There is a better than average chance (depending on the size of your league) that the waiver wire has been picked clean of any type of long-term solution to fill a position. There are probably some decent middle infield options, a few questionable but overall reliable streamable pitchers, hot and cold players, early season busts and – some fresh faces. Early in the season I tend to stay away from the young players that get called up, but at this point in the season it is all about taking chances. It is also about playing the hot hand; this is something I’ve mentioned throughout the season, but it holds more weight now as two-thirds of the season is gone. It’s all about “what have you done for me lately” and “what can you do for me now”?
1B/OF – Stephen Piscotty (Cardinals): Players like this are often overlooked or dismissed for their lack of power, but I like high contact minor leaguers with good batting averages. Piscotty was a .300 hitter during his 3 years at Stanford and hit .292 or higher through AA. Here are his numbers from last year and this season in AAA.
Not overly impressive, but definitely solid. There is a nice mix of power and speed here; the success rate for steals could use some work though (caught 11 times). His walk rate is slightly below average and he does a good job at avoiding strikeouts, although the K’s were up this year in AAA before his promotion. First base is wide open as Matt Adams will not be back this year, Dan Johnson and his career .235 average is not the answer and Mark Reynolds is on the verge of being released from yet another team. Piscotty has the contact and on-base ability to be every bit as good as Matt Carpenter. Granted it is his rookie season so expecting that kind of production out of the gate is somewhat unrealistic, but you never know – you may catch lightning in a bottle. Sometimes it’s the lesser known players that make the biggest noise. This could make a nice CI option for the stretch run.
Available in 93% of Yahoo, 85% of ESPB and 78% of CBS leagues
OF – Michael Conforto (Mets): After denying rumors about the impending promotion of Conforto, the Mets did what they said they were not considering. Michael Cuddyer was placed on the DL and the Mets made the move. Considering they are still in the running for a wild card spot and only 3 games back in the NL east, a promotion of one of their future stars makes sense, especially when you consider their lack of offense. So who is Conforto and why should fantasy owners pick him up? To answer that question we have to look at some numbers.
As you can see by the walk and strikeout numbers, Conforto has a patient approach and solid batting eye. His average dipped some this year at A+ but was still solid and actually improved upon promotion to AA. He has some decent pop that suggests 20+ home run power in the future – possibly 7-8 more this season. Conforto could be a real shot in the arm for the Mets and fantasy teams alike. If your 3rd/4th outfielder is lacking and you want to roll the dice hoping for potential fireworks, grab Conforto. There are no guarantees, but there is upside; something many of the players currently on waivers lack.
Available in 97% of Yahoo, 95% of ESPN and 82% of CBS leagues
3B – Tyler Saladino (White Sox:): The Gordon Beckham experiment at third base seems to be over. Saladino is a shortstop by profession, but a glaring hole at third opened the door for playing time. His batting average in AAA prior to his promotion (.255) is a far cry from the .310 he posted in 2014. Saladino does not have much power and he hasn’t cracked double digits since 2011 in A+; he does however have some decent speed. He stole 38 bases in 2012 in 46 attempts playing AA and 28 in 2013 at the same level. In 2014 the speed was non-existent, but it has come back with a fury this year with 25 steals prior to his promotion. His BB/K ratio in AAA is approximately 1/2 so there are tools to work with here.
What should owners expect this year? Well, the Sox are batting him second and he has responded by hitting above .300 so far (small sample size). He also has 2 home runs which is a surprise, but not something I would depend on. Given his spot in the order and speed, I can see him being a 3 category player as long as he can continue to hit for average. Saladino is off to a hot start; like I said with Piscotty above, sometimes the lesser known players are the ones that make the most noise. If you need help at 3B or CI and or maybe looking for a cheap source of speed, I would ride the hot hand. He may flame out once pitchers catch up to him, but until that happens roster him with confidence.
