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. Be sure to check out the previously recommended section as there are a number of under-owned players that should still be available in your league.
- Manuel Margot
Given his unimpressive slash line and deflated counting stats Margot should be a post-hype sleeper in 2019, and we could be seeing signs of that right now. He is batting .294 over the past 30 days, .298 over the last 14, but over the last 14 is where we’ve seen a boost in production. One home run, three steals, six RBI and nine runs scored puts him in the top-20 during that time-frame. Both the walk and strikeout rates are trending in the right direction. He is putting the ball on the ground more to take advantage of his speed, and this year they’re getting through thanks to a 38.7% hard hit rate (over 40% in June and July). We’ve also seen the line drive rate increase due to increase in hard hits.
Margot has batted in every spot except 3rd and 4th. If he keeps this up his days of batting towards the bottom of the lineup should be behind him.
- Trey Mancini
After a solid showing in April Mancini (expletive deleted)! A three-month average of .208 sent his stock plummeting, but he is now showing signs of life. He went 17 for 49 (.347) over the past two weeks with three home runs and seven each in the run and RBI categories. He also has three multi-hit games over the past seven days. Part of the issue is a drop in power and fly balls – not a significant drop, but enough so that combined with a slight drop in line drives, increase in soft contact and infield flies, and a little bad luck in the BABIP department has taken its toll.
The recent surge is hard to gauge; the improved underling metrics are encouraging but the sample size is small. Still, Mancini might be worth a bench stash if he can recapture his 2017 breakout form.
- Aledmys Diaz, Randal Grichuk, Russell Martin
Looks like Lourdes Gurriel shared whatever he was drinking because here come the Blue Jays. Here’s what these three men have done over the past 14 days:
- Diaz: 11 for 35 (.314), 4 HR, 8 RBI, 8 R, 1 SB
- Grichuk: 18 for 57 (.316), 3 HR, 8 RBI, 12 R
- Martin: 9 for 28 (.321), 4 HR, 7 RBI, 9 R
Even Kendrys Morales (.288, 2 HR, 8 RBI) and Justin Smoak (.281, 1 HR, 4 RBI) are producing better, but I’m not recommending them just yet. Of the three players I like Grichuk the most. He is posting a career low K% (24.2), has been unlucky (.238 BABIP, 16.1 LD%), and his 36.6% hard contact rate should have produced more home runs with a career high 46.2% fly ball ratio. Also, Toronto has a way of getting the best out of power hitters not named Tulowitzki. I don’t expect the average to hold, but I think he can contribute solid numbers in the other three categories.
Diaz has experienced a number of hot streaks this season so I’m not fully on board with this one. However, with Gurriel on the shelf he will get plenty of chances to continue this streak. As for Martin: we’ve written him off a number of times over the years, and his .209 average with just nine home runs almost assures he is on waivers in your league. If you have been playing the catcher streamer game all season you may want to cash in on this one now. If not, I have several other catcher options to choose from listed below.
- Mallex Smith
If you need a boost in stolen bases then the lightly owned Smith could be your man. He has 20 for the season but five over the last 14 days. For the season he is batting .291 thanks to improvements in his contact rate, strikeouts (under 20%), and hard contact (29.6% – 8% increase over last year). Smith also saw a bump in run production in July despite having fewer at bats than each of the previous three months. He is still batting towards the bottom of the lineup, but with a 7.8% walk rate, strong line drive percentage, and solid average against both lefties and righties I can see that changing. It has taken a few years, but Smith looks to be evolving into the player we hoped for in Atlanta.
- Johan Camargo
Between Triple-A and the majors Camargo has 15 home runs – that one shy of his career minor league total from 2012 to 2017. Talk about a guy crushing it out of nowhere… well, it’s crushing for him. Over the past two weeks he batted .310 with four home runs, 10 RBI and eight runs scored. He also batted .287 in June and .266 in July. I am skeptical, but there are some reasons to believe he can continue. The strikeout rate is 19.9%, walk rate 11.3%, hard contact 38.9%, contact% 75.8 (low but not bad given his limited experience), BABIP .291 (neither lucky or unlucky).
Camargo gets a bump in value on Yahoo where he qualifies for second base in addition to third base and shortstop. As I said, I’m skeptical, but he is slowing growing on me as a decent MI option.
