Burning The MLB Fantasy Waiver Wire 4/22/18

We hope everybody is ready because Turning Two Sports is about to hit readers with the next edition of Burning the Wire Major League Baseball. Now about 4 weeks into the regular season, your roster issues are starting to become noticeable. Studs are flopping and getting injured but there are a handful of potential gems sitting out on your wire just ready to be scooped up for the hot summer run.

Let’s Burn the Wire.

Catcher

Kurt Suzuki – This is not the Kurt Suzuki you remember from the Minnesota Twins. This Kurt Suzuki has completely revamped his swing and the results are stellar. His walk rate is up to 12% (career 6.3%), his K-rate is down to 2% (career 12.6%), and his BABIP is right on tracks with his career norm (.263). the ungodly 6.00 BB/K ratio is a bit unsustainable, but Suzuki’s start cannot be ignored. There is sleeper top 5 catcher potential here at a position starved for relevancy.

First Baseman

Eric Thames – Across the industry people were down on Thames heading into the 2018 season, which saw his ADP plummet to around #200 overall. Once teams saw how crowded this Brewers lineup is, it got worse. However, Domingo Santana has struggled, Christian Yelich is on the DL, and Ryan Braun’s name has surfaced in trade talks in addition to him having his own injury concerns. While Thames will continue to struggle, and probably sit against many lefties, his power potential makes him a perfect bench player for any deep fantasy baseball league. His raw power is matched by very few. He’s off to a cool 1.012 OPS with 7 homers. Had the Brewers been getting on base, Thames’ numbers would be comparable to the red hot start of Matt Davidson, though I vastly prefer Thames.

Joe Mauer – Nobody is going to go to the waiver wire and get excited about seeing Joe Mauer, but you may be one of those teams to either (a) punt first base or (b) own Wil Myers or Anthony Rizzo in a deep league. You could do a whole lot worse than Joe Mauer. You have guys out there that consistently tank your ratios at this position, but Joe Mauer will never hurt you. He’s off to the .364 start at the dish after hitting .305 last year in a full season. He’s almost a guaranteed .300+ hitter but offers almost nothing in the way of power. This drives his ownership way down, but it’s unwarranted. Take the red-headed stepchild who was once the Gary Sanchez of fantasy drafts.

Yuli Gurriel –If he’s still out there, he may be the best first baseman on your wire. Over 139 games in 2017 Gurriell slashed .299/.332/.486 to go with 18 homers and 75 RBI and only 62 strikeouts. That type of proficiency is rare at first base, and given his immensely talented lineup I wouldn’t be leaving Yuli out there on any 12+ team leagues.

Second Baseman

Jed Lowrie – Already with 6 homeruns and 21 RBI in the early going, Lowrie looks like an uber-sleeper in 2018. His wOBA is a blistering .437 so far in 2018, and if you dig a bit deeper you’ll see that more people should’ve been onboard this train. In 2017, Lowrie posted his highest wOBA at a major league level at .347. His walk rate jumped to 11.3% and his strikeout rate lowered to 15.5%, which is very efficient. Even with his hot start in 2018 his strikeout rate is at 18.0%, which is the highest it’s been since 2009. If we assume his strikeout rate will even out in the general 16.2% range that is his career norm, one can expect Lowrie to flirt with a batting average in the .270s as a floor with upper .280s as a ceiling.

Also Consider: Asdrubal Cabrera, Yangervis Solarte, Ben Zobrist, Howie Kendrick

Third Baseman

Jeimer Candelario – Candelario could end up being one of the savvier free agent pickups of the 2018 fantasy season. He is firmly entrenched as the starting third baseman for the Tigers. He does still have his struggles with lefties, but with a .436 wOBA against RHP he looks like a legitimate major league talent at the hot corner. He flashed his potential in limited action last year with a .283 average and a .784 OPS in 127 at bats for the Tigers.

