Fantasy Baseball Waiver Wire: Top 10 Pickups for Week 26

Andrew Gould@AndrewGould4Featured ColumnistSeptember 26, 2016

Fantasy Baseball Waiver Wire: Top 10 Pickups for Week 26

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    Sean Manaea is rolling into his final start of the 2016 MLB season.
    Sean Manaea is rolling into his final start of the 2016 MLB season.Bob Levey/Getty Images

    Fantasy baseball's finish line is well in sight.

    One week remains on MLB's schedule. Although keep in mind that any tiebreaker game—a real possibility in both leagues' wild-card races—classifies as a regular-season contest. As a result, any stats accrued count in fantasy leagues.

    Without any long-term ramifications, managers should feel no loyalty to anyone. Don't like a decent pitcher's matchup? Dump him for someone scheduled to tussle against a lesser adversary. 

    Unsure about someone such as Alex Bregman, who has missed a few days but isn't ruled out for the season yet? Don't hold out hope for two games. Go get someone who will play six or seven.

    Heading into the final week, the last batch of waiver-wire recommendations will focus heavily on matchup plays. That makes pitchers a larger focus.

    It's also important for gamers to know their circumstances. Which categories still contain potential for mobility? Is there an innings limit, and if so, how many frames remain before reaching it? 

    For the final time this season, here's a look at the top adds available in over half of Yahoo Sports leagues. 

Honorable Mentions

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    Chad Kuhl is a serviceable starting pitcher who will close the season with a two-start week.
    Chad Kuhl is a serviceable starting pitcher who will close the season with a two-start week.Stacy Revere/Getty Images

    Recently Mentioned Players to Add

    Asdrubal Cabrera, SS, New York Mets

    Byron Buxton, OF, Minnesota Twins

    Domingo Santana, OF, Milwaukee Brewers

    Robert Gsellman, SP, New York Mets

    Daniel Norris, SP, Detroit Tigers

    Ariel Miranda, SP, Seattle Mariners

    Alex Reyes, SP/RP, St. Louis Cardinals

    50-70 Percent Owned Players to Grab If Available

    Chris Carter, 1B, Milwaukee Brewers

    Maikel Franco, 3B, Philadelphia Phillies

    Curtis Granderson, OF, New York Mets

    Bartolo Colon, SP, New York Mets

    Collin McHugh, SP, Houston Astros

    Jerad Eickhoff, SP, Philadelphia Phillies

    Taijuan Walker, SP, Seattle Mariners

    Raisel Iglesias, SP/RP, Cincinnati Reds

    Other Honorable Mentions

    Lucas Duda, 1B, New York Mets

    Michael Conforto, OF, New York Mets

    Chad Kuhl, SP, Pittsburgh Pirates

    Eduardo Rodriguez, SP, Boston Red Sox

    Ryan Dull, RP, Oakland Athletics

10. Scooter Gennett, 2B, Milwaukee Brewers (7 Percent Owned)

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    Scooter Gennett will benefit from facing right-handed pitchers at hitter-friendly parks during the final week.
    Scooter Gennett will benefit from facing right-handed pitchers at hitter-friendly parks during the final week.Dylan Buell/Getty Images

    No offense has a friendlier final slate than the Milwaukee Brewers, who close the season at Globe Life Park in Arlington and Coors Field. 

    Their six games at extreme hitter's parks bode well for all Brewers sluggers. Grab Chris Carter, Domingo Santana and Hernan Perez where possible, but Scooter Gennett is the most widely available benefactor.

    Although he has struggled this season, the left-handed second baseman is a career .296/.332/.449 hitter against righties. He's also heating up at the perfect time, going 19-for-66 with four long balls and seven doubles this month.

    Gennett is one of those perennial sleeper candidates who has never delivered enough to consistently matter in mixed-league formats. He's also hurt by a schedule split between lefties and righties, limiting the platoon player's utility to leagues with daily lineup changes.

    Yet he can end the season with a bang against two righties (Chad Bettis and German Marquez) at Coors, so take advantage of the favorable circumstances where applicable.

9. Archie Bradley, SP, Arizona Diamondbacks (9 Percent Owned)

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    Archie Bradley is a high-upside strikeout option during the final week.
    Archie Bradley is a high-upside strikeout option during the final week.Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

    Archie Bradley is a risky two-start gamble. Turn his way only where strikeouts are needed.

    The up-and-down starter has stockpiled seven strikeouts in each of his last two outings. He has also forfeited five or more runs in seven of his 24 starts for the Arizona Diamondbacks, so beware his downside.

    He'll start the week on Monday against the Washington Nationals, a tough opponent whom he might catch at an opportune time with Daniel Murphy and Bryce Harper banged up. Nevertheless, a weekend date with the San Diego Padres (unfortunately at home) is the real selling point.

    Bradley has collected 127 strikeouts over 131 innings, but those whiffs don't offset his 5.02 ERA, 1.56 WHIP and 63 walks. While he may hit his lofty ceiling one day, the 24-year-old has yet to consistently contribute.