- Nick Williams
I have been slow to recommend Williams. Judging by his ownership rate most of you have been just as reluctant. A .258 average with 14 home runs does not make for an appealing 5th outfielder. He had some fanfare to start the season until he posted a .188 in April. That masked the .293 and five home runs in May. Those that did buy him in June were disappointed with a .218 performance, and since then nobody has really given him a chance. You might want to reconsider since Williams hit .311 in July with five home runs. Then again a look at his underlying metrics will have you second guessing that.
He has power (.191 ISO) but doesn’t hit the ball that hard (31.6) or in the air enough (30.8%). His contact rate is below average, even lower than Camargo above. The strikeouts are a little high, but 23.5% is an improvement for him. The positive takeaways are that his walk rate is decent (7.9%) as is his line drive percentage (24.0%). He sits primarily in the middle of the batting order and has seen increased at bats and RBIs in each month.
I don’t see a huge breakout on the horizon, but I do think Williams can maintain an acceptable average, hit five home runs a month over the final two, and post double-digit run and RBI totals. He is a worthy OF4.
On the Mound
- Trevor Richards
Hunter Denson covered Richards in this weeks stock watch and even recommended him as a waiver add. He started Friday’s game against the Phillies allowing just one run over five innings with seven strikeouts. That’s two earned runs over his last four starts (23.2 innings) with 25 K’s. The cliff notes version of his analysis (for those that don’t want to click over) is that Richards has been getting lucky, but his FIP and xFIP put his ERA right where it is for the season. That is within streaming range which makes Richards someone you don’t want to leave on waivers.
- Derek Holland
Despite years of mediocrity and disappointments I’ve always had a soft spot for Holland. Injuries prevented him from building off his breakout 2013 season and he never recovered. It looked like that downward trend was going to continue in April (5.85 ERA) and May (4.32), but then June rolled around and the script was flipped. He posted a 2.70 ERA in June and a 2.89 in July, solidifying his spot in the rotation for the injury riddled Giants.
Holland is generating strikes (9.08 K/9, 10.7 SwStr%) and is posting the lowest contact rate of his career. That K/9 is in the double-digits for both June and July. I just don’t know how he is doing it. The walks are in line with his career average (meaning a little high). Outside of a career high hard hit rate the batted ball profile hasn’t change. The arsenal, velocity and pitch usage also looks the same. And none of these things saw any significant change in June and July where things turned around for him. There was no real BABIP luck, and the FIP and xFIP in those months put his ERA in the low 3s. I can’t even point to his home/road splits as he is about even there.
I have no clue how Holland is doing it, but he is. His next start is today at Arizona followed by a home start vs Pittsburgh.
- Clay Buchholz
Funny how I’ll give someone like Holland a pass for his past, yet I can’t seem to do the same with Buchholz. It’s not too often I let personal bias sway my option, but there are those rare few who get in my cross-hair and fail to get back in my good graces – or at least off the black list. Fortunately for all of you Jordan Lynn did a feature on Clay Buchholz earlier this week so I’ll let him highlight the buying points. He might have convinced me if I weren’t so damn stubborn.
- Kyle Gibson
Yes, today is throwback day with Holland, Buchholz and now Gibson. It seem so long ago that this soon to be 30-year-old former first round pick was all the buzz. The Twins never gave up, and five years later he is starting to deliver – coincidentally in an arbitration year. Like Holland, Gibson is having a career year for strikeouts (8.80 K/9, 12.1 SwStr%) and has greatly improved his contact rate (73.3%, 78.2 career). Also like Holland he is allowing a career high in hard contact (38.5%), and while his fly ball rate isn’t bad (30.9%) that is also a career high. He is also walking a career high 9.5% of batters faced.
The plus side is while he is allowing a career high in hard hit, he is also posting a career high in soft contact (19.1%). His velocity is up almost a full MPH – 1.5 MPH on his slider. David Laurila from FanGraphs posted a terrific article where Gibson discusses his fastball and pitch sequencing. Apparently all the things he applied have worked for him because his fastball rates as a positive pitch for the first time in the majors, and he’s crushing it with his slider.
