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Fantasy Baseball Waiver Wire: Specialized Targets

This week’s Fantasy Baseball Waiver Wire report has a little bit of a different feel to it. There are no shiny new toys to fight over with your league mates this week. Instead, we’re going to take a look at some players excelling in one specific area that can provide your team a boost in that category. Whether it be speed, power, or average, there’s a target or two for everyone below.

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Fantasy Baseball Waiver Wire – Hitters

Derek Dietrich, 1B/2B/OF, Cincinnati Reds

Did you know that Derek Dietrich is tied for 5th in the Majors in home runs? It’s true. When you narrow that down to the last month, Dietrich’s 12 dingers are 2nd behind Alex Bregman’s 13, and that’s in 36 fewer at-bats. Where the heck did all of this come from? Great question. Dietrich has improved many of his peripheral stats this season. His walk rate, strikeout rate, and hard contact rate have all improved and Dietrich is hitting 16.2% more flyballs this season than in 2018. Is all of this sustainable? Not likely. But even with some regression, Dietrich should still be a solid power source with multi-positional eligibility and a batting average you can stomach.

Renato Nunez, 3B, Baltimore Orioles

Earlier in the season, there was a 2-3 week stretch when Renato Nunez was one of the hottest hitters in baseball. Many flocked to the waiver wire to grab him only to be disappointed when he disappeared back into his shell. Now, just as quickly as he disappeared, Nunez has returned to fantasy relevance with a hot couple of weeks. Over the last two weeks, Nunez is hitting .298 with six home runs, 13 RBI, and 10 runs scored, which has made him a top-25 fantasy asset over that stretch. Sure, the inconsistency can be a tad maddening, but the overall stat line isn’t too bad. Nunez is on pace to exceed 30 homers and 90 RBI on the season and might have locked himself into that cleanup spot moving forward with his recent play. If your fantasy squad needs a power boost, give Nunez a look.

Lourdes Gurriel Jr, 2B/SS, Toronto Blue Jays

If you’re looking for some upside this week, Gurriel is your man. The big 6’3 middle infielder had a good rookie campaign in 2018, hitting .281 with 11 home runs in 65 games after hitting .301 in the minors. The plate approach isn’t anything special, but Yuli’s little bro has made it work in the minors, even with his walk rate usually below 5%. Since being recalled on 5/24, Gurriel is on a six game hitting streak, hitting .423 (10/23) with four home runs, six RBI, and seven runs scored. With the Blue Jays getting very little production out of their middle infield thus far, Gurriel should play regularly moving forward while providing a batting average in the high-.200s with some solid power as well.

Bryan Reynolds, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates

Out of all the rookies making noise this season, the success of Bryan Reynolds has mostly flown under the radar.  After another multi-hit effort last night, he’s now up to .339 on the season with five home runs, 17 RBI, and 18 runs in 112 at-bats. This shouldn’t really come as much of a surprise. Reynolds was a career .312 hitter in the minors and never hit below .302 at any level. He didn’t really show much game power, but has shown at least average raw power to the point where he could be a 20-homer guy over a full season. Sometimes we look to the waiver wire for help in a specific category and Reynolds can provide just that with his strong batting average. Any power he provides is gravy.

Mallex Smith, OF, Seattle Mariners

Coming into the 2019 season, Mallex Smith was being taken in the 100-150 range of fantasy drafts for his speed upside and ability to hit for a solid batting average. Well, the speed has been there, but a sub-.200 batting average earned Smith a ticket back down to Triple-A for a little while. That stint seemed to have given him the kick in the pants he needed as Smith had a dominant series against the Rangers, going 7/12 with five RBI, three runs, and five stolen bases. As long as he can hit for a respectable batting average, Smith’s speed can be an asset for fantasy owners.

Jorge Alfaro, C, Miami Marlins

The fact that Jorge Alfaro is available in over 2/3 of fantasy leagues is astonishing. Only three catchers have hit more home runs than Alfaro has this season and his .278 average is nothing to scoff at either. The downside is that he’s in a lineup that ranks dead last in most offensive categories, so runs and RBI will likely continue to be hard to come by ROS. His horrible plate approach (4.9 BB%, 34.1 K%) limits his batting average potential, but there’s some nice power projection here. And, you know, he’s a catcher with some potential. Those don’t just grow on trees.

Others to Consider: Harold Ramirez, OF, MIA | DJ Stewart, OF, BAL

Fantasy Baseball Waiver Wire – Pitchers

Devin Smeltzer, SP, Minnesota Twins

After a dominant start to the season in the high minors, Devin Smeltzer got the call up to Minnesota for his debut on Tuesday and didn’t disappoint, tossing six shutout innings, allowing just three hits while striking out seven. Smeltzer doesn’t have a big fastball like Mitch Keller, usually sitting around 90mph, but features a plus changeup and his plus command helps his arsenal play up. Don’t expect more than around 7.7-8.0 K/9 here, but Smeltzer could provide some nice back-end value moving forward. He’s also a cancer survivor. Who couldn’t use that type of positivity on their fantasy team?

Zach Plesac, SP, Cleveland Indians

Joining Smeltzer for his MLB debut on Tuesday was Zach Plesac, another under-the-radar pitching prospect. In nine starts between Double-A and Triple-A, Plesac had a tiny 1.41 ERA and 0.79 WHIP while striking out nearly a batter an inning. Like with Smeltzer, the upside here isn’t overly high, but Plesac’s pinpoint command should allow him to carve out a spot in this Indians rotation and is worth a shot in mixed leagues moving forward.

Jon Duplantier, SP, Arizona Diamondbacks

After making five relief outings for the D-Backs this season, Jon Duplantier will finally get a chance to make his first Major League start today against my boy Pete Alonso and the New York Mets. Duplantier pitched well in those five relief appearances, posting a 2.25 ERA and 1.08 WHIP in 12 innings while striking out a batter per inning. There’s definitely some ROS intrigue here, even more so than Plesac and Smeltzer.

While Duplantier struggled a tad in the hitter-friendly PCL this season, his ERA never went above 2.69 at any level from 2017-2018 and his minor league K/9 currently sits at a solid 10.4. With a plus fastball and above-average offspeed offerings, Duplantier has the stuff to become a strong mid-rotation starter with the ceiling of a #2. That upside makes him worth owning in mixed leagues moving forward to see what he can do in the rotation.

Photo/Video Credit: Tony Quinn/Icon Sportswire, Cincinnati Reds, Pitcher List, Yahoo Sports Canada.

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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