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Fantasy Baseball Waiver Wire: Early-Season Power Surge

We’re only two days into the 2020 season and chaos has already ensued. Isn’t it lovely? With the juicy baseball appearing to remain in play, baseballs have been flying out of the park at a high clip already, including what looked like a 950-foot blast from Giancarlo Stanton on opening night that nearly made it to the Atlantic ocean. On top of that, we’re getting a crash course in how lineups are going to look early on, and while that causes some frustration for those of us rostering the likes of Gavin Lux, Kyle Tucker, and others, it also creates some intriguing additions on the Fantasy Baseball waiver wire.

As noted above, power is the name of the game this week with several boppers to target below. If your squad came up a little light in the power department following your draft, this is a great time to address that need. Oh, and by the way, one of the top pitching prospects in baseball will be making his debut on Tuesday.

Last Week’s Recommendations

Kyle Lewis (OF – SEA), Sam Hilliard (OF – COL), Franchy Cordero (OF – KC), Nick Solak (2/3/OF – TEX), Yoenis Cespedes (OF – NYM), Corbin Burnes (SP – MIL), Ross Stripling (SP – LAD), Dustin May (SP – LAD), Ryan Helsley (RP – STL), Jose Peraza (2B – BOS)

Each week this season, I’m going to include a quick synopsis of the players I recommended in the previous week and if they’re still recommended this week. All the players in bold above are still great targets this week if they’re still available in your league.

Kyle Lewis: Batted cleanup on opening day and went 1/4 with a home run. There’s no reason why he shouldn’t stay in the heart of the order all season long and provide solid power production.

Sam Hilliard: The Rockies “rockblocked” Garrett Hampson, but luckily, Sam Hilliard was in the opening day lineup, batting 8th and playing left field. Even hitting low in the order, Hilliard’s power and speed make him worth rostering. Let’s just hope his 4K performance doesn’t push him to the bench.

Franchy Cordero: The intrigue is still here but Cordero surprisingly didn’t start on opening day. He’s more of a wait and see option right now.

Nick Solak: Mr. Solak started in left field on opening day and should see enough playing time to provide mixed-league value this season as he can do a little bit of everything for your fantasy team.

Yoenis Cespedes: Oh Yoenis, how we missed you. Cespedes returned to his old ways, crushing a mammoth blast on opening day. As long as he’s healthy, he’s fantasy relevant.

Corbin Burnes: With a rotation spot secured, Burnes has the chance to provide some sneaky-good fantasy value this season.

Dustin May & Ross Stripling: These are both no-brainers. As long as Stripling and May are starting, they’re highly-valuable fantasy assets. Even in the pen, they would be worth rostering in this shortened season. Go make sure they’re not sitting on your waiver wire for some reason.

Ryan Helsley: He’s no longer the closer. Move on.

Jose Peraza: Peraza made me look like a damn genius on opening day with four hits, two runs, and two RBI in Boston’s 13-2 drubbing of Baltimore. As long as he’s starting, Peraza has deep league appeal and could work his way into being a 12-team option as well if he hits well and provides speed.

Now, onto this week’s Fantasy Baseball Waiver Wire targets!

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Fantasy Baseball Waiver Wire (Week of 7/27): Hitters

Kiké Hernandez (2/3/SS/OF – LAD)

It’s not ideal that I have to include Kiké Hernandez this week. Not ideal at all. Nothing against Hernandez, but his inclusion is due to the Dodgers optioning Gavin Lux off the active roster. That’s a big blow for anyone that spent a top-150 pick on the NL Rookie of the Year frontrunner. But we need to move on and the immediate beneficiary of the Lux demotion is the talented, yet maddening Kiké Hernandez. We’re heard and briefly seen what Hernandez can do for several years now, but it’s never turned into any longterm sustained success. You’ll get small bursts of production here and there but that’s about it.

Will this time be any different? Will Hernandez remain an everyday player for the rest of the season. Those aren’t questions that can be answered at this time. However, if you were one of many that were counting on Lux or Garrett Hampson as your starting second baseman this season, Hernandez can help plug that void, at least in the short-term. He went berzerk on opening right, collecting four hits, five RBI, and a homer, and drew a 2nd consecutive start at the keystone on Friday night. Hernandez is worth a look while he’s starting and batting 5th or 6th in a loaded Dodgers lineup.

Austin Riley (OF/3B – ATL)

With all the bigger and more negative news dominating baseball headlines, the report that Austin Riley will start at third base on opening day slid under the radar. Around a month ago, I penned an article discussing which National League hitters gained value with the addition of the DH and Riley was one of the biggest beneficiaries. Now that he’s going to apparently split time at the hot corner with Johan Camargo, Riley should see his name on the lineup card nearly every day. This is huge for Austin Riley’s fantasy value this season.

