Now that we are a fourth of the way through the season, it’s a good time to evaluate lesser known names who have performed far better than anticipated. Most of these guys are players you can find on the waiver wire, though some are only worthy of monitoring as the season continues. They are all playing at a level that was unexpected in the preseason, so let’s take a look.
Waiver Wire Watch: C.J. Cron – 1B/DH, Tampa Bay Rays
The former Angel is finally getting an opportunity to play full-time in Tampa and he is absolutely running away with it. I used to say Cron could be Mark Trumbo 2.0, not only because of his call up after Trumbo was sent out of town by the Halos but also because he’s a power hitting righty who can’t walk. Trumbo had a bit more raw power, but Cron has always had a better hit tool, allowing for the opportunity to bat .260-plus.
He’s doing just that as well as hitting with Trumbo-like power. You can see that in his .278/.332/.506 line with 11 homers in his 193 plate appearances. That will put him on pace for roughly 37 home runs and around 90 runs and RBI. Not too bad for an undrafted player, and at 55% ownership, he’s available in shallower mixed leagues.
There’s reason for optimism when it comes to Cron because of a few underlying stats. He’s not necessarily hitting the ball harder, but he is pulling it nearly 40% of the time. When batters pull the ball, they usually develop a bit more power and I could see the Hard Contact% numbers coming up as the season progresses. Cron believers always thought he would succeed if given an everyday opportunity. Now that he’s free from the clutches of Mike Scioscia, he’s a solid corner infielder in most leagues and should continue to hit enough to warrant consideration.
Waiver Wire Watch: Tyler O’Neill – OF, St. Louis Cardinals
I was cautious when the Cardinals first called up O’Neill because there didn’t seem to be much in the way of playing time. Even though that premonition turned out to be right, I’m kind of kicking myself for not adding him in some deeper leagues. Thanks to injuries and Dexter Fowler’s ineffectiveness, O’Neill is now getting an opportunity to play and he’s doing his best to prove that he should continue to receive playing time.
I never really though O’Neill was given his due as a prospect with immense power and a slight chance to hit for average with plate discipline to come as he ages. I can certainly guarantee that his batting average doesn’t remain in the .368 range, but the 3 homers in 22 plate appearances are completely legit and if he keeps his strikeout rate around 22% there’s going to be enough contact to believe he can continue hitting well.
As an outfielder in any 15-team league you have a really nice pickup, but even in 12-team leagues I think he’s worth a flyer if you need help. He’s owned in about 36% of leagues but after each home run he hits that number is going to continue to rise.
Waiver Wire Watch: Daniel Descalso – 2B/3B, Arizona Diamondbacks
Descalso has been a huge hit for me in most of my deeper leagues, as he has eligibility all over the diamond and he’s having a career year at age 31 with 5 homers and a .258/.354/.500 slash line through his 144 plate appearances. He’s the kind of player you hope to come across when combing through the waiver wire because he can help your team in so many ways. And since he’s only owned in 30% or so of leagues, he’s probably still out there if you have injuries piling up on your team.
Though Descalso has only hit double-digit home runs once before (last year with 10 in 398 PA), there’s a good chance his uptick in power is at least semi-sustainable. In addition to the fact that everyone in the game is hitting more homers, his hard contact percentage has increased from 29.3% in 2016 with the Rockies to 37% last year and 42% this year. I sincerely doubt he continues to hit the ball at such Judgian levels, but I do think last year’s mark of 37% can be the number going forward. If he does that, you could see another 10-15 home runs the rest of the way, and for a team that needs warm bodies that’s a decent add. Of course, he also walks a lot, so he gets a boost in OBP leagues.
Waiver Wire Watch: Jose Bautista – OF/3B, New York Mets
Nah I’m kidding. Don’t do this. Let him rot on the waiver wire… he’s done.
Waiver Wire Watch: Dan Winkler – RP, Atlanta Braves
Winkler is increasingly looking like the most legit member of the Atlanta Braves bullpen. I personally don’t think Arodys Vizcaino is doing a bad enough job to warrant a move, but if he blows a save or two in quick order there’s a big chance the manager calls for a committee, and then the cream of the crop must rise to the top. A lot of people thought AJ Minter was the handcuff to own, but with a 5.69 BB/9 and ERA estimators being unimpressed with his work, I’m not sure he’s the answer.
Enter Dan Winkler. He’s the only pitcher of the three with reasonable walk rates (2.33 BB/9), and ERA estimators largely agree with the 0.93 mark he has put up so far. He’s also striking out virtually everyone he faces with a 13.03 K/9 rate. He hasn’t allowed a home run in his 19.1 innings, and though that’s likely going to change, he’s likely going to limit the long balls.
Available on the waiver wire in all but 14% of leagues, he’s definitely worth a bench spot and I would even consider him over many struggling closers just because he will give you good ratios as well. Closers are a fickle bunch and there’s a chance this doesn’t work out, but if I were a betting man he’s my choice in that bullpen.
Blake Parker – RP, Los Angeles Angels
It’s not 100% confirmed, but after getting the first real opportunity after Middleton was confirmed for TJ surgery he’s likely the guy to own. He has also rattled off a bunch of scoreless innings so he’s performing well to boot.
Dustin Pedroia – 2B, Boston Red Sox
Pedroia will be returning very soon to the Red Sox lineup and with the amount of runs the Sox can score it’s worth owning just about anyone in that order.
Luiz Gohara – SP, Atlanta Braves
It didn’t take long for him to be moved into the rotation at the major league level, and even if Soroka comes back quickly this is a rotation that includes Brandon McCarthy. Gohara is scheduled for one start for now, but I see him making quite a few for the Braves the rest of the way.