Fantasy Baseball Waiver Wire Madness (7/25/22 - 7/31/22)
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Winners never sleep, so the All Star break shouldn’t have stopped you from hunting for trade targets or scouring the wire for guys that can help bring home a title in the second half. If you’re looking for some guys to try and acquire on the cheap, check out my #BuyLow recommendations on Twitter from last week. Although it’s been a quiet week for MLB news, I’m back with more waiver wire recommendations to get your second half started right. As always, don’t forget about players coming back from injury soon after the break, like Mitch Haniger, Lance McCullers, Yasmani Grandal (who started Friday), Miguel Sano, and others who may have been cut in a roster crunch earlier in the season.
As always, the recommendations below are divided among shallow leagues (10/12 team mixed) or deeper leagues (15+ team mixed or AL/NL only). Good luck!
Shallow Leagues – 10/12 team mixed leagues:
Hunter Renfroe, OF, Milwaukee Brewers:
Hunter Renfroe is back from the IL and if you are in need of power, scoop him up off your wire. Just last year, Renfroe launched 31 bombs and drove in 96 runs for the Red Sox and he has 14 HR so far this year for the Brewers in 60 games. Renfroe has exactly the profile you want to see from a power hitter – he crushes the ball (top 15% in Barrel % and Max EV), he hits the ball in the air (45% FB%), and he has a strong pull rate (46.9% Pull%). And to top it all off, Renfroe gets to play half of his games in the hitter-friendly confines of American Family Field. Renfroe is a fixture in the Brewer lineup and when he gets rolling, he can provide HR, R, and RBI in bunches. Find a spot for this power hitter.
Nico Hoerner, SS, Chicago Cubs:
Nico Hoerner is still widely available in most shallow leagues, but is quietly putting up a very impressive season for the Cubs. If you need batting average and some additional SBs (and who doesn’t), Hoerner is your man and could slot in nicely to a MI position in a shallow league. On the season, Hoerner is hitting .304/.340/.421 with 5 HR/30 R/29 RBI/9 SBs across 78 games. He has excellent bat to ball skills with just a 10% K% and premium speed (91st percentile per Statcast) to keep that BABIP high. And as solid as Hoerner has been in 2022, he has been on fire in his last 25 games, slashing .364/.402/.495 with 2 HR/15 R/12 RBI/3 SBs. Look at your standings and consider whether Hoerner can help you make up some ground in these key categories.
Carlos Santana, 1B, Seattle Mariners:
Ho hum, what could I possibly want with another boring veteran, right? Well, take another look because Santana has been much better since the trade from KC to Seattle. Santana is always valuable in OBP leagues given his exceptional walk rate but he has become rosterable as a CI in shallow leagues as well. In his 18 games with the Mariners, Santana has hit .217/.356/.433 with 4 HR/11 R/8 RBI with just an 17% K% and 16.4% BB%. In addition, he is hitting 4th or 5th every day for a lineup that has been very good of late (5th in MLB in wRC+ since July 1st). If you’re in an OBP league, I expect Santana is already rostered, but even in a BA league, he could be worth a shot depending on your roster composition. Take a closer look because that Mariner team is intriguing.
Merrill Kelly, SP, Arizona Diamondbacks:
Kelly has been an unexpected surprise for the Diamondbacks this year and surprisingly consistent – in 19 starts he has yielded more than 3 ER only three times. On the season, Kelly is 9-5 with a 3.26 ERA (3.33 FIP), 1.21 WHIP, and 89 Ks in 110 IP. Kelly doesn’t throw an overpowering fastball, but he keeps hitters off balance with a 5 pitch mix, each of which he throws at least 14% of the time. He also does a good job of keeping the ball on the ground (43% GB%) and the ball away from the drunken fans in the outfield bleachers (0.57 HR/9). In his last 4 games, Kelly has been particularly good (including a start @Colorado), going 3-0 with 26 IP, 18 H, 6 ER, 18 Ks, 2.05 ERA, and a 0.68 WHIP. Kelly has value in shallow leagues, as evidenced by his ability to rack up 9 wins in the first half on a last place team that only has 40 wins total! He could be swapped out for an underperforming back-of-the-rotation starter in even very shallow leagues.
Johnny Cueto, SP, Chicago White Sox:
It seems like a huge number of people have been watching Cueto have a quietly successful season from the sidelines because “he can’t possibly keep this up.” I agree that the 2.80 ERA he currently sports through 74 innings isn’t sustainable, but something in the 3.80 range is, and that will play. Cueto isn’t going to rack up a ton of strikeouts (7.05 K/9), but what he will do is keep hitters off balance, limit walks, and keep the White Sox in games for win potential. I expect the south-siders to be much better in the second half and Cueto will be a beneficiary if he pitches close to what he did in the first half of the season. He’s not a staff leader, but is a consistent and solid SP that can be slotted into the back of your rotation.
Deeper Leagues (15+ team or AL/NL Only)
Austin Slater, OF, San Francisco Giants:
Austin Slater has been under-the-radar good for the Giants this year and that has earned him more playing time of late. On the season, Slater is hitting a robust .297/.405/.452 with 5 HR/33 R/22 RBI/6 SBs in just 185 PAs, and that production has earned him starts in 6 of the last 8 games. Moreover, Slater has been leading off or hitting 3rd for the Giants recently, providing him with more ABs and opportunities for counting stats. Buffering these great numbers, you should expect some regression from Slater, who currently has a .402 BABIP. But Slater's Statcast numbers are good and he is in the top 25th percentile for sprint speed, which should help Slater carry a higher-than-average BABIP and, of course, hopefully contribute to more SBs. Although Slater is not an everyday player, you can’t leave production like this out on the wire in deep leagues. And if he continues to play even close to this level, the likelihood is that the Giants will find ways to keep his bat in the lineup. I like Slater as a deeper league (certainly NL only) add for an underperforming OF.
