Fantasy Baseball Waiver Wire: Second Half Swoon
Alright, enough time off. It’s time to get back to work. It’s nice to have a few days off to watch Vladdy, Alonso, Joc, and company mash baseballs and the top starts in the game face off in the all-star game, but fantasy championships aren’t won watching the home run derby. Yes, this might be considered the start of the 2nd half of the season, but we’re already nearly 100 games into the season. For H2H leagues, most playoffs start in 7-8 weeks or so. For roto/points leagues, time is running out to make a move up the standings. Hit that fantasy baseball waiver wire hard this week to plug some holes in your roster and find the boost you need in certain categories.
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Fantasy Baseball Waiver Wire – Hitters
A.J. Pollock, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers
The 2015 season was a long time ago. That version of A.J. Pollock isn’t walking through that door. However, we will have some version of Pollock walking back onto the field for the Los Angeles Dodgers following a two and a half month IL stint for an infection in his elbow. Listen, I get it. Owning Pollock in fantasy over the last four seasons has been a royal pain in the butt, especially in 2016 when he played in just 12 games following his 2015 breakout and subsequent early-round ADP in 2016 fantasy drafts.
The injury woes are exactly why I steer clear of him in spring drafts. Unless they fall to me, players like Pollock are not guys I want to make full-season investments in. But how about two-month investments? When Pollock has been on the field, he’s still been a solid fantasy performer, averaging 24 home runs, 23 steals, 96 runs, and 80 RBI per every 600 at-bats since the start of the 2016 season, even without any steals in April this season. If he was dropped in your fantasy league due to the extended IL stint, it’s worth giving him a shot due to his across the board contributions. He can surely stay healthy for two months, right?
Adam Frazier, 2B, Pittsburgh Pirates
There haven’t been many hitters swinging a hotter stick than Adam Frazier of late. Over the last month, he’s hitting .383 with 18 runs scored and .500 with 11 runs scored over the last two weeks. The recent surge has raised his season batting average to .287 with 49 runs scored in 310 at-bats. This is another typical Frazier season who has never hit below .276 in a single season and sports a career .282 average with 90 runs per every 600-at bats.
There’s no luck or smoke and mirrors with Frazier’s batting average either as he has 20th best contact rate and 23rd best SwStr percentage in the Majors along with a normal .317 BABIP. Frazier also rarely strikes out with an 11.5% strikeout rate this season and 13.4% for his career. He’s also been back in the leadoff spot for each of his last six starts which gives him an added boost in the runs scored department. A .280-.300 average and 80-plus runs scored pace the rest of the way certainly has value from the second base position. Any power and speed you get is gravy. Though, don’t get excited gravy enthusiasts as Frazier has just four home runs and three steals on the season.
Chance Sisco, C, Baltimore Orioles
What if I told you that one of the top-10 offensive catchers over the last month was available in over 80% of fantasy leagues. Then, what if I also told you that catcher was the third-best fantasy backstop over the last two weeks. You’d surely be interested, right? Well, if you look one inch above, you’ll know who I’m talking about. Out of all catchers with at least 70 plate appearances, Sisco has the 5th best hard contact rate at 48.6%. He’s been hitting the ball to his pull side with regularity which has resulted in six home runs through his first 60 at-bats with Baltimore this season. This after hitting 10 dingers in 168 at-bats with Triple-A Norfolk.
— Baltimore Orioles (@Orioles) June 28, 2019
A 32.4% strikeout rate won’t do his batting average any favors, but Sisco displayed a plus hit tool throughout his minor league career, hitting .305 in 538 games, giving me hope that his batting average will remain above .260 or so with Baltimore to go along with a 20-homer pace or so. With Sisco pulling ahead of Pedro Severino in the race for playing time behind the plate in Baltimore, Sisco has the chance to be a top-10 catcher the rest of the way.
Brett Gardner, OF, New York Yankees
In all honestly, Brett Gardner might be one of the most underappreciated players in both the Majors and in the fantasy baseball world. He’s played in at least 140 games every season since 2012 and has averaged 16 home runs, 21 steals, 97 runs, and 61 RBI per 600 at-bats over that stretch. The Yankees lineup has had a bunch of hitters come and go, but the one constant has been Brett Gardner. I mean, the guy has scored 80-plus runs in each full season of his Major League career and has scored 94 or more in three of the last four seasons, including 96 in 2018. Sure, Gardner is no spring chicken anymore at age 35 and isn’t a threat to hit .300 or anywhere near it, but it’s hard to find consistent production like this on the back end of your fantasy roster.
