We’ve reached the end of the road for Waiver Wired in 2018. Thanks so much for reading, whether you’ve been on board all along or just found this column recently. If you are reading this right now, it probably means you still have a chance at winning your league. Well done. I hope this column has proven useful along the way.
In keeping with the past couple of years, this final week is mostly about prioritizing categories and starting pitcher streamers. It’s very difficult to be one-size-fits-all at this time of the year, so the usual format with this column just doesn’t apply. Some of you might be in a head-to-head format where every start matters while others are just trying to accrue as many innings as possible. Favorable matchups can sometimes just be a bonus in those sort of situations. Either way, I have a six-pack of names to consider below.
Be sure to click on through to the second page for the annual Waiver Wired Awards. It’s mostly just for fun, but I highlight the notable names who have helped many fantasy owners to championships this year.
While this is goodbye for now, I’m not actually going anywhere. You can expect plenty of coverage from me during the postseason as well as with our Team Roundups, which will begin next week. And there’s always the usual nonsense on Twitter (@djshort), as well.
(All players below are available in more than 50 percent of Yahoo leagues)
Power: David Dahl, Luke Voit, Daniel Palka, Hunter Renfroe, C.J. Cron, Randal Grichuk, Ryan O’Hearn, Avisail Garcia, Victor Robles, Peter O’Brien, Rowdy Tellez, Yan Gomes, Christin Stewart, Francisco Mejia
Speed: Amed Rosario, Cedric Mullins, Greg Allen, Ramon Laureano, Rajai Davis, Matt Duffy, Alex Gordon, Gerardo Parra, Roman Quinn, Jackie Bradley, Myles Straw
Multi-position eligible players: Jeff McNeil, Joey Wendle, Adam Frazier, Willians Astudillo, Brandon Lowe, Jay Bruce, Renato Nunez, Wilmer Difo, Jason Kipnis, Johan Camargo, Trey Mancini, Niko Goodrum, Ketel Marte, Charlie Culberson, Jedd Gyorko
Saves: Hansel Robles, Jim Johnson, Zach Britton, Drew Steckenrider, Adam Conley, Nate Jones, Taylor Rogers, Trevor May, Wily Peralta, Hector Neris, Pat Neshek, Tommy Hunter, Mychal Givens, Jesse Chavez, Steve Cishek, Justin Wilson
(Arodys Vizcaino was recently moved back into the closer role for the Braves and is still available in 43 percent of Yahoo leagues)
Thomas Pannone SP/RP, Blue Jays (Yahoo: Rostered in 11 percent of Yahoo leagues) - at Rays on Friday
I’m sticking to Friday and Saturday options here, mostly because the final day of the season is so wildly unpredictable. As I wrote last week, stay alert and flexible in these final days. We’ll start with Pannone, who has allowed two runs in each of his last three starts. He’s worked at least six innings in all of them. The most recent one was against the Rays, so we’ll give him a shot here with the rematch. Pannone is a soft-tossing lefty who has been a bit homer-prone so far, but he’s getting a decent number of whiffs on all of his pitches and was known for his good control in the minors.
Tyler Glasnow SP/RP, Rays (Yahoo: Rostered in 30 percent of Yahoo leagues - vs. Blue Jays on Friday
The other side of Friday’s matchup, Glasnow obviously offers more in the way of upside than Pannone. While Glasnow took the loss against the Blue Jays last Saturday, he allowed three runs over six innings while striking out six and walking a pair. He’s now gone at least six innings with three earned runs or fewer allowed in four of his last five starts. He hasn’t walked more than two batters in any of those starts, which is encouraging given his well-documented control issues. Glasnow is certainly capable of disaster — we saw it in a start against the Blue Jays earlier this month — but he’s been more good than bad since coming over to the Rays in the Chris Archer deal. He’s worth the gamble if you need whiffs.
Zach Davies SP, Brewers (Yahoo: Rostered in 17 percent of Yahoo leagues) - vs. Tigers on Friday
I’m going to pick on the Tigers here, but for good reason. While they’ve been a little better this month, this offense just isn’t scaring anyone. That’s why I’m rolling with Davies, who has a 3.32 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, and 15/4 K/BB ratio in 19 innings over four starts since returning from a lengthy stint on the disabled list with a shoulder issue. He only lasted four innings in his most recent outing, but he’s yet to allow more than two runs in a start since returning. There’s a good chance he can keep that streak going against the Tigers.
Wade Miley SP, Brewers (Yahoo: Rostered in 42 percent of Yahoo leagues - vs. Tigers on Saturday
Yep, we’re targeting the Tigers again. Miley only threw four innings in his most recent turn against the Pirates, but he still hasn’t allowed more than three earned runs in any of his 15 starts this season. The 31-year-old has proven to be a valuable rotation cog with a 2.32 ERA, but fantasy owners have been reluctant to trust him with a 48/26 K/BB ratio in 77 2/3 innings. I totally get that, which is why he hasn’t been mentioned in Waiver Wired until now this season, but hopefully he can keep the magic going for one more start in a favorable matchup.
