Does it feel like the World Series ended three years ago? It does for me. Maybe it was the stubborn staring contest between teams and free agents that cause a giant dead period in December and January. Or maybe it’s just because I’m a baseball nut and need live baseball to watch 24/7/365. Whatever it is, at least we have MLB regular season baseball back in our lives.
The off-season might have been mostly stagnant, but Spring Training sure as heck wasn’t. Before the first pitch of the season was clobbered into the right-field bleachers by Ian Happ, many fantasy owners were already forced to the waiver wire for replacements. We’ve had a top-10 SP, top-10 3B, and top-five catcher go down all within the last week. Not to mention all the prospects that are trying out Tommy John surgery like it’s the new, cool thing to do.
Love it or hate it, business is picking up in waiver wire land. If you’re one of those forced to make a detour into Waiver Town, take comfort that there’s at least some decent options to get you by.
And let me get this in before we dive into the players below. I didn’t include Scott Kingery, as he’s already seen his ownership rise up over 70-80% in most leagues. If the carrier pigeons haven’t delivered the news to your league yet that he’s made the Opening Day roster and he’s somehow still on your waiver wire, add him immediately.
The Fab Five
Ryan McMahon (1B – COL)
Ownership: Fantrax 80%, Yahoo 43%, ESPN 16%.
The Rockies aren’t keeping him up to sit on the bench every day, folks. That’s for damn sure. McMahon might not have gotten the start last night, but he figures to get the bulk of the starts at first while Desmond plays mostly in left field. Even with 4-5 starts a week, the rookie Rockie has enough offensive upside will allow him to still provide plenty of fantasy value for his owners. Try to say “rookie Rockie” five times fast. Bet you can’t do it.
In the minors, McMahon was forced to abandon his natural position of third base due to the colossal Arenado-sized roadblock at the Major League level. However, his bat will play just fine at first base as well. McMahon averaged 22 home runs, 110 RBI, 97 runs, and 11 steals per every 600 at-bats in the minors while slashing .298/.368/.510/.878 in 2,132 at-bats.
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) March 20, 2018
He might not be your usual home run mashing first baseman, but McMahon is a force at the plate and a middle-of-the-order bat for years to come. It’s not likely that he hits third or fourth right away, but this Colorado lineup has talent top to bottom that should allow McMahon to thrive no matter where he hits in the order. Ronald Acuna might steal most of the headlines, but McMahon has a chance to be the most valuable fantasy rookie this season. So do yourself a favor. Add McMahon if he’s available and walk away with that Vince McMahon strut.
Starlin Castro (2B – MIA)
Ownership: Fantrax 71%, Yahoo 51%, ESPN 52%.
Listen, I get it. The Marlins are going to be a dumpster fire this season. However, that doesn’t mean they’re completely deprived of having fantasy value. One Marlin that deserves a little more love in fantasy is Starlin Castro.
One of the newest Marlins after coming over in the Giancarlo Stanton deal, Castro is slated to hit third for the Marlins to start the season. Castro might not be your typical three-hole hitter, but nonetheless, he’s still hitting third, directly in front of Justin Bour and behind Lewis Brinson and Derek Dietrich. He started the season off on a high note, going 1-for-3 with two walks and two runs scored yesterday against Jon Lester and the Chicago Cubs.
Unfortunately, Castro barely runs anymore, but he should be a solid contributor in the other four categories. Over the last two seasons, Castro has averaged 22 home runs, 78 RBI, and 76 runs per every 600 at-bats, while hitting .283. Those seem like fairly attainable numbers for Castro this season if he can stay healthy. For a second baseman, those numbers will play very well in a utility spot or as depth on your bench.
Jose Martinez (1B/OF – STL)
Ownership: Fantrax 71%, Yahoo 41%, ESPN 38%.
Thankfully, Mike Matheny and the Cardinals seem to be realizing that Jose Martinez is a better hitter than Jedd Gyorko. Throughout the spring, the vibe surrounding Martinez was up and down due to his playing time situation not being 100% clear.
Well, if game one is any indication, Martinez figures to be in the lineup more often than not. Martinez drew the start at first while Matt Carpenter slid back over to the hot corner kicking Gyorko to the pine. Not only did he start, he played incredibly well, finished 3-for-4 with two RBI, two runs, and a home run off Noah Syndergaard in the sixth inning.