Available in 98% of Yahoo, 96% of ESPN and 94% of CBS leagues
SS – Francisco Lindor (Indians): I’m not going to regurgitate Lindor’s minor league numbers; everyone should be well aware of them by now. Lindor got off to a slow start, and seeing a .246 average on waivers doesn’t generate a lot of excitement. It should considering it was .233 thirty days ago and fell as low as .205 on July 7th. Over the last 14 days Lindor is hitting .333 with 2 home runs, 4 RBIs and 6 runs scored. We are still waiting for the speed to show up but the improvement in batting average is encouraging. The Indians have him hitting second, sandwiched between Jason Kipnis and Michael Brantley so there is run and RBI opportunities here. I don’t expect him to hit .300 the rest of the way, but settling into the .280 range he averaged in AA and AAA would make him useful. I’m not 100% behind using Lindor as your primary shortstop, not with guys like Kang floating around on waivers in some leagues. He does deserve a look though for those that use a middle infield slot. If he somehow rediscovers his speed, I may reconsider my stance on starting him at short in standard 12 team leagues.
Available in 90% of Yahoo, 87% of ESPN and 53% of CBS leagues
1B – C.J. Cron (Angels): Cron has been mentioned in numerous publications as a waiver wire add, yet his ownership doesn’t reflect the numbers he has produced lately. He was hitting .200 on June 30th but is now hitting .277. Over the last 30 days he is hitting .407 with 4 home runs and 12 RBIs, and over the past 14 days he is hitting .406 so that 30 day average isn’t just from one fluke week. Cron also has 32 at bats over the past 14 days as playing time has increased; these extra at bats increase his value (one would think), but for some reason – owners just haven’t bought into Cron the way they should. Cron has had a hard time cracking the top portion of the lineup so the run production will remain average, but there are ample RBI opportunities to be had hitting 6th, especially in a lineup like this.
Over the past 30 days Cron has been a top 10 option for 1st base. Think back a month or so ago when Mitch Moreland was (and still is) raking yet you scoffed and moved onto another player. Don’t make that same mistake twice. Cron deserves to be owned until his bat says otherwise.
Available in 89% of Yahoo, 79% of ESPN and 71% of CBS leagues
3B – Nick Castellanos (Tigers): I feel dirty recommending Castellanos after all the criticism and *expletive deleted* words I’ve used to describe him. I am not a fan of Castellanos, but as a fantasy player I can’t ignore his recent production. Over the past 30 days Castellanos is batting .318 with 4 home runs, 17 RBIs and 11 runs scored. There were some slump days mixed in there, but overall he has been solid. OK, a little more than solid, more like a top 5 option for third base. Am I buying the recent outburst and .311 July average? Not really, but I have swallowed my pride and picked him up in a few leagues. I don’t know how much longer this will last, but if you need a quick boost at third base…. ohh – this hurts ….., pick up Castellanos. I need a shower now.
Available in 83% of Yahoo, 86% of ESPN and 74% of CBS leagues
SP – Chris Tillman (Orioles): I wrote off Tillman after the first six weeks of the season, but lately he is looking more like the guy who produced a 3.34 ERA in 2014. His ERA currently stands at 4.63, but just 5 starts ago it was 6.22; that’s how quickly fortunes can change in fantasy baseball. Tillman 4-hit the Indians over 7 innings on June 28th (zero runs), allowed 2 earned runs over 6 innings against the Nationals on July 10th, held Detroit to 1 hit over 8 innings on the 18th and last night he 2 hit the Rays over 7 innings. I skipped over 10 hit 4.2 inning game against the White Sox, but he escaped any major damage by allowing only 2 runs. A few highlights of those 5 games include almost a strikeout an inning, no home runs allowed and no more than 1 walk per game (except last night’s game, 2 walks). Is Tillman back? Not completely, but enough so that owners should consider giving him a second chance if he is available on waivers.