The swing and miss concerns are valid and will keep his batting average in check, but Riley is a major power bat that could put up many 35+ homer seasons in his career. Both of those were on full display in his time with Atlanta last season as Riley bashed 18 homers in 80 games but also recorded a 16/108 BB/K ratio. That equates to a 5.4% walk rate and a 36.4% strikeout rate. Yuck! However, it was reported that the Braves and Riley found a hole in his swing and were working on correcting that. Even if that works, Riley is likely never going to be an asset in the AVG or OBP categories, but that power sure can be.

Through the ups and downs with Atlanta last season, Riley posted a 13.7% barrel rate, a 44% hard-hit rate, a 40.5% sweet spot rate, and had a launch angle of 20.5 degrees. If your team needs a power boost, go get Riley. This guy is gonna hit dingers and will have the likes of Ozzie Albies, Ronald Acuña, Freddie Freeman, and Marcel Ozuna hitting in front of him.

Austin Hays (OF – BAL)

When looking at the Baltimore Orioles opening day lineup on Friday, two things stood out immediately. First, and more hilarious than anything, Jose Iglesias was batting third. That’s comedic gold on the baseball diamond. However, two spots above him in the coveted leadoff spot was Austin Hays, someone prospect hounds should know all too. After Hays broke out in 2017 to the tune of a .329/32/95 line in 128 games and earned a surprise promotion to Baltimore for a cup of coffee that September.

That “cup of coffee” was pretty bitter and the next two seasons didn’t go according to plan either with inconsistent play and various injuries that limited him to 162 games combined in the minors. However, one aspect that remained was Hays’ sneaky-good power/speed blend. In those 162 games, Hays combined for 29 home runs and 15 steals despite hitting just .246 with a 4.5% walk rate. Baltimore gave him another chance last season and this stint went much better with Hays slashing .309/.373/.574 with six doubles, four homers, and a pair of steals in 21 games. Furthermore, his .393 wOBA would’ve slotted him right between Juan Soto and Nolan Arenado. I’m pretty sure you’ve heard of both of those guys and drafted them in the top-20 picks of your drafts this spring and summer.

As you can see, the power and speed combo have remained consistent, even when the AVG and OBP have vastly fluctuated. In 2020, Hays should leadoff most of the time for Baltimore which is great for his volume in a season when every added at-bat is highly important. The lineup behind him inspires absolutely no one, but Hays needs to be rostered in more leagues for his ability to perform at a 25/15 pace this season.

CJ Cron (1B – DET)

Simply put, C.J. Cron needs to be rostered in more leagues. Yes, the Detroit Tigers lineup as a whole isn’t spectacular by any stretch of the imagination, but don’t shy away from Cron because of it. Here’s why.

That’s a lot of red, even in the xBA department. Okay, that’s more pink than red, but you’re picking up what I’m putting down. For a while, Cron was a frustrating player to roster in fantasy leagues as the power potential was always tantalizing, but he was never able to stay on the field enough to put up big home runs numbers until the last two seasons when he hit 30 and 25 in 140 and 125 games for a 33.6 per-162 pace. He’s off to a great start this year too, swatting a solo shot which accounted for Detroit’s only run in a 7-1 loss on opening day. The first base position is as shallow as it’s ever been, and in a shortened season, Cron’s power could make him a borderline top-10 option at the position. Not bad for someone rostered in under half of redraft leagues right now.

Yoshitomo Tsutsugo (OF/3B)

Another interesting lineup note from opening day was the Rays slotting Yoshitomo Tsutsugo third in the order. This intrigues me. Over his long career in Japan, Tsutsugo stood out in two areas; his power and his patience at the plate. Over the last four seasons, Tsutsugo averaged 39 home runs per 150 games with a robust 15.2% walk rate. That power made an immediate appearance in Tsutsugo’s MLB debut, hitting a two-run dinger off left-hander Hyun-jin Ryu.

It’s not just the home run that is piquing my interest, it’s the fact that Kevin Cash gave Tsutsugo the start in a premium lineup spot in a lefty-lefty matchup. The Rays have a plethora of options to choose from and Tsutsugo still drew the start against the southpaw. If Tsutsugo continues to start regularly, his power potential alone can provide some value, and hitting third in a deep Tampa Bay lineup is an added boost.

Fantasy Baseball Waiver Wire (Week of 7/27): Pitchers

Nate Pearson (SP – TOR)

There’s a chance that big, bad Nate Pearson was drafted in your fantasy league. If he wasn’t, go add him immediately or put a hefty FAAB claim in. The big 6’6 right-hander will reportedly make his Major League debut on the 29th and has the upside to perform at a near top-25 SP level the rest of the way.

