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Fantasy Baseball Waiver Wire: Hope for Melendez?

Seager is a 'buy low' hitter for fantasy baseball
Eric Samulski and Scott Pianowski discuss how Texas Rangers shortstop Corey Seager is poised to be a great buy low candidate after his recent struggles at the plate.

Here are this week’s pickups. I’ll be posting the June rankings sometime late next week.

Aaron Civale - SP Rays - Rostered in 40 percent of Yahoo leagues

Maybe it was a little misguided that Civale became a more popular pick after a move to a Rays franchise that is really good with pitchers; after all, he was coming from one in Cleveland that is just as skilled at getting great results from those with modest fastballs. Civale took a big step forward with his strikeout rate after the deal last year, but he pitched to just a 5.36 ERA in 10 starts. This year, he has a 5.92 ERA through 10 starts.

The obvious problem for Civale this year has been the home run ball; he’s given up 10 in 51 2/3 innings while also featuring the worst groundball rate of his career. Still, that’s a pretty unfortunate ratio to have given up 10 homers and 12 barrels. His home run-to-flyball ratio is more than 50 percent higher than the league average. He’s also been seemingly unlucky on the non-homers; his .310 BABIP is 30 points higher than the Rays’ team mark. Statcast gives him an expected ERA of 4.09, while SIERA puts him at 3.82.

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Civale isn’t likely to suddenly turn into a difference maker in mixed leagues, but with his somewhat above average strikeout rate and history of strong WHIPs, he’s better than this. In a good situation in Tampa Bay, there should be sufficient opportunity to mix him in as a sixth starting pitcher.

Lars Nootbaar - OF Cardinals - Rostered in 38 percent of Yahoo leagues

OK, I just had Nootbaar in this spot just three weeks ago, but let’s do it again. Since his appearance in the May 3 column, Nootbaar has collected four homers and 11 RBI in 18 games. He’s batted just .242, but that still seems like bad luck; he has a .213 average yet a .273 xBA so far this season. 50 of his 99 balls in play have been hit hard, and Statcast thinks he should have a slugging percentage of .498, compared to .386 in actuality.

It also helps Nootbaar’s case that the Cardinals have picked it up some as a whole; their .716 OPS in May bests their April mark by 50 points and ranks 11th in MLB. I still don’t think this is a good offense, but it’s not nearly as bad as it looked in March and April. Nolan Gorman (52% rostered) and Brendan Donovan (31% rostered) also figure to be fairly useful going forward.

MJ Melendez - C/OF Royals - Rostered in 33 percent of Yahoo leagues

The Melendez breakout has not materialized. As a sophomore last year, his strikeout rate increased and he underachieved while posting some of the best exit velocity numbers in the league. So far this year, his exit velocity numbers look more like they did when he was a rookie, yet the increase in strikeouts has stuck around. At this point, he’s a candidate to be sent down if the Royals decide to get aggressive and go find some outfield help. So, what’s he doing here, you ask? Well, he’s catcher eligible in Yahoo and that makes all the difference.

Melendez is another guy who Statcast believes has been unlucky in hitting .179/.232/.345. His xBA of .233 and xSLG of 416 still aren’t particularly good, but they’re not bad for a backstop, and courtesy of the Royals offense’s fast start, there’s more hope for Melendez in runs and RBI than there had been previously.

Melendez is a tough player to nail down. He arrived in the majors as a patient, power-hitting catcher in an organization that doesn’t appreciate plate discipline, that plays in a ballpark that doesn’t reward left-handed power and that already had an All-Star catcher. That patience is gone now; he’s swinging at over half of the pitches he sees and has just a 6.5% walk rate this year. His career homer total is 38 after 321 games. Statcast says he’d have 37 if all 321 of those games were played in Kansas City, but that he’d have 47-52 in many other ballparks and actually 65 in Cincinnati. But then there’s also the fact that he’s hit just .195 with 13 homers on the road in his career, compared to .244 with 25 homers at Kauffman.

Even acknowledging the fact that he could be back in the minors soon, I still think it’s pretty reasonable to look at Melendez as a top-12 fantasy catcher. It helps that actual catchers often wear down over the course of the year, whereas Melendez isn’t dealing with that burden as a full-time outfielder. His ceiling seems lower than it once did, but he still has above average power and he’ll get hot at some point if the Royals choose to stick with him.