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Week 1 Waiver Wire Pickups - After The Draft

Howdy, RotoBallers, and welcome to our all-encompassing waiver wire piece that is meant to follow your drafts and beat the mad rush to the WW grocery store once games start.

In light of this, join me as we go position-by-position and look at players whose Yahoo ownership rate is 30% or under. I'll highlight some of the bigger names and then briefly discuss additional players after that.

These are your Week 1 waiver wire pickups and adds - players that should be considered as additions to your teams after your drafts have already been completed.

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Catcher Waiver Wire

Austin Barnes (LAD, C/2B) - 13% owned

Barnes busted in 2018, recording a .205/.329/.290 line in 238 plate appearances and somehow compiling a 28.2% strikeout rate despite a 5.8% swinging-strike rate. Some of that comes from a Zone-Swing rate that dropped from 58.4% in ‘17 to 52% in ‘18 -- swing the bat! -- but it can’t explain away all of the gap. With Russell Martin unlikely to press Barnes for lots of time and Barnes’ own ability to play some infield, topping 400 PAs is likely with both double-digit homers and steals on the table with an average near .300. If you need a low-owned C breakout to gamble on, then this is your man.

Others To Watch

Willians Astudillo (15%) is more than a meme, and Miguel Sano’s early-season injury may get AStud enough ABs to flex his .300-hitting potential with modest pop. Kurt Suzuki (13%) can provide average if his starts are juggled well. Isiah Kiner-Falefa (7%) is one of a handful of catchers that can legitimately chip in five-ish steals while not killing your BA. Omar Narvaez (7%) is worth adding to round out your 2C battery and Carson Kelly (1%) gets a change of scene, albeit with a Humidor.


First Base Waiver Wire

Ryan Zimmerman (WSH, 1B) - 13% owned

Still “only” 34 years old, Zimmerman can be a force when on the field. He clubbed a career-high 36 homers with 108 RBI and a .303/.358/.573 slash line in 2017, but those 144 games played marked the only time he’s topped 115 games in the last five years. But in a Ryan Braun-esque light, he’s still good when on and posted an .824 OPS with 13 homers and 51 RBI in half a season (85 games) last year while finishing with a top-five barrel rate (9.9 Brls/PA%) out of players with at least 200 batted-ball events. Statcast data isn’t terribly sticky, but the pedigree is there. You'll just need a Plan B at the ready, perhaps Matt Adams?

Jay Bruce (SEA, 1B/OF) - 12% owned

Bruce only went 1-for-9 in Seattle’s two-game Japan series, but he batted third in each contest and it’s hard to say how much of 2018’s power outage can be attributed to injuries. Statcast has graded Bruce with a hard-hit rate between 38-39% in 2015, '16 and '17, but it fell to 34.4% in '18. An interesting note is that his launch angle went from 14.6 degrees in '16 to 18.2 degrees in '17 and 21.2 degrees in '18. Let's see if he can level off the swing a bit. He’d been a near lock for 25-35 homers before that and is only 32 years old -- hardly past his prime -- while also showing modest gains in plate discipline in ‘18. He barely costs a thing right now and could see counting stats in the 80s or higher as long as he starts hitting before being dropped in the order.

Others To Watch

Justin Bour (8%) and Ryan O’Hearn (6%) offer very cheap power. Ideally, you'll deploy Bour against right-handed pitching only (LAA may do this anyhow once Shohei Ohtani can push Albert Pujols from some DH work.) O'Hearn's 170-PA MLB audition in '18 had a 25% HR/FB rate with a pedigree that gives the small sample some plausibility, but no speed and a .250s average on KC means the HRs must pour in to make value. Just as quickly as Jesus Aguilar supplanted him, Eric Thames (3%) may catch fire like in ‘17 and leapfrog Aguilar -- both have just one good year under them. Ronald Guzman (2%) is a lefty at Arlington, which makes him relevant. If he could get that launch-angle revolution memo then we’d really have a party. Finally, Dominic Smith (1%) put up a .321/.367/.464 line in Spring Training and may get a legit crack at 1B for the Mets in 2019. It’s unlikely, but the former highly-touted prospect shouldn’t be forgotten.