    He should, however, offer 10 or more strikeouts over the final week. Issuing nine walks over his five latest starts also represents significant progress for the erratic righty, so rolling the dice on him could pay handsomely.

8. T.J. Rivera, 2B/3B, New York Mets (5 Percent Owned)

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    T.J. Rivera has 19 hits in 15 September games for the New York Mets.
    T.J. Rivera has 19 hits in 15 September games for the New York Mets.Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    Down 10-0 to the Philadelphia Phillies early Saturday night, New York Mets manager Terry Collins pulled four key veteran hitters with the game out of hand. A lineup more closely resembling a Triple-A batting order narrowed the deficit to 10-8 and brought the winning run to the plate in the ninth inning.

    During the failed comeback attempt, T.J. Rivera went 2-for-3 with a pair of RBI and a run scored. The 27-year-old rookie infielder is now batting 19-for-45 with three long balls in 15 September games, compelling Collins to start him more often than not at second base.

    When called up, Rivera looked like nothing more than organizational depth who benefited from Triple-A Las Vegas' hitter-friendly environment. Yet multiple injuries prompted him into extended action. Now he won't stop hitting.

    He's not a long-term answer for the Mets or fantasy investors. Nearly owning a higher batting average (.361) than on-base percentage (.367) doesn't bode well for him succeeding in a larger sample size. Right now, however, his ability to hit Miami Marlins and Phillies pitchers is all that matters.

    The opposition makes any available Mets interesting, especially if Curtis Granderson or Asdrubal Cabrera are floating around the waiver wire. Lucas Duda and Michael Conforto could capitalize against a righty-heavy schedule if given playing time.

    Rivera has started a majority of the Mets' recent matchups, and he even batted cleanup on Thursday. Turn to him for a few more hits in deeper formats.

7. Tom Murphy, C, Colorado Rockies (2 Percent Owned)

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    Tom Murphy has quickly taken a shining to Coors Field.
    Tom Murphy has quickly taken a shining to Coors Field.Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

    Two weeks ago, Colorado Rockies catcher Nick Hundley frequented this space. Here's an excerpt from the recommendation: 

    It's a good thing he heated up when he did. Otherwise, September call-up Tom Murphy would have challenged for his job after homering twice in seven major league games. Now Hundley will keep receiving most of Colorado's starts this week, when it takes a trip to Chase Field to face the Arizona Diamondbacks before returning to Coors.

    About that. Hundley made three of six starts that week and two of seven last week. Out of the playoff hunt, the Rockies have allotted more time to Murphy, who is hitting .295/.351/.735 over 15 games. 

    In hindsight, of course they should let the 25-year-old rookie play. He crushed Triple-A pitching en route to the majors, batting .327/.361/.647 while blasting 19 long balls in 80 contests. And now he gets to play in Coors Field, where he tallied all five of his MLB dingers.

    After a three-game road series against the San Francisco Giants, Colorado closes out 2016 at home against the Brewers. Even if only for two or three of those closing contests, Murphy could especially impact head-to-head showdowns.

6. Seth Smith, OF, Seattle Mariners (4 Percent Owned)

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    Seth Smith can make his mark this week against a crop of beatable right-handed pitchers.
    Seth Smith can make his mark this week against a crop of beatable right-handed pitchers.Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

    Due to his strict platoon status, Seth Smith is usually best saved for deeper leagues. He's worthwhile against right-handed pitchers, but not enough for all but the most hardcore gamers to justify the extra matchup preparation.

    The final week warrants extra maneuvering, and the Seattle Mariners are scheduled to play six of their final seven games against righties, against whom he wields an .805 OPS and 16 homers.

    Here are the Houston Astros and Oakland Athletics righties on tap: Collin McHugh, Doug Fister, Mike Fiers, Kendall Graveman, Raul Alcantara and Jharel Cotton. Probably the best of the bunch, McHugh has yielded a .453 slugging percentage to left-handed hitters this season.

    Smith has gone deep five times in September, including a pair of bombs off Fister on September 18. Strike while the iron is hot and employ him against a crop of unassuming righties vulnerable to the long ball. Also consider first baseman Adam Lind in deeper formats.

5. Jharel Cotton, SP, Oakland Athletics (20 Percent Owned)

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    Jharel Cotton has allowed one run in each of his four starts.
    Jharel Cotton has allowed one run in each of his four starts.Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    Cotton represents another case study in worrying about regression later.

    Can the Athletics neophyte maintain his 1.44 ERA over a larger sample size? Of course not. He has benefited from an anemic .159 batting average on balls in play (BABIP) during four superb September starts. Facing the Los Angeles Angels and Kansas City Royals also helped his cause.

    Let's not completely discredit his astounding debut. The 24-year-old has looked especially sharp in his last two outings against the Astros and Texas Rangers, potent offenses respectively fighting for a playoff spot and postseason home-field advantage. He gave up one run during each of those two tilts, compiling 11 strikeouts without any walks.

    He only needs to keep it up for one more start at Safeco Field against Seattle. It's not a favorable matchup, but it's not terrible, either. If Cotton can flourish against the Astros and Rangers, he should hold his own at Seattle.

    Although more of a streamer than long-term option, the rookie makes a decent plug-in play to end the season.

