Over the first half of the season I have recommended a plethora of players (Jefe, what is a plethora?). Not all of them have worked out, but a good number of them have – some more than others. Since we are at the half way point and the All-Star Game has given us a well needed break, I thought it would be a good time to dig through my previous recommendations for the best under-owned players suggested over the first three months that are still available. Next week I will have some fresh names for you as the waiver wire gets a reboot; for now though, here are the best of the rest (so to speak).
OF – Randal Grichuk (Cardinals): Grichuk turned a .302 May average in part-time work into virtual everyday at bats in June where he hit .282 with 5 home runs, 2 steals, 12 RBIs and 17 runs scored. Over the past 30 days he has been a top 25 option for the outfield, yet people (I’m assuming) are still skeptical; understandable since he only hit .257 between his time at AA and AAA. The power has always been there though with 18 homers in 2012 (A+), 22 homers in 2013 (AA) and 25 homers in 2014 (AAA). He should be able to maintain an average close to .260 (against both lefties and righties), will hit for power and should still receive full-time at bats even with Matt Holliday returning.
Available in 85% of Yahoo, 75% of ESPN and 57% of CBS leagues
OF – Ender Inciarte (Diamondbacks): He is slated to come off the DL right after the all-star break. Prior to hitting the DL, Inciarte was a top 30 outfield option hitting .287 with 2 home runs, 9 steals, 21 RBIs and 39 runs scored in 251 at bats. This is the man who made flavor of the month David Peralta obsolete with his speed, run scoring ability and consistent bat. He’s a 3 category gem that will give you RBI numbers consistent with almost all leadoff men. I realize Yasmany Tomas and Jake Lamb are both up and hitting well which would seem to limit Inciarte’s playing options, but remember this: he unseated Peralta once this year and did it for the final two months last season.
Available in 78% of Yahoo, 73% of ESPN and 52% of CBS leagues
OF – David Murphy (Indians): Other than to receive a few more at bats, I don’t know what else Murphy can do to appease fantasy owners. Look at how well he is hitting now.
Murphy has 5 home runs, 26 RBIs and 21 runs scored in just over 175 at bats. I know playing time is everything, but if you extrapolate his numbers to reflect full-time at bats then Murphy would be a top 30 OF option. That makes him a well above average option to have has a fourth outfielder or bench player to rotate into your lineup when he is in the lineup. Still, full-time players like Nori Aoki, Avisail Garcia, Nick Markakus and Adam Eaton are owned in three to five times as many leagues and their counting stats are no better than Murphy’s – and they each have at least 100 more at bats. Murphy usually sits against lefties so it’s easy to predict when to use him.
Available in 97% of Yahoo, 96% of ESNP and 94% of CBS leagues
2/3B – Luis Valbuena (Astros): No other second baseman has more home runs than Valbuena and only three third basemen have more (he’s tied with Chris Davis and Nolan Arenado). Valbuena is a top 10 option at both positions for runs scored and is a top 10 option at second for RBIs. Now to address the 800 pound gorilla – that being his batting average. There is no sugar-coating things here, it’s bad; can’t deny that. Like I said some time back though, Valbuena’s average is no worse than what Adam Dunn would produce years back and you all rostered him, at what was at a deep first base position. Image back then if you could have put Adam Dunn as your second baseman or middle infielder. Ignore the average (easier said than done) and enjoy the top-notch production you’ll get in the other 3 scoring categories.
His ownership is close to 70% on CBS so there is little chance for him there, but those that play on Yahoo and ESPN still have a chance.
Available in 66% of Yahoo and 60% of ESPN leagues
2B – Rougned Odor (Rangers): The time spent in AAA this year after an early demotion has done wonders for Odor. He hit .352 with 5 home runs and 3 steals over 108 at bats in AAA, and the fireworks have continued at the ML level. Over 46 at bats in June he hit .391 with 2 homers and 4 steals and he is batting .333 so far in July. Those of you that hung onto him from the start of the season are being rewarded as are those that had the foresight to snatch him up upon his promotion. The rest of you still have some time, but the window of opportunity is closing fast.
Odor doesn’t have great power or speed, but he has enough of both along with a solid bat to make him mixed league relevant for the remainder of the season. Remember Odor hit .293 or better from A+ ball on up so worst case scenario, you get a player that will put up similar numbers to Joe Panik – I’ll take that.
