We are approaching the end of July and playoffs in Head-to-Head leagues are just around the corner. Maybe you’re looking for an edge in your Rotisserie league to put you over the top. Either way, I’m taking a look at a collection of hitters and pitchers who may be available on your waiver wire. I’ll cover shallow and deep league adds to put you at an advantage over your league-mates. I’ll look at ownership rates based on FantasyPros.com ESPN/Yahoo combined.
Jesse Winker (CIN) – OF, 39% Owned
I absolutely love Winker’s approach. He’s walking more than he’s striking out and since June 1st no one in Major League Baseball has a higher OBP (.476). His .400 BABIP in that time frame is high, but when you consider his 53% hard contact rate combined with a near 35% line drive rate, it’s justifies an elevated rate. Winker doesn’t provide speed and I wish he’d hit the ball in the air more because a 32% fly ball rate isn’t going to yield more than 20 homers. Either way, he’s a great source of average/OBP, runs, and can provide some pop. Add in all leagues
Rougned Odor (TEX) – 2B, 45% Owned
If you left Odor for dead months ago, I don’t blame you. Early on, Odor somehow looked worse than his did in 2017. There was a time in May where Odor had an infield fly rate of over 35%! At that time, he also had a high quantity of weak ground balls, it was ugly. Since the start of June, he’s cut his IFFB% to a much more reasonable 10%. His hard contact has been sitting around 40% and his zone contact is up around 90%. The results are there as well, he’s hitting .300 with six home runs and seven steals since June 1. Odor is an add in all leagues right now. Add in all leagues
Ketel Marte (ARI) – SS, 22% Owned
Marte basically did nothing the first month and a half like most of the Diamondbacks, but has been solid since. Marte has improved on his O-Swing and currently has a very solid 92% zone contact rate. Since June 1st, Marte turned up the power with 8 HR, 2 steals and a .281 average. His walk rate has also improved and his 43% hard contact rate since the start of June is well above league average. Marte hits too many balls on the ground to have huge power upside but also has more speed than he’s displayed. I love players with high contact rates that have 15-20 HR upside. Grab him for solid average, 5-8 HR and a few steals. Add in 14-team and deeper leagues
Jake Bauers (TB) – 1B, 23% Owned
Bauers is another young hitter with elite plate discipline. These are my kind of players and he’s got above average speed for a first baseman. Bauers is similar to Winker because he squares up a lot balls with a 46% hard contact rate but a low 33% fly ball rate will cap his power. He does strike out a bit more than Winker but it’s still just about league average. Bauers possess above average speed which is rare for 1B eligible players. He profiles as a 15-20 HR hitter with around 10 steals and a .275-.280 average over a full season. He gets a bump in OBP leagues. Add in 12-team and deeper leagues; add in all OBP leagues
Jason Heyward (CHC) – OF, 33% Owned
Yes, I know, it’s Jay-Hey. He hasn’t been fantasy relevant for about 2.5 years and it’s not like he’s killing it this year with only six homers and one steal. However, his .284 average with a .351 OBP are at least helpful in all formats. Plus, he’s hitting .302 with four home runs since June 1. Joe Maddon has even began slotting him the two-hole at times which has boosted his run production. The last two seasons, Heyward averaged 114 runs+RBI, this year he already has 94 runs+RBI, on pace for 150. His strikeout rate is also down to a career low 10.7%, so he’s likely going to keep the batting average steady. He’s still not 12-team viable but in 15 team leagues, he can help in two-three categories. Add in 14-team and deeper leagues
Charlie Culberson (ATL) – SS, 3B, OF, 2% Owned
Culberson has basically been a utility player for the Braves this season managing only 188 plate appearances in 2018. The leg injury to Ozzie Albies has given Culberson the start at second base the last few days but he’s also been used at 3B and the outfield. As the Dog Days of summer start rolling in, Culberson could find a little bit more playing time. Since the start of June Culberson is hitting .303 with 4 homers and 2 steals in only 117 plate appearances. No one is rushing out to get him but if you need depth at MI, CI, or in the outfield in deeper leagues, he’s a good bench guy to grab. Add in deep 15-team and NL Only leagues
Garrett Hampson (COL) – 2B, 5% Owned
The Rockies prospect was called up last week after hitting 8 homers and compiling 33 steals across two levels in 2018. He’s filling in for the injured DJ LeMaheiu but could stay up if he performs well. Hampson has great speed and should continue running in the Majors. He managed to get 51 steals in High-A in 2017 so I wouldn’t be surprised if he swiped eight to ten bags if he remains up with the big club. Hampson is also not a zero in terms of power, especially in Colorado. I’d be very aggressive in adding Hampson in all leagues because of his intriguing upside but understand he could be sent back down in a couple weeks. I’d roll the dice. Add in 12-team and deeper leagues