Outside of a slow start to the season and mini-slump in early-June, Gardner has had another rock-solid season and is really heating up of late. Over the last 28 days, Gardner is slashing .317/.431/.550/.981 with four homers, two steals, 15 runs, and 14 RBI with nearly as many walks (11) as strikeouts (13). Even though he’s hitting in the bottom-third of the order more often than not, Gardner is still on pace for another 80-plus runs scored and looked poised to set a new career-high in home runs. So come on, let’s show Gardner a little bit of love and get that ownership rate up to where it should be.
Kevin Newman, 2B/SS, Pittsburgh Pirates
Nearly a month ago on June 14th, the title of this waiver wire column was “Hello, Newman” with Kevin Newman of the Pittsburgh Pirates being one of the top waiver wire pickups that week. All he’s done since then is hit .349 with four home runs, three steals, 15 RBI, and 10 runs scored in 83 at-bats. Yet still, he’s available in nearly 2/3 of fantasy leagues. This baffles me on so many levels. Newman might not have been a big prospect name during his time in the minors, but he has constantly displayed plus contact skills and an advanced plate approach, both of which he brought with him to Pittsburgh.
Out of all hitters with 240-plus plate appearances, Newman ranks inside the top 30 in contact% (22nd), SwStr% (30th), Z-Contact% (10th), O-Contact% (21st), and strikeout rate (14th). Sure, Newman doesn’t scald the ball with just a 28.6% hard contact rate, but his contact skills and approach are phenomenal, and he’s able to use the entire field to his advantage. At the very least, the high batting average should continue with Newman contributing a little of everything else across the board as well.
Fantasy Baseball Waiver Wire – Pitchers
Diego Castillo, RP, Tampa Bay Rays
The Tampa Bay Rays bullpen as a whole hasn’t looked too great over the last month or so. But have no fear, help is on the way in the form of Diego Castillo. Before landing on the IL, Castillo himself was struggling, allowing eight earned runs combined in his last four outings. That little rough stretch pushed his ERA from a tidy 2.05 all the way up to 3.93. All in all, Castillo has been one of the Rays best bullpen arms this season and has the stuff to excel in the 9th inning with a fastball that averages 98.2mph and a sharp upper-80’s slider. Upon activation, Castillo figures to be back in the mix for saves and needs to be added in all fantasy leagues where he is available.
Don't think Harper picked up on this slider from Diego Castillo… pic.twitter.com/SoSsYWjyDX
— Alex Fast (@AlexFast8) March 25, 2019
Alex Young, SP, Arizona Diamondbacks
Who would’ve thought that a pitcher with a 5.17 ERA last season and 6.09 ERA this season would be a waiver wire target? Crazy right? But with how Alex Young has pitched for the D-Backs after his promotion, he’s put himself firmly on the mixed league radar. In two starts and one relief appearance, Young has a stellar 0.68 ERA and 0.38 WHIP with only two walks in 13.1 innings. While the ERA/WHIP wasn’t overly pleasant at Triple-A, Young was striking out batters at a career-best 10.5 K/9 clip, thanks largely to a plus slider. Young has displayed both above-average control and command throughout his minor league career and appears locked into a rotation spot for the time being in Arizona.
Kyle Freeland, SP, Colorado Rockies
It’s an impressive feat to go from 4th in the NL Cy Young voting to a demotion to Triple-A in just 12 starts. You can thank a 7.13 ERA and 1.57 WHIP for that. Can the real Kyle Freeland please stand up? Call me crazy, but I tend to trust larger sample sizes before I trust a smaller one in most instances. With that being said, we have to remember that he got a tad lucky during the 2018 season. Freeland had the 4th highest strand rate in the Majors last year, just ahead of stud arms like Aaron Nola, Max Scherzer, and Jacob deGrom. Great job, Mr. Freeland, but a strand rate like that is hard to sustain for pitchers that aren’t elite guys. Case in point, Freelands drop down to a 62.0% strand rate this season.
In all reality, Freeland’s ERA should’ve been closer to the 3.50-4.00 range which is right around where his FIP 3.67 and xFIP (4.22) were last season. Not as good obviously, but still a worthy fantasy arm. While his numbers have been even worse at Triple-A, Freeland pitched very well in his last outing and appears set to rejoin the Rockies rotation tomorrow against Cincinnati. If you need some pitching help in deeper mixed leagues, give Freeland a look.
Photo/Video Credit: Baltimore Orioles, Alex Fast
Eric Cross is the lead MLB/Fantasy Baseball writer and MiLB prospect analyst for FantraxHQ and has been with the site since March 2017. In the past, he wrote for FantasyPros and FanSided. He is also a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA) and a contributor in the best-selling Fantasy Baseball Black Book. For more from Eric, check out his author page and follow him on Twitter @EricCross04.
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