Asdrubal Cabrera – Believe it or not, there are actually a lot of reasons to like Asdrubal. The longtime Indian finds himself in the cleanup spot of the Mets lineup, and also finds himself with 2B, 3B, and SS eligibility. That right there makes him roster worthy in all but the shallowest of leagues. Now off to a .343 start with 4 homers, one might expect we see the 2016 Asdrubal that hit 23 homers and slugged .280 rather than the mediocre (but still valuable) 2017 version that also slugged .280 but had far less power. Given his reliability with batting average, and the fact that he’s hitting cleanup most nights, you can expect Asdrubal to flirt with 80 or more RBI in 2018 after not eclipsing more than 62 in either of the last two seasons on the Mets.

Nick Senzel – With the news that Eugenio Suarez hit the DL, Senzel was promoted to Triple-A and is playing mostly third base for Louisville. This should come as an interesting development for the top prospect. Clearly, the Reds are planning for his promotion to a Major League level, and clearly that will be at third base pending what becomes of Suarez. If you play in a deep league where prospect stashing is at a premium, Senzel just asserted himself to the top of the list.

Also Consider: Yangervis Solarte

Shortstop

Dansby Swanson – Once baseball’s top prospect, Swanson fell out of favor after a lackluster 2017, which is a bit unfair for a 24 year old. He’s shown some great poise in the early going of 2018. Full disclaimer though, his BB% is at an all-time low and the K-rate is still over 20%, so there may be some luck involved. But baseball is a game of streaks, and you have to ride the hot ones. Expect the .352 average to lower and expect some growing pains for the talented youngster, but the long term outlook should remain optimistic.

Yangervis Solarte – the longtime journeyman finds himself in a beneficial spot in the heart of the Toronto batting order in a hitter friendly stadium. He has position eligibility all over the place, and finds himself locked into an everyday role. Solarte is also absolutely mashing righties so far to the tune of a .458 wOBA but still struggles against left handed pitching.

Also Consider: Asdrubal Cabrera

Outfield

Corey Dickerson – Everyone was down on Dickerson heading into the 2018 season, but why? If it was because the Rays outright released him for no reason at all, then shame on us. You are talking about a guy who hit .282 with 27 home runs in 2017, and has hit the ground running with a .313 batting average in the early going on a surprising Pirates squad. The most impressive part of the hot start is the 11.8% k-rate which is by far the lowest of his major league career. It’s less than half of what it was the previous two years (north of 24%). If he keeps this up, what a steal.

Michael Brantley – Brantley is often a forgotten man in the fantasy world, but the only reason why is his inability to stay on the field. Brantley has never been bad, he’s just never healthy. Just take a look at his career numbers of a .293 average and a .773 OPS. The kryptonite is the fact that he’s played 101 games over the last two seasons.

Also Consider: Eric Thames, Howie Kendrick

Starting Pitcher

Bartolo Colon – Don’t laugh, you could do so much worse. Will Colon keep up his 1.45 ERA and under 1 BB/9 all season? Probably not. But the 2.33 FIP is nothing to sneeze at. He does have an 86.2 Left on Base percentage, which is not very nice. I’m not advocating you add Bartolo and hold him for the remainder of the year. I am advocating that you should add this guy and use him until the wheels fall off. Maybe you can even sell high.

Joey Lucchesi – One guy I would not sell high on is Joey Lucchesi. As a prospect, Lucchesi was severely undervalued due to his lack of firepower in his pitches. One metric you can’t measure is success, and that is something Lucchesi has had at all levels. His BB/9 is under two, and his career normal suggest it would be just over two. His LOB% doesn’t raise any red flags, and his FIP is astounding at 1.98 with a .296 BABIP. There will be inevitable correction, but pitching in San Diego usually benefits pitchers greatly.

Other Considerations: Reynaldo Lopez, Chad Bettis

Relief Pitcher

Chris Devenski – Ken Giles has really struggled for most of his Astros career. He hasn’t become the front-end closer you expected him to become in the Phillies system. This has opened the door for Devenski to claim his stake as the team’s closer, and it’s well deserved. Devenski has been an elite bullpen arm for a number of years now, and it’s coming together now. Hitters just can’t catch up to him. He doesn’t walk batters, he’s consistently around a 40% ground ball rate, and his FIP is a masterful 2.80 so far in 2018 with a BABIP of .263.

