Fantasy Baseball Waiver Wire: Prospect Invasion
Every few weeks this season it seems like we get a wave of prospect promotions that heat up the Fantasy Baseball Waiver Wire and cause madness in leagues with weekly FAAB waivers. This is definitely one of those weeks. Every time I turned around this week it seemed like another noteworthy prospect was getting promoted. While there were a bunch of them, only a handful of them have the chance to provide big value for the rest of the season. And while I constantly preach that not all prospects contribute from the get-go, you can’t pass up on their upside.
What do you really have to lose? You drop the worst player on your team for them that likely wasn’t doing a whole heck of a lot anyway. If the prospect struggles, you cut them for another bench player. However, you’ll be kicking yourself if you pass on a guy like Brendan Rodgers and he sets the world on fire for the next four months. So I urge you to check your waiver wire for the guys below and/or make some strong FAAB bids for them this weekend.
If you aren’t playing your dynasty leagues on Fantrax, you’re missing out on the deepest player pool and most customization around. Just starting out in a dynasty league? Then check out Eric Cross’ Top-250 prospects and Top-300 Dynasty League Rankings.
Fantasy Baseball Waiver Wire – Hitters
Keston Hiura, 2B, Milwaukee Brewers
Out of all the recent top prospects to be promoted, the one I’d want the most for the rest of 2019 is Keston Hiura. I say that for a couple of different reasons. First off, Hiura has the best combination of hit, power, and speed of all the recent promotions. All he’s done since Milwaukee selected him 9th overall in the 2017 draft is rake. In his 202 minor league games, Hiura has slashed .316/.380/.534/.914 with 101 extra-base hits, 28 home runs, and 21 steals. On top of that, he’s added 129 runs scored and 102 RBI. A guy that can contribute like this across the board needs to be owned in all fantasy leagues. Plain and simple.
Now, onto reason number two. Out of all these waiver wire options, I’m the most confident in Hiura to receive everyday at-bats moving forward. The others SHOULD, but Hiura’s path to playing time is fairly clear with Travis Shaw struggling to the tune of a .163 average this season and now on the IL with a wrist injury. Hiura should receive the lion’s share of the starts at second base and has the skills to contribute across the board. However, with his 58.3% success rate stealing bases, I wouldn’t expect more than a handful of steals from him this season.
Austin Riley, 3B, Atlanta Braves
Over the last week or so, Austin Riley had been working out in left field for Triple-A Gwinnett. This was happening for two reasons. First, current Braves third baseman, Josh Donaldson, is both healthy and performing well, both of which were not a guarantee coming into the season with how the last couple seasons have gone for him. The second reason is that Ender Inciarte had been struggling mightily at the plate this season. Okay, I lied. There’s a third reason. Riley has been scorching hot for basically the last month in Triple-A and sits at .299 with 10 doubles and 15 home runs on the season. With his dominance and Inciarte’s struggles and injury, Riley got the call on Wednesday and has carried that hot streak up to Atlanta, going 4/7 with a home run in his first two games.
In the past, I had been critical of Riley’s plate approach and thought it would land him in the .250 range. It’s a small sample size, but Riley has taken a big step forward with his approach this season, improving his strikeout rate from 28.4% to 19.1% and his walk rate from 8.1% to 11.1%. Will it last? I hope so because Riley’s plus-plus power can make him a middle of the order masher for many years, starting right now. As mentioned, Inciarte left the game the other night with back tightness and now finds himself on the IL. If Riley plays well, Inciarte is going to be a 4th outfielder when he returns. Riley needs to be owned in all leagues.
Brendan Rodgers, 2B/SS, Colorado Rockies
Even though the Rockies already have a log jam in the infield, when a prospect of this magnitude gets called up, the goal is usually to get him regular at-bats. Calling Brendan Rodgers up to have him play sporadically is 100% pointless. With that being said, this is the Rockies we’re talking about so anything is possible. But really, the Rockies shouldn’t screw this one up. Rodgers has been their top offensive prospect basically since they drafted him nearly four years ago and has hit for both power and average in the minors thanks to his above-average to plus hit tool and plus raw power. I got a ton of live looks at Rodgers during his time in Double-A and most of the at-bats I saw ended with hard contact.
With Garrett Hampson back down in Triple-A and Ryan McMahon still struggling, Rodgers should get close to everyday at-bats and has the skills to contribute strongly in the power and batting average departments.
Nicky Lopez, 2B/SS, Kansas City Royals
While he might not have the big-time, flashy name like the waiver wire options above him, the skill set Nicky Lopez possesses can provide plenty of value this season. Lopez does two things very well; hit for average and steal bases. In 31 Triple-A games this season, Lopez hit .353 with nine steals and was a .296 hitter for his minor league career while never hitting below .279 in any season.
As long as Lopez hits, he’s going to stay up and start regularly at second base. With Whit Merrifield agreeing to move from second base to the outfield, pushing Jorge Soler to DH, that shows that the plan is to let Lopez try to lock down the spot for the rest of the season. He’s gotten off to a damn good start too with five hits and three walks in his first three games. Don’t expect much power here, but Lopez has the skills to hit for a high average and chip in 20+ steals the rest of the way hitting high in the lineup for a team that likes to run early and often.
Willie Calhoun, OF, Texas Rangers
Third time’s the charm, right? Both of his first two seasons in Texas ended with a sub-.700 OPS and minimal power. A perfect example of how not all prospects succeed right away. But despite the early-career struggles, the upside remains high here with Calhoun. As a porous defender, he’s likely ticketed for DH duties long-term, but for now, he’ll have outfield eligibility for the 2019 season at least.
