pitchers anymore.
He also has a 4.71 ERA because of his six home runs relinquished. It's not a shocking number given his 4.26 Triple-A ERA. If anything, he has exceeded expectations by improving his 7.87 strikeouts-per-nine rate.
This is when readers look around to confirm this column is dedicated to good players worth adding. Well, Max Scherzer isn't waiting on the waiver wire.
More importantly, Cole is in line for two starts this week, both at home. After combating the Arizona Diamondbacks—a below-average offense away from Chase Field—he'll face the Miami Marlins, one of baseball's worst offenses since the All-Star break.
Expect two solid starts with plenty of strikeouts, which will especially help head-to-head playoff participants.
4. Robert Gsellman, SP, New York Mets (9 Percent Owned)
As they compete for one of two National League wild-card spots, the New York Mets finish the season with a full helping of the Atlanta Braves, Phillies and Marlins. This is great news for both their postseason aspirations and for fantasy players searching for a streamer.
Robert Gsellman has filled in wonderfully as a stopgap starting pitcher, posting a 3.08 ERA in 26.1 innings. The 23-year-old made two strong starts against the Nationals while relinquishing four runs apiece to the Phillies and Braves, but gamers should still take note of a two-start week where he's in line to face both NL East laggards.
He also has a 1.41 WHIP and is pitching with a partial labrum tear in his non-pitching shoulder, according to ESPN.com's Adam Rubin. He's far from a lock even against two of baseball's worst offenses, especially as Atlanta heats up down the stretch.
Yet the circumstances don't get much more favorable for a matchup play, and now's the time for short-term plans.
3. Domingo Santana, OF, Milwaukee Brewers (16 Percent Owned)
One of this writer's favorite 2016 breakout picks, Domingo Santana has stayed stagnant despite still showing signs of future success.
The Milwaukee Brewers outfielder has lifted his batting average and on-base percentage from .238 and .337 to .256 and .352, respectively. Yet he struggled mightily before a recent outburst spiked those rates attained in a short sample size.
Since returning from the disabled list in August, the 23-year-old is hitting .296/.363/.620 in 25 games. Having previously not homered since early June, he has reminded everyone of his high power ceiling by going deep five times in September.
Santana is still a patient mauler who never gets cheated. When not patiently accepting a free ticket to first in 12.2 percent of his plate appearances, he has smashed balls with a 39.5 hard-hit rate.
Because of his 30.9 strikeout percentage, he must square away to maintain a decent average. Grab him for a late power boost, especially in any format that values walks.
2. Brandon Drury, 2B/3B/OF, Arizona Diamondbacks (30 Percent Owned)
Unfortunately for Brandon Drury, he won't play against the Rockies again this season.
The Arizona Diamondbacks utility man enjoyed the three-game series versus Colorado, going 8-for-14 with a homer in all three games. He belted two homers through June, July and August combined.
He now has 22 hits, 14 RBI and 13 runs in 13 September contests. This looks like the guy who exited May with a .287/.321/.494 slash line and eight homers.
Drury plays all around the diamond and batting order, but his torrid September should ensure him playing time down the stretch. He's even starting to earn some free passes, elevating his walk rate to 6.7 percent with nine bases on balls this month. The free-swinger had never drawn more than six in a month.
While grabbing him now ultimately comes a week too late, he's still too hot to ignore.
1. Ryon Healy, 3B, Oakland Athletics (22 Percent Owned)
After tearing his way to a promotion, Ryan Healy has not missed a beat in the majors.
Hitting .326/.382/.558 in Double-A and Triple-A before his call-up, the third baseman is batting .313/.349/.525 in 59 games with the Oakland Athletics. He has belted 10 home runs, increasing his overall 2016 tally to 24.
The 24-year-old is breaking out in a timely fashion for fantasy investors, going 25-for-64 with five doubles and four dingers this month. He has collected multiple hits in six of his last seven games, collecting six extra-base knocks in the process.
His emergence has ousted Danny Valencia to the outfield and replaced the former third baseman as Oakland's most effective slugger. Albeit in a limited sample size, his 137 wRC+ leads the small-market club.
With two weeks remaining, there's time to see how he performs over a long stretch. Healy is scorching baseballs right now, so grab him and hope the hot streak lasts a bit longer.
Note: All advanced stats courtesy of FanGraphs unless otherwise noted.