Josh Hader – Josh Hader might win the 2018 Man Crush Award from Turning Two Sports. This kid is absolutely filthy. His K/9 is an astounding 19.29, as he has 25 strikeouts in 11.2 innings pitched. If you are looking for the next Wade Davis, Dellin Betances, or Andrew Miller, this might be your guy. Just keep in mind he may eventually move to the rotation at some point, but don’t let that deter you. Hader is here to stay.

Nate Jones – Nate Jones is a speculative add given Soria’s struggles combined with Jones receiving the last save opportunity, which he converted. The White Sox may not win many games in 2018, but when they do I’d hedge on Nate Jones receiving the majority of the save chances. He’s a vastly superior pitcher to Soria.

Week 3 Weekly Wrap Up

John Aurora, Contributor

Top Performer

Blake Snell, SP

Last week I wrote that Blake Snell was my streamer of the week Snell exceeded my expectations and validated my pick posting a 2-0 record, 1.46 ERA, 0.89 WHIP, and 19 K! Although this came against mediocre teams, this type of production is what we expect of Snell, especially the high K rate. He did have a game with 5 walks, but followed it up with 0 walks the next game. Expect Snell to be inconsistent at times, but should be owned universally as he can produce stud numbers with favorable matchups.

Worst Performer
Edwin Encarnacion, 1B

Encarnacion has been as cold as Cleveland, Ohio over the last week. He has only 1 hit over his last 21 at-bats and is hitting .146 overall (you trying hitting in frigid Cleveland). Encarnacion historically starts off slow as he has not hit above .250 since 2012. Yes father time will catch up to him at some point, but I don’t think this will be the season as he will be a sure bet for another 30/100 campaign. Expect him to turn it up as the weather warms up, so buy low if you can.

Waiver Wire Pickups (<50% owned in ESPN leagues)
1. Nick Pivetta, SP (38.9% owned)

Coming off a rocky first season, Pivetta has rebounded nicely posting a solid 1-0, 2.70 ERA, 0.96 WHIP, and 19 K. Great things happen when walks aren’t issued as he has only walked 2 players in 16.2 innings this year, which is very different from 2017 where he walked 3.9 players per 9 innings. Don’t expect Pivetta to go too deep in games as Kapler has notoriously been pulling his pitchers early, which will ultimately limit his wins upside. Overall, Pivetta is my top pickup this week due to his strikeout potential, solid ratios, and great upcoming matchups.

2. Mallex Smith, OF (15.5% owned)

If there is one player I’m excited about watching this week it’s Mallex Smith. Kevin Kiermaier will be out 2-3 months, so this is Smith’s chance to showcase his skills. Despite Smith hitting 9th, he’s been hitting a blistering .409 to start the year. Expect Smith’s average to regress to his career .270, but I’m more interested to see how many bases he steals in Tampa Bay’s lackluster offense. He can be the sparkplug they need, so be ready to buy if Smith begins getting the green light.

3. Albert Pujols, DH (48.9% owned)

An oldie-but-goodie, Pujols is still producing in a rejuvenated Angels lineup. Pujols quietly hit 23 homers and 101 RBIs in 2017, and has started the year well batting .282-3 HR-9 RBI-8 R. In addition, he is already half way to first base eligibility, which is a bonus given that first base is rather shallow this year. Expect Pujols to maintain a low batting average this year, likely in the .240 range; however, he’ll once again be a sleeper for producing power numbers.

4. Jose Pirela, OF (42.9% owned)

Ah I remember the days when Yankees fans thought Pirela would be a seamless replacement for Robinson Cano in 2014. Even Mr. October, Reggie Jackson, said Pirela was the best hitter in the Yankees System. Four years after his debut and now in his third season with the Padres, Pirela has looked good batting .308 with 10 RBIs, 12 runs, and 2 stolen bases. Pirela can be a good source of runs scored, especially with Wil Myers coming back to give the offense a huge boost. For now Pirela, is a good option for an owner in need of a DL replacement.

5. Keynan Middleton, RP (41.9% owned)

Fantasy baseball Rule #1: don’t pay for saves. Every year players from nowhere take over the closer position at some point in the season and can go on to be a top 10 closer. Middleton may be that player as gone 4 for 4 in save opportunities for the hot Angels. I’m not convinced yet that Middleton can be a breakout as his control has been shaky, especially the last couple outings. If you’re in need of saves scoop up Middleton, as he soars up the closer rankings.

