D.J. Short

Waiver Wired

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Waiver Wired: Wheeler Dealing

Thursday, June 28, 2018


In searching for players who could take the next step forward this season, Padres outfielder Manuel Margot had all the makings of a logical candidate. He put together a solid rookie season, showing excellent speed and a rise in his fly ball rate during the second half. He also appeared locked in as the Padres’ leadoff man.

As a result, Margot was someone I found myself drafting regularly in the spring, sometimes reaching a bit early to get him. It hasn’t exactly worked out during the first half, as the 23-year-old struggled miserably over the first two months while also missing time with rib and wrist injuries. He was dropped in the lineup and even found himself on the bench some days. Fantasy owners did some dropping of their own during that time, but suddenly Margot has reminded us why he was considered a breakout pick.

After working hard to rework his mechanics at the plate, Margot has seen results this month with a .316/.388/.513 batting line to go along with 10 extra-base hits (including two homers), 10 RBI, and nine runs scored over 23 games. Reclaiming a spot near the top of the Padres’ order in recent days, he’s shown more patience while greatly improving his contact rate.

And when Margot is hitting the ball, he’s hitting it very hard. His average exit velocity is on the rise and he’s also seen a sudden increase in his launch angle. Oddly, he’s 0-for-4 in stolen base attempts this month and just 6-for-12 on the year. He was caught stealing seven times in 23 attempts last season. Maybe he needs more time for the instincts to catch up to the raw speed. Either way, Margot has done enough to warrant attention again in mixed leagues. As of Thursday, he was still available in nearly 70 percent of Yahoo leagues. There’s still time for him to take that leap forward this year.  

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MIXED LEAGUES

(Percentages are from the morning of Thursday, June 28)

Zack Wheeler SP, Mets (Yahoo: 12 percent owned)

On the surface, Wheeler’s season isn’t anything special. He’s got a 4.47 ERA and actually hasn’t won a start since way back on April 29. Still, I think there’s reason to be intrigued here. Wheeler is throwing harder than ever before, averaging 96.0 mph on his fastball this month while putting up a 3.26 ERA over six starts. He’s topped out around 99 mph in each of his last four starts. The velocity spike hasn’t translated to a huge uptick in whiffs, but he does have 23 strikeouts over his last three starts. Wheeler has only recently started seeing the benefits of a mechanical change introduced during spring training, so I’m interested to see where this story leads. It’s mostly nice to see him healthy again.

Matt Chapman 3B, Athletics (Yahoo: 36 percent owned)

Chapman has spent a couple of weeks on the DL with a lingering hand injury, but he received a second cortisone shot earlier this week and the hope is that he’ll be ready to swing a bat on Thursday. Barring any further discomfort, he’d likely go out on a brief minor league rehab assignment before rejoining the A’s lineup. Chapman had some ups and downs this year, but he has shown some progress with his approach by making more contact and chasing fewer pitches. We all know about the excellent defense and the thump in his bat, but he could be more than that.

A.J. Minter RP, Braves (Yahoo: 30 percent owned)
Dan Winkler RP, Braves (Yahoo: 21 percent owned)

This is pretty straightforward. Minter and Winkler are the logical pickups in fantasy leagues while Vizcaino is on the disabled list with right shoulder inflammation. It might not be for very long. Vizcaino played catch on Tuesday and is scheduled to throw off a mound on Friday. If all goes well, he could return as soon as he’s eligible on Sunday. Still, it’s possible he’ll need some time to manage his shoulder moving forward, so Minter and Winkler could continue to have value beyond this stint. Obviously the dynamic changes a bit if the Braves make a trade for an established closer before July 31.

Ketel Marte 2B/3B, Diamondbacks (Yahoo: 32 percent owned)

A quick look at Marte’s season wouldn’t suggest that he’s worthy of a pickup, but he’s put together a heck of a month, batting .286/.337/.631 with 15 extra-base hits (including five home runs), 18 RBI, and 20 runs scored over 20 games. He’s making more contact than ever before while also hitting the ball harder than he ever has. He’s also hit the ball in the air more often this month, though we obviously need a bigger sample size. Still, there’s enough trending in the right direction to give him a try in mixed leagues. As always, the multi-position eligibility is a nice selling point.

