Fantasy Baseball Waiver Wire Madness (8/8/22 - 8/14/22)
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It’s crunch time folks – just 8 weeks of the regular season left, so let’s dive into another set of hot recommendations below and get you one step closer to a championship! The MLB trade deadline caused a lot of shakeups in bullpens around the league - something that is not covered in depth below (that could be a whole article!). But, as an overview, some big risers in the RP ranks were: Felix Bautista (BAL), Devin Williams (MIL), Ryan Tepera (LAA), AJ Puk (OAK), and R Wick (CHI) (see Jonathan Hernandez (TEX) below), so look for these guys on your wires if you need saves. And, in addition to the players below, be sure to take a look back at my recommendations for the prior couple of weeks because many of those guys are still tearing it up and you never know who might still be on your wire.
As always, the recommendations below are divided among shallow leagues (10/12 team mixed) or deeper leagues (15+ team mixed or AL/NL only). And, as always, keep the redraft or keeper/dynasty questions coming on Twitter or DM. Good luck!
Shallow Leagues – 10/12 team mixed leagues:
Jorge Mateo, 2B/SS/OF, Baltimore Orioles:
This is at least the second time I have profiled Mateo in this column, but he is still—somehow—very under-rostered in categories fantasy baseball leagues. Why do you all hate Jorge Mateo – did he break up with your sisters?? While he isn’t as valuable in a points league, Mateo should be owned in all categories leagues. I mean, people, Mateo is a fixture in the Orioles lineup and currently has 10 HR/43 R/33 RBI/26 SBs with two months of the season left to go. Gang, this is the MLB leader in SBs we’re talking about here. Yes, he is hitting just .215 with a .266 OBP, so some roster construction issues are in play (you need to have some good BA/OBP contributors to roster him), but those counting stats are too good to leave on the wire. And aside from his season stats, Mateo has been hot recently – since July 10th, Mateo is hitting .300/.338/.629 with 5 2B, 3 3B, 4 HR, 14 R, 11 RBI, 5 SBs (168 wRC+). Those are the kind of numbers that can propel your team up in the standings as he his contributing across the board. He’s an add.
Kolten Wong, 2B, Milwaukee Brewers:
Kolten Wong is, from a fantasy perspective, an underappreciated part of that very good Brewers offense. On the season, the Brew Crew second baseman is hitting a respectable .257/.340/.432 with great plate discipline numbers (17% K% and 9% BB%). Wong is versatile and the Brewers use him up and down the lineup (1st, 2nd, 5th, 6th, 8th) and he is a steady contributor in roto leagues. In 82 games this year, Wong has 8 HR, 47 R, 28 RBI, and 11 SBs – he’s a grinder that may not be a standout in any one category, but he’ll contribute and keep your team moving in the right direction. And in addition, Wong has really been swinging the bat lately; since mid-July, Wong is hitting an incredible .396/.459/.623/2 HR/13 R/6 RBI/1 SB (196 wRC+) across 15 games. I like Wong and he is exactly the kind of guy you can grab off the wire and plug in for a struggling MI on your roster.
Seth Brown, 1B/OF, Oakland A’s:
Because he plays on a team that is . . . well, awful, Seth Brown doesn’t get the attention that he deserves. But Brown has been a steady contributor in that A’s lineup that can put up numbers for your fantasy team. On the year, Brown is hitting .236/.293/.459 with 16 HR/35 R/46 RBI/8 SBs in 97 games, which paces to about a 24 HR/13 SB season for a guy flying under the radar. While the average isn’t anything to write home about, Brown has strong underlying skills – he hits the ball hard (over 40% Statcast HardHit%) and lifts the ball in the way you want to see from a power hitter (just a 34% GB%). But in addition, Brown has really been heating up lately. Over his past 11 games, Brown is hitting .400/.475/.971 with 6 HR/8 R/8 RBI/1 SB (15% K% and 12.5% BB%) – he’s on fire! As you know, fantasy success in shallow leagues requires turning over certain roster spots to play the hot hand and right now, that’s Brown. If you can find a CI or Util spot to place him for a struggling player (not anyone top tier of course), make that play and ride him while he’s hot.