Second Base Waiver Wire

Kike Hernandez (LAD, 1B/2B/SS/OF) - 20% owned

Hernandez has been named the Dodgers’ starting second baseman, with Chris Taylor moving into Hernandez’s old superutility role. This comes after Hernandez popped 21 homers with an .806 OPS in just 462 PAs, which leads projection models such as THE BAT to give him a 71-23-73-3-.241 5x5 roto line (R-HR-RBI-SB-AVG) for 2019. Everyone will rightfully be drawn to the power boost, but he also cut his strikeout rate to 16.9% from 23.4% while upping his zone-contact rate by five percentage points. The ingredients are there for a solid season.

Wilmer Flores (ARI, 1B/2B/3B) - 13% owned

Check it out, another previously-platooned player being given a chance for everyday shine. Flores had been a lefty masher prior to 2018, when he suddenly was strong against righties (.804 OPS) and awful versus southpaws (.610 OPS). He still owns a career .780 OPS vs LHP and a .706 OPS vs RHP so the pendulum could easily swing back, just be aware. If you acknowledge that his 2018 was odd, remember his 2016 and ‘17 seasons both had Isolated Power marks (ISOs) above .200. Only 75 hitters of 278 with >300 PAs topped that mark in 2018, and many can’t say that they’ve hit above .265 in three straight seasons. Arizona’s humidor is no fun here, but Flores can be a 20-25 HR bat with a .270s average and the cleanup spot in the D-Backs’ order.

Others To Watch

Starlin Castro (16%) continues to be overlooked despite being a top-225 player last season, but I understand not wanting to settle for Miami’s capped upside. I'll insert Jeff McNeil (15%) here, though he'll make starts at 3B to open '19 and move all over the place. He has a stellar hit tool and his .300 average can offer a nice stablizing force for free-swinging power bats in your lineup. Ian Kinsler (8%) is due to hit and run atop San Diego’s blossoming lineup, though Luis Urias' eventual promotion should push him to the bench. Adam Frazier (5%) could pop 20 homers with 10 steals and a .275 average in Pittsburgh with a starter’s playing time and should be way more owned. Josh Harrison (3%) appears like Detroit’s leadoff man after a disappointing 2018, but he’s two years removed from a 16 HR/12 SB season and late power-speed options are dandy.


Third Base Waiver Wire

Maikel Franco (PHI, 3B) - 23% owned

Franco is going the wrong way when it comes to batted-ball development -- hitting fewer fly balls and more grounders -- but at least he shows some promise at the dish. His strikeout rate dropped to a career-low 13.3% last season, but maybe he needs to make less contact? Franco’s 28.3% soft-contact rate was the worst of anyone with >300 PAs per Fangraphs, as well as joining teammate Odubel Herrera, Billy Hamilton, Orlando Arcia and Wilmer Difo as bats with a higher soft-contact rate than hard-contact. Those are not names you want a power hitter with no speed to be associated with. But the upside remains because he’s still just 26 with an average of 24 homers in the last three seasons that hits in a homer-friendly park and has a stellar offensive lineup around him. Invest for nothing and see if he gets some more lift on the ball this year. If it isn’t there then don’t wait around.

Jung Ho Kang (PIT, 3B) - 21% owned

Kang’s last full MLB season was 2016, and even then he only notched 370 PAs. Of course, he mashed 21 taters with an .867 OPS in the limited timeframe after posting an .816 OPS with 15 homers in 467 PAs as a rookie. Legal troubles that I don’t need to get into caused two missed MLB seasons but he’s cranked seven homers (and struck out 18 times) in 44 ABs this spring. This means he fits right into the current state of baseball! To be fair, his history of a 21% strikeout rate is a bit more modest, so an overall 70/25/75/5/.265 projection is quite fair.

Others To Watch

There isn’t much to get excited about here, but there’s still life. Yandy Diaz (5%) should be TB’s primary 3B in April with Matt Duffy hurt, though Joey Wendle and company will mix in. He’s a hard-hitter that needs to lift the ball to be fantasy relevant, but Tampa traded for him for a reason or two. I’ll use this space to talk up Chad Pinder (4%), as he made 16 appearances at the hot corner in ‘18 alongside 21 at 2B, 77 in the OF and he’ll gain 1B eligibility soon with Matt Olson hurt. Some Statcast love isn't everything, but Pinder's 9% Barrels/PA rate was 12th-best out of 281 hitters with at least 200 batted-ball events. For reference, Nelson Cruz (11th) and Giancarlo Stanton (13th) sandwiched his name as modest company. 25 homers are on the table if he can reach 500 PAs.