Zach Eflin SP, Phillies (Yahoo: 36 percent owned)

The Phillies are hanging around as a threat in the NL East and Eflin’s emergence has been a big part of that, especially lately. The 24-year-old spun seven scoreless innings against the powerful Yankees on Wednesday night and now owns a 3.02 ERA and 57/14 K/BB ratio in 56 2/3 innings through 10 starts this season. He’s won each of his last five starts while posting a dominant 1.76 ERA and 26/8 K/BB ratio. He hasn’t walked more than two batters in a start since May 30. Eflin never missed bats like this during his previous stints in the majors, but he’s seen an uptick in velocity this season and his changeup is emerging as a real weapon. After Wednesday’s showing, he’s not going to be widely-available much longer.

Jonathan Loaisiga SP, Yankees (Yahoo: 25 percent owned)

I’d love to include some of the other interesting young pitchers around the game right now, namely Freddy Peralta and Shane Bieber, but they are both owned in more than 50 percent of Yahoo leagues at the moment. It’s not like you need my yep with those guys, anyway. Still, there’s a chance they could still be out there in shallow leagues, so be sure to take a quick scan of the waiver wire. Fortunately, Loaisiga is still available in a lot of leagues despite pitching in a high-profile situation. Perhaps that’s because his second MLB start was a bit of a dud, but he bounced back nicely on Monday by allowing just one hit with two walks and eight strikeouts over 5 1/3 scoreless innings against the Phillies. There’s a lot to like about Loaisiga in the long-term, as he throws hard with good command and gets a ton of whiffs on his curveball. He’s worth rostering until Masahiro Tanaka (hamstring) is ready to return.

Stephen Piscotty OF, Athletics (Yahoo: 16 percent owned)

After all that Piscotty and his family have been through, I can’t say strongly enough how great it is to see him thriving with the Athletics. He’s hitting .299/.389/.532 with four homers, six doubles, 14 RBI, and 14 runs scored this month. Now, there’s still a few days to go, but his .921 OPS in June is the highest OPS he’s had in any month since his rookie season in 2015. He was certainly on the mixed league radar back then, so I think it’s time to give him another look if you haven’t already.

Wily Peralta RP, Royals (Yahoo: 10 percent owned)

In last week’s column, I just couldn’t muster up much enthusiasm for the Royals’ closer situation. That hasn’t really changed, but Peralta has notched the last two saves for Kansas City (including one against his old buddies with the Brewers on Wednesday) after Timothy Hill secured the first one following the Kelvin Herrera deal. That’s enough for me to advocate a pickup. Peralta was just called up to the majors earlier this month after posting a 4.37 ERA with 21 walks over 35 innings in Triple-A. He also struck out 39 batters during that time while enjoying a boost in velocity out of the bullpen. Peralta would seem to have the most upside here, but I worry about his control proving problematic. That could open the door for Brandon Maurer and Kevin McCarthy to see some chances.

Kyle Tucker OF, Astros (Yahoo: 11 percent owned)

Tucker was ranked No. 1 in Christopher Crawford’s (2018-only) prospect rankings on Monday and he was also featured in the title and introduction to Matthew Pouliot’s Strike Zone column on Wednesday, so it’s only appropriate that we discuss him here as well. It’s unclear if a promotion is anything close to imminent, but Tucker is at least forcing the conversation with his recent tear at Triple-A Fresno. The 21-year-old is batting .471/.507/.750 with four home runs and seven doubles over his last 16 games. He’s now up to a .315/.382/.525 batting line on the year to go along with 12 homers and 13 steals over 72 games. Those in shallow formats can wait to see how things play out, but it wouldn’t hurt to stash in deeper formats on the chance that he gets the call soon.


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D.J. Short is a Rotoworld senior baseball writer and hosts the Rotoworld Baseball Podcast. You can also find him on Twitter and Facebook.
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