This is one of the most talented and impressive arms I’ve personally scouted live. Pearson features two double-plus pitches in his blazing fastball and downright filthy slider. He’ll sit around 97-101 with the fastball and can reach back for even more velocity with solid command of the pitch as well. As good as that pitch is, his slider might be even better, believe it or not. Thrown in the upper-80’s, Pearson’s slider features sharp two-plane break that he can land for strikes or bury out of the zone to make hitters look silly with their futile attempts of flailing at it. Pearson will also mix in a serviceable curveball and a changeup that flashes above-average to plus at times when he’s commanding it well.

The kid gloves came off Pearson in mid-2019 and now it’s time for him to put a different pair of gloves back on and knock the snot out of American League East opponents. With his dynamic arsenal, above-average command and control, and bat-missing ability, Pearson’s upside is enormous. Simply put, he needs to be rostered in 100% of fantasy leagues.

Brady Singer (SP – KC)

Another prospect arm to look at this waiver wire period is Royals right-hander Brady Singer. One of the fab five in this Royals system, Singer rose through the system rather quickly, reaching the Majors around two years after being drafted. In 26 starts last season between the High-A Carolina League and Double-A Texas league, Singer combined for a 2.85 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, and 8.4 K/9. That strikeout rate doesn’t jump off the page at you, but that’s never been Singer’s game, even dating back to his collegiate days at the University of Florida. Singer has consistently sat in the 8.5-9.1 range while finding success in limiting hard contact and the free passes he allows.

Singer’s arsenal runs three pitches deep, headlined by a low to mid-90’s sinking fastball and plus slider with strong two-plane break. He’ll also mix in a Major League average changeup that serves as a fine complement to the fastball/slider combo while his above-average to plus command and control elevates the effectiveness of his entire arsenal. Long-term, Singer projects as a rock-solid mid-rotation starter that could wind up looking a lot like what Kyle Hendricks has been the last several seasons. The upside here isn’t as exciting as it is with Pearson, but Singer is an advanced arm that is deserving of a look in deeper leagues with his debut on the horizon.

Kwang Hyun Kim (RP – STL)

So much for Ryan Helsley. The closer carousel continues to churn in St. Louis with it now appearing likely that Kwang Hyun Kim will open the season as the closer instead of Helsley. If you added Helsley last week, he can now safely be dropped as the opportunity to accumulate saves was the only thing giving him any sort of value. Turning to Kim, the 32-year-old southpaw found moderate success during his 12 years in Japan, posting a 3.27 ERAover 1673.2 innings of work. Around 90% of that was as a starter and most thought that’s where he’d land when St. Louis signed him in the offseason. But of course, St. Louis stays true to their modus operandi and keeps us guessing when it comes to their bullpen and which pitchers will be used in each role.

As was the case last week with Helsley, Kim makes for a solid pickup this week now that he’s inherited the closer’s role. How long will he keep it? That remains to be seen. Another noteworthy tidbit is that Kim has never shown the ability to miss bats at a high clip. He never once exceeded a strikeout per inning in Japan and his career 7.8 K/9 leaves plenty to be desired, but remember, that was mostly in a starting role. In shorter bullpen stints, that strikeout rate could climb a bit higher, but still, Kim’s upside is more in the RP3 range than someone that’s going to make a sizeable fantasy impact this season.

Deep League Target: Vince Velasquez (SP – PHI)

This is one that I had to talk myself into. A few years ago, I heavily invested in Vince Velasquez and got severely burned by it. It still stings and gives me nightmare flashbacks. However, Double-V is a different pitcher now. In 2019, Velasquez’s pitch mix included a 4-seam fastball (94.2 avg mph, 62.5% usage), slider (86.4 mph, 20.0%), curveball (83.1 mph, 12.2%), and sinker (92.0 mph, 5.3%). Get ready for a new and hopefully improved VV in 2020 with not one, but TWO new pitches in his repertoire.

Velasquez has added a very sexy looking changeup (shown above) and added a cutter as well to help against left-handed hitters. He threw a changeup back in 2018 but ditched the offering last year. The sample size with the two new pitches has been puny, but both have been impressive so far. Hopefully, this means the sinker will disappear which allowed a .419 and .512 wOBA in 2018 and 2019 respectively. If you need an arm in deeper formats, I’d give Velasquez a long look. At the very least, he should provide a solid amount of strikeouts for your squad.

Media Credit: Baseball Savant, PitcherList, Fox Sports Braves/Fox Sports South, David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire

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1 Comment
  1. Todd M says

    Re Kyle Lewis, I’m confused. Do you like him or not?

    “There’s no reason why he should stay in the heart of the order all season long and provide solid power production.“

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