Shortstop Waiver Wire

Jorge Polanco (MIN, SS) - 22% owned

This ownership level surprised me and don’t try to pin it on the recent reports of minor shoulder fatigue. Regarding that, he still DH’d in minor-league games on Monday and Tuesday and did fielding drills, so hopefully, good news follows on Wednesday that he can open the season as Minnesota’s leadoff man. Nearly all projection systems agree on a 75-15-65-15-.270 roto 5x5 line, leaving you with no real liabilities across the fantasy landscape. His run projection could be boosted if he holds off Byron Buxton as the leadoff man throughout the season as well.

Troy Tulowitzki (NYY, SS) - 10% owned

Tulo doesn’t need to be your season-long savior at short, but he’s looked healthy this spring with four homers in just 33 ABs and could contribute 15 HRs at offense-friendly Yankee Stadium as Didi Gregorius recovers. Detach yourself from all the Coors numbers and hope that getting away from Toronto’s turf, as well as being a year removed from surgeries on both heels to excise bone spurs, means he’s got some longevity in his season. I don't expect more than five starts a week for someone with his history, not to mention the Yankees' infield depth, but that lineup/home park means you're interested.

Others To Watch

Zack Cozart (8%) should bat around sixth in the Angels' order and he announced his calf as healthy recently with a spring homer. You're unlikely to get 2017 breakout Cozart, but if you're desperate then you can see how he looks for the first week in case that .300-hitting, 25-homer bat is still there. Just beware the injury bug! Also, Scott Kingery (4%) can’t be forgotten about, despite a slow spring and rocky 2017. He still delivered 10 homers and 15 bags in 405 spotty ABs.


Outfield Waiver Wire

Ketel Marte (ARI, 2B/SS) - 20% owned

Marte won’t be OF eligible yet, but Steven Souza Jr.’s season-ending knee injury means the original plan for Marte in CF works out. Adam Jones will probably shift into right field, though the defensive alignment doesn’t matter to many of us. Jones and Marte should be everyday players now, with the 25-year-old Marte finally showing some power in 2018 with 14 homers. The switch-hitter was much better from the right side, hitting .321 with nine homers in just 212 PAs vs. LHP against a .224 average with five homers in 368 PAs against RHP, though this opposes his 2015-17.

Jorge Soler (KC, OF) - 20% owned

Set to hit cleanup for KC, Soler had posted a 26-8-25-3-.278 roto 5x5 line through two months of play, but then cooled a bit before a season-ending broken toe came two weeks later in mid-June. Striking out one-of-four PAs will likely always be there, but 25 HRs and even 10 steals are on the table with a plus average to compensate for the lower KC counting stats. To be fair, those who believe in Whit Merrifield and Adalberto Mondesi can count on them stealing their way into scoring position for Soler. We’ll also need health to stick, but an age-27 breakout is visible.

Kevin Kiermaier (TB, OF) - 9% owned

Oh, Kevin. I just can’t quit you. His Air Bud-like tenacity in center field seems to make him vulnerable to injuries, but we’ve seen a 20 HR/20 SB ceiling in between the cracks. That wasn’t an X-Ray joke, I swear. Ha, the Rays. Anyway, you’ll need to be diligent about monitoring his health because cold streaks come with the nagging injuries, but he put up a .296/.349/.522 slash from Aug. 15 until season’s end (which came early for him thanks to a hairline fracture in his right foot, caused by a hit by pitch). Nevermind the parenthetical statements (maybe,) as Kiermaier’s wide availability means you’re paying attention to the ceiling.

Others To Watch

Tyler O’Neill’s (6%) upside is talked about at every fantasy site so I didn’t feel the need to harp on it, but if his 30-homer potential gets serious playing time then you need to have him. Franchy Cordero (2%) falls into this category as well given San Diego’s OF depth, as well as Raimel Tapia (1%). The Orioles may have Cedric Mullins (6%) on a short leash, but he’s poised to be their everyday CF and leadoff bat with 15 HR/15 SB potential. Carlos Gonzalez (4%) took a while to latch onto a club, but signing with the OF-sparse Indians is a great spot. That said, he may need some additional rust-shaking time in the Minors this April.