Available in 65% of Yahoo, 67% of ESPN and 44% of CBS leagues
3B – Jake Lamb (Diamondbacks): I’ll admit to being skeptical on what Lamb’s role would be once he returned from the DL. A Mark Trumbo trade opened a spot up in the outfield for Yasmany Tomas, and along with it gave Lamb a clear path to return. Lamb struggled in June but is hitting .333 in July. He hit .303 or higher at every stop in the minors with a very good BB/K ratio. He also displayed enough minor league power to hit 18 or more homers annually, and the 43 doubles he hit in 2014 suggest there may be some more power hidden underneath. Since he only has 2 home runs so far in the majors, his current value is that of someone like Casey McGehee (the 2014 version). That’s not a bad thing, and unlike McGehee there is real upside here along with a strong supporting cast.
Available in 92% of Yahoo, 91% of ESPN and 75% of CBS leagues
Deep League Adds
1B/OF – Mark Canha (A’s): He started off hot when promoted, cooled down, leveled off and now is hot again. The presence of Ike Davis and Billy Butler at 1st/DH close one full-time avenue of playing time. The outfield has an opening, but the imminent return of Coco Crisp could close off that one as well. Still, the A’s manage to find a way to squeeze Canha into the lineup at least half of the time (60+ at bats in April/May, 49 at bats in June). Canha plays primarily against righties who he is hitting .301 against along with 8 of his 9 home runs. Looking at his home run and doubles numbers from the minors, it’s safe to assume the power is real. He has some speed as well, but he hasn’t displayed this type of success since his college days. With more playing time Canha could have mixed league relevance, and you could make a case for him similar to the one I made for David Murphy above; overall Canha should be left to larger and deeper leagues – unless you really need a CI player or use 5 outfielders.
Available in 94% of Yahoo, 93% of ESPN and 81% of CBS leagues
1B/OF – Clint Robinson (Nationals): The 30-year-old career minor leaguer caught the break of a lifetime. Ryan Zimmerman couldn’t stay healthy, Jayson Werth got hurt, Denard Span broke again and Michael Taylor has been on again/off again with his bat. This has given Robinson an extended audition to make a case for ML playing time; while he hasn’t lit up the scoreboard, he hasn’t embarrassed himself either. He has 4 home runs, 15 RBIs and 23 runs scored over 141 at bats while batting .262. Most of that damage has come in the last 30 days though, batting .280 with all 4 homers, 12 RBIs and 15 runs scored over 75 at bats. With the exception of A Ball, Robinson has hit .298 or higher at each minor league level. The power numbers are suspect and have finished anywhere from the low to high teens, but he does hit an above average number of doubles.
Considering the opportunity and the fact he is receiving full-time at bats, Robinson is poised for mixed league relevancy. Until he picks up his production though, his numbers are better suited for larger leagues and will play as a 4th/5th outfielder or in a CI slot. Eventually everyone will be healthy; until then, just hope he picks things up.
Available in 98% of Yahoo, 97% of ESPN and 93% of CBS leagues
1B/OF – Ben Paulsen (Rockies): Paulsen put up some fairly decent number in the minors. While he hasn’t shown the power he did in the minors (5 home runs in 137 at bats), the walks, strikeouts, OBP and batting average have been there. Paulsen has done a great job filling in for the injured Justin Morneau, but the presence of Wilin Rosario eats into his playing time. Rosairo was supposed to be the left-handed platoon mate for Paulsen, but he has been hitting righties well since his return from AAA which complicate the playing time issue. Because of this I find it hard to recommend Paulsen in 12 team mixed leagues. If/when Morneau returns (potentially near the end of July), the Rockies will have a dilemma on their hands provided they don’t trade an outfielder (where Paulsen could slide in). For now I like Paulsen as a short-term add for larger leagues, but if his at bats increase I would have no problem rostering him in smaller leagues as well.
Next year Paulsen should have first base almost all to himself as I don’t see the Rockies exercising their $9 million dollar option for Morneau when they can buy him out for $750K. Add him to your sleeper list next year; he could make a sneaky future play as a CI.
Available in 98% of Yahoo, 96% of ESPN and 91% of CBS leagues
OF – Joey Butler (Rays): The final line makes Butler appear mixed league relevant, but his recent July slump and minor league track record lowers his value. Butler hit .329 in May with 3 home runs and followed that up by hitting .305 in June with 3 home runs and 5 steals. The average I can buy, but there is a problem with the power and speed. His highest HR total in the minors was 20 (2012), the rest of the years he averaged around 12 which puts him half way to his average total. His highest SB total was 15 back in 2011; Butler never touched double digits in this category in any other year. While this may decrease his worth in standard 12 team mixed leagues, there is value in larger and deeper leagues.