Available in 65% of Yahoo, 79% of ESPN and 52% of CBS leagues
SP – Jonathan Niese (Mets): For the past 3 seasons Niese has put up an unimpressive solid line, and this year is no different. He has his bad stretches like all pitchers, but he is currently in the middle of a nice run. Niese has a 1.53 ERA and 0.99 WHIP over his last 5 starts (not including last night’s start versus the Dodgers). The strikeouts are low (as usual), but the rest of his numbers are gold. Each of those 5 starts went at least 6 innings and he allowed 3 earned runs in just one; the other 4 were 2 runs or less. Niese has 8 quality starts in a row and has not allowed more than 3 earned runs since May. The wins are hard to come by given the Mets offense, but he at least gets enough innings and keeps the score close enough to garner a chance at one. He still walks a few too many, but he limits the number of hits in high walk games more often than not. His WHIP in June was high but playable (1.33), but so far in July it is 0.72.
Last night Niese faced the Dodgers and the numbers he put up go against everything I tried to preach above. Don’t let one bad start sway you from picking up Niese (especially since his next 2 starts are versus the Padres and Marlins).
Available in 85% of Yahoo, 81% of ESPN and 64% of CBS leagues
SP – Mike Leake (Reds): Once the calendar turned to June, Leake turned into a different man. Over the last 10 starts he has allowed more than 3 earned runs just once and 7 of those starts saw earned runs of 2 or less. Home runs have also become a rarity; after allowing 12 over the first two months he has given up just 2, the last one was on June 29th. Unlike Niese above, Leake is good for wins as well with 6 in his last 10 games along with 8 quality starts. His road ERA (2.57) is close to 2 1/2 points lower than his home ERA (4.93). If those trade rumors come to fruition and Leake moves to a home with a more favorable environment, his value will increase. I would not wait for a trade; even if Leake doesn’t get moved by the trade deadline he still has good value as a back-end starter. The only leagues that should not consider him are those that count K/9 – everyone else should be considering him instead of taking chances on the flavor of the month guys getting the call from the minors. Solid dependability goes a long way.
Available in 64% of Yahoo, 66% of ESPN and 33% of CBS leagues
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OF – Alex Rios (White Sox): Rios is available in over 50% of these leagues, and if he is available right now – go get him. Almost half of his production for the season has come in the past 30 day. In that time Rios is hitting .308 with a home run, 4 steals, 5 RBIs and 16 runs scored (24 total). Rios is 34 and he wouldn’t be the first player to fall on rough times entering his 30’s to bounce back. Then again, it may just be a hot streak; he has been due for quite some time now. Not too long ago Rios was a dependable outfield option and is slowly becoming one again. Put aside those hard feelings and give him another chance.
One closing thoughts since we’re discussing waivers here. Last week we saw the Cubs promoted prized prospect Kyle Schwarber. Since then his ownership has spiked regardless of where you play. I can’t blame anyone for jumping on him and those that did are being rewarded. With that said, I’m going to suggest something that all those out there that recommended you pick him up should have – trade him now (or very soon). Look, Schwarber’s value will never be any higher than it is right now, and unlike other players that are called up and hit the ground running, Schwarber has the hype and name recognition that could demand a decent player in return. If he hits a cold patch that .400 average will come tumbling down to mediocre levels which will lover his value. Then there is the Miguel Montero factor. While he is out with a sprained thumb, he will be back by the end of August – just in time for fantasy playoffs. You can talk all you want about who deserves what, but the Cubs aren’t pay Montero $12 million dollars to play twice a week. That means decreased at bats for Schwarber and less counting stats for you. Finally, how many times have we all seen this happen? A hot prospect comes up, hits the snot out of the ball and then collapses.
Maybe Schwarber will slump or maybe he can keep it up, but if you can get a guaranteed hitter in return for him right now, is it worth the risk to keep him? I’m not saying give Schwarber away, but if you get a respectable offer for him – someone with a track record, don’t think about what Schwarber might do, think about what the player you are getting in return will do. That’s my 2 cents on the matter…keep the change.
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