Eric Lauer SP, Padres (Yahoo: Rostered in 6 percent of Yahoo leagues) - vs. Diamondbacks on Friday
Lauer is finishing his rookie season on a high note. After missing about a month with a left forearm strain, the 23-year-old southpaw has posted a 1.42 ERA and 19/8 K/BB ratio in 19 innings over his last four starts. He beat the Dodgers for the third time in his most recent outing. The Padres have seemingly been watching Lauer’s workload, so he hasn’t thrown more than five innings or 95 pitches during this four-start stretch, but he hasn’t allowed more than two runs either. Now he gets a start back at home against a team who has been eliminated from playoff contention.
Kyle Gibson SP, Twins (Yahoo: Rostered in 37 percent of Yahoo leagues) - vs. White Sox on Saturday
Gibson might already be gone in most competitive formats, but then again maybe he’s been dropped in some leagues as his performance has dipped during the second half. Still, he’s been good in three out of his four starts this month and the White Sox have been the most whifftastic team in the majors this season. Their strikeout percentage has only increased as the season has moved along. Gibson is an easy start with this matchup.
The 2018 Waiver Wired Awards
The Phil Lombardi Award (best waiver wire catcher)
This was a remarkably brutal year for catchers. J.T. Realmuto has enjoyed another excellent season, but otherwise there just isn’t much here. Wilson Ramos, Yadier Molina, Salvador Perez, Yasmani Grandal, and Evan Gattis have all been useful options in mixed leagues, but big names like Gary Sanchez, Willson Contreras, and Buster Posey took notable steps back.
We didn’t have any big breakouts at the position, so I thought about skipping this award altogether, but Francisco Cervelli has been really good when healthy. While he hasn’t been able to maintain his early-season power surge, his .814 OPS is fourth-highest among catchers with at least 250 plate appearances. So we’ll go with him. Kurt Suzuki, Omar Narvaez, Robinson Chirinos, and Austin Hedges are among the other catchers who have come in handy at times. But really, I’m happy to move on here.
The Roberto Petagine Award (best waiver wire first baseman)
Even though Jesus Aguilar has slipped since the All-Star break, this was a pretty easy call. After producing some solid numbers in a part-time role last year, the 28-year-old slugger has amassed 34 homers and 105 RBI while posting a .275/.352/.541 batting line. No first-base eligible player has more RBI while only Matt Carpenter and Joey Gallo have hit more homers. Yuli Gurriel, Jose Martinez, Yonder Alonso, Ryon Healy, and C.J. Cron were among the other first basemen who chipped in off the waiver wire this year.
The Jason Hardtke Award (best waiver wire second baseman)
Max Muncy and Aguilar have often been mentioned in the same sentence among surprise breakouts, but the former was even more unlikely. Muncy posted a weak .195/.290/.321 batting line with the A’s between 2015-2016 and didn’t even play in the majors last year after signing with the Dodgers on a minor league deal out of spring training. However, he was pushed into a regular role out of necessity early on this season and thrived at the opportunity.
While Muncy has dropped off somewhat in the second half, he’s put up 33 homers and 73 RBI with a .259/.391/.565 batting line over 133 games. Among players with at least 450 plate appearances, he ranks fourth among all hitters in wRC+ and fifth in wOBA. And we can’t ignore the multi-position eligibility either. While I list him as a second baseman here, he also qualifies at third base, first base, and even in the outfield. He’s been waiver wire gold. Gleyber Torres has cooled off significantly after his red-hot start, but he also qualifies here. Rougned Odor, Scooter Gennett, Joey Wendle, Jed Lowrie, Jonathan Villar, and Jeff McNeil make our list of honorable mentions.
The Al Pedrique Award (best waiver wire shortstop)
Thanks to a strong finish, it’s appropriate to put Adalberto Mondesi here. Since his call-up in mid-June, the 23-year-old has batted .285/.307/.496 with 12 homers, 33 RBI, 28 steals, and 44 runs scored in just 71 games. That’s amazing production in a little under half of a season and has undoubtedly won leagues for some people.
Mondesi has been especially productive over the past month, batting .336 with eight homers and 12 steals in his last 26 games. The plate discipline carries major questions — he’s drawn just eight walks in 273 plate appearances and is a free-swinger — but across-the-board impact is going to make him a popular pick next year. Fellow young shortstops Amed Rosario and Willy Adames are similarly on the rise.
The Junior Noboa Award (best waiver wire third baseman)
This was perhaps the easiest call of this year’s awards. Eugenio Suarez was actually dropped in quite a few leagues in early April after he suffered a fractured right thumb on a hit-by-pitch. The thought was that Suarez would miss at least a month, but he ended up returning in a little under three weeks. Those who stashed him in a DL spot were rewarded in a big way, as the 27-year-old has put up career-highs across the board. He’s amassed 32 homers and 101 RBI while batting .280/.366/.516 over 140 games.
