The All-Star break hasn’t exactly been boring around these parts. The Manny Machado rumors kept us busy before the Orioles officially dealt the All-Star to the Dodgers on Wednesday evening. Then we saw Brad Hand get traded to the Indians on Thursday, so there’s already quite a bit of moving and shaking among buyers and sellers. There will be plenty of time to talk trade leading into the July 31 non-waiver deadline, but I wanted to begin this week’s column by looking back at the biggest bargains from the waiver wire during the first half.
As far as most valuable waiver wire hitter, Jesus Aguilar and Max Muncy stand out on my list. And in a neat little coincidence, both of these players were designated for assignment — Aguilar with the Indians and Muncy with the Athletics — in January of 2017. You just never know in baseball sometimes.
Aguilar currently leads the NL in home runs (24), slugging percentage (.621) and OPS (.995) while ranking third with 70 RBI. Meanwhile, the multi-position eligible Muncy has 22 homers with a ridiculous .271/.409/.604 batting line in 74 games. Both of them have been amazing and unexpected bargains — Muncy has helped keep my team afloat in Tout Wars Mixed League Draft — but Aguilar has done more counting stat-wise and also holds the edge in batting average. So Milwaukee’s slugger gets the nod here.
Moving on to most valuable waiver wire pitcher, Ross Stripling and Miles Mikolas have separated themselves from the pack. Stripling has been legitimately amazing since joining the Dodgers’ rotation full-time in early May, posting a 2.01 ERA over 13 starts with a stingy 89/7 K/BB ratio in 76 innings. He’s a big reason why the Dodgers turned their season around while Clayton Kershaw was on the disabled list. As for Mikolas, he’s 10-3 with a 2.79 ERA and 83/20 K/BB ratio in 119 1/3 innings over 19 starts in his return to the majors. This hasn’t been the Cardinals’ year, but it’s fair to say that he’s exceeded even the most optimistic of expectations. Still, just in net fantasy production, Stripling has to win this one.
For a deeper look back at the first half and names to keep in mind after the All-Star break, be sure to listen to this week’s edition of the Rotoworld Baseball Podcast. I think you’re going to like it.
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(Percentages are from the evening of Thursday, July 19)
We’re going heavy with closers to start things out here. The Padres’ situation suddenly takes precedence after the club traded Hand and fellow reliever Adam Cimber to the Indians on Thursday in return for prospect catcher Francisco Mejia. Unfortunately, Hand is expected to pitch in a set-up role with his new team. As for where the Padres go from here, Yates is the obvious stash after posting a ridiculous 1.43 ERA and 48/11 K/BB ratio 37 2/3 innings during the first half. Home runs were a big issue for him last year, but he’s given up just one so far in 2018. The thing about Yates is that he’s also a possible trade chip for San Diego, so Stammen (2.91 ERA and 51/9 K/BB ratio over 46 1/3 innings) is also worth watching here. Basically, stash where you can.
Vizcaino hit the disabled list last weekend for the second time in the past month due to shoulder inflammation, which should provide Minter with another opportunity out of the closer role. The 24-year-old saw a couple of save chances during Vizcaino’s previous stint on the DL while Winkler helped serve as the bridge to the ninth inning. The assumption is we’ll see something similar with Vizcaino out, but Braves manager Brian Snitker could play matchups with the left-handed Minter and the right-handed Winkler. There’s also the possibility that the Braves make a trade for a more established closer before July 31. Still, both of these guys are fine options if still available.
There was also a development with the Cubs’ closer situation on Thursday, as Brandon Morrow was placed on the disabled list with right biceps inflammation. Cubs manager Joe Maddon didn’t seem overly alarmed about the situation when talking to reporters, but Morrow’s velocity was down in his most recent appearance and the team understandably didn’t want to take any chances. Of course, Morrow has a lengthy injury history and just missed time last month after hurting his back while putting on his pants. I’m never going to turn down an opportunity to mention that. Maddon plans to play the matchups with Morrow out, but Strop, Cishek, and Edwards are the most likely options. Strop got the save chance on Thursday, for what it’s worth. Edwards is the most exciting name for the long-term, but Strop and Cishek have the experience. Again, stash where you can.
