Each year when the all-star break passes I hit the rest button here on the wire. That means that all previously recommended players should be looked at with skepticism. Sure, Didi Gregorius has done a fantastic job at shortstop, but things have a tendency of changing at the break. Hot streaks that carried a player into the break cool off, and those cold and unrosterable players quietly heat up and become relevant.
Does that mean you should ignore those previously recommended players at the bottom of the page? Absolutely not! It just means that you treat them like any other waiver wire addition – make them prove themselves all over again instead of giving them the benefit of the doubt that they’ll continue hitting well. Since we’re starting fresh, and nothing of interest happened this week, I thought it best to go position by position this week and see if there are any treasures fantasy owners my have overlooked.
Catcher – Cameron Rupp (Phillies)
Available in 74% of CBS, 85% of Y! and 89% of ESPN leagues
Rupp has made improvements each month, and those improvements have led to additional at bats over the floundering Carlos Ruiz. Rupp is batting .342 against lefties and .275 against righties, with equal power against both arms. Over the past 30 days he’s batting .344 with five home runs and 14 RBIs with 10 runs scored. Those numbers place him in the top-10 on the ESPN player rater, ahead of popular backstops like Brian McCann and Jonathan Lucroy. If your catcher is not named Buster Posey (or Willson Contreras) you should always be on the lookout for someone better.
First Base – Tommy Joseph (Phillies)
Available in 52% of CBS, 96% of Y! and 94% of ESPN leagues
We’ll stick with the Phillies and take a look at the hot hitting Joseph. His average took a dive in June after being given full-time at bats – down to .215 at one point, but he seems to have turned the corner in July. This month he has raised his average 40 points (up to .255), hit three home runs, scored eight runs, and drove in six. The most impressive part (small sample size alert) is he has just five K’s and a strikeout percentage below 20 this month. The impressive ISO (.261) and hard hit rate (39.7%) will keep the power numbers high. If Joseph can maintain the low strikeout numbers and hit for a respectable average he could be a catalyst for this inept offense.
Second Base – Wilmer Flores (Mets)
Available in 84% of CBS, 92% of Y! and 90% of ESPN leagues
The Mets continue to throw up every possible roadblock for Flores, and he continues to hurdle them. He totaled 76 at bats in June and still managed to hit .289 with two home runs and 12 RBIs. So far in July he is batting .344 with five home runs and 10 RBIs with eight runs scored in just 32 at bats.
Flores isn’t without his faults; he’s hitting .217 at home and .237 against righties. The ironic part is all of his home runs are at home and his power is equal regardless of the pitchers arm. He had similar struggles last season and still managed to hit .263 with 16 home runs. The main attribute Flores possesses is his eligibility, qualifying for shortstop, second base and third base – first base as well on most sites. Like Yangervis Solarte (also hot and readily available), Flores is the perfect bench plug and play option.
Third Base – Ryon Healy (Athletics)
Available in 95% of CBS and 99% of Y! and ESPN leagues
Oakland informed Danny Valencia that he will no longer be playing third base. This isn’t a knock on Valencia who is batting .306 with 12 home runs; it’s more of a shakeup for a team that is 12 games under .500. I have no doubt Valencia’s bat will find its way into the lineup most every night (he was a DH on Saturday).
Back to Healy. He was a .300 hitter during his three years of college; he hit .285 in High-A over 561 at bats, then .310 at Double-A over 652 at bats, and then .318 this year at Triple-A over 192 at bats. His walk rate this year was only 6.2%, but he had an 11% walk rate in Double-A. The strikeouts were in the mid-teens through High-A, going up to a high, but manageable, 20% in the upper levels.
The upper levels is where Healy’s power started to show with an increased ISO and plenty of doubles. He may only hit 20 or so home runs each year, but the rest of the package could make him a top third baseman someday. He got his first two hits last night, one of which was a two run home run – that might be a sign of things to come.
Shortstop – Zack Cozart (Reds)
Available in 34% of CBS, 66% of Y! and 55% of ESPN leagues
I still recommend under-owned Didi Gregorius, but Cozart is a viable alternative should he be available. He is looking like the shortstop we all expected after his 2012 rookie season, and he has already matched his home run and RBI output from that year in 250 fewer at bats – with a better batting average. Cozart is batting .289 this month with three home runs, six RBIs and seven runs scored over 45 at bats. For the season he is the 18th ranked shortstop on the ESPN player rater, but there have been numerous weeks that he has performed as a top 10 option. Cozart makes a great middle infield option.
Outfield – Travis Jankowski (Padres)
Available in 89% of CBS, 98% of Y! and 96% of ESPN leagues
I have no doubt… little doubt… well, I hope that Hunter Renfroe will be up soon. Until that day comes it will be Travis Jankowski holding down the spot vacated by the injured Jon Jay. Jankowski is s speed merchant, with 137 steals over 1,283 minor league at bats. He is also a solid hitter, batting .282 though Class-A and High-A and .296 in Double-A. Jankowski spent the first three months as a bench guy, but still managed 10 steals over 82 at bats. So far in July he has six steals over 24 at bats.