Butler hit .305 in AAA over 1,513 at bats, he does have some pop in his bat and could potentially steal another 5 bases over the next 2 1/2 months. He is 29 years old getting his first real taste of the majors so the odds are against him for a breakout. He has hit a major wall going into July (.130), but I believe the average to bounce back by the end of the month. In a 14 team league, Butler makes a perfectly acceptable option as a 4th outfielder.
Available in 89% of Yahoo, 86% of ESPN and 71% of CBS leagues
OF – Chris Young (Yankees): In just over 200 at bats, Young has scored 30 runs, driven in 20 and launched 10 long balls. While his overall numbers are playable, you mainly want him in there when there is a lefty on the mound. Young has a paltry .176 average against righties, but against lefties he is batting .351. That’s a nice bat to plug in off of your bench and something you DFS players should take note of. Young is also feasting on division rivals Baltimore (.316) and Boston (.333) and 5 of his 10 home runs have come against AL East opponents giving you additional usage. Young is a not someone to plug into your lineup full-time and those with weekly lineups may want to avoid him. Everyone else should take notice.
Available in 87% of Yahoo, 81% of ESPN and 73% of CBS leagues
SS – Nick Ahmed (Diamondbacks): Overall Ahmed is having a fine season with 6 home runs, 4 steals, 21 RBIs and 32 runs scored. Against right-handed pitchers Ahmed is barely batting his weight at .206, but against lefties he is on fire batting .377. While most of his division rivals have kept him in check, Ahmed loves hitting against the Rockies (.324), especially at Coors Field (.357). As a full-time shortstop you can probably do better, but he makes a viable option at middle infield or even a platooning him at middle infield. And, just like with Chris Young above, make note of his splits for DFS purposes.
Available in 97% of Yahoo, 96% of ESPN and 92% of CBS leagues
Kendall Graveman (A’s): Let me be clear, you’re not picking up Graveman because he strikes people out, he has just 45 strikeouts in 77 innings (5.26 K/9). Graveman can help you in other ways if you can do without the K’s (or get them elsewhere). After a rough April, 8 of his last 9 starts have been quality and in 7 of those 9 starts he has allowed 2 runs or less. Graveman’s stamina is also improving going at least 7 innings in each of his last 6 starts. For the season he has a 3.16 ERA and 1.34 WHIP, but when you factor out April you’re looking at an ERA of 1.79 and a WHIP of 1.16. With an ERA and WHIP like that, damn the K’s.
Available in 75% of Yahoo, 74% of ESPN and 40% of CBS leagues
Tom Koehler (Marlins): Just like Graveman, you’re not rostering Koehler for his premiere strikeout ability (6.24K/9). With the exception of his HR/FB%, Koehler has improved all of his numbers across the board since last season. 10 of his 16 starts have been quality starts and he did not allow more than 2 earned runs in any of those quality starts. While he had some trouble early on getting through 6 innings, that has not been the case since the calendar turned to June. For the season he has a respectable ERA of 3.40 with a WHIP of 1.23; take out the rough April and you’re looking at an ERA of 3.08 and a WHIP of 1.19. I mentioned the low strikeout rate first and foremost, but it may interest you to know he had a K/9 of 7.48 for the month of June so there is the potential for more. Koehler is a nice stable arm that should not be as widely available as he is.
Available in 90% of Yahoo, 89% of ESPN and 73% of CBS leagues
Brett Anderson (Dodgers): I just recommended Anderson last week, but since next week we’ll be starting fresh I thought he deserved one last shout out. I’ll keep this short, or short for me. His ERA is 3.12 and this is supported by his 3.28 xFIP. 9 of his last 10 starts have been quality starts with just 2 runs or less in 7 of those 10. He has a ridiculous 67.9 groundball percentage. His WHIP is a little high (1.31), mostly for the fact he’s a pitch to contact guy, but he is good at limited free passes and does a better than average job at keeping the ball in the park. His K/9 could be better (6.59), but his ERA is very good, the WHIP is playable and he keeps the score low putting himself in line for a win every night. You don’t have to love him, but you should own him.