Delino DeShields (3%) should get a chance to stick in Texas’ OF again and show us those wheels, but Hunter Pence and Willie Calhoun can put some heat on him to perform. Christin Stewart’s (3%) defense in the outfield might hurt your eyes, but his bat is worth monitoring if he edges his way into five starts a week. Steven Duggar (1%) could be a slightly more powerful Denard Span-type atop San Francisco’s lineup. Leonys Martin (1%) just became less interesting with Francisco Lindor's ankle injury, but he's still in line to get leadoff PAs and offers some power and speed.


Starting Pitcher Waiver Wire

Marco Gonzales (SEA, SP) - 28% owned

I need a lot more space to talk about starting pitchers in the capacity that I want to here, but Gonzales is one of those “Leap Year” arms that could vault up several tiers in 2019. He’s not overpowering but still has three pitches with whiff rates above 10% and boasts elite control, resulting in walk rates below 5%. Injuries had derailed his career until 2018, with 2016 Tommy John surgery highlighting the ailments. But he built up ~125 innings in ‘17 before pushing to 166 ⅔ IP last season, which led some to think his second-half “fade” was all fatigue. This is partly true -- his pitches all lost two ticks from April-June compared to September -- but his K/BB went up in the second half alongside softer contact being induced by over three percentage points. I read this as a command specialist who can adjust with lesser stuff -- an arm leaning on strikeouts wouldn’t fare as well --  but who has a better shot at endurance and a more complete year. Don’t be surprised one bit if Gonzales outdoes Miles Mikolas in ‘19.

Anibal Sanchez (WSH, SP) - 26% owned

Paraphrasing my “Anibal Sanchez is a top-25 SP” bold prediction:

Medicals aren't in his favor, but Sanchez staying in the NL East after last season's success makes me happy. Out of 139 pitchers that yielded 300 batted balls, Sanchez’s 3.4 Barrels/PA was 17th-lowest alongside the ninth-lowest average exit velocity on flies and liners (90.5 mph). He brought it to hitters with his offspeed stuff and a strong cutter and I'm banking on that continuing.

Hitters only slugged .205 off of his changeup, which was second only to Max Scherzer’s change (.192) in 2018 (min. 500 pitches). That cutter surrendered a .317 SLG -- the ninth-lowest mark of the same field. I'm not blind and know the .255 BABIP won't stay so low, but if he can lean away from so many four-seamers again with cutters and changes doing work then I'm hopeful for 2019. At least enough to roster the guy and see!

Brandon Woodruff (MIL, SP/RP) - 26% owned

Woodruff had a stellar 2016 in the Minors, then took a few steps back in ‘17 between Triple-A and a cup of coffee in the bigs before 2018. In ‘18, he was unimpressive again at Triple-A (4.04 ERA, 4.50 xFIP, 1.39 WHIP) before looking stellar in the Majors with a 3.61 ERA (3.36 xFIP) and 1.18 WHIP. That was only in 42 ⅓ IP of regular-season work, let alone the 20/3 K/BB ratio and three earned over 12 ⅓ IP of postseason play. He and the less-interesting (to me) Corbin Burnes, along with Freddy Peralta, have all made the opening rotation. Each are worth owning, but I’d prefer Woodruff’s blend of upside shown in the Majors without Peralta’s walk-rate woes.

Caleb Smith (MIA, SP) - 5% owned

Smith went from nobody to intriguing streamer after a 10-strikeout night against the Dodgers, which sparked a seven-start stretch with 47/11 K/BB ratio over 40 ⅔ IP and a 2.21 ERA (2.30 FIP). I don’t love picking out arbitrary ranges, but I don’t think people recognize the ceiling present. With three above-average offerings, his command unlocked the upside. He’d walked 15 hitters over his first four outings (15 ⅔ IP) but only walked more than two in a start once over the next 12 before a Grade 3 lat strain ended his ‘18. He’s posted a 19/1 K/BB ratio this spring, which is extremely encouraging as should have Smith higher than 5%. Yes, even on Miami. Same goes for Pablo Lopez, Trevor Richards and even Sandy Alcantara.