It has been a good year for third-base eligible players, even with some big names like Kris Bryant, Josh Donaldson, Miguel Sano, and Rafael Devers disappointing. Yankees rookie Miguel Andujar has proven to be a great find while names like Matt Chapman, Asdrubal Cabrera, Johan Camargo, and Jurickson Profar also warrant attention.
The Wayne Housie Award (best waiver wire outfielder)
Okay, so first, a word about Juan Soto. He wasn’t actually included in Waiver Wired this season, but that’s mostly a matter of circumstance. First off, his call-up in late May came as a legitimate surprise, but the Nats made the bold move with Howie Kendrick, Victor Robles, and Adam Eaton all injured. There was also the matter of timing, as Soto was called up on a Sunday and hit a three-run homer in his first start on Monday. The hype pushed him above the 50 percent threshold in Yahoo leagues in short order, thus disqualifying him from consideration in Waiver Wired. It happens.
We still have a quality group, even with Soto out of the mix. Coming off major ankle surgery, Michael Brantley has turned in a near-vintage season with a .309/.365/.472 batting line to go along with 17 homers, 76 RBI, 11 steals, and 88 runs scored over 140 games. Aaron Hicks (.833 OPS, 26 homers, 76 RBI, 11 steals, 89 runs scored) has quietly been one of the better players in the American League while Mallex Smith has emerged as a legitimate speed threat (37 steals - third in the majors) and a valuable leadoff man with a .293 batting average and a .364 on-base percentage.
Mitch Haniger and Nick Markakis might have been out there in some shallow mixed leagues at the start of the year, so if you managed to snag them, well done. Stephen Piscotty, Michael Conforto, Adam Eaton, Randal Grichuk, and Brandon Nimmo are among some of the other names that have had their moment in the sun on the waiver wire this year.
The Brett Hinchcliffe Award (best waiver wire starting pitcher)
Some years there isn’t much to crow about as far as waiver wire starting pitchers, but I really love this year’s group. It starts with Miles Mikolas, who has returned to the states with a 17-4 record to go along with a 2.94 ERA over 31 starts. The strikeout rate hasn’t been dominant, but he’s walked just 29 batters in 192 2/3 innings. That gives him the lowest walk percentage among qualified starters.
Rounding out this year’s staff, we have Mike Foltynewicz (2.88 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 193 strikeouts in 178 innings), Walker Buehler (2.76 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, 148/34 K/BB ratio in 130 2/3 innings), Zack Wheeler (3.31 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, 179/55 K/BB ratio in 182 2/3 innings, including a 1.68 ERA during the second half), and Jack Flaherty (3.16 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 179 strikeouts in 148 1/3 innings). Something tells me I’m going to have a lot of shares of those final three in 2019.
There are all sorts of quality arms even going beyond these five. I’m sure I’m going to leave someone out, but Eduardo Rodriguez, Ross Stripling, Carlos Rodon, Andrew Heaney, German Marquez, Joe Musgrove, Nick Pivetta, Clay Buchholz, and Shane Bieber were all useful at times. While they regrettably didn’t make it in Waiver Wired, Kyle Freeland, Dereck Williams, and Trevor Williams also delivered excellent seasons.
The Edwin Almonte Award (best waiver wire relief pitcher)
This one wasn’t easy. Ideally I’d just mention Josh Hader (2.28 ERA, 140 strikeouts in 79 innings) here and move on, but he became a very popular name on the waiver wire after striking out eight out of the nine batters in faced in an appearance in late-April and was already rostered above 50 percent of Yahoo leagues by the time I got to write my column on that particular week. Oh well.
There isn’t an obvious name with Hader out of the mix, but his emergence has somewhat overshadowed a great year from his own teammate Jeremy Jeffress. He’s put up a ridiculous 1.33 ERA in 71 appearances and has also notched a bunch of saves down the stretch. By the way, only Oakland’s Blake Treinen (0.79 ERA) has a lower ERA than Jeffress among pitchers with at least 70 innings pitched.
Before we wrap things up here, we can’t ignore the contributions from the likes of Kirby Yates, Jose Leclerc, Pedro Strop, Will Smith, Seranthony Dominguez, Joakim Soria, and A.J. Minter. It all adds up over the course of a season.
The first annual Shohei Ohtani Award
You’ll be shocked to learn that this award goes to Shohei Ohtani, who doesn’t really fit in any category. While the two-way sensation only ended up making 10 starts and now faces a year-long rehab from Tommy John surgery, he’s come up huge with the bat by slugging 22 homers along with a .283/.362/.568 batting line. He’s also gone 9-for-13 in stolen bases. This is all in just 101 games as a hitter. Among players with at least 350 plate appearances, only seven rank higher in wRC+ (weighted runs created) than Ohtani’s 154 mark. It’s a bummer he’s not going to pitch in 2019, but he’s proven that he can be a force with the bat. He only qualifies at the utility spot, which is why he didn't make sense with the other awards above, but I can’t ignore what he did this year even if things didn’t go exactly as the Angels hoped.