Available in 71% of Yahoo and 63% of ESPN (sorry CBS guys – he’s gone)
Erasmo Ramirez (Rays): Unlike the pitchers above, Erasmo does have a respectable K/9 ratio (7.49). His season ERA is average (3.63) and his WHIP is very good (1.11). The BB/9 is under 3.0, he’s good at limited hits thanks in part to a GB% close to 50 and he does a good job at keeping the ball in the park. Erasmo has not allowed more than 2 earned runs in a game since May 24th and has only allowed more than 2 earned runs in a game twice since April 15th. He was blown out of the water in his first two starts of the season, and if you factor out those two games his ERA and WHIP stand at 2.07 and 0.90 respectively. So why isn’t Ramirez owned more?
Well there are some skeptics that look at the 4.98 and 5.26 ERA’s he posted the past two years. Then there is the sabermetric part of the community that point to his 3.96 xFIP and anticipate future regression so they are staying clear. Both of these reasons have some merit, but the fact that he is hot now overshadows and negates both reasons. The biggest problem for Ramirez is he has issues making it through 6 innings let alone getting past that point. He has pitched at least 6 innings in just 5 starts this year; two of those have been in his last two starts though so there is reason for hope. If you play in a league that counts quality starts I can understand your trepidation, but those that count wins have zero reason for not rostering Ramirez. Since May 14 Ramirez has a record of 8 wins, 2 loses and 1 no decision.
Put aside his past production from previous years and ignore the underlying sabermetrics; pick up Ramirez and enjoy the numbers he produces over however many innings he gives you.
Available in 77% of Yahoo, 82% of ESPN and 66% of CBS leagues
Middle Relief Pitchers
Darren O’Day (Orioles): I’ve been preaching for years about how underutilized middle relievers are. For the season (32.2 innings), O’Day has a 1.10 ERA, an 0.80 WHIP, 5 wins and 43 strikeouts (11.85 K/9). 32.2 innings is about 5 starts from one of the pitchers at the back-end of your rotation, and odds are you can take the best games from all of your back-end and still not get numbers equal to what O’Day has done. In roto and points leagues, numbers like this are even more important given an innings cap. I know – he doesn’t get saves, but the rest of the numbers are there
Available in 77% of Yahoo, 87% of ESPN and 85% of CBS leagues
Carter Capps (Marlins): Take what I said about O’Day above and apply it here; the only thing that changes are the numbers. Capps only threw 1 inning in April which is why his innings are so low, but over 24.1 innings he has a 1.48 ERA, 0.82 WHIP and 46 strikeouts (17.01 K/9). He is doing his best Dellin Betances impersonation, yet nobody is buying. Grab caps now before the rest of the guys in your league catch on how good he really is this year.
Available in 91% of CBS and 93% of Yahoo and ESPN leagues
Brandon Maurer (Padres): Maurer isn’t a strikeout artist like Capps, but his numbers are still good. He has 5 wins with a 2.13 ERA and a 0.92 WHIP over 42.1 innings, not too shabby. Now Maurer only has 32 strikeouts (6.8 K/9), but his strikeout history suggests he could up that above 7.0. Maurer’s real value lies in the fact that he is a SP eligible reliever. That means you can start one more middle man than your opponent which can help pad your ratios even further. Just rotate him out when you need that SP slot, otherwise site back and enjoy the numbers.
Available in 92% of Yahoo, 96% of ESPN and % of CBS leagues
Wrapping things up, I’d like to give a big shout out to all of those who have graduated from the waiver wire due to a high ownership level.
In Graduating order: Devon Travis, Mike Moustakas, Adam Lind, Yasmani Grandal, Jimmy Paredes, Noah Syndergaard, A.J. Ramos, Dan Haren, Danny Salazar, Shawn Tolleson, Hector Santiago, Chris Colabello, Billy Burns, Joe Panik, Maikel Franco, Kevin Pillar, Justin Turner, Carson Smith, Brock Holt, Mitch Moreland and Matt Duffy.
A few graduates have fallen on hard times (Marcus Semien, Leonys Martin, Josh Reddick), hit the DL (Nori Aoki) or lost value through no fault of their own (Alex Guerrero), but I still believe all are worth owning in standard 12 tea leagues.
If by some chance ANY of the players from that first group are available in your league, slap yourself … slap each member of your league … and somewhere in between – pick them up.
Need more waiver wire recommendations, 2-start pitchers, prospect news and general fantasy baseball goodness, head on over to Fantasy Rundown