Yuli Gurriel, 1B, Houston Astros:
Yuli has been mired in a season-long funk and it finally looks as though he may be breaking out (just when the Astros traded for Mancini . . . ). Gurriel is currently hitting just .242, which is by far the worst batting average of his career other than the unusual and shortened 2020 season. Compare this to his career mark of .288 and you can see what a down year he is having. Some of this is bad luck (see .263 BABIP v. career .297 BABIP), but some of it is well-deserved (his hard hit rate and Barrel% are down this year). The Mancini trade is likely to cut into some of Gurriel’s at bats, but he is certainly making a case to remain – over the last week plus, Gurriel is hitting .324/.343/.441 with 5 R/2 RBI/3 SBs. The Astros will have additional roster flexibility moving forward and they will give folks, including Gurriel, regular days off, but Gurriel can be a good source of batting average for your team if he can finally get things rolling in 2022.
Ranger Suarez, SP, Philadelphia Phillies:
Through the end of June, Ranger Suarez held an unremarkable and unimpressive 4.33 ERA (4.27 FIP) with just 64 Ks through 79 IP for the Phillies. Not terrible by any stretch, but also not much to get excited about in a shallow league. But what does Suarez do very well that I love?? You know it, he induces a lot of ground balls. Among pitchers with at least 90 IP this season, Ranger Suarez currently ranks 3rd in GB%, behind only the ground ball king himself, Framber Valdez, and Logan Webb. And while Suarez was just “meh” through June, he has been stellar since mid-July. Over his last four starts, Suarez is 2-0 with 21.1 IP, 18 H, 4 ER, 2 BB, 21 Ks. And the 21Ks in 21 IP is also encouraging given that Suarez’s K/9 had dropped from 9.08 in 2021 to 7.58 in 2022 – Suarez has the ability to generate ground balls at a high rate while also having a respectable strikeout rate, and that is a recipe for success. I’d take a chance on him in.
Jose Quintana, SP, St. Louis Cardinals:
Jose Quintana was one of the big winners at the deadline, moving from the hapless Pirates to a contender in the St. Louis Cardinals. He has pitched very well this year and it seems like—to a large extent—folks have been waiting on the sidelines for him to implode . . . well, he isn’t and the better team context now gives Quintana a much better chance for wins. On the season, he is just 3-5, but he has pitched far better than his record: 109 IP, 96 Ks, 3.39 ERA (3.27 FIP), and a 1.23 WHIP. In his first start for the Cards on Thursday night, Quintana took the no-decision but tossed 6 innings of 1 hit ball (solo HR) with 2 BBs and 7 Ks . . . you’ll take that all day. It has been several years since Quintana has been fantasy relevant, but he has earned your trust this year and the move to St. Louis is huge for his value. Add him as a back of the rotation arm.
Deeper Leagues (15+ team or AL/NL Only)
Jarred Kelenic, OF, Seattle Mariners:
Heeeee’sssss baaaaccck . . . The Mariners recalled the talented outfielder from AAA on July 31st and it is now time for Kelenic to prove that he is not a “quad A” player. Kelenic has already had two opportunities to show his worth at the big league level and he has disappointed, to say the least. Across 2021 and 2022, the former superstar prospect has played over 100 MLB games and is slashing a combined .186/.267/.364 with 15 HR/44 R/47 RBI/7 SBs (6 CS) with an over 30% K%. In short, the counting stats have not been horrible, but he has not been able to get on base consistently enough to justify the Mariners keeping him in the lineup. Since the call-up, however, Kelenic has started 6 of 7 games for the Mariners and it looks as though he will get another legitimate shot to earn his slot in the starting lineup – in those 6 games, Kelenic has gone 2-17 with a two-run HR and 6 Ks. I like Kelenic and his skills, but I felt he was being overvalued in the preseason (indeed, I advocated—to much derision—drafting A Benintendi over him at the much lower draft slot Benintendi occupied and taking another player in Kelenic’s higher spot) and Kelenic’s stock has now fallen enough that it is worth seeing what he can do in a roto league. If he gets some batted ball luck in a small sample, the HRs, SBs, and counting stats should be there and could be enough to get him rolling. High risk/high reward acquisition.