Weekly Wrap Up: Week 2

John Aurora, Contributor 

Top Performer

Shohei Ohtani

Yes Ohtani has made me look bad early on this year, but man it is fun to watch him play. The kid’s stuff is nasty and has a smooth power stroke. I’m not sure he can keep it up the whole year as the league will catch up to him, so it’ll be interesting to see how he bounces back one this happens. Nevertheless Ohtani pitched a one hit, 12K gem this weekend and is hitting a blistering .462-3 HR-7 RBI-4 R in the last week. Although Ohtani pitches once a week, he produces stud numbers, and his hitting is just icing on the cake. As I mentioned, I see the league catching up so try to sell high if you can as he is at peak value right now.

Worst Performer

Giancarlo Stanton

I don’t know what was worse for Stanton this week, wearing the platinum sombrero not once but TWICE or John Sterling’s home run call (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3_vDmzbtxDc). I’ve seen this stat floating around, which I find fascinating…Joe DiMaggio played 13 seasons and had one 3K game in his entire career! Despite Stanton’s slump he is sure to break out of it especially playing half his games in hitter’s heaven Yankee Stadium. If your league has an owner that is trying to sell low on Stanton you better be trying to buy him.

Looking Forward: Waiver Wire Pickups (<50% owned in ESPN leagues)

Steven Souza (43.4% owned), OF

Keep monitoring Souza as he’s been on the DL to start the year with a pectoral strain. He’s coming off a year in Tampa Bay where he his .239-30 HR-78 RBI-78 R-16 SB, which is a solid stat line to be your 4th/5th outfielder. Souza is still complaining of soreness, however the team states it is not a setback. He should be back mid-May, but if you have an open DL spot consider adding Souza. He could be very valuable when healthy for his home run/stolen base potential in a potent Arizona lineup.

Maikel Franco (33.8% owned), 3B

Franco has been hot over the last week batting .304-2 HR-11 RBI-4 R with consistent playing time. Most of his damage came against the worst team in baseball, the Miami Marlins, but maybe this is the year his pedigree lives up to the former hype. Plus the Phillies lineup is much deeper than previous years with Carlos Santana and Rhys Hoskins playing daily. Keep an eye on Franco to see how much Kapler plays him. If you are looking for a DL replacement, consider Franco with his hot bat.

Blake Snell (48.4% owned), SP

Snell has been unimpressive so far this season, but he is my streamer pick this week. I believe this can be a breakout year for Snell based on his strikeout potential and prospect pedigree, and this week can be the start of reaping those benefits with matchups against the White Sox and Phillies. Don’t let his pitching line thus far discourage you as he was going against the Red Sox and Yankees. Until Snell shows more consistency, continue starting him based on the matchup.

Mike Foltynewicz (29.7% owned), SP

Folty has put together 2 nice games early on this season, spotting a 2.61 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, and 15 K. There are three main things I look for in a pitcher to determine upside: strikeouts, age, and walks. It is so hard finding quality pitchers that have high strikeout upside, so I tend to prioritize these pitchers first and fix my other stats using relief pitchers and a combination of other streamers. Folty’s control has been a problem in the past but has not been a concern yet this season, however, Folty is still not pitching deep into games. Despite this consider streaming Folty based on the matchup.

Zach Davies (26.4% owned), SP

Davies is only owned in 26% of leagues despite winning 17 games last year! Yes wins are a fluky category, but at age 25 on a good team, Davies deserves to be owned in more leagues. In fact he is posting a 14:3 K:BB ratio through his first 2 games, which is encouraging as he ended last season with a low strikeout total (124 K per 191.1 IP) and mediocre WHIP (1.35). This season he has one good game and one bad game against strong opponents, so I would be interested to see how he fares against the Mets this week to see more consistency. I’ll definitely be streaming him this week.

Week 2 Waiver Wire Targets

Ken Mahoney, Contributing Partner: Turning 2 Sports

Burning the Wire is officially back, and we’re launching into orbit with our first entry for the 2018 Fantasy Baseball season. You’ve had an opening series to see how your team performs, though with such a small sample size you don’t truly know what gaps to address and what gaps to allow time for sorting out.