It remains to be seen if these changes can be sustained going forward. They are working now, though, which is all fantasy owners need to know. Gibson’s next start is Monday at Cleveland – he has two quality starts against them already and missed a third by .1 inning.
Part-Time Plug and Play Options.
- Ben Zobrist
Playing time will always be an issue with regards to Zobrist. That’s why he is still on waivers in many leagues despite a season average of .310. He is 16 for 32 over the past 14 days, and while he only has one home run he has scored eight times. Zobrist is a two category player, runs and batting average. He’ll chip in maybe a handful of home runs between now and September so he isn’t completely useless in the power department, just not a game changer.
I see him holding more value in H2H leagues with daily moves that use a MI slot and is primarily a 15-team add.
- Daniel Palka
Palka is quietly making a case for more playing time. He hit eight home runs in July along with 31 runs+RBI. Over the past two weeks we’ve seen a bump in batting average (.296), going from .226 to .242. Granted we’ve seen short stretches like this from him only to see things come crashing down the following weeks. A horrific 32% strikeout rate and bottom feeding contact rate (65.9%) tend to have that effect on a hitter. Those strikeouts have only increased as the months progress, but the fly ball and hard hit rate has also steadily increased (48.7 and 41 percent respectively in July).
Palka is never going to be a batting average guy, but he is the same player that hit 63 home runs between 2015 and 2016 over three levels. If the rebuilding Sox give Palka a few more at bats he could give you a nice power bump.
Catcher Streaming Options
I recommended Russell Martin above, but if you can’t bring yourself to roster him I have a few more names for you. Robinson Chirinos and Jonathan Lucroy are two of the more obvious names, and while their ownership levels are higher they are below 50% on Yahoo. Over the last 14 days Chirinos is batting .316 with four home runs and 20 combined runs and RBI. Lucroy is batting .270 with just one home runs, but he does have 19 combined runs and RBI. The drawback with Chirinos is his season average is unpalatable, and that home run Lucroy his was his second of the season.
Caleb Joseph is a combination of Chirinos and Lucroy, batting .232 with three home runs for the season. Over the past 14 days he posted a .289 with two homers and nine runs scored (tied for second among catchers). There is little reason to trust him, but he has proven to be useful in spurts. Mitch Garver also hasn’t shown much power, but at least he holds a .265 season average. Over the last 14 days he hit .316 with a home run and nine RBI. Granted half that RBI total was done in one game so take it with a grain of salt.
Isiah Kiner-Falefa is the most interesting name out there, at least to me. Like Garver he is only batting .264 and has shown limited power (4 HR). However, he has been hot over the last two weeks (.367, 2 HR, 5 R, 5 RBI). What I like most is he doesn’t just backup the catcher position (51 AB); he has also spent time at second (74 AB) and third (130 AB) base. He even snuck in a few appearances at shortstop. Despite his flexibility his at bat total is on the decline.
This is the last week Vince Velasquez and Kole Calhoun will appear here. Their ownership rate is over 50% and both should be owned in all competitive leagues. If either is still available in your league – Last Call!
Continue to ADD
- Carlos Rodon, Dereck Rodriguez, Stephen Piscotty and C.J. Cron should all be owned right now, and all four are bordering on that 50% threshold.
- Mike Minor moves up from hold, but I will avoid using him in his next start at Yankees Stadium.
- Michael Conforto is still an add, but keep a close eye on him as he has cooled off since his last home run on the 27th.
- Mike Fiers took a line drive to the shin on Wednesday but it doesn’t look like it will affect him moving forward. He is slated to start Tuesday’s game against the Angels.
HOLD (not good enough to add but maybe too good to drop)
- Joc Pederson has been pushed out of regular playing time thanks in part to a flurry of trades. He can probably be dropped in leagues without daily transaction, but two home runs on Thursday keep him in the waiver wire conversation.
- Lourdes Gurriel Jr was diagnosed with a Grade 1 left knee sprain and a left high ankle sprain. Estimates are anywhere between two to six weeks. Hold only if you have the DL room – most of us don’t.
- Matt Harvey has now been shelled in two of his three post all-star starts and he has been hit hard in three of his last five. He might be a hold in 15-team leagues, but 12 and under can toss him back.
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