The All-Star game is usually the marker for the halfway point in the MLB season. This is also the time when we can look ahead to second half of the season and look back at the first half of the season. As far as looking back, can you remember some of the names that were popular at the beginning of the season? A search back through articles from many sites yielded some interesting names that were popular on the waiver wire in early April. One of the bigger names on most lists was Aaron Judge, who rocketed up waiver wire lists as soon as manager Joe Girardi declared Judge the starter over Aaron Hicks. Ryan Zimmerman was also a name who was on these lists, as his new swing and solid spring training made him a popular choice. Both Judge and Zimmerman have had excellent seasons so far in 2017 and are very deserving of their spots in this year’s All-Star Game. Looking at many of the other popular names on these lists revealed that a great many of the players that did not pan out did so because injuries derailed any momentum they had that led to their inclusion. So let’s now look ahead at this week’s waiver wire recommendations of players that are owned in less than 50% of ESPN leagues. Stats are as of July 7.
Orlando Arcia, SS, Milwaukee Brewers
Arcia might be best known for something he did in a recent game against the Miami Marlins, when he took an opportunity while chasing a foul ball near the left-field stands to take a taste of a fan’s ice cream. In addition to ice-cream thievery, Arcia could be counted on to steal a few bases along with the eight home runs and 30 RBI he has on his stat line in 2017. In June he altered his batted ball profile by increasing his pull and ground ball rates, while taking a more aggressive approach at the plate, which has led to his improved play with a .326 batting average and a .848 OPS for that month.
Tommy Pham, OF, St. Louis Cardinals
Many might shy away from Pham now that Dexter Fowler has returned from his stint on the disabled list. However, Pham’s offensive production may make it difficult to keep him out of the lineup. There are some rumblings coming out of St. Louis that Fowler may play the outfield corners on occasion in order to get Pham’s bat in the lineup. One of the factors involved in Pham’s improvement is lowering his chase and swinging-strike rates by 4.5 and 5.2 percentage points, respectively, leading to his strikeout rate dropping from 38.8 percent to 24.9 percent.
Jedd Gyorko leads #stlcards with a 2.3 WAR.
Tommy Pham is 2nd with 2.2 WAR.
Pham has played 19 less games than Gyorko. Wow.
— Cardinal Metrics (@CardinalMetrics) July 6, 2017
Mike Foltynewicz, SP, Atlanta Braves
The Minooka, Illinois native has been solid in his last seven starts, earning four wins with a 2.98 ERA and 1.25 WHIP. Foltynewicz has improved his strikeout rate up to 22.5 percent, compared to a career 20.1 percent mark. In his most recent start last Thursday, he earned his third straight win and allowed two earned runs or fewer for the fourth consecutive start. What made this performance even more impressive was that it came against the high-powered Washington Nationals offense. Foltynewicz’s 2.97 ERA for June, along with consistently throwing mid-to-upper 90’s on his four-seam fastball may indicate that he is starting to look like the prospect that the Braves hope he will become.
Whit Merrifield, 2B/OF, Kansas City Royals
Merrifield’s position versatility and 12 stolen bases make him an attractive waiver wire addition. He is hitting .286 on the year with seven home runs and 32 RBI. After some mundane stats in 81 games for the Royals in 2016, Merrifield has been much better this year, as he has shown more pop and is performing as an above average hitter overall. In comparing 2016 and 2017, Fangraphs has noted that his swinging strike rate and swing rate outside of the zone are almost identical, but he is showing a much more aggressive approach on pitches in the zone in 2017.
Whit Merrifield homers on the 1st pitch of the game at Seattle. 7th HR of the season for him. Batting .293 for KC + leadoff hitter. pic.twitter.com/LzgoLaBjiw
— Scott Hood (@ScottHood63) July 4, 2017
Manuel Margot, OF, San Diego Padres
Since returning from the disabled list on June 27th, Margot has had 11 hits in 35 at-bats with four stolen bases. The Padres have batted him second in their lineup since his return, as they feel his speed and his bat-to-ball skills give the Padres’ the best chance to get into scoring position early in a game. He has posted an 80 percent contact rate with a 31 percent chase rate this season. A healthy Margot should improve upon his pre-injury 60 percent (9-for-15) success rate on the basepaths.
Manuel Margot (3) off RHP Kenta Maeda (8) – 101.3 mph, 27 degrees (402 ft Home Run)
93.4 mph Two-Seamer#Dodgers @ #Padres (B1) pic.twitter.com/uCHmp4Usq5
— MLBBarrelAlert (@MLBBarrelAlert) July 2, 2017
Yuli Gurriel, 1B/3B, Houston Astros
In his last six starts, Gurriel has gone 11-for-26 with two home runs and 10 RBI. That puts his batting average at .295 for the season with 10 home runs and 43 RBI. He has been very consistent making contact this season for a very potent Astros lineup, striking out in just 12.5 percent of his plate appearances this season while his hard-hit rate is up eight percentage points from 2016. Gurriel has become a clutch hitter for Houston, hitting .308 with runners in scoring position and .300 with men on base. Through June, he was hitting .342 with two outs and runners in scoring position to go along with two home runs, 18 RBI, and a .370 BABIP.