Brandon Nimmo OF, Mets (Yahoo: 40 percent owned)
Some Mets fans were peeved that Nimmo wasn’t included as a reserve for this week’s All-Star Game, but maybe it was for the best. While the 25-year-old logged a three-hit game on the Friday leading into the All-Star break, he hasn’t been the same since he was hit in the right pinkie finger by a pitch on June 24. He’s batting just .159/.274/.238 with one homer and 25 strikeouts in 73 plate appearances during that time. His season OPS has dipped from .974 to .863 along the way. It’s no surprise that he’s been dropped in a bunch of leagues as a result. Nimmo has still had a breakout year across the board, but hopefully the time off has done him some good.
Vince Velasquez SP, Phillies (Yahoo: 31 percent owned)
Velasquez pitched well in his return from the disabled list last Wednesday against the Mets, tossing six scoreless innings with two hits and one walk allowed while striking out three batters. Yes, it was the Mets, but Velasquez has another favorable assignment coming up this Saturday against the Padres. The 26-year-old owns a mediocre 4.39 ERA on the year, but he’s fanned 110 batters in 94 1/3 innings and has generally been a reliable fantasy option since the start of May. By the way, the Padres are tied with the White Sox for the highest team strikeout percentage in the majors.
Greg Bird 1B, Yankees (Yahoo: 44 percent owned)
Is this Bird finally ready for flight? I know, I know. I’m sorry. After scuffling through his first month back after ankle surgery, Bird owns a .928 OPS with five homers and 16 RBI over his last 16 games. This was after posting just three homers and five RBI through his first 26 games. Hey, we’ll take progress where we can get it. Bird has been a non-factor against left-handers and might not help in batting average, but he still finds himself in a great situation with this lineup and ballpark. Speaking of ballpark, the Yankees are playing a bunch of home games coming out of the break. There was a report earlier this month that the Yankees were potentially looking at Mike Moustakas as a possible first base option, but odds are they continue to prioritize a starting pitcher.
Steven Matz SP, Mets (Yahoo: 36 percent owned)
Matz isn’t getting much respect from fantasy owners despite ranking 11th in the NL with a 3.38 ERA. This includes a 2.91 ERA over his last 13 starts dating back to the start of May. Somehow he’s just 3-5 in that time, but as we’ve seen with Jacob deGrom, that’s the Mets’ offense for you. Matz has actually received less run support than deGrom, if you can believe it. The southpaw hasn’t been as good as his ERA suggests, as his strikeout and walk percentages aren’t on par with what we saw in 2015 and 2016, but he’s healthy and has at least reestablished himself as a mixed league option after an injury-shortened 2017. It would be no surprise to see him generate trade interest this month. As for the short-term, it might be worth leaving Matz inactive for Saturday’s start against the Yankees at Yankee Stadium. That’s a tough matchup for anyone, but especially with the way they hammer left-handed pitching. I’m thinking beyond this matchup.
Shopping at the five-and-dime
(Players rostered in under 10 percent of Yahoo leagues)
Adalberto Mondesi 2B/SS, Royals (Yahoo: 3 percent owned)
One thing I can say for sure is that Mondesi needs to be in the Royals’ starting lineup on a regular basis for the remainder of the season. There’s just no reason not to do it. I’m still not sure what to make of the 22-year-old has a hitter, though. The approach obviously isn’t great. Mondesi has a .295 on-base percentage and a 20/2 K/BB ratio through 74 plate appearances in the majors this year, but at least he’s shown some pop with three homers. Speed is still the main draw here from a fantasy perspective. Hitting in the lower-third of a bad lineup (which only figures to get worse) isn’t ideal, but there’s still room for value here in deeper formats.
