2019 Waiver Wire Report: Week 1

Welcome to week 1 of the waiver wire report. It’s a little late as week one is almost in the books, but I wanted to wait for players to get a few regular season at bats under their belts before making any rash decisions. Not that there’s anything wrong with making a rash decision, unless it’s dropping one of your early picks because (insert stupid reason here). However, dropping one of those late round flyers (rounds 21 and lower) is perfectly acceptable as there is a good chance many one of those players would have been on waivers for you anyway.

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. And just like in years past, I will be tracking previously recommended players and if they are still worthy of a roster spot. Now on to what you came here for.

  • Ketel Marte (2B/SS/OF)

Marte is no longer the buzzy pick he was in Seattle, and after losing out to Nick Ahmed in 2017 and failing to impress in 2018, Marte doesn’t seem like a player fantasy owners would want to target. Look under the hood, though, and you’ll find a number of things to like about him. First off is he has two stolen bases. While we haven’t seen much speed from him he did have three consecutive 20+ steal seasons in the minors so he knows how to run. Next is the increase in power. Marte’s hard hit rate increase in 2018 from 28.2 to 36%, and the small sample size this year puts it at 39.2%. His ISO last year was .177, similar to what he produced in AAA in both 2016 and 2017 – except now he’s putting a little more behind it. Strikeouts have never been an issue, and the walk rate has been above average since 2015 (major and minor). Finally, his 85.9% contact rate ranked in the top 20 last season and is looking just as strong in 2019.

With a little more BABIP luck (.282 last year), a little extra oomph in his swing, and a little freedom to run the bases, Marte could turn in a 15/15 season. He is still 27, coincidentally the age players tend to break out. The multi-position eligibility is just an added bonus. Marte’s ownership has increased quickly since opening day so get your shares now. He could be a long-term solution for fantasy owners.

  • Ryon Healy (1B, 3B)

I have to admit I’m a bit skeptical of Healy’s fast start. Healy wasn’t ranked in our top-30 this year; he wasn’t even an honorable mention – those names bring the total number of players ranked to 38. Considering he was a liability against lefties (.213), only managed a .235 overall, spent most his time batting between 6th and 7th, and scored a measly 51 runs (tied for 44th among 3B eligible players), it’s not surprising. A Kyle Seager injury opened the door, and so far it appears Healy is taking full advantage. The question is can he keep this production up?

Prior to his promotion in Oakland Healy owned a .294 minor league average – .300+ in both Double and Triple-A. He hit 27 home runs in 2016 between the majors and minors, showing off his .300 average to the A’s. The average sank to a respectable .271 in 2017, but the power was still there (25 HR) even if the patience wasn’t (3.8 BB%). Some of last year’s average could be attributed to a poor BABIP (.257 – 13th worst among qualifiers). His contact rate was similar to 2017, but with improved contact in the zone and a solid hard hit rate. This year that hard hit rate is over 40%, with more fly balls and line drives and a ground ball rate half what we are used to. The downside to this improvement is a contact rate below 70% and a soft contact rate just south of 30%. Healy is getting good fortune on those hard hit balls (6 doubles, 3 HR) – what happens if/when those fortunes reverse?

I play with a guy in one of my leagues who would never dream of rostering a player like Healy. He’d look at him, examine the numbers and say something like “this guy can’t keep this up”. Maybe he’s right, but Healy is hitting now like a top-12 third baseman. If he eventually comes back down to earth you have at least the numbers he’s producing now to fall back on and smile. But, if Healy continues to hit north of .275 with 25+ HR pop – that’s a hell of a corner infield player to own. Take the plunge before it’s too late.

  • Dansby Swanson (SS)

So why no love for Swanson? Like Healy, Swanson was absent from our top-30 list. I know I quickly wrote him off as not having enough speed to matter, didn’t see much hope in the power department, and dismissed any chance of him hitting for a decent average. Upon further review I may have been a little hasty.

The former first round pick was fast-tracked to the majors, totaling 536 minor league at bats before being thrown to the wolves. After an impressive debut in 2016 Swanson spent the next two years hitting in the .230s. Looking past the average there were noticeable differences between 2017 and 2018. Swanson hit more fly balls (almost 8% more), and he hit the ball harder (from 29.3 to 35.6%). That change in approach lowered his overall contact rate, he saw fewer walks, and the strikeouts increased, yet all those numbers were still good. The sample size is small for 2019, but the strikeouts and walks are both trending in the right direction, the hard hit improvements stuck around, and the ISO (which will come down) offers promise (even with a lower FB%).

Swanson’s defense will keep him on the field regardless of what happens so the at bats will be there. He has similar upside to Ketel Marte, but the upside is based more on pedigree and is dependant on if he can hit for average like he did in college. So far so good as he’s hitting better than name brand shortstop eligible players like Story, Bregman, and Seager. If you own one of these players maybe give Swanson (or Marte) a roll and let your star work his issues out on your bench.

  • Alex Verdugo (OF)

This is purely speculative on my part, but who was Max Muncy to fantasy owners heading into 2018? And who was Chris Taylor to those same owners prior to the start of the 2017 season? Could Verdugo pull the same act in 2019? He holds a career .309 minor league batting average along with an impressive 11.44 K%. He doesn’t, or should I say he hasn’t, shown much power or speed, but neither did Taylor or Muncy before their respective breakouts. He has reached double digits in each, but with a high ground ball rate it’s hard to envision a power boom. I have read the term “better real life player than fantasy one”, but at 22 years of age it’s hard to put that type of label on him.

The advantage Verdugo has over Munch and Taylor is pedigree – he was a second round draft pick. And he has shown a lot more patience and maturity with his bat so there is talent here. Neither Taylor or Muncy was handed their role; they had to fight for it. Verdugo isn’t a starter yet, but if he continues to get hits whenever called upon, it’s only a matter of time before the Dodgers find a way to get him in there on a regular basis. He might be worth a spare bench role in larger leagues – a watch list addition elsewhere.

  • Dominic Smith (1B/OF)

Like Verdugo above, this is another speculative add, but given how poor every outfielder not named Conforto has hit for the Mets, I see little reason not to give Smith more at bats. Smith hit .321 this spring with a pair of home runs – enough to avoid what many thought was an inevitable trip to Triple-A. Since then he has started just one game, but he did get a hit in 4 of the 5 games he has appeared in. Meanwhile, Broxton has a total of 6 at bats and Nimmo and Lagares have just two hits each making them 4 for 38. Small sample size, but if things continue like this for another week or two I can see a change being made.

Before Peter Alonso was all the rage Mets fans and fantasy players alike clamored for the promotion of Smith, the Mets 2013 first round draft pick. Because he didn’t impress right out of the gate we all moved onto the next big thing. Don’t forget, though, that Smith hit .300+ at every level except Class-A. He also had a BB% of 8.34 or higher at every level except High-A, and his lowest minor leagueOBP was .344. The power was never on full display, but he was a doubles machine and just turned 23 so maybe he will start to tap into his power potential soon.

Repeating what I said for Verdugo, Smith could make for a sneaky add in deeper leagues and is someone to keep an eye on in 12 teamers.

 

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Jim Finch

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The self proclaimed Grand High Exhausted Mystic Ruler of Fantasy Baseball. While I am not related to Jennie or Sidd Finch, I will attempt to uphold the integrity of the Finch family name as it relates to baseball.

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