The strangest regular season of our lifetimes is coming to a close, with an unpredictable postseason awaiting us. Thanks for sticking with me here during this two-month sprint. Maneuvering through a baseball season amid a global pandemic has been a learning experience for all of us. With the unique nature of this set-up, it required some quick thinking in fantasy leagues and the ability to shed preseason rankings in favor of the players who are producing in the moment. It was a tough task. Here’s hoping you were still able to compete. And mostly, I hope you are doing well, all things considered.
If this was a normal season, we would be in late-May, maybe a little concerned about some underperforming veterans but still operating under the assumption that things will eventually even out. That’s what makes evaluating this season so incredibly difficult. I’m tempted throw out a lot of it, but even so, we had our fair share of waiver wire heroes. Before we get started on our final recommendations of the season, below are a few who stood out above the pack.
If you were aggressive, you might have been able to pick up Mariners outfielder Kyle Lewis off the waiver wire early. While the 25-year-old has faded down the stretch, he’s delivered a .274/.378/.463 batting line with 11 homers, 28 RBI, four steals, and 37 runs scored through 54 games. That was good enough to make him a top-40 overall player in Yahoo leagues. If Mets first baseman Dominic Smith wasn’t on the bench to begin the year, he might have hopped Lewis in that regard. He’s hit .314 with 30 extra-base hits and 42 RBI in just 48 games.
On the pitching side, Brewers right-hander Corbin Burnes has shifted from historically bad to Cy Young Award contender. The 25-year-old has posted a 1.77 ERA with 83 strikeouts in just 56 innings. Perhaps most amazingly, he’s allowed just one homer after being knocked around for 17 of them in just 49 innings last year. Mariners left-hander Marco Gonzales hasn’t received nearly enough attention, spinning a 3.06 ERA and 0.91 WHIP through 10 starts. He has the lowest walk percentage among qualified starters and only Shane Bieber has more wins. Hey, wins are a category, after all.
For more on this bizarre season, check out the newest episode of the Rotoworld Baseball Podcast. Joined by Drew Silva, we each offer five big takeaways from 2020 and what to expect moving forward. Even though Waiver Wired is done for the year, I’ll still stay plenty busy in the weeks ahead right here at Rotoworld. And you can always track me down on Twitter (@djshort) for baseball commentary, silly GIFs, and music recommendations.
MIXED LEAGUE PICKUPS
(Players rostered in under 50 percent of Yahoo leagues)
Note: Percentages are from the morning of Thursday, September 24th
Power: Clint Frazier, Ke’Bryan Hayes, Garrett Cooper, Daniel Vogelbach, Brian Anderson, Randy Arozarena, Robinson Cano, Ryan Braun, Alex Dickerson, Nate Lowe, Jedd Gyorko, Jesus Aguilar, Sean Murphy, Brandon Nimmo, Brandon Belt, Bobby Dalbec
I didn’t know quite what to expect from Ke’Bryan Hayes after his call-up at the start of the month aside from his defensive reputation, but he’s posted a .333/.403/.623 batting line with four homers and nine RBI through his first 20 games in the majors. The sample is obviously small at this point — heck, pretty much everything is this season — but 23-year-old rates among the league’s best in terms of hard-hit percentage and average exit velocity. He’s also showing solid plate discipline so far. The big question remains what the power upside might be, but he’s looking like a more complete package than first expected.
The Marlins are raking this month, so keep that in mind as they play in Yankee Stadium this weekend. Brian Anderson (.318, 5 HR, 18 RBI this month), Garrett Cooper (.293, 3 HR, 11 RBI in Sept.), Jesus Aguilar (.286, 3 HR, 12 RBI this month), Miguel Rojas (.300, 2 HR, 7 RBI, 3 SB in Sept), and Corey Dickerson (.287, 3 HR, seven RBI this month) are all viable plays in shallow formats). How about Daniel Vogelbach? He’s loving life in Milwaukee, with a .370/.442/.609 with three homers and 10 RBI over 14 games. Some things are just meant to be.
Speed: Manuel Margot, Kolten Wong, Jon Berti, Roman Quinn, Shogo Akiyama, Jackie Bradley Jr, Nick Ahmed, Leody Taveras, Raimel Tapia, Cedric Mullins, Victor Reyes, Kevin Kiermaier, Andrew Stevenson, Kevin Pillar, Robbie Grossman, Miguel Rojas
Andrew Stevenson is an interesting one, as he’s getting a chance to hit leadoff for the Nationals as they play out the string. The 26-year-old has taken advantage so far by hitting safely in eight straight games since his promotion. He’s only picked up one steal in that time, but he has a history of high-stolen base totals in the minors. Perhaps he gets a couple this weekend.
