Waiver Wire Report: Need a Bud? Norris Steps Up in St. Louis
Let me start by thanking you all. Joey Lucchesi’s ownership finally increased to more than 75% of Fantrax leagues, so he will not be included here again. I was getting a little worried that I might have to remind everyone for a third time about how damn good Lucchesi has been and could be for the rest of the season.
Nope, not going there again. Instead, there’s a fresh new batch of players this week hot out of the oven. Included in the six-pack of waiver wire recommendations below are two rookies, a Colorado arm (gasp!), and the latest hot name in the Cardinals bullpen.
Top Waiver Adds
Teoscar Hernandez (OF – TOR)
Ownership: Fantrax 55%, Yahoo 27%, ESPN 8%
Back in December and January, Teoscar Hernandez emerged as a popular sleeper pick for the 2018 season. Then, for reasons that still bewilder me, the Blue Jays traded for an underperforming .248 career hitter in Randal Grichuk and signed 37-year-old Curtis Granderson coming off a season where he hit just .212. Getting one of these guys makes sense, but getting both meant that there was no room for promising youngsters like Hernandez and Anthony Alford.
Just three weeks into the season, the tides are already changing up in Toronto. It helps that Grichuk’s batting average currently starts with a zero. Hernandez stepped into the starting lineup over the last few days and already made his presence felt. In just his third start of the season, Hernandez went 4-for-6 with a triple, four RBI, and a towering blast to center for his first home run of the season.
Throughout his minor league career in the Houston and Toronto systems, Hernandez displayed a strong power/speed profile, averaging 21 home runs and 37 steals per every 600 at-bats. The average fluctuated year to year, but Hernandez displayed enough contact skills to make a .250-.275 average in the majors look attainable. With Kendrys Morales’ return from the DL imminent, the playing time situation could again become foggy north of the border, but Hernandez has the most fantasy upside out of every Blue Jays outfielder and is worth grabbing to see how his playing time shakes out.
Adam Ottavino (RP – COL)
Ownership: Fantrax 60%, Yahoo 51%, ESPN 48%
Wait, a pitcher from Colorado? Stranger danger! Yes, nasty stuff plays well anywhere if you can locate it, and so far Ottavino is doing just that. Through his first 10 appearances (10.2 IP), Ottavino has allowed just two hits, one earned run, and one walk while striking out 22. For all wondering, that’s an 18.6 K/9, good for second in baseball for pitchers with 5+ innings pitched, behind only Josh Hader. A big reason for his success and ridiculous strikeout rate is his wiffleball-like slider. If you want to marvel at its filthy break, see below.
— Cut4 (@Cut4) April 17, 2018
Granted, it’s only been three weeks, but hitters are making a lot less contact on Ottavino’s pitches so far this season. His Z-Contact% is down from 86.6% in 2017 to 51.4% this year and overall contact is down from 72.8% to 53.7%. Is all of this sustainable? No, probably not. But Ottavino is worth owning for the strong ratios and elite strikeout rate alone, even if he’s not getting any save opportunities. And if Wade Davis were to ever hit the DL, Ottavino would have top-10 RP upside with the added saves.
Mike Soroka (SP – ATL)
Ownership: Fantrax 36%, Yahoo 2%, ESPN 1%
This train is in its final boarding stages and getting ready to leave the station. In baseball terms, Mike Soroka is on the verge of getting the call to Atlanta and needs to be added in all leagues. This isn’t just your run of the mill pitching prospect. MLB Pipeline ranked Soroka as the 31st best overall prospect and the 11th best right-handed pitching prospect. Soroka has justified that lofty ranking and then some in 2018. Through three starts, he’s registered a 1.1 BB/9, 11.5 K/9, 2.87 ERA, and 1.02 WHIP in 15.2 innings for Triple-A Gwinnett.
That 11.5 K/9 is great to see after the righty posted sub-8.0 K/9 rates in 2016 and 2017. That was the one and only area I dinged him on in my top-100 prospect rankings back in February.
Soroka has the arsenal, control, and poise on the mound to be a dominant strikeout machine and a fantasy asset from the moment he gets the call to Atlanta, which according to Braves VP/GM Alex Anthopoulos, should be “very, very soon.” The time is now to get your hands on Soroka leagues of 12 teams or more. He’s likely to only make one more Triple-A start on Sunday before joining the Braves rotation next week.
Bud Norris (RP – STL)
Ownership: Fantrax 51%, Yahoo 58%, ESPN 22%
Oh, the joys of a Mike Matheny bullpen. And by joys, I mean nightmares. There were so many arms in this bullpen to start the season it looked like a Royal Rumble match would be the best way to decide on a closer. Then, just to complicate things, the Cardinals signed Greg Holland two days after the season started. Thanks, St. Louis.
After the signing, it was widely assumed that Holland was going to leapfrog Bud Norris, Dominic Leone, and others in this bullpen and serve as the Cardinals closer this season. Well, Holland needed a little time to get ready for major league action and has been walking everyone and everything to start the season, while Bud Norris has started strong with a 1.93 ERA and 16.4 K/9 and converting all four of his save opportunities. You snooze, you lose, Greg.
While I don’t expect this situation to be fluid throughout the season (Matheny would never allow that), I do expect Norris to lead the Cardinals in saves when the 2018 season comes to a close. If Norris is still available in your league and you’re struggling in saves, he’s the perfect pick up for you.
Tyler O’Neill (OF – STL)
Ownership: Fantrax 40%, Yahoo 8%, ESPN 5%
The current status of Tyler O’Neill can be summed up as follows: He’s 100% ready to be a fantasy asset but doesn’t have a full-time starting spot quite yet. So why am I recommending him? Well, first off, his potential is off the charts, especially in the power department. I’ve given him a Khris Davis comparison many times and feel quite confident that is the type of slugger he becomes. If you need some proof of this potential, go take a look at his minor league statistics where he averaged 36 homers and 121 RBI per every 600 at-bats.
You’ve got to figure the Cardinals have an idea of how they wanted to use him. Or else, why give him the call at all? (I’m looking at you, Colorado.) That idea could very well have just been to provide insurance for Tommy Pham, who’s currently battling a groin issue. Whatever the reason might be, O’Neill’s offensive upside makes him worth an add in all leagues to see how his playing time shakes out. This could just be another Ryan McMahon situation. If it is, cut O’Neill for the next hot player on the waiver wire. But if O’Neill can somehow lock up consistent playing time, the reward could be huge.
Deep League Dive
Jose Bautista (OF – ATL)
Ownership: Fantrax 29%, Yahoo 6%, ESPN 4%
Joey Bats is back, baby! The undisputed bat-tossing heavyweight champion of the world signed a minor league deal with the Braves on Wednesday after spending the last decade with the Blue Jays. But wait, the Braves need to make room in the outfield for Ronald Acuna! Don’t worry. Bautista was brought in to help out at third base, a position he played mostly earlier in his career and has only played sporadically over the last several seasons.
The power alone makes Bautista intriguing in deeper leagues. He’s currently on an eight-season run of 20+ home runs and eclipsed 35 in four of those eight seasons. Unfortunately, his batting average has been a detriment in recent seasons, but if he can get back into the 25-30 home run range, Bautista will still be able to provide decent value in 14+ team leagues. The 38-year-old veteran likely won’t need much time to be ready for major league pitching.
Thank you for reading this week’s waiver wire report. Have a question about a player who wasn’t covered here? Ask below or hit me on Twitter @EricCross04. Check back next Friday for more waiver wire recommendations here on Fantrax.