Willie Calhoun OF, Rangers (Yahoo: 9 percent owned)
After a slow start to the season in Triple-A, Calhoun has really picked things up of late. And I’m sort of underselling it. The 23-year-old is batting .353/.410/.515 with four homers and more walks (13) than strikeouts (12) over his last 40 games. The recent surge included an 18-game hitting streak which came to an end last weekend. The power hasn’t quite been there this year, but Calhoun continues to show an elite contact rate and it’s about time he gets an extended chance in the majors. He still fits best as a designated hitter in the long-term, but there’s not really a spot for him as long as Shin-Soo Choo is around. The trade deadline could change that, so Calhoun is again worth stashing in deeper formats.
Luiz Gohara RP/SP, Braves (Yahoo: 4 percent owned)
Gohara was someone I liked a lot this spring after a breakout 2017, but he suffered a groin injury early on in camp before beginning the season on the disabled list with a sprained ankle. The big southpaw has only thrown 19 2/3 innings with the big club this year while posting a 5.95 ERA in one start and eight relief appearances, but the Braves recently optioned him to Triple-A Gwinnett with the aim of bringing him back as a starter. He allowed two runs over six innings in his first start last Wednesday before giving up four runs in 4 1/3 innings on Wednesday. Ideally the results would be better, but Gohara projects to start for the Braves on Tuesday against the Marlins in Miami. I’m on board for that matchup, but also holding out hope that he can make up for a disappointing first half.
Cameron Maybin OF, Marlins (Yahoo: 3 percent owned)
Lewis Brinson doesn’t appear close to returning from a hip bone bruise, so Maybin should continue to see the bulk of the playing time in center field for Miami. The 31-year-old has quietly thrived during Brinson’s absence by batting .333 (10-for-30) with more walks (nine) than strikeouts (six) while also stealing five bases. He’s been hitting seventh and eighth during that time, which obviously limits the upside, but speed is hard to find right now. Maybin, who swiped 33 bases last year, is obviously proven in that area. So do what you need to do depending on category need.
Nick Williams OF, Phillies (Yahoo: 5 percent owned)
While it looks like Williams has taken a step back this year, he has turned a corner over the past month by batting .290/.389/.473 with four homers and 17 RBI over 29 games. He has batted fifth in Philadelphia’s lineup for most of that time and deserves to play regularly over Aaron Altherr, who had a brutal first half. Williams’ approach has been a concern over the years, but he’s greatly improved his contact rate so far this season while showing more patience. Per FanGraphs, his chase rate is down over 10 percent from last year. He’s already drawn 22 walks in 264 plate appearances this year, two more than he had in 343 plate appearances last season. He’s legitimately progressing as a hitter.
Sean Reid-Foley SP, Blue Jays (Yahoo: 0 percent owned)
We’ll get deeper into league-only recommendations next week, but for now, I wanted to mention someone who could make an impact before the end of the season. Reid-Foley was a consensus top-100 prospect last year prior to struggling with a 5.09 ERA over 27 starts with Double-A New Hampshire, but he has rebounded this year with a 3.12 ERA and 10.6 K/9 and 3.5 BB/9 over 19 starts this season between Double- and Triple-A. He was hit hard for eight runs over 2 1/3 innings in his Triple-A debut back on May 24, but he’s reeled off a 2.83 ERA in 10 starts since. Some think he could be bullpen-bound in the long-term, but this is the perfect time to test him as a starter with the Blue Jays going into a rebuild. There could be a spot for him if the Jays trade J.A. Happ by July 31.
Phil Maton RP, Padres (Yahoo: 0 percent owned)
Kirby Yates and Craig Stammen were included under mixed league recommendations this week, but don’t be shocked if Maton ends up saving more games than either of them for the Padres during the second half. The 25-year-old missed about a month during the first half with a right lat strain, but he’s had good results when healthy this year with a 2.49 ERA in 20 appearances. The velocity has been down and he’s walked 12 batters in 21 2/3 innings, so picking him up doesn’t come without risk, but he’s the logical fallback if Yates and Stammen are also traded.