With the season still less than a month old, now’s the time to pounce and be aggressive on the waiver wire. The Yahoo fantasy baseball crew is here to help identify the players to go after:
Q: Which infielder, owned in less than 50 percent of Yahoo leagues, are you most interested in adding to your fantasy team?
Brandon Funston: GREG BIRD. Bird, spring training’s HR and OPS leader, was one of my favorite sleepers coming into the season and I’m not going to let a 1-for-26 start turn me off of him. After all, we know the power is there – eight Grapefruit League home runs, and 12 home runs in the 57 real games he’s played in a Yankees uniform – and his power profile jibes nicely with the accommodating dimensions in right field at Yankee Stadium. He’s started to turn things around in the past week, and I expect he’ll be back in the heart of the Yankees order, roping extra-base hits with regularity, before too long.
Andy Behrens: This will serve as last call on TRAVIS SHAW, a guy who’s eligible at two spots (1B/3B) and hitting for power in a better-than-advertised Milwaukee lineup. And I’m gonna cheat here and recommend MITCH MORELAND, too. He’s raking, and we know the power will come.
Scott Pianowski: The timing looks right for JEDD GYORKO; he’s off to a reasonable start (.294, three homers) and the Jhonny Peralta injury might push him to full-time activity (although Greg Garcia is around and Matt Carpenter could be a third-base option, too). Position flexibility is the name of Gyorko’s game — he qualifies at all four infield spots — and let’s not forget he clocked 30 home runs last year. (Sure, Behrens, take Moreland off my plate. I see you. I’m putting that in my notebook. For more Moreland propaganda, you can click here, or here, or here.)
DEEP DIVE: Which infielder owned in 20 percent or less of Yahoo leagues offers the most fantasy intrigue?
Funston: TAYLOR MOTTER. He can play every non-battery position on the field and the M’s plan to test those limits when Jean Segura returns next week. Motter is flashing impressive pop (4 HRs, No. 2 in batted ball exit velocity and No. 3 in HardHit%), and his minor league track record also shows the potential for double digit steals.
Behrens: JOE PANIK is just below the 20 percent line as of this writing, and he has a weekend series at Coors Field. This seems like the right time to test-drive a second baseman who’s slashing .300/.368/.420.
Pianowski: It’s very rare I’ll tell you to play the stash-and-hope game on an injured player — injury skepticism is my general fallback — but be aware DIDI GREGORIUS (shoulder) is ready for a rehab assignment and might be back with the Yankees before the month ends. We’ve long thought of him as a defense-only guy, but he quietly grew into a .276-20-70 asset last year.
Q: With unfortunate Starling Marte owners in mind, which outfielder, owned in less than 50 percent of Yahoo leagues, are you most interested in adding to your fantasy team?
Funston: STEVEN SOUZA/KEVIN KIERMAIER. Souza, as I discussed on video this week, has changed his approach at the plate, concentrating now on hitting line drives back up the middle as opposed to swinging for the fences, and the results have been impressive, so far. He’s a physical specimen with good power upside, and also offers a little hope on the base paths. His teammate, Kiermaier, offers a little less pop, but a little more speed. Both can deliver double-digit HR/SB lines, which is what you are looking to replace in Marte’s absence. If steals aren’t a pertinent need, then I’d also be targeting Minnesota’s Max Kepler, who is on a nice roll right now, and has a pedigree to believe in.
Andy Behrens: We just reviewed a few potential Marte replacements on Tuesday, focusing on speed. I’m a fan of KEVIN KIERMAIER’s fantasy game, because he offers double-digit power along with 20-steal speed. He’s capable of delivering a decent Starling impression over the next three months.
Pianowski: STEVEN SOUZA has received plenty of love in various Yahoo spaces, and yet he still trades at the 39-percent mark. His plate discipline has improved and he’s getting quality real estate in the Tampa lineup. He’s not going to steal a bushel of bags, but he can get you 9-13 in that column, too.
DEEP DIVE: Which outfielder owned in 20 percent or less of Yahoo leagues offers the most fantasy intrigue?
Funston: KEVIN PILLAR. I’d strike with Pillar while the iron is hot – he’s on an eight-game hitting streak in which he’s hit five doubles, a home run and has swiped a couple bases. He’s also logging a lot of time in the leadoff spot, which should eventually start paying off in the Runs department.
Behrens: KEVIN PILLAR isn’t exactly an on-base machine, but his fantasy profile isn’t so different from Kiermaier’s. He can provide acceptable pop and 20-plus steals, and he’s been scorching hot in recent days, with 12 hits in his last 26 at-bats.
Pianowski: There are a couple of paths that push MICHAEL CONFORTO into the Mets lineup; the Lucas Duda elbow injury might slide Jay Bruce to first, and Curtis Granderson’s slow start is also a factor. Conforto’s development hasn’t followed a linear path, but he’s shown power, patience, and even some defensive moments in the early stages of 2017.
Q: With Madison Bumgarner getting hurt in a dirt bike accident, which pitcher, owned in less than 50 percent of Yahoo leagues, are you most interested in adding to your fantasy team?
Funston: LANCE LYNN. If I was looking for a long-term commitment from someone in the sub-50% starting pitcher crop, I’d roll the dice on Lynn. He missed ’16 because of Tommy John surgery, but in the four seasons prior to that, he was a reliable 15-win, K/IP, low-3 ERA type. He’s coming off seven shutout innings against Pittsburgh and has produced an average fastball (92.3 mph) that is right in line with his career average (92.6 mph).
Behrens: We’re three starts into BRANDON McCARTHY’s season, and he’s struck out 16 batters over 17.0 innings, posting a WHIP of 1.18. As long as he remains healthy, he’s a pitcher of interest. Plenty of run support here.
Pianowski: I can’t promise HECTOR NERIS will become Philly’s primary closer, but I can confidently say his ratios will be worth owning in any roto or K/9 format. Let’s chase the skills, and let the roles fall where they may. Neris might already be a handshake contender with the Phils, getting the ball in the ninth inning Thursday. Please do not get in back of Pete Mackanin at the local donut shop. (Lance Lynn, at 40 percent, is also begging for a pickup in medium and shallow leagues.)
DEEP DIVE: Which pitcher owned in 20 percent or less of Yahoo leagues offers the most fantasy intrigue?
Funston: ARCHIE BRADLEY. He’s throwing more than 3 mph faster (95.7 mph average fastball) in his new relief role than he did in the past as a starter, and he’s yet to allow a run in 9.1 IP (11 Ks, too). Fernando Rodney (6 ER in 6.1 IP) is doing his usual circus act in the closing role for Arizona, which means it doesn’t take a leap of faith to add Bradley with the hope that there might be some save opportunities down the line if he continues in the manner that he’s opened ’17.
Behrens: JACOB BARNES is pure evil. He really needs to be closing somewhere. The Cubs had no answers for him earlier this week. If you like triple-digit heat and 90-mph sliders, give him a look. He’s allowed just three hits in 9.1 innings so far this year, striking out 11.
Pianowski: ROBERT GSELLMAN is an eyelash over the 20-percent threshold, but I want him to be in this piece somewhere, so I’m bending the rules. His strikeout rate is over the 10 mark and his control is fine; some bad luck with hit sequencing, and a homer here and there, have pushed his ERA over five. If you believe in the peripheral-based ERA estimators, note the 3.46 FIP and 2.99 xFIP. Let’s trust the raw stuff and K/BB ratio, and see if the story can straighten itself out. The NL East is still a good place to do your business, more often than not.