It’s important early on to not only have a decently long leash for your underperforming studs, but to also have a quick trigger finger to grab the potential diamonds found out on the waiver wire. Finding the middle ground can be the most difficult part, but we here at Turning Two Sports aim to make that easier for you.

Let’s Burn the Wire for Fantasy Baseball Week 2.

 

First Baseman

Jose Martinez

The Spring Training Cinderella is seeing some early season success with the Cardinals lineup. He has started and batted 5th in each of his first four games, which suggests that he is locked into everyday playing time for the Cardinals at the expense possibly Jedd Gyorko, who was forced to leave the game early Monday afternoon (4/2/18) with a hamstring injury that may very well require a DL stint. The path for playing time is no longer a concern, and he’s trending towards must own territory for the foreseeable future.

Second Baseman

Josh Harrison

You know what Harrison has to offer at this point in his career. He has decent power potential, moderate speed on the base paths, and doesn’t strike out abnormally. The reason you should like Harrison in 2018 is because this Pirates lineup should end up being better than what most pre-season experts gave them credit for. They are hitting, and they are hitting well. Harrison has been in either the 1 or 2 hole in each game this season, which gives him an incredible opportunity to surpass the 66 runs he scored last year. Last year was arguably his floor (except for perhaps homeruns), making Harrison a great add for his triple position eligibility (2B, 3B, OF).

Third Baseman

Matt Davidson

Don’t add Davidson expecting him to knock 60 home runs over the fence, but this early in the season you want to ride any hot streak you can. You just never know. Davidson lifted off three times on Opening Day, which saw people running to their waiver wires. I do suggest adding him, but don’t expect the world. This is a guy who struck out 165 times in 443 plate appearances last year, while walking a mere 19 times. His plate discipline is atrocious, which you will reflected on an average flirting with .220. The power, however is legit. He’s an average add in points leagues, but he can be a difference maker in H2H and roto formats for his power.

Shortstop

Tim Anderson 

The one sought after prospect started 2018 on the right foot, slugging two homers in the opener against the Royals. Tim Anderson has long been perceived as a 20/20 threat, and this may be the year it all comes together. For most of 2017 Anderson just did not run, which really dampened his value for fantasy purposes. In September 2017 that all changed as he netted 9 stolen bases without being caught. He only had 15 all season. If he keeps the motors chugging and the bat powerful, look for a possible breakout.

Outfield

Mitch Haniger

Haniger was an April darling in 2017 where he slugged .342 with a 1.054 OPS and 4 homers. He then suffered a brutal oblique injury that hindered the remainder of his breakout season. For 2018, he’s picking up right where he left off to the tune of a 5/8 start with 2 home runs. He was severely under drafted by most, so give a glance over to ensure he’s not still sitting on your wire.

Starting Pitcher

Tyler Skaggs

Skaggs was a top rated prospect as little as 4 years ago, but inconsistency and injuries have really hindered his growth through the Angels farm system. He’s worth an add for post-hype sleeper potential alone. Against Oakland on Friday, he spun 6.1 innings, allowing 3 hits, walking 0 and striking out 5. Not a bad way to start the season, and he should most certainly have some more stats under his belt moving forward.

Relief Pitcher

Keynan Middleton

It’s no secret that the Angels need a closer. They’ve tried Blake Parker, who was trying his best to surrender the closing duties before the season even began. Bedrosian is the likely heir-apparent, but even he hasn’t been sharp. On Sunday, Parker was replaced by Middleton who closed out the game and earned the save. This could go a long way to not only earning him some trust, but extending his leash. He’s definitely one to watch in the LAA bullpen given the recent struggles of the frontrunners.

Hunter Strickland

Strickland is going to close for the Giants after Melancon was not only broken but ineffective for much of his San Francisco career. Strickland doesn’t have the K/9% like you normally want to see in a closer, but he’s largely good overall. He’s already closed out two games near flawlessly against the defending NL Champs and looks poised for 30+ saves in 2018.