Miguel Vargas, 3B, Los Angeles Dodgers:
It is time – the Miguel Vargas fan club can finally cheer for their guy at the big league level. The Dodgers called Vargas up earlier this week and, while he looks like an exceptional talent, it is not clear to me how much playing time he will get on a Dodger team brimming with talent, or even whether he will remain at the big league level for long [note that he has started just 1 of his first three games]. That said, he made the most of his one start so far, driving in 2 runs and getting his first MLB stolen base. At AAA this year, Vargas showed his worth, hitting .291/.382/.497 with 15 HR/81 R/72 RBI/12 SBs in 94 games. He pairs that power/speed combo with exceptional plate discipline – 12.4% BB% and 14.6% K% -- which should serve him well at the big league level. Given the uncertainty around playing time, this is a high-risk/high reward acquisition, but he’s worth it if you have a bench spot to spare to see how things play out in LA.
Oscar Gonzalez, OF, Cleveland Guardians:
Those that have followed me for a while will remember that I was high on Oscar Gonzalez when he was first promoted by the Guardians at the end of May and he did not disappoint. In his first 32 games of big league action before suffering an abdominal injury, Gonzalez hit .285/.315/.431 with 2 HR/12 R/14 RBI (110 wRC+) with just a 21% K% and an avg. EV over 90 mph. He is healed up and made a splash in his return to the Guardians’ lineup, going 5-for-12 with a two-run blast over his first two games. Gonzalez doesn’t walk much, but he has very good bat-to-ball skills and strikes out at a very low rate. In AAA this year, Gonzalez had just a 14% K% with 9 HR/21 R/33 RBI across 41 games. As with most rookies, I expect he will go through his struggles, but there is something here and you can’t overlook a rookie with a .288 average, 45% Statcast HardHit%, and a 114 wRC+ across his first 34 games in the bigs. I'm a fan.
Luis Rengifo, 2B/SS/3B, Los Angeles Angels:
Luis Rengifo is quietly having a very good year for the Angels and he can provide value to your team in deeper leagues. On the season, Rengifo is hitting a respectable .278/.321/.417 with 5 HR/5 SBs in 71 games and his exceptional performance over the past month has vaulted Rengifo from the bottom of the order to consistently hitting in the top 4 of the Angels lineup. Over his past 20 games, Rengifo is hitting .365/.413/.486 with 7 2B/1 3B/6 R/10 RBI/3 SBs. In addition to being hot, Rengifo also qualifies at multiple positions around the diamond, giving you much-needed roster flexibility. He is a strong deep league add that will play nearly everyday, bat in the heart of the order, and contribute a little of everything across the board for your squad.
Aledmys Diaz, 1B/2B/3B/OF, Houston Astros:
Aledmys Diaz has received increased playing time with the Astros ever since the Michael Brantley injury and he has not disappointed. Diaz, who has the ever-valuable multi, multi-position eligibility (pretty much everywhere but C) has played—on average—four out of ever five games for the Astros over the past month or so has quietly been fantastic. Since July 5th, he has played in 23 games for the Astros and slashed .318/.383/.624 with 8 2B/6 HR/17 R/12 RBI/1 SB and during that time he has played 1B, 2B, 3B, and OF – Dusty Baker is clearly finding ways to keep his hot bat in the lineup. In deep leagues, guys with even marginal production are valuable if they have multi-position eligibility and this kind of production should absolutely not be on the wire in such leagues. Give him a second look – I expect the PT will remain stable even after the Astros acquisitions at the deadline, although Mancini’s presence could mean a start or two less here or there.
Jonathan Hernandez, RP, Texas Rangers:
The Rangers bullpen is another one that is clear as mud, but Jonathan Hernandez is a big arm that appears to have moved very quickly from his TJ rehab to part of the closer committee in Texas. Hernandez recorded two different saves in 1-2-3 innings for the Rangers on July 31st and August 4th, so he is clearly in the mix for saves, along with, primarily, Matt Moore (but keep an eye on Joe Barlow, who will be back soon). Hernandez has a powerful sinker that averages 97.8 and can touch 100, along with a Statcast page that is just dripping with all shades of red. He has a powerful arsenal and, with uncertain bullpens, always bet on the talent to rise to the top. Hernandez isn’t a sure thing, but he is a good, speculative add for saves in a deep league.