Welcome to week-4 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 on ESPN and Yahoo). 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.
OF Matt Kemp
I didn’t expect to see Kemp below the 50% mark, especially after his hot spring – yet here he is. Kemp is batting .347 on the season with 3 homers, two of which came on Monday and Tuesday in San Diego. The BABIP spells regression and his strikeout rate is over 30%, but he is still drawing walks, has increased his fly ball rate, and is hitting the ball harder than he has in his entire career. That 45.5% hard hit rate has led to a huge spike in line drives. Kemp is only 33 and he wouldn’t be the first aging player to rediscover himself.
OF Mallex Smith
The once hot Atlanta Braves prospect is making some noise in Tampa, batting .373. The counting stats are not there and likely won’t improve batting towards the bottom of the lineup, but the Rays have given him a few opportunities higher up so this could change. With a solid walk rate (7.1%) and improved strikeout rate (12.5%) that could happen soon. He has 3 steals so far and could reach 20, but a move up to the top of the order could put him in the 25-30 range if this continues – a real possibility given his improved hard hit rate. Disregard that inflated BABIP. Even if it does regress he could still level off at a .300 average.
OF Stephen Piscotty
Many hyped him as a preseason sleeper, but few actually took the chance on him. A slow start didn’t help matters, but Piscotty is heating up. His average is up to .299 thanks in part to multi-hit games in five of his past 6 – one of which was his first home run. The hard hit rate is strong, but a low ISO and fly ball rate near 20% doesn’t bode well for the power. Another week or two of this should move him out of the basement and in a position to accumulate some stats. Trouble is, if you wait for that you might miss your opportunity. There is 20 HR potential here with a handful of steals.
1B C.J. Cron
We made excused year after year with the Angels – everything from being bumped by Pujols, not liked by Scioscia, injuries, etc.., Now with a clear path in Tampa he has little excuse. A slow start put his average under .200 until about a week ago. Since then he has hit safely in his last seven games (prior to Friday’s game) with four multi-hit games and his second home run. Don’t get too excited, though, as the only positive I have for you is a hard hit rate over 40%. increased strikeouts, a nonexistent walk rate, worst contact rate of his career and lucky BABIP will have this stock crashing as quick as it went up.
]B/OF Steve Pearce
Remember in 2014 when Pearce hit .293 with 21 homers in Baltimore, and then in 2016 he hit .309 with 10 home runs after being traded to the Rays? Well, Pearce is at it again with a .316 average and three home runs for the Blue Jays. He is posting a career best strikeout percentage (12.5 – partly due to fewer chases outside the zone), the average isn’t BABIP driven (.300), and he is hitting the ball harder than ever (39.4%). The fly balls are down but still over 30%, and his ISO is insane topping out over .300. We’ve seen this before. Whether or not he can keep this up is irrelevant – he is hitting now and that is what’s important.
1-3B Luis Valbuena
This recommendation is for those with daily lineups as Valbuena rarely starts against lefties. The 32-year-old journeyman has bounced around for years with minimal success (.229 career average). This year he is batting .279 – .351 the past two-weeks – with three home runs, eight RBI and 10 runs scored. He has a career best LD% (23.9), hard hit rate (38.3) and fly ball rate (50%). His contact is at 80%, something we haven’t seen since 2013, with most of the improvement coming on pitches outside the zone. Given his career numbers it’s improbable this keeps up, but almost every hitter has a few months or even a season they can look back on and smile. Not saying that’s the case here, but stranger things have happened.
OF Mark Canha
Canha was a popular waiver wire grab in 2015. An injury derailed his 2016 season, and while he did produce solid numbers at Triple-A in 2017, his average fell flat in the majors. It’s round three and Canha has come out swinging. In 24 at bats since being recalled last Tuesday he is batting .333 with a pair of home runs. The sample size is small, but a big increase in hard hit rate (44.4%) and ISO (.292) is encouraging, as is the increased walks and decrease in swings outside the zone. 15-team leagues may want to roll the dice, but those in 12-team leagues should take a wait and see approach. If Oakland continues to play him everyday he could make a decent OF4.
SP Tyson Ross
After missing the 2016 and suffering through a miserable season in Texas last year, Ross is back in San Diego. It’s only four starts, but the walk rate is great, strikeouts are low but tolerable, he is inducing a lot of ground balls and limiting hard contact – basically the things that made him good before (minus the Ks). His fastball velocity is down, but he has deceased its usage in favor of his slider (once was his best pitch). The important thing is he is back in San Diego (career 2.78 ERA, 1.12 WHIP). At 31 years of age it’s hard to snub a former top-25 pitcher who had a bad year (in Texas) after returning from surgery.
SP Bartolo Colon
Go ahead, laugh. Colon appeared to be done last season, spending a majority of his time in Minnesota no less. However, the soon to be 45-year-old seems to have one more season left in him. The strikeouts are the best we’ve seen since 2000, the walks are low (he’s always been stingy), ground ball percentage is over 10 points higher than his career average (55.3%), fly balls are under 30% for the first time ever, and his overall contact rate (80.7%) is the lowest of his career. Granted the hard hit rate is obscenely high, his BABIP is lucky, and his strand rate will come down. However, if you look at what he produced from 2012 to 2016 you’ll find a quite useful back-end starting pitcher. If regression puts him here he is still a solid add.
The best attribute for Colon right now is it’s cold outside. Between the chill in the air and wind he has the weather man on his side. Things may change once Mr. Sun comes out, but until then he has some cold balls (no pun intended) on his side. Colon takes the mount today against the Mariners so at the very least he is a streamer with the option to lease or buy.
Continue to ADD
- Nick Pivetta, Kevin Pillar, Eduardo Rodriguez, Marcus Semien and Leonys Martin should all be owned right now. So is Curtis Granderson, but his stock is showing signs of sinking.
- Nick Markakis and Joe Mauer are still hitting for average and are deep league option, but are only injury replacements in 12-team formats.
- Jose Pirela, Howie Kendrick and Derek Dietrich have gone quiet since I recommended them last week. I’d give them another week before passing judgement – Dietrich has the shortest leash of the three.
- Minor League Stash: Kyle Tucker (batting .275 with a home run and steal through Thursday).
HOLD (not good enough to add but maybe too good to drop)
- Brian Anderson, Colin Moran and Preston Tucker have seen their batting average decline. While I believe it will bounce back, Anderson and Tucker could be drop candidates by this time next week. Moran gets a slight extension.
- Amed Rosario may find himself back in AAA. The ony reason I’m still holding is he is getting the at bats (maybe false hope).
- Eduardo Escobar remains in a holding pattern after a slew of postponements.
- Brandon Drury is still a DL stash (unless your DL is overflowing).
- Sadly Ryan McMahon did little to distinguish himself in Arenado’s absence. It hurts to say, but unless you have a very deep bench he is of little use to you right now.
- My man-crush with Kole Calhoun has come to an end – he’ll be my first drop come Monday morning.
- Yonder Alonso is the last of my favorite preseason recommendations to go. Keep him on your watch list.
- I’ve given up on Brandon Finnegan for now, but I’ll continue to monitor his progress.
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