Others To Watch

Josh James (27%) was being drafted as a game-changer before getting hurt this March, but he could still re-enter the rotation this season and deliver some dynamite. Obviously, young stud Forrest Whitley (21%) falls under the same umbrella, though his contributions may be limited to the ‘pen if health stays for Houston. Otherwise, these two could both rotate in for Collin McHugh and Brad Peacock, who spent last season in the bullpen and are unlikely to top 150 innings as a result.

St. Louis anointed Dakota Hudson (13%) as their fifth starter and though his strikeout rate will struggle to crack 20%, his ability to limit the long ball and loud contact could make him a ratio stabilizer. Aaron Sanchez (11%) is a solid bounceback candidate, as he appears healthy and Freddy Galvis is a stellar defensive shortstop -- especially for a sinker-baller. Kyle Wright (6%) posted an 18/4 K/BB ratio in 12 ⅔ IP this spring and will start on March 31 in Philadelphia, though his MLB fun may end soon pending the return of Mike Foltynewicz and Kevin Gausman. Max Fried (2%) and Bryse Wilson (2%) also fit this bill, but all three could be crowded out if health returns to all.

Derek Holland (5%) remains a favorite of mine, as his numbers post-move-on-the-rubber in 2018 were spectacular. Trevor Cahill (4%) has had two straight seasons of being phenomenal, then getting hurt and being iffy-at-best when he came back, so now’s the time to buy. Everyone is rightfully excited about Domingo German despite the Michael Pineda vibes from his high-strikeout-yet-hittable world, but Jonathan Loaisiga (4%) is more affordable and has the mid-90s heater, strong curveball and an emerging changeup that make for breakout potential. Manager Aaron Boone said that Loaisiga would start their sixth game of the year in a recent radio interview.

Deeper still you will find Felix Pena (2%), who just struck out nine Dodgers in 3 ⅓ IP last Sunday and opens 2019 in LAA’s rotation with Andrew Heaney sidelined. Ideally, Pena would stay in and newly-acquired Chris Stratton would be pushed out on Heaney’s return, but Pena showed more confidence in attacking the zone in ‘18 as a starter and should be on radars. Martin Perez (1%) won’t be needed as a starter until later in April, but his now-mid-90s fastball could mean relevance in a strikeout-happy, top-heavy AL Central.


Relief Pitcher Waiver Wire

Sergio Romo (MIA, SP/RP) - 29% owned

If Miami’s rotation is an afterthought for most, then their bullpen is a non-Marvel post-credits scene that even the creators may have forgotten they included. That said, Romo should edge out Drew Steckenrider and Adam Conley for most of the ninth-inning opportunities here and SP/RP eligibility can be an added bonus for some of you. Steck has allowed eight earned with five walks and just four strikeouts over 7 ⅔ IP this spring, which paints Romo’s 3 ER and 10/2 K/BB ratio in 7 ⅓ IP in a fantastic light.

Ryan Pressly (HOU, RP) - 21% owned

Pressly was acquired by Houston from Minnesota last July and dominated with a 0.77 ERA, 0.60 WHIP and 32 punchouts in 23 ⅓ IP, meaning he’s useful even if Roberto Osuna cruises through 2019 as the Astros’ closer. While Pressly isn't in the Josh Hader or (healthy) Dellin Betances class just yet, he can be close to or better than Andrew Miller from a few years ago.

Others To Watch

Brad Boxberger (24%) could wind up with another uglyish 25-save campaign in ‘19, assuming Wily Peralta is still Wily Peralta and Kyle Zimmer doesn’t storm up to take the job. Jeremy Jeffress (17%) will open the season on the IL but isn’t expected to miss much time and Corey Knebel’s UCL injury could pave the way to some saves should Craig Kimbrel stay out of town. Joe Jimenez (16%) had 80 K’s in 61 frames last season and would be a mid-tier closer if Shane Greene were dealt. As much as I love Trevor May, Blake Parker (12%) is also a good pitcher and could see some of the ninth. Ty Buttrey (3%) served as a solid closer for LAA down the stretch last season and Cody Allen didn’t look like a lockdown arm in ‘18.

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