The 15% walk rate is impressive – it has been in the double digits since High-A, but the 29% strikeout rate needs work – it was in the mid-teens in the minors. Last night he found himself at the top of the lineup which means the run total could take a bump, increasing his fantasy value. If you have the need… the need… for speed, then grab Jankowski. If the average goes up in the second half you’ve got a nice cheap three category player.
Outfield – Ryan Rua (Rangers)
Available in 92% of CBS, 97% of Y! and 98% of ESPN leagues
Shin-Soo Choo may be back, but as I warned you before and contrary to the early reports, he is not healthy. I told you, he’s too stubborn to come out, will attempt to play through pain, and will hide any injury if it means coming out. Guess he could only hide it for so long, and now Rua get to show what he can do – again.
At this point you should all know what Rua can do. He can hit for average and power, draw walks and run the bases well. If not for the pesky strikeout rate he would be the complete player. If you’re a Choo owner it would be in your best interest to handcuff him to Rua. Rua may only be a short-term add, but if Choo’s back continues to act up, Rua could end up with a full-time gig.
Outfield – Randal Grichuk (Cardinals)
Available in 51% of CBS, 63% of Y! and 70% of ESPN leagues
He was a sleeper coming into the season, but one with a big red tag attached due to the 31% strikeout rate. Grichuk bounced back in May after hitting .189 in April, but things came crashing down in May with a .114 average and a demotion to the minors. Grichuk made some quick adjustments (either that or he just needed a mental breather) and hit .283 with five home runs over 53 at bats. He was brought back, and since his promotion he is hitting .407 with three home runs over 27 at bats. He also has only four strikeouts since returning. It’s a small sample, but it shows promise.
Grichuk has power, and his ISO, hard hit rate and fly ball percentage say we could see another 10 or more home runs from here on out. If someone in your league dropped him, now is the time to scoop him back up.
Outfield – Andrew Benintendi (Red Sox)
Available in 77% of CBS, 85% of Y! and 96% of ESPN leagues
Benintendi is currently in Double-A batting .283 (successful against lefties and righties) with 13 doubles (26 on the season), six home runs and six stolen bases (14 on the season). His ISO has been over .200 since day one; that and the high number of doubles are a nice indicator that more power is on the way. While he does have six steals, he has been caught seven times.
There is no question that Benintendi can hit, and his 8.7 percent walk rate and 13.8 percent strikeout rate show he has a patient bat. If he is promoted this season (which could be soon) you can expect a solid hitter with good line drive power and a little pop. I can see him being a fourth outfielder on even the best fantasy teams, but he has the upside to be more than that. His ownership levels are rising, so if you are considering stashing him, do so now.
Previous Waiver Wire Recommendations
I like to hold myself accountable for past recommendations, so I will monitor my hits
and misses from the previous weeks and monitor their progress until they either graduate (over 50% ownership on all three sites) or are listed as drops (sometimes you’ve just got to cut a man loose).
This is the last week Marcus Semien will appear here. His ownership level has reached a point to where he should be owned in all competitive leagues.
Continue to add
- Hitters: Didi Gregorius, Melky Cabrera, Seth Smith, Tyler Naquin, Tim Anderson, Brett Lawrie, Lonnie Chisenhall, Yangervis Solarte
- Pitchers: Anthony DeSclafani, Bartolo Colon, Tyler Clippard
- David Freese would benefit from any disciplinary action taken against Jung-Ho Kang. His numbers are already good, but an extra 25 at bats a month could move him from top-20 to top-12.
- Max Kepler has five home runs and 18 RBIs this month which makes his .216 batting average tolerable. His value dies once the power falls off.
- Koji Uehara and Brandon Maurer are recommended if you need saves, but neither are a long-term solution.
- Justin Bour makes an excellent DL stash for the second half.
- Alex Bregman, Hunter Renfroe and David Dahl should be up at some point and could have an immediate fantasy impact.
- Keep adding Josh Bell and keep your fingers crossed he can muscle himself into a full-time role.
- Javier Baez is hitting the ball well, but batting 7th and 8th isn’t doing anything for his counting stats.
Hold – Do not add them, but do not drop them yet if possible
- If A.J. Reed doesn’t do something in the first two weeks after the break I would suggest you stop holding on just for potential.
- Devon Travis started July on a cold streak – keep your eye on him. The same goes for Yasmany Tomas, Mark Reynolds and Colby Rasmus.
- Jose Reyes is starting to hit and should soon qualify for third base in all leagues, but until he shows a little more than he has I would hold off on adding him.
- Kolten Wong is a hold in leagues that use a MI slot but a drop in ones that don’t. Maybe his second half can be like his first half last year?
- Since there were no games this week there are no drops.
Need more waiver wire recommendations and free agent pick-ups, check out Fantasy Rundown daily for that and more.