With his DH-only profile, Calhoun is going to need to hit a lot to provide value. Luckily, he has the offensive skills to do just that, displaying the ability to hit for both power and average in the minors. And two games in with Texas, everything is going Calhoun’s way with seven hits and two homers in his first 12 at-bats. He’s worth a shot in all leagues to see if he can finally bring that hitting prowess up from the minor leagues to Texas.
Tommy La Stella, 2B/3B, Los Angeles Angels
I debated putting Tommy La Stella here last week, but ultimately held off. Well, with him still hitting well, he’s made the cut this week. La Stella is currently available in nearly half of fantasy leagues. With how hot he is right now, that’s criminally under-owned. Through his first 38 games, La Stella is slashing .301/.388/.611/.998 with 11 home runs, 25 RBI, 24 runs, and more walks (11) than strikeouts (8). He’s doing all this with a low .245 BABIP which is equally as strange as it is impressive.
I can understand if you’re not a believer in what La Stella is doing this season. It took me a while to believe it myself. But this is the first time he’s ever really had consistent playing time and he’s not going to come out of the Angels lineup any time soon while he’s hitting like this. This pace isn’t likely to last, but La Stella needs to be owned while he’s this hot.
Yordan Alvarez, OF/1B, Houston Astros
Look at me sneaking in Yordan Alvarez down here. You can’t hear it, but I’m laughing like Mr. Burns from the Simpsons right now. No prospect has been hotter than Alvarez this season. After a 3/5, two home run performance yesterday, Alvarez is up to 17 home runs, 15 doubles, 53 RBI, and 36 runs in 36 Triple-A games with a ridiculous .410/.497/.90/1.400 OPS. He’s basically been the Barry Bonds of the Pacific Coast League this season.
“But where we will play?”
Ah, yes, the million dollar question. The answer to that is first base or DH. Neither Tyler White or Yuli Gurriel are performing well enough to hold off Alvarez and it’s only a matter of time before one of them loses their job. Alvarez has been getting some starts in at first base lately which could signal that his promotion to Houston is drawing near. If he’s available in your league, a waiver wire claim is in order immediately. And now for your viewing pleasure, I present to you an opposite field moon shot from Alvarez yesterday. Enjoy!
— Minor League Baseball (@MiLB) May 17, 2019
Fantasy Baseball Waiver Wire – Pitchers
Corbin Martin, SP, Houston Astros
While he might not be the Astros pitching prospect we thought would be up around this time, don’t forget that Corbin Martin is a damn good pitching prospect in his own right. Martin made 29 starts and 11 relief appearances totaling 179.0 innings in his minor league career. In those 179.0 innings, he posted a stellar 2.31 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, and 9.7 K/9. Like I’ve said before, Martin is one of the most underrated prospect arms around. With four above-average to plus offerings and solid command, he has #2 starter upside and can provide a big boost to your fantasy team’s pitching staff this season. He gets a tough matchup against the Red Sox at Fenway Park on Saturday, but the rest of season outlook is bright.
Impressive MLB debut for Corbin Martin. He'll be around a looooooong time with a changeup like that. pic.twitter.com/kc0fgptuak
— Pitcher List (@PitcherList) May 13, 2019
Gio Gonzalez, SP, Milwaukee Brewers
Once upon a time, way back in 2010-2013 or so, Gio Gonzalez was considered one of the top southpaws in the game. During that four-year stretch, Gonzalez pitched near of above 200 innings each season while never posting a single-season ERA above 3.36. Sure, he got a little wild at times during that stretch, walking 90+ batters in back to back seasons, but for the most part, he was an asset. Fast forward to 2019 and the 33-year-old Gonzalez has lost a few ticks on his heater, but is once again emerging as a viable fantasy arm.
After asking for and being granted his release from the Yankees last month, Gonzalez has made four starts with the Brewers, allowing just a total of four earned runs combined. He’s no longer a pitcher that is going to give you over a strikeout per inning, but Gonzalez is showing he can still provide some value back in the National League.
Tyler Mahle, SP, Cincinnati Reds
Coming into the season, I was high on a lot of players on this Cincinnati Reds team, on both sides of the ball. Tyler Mahle was included in that. He was coming off a lackluster 2018 campaign where he finished with a 4.98 ERA and 1.59 WHIP, but flashed glimpses of his potential when his control was in check. They were small glimpses, but still enough to create some intrigue around the young right-hander entering 2019.
Eight starts in and Mahle’s surface numbers are solid, yet unspectacular. However, he’s been better than those surface numbers indicate. Mahle’s ERA currently sits at 3.97, but his FIP and xFIP are 3.54 and 3.01 respectively. On top of that, his groundball rate and strikeout rate have both risen while his walk rate has come way down from 4.3 BB/9 to 1.8. That’s been the key right there. Mahle has been throwing more strikes and keeping the ball down. He also scrapped his slider and has been mixing in his curveball more which has been helping. If he continues to locate like he has, expect Mahle’s ERA to drop some. He’s a solid waiver wire add for the rest of the season and barely owned right now.
Photo/Video Credit: Robert Robinson, Minor League Baseball, Pitcher List, Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire.
Follow all of Eric’s content for his weekly waiver wire column and his extensive MLB prospect/dynasty analysis.
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.
Fantrax is one of the fastest growing fantasy sites of 2019. With multi-team trades, designated commissioner/league managers, and drag/drop easy click methods, Fantrax is sure to excite the serious fantasy sports fan – sign up now for a free year at Fantrax.com.