Welcome to week-1 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. In addition, this week I will also look at some roster trends to see if those players being scooped up over the last few days are worthy of an audition on your team.
RP Hunter Strickland (Giants)
This is only temporary, at least Mark Melancon owners hope so, but while Melancon is on the DL Strickland is a must own, especially in Roto. We’ve been penciling in Strickland for years as the next closer, but someone always manages to keep him in the setup role. He will provide a steady ERA, give you a strikeout an inning, and prior to 2017 he was a solid source for WHIP. The control appears to be back and early indication hint at another step forward. While Melancon is only rumored to be out for a few weeks, we all know things rarely go according to plan.
- Brad Boxberger and Greg Holland are the two obvious players to add if by some chance they are available. Also Kela Keone is now the official closer it Texas so we should see a spike in ownership there as well.
C Chris Iannetta (Rockies)
I’m all for playing the steaming game when it comes to catchers, at least in leagues I did not get one of the top 5-6 options. Iannetta was not highly drafted and he is now a member of the Rockies so he draws the first straw. He went 5-7 in his first two starts and batted .308 this spring with 4 home runs and an 8/6 BB/K. His season lines are not impressive, but he did hit 17 home runs in Arizona last year (over 272 at bats) and has a career average close to what Brian McCann has produced in recent years. Plus did I mention he’s now in Colorado – a place where hitters tend to rejuvenate (see Mark Reynolds for the latest example). I’m all in, at least for now.
1B Yonder Alonso (Indians)
Alonso barely cracked preseason top-30 first baseman rankings. Not surprising given the depth at the position, his track record, and doubts he could come close to his career power year. Alonso led the league in home runs this spring so maybe those 28 homers in 2017 were not a fluke. His average wasn’t far off his career mark which gives us a safe floor. After six season spread between San Diego, Oakland and Seattle it will be interesting to see what he can do over a full season in Cleveland with a strong supporting cast and friendlier home park.
- Jose Martinez is another first baseman to target but his ownership is higher. Like Alonso, he wasn’t on many preseason lists due to a breakout at age 29 – something many have issues buying. The Cards will find room for his bat as long as he is producing, and he looks to be carrying his solid spring into April.
2B Joe Panik (Giants)
Panik has become the waiver wire fallback option; a player you generally count on for batting average but doesn’t quite contribute enough elsewhere to help, but he doesn’t really hurt you either. Maybe it’s just early luck, but Panik already has two home runs pushing him into the trending column. I don’t expect this to continue, but batting second in front of McCutchen, Posey and Longoria could push the runs column to a career high. He’s also a safe bet in OBP leagues. Those looking to pad those two columns might want to consider him for a MI slot early on if your starters had a rough spring or suffered an injury (looking at you Daniel Murphy).
- Neil Walker is another trending second baseman, but mostly due to his potential and new team. He has shown 20+ home run potential when healthy and holds a career .272 average. Batting towards the bottom of the lineup is never a good thing, but on this team it might not matter much.
3B Brandon Drury (Yankees)
Second base or middle infield is where Drury holds the most value, but he could make a decent plug-and-play option at third if need be. Like Walker above, he bats near the bottom of the lineup so most think depleted run and RBI totals. Given the wood in the middle of the order, though, I can see Drury being one of the few guys batting 7th/8th that manages to get four at-bats a game. I would not rule out 20 home runs and he did bat .282 in 2016 so the tools are there. I like him as a MI/CI flex option for off days and injuries.
- A Martin Prado injury opened the door for Brian Anderson, and he may not want to give it up when Prado returns. I’m on the fence for long-term expectations, but short-term he makes a nice CI or Util play for even 12-team leagues.
SS Tim Anderson (White Sox)
I’ll admit I gave Anderson little credit this preseason and my opinion hasn’t changed much. He’s still batting 7th where he received a majority of his at bats in 2017. However, he is young (24), improving, on a rebuilding team so the leash is longer, and he could move up a few spots which would help the run and RBI potential. He hit two home runs in his first game – a good sign he might surpass that 17 he hit last year. The top 8-10 teams in your league should be set at SS, but if you’re one of those guys that waited – this might be your solution.
- Amed Rosario is my top f/a choice with a much lower ownership rate, primarily because of playing time questions. He did break camp with the big club – something many didn’t think would happen. Those top 8-10 shortstops I mentioned above; Rosario could challenge them.
CI Ryan McMahon (Rockies)
This is purely speculative since he has no clear path to playing time, but I find it hard to believe that the Rockies would keep McMahon in camp and not give him a chance to shine – especially after the spring he had. It all comes down to Ian Desmond, who didn’t show nothing all spring but in the final week and first few days seems to have found his stroke. Still, he does come with an injury risk as does Carlos Gonzalez. Honestly I hope he gets reassigned to Triple-A next week just so he gets regular reps. Seems like an odd thing to say after recommending him, but McMahon is the type of player you stash on your bench and bide your time.
OF Lewis Brinson (Marlins)
Given the talent purge in Miami it wasn’t surprising to see Brinson on the opening day roster. It is, however, surprising more didn’t roll the dice on him – CBS owners are in the process of correcting that error. Some question his Triple-A batting average (he hit .251 in Double-A), others question the power as he was brought up in a hitters paradise. And most question how much he can actually contribute on a team which appears devoid of talent. OK, maybe there was reason to not draft him. On the flip side, bad teams can still produce, the Marlins have what could be a few sneaky targets on their roster, and Brinson is a former first round pick who possesses both power and speed.
OF Kole Calhoun (Angels)
I’m gonna beat this dead horse one more time – because I can (31% Yahoo ownership). He was one of my post-draft waiver wire pickup recommendations and my views have not changed since.
OF Kyle Tucker (Astros)
The trending pick in Houston is Josh Reddick, but the Astros will not be able to keep Tucker down for long. He proved himself in Double-A last season batting .265 with 16 homers and 8 steals, and that was after posting 9 homers and 13 steals in High-A with a .288 average. We’re basically looking at George Springer type production with a lower strikeout rate – what’s not to love. Reddick can be a solid bat, but his lack of career power puts Tucker in the driver’s seat. Tucker did spend time in center field last year giving him another avenue to the majors. Fantasy is a marathon, not a race – stashing a future 20/20 player is always advisable.
It’s too early to forecast pitchers, but I’m sure we’ll start seeing them here in the coming weeks.
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