Kolten Wong has disappointed from a fantasy perspective in this bizarre season, but let this function as a reminder that the Cardinals begin a five-game series against the Brewers on Friday and could potentially be forced to play a doubleheader Monday against the Tigers to determine their postseason fate. You are going to want the volume that a player like Wong could offer. The same goes for some other widely-available Cardinals players, though they fit into other categories for the purposes of this column.
Jurickson Profar has been the Padres’ hottest hitter this month, posting a .361/.394/.525 batting line over 18 games. With seven homers, six steals, and 26 runs scored on the year, he currently ranks as the No. 8 fantasy second baseman in Yahoo leagues in addition to qualifying in the outfield. He’s a top-100 player overall in Yahoo leagues. Not bad for someone who is still available in over 70 percent of Yahoo leagues.
Joey Wendle might actually be a better fit for the speed category, but he qualifies at second base, third base, and shortstop in Yahoo leagues and is sporting a .375/.409/.600 batting line with two homers and four steals over the past two weeks. Asdrubal Cabrera is finishing the year strong and should be locked into the middle of the Nationals’ lineup for the weekend with the way they are banged up right now.
Tyler Mahle, Reds (Yahoo: 26 percent rostered) at Twins
Antonio Senzatela, Rockies (Yahoo: 38 percent rostered) at Diamondbacks
Daniel Ponce de Leon, Cardinals (Yahoo: 5 percent rostered) at Brewers on Friday
Josh Lindblom, Brewers (Yahoo: 13 percent rostered) vs. Cardinals
Spencer Turnbull, Tigers (Yahoo: 31 percent rostered) at Royals on Friday
The starts with Mahle, Ponce de Leon, and Lindblom all have postseason ramifications, which adds an interesting variable to things. If any of them get into early trouble, they might not last long. Still, Mahle has 56 strikeouts in 45 1/3 innings and has generally been solid when called upon this season. Ponce de Leon has 22 strikeouts in 14 innings this month and Lindblom has allowed just one run in 10 1/3 innings since returning to the rotation. I probably have the least faith in Lindblom with this group, but the Cardinals’ offense just isn’t very good.
Oddly, Senzatela has actually had better results on the road than at home this season, but he’s still a recommended start against a bad Diamondbacks team. Turnbull is the riskiest play of any of the names mentioned here, alternating good and bad starts over the past month.
John Means, Orioles (Yahoo: 16 percent rostered) at Blue Jays
Joe Musgrove, Pirates (Yahoo: 40 percent rostered) at Indians
Justus Sheffield, Mariners (Yahoo: 28 percent rostered) vs. Athletics
Dane Dunning, White Sox (Yahoo: 40 percent rostered) vs. Cubs
Michael Pineda, Twins (Yahoo: 45 percent rostered) vs. Reds
Most of the names mentioned here might already be gone in most competitive formats, so they don't require much explanation. Musgrove is trending up after striking out 11 batters over six scoreless innings against the Cardinals last time out. Means showed an interesting uptick in velocity at the start of the season and we’re finally starting to see it translate, as he’s posted a 1.53 ERA and 21/2 K/BB ratio in 17 2/3 innings over his last three starts.
Rich Hill, Twins (Yahoo: 47 percent rostered) vs. Reds
Brady Singer, Royals (Yahoo: 40 percent rostered) vs. Tigers
Drew Smyly, Giants (Yahoo: 9 percent rostered) vs. Padres
JT Brubaker, Pirates (Yahoo: 3 percent rostered) at Indians
Austin Gomber, Cardinals (Yahoo: 4 percent rostered) at Brewers
Like with any final weekend we’ve seen in the past, everything is subject to change. Perhaps a pitcher you were counting on will be scratched or regulars will be rested with the postseason awaiting. That’s why I’m not sweating the matchups too much, especially when it comes to Smyly against the Padres. The southpaw has pitched decently since returning from the injured list earlier this month and at least gets to pitch at home in this one. Brubaker (two earned runs allowed or fewer in five out of his last six outings) and Gomber (six scoreless innings last time out) are both sneaky plays with upside.