I’m back at that Waiver Wired grind after a couple of weeks away following the birth of my daughter. All is well with baby and mom, thankfully. I’m writing this column on a couple of hours of sleep, which is probably something I should get used to for a little while.
Before getting into this week’s names, I wanted to thank Seth Trachtman for taking care of you guys while I was away. A number of his recommendations are looking pretty good right now, including the likes of Cameron Maybin, Mallex Smith, Trey Mancini, Mike Fiers, and Sean Newcomb. If they are still out there in your league, you know what to do.
Have specific questions about your roster? Ask @djshort on Twitter.
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Mike Montgomery SP/RP, Cubs (Yahoo: 27 percent owned)
Montgomery was forced to begin the year in the Cubs’ bullpen, but he was an obvious name to keep an eye on if an opportunity arose in the rotation. Since Kyle Hendricks hit the disabled list earlier this month, the southpaw has reeled off a 2.40 ERA and 13/6 K/BB ratio in 15 innings across his first three starts. This includes six scoreless innings against the Padres on Tuesday. They can’t all be the Padres, but Montgomery’s ground ball tendencies have made him a stabilizing force in a disappointing rotation. He ranks sixth among pitchers with at least 50 innings pitched with a 61-percent ground ball rate. Montgomery should get at least another couple of turns with Hendricks out until after the All-Star break, but it’s not crazy to think he could stay in the rotation the rest of the way.
Brandon Drury 2B/3B/OF, Diamondbacks (Yahoo: 47 percent owned)
Being off the grid for a bit, I was surprised to see Drury was available in so many leagues while I was researching names earlier this week. Even before Wednesday’s six-RBI game against the Rockies, Drury had four homers and 10 RBI through 15 games this month. As I have talked about in previous weeks, this sort of multi-position eligible player is more useful than ever with the introduction of the 10-day disabled list. Having some flexibility on your roster is key to making it through the season. Maybe Drury won’t be your top option at any position in a shallow format, but he’s a heck of an insurance policy. It helps that he’s in a great ballpark and lineup. If you are looking for a multi-position eligible player in a deeper league, there’s a chance that Cubs rookie Ian Happ (Yahoo: 19 percent owned) is still available. The young switch-hitter has slugged five homers in his last eight games.
Mike Zunino C, Mariners (Yahoo: 43 percent owned)
Has Zunino finally arrived? Selected No. 3 overall back in 2012, Zunino entered the year with a .195/.262/.370 batting line in the majors. The 26-year-old was demoted to Triple-A Tacoma after hitting just .167 with a .486 OPS through his first 24 games this season. Something has clicked for him since his return, as he has amassed nine home runs and 28 RBI through 24 games while hitting .322 with a 1.065 OPS. That’s all well and good, but it’s important to pump the breaks here a bit. Zunino has struck out more often this season than ever before and while he’s making a lot of hard contact, his .378 BABIP has helped boost the batting average. I find it unlikely we’re looking at a changed player here, but the catcher position is murky enough where I can see taking a chance on a still young-ish player who has clearly demonstrated an ability to hit for power.
Keon Broxton OF, Brewers (Yahoo: 41 percent owned)
Just when it looked like Broxton was losing his grip on a starting job, he has started to turn things around. Perhaps hearing footsteps from the promotion of top prospect Lewis Brinson, Broxton is hitting .324 with five homers and a 1.221 OPS over his last 11 games. Meanwhile, Brinson is 3-for-24 (.125) with 11 strikeouts in 10 games since his arrival and now appears likely to head back down to the minors once Ryan Braun returns from his calf injury. No qualified hitter has struck out more than Broxton this season, which caps his upside, but he’s providing pop and speed and you have to like the lineup and home ballpark. Stick with him for now.