That’s very encouraging, especially given Martinez’s offensive upside. In 2017, he hit .309 with 14 home runs, 46 RBI, and 47 runs in just 272 at-bats. Martinez will likely never be a huge power bat, but he makes hard contract (37.2% in 2017) and will likely bat in the middle of the lineup more often than not. There’s top-100 fantasy upside here in 2018.
Matt Davidson (3B – CHW)
Ownership: Fantrax 49%, Yahoo 40%, ESPN 30%.
We interrupt this program with breaking news: Matt Davidson has hit another home run. After one game, Davidson is on a 486-homer pace. Can’t really ask for a better start to the season than hitting a trio of taters on Opening Day. Davidson also added a walk on the afternoon, finishing with four runs and five RBI.
— Cut4 (@Cut4) March 30, 2018
Power has always been a staple of Davidson’s game. However, a decent average has been a difficult concept for him to grasp. Davidson cranked 26 home runs with 38.2% hard contact and 46.5% flyball rates in 414 at-bats last season, but unfortunately, that came with a .220 average and ridiculous 37.2 K%. You’ve heard of the three-outcome slugger (home runs, walk, or strikeout). Well, Davidson a two-outcome hitter, as his at-bats are likely to end in a dinger or a long walk back to the bench.
This could just be a great day at the plate, but it’s worth giving him a shot to see if this turns into a hot streak.
Jorge Alfaro (C – PHI)
Ownership: Fantrax 63%, Yahoo 20%, ESPN 8%.
Year in and year out, the catcher position is easily the most volatile in fantasy. Yes, even more than relief pitcher. There are only a few solid options to begin with, and finding a starter that won’t be a sinkhole in a category or two, often proves to be a difficult task. This season is already off to a tough spot, as one of those aforementioned solid options, Salvador Perez, suffered a grade 2 MCL tear while carrying a suitcase up some stairs in his home. It might not be a peculiar as Sammy Sosa throwing his back out sneezing, but still, not what Perez owners wanted to hear on the eve of Opening Day.
Luckily, there are a few under-the-radar options available in the vast majority of fantasy leagues, with the most intriguing one being rookie backstop, Jorge Alfaro. Gabe Kapler was very quick to name Alfaro as his starting catcher early in Spring Training. Now, lately, it’s been rumored that there will be more of a split behind the plate in Philly, but Alfaro is still expected to lead the way.
Alfaro won’t be mistaken for Buster Posey at the plate, but he makes enough contact to hold a respectable average and has 20+ home run pop in that bat if given 500 at-bats. If you’re looking for a Perez fill in, or just a catcher that won’t kill you, Alfaro fits the mold.
Deep League Duo
Derek Fisher (OF – HOU)
Ownership: Fantrax 35%, Yahoo 4%, ESPN 3%.
All he needs is a chance. Fisher has been an intriguing power/speed threat ever since he was drafted 37th overall back in 2014. In 343 Triple-A at-bats last season, Fisher hit .318/.384/.583/.967 with 21 home runs and 16 steals. He wasn’t able to maintain that high average in Houston but still had five home runs and three steals in 146 at-bats.
The Astros haven’t placed Yuli Gurriel on the DL yet, but that’s still a real possibility once his five-game suspension is up. If you’re playing in a deep league where the waiver wire might be a tad bare, a guy like Fisher and his power/speed blend makes for an intriguing addition to see if this turns into something.
Tyler Mahle (SP – CIN)
Ownership: Fantrax 63%, Yahoo 5%, ESPN 4%.
It’s always nice when a team gives a young hurler a chance in the rotation out of spring training. Mahle locked up a rotation spot after a strong Spring Training, minus his debacle of a spring training finale when he surrendered six runs on 10 hits over four innings. Coming into that start, Mahle had a 2.75 ERA and 0.66 WHIP.
I went over Mahle a little during my top-100 dynasty prospects countdown where he checked in at #97. Mahle will never be the type to post 200+ K seasons, but he limits contact well and doesn’t issue many free passes, demonstrated by his 1.9 BB/9 over 558 minor league innings.
With so many pitchers starting the season on the DL, many fantasy owners are likely scrounging the wire for some pitching help. Why not grab a guy with some solid upside like Mahle and see if he can work his way into mixed league relevance.
Thank you for reading this week’s waiver wire report. Got a question about a player not covered here? Then follow me on Twitter @EricCross04 and ask there. Check back in next Friday for more waiver wire recommendations here on Fantrax.