Shane Bieber (CLE) - SP, 47% Owned
Bieber has been impressive in his short stint in the Majors thus far. He was sent back down during the All-Star break to continue to get work but has since been called back up. He’s been fantastic and has managed a 3.52 ERA with an outrageously inflated .362 BABIP. Bieber has given up a high percentage of hard contact, so a low HR/FB might jump up a bit. That might be OK if the BABIP regresses. Plus, he’s got above average O-Swing, SwStr rate, and contact rate compared to league average. His walk rate sits at a minuscule 4.4%, so free passes are not an issue. I love Bieber, and he’s my top add of this pitching group. Add in all leagues
Kevin Gausman (BAL) - SP, 42% Owned
Gausman continues to be inconsistent but he seems to pull things together in the second half. The timing of this isn't great after the beating by the Red Sox, but Gausman's peripherals look as good as ever. His swings outside the zone sits near 35% and his swinging strike rate is a career high 11.5%. Gausman doesn't give up a ton of hard contact in a year where hard contact is up 3% across the board. Maybe it's the 3.58 career second half ERA with a strikeout rate that's 4% higher after the All-Star break. Either way, he's due some positive regression. Add in 12-team and deeper leagues
Jordan Zimmerman (DET) - SP, 27% Owned
After an awful start to the season, I had all but forgotten about Zimmerman. Prior to this season, he hadn’t provided a K/9 over 6.0 since 2015. That’s trash for fantasy purposes. This year, he’s over 8.0 K/9. He’s lower his fastball and upped his slider usage, which is great. In his last six starts he has a 2.21 ERA with a 30.1 K-BB% and 22% soft contact rate. As long as he keeps throwing the slider over 35%, I recommend him in all leagues.
Dereck Rodriguez (SF) - SP, 25% Owned
Ivan’s son might not play the same position as his Hall-of-Fame Father, but he certainly inherited his cannon for an arm. Rodriguez is another low-strikeout pitcher, which I understand isn't exciting, but that’s where the value is on the waiver wire. Everyone wants the 10 K/9 pitchers, so there’s less available. His best pitch is probably his changeup and his sinker is by far the worst pitch in his arsenal. Rodriguez’s sinker only gets ground balls 45% of the time. Sinker’s typically don;t get swings and misses and D-Rod’s is not different, but they are effective because of the high ground ball rates near 60%. A 45% rate will not cut it. It sounds like I’m talking you out of grabbing Rodriguez, but here’s the thing. Since June 16th, he’s cut his sinker usage and has thrown more change ups. Since then, he has a 1.98 ERA! The trend is getting better as well as his change up usage is over 20% over his last two starts compared to a season low for the sinker.Whew, sorry that was long winded. Either way, he and his pitching coaches are figuring out the combination that works. Go get em in 12-team and deeper leagues
Zack Wheeler (NYM) - SP, 23% Owned
Wheeler is healthy and slinging fastballs around 97 mph and has touched 100 mph several times in recent starts. Wheeler’s 4.44 ERA, 8.89 K/9, and 3.35 BB/9 don’t exactly jump off the page at you, but he’s been better than the numbers indicate. Wheeler is generating a ton weak contact and limits hard contact. He has two plus pitches, his fastball and slider which he throws a combined 77% of the time. He’s also increased his swinging strike rate to an above average 11% and has increased swings outside the zone. Since May 22nd, Wheeler has a 3.63 ERA with a 2.99 BB/9. His SIERA and FIP match his sub-4.00 ERA and I think the best is yet to come with Wheeler. He’s intriguing in most leagues.
Tyler Mahle (CIN) - SP, 17% Owned
Mahle is a young pitcher who has given up quite a few homers but has some decent swing a miss stuff. Since June 1 he sports a 3.78 ERA with nearly a strikeout per inning and his homerun rate is down 0.5 HR/9 from his season rate. Not bad but he still has an elevated walk rate. Mahle is a streamer in 12 team leagues but I'd grab him in 15-team and deeper leagues.
Michael Pineda (MIN) - SP, 1% Owned
Remember Pineada? He used to post great strikeout numbers, walk no one and give up a ton of home runs. Well, he's with the Twins now and is beginning to throw in simulated games. He's scheduled to be back by the start of September and plays in a better pitchers park and doesn't get to face much of the AL East. He's a deep league stash for some strikeout upside. It's risky, but for deep 15+ team leagues, you could do much worse.
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