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.
- Renato Nunez (3B)
As we’ve seen from countless players over the years, an increase in hard hit balls can do wonders for a players real and fantasy life. Nunez is the latest reaping the rewards with a rate just over 43% – that’s in elite power hitter company. His overall contact rate is average at best and the strikeouts are high yet manageable, but he is hitting the ball hard and in the air with 5 home runs over 88 plate appearances. Power isn’t a new thing for Nunez; he hit 32 in 2017 at AAA. The question has always been the plate discipline and if he could hit for a high enough average to be major league (and fantasy) relevant. So far so good. I know a number of teams in several of my leagues have CI issues. Nunez makes for a nice short-term solution – at least until the bottom falls out.
- Dwight Smith (OF)
Unlike Nunez, there were very few questions in regards to Smiths contact skills and plate discipline. The .262 average we saw last year during his brief time in the majors was a career low, and the 17.3% K-rate was a career high. However, prior to 2018 his ISO was average at best and he was more of a ground ball guy. Both this year and last he saw his fly ball rate jump into the 40% range. While his 30% hard hit rate isn’t strong, it is an almost 6% increase over last year. His current profile (small sample size) suggest Smith could hit 20 home runs and chip in a dozen steals.
There is long-term potential here (for those hesitant over the recent injury news), but the lack of experience, average contact rate, decreased walks suggest some cold patches. That’s something to consider for the future; he’s more than worthy to be rostered now.
- Brian Goodwin (OF)
Outside of a few brief moments in 2017 Goodwin hasn’t had much major league success. Maybe the move from Washington was just what he needed. So far Goodwin is batting .346 with 3 home runs and 7 extra base hits over 62 plate appearances. Yes, he has gotten some BABIP luck (.405), but there are some positive signs that when regression strikes, it won’t be enough to push him back to the bench. His hard contact inched up yet again while the soft contact dropped. The contact rate also inched up, swinging more inside the zone while cutting back on chasing early. The walk rate has also seen a bump, now in the double-digits. This isn’t a long-term or permanent roster solution, but Goodwin can be good for stretches when hitting – like now.
- C.C. Sabathia (SP)
I can read your thoughts. He’s old (38). There is no upside. He doesn’t strikeout enough batters. His home park is not pitcher friendly. Insert your own injury analogy here. There are plenty of reasons one can give to not own Sabathia. I’ll give you the number one reason to own him. Consistency.
The ERA has hovered in the 3.60 range for the past two seasons. He was also better at home last season, and in 2017 he wasn’t an albatross with a 4.20 home ERA. The WHIP, while not game winning, shouldn’t go beyond 1.32. The K/9 is not elite, but he gets enough that when combined with his ratios it makes for a nice package. The ground ball rate has averaged close to 50% the past three seasons along with a below average flyball rate. The soft contact percentage ranks in the top-5 since 2016, and his hard contact has only gone above 30% four times for his career. And this year he has basically ditched his dying fastball (which hasn’t had a positive value since 2011), relying more on his slider and cutter, showing a willingness to adapt and except limitations and change (old dogs can learn new tricks).
Does any of this make Sabathia a must own. Nope. Most will still see him as a streaming option. The problem is Sabathia is more often a streaming option than not, and that makes him someone to own more often than not. As a back-end starter that’s exactly what some fantasy owners need, a steady arm that you know what you’re getting. No upside, but a guaranteed floor that is reliable. Remember, slow and steady wins the race.
- Cole Tucker (SS)
Those in need of MI help or lacking in speed, meet Mister Tucker. He was 72 for 99 in stolen base attempts over the past two minor league seasons and is 5 for 6 this year. He also has some patience at the plate with a walk rate hovering around 10% since 2016. I don’t see a strikeout issue with Tucker; he should be able to maintain a rate around 20%. But that combined with limited power (more pop-ups with those fly balls) will keep his average capped until he improves his plate discipline. Part of me views Tucker as a quick speed fix. Then there’s that devil on my shoulder pointing out how many MI eligible rookies come up with a similar profile and fall on their face. Roll the dice, but don’t hesitate to bail quickly if he struggles early.
- Shin-Soo Choo (OF)
Just like with Sabathia, Choo is an underrated and underappreciated veteran who can provide stability to your OF4 slot. He has played in at least 146 games, hit 21+ home runs, and scored 83+ runs in three of the past four seasons – with a batting average that won’t sink your ship. And the walk rate hasn’t dipped into the single digits since his major league debut. Still, some don’t see the value. I’m sure if Choo had more than one home run he would be owned in more leagues, but there are signs things could be changing soon.
Choo is boasting a career high ISO (.242), career high FB% (38.0), and a ridiculously high hard hit rate (56.9%). It’s almost impossible to hit the ball that hard and in the air that often to not have a few more go over the wall. The .400 BABIP is due to regress. A career low contact rate – one which includes a decrease in chase rate and increase in zone swings – is another indicator Choo will not continue to hit .300. However, as the average comes down we could/should see a few more home runs to ease the pain. And a K% below 20.0 (third best for his career) will help ease the crash some.
I’m not telling you anything you don’t know already. What you may not know or realize is that Choo finished – albeit at the end – in the top-36 for outfielders the past two seasons. A player like that should be owned more. Don’t be that guy who looks at Choo on waivers and scoffs because he’s old and only has one home run. He’s hitting the ball well now; the rest will come.
I’ll be making a few more additions throughout the day so be sure to check back later.
This is the last week Alex Gordon and Freddy Galvis will appear here. Their ownership rate is over 50% and both should be owned in all competitive leagues. That being said, both showed signs of slowing this past week so keep an eye on them. If either is still available in your league – Last Call!
Continue to ADD
- Alex Verdugo is still hitting and will soon force the Dodgers hand.
- Hunter Dozier is no longer under the radar and his ownership rate is on the rise. Not sure how long this will last so take advantage of his numbers while you can.
- Jorge Polanco makes for a solid MI option, bringing runs and average to the table.
HOLD (not good enough to add but maybe too good to drop)
- Ryon Healy was on his way to being a drop before being saved by a pair of homers. I still have hope, but I’m less optimistic.
- Nick Margevicius finally dropped the ball and now faces a tough matchup against the Mariners on Tuesday. I’d ignore the hiccup, but given his youth and uncertainty it’s better to proceed with caution.
- The hot start by Josh Phegley is all but over – time to cut bait if you haven’t already.
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