Team Preview: Kansas City Royals

John Aurora, Contributor 

Key Players

Whit Merrifield (rank 81, ADP 94.9)

2017: .288 AVG, 19 HR, 78 RBI, 80 R, 34 SB

What a breakout for Merrifield in 2017 as he produced in all five categories with a .288 AVG, 19 HR, 78 RBI, 80 R, 34 SB (led the AL in SB). His contact rate was in line with his minor league numbers, 85%, and his .308 BABIP suggest last season was not flukey. Expect his power numbers to regress somewhat but the speed is real making him a very valuable player. For leagues with a less than 20 minimum for position eligibility, keep an eye on where Merrifield plays as he had 1 game as a first and third baseman, and 17 games as an outfielder.

Salvador Perez (rank 154, ADP 117.8)

2017: .268 AVG, 27 HR, 80 RBI, 57 R, 1 SB

The steady Perez improved his power stroke last season ending with 27 homers. This season he will have less lineup support with the departures of Hosmer, Cain, and potentially Moustakas, which will affect his counting numbers due to the volume of games he plays. In addition, all the innings he spent behind the plate may have finally caught up to Perez as he had his first injury last season. Perez will be a solid catcher but don’t reach.

Danny Duffy (rank 168, ADP 161.3)

2017: 9 W, 130 K, 3.81 ERA, 1.26 WHIP

Duffy regressed last season as he lost velocity on his fastball, which is problematic for a fly-ball pitcher with control problems. Combine that with playing for a rebuilding team and having “minor” elbow surgery in the offseason and I’ll be staying away.

Deep Sleeper

Adalberto (Raul) Mondesi, 2B (rank 460, ADP 260)

2017: .170 AVG, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 4 R, 5 SB

Mondesi has an outside chance of winning a starting spot either at 2B or in the outfield. Look for him to be called up from AAA later in the year for the rebuilding Royals as Mondesi can be a spark to their lineup given his speed potential. You know my thoughts on speed for a middle infielder. Keep an eye on him throughout the season.

Fantasy Preview: Detroit Tigers

John Aurora, Contributor

Key Players

Nick Castellanos, 3B/OF (rank 112, ADP 110.8)

2017: .272 AVG, 26 HR, 101 RBI, 73 R, 4 SB

Castellanos will be moving to the outfield fulltime this season as he looks to improve upon his breakout season where he posted a .272 AVG, 26 HR, 101 RBI, 73 R due to his improved his contact rate. Despite his cool start, he batted .299 with 16 homers over the final two and a half months. His dual position eligibility in addition to his prime lineup spot to fuel his counting numbers mean he may be undervalued with his current ADP.

Miguel Cabrera, 1B (rank 106, ADP 125.7)

2017: .249 AVG, 16 HR, 60 RBI, 50 R, 0 SB

Last year I was able to draft Cabrera in the third round and thought that was a steal. Wow was I wrong. Cabrera had the worst season of his career due to nagging injuries throughout the season. Miggy snapped his eight-year streak of .300 batting averages and ended with a subpar .249 AVG, 16 HR, 60 RBI, 50 R. I wish I could say that season was a fluke, but back injuries for a 35-year-old player make me cringe, especially for a player that will not be a DH (remember Don Mattingly?). At his ADP, there is enough upside to draft him. He’s the ultimate risk/reward player this season. How lucky are you feeling?

Michael Fulmer, SP (rank 133, ADP 173.7)

2017: 10 W, 114 K, 3.83 ERA, 1.15 WHIP

Fulmer is coming off elbow surgery sustained in September and will look to return to the ace of his staff. For fantasy purposes, Fulmer lacks strikeout upside in an era where most starters have high strikeout upside. His elbow injury in addition to his subpar strikeout rate and low win potential mean I will not be taking a flier on him at the end of the draft.

Deep Sleeper

Leonys Martin, OF (rank 395, ADP 260)

2017: .172 AVG, 3 HR, 9 RBI, 14 R, 7 SB

Martin was acquired this offseason coming off a season where he struggled at the plate. If Martin wins the centerfield job, look for him to rebound offensively. In 2016 he had a .247 AVG, 15 HR, 47 RBI, 72 R, 24 SB. If he plays fulltime, and maybe even hits leadoff, look for him to meet or exceed his 2016 numbers. For now I’ll be watching to see how he does in spring training but be prepared to take a flier on him if he wins the job.