Welcome to week 18 of the waiver wire report. Each week I will dig through the f/a pool to find the best potential free agents on waivers (under 50% ownership). Some are good for a quick boost, others could be good long-term additions, and there will be a few speculative adds thrown in there as well.
Marcus Semien (Athletics)
Available in 40% of CBS, 70% of Y!, and 75% of ESPN leagues
He missed more than two months of the season after going down in mid-April, and that limited playing time has helped hide him on waivers. Semien returned in July, and over 84 at bats that month he hit .262 with four home runs, 14 RBI and 15 runs scored. Those are pretty good numbers for a shortstop, and even better numbers as a middle infielder.
I don’t expect the batting average to go much higher than it is. That said, Semien did post 70 plus run and RBI totals last year with a similar average along with 27 homers. His July numbers put him on pace to match that which means roughly 30 each for runs and RBI and around eight homers over the next few months. If you can absorb a .235 batting average then you’ll be more than happy with the counting stats.
Cesar Hernandez (Phillies)
Available in 56% of CBS, 74% of Y!, and 70% of ESPN leagues
Remember back in April when Cesar Hernandez was all the rage and everyone was running to their neighborhood waiver wire to add him? The two mediocre .250 months that followed sent his stock plummeting. Hernandez did hit .333 in limited at bats in July and looks to be carrying over that average into August.
His .293 average is in line with last season, and he is 15 runs short of matching last years 67 run total in 250 fewer at bats. I don’t see more than a handful of homers the rest of the way, and batting leadoff you will not get many more RBIs. However, runs and batting average are still two of the basic five fantasy categories, and Hernandez can supply you with both.
If you are in a roto league lacking in both, or just need a .300 hitting middle infielder to fill the void, this is a solid play for now.
Manuel Margot (Padres)
Available in 55% of CBS, and 72% of Y! & ESPN leagues
Margot hasn’t been bad this year; he has just fallen short of expectations. A .260 average with four home runs and five steals over the first few months tested the patience of fantasy owners. Not many bought into the .375 average in limited June at bats after returning from injury. So it’s no surprise that Margot is still widely available ever after batting .310 with four home runs and four steals in July.
Margot is still striking out too much, and because of this it is hard to trust the average. But if he can bat even .275 the rest of the way the power and speed are worth it. The waiver wire is getting thinner so there may not be many better options available. Maybe take him for a one week test drive.
Lucas Duda (Rays)
Available in 65% of CBS, 85% of Y!, and 82% of ESPN leagues
Sometimes a chance of address can work wonders for a player. Since joining the Rays Duda is 6-16 (.375) with three home runs, five walks, and six runs scored. Granted Tampa is on the road right now so it remains to be seen how his new home park will treat him. Still, he was hitting .246 with 17 home runs prior to the trade, and managed a .262 average in Citi-Field so maybe the transition to Tropicana will not be a harsh one.
Most of the power hitting corner infield options are rostered at this point making Duda an intriguing waiver option. The question is, do you wait and see how he does at Tropicana Field or take a wait and see approach? If he hits and you hesitate or don’t make a preemptive strike, it may be too late.
Shin-Soo Choo (Rangers)
Available in 41% of CBS, 76% of Y!, and 72% of ESPN leagues
I’ll pause for a moment while you all collectively roll your eyes and sigh. I know, Choo is inconsistent, he hasn’t been good in years, he doesn’t run any more, he’s always injured, etc.., The reasons are plentiful on why fantasy owners are down on Choo. I’m asking you to put aside your bias for a moment to consider a few things.
First, Choo has played in 97 games and should reach between 145 and 150 games by season’s end. Second, Choo has nine stolen bases which is four shy of tying his 2014, 2015 and 2016 combined total. He has scored at least 12 runs and driven in at least 14 in each month. Stretched out over a season and you get 72 runs and 84 RBI. Finally, his 14 home runs puts him on pace for 20.
I will concede the fact that Choo will only hit between .235 and .250, but he still has some pop, a little speed, and is delivering solid run and RBI numbers. In a lot of ways he is similar to Melky Cabrera; the numbers aren’t fancy, but they are more than adequate for a fourth outfielder. Instead of playing the wire looking for that next big thing, why not settle for a solid, albeit boring, outfielder.
Wilmer Difo (Nationals)
Available in 86% of CBS, 90% of Y!, and 91% of ESPN leagues
I’ve been looking at Difo the past few weeks scratching my head and wondering if this is someone to consider. Outside of his 14 home runs at Class-A in 2014 there hs been very little power. The .300 batting average we saw in A-Ball went on a steep decline as he advanced. The only constant was his speed with 49 steals in 2014, 30 in 2015, and 31 in 2016 – something we have seen very little of in his few tastes of major league ball.
So, when Difo hit .373 in July with three home runs, two steals and double-digit run and RBI totals in just 67 at bats, I’m left wondering. Is this someone to pick up? To be honest, I still don’t know. What I do know is he is hitting, scoring runs, and qualifies for both second base and shortstop. Honestly I would rather gamble on a known commodity like Marcus Semien above. However, if middle infield options are thin in your league, he is worth considering given his July numbers and .318 average over the past two weeks.
Dominic Smith (Mets)
Available in 66% of CBS, 88% of Y!, and 90% of ESPN leagues
If I’m recommending Duda it only seems fitting to mention the heir apparent in New York, Dominic Smith. Mets general manager Sandy Alderson said Smith is not far from receiving the call, so a preemptive strike in fantasy may be in order.