Seth Lugo SP/RP, Mets (Yahoo: 22 percent owned)
When it was reported in March that Lugo was diagnosed with a partial tear of the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow, it was fair to wonder if he would pitch at all this season. So far, so good with the rest and rehab route. The 27-year-old joined the Mets’ rotation last weekend and has turned in one really good start and one so-so outing. While Lugo is not a great source for strikeouts, he now owns a 2.67 ERA through 10 starts and nine relief appearances in the majors. More attention is probably warranted here. I mostly see him as a matchup play in mixed leagues and a date against the Giants in San Francisco this weekend qualifies.
Carlos Gomez OF, Rangers (Yahoo: 28 percent owned)
Gomez has looked great since his month-long stint on the disabled list with a hamstring strain, batting .316 (6-for-19) with three homers, one double, and nine RBI through five games. He’s still striking out a ton, so I’m not expecting a sudden resurgence on par with his Brewers days, but he brings interesting pop and speed to the table and he plays half of his games in one of the most hitter-friendly ballparks in the game. He’s already up to seven homers and five steals through 43 games on the year. You can afford to be picky in shallow formats, but Gomez needs to be owned in anything deeper.
Andrelton Simmons SS, Angels (Yahoo: 47 percent owned)
Simmons hasn’t been much of a factor in mixed leagues since hitting 17 homers during his first full season in the majors back in 2013, but he’s quietly putting together a really nice first half. The defensive whiz has already swiped a career-high 13 bases while his seven homers have outpaced his total from all of last season. Power is up everywhere, but the speed is the real surprise. Simmons posted some impressive stole base totals in the minors, but it has never translated to the majors until now. Either way, it’s a positive trend for fantasy owners. A middle infielder who can tally 10-15 homers and 20-plus steals is useful in most formats.
Sean Doolittle RP, Athletics (Yahoo: 24 percent owned)
Santiago Casilla was recently hit in the non-throwing shoulder by a foul ball, so Doolittle has converted each of the last two save chances for Oakland. It’s not a long-term concern, but Doolittle looms as a legitimate threat in this bullpen. The 30-year-old has delivered four straight scoreless appearances since returning from the disabled list and owns a 2.31 ERA and 18/1 K/BB ratio over 11 2/3 innings overall. He’s just a superior pitcher than Casilla when healthy. We could easily see a switch at some point this summer, though Doolittle appears to be an obvious trade deadline as we move toward the deadline.
Wilson Ramos C, Rays (Yahoo: 24 percent owned)
Seth included Ramos in this column two weeks ago, but I’m recommending him again this week as he inches closer to his return from knee surgery. The 29-year-old was behind the plate on back-to-back days over the weekend during his minor league rehab assignment and caught a full nine innings on Monday, so all signs point to him joining the Rays’ active roster on Sunday. I’m curious to see what Ramos will look like after yet another knee surgery, but I can’t ignore someone who posted career-best numbers (.307, 22 homers, 80 RBI, .850 OPS) across the board prior to going down last September. Given the state of the catcher position, he’s a must-own in all formats.
Pat Neshek RP, Phillies (Yahoo: 20 percent owned)
The Phillies have been so bad that any conversation about their closer situation just hasn’t mattered all that much. Hector Neris is still at the top of the depth chart here, but he blew his third save Wednesday against the Cardinals and hasn’t been nearly as dominant this season as he was last year. Giving him more save chances will only make him more expensive through arbitration down the line, which probably doesn’t make sense with where the Phillies are going this year. However, it would make sense to give Neshek a couple of chances as we move closer to the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. The 36-year-old has been the team’s best reliever this season, posting a 0.64 ERA and 25/4 K/BB ratio over 28 innings. But again, the Phillies are really bad, so speculate at your own risk.
Shopping at the five-and-dime:
(Players owned in under 10 percent of Yahoo leagues)
Matt Bush started out strong after replacing Sam Dyson as the Rangers’ closer, but he has looked rather vulnerable of late, allowing seven runs on 11 hits (including three homers) and five walks in 6 1/3 innings over his last seven appearances. He has blown two saves along the way, including a loss to the Blue Jays on Monday. There’s nothing to indicate that a change is around the corner, but stash away if you need help on the save front. Leclerc owns a 2.37 ERA with 34 strikeouts in 19 innings this season, though he has also walked 11 batters. After being punished with a demotion to begin the year, Kela has posted a 2.93 ERA, 0.94 WHIP, and 37/13 K/BB ratio over 27 2/3 innings.