4. Sean Manaea, SP, Oakland Athletics (23 Percent Owned)

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    Sean Manaea has allowed one earned run over his last four starts.
    Sean Manaea has allowed one earned run over his last four starts.Ed Zurga/Getty Images

    Sean Manaea hasn't allowed a run in his last three starts, and he concludes his rookie campaign against a manageable opponent. That sounds like a solid final-week streamer. 

    Go back one start further to his last four outings, and the Oakland newcomer has relinquished 10 hits and one earned run over 21.1 innings while amassing 24 strikeouts. Those K's are especially encouraging, as the 24-year-old southpaw was not living up to his career 10.8 strikeouts per nine innings (K/9) in the minors.

    He'll have a tough time piling up punchouts against the Angels, who possess baseball's lowest strikeout percentage. Yet they're also power-starved behind superstar Mike Trout and veteran slugger Albert Pujols. Among all American League clubs, only the Royals have produced fewer homers than the Angels' 151.

    Los Angeles' contact approach mitigates his ceiling, but the red-hot starter should close his season with a solid outing.

3. Sergio Romo, RP, San Francisco Giants (15 Percent Owned)

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    San Francisco Giants reliever Sergio Romo appears to have reclaimed the team's closer role.
    San Francisco Giants reliever Sergio Romo appears to have reclaimed the team's closer role.Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    So much for San Francisco using a closer committee. 

    Hunter Strickland received the first crack at replacing the ousted Santiago Casilla. He may have usurped the full-time role if not for coughing up four runs in his next outing.

    Giants manager Bruce Bochy quickly turned to veteran Sergio Romo, who took over the role late in the team's 2012 championship campaign. The 33-year-old has converted all three opportunities without yielding a walk or run.

    Don't count on Strickland, Casilla or anyone else getting another ninth-inning chance. Entrenched in a three-team fight for two wild-card spots, the Giants won't tinker with the situation unless Romo unravels.

    Giants general manager Bobby Evans indicated as much during a Thursday radio interview on KNBR:

    I think Romo’s a great option for us. He doesn’t have the velocity that he had you know a couple years ago, but he has a fresh arm. In fact he missed a lot of time in the first half of the season. He wants the ball, he wants the job, he wants to be out there. He’s done it for us before and he’s done a great job obviously taking us through the 2012 World Series.

    I think we look at Romo as the guy to take it right now.

    Anyone hoping to snag two or three more saves should grab Romo and hope the opportunities materialize.

2. James Paxton, SP, Seattle Mariners (33 Percent Owned)

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    James Paxton has quietly had a strong season due to increased velocity.
    James Paxton has quietly had a strong season due to increased velocity.Stephen Brashear/Getty Images

    James Paxton is going to be everyone's favorite breakout pick next spring. But first, he could finish 2016 in style against the Astros.

    After making 30 major league starts from 2013 to 2015, the Mariners southpaw returned stronger than ever this season. His velocity spiked, and as a result, he has recorded a career-best 8.46 K/9 and 11.7 swinging-strike percentage. Of the 13 qualified starters who have drawn a higher whiff rate, only Matt Shoemaker has a K/9 below 9.00.

    Along with the potential for more punchouts, Paxton's 3.72 ERA hovers far above an exceptional 2.77 fielding independent pitching (FIP). He's also cruising to the finish line, recording 27 strikeouts to three walks in four September starts.

    The Astros carry plenty of pop, but they also strike out more often (23.5 percent) than all but three other teams. Facing them on September 17, Paxton submitted seven strikeouts in as many innings while allowing two runs.

    For what it's worth, he's also next in line if the Mariners play a tiebreaker game. As of Monday morning, they're 2.5 games behind the Baltimore Orioles for the final AL wild-card spot.

1. Jon Gray, SP, Colorado Rockies (42 Percent Owned)

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    Jon Gray has 26 strikeouts over his last two starts.
    Jon Gray has 26 strikeouts over his last two starts.Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images

    Jon Gray is a random grab bag containing a mystery stat line inside every start. He can toss a complete-game shutout with 16 strikeouts, like he did against San Diego on September 17. Or perhaps he'll surrender 10 hits and eight runs, his final tally versus Miami on August 7.

    The inconsistent Rockies starter followed his latest gem by yielding four runs over as many innings on Friday. He also, however, accumulated 10 strikeouts in an otherwise subpar effort against the Los Angeles Dodgers. That marks the eighth double-digit-strikeout outing of the season for a hurler with a stellar 10.07 K/9.

    Using him away from Coors Field seems like a no-brainer until realizing he owns a better ERA at his unfavorable home park (4.30) than on the road (4.78). He slayed San Diego at Coors a week after relinquishing six runs at Petco Park.

    He's far from a lock to succeed against the Giants, who won't hold any starters back while competing for a wild-card berth. Yet despite his season split, switching from Coors to AT&T Park helps. According to, San Francisco's home suppresses home runs more than any National League venue.

    When he visited the stadium in early May, Gray stifled the Giants to one hit over seven frames. He's not facing the same lineup in the same conditions, but there's too much upside to ignore. 

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