This year in Triple-A he is slashing .340/.393/.537 with 33 doubles, 16 home runs and 76 each in runs and RBI. There is future 30 home run potential. For now he is a strong gap hitter that could give solid run and RBI support depending on his place in the lineup. We don’t know how those numbers will look in the majors, but if he hits the ground running you’ve got a nice corner infield option for the stretch run.
I have him on my watch list in a number of leagues and now just need to figure out who to drop in order to get him.
Ozzie Albies (Braves)
Available in 68% of CBS, 87% of Y!, and 90% of ESPN leagues
The Braves called up Albies and expect him to be their regular second baseman going forward. Talk about no pressure. This year in Triple-A Albies batted .285 with 21 doubles, eight triple, nine home runs, and 21 stolen bases. The power is anew development thanks in part to a slightly increased ISO and big jump in fly ball rate, up to almost 38%. The additional fly balls come at the expense of ground balls, down to 42% after averaging close to 50% in years past.
Is Albies a must add? I guess that depends on if your league uses a MI slot, the size of your league, and what’s on waivers. He could make a decent batting average/speed guy, or he could flounder like some many other speed first middle infielders have in the past. Considering his struggles in his first go around in Triple-A last year (.248) I might temper my expectations. Still, I would not rule out some hot hitting down the stretch.
Kaleb Cowart (Angels)
Available in 95% of CBS, 98% Y! & ESPN leagues
Greg Jewett touched on Coward the other day in his Fantasy Forward article. Since we have similar tastes in players I thought I might give him a look. A quick recap of his minor league numbers this year and we see a .311 average with 25 doubles, 12 home runs, 19 stolen bases, 57 RBI and 62 runs scored. We saw a similar Triple-A numbers in 2016, albeit with a .280 average, and hits of power, speed and batting average in the years prior.
Cowart was a first round pick in 2010 so at one point he had a bright, shiny pedigree. He failed to make an impact in 2015 and 2016. You know the old saying; third time is a charm. He is 11-26 (.423) since being recalled with a home run, stolen base, and eight runs scored. The Angels need all the offense they can get right now so one would assume if he is hitting he will be in the lineup, right? Well, Mike Scioscia isn’t a conventional manager so that remains to be seen.
For now Cowart could be lightning in a bottle, qualifying at both second and third base. A few 0-4 nights could change all that with a quick hook from Scioscia. That could happen at any time so act fast and enjoy the ride.
For those of you forced to play the waiver wire.
With Alex Avila in Chicago, James McCann is now the man in Detroit – and he’s making a statement batting .444 the past two weeks and .429 over the past seven days. I don’t buy it, but if you’re playing the hot hand there is nobody hotter right now, except maybe J.T. Realmuto.
Christian Vazquez is another hot bat going 10 for 17 over the past seven days with a home run and stolen base. With Sandy Leon dealing with a knee injury Vazquez should continue to see playing time daily.
Kurt Suzuki (.320) and Tyler Flowers (.370) have combined for seven home runs and 15 RBI the past two weeks. If you can’t find a single catcher you like I highly recommend going with a duo.
Last weeks recommendation of Caleb Joseph still stands to all those who own Welington Castillo.
Manny Pina has been recommended for weeks, but he finally hit a cold streak and is now losing some at bats to Jeff Bandy. Time to move on. The same goes for Francisco Cervelli in Pittsburgh who is now sharing some time with Chris Stewart. You can also add the catching duo of Cameron Rupp and Andrew Knapp to that list of players to move on from. Both are in a slump right now.
Previous Waiver Wire Recommendations
This is the last week Odubel Herrera will appear here. His ownership rate is over 50% everywhere and he should be owned in all competitive leagues. If he is still available in your league – Last Call!
Continue to add Bradley Zimmer,Garardo Parra, Joey Gallo, Josh Bell, Danny Valencia, Carlos Gomez, Jhoulys Chacin, Matt Chapman and Cory Spangenberg.
Ben Gamel and Jose Reyes had an off week but were solid prior to that. Continue to add, but monitor their progress daily. Randal Grichuk returned strong from the DL, but went 3-21 over the past seven days. I still like him as an add, but like Gamel you need to monitor his progress.
HOLD – Do not add them, but do not drop them yet if possible
Maikel Franco has upside and talent, but is just 7-46 with a pair of homers the past two weeks. The same goes for Orlando Arcia who is 8-38 with a pair of steals. Add Clint Frazier to this group with his 10-47 two-week performance with a home run and stolen base. Nick Williams is the final addition after going 9-41 with one home runs. These are the challenges of owning a young inexperienced player.
Matt Davidson hit three home runs in the past seven days. Unfortunately he hit below .200 and now is day to day with a bruised wrist. Nick Castellanos broke .200 this week after slumping the week prior. That and the home run may have been enough to encourage owners to hold him another week, but patience are running thin.
Stephen Piscotty and Byron Buxton returned from the DL. Give them a week to get their feet wet and see what they do. Add, hold, or drop accordingly.
I know I should have waited another week before recommending Victor Martinez. It was just a short-lived hot streak. The same goes for Mike Napoli – by the time you realize he is on a hot streak it is over. I prematurely got my hopes up for Jason Heyward. The Cubs may love his defense, but fantasy owners despise his bat.
Need more waiver wire recommendations and free agent pick-ups, check out Fantasy Rundown daily for that and more.