Ramon Urias, 3B, Baltimore Orioles:
After returning from injury in early July, Urias quickly reclaimed the 3B job in Baltimore and he apparently wasn’t going to leave any doubt that he was the man. Since coming back, Urias is slashing .372/.413/.628 with 3 HR/8 R/14 RBI in just 12 games – strong! Now, while it is unrealistic to expect that level of production to continue from a guy hitting .255 with 9 total HR on the season, Urias is swinging a hot stick and getting those guys into your lineup in deep leagues is key. In addition, you don’t need me to tell you what a wasteland 3B has been this season, so anytime you can get some production out of that roster spot, you have to seize the opportunity. And Urias is not just a guy on a heater if you look closely – he is in the top 33rd percentile of all MLB players in 6 different key Statcast metrics, including Barrel%, xSLG, xBA, Avg EV, and Max EV. With respect to Hard Hit %, Urias is in the top 7% of all MLB hitters . . . surprising, right? In short, Urias is on a hot streak, but there are skills underlying that hot streak that justify the add in deeper leagues. He’s worth a shot.
David Fletcher, 2B/SS, Los Angeles Angels:
Fletcher suffered hip injuries early in the year and has been limited to just 14 games in 2022. He is, however, completing a rehab assignment for the Angels and expected to be back on the field at some point next week. Fletcher is a great roster supplement to your power hitters in deep leagues because he can provide batting average, runs, and some stolen bases (assuming he is healthy on his return from injury). He has a .278 career batting average and scored 74 runs with 15 SBs in 2021. He won’t provide you with HRs or RBI, but he will make consistent contact (just a 9.8% career K%) and has gone on some great runs in the past with a little BABIP luck. It remains to be seen where Fletcher will be slotted in the lineup on his return, but if he acts as a table setter for Trout, Ohtani, etc. as he has in the past, he will be a sneaky source for runs. A good deep league add if you need some help in BA and some chip-in steals.
Cole Irvin, SP, Oakland Athletics:
The analysis for Cueto above is eerily similar to Cole Irvin here. Irvin is another guy that has good control (better than Cueto), but isn’t going to help much in the strikeout category (just 5.85 K/9). That said, Irvin has been a solid SP this year, posting 102.1 IP, 89 H, 20 BB, 70 Ks, 3.08 ERA, and 1.07 WHIP – very good ratios for a starter logging 102 IP so far. And over his last four starts (two against the Astros), Irvin secured 3 wins and posted a 1.67 ERA and 0.63 WHIP. All that said, Irvin is pitching a little over his head and, as with any pitcher still out on the wire, there is a good amount of risk here. The A’s are absolutely dreadful and, believe it or not, likely to get worse if they trade away Laureano and/or Montas prior to the deadline, which is expected. That means that even if Irvin regresses only slightly, it will still be difficult to secure many wins from him in the second half. Irvin is pitching well now and can provide value in deep leagues, but be ready to cut him loose if those ratios don’t hold.
Braxton Garrett, SP, Miami Marlins:
In pitching for the Marlins, the team context is not good and so wins may be scarce, but Braxton Garrett has pitched well since joining the rotation in June. So far, he has a 3.42 ERA and 1.14 WHIP with 47 Ks across 47 innings pitched, and he racked up 11 Ks in just 6 innings in his last start before the break. Over his last four starts, Garrett has: 25 IP, 11 H, 5 ER, 5 BB, 25 Ks and a 1.80 ERA (but only 1 win, doh!). Garrett’s primary pitch is his slider, which he throws over a third of the time and that has an exceptional whiff rate of 38.6% and xBA of .212 per Statcast. Garrett has very good stuff and looks to be developing faster than expected – he’s a great deep league add if you need a SP and can handle the tough team context.
Kutter Crawford, SP, Boston Red Sox:
The injury to Chris Sale appears to have opened the door for Kutter Crawford to remain in the Red Sox’s rotation for the time being, but should we trust him? I'm putting my money where my mouth is - I've added Crawford in a couple of my AL only leagues. Crawford has pitched well for the Red Sox this year and I believe he is better than the 4.50 ERA and 1.36 WHIP that he currently carries (see 3.72 FIP and 3.51 SIERA). Crawford does have a higher FB% than I would like to see, which is likely to lead to HRs at some point, but he is racking up strikeouts (44 Ks in 36 IP) and pitching even better lately. Across his last three starts, Crawford has 16.1 IP, 12 H, 4 ER, 3 BB, and 20 Ks with a 2.20 ERA (2.01 FIP and 2.85 xFIP) and 0.92 WHIP – those starts were all against the Yankees and Rays, by the way. Crawford has potential for sure and I like him as a speculative add to see what he can do now that it looks like he’ll be in the rotation for the weeks to come.
Max Meyer, SP, Miami Marlins:
Max Meyer’s first start with the Marlins was a less-than-ideal introduction to the MLB for the rookie: 5.1 IP, 7 H, 5 ER, 1 BB, 5 Ks, although the #3 overall pick in the 2020 draft has great stuff and should enjoy more success in the future. Like his teammate Braxton Garrett, Meyer throws his slider often and the early results have been good (albeit a very small sample) with a 41% whiff rate. Meyer is a great talent and has prospect pedigree and those two things are enough to justify taking a shot on the young hurler in deep leagues, especially in a keeper or dynasty league if he was not already owned.
[Update: Meyer was injured in his start last night and was placed on the IL. Still a lot of promise for dynasty and keeper leagues, but at this point, he may be out too long for redraft.]