Nick Pivetta SP, Phillies (Yahoo: 3 percent owned)
It’s hard to find positives with the Phillies these days, but Pivetta’s last two starts deserve some attention here. After striking out nine batters over seven scoreless innings against the Red Sox last week, Pivetta fanned 10 batters while allowing three runs in six innings Wednesday night against the Cardinals. Regularly sitting in the mid-90s with his fastball, the 24-year-old has racked up 31 swinging strikes in that time. He’s obviously still a work in progress, issuing 19 walks and seven home runs in just 42 1/3 innings. He’s relying mostly on his fastball while still trying to get comfortable with his changeup. There are going to be ups and downs here, but the building blocks are there for a useful fantasy starter. I’d be careful about trusting him against the Diamondbacks in Arizona next time out, but he gets a softer landing against the Mets after that.
Andrew Moore SP, Mariners (Yahoo: 5 percent owned)
The no-brainer add of the week in AL-only leagues, Moore will replace Yovani Gallardo in the Mariners’ rotation and make his major league debut Thursday against the Tigers. Considered one of Seattle’s top pitching prospects, the 23-year-old right-hander has posted a 2.72 ERA and 77/17 K/BB ratio in 82 2/3 innings across 13 starts and one relief appearance this season between Double-A Arkansas and Triple-A Tacoma. Don’t look for him to blow batters away. He’s mostly in the high 80s/low 90s with the fastball, but his excellent control gives him a chance to stick as a back-of-the-rotation type. I wouldn’t get carried away in mixed leagues just yet. He might only be up for a start or two initially. Athletics rookie Daniel Gossett (Yahoo: 0 percent) is a less obvious option. He gets the White Sox this weekend before a date against the Braves next week.
Adam Engel OF, White Sox (Yahoo: 0 percent owned)
With Leury Garcia on the disabled list due to a sprained finger on his left hand, the White Sox are relying on a combination of Engel, Willy Garcia, and the recently-claimed Alen Hanson in center field. I’d like to see Hanson get more of a chance as the White Sox sell off some parts going into the deadline, but Engel’s speed is worth a look in the short-term. The 25-year-old has swiped 183 bases over 470 games in the minors.
Luis Castillo RP, Reds (Yahoo: 2 percent owned)
Acquired from the Marlins as part of the Dan Straily deal over the winter, Castillo is slated to make his major league debut Friday against the Nationals. The 24-year-old earned the promotion after posting a dominant 2.58 ERA and 81/13 K/BB ratio in 80 1/3 innings across 14 starts this season with Double-A Pensacola. He can hit 100 mph with his fastball and possesses an excellent changeup. He’s still working on a third pitch — his slider — and doing so will be important to finding his niche as a starter, but it’s easy to see the fantasy appeal here. Just be careful about this first start. Homer Bailey (Yahoo: 4 percent owned) is slated to make his long-awaited return to the Reds’ rotation this weekend and should also be stashed away in leagues where he’s still available. The 31-year-old has made just eight starts in the majors over the past two seasons, but there have been positive reports from his minor league rehab stint.
Cameron Perkins OF, Phillies (Yahoo: 0 percent owned)
The Phillies turned the page on Michael Saunders this week and brought up Perkins to take his place on the active roster. He’s not an exciting prospect in the mold of J.P. Crawford, Nick Williams, Roman Quinn, or Dylan Cozens, but he was hitting .298/.388/.476 with six homers through his first 63 games this season with Triple-A Lehigh Valley. He has made major strides with his patience while making plenty of contact. Look for him to see most of his playing time against left-handed starters. It’s worth noting that beginning on Friday, the Phillies will face southpaws in four out of their next six games. The opportunity should be there for short-term value.