Ah, Injuries. What can you do, right? For starters, read this column, because the waiver wire players now are guys who in recent years were nothing more than deeper league and/or AL/NL-only afterthoughts. They are now becoming more desirable with each player joining the merry line towards the 10-day DL:
Alex Avila, Catcher, Tigers: He still has eligibility behind the plate, yet his sizzling bat and impending eligibility at 1B are raising his appeal, as seen his ownership in polled mixed standard leagues, where he is near 20 percent. Avila has a pair of three-hit games and has hit .368 over the last week. He’s had three seasons of at least 11 homers and has the power to do so again provided he can keep finding his way into the lineup, although the return of Miguel Cabrera will put a dent into his time at first base. Don’t expect Avila’s OBP to stay at its current .491 mark, but if he can continue showing improved plate discipline and impressive line drive (40.6 percent) and fly ball (37.5 percent) rates, he will remain a valuable source of production in deeper leagues.
Matt Holliday, OF/DH, Yankees: Someone remembered how to work pitchers until he got one to crush. That someone is (obviously) Holliday, who is looking a lot like the slugger who has 10 seasons of at least 20 homers over the past 11 years. Originally signed by the Pinstripers to provide bench help and the occasional start, Holliday has become a dominant presence in the batting order, evident by his .379/.406/.793 over the past week with a OPS of 1.199. Much of Holliday’s resurgence is a result of a walk rate of 16.8 percent, a number that more than doubles his 2016 mark of 8.2 percent. The newfound patience at the plate has also resulted in a .389 OBP and his Isolated Power number of .256 falls well above the line of his career mark (.212). His ownership has surged near my benchmark of 25 percent, and I would expect it to increase over the barrier this week as owners in polled mixed standard leagues look to partake in Holliday’s revival.
Marwin Gonzalez, INF/OF, Astros: Normally, I try to avoid profiling players that were recently on here, yet hitting five homers and driving in 11 over the past week tends to blow that rule to smithereens. Gonzalez crucified Rangers pitching in the first three games of the series that concluded on Thursday, mashing them to the tune of .571 with three homers, seven RBIs and four runs scored. His feast on hurlers of the I-45 North also raised his batting average to .246, an 88-point climb from his .158 mark on April 20. Gonzalez, owned in just under seven percent of polled mixed standard leagues, is a streaky type, yet the fact he has OF eligibility and a vast improvement in plate discipline (12.3 percent walk rate) is going to raise that number significantly. He doesn’t have to be a .295 hitter; if Gonzalez hits in the .250-.265 range, he’s going to flirt with 30 homers if manager A.J. Hinch continues to put Gonzalez’s name in the lineup on a frequent basis.
Mike Foltynewicz, P, Braves: Do not focus on his 0-3 record. Do focus on the fact Foltynewicz throws hard (94.5 MPH average on his fastball), strikes out batters at a 21.5 percent clip and has also vastly improved his control. Foltynewicz has allowed fewer than two runs in each of his first five starts.. Owned in 15 percent of polled mixed standard leagues, Foltynewicz is limiting opposing hitters to a .224 batting average, as a more dedicated effort to using his slider is resulting in his steady emergence of being valuable in more standard formats. I feel he’s going to break out in the next season or two, if not sooner.
Matt Cain, P, Giants: Holy 2012, Batman. Look who’s pitching like a Fantasy-viable hurler from that splendid year. Don’t bank on Cain going 16-5 with a 2.79 ERA like he did during what was (perhaps until now) his last good Fantasy campaign. Over his last four starts, Cain has allowed just four runs and even added a seven-strikeout performance in his last start on April 29. Approaching the 25 percent barrier in ownership in polled mixed standard leagues, Cain is no longer a workhorse, but is becoming the type of back-end pitcher who pleasantly exceeds whatever low expectations were out there about him. He’s been bothered by hamstring issues, yet so as long as those don’t pop up, I’d pick up Cain and hope he’s more successful than the movie 2012.
Jett Bandy, C, Brewers: You have to love a player whose name sounds as if he were the lead guitarist for a 1980s hair band, yet Bandy has been swinging a bat like a rock star in his limited appearances. Entering Thursday, Bandy had only 51 at-bats, but seven of his 17 hits have been for extra bases (four doubles, three homers) en route to a 1.020 OPS. Like most catchers, Bandy’s bat appears to have finally caught up with his defense, and if the Brewers do give him more playing time, his previous power numbers indicate he should be good for 12-15 homers while hitting in the .250-.260 range. He’s owned in 13 percent of polled mixed leagues and is the slightly better play than fellow Brewers backstop Manny Pina, whose bat has been pretty productive as well. As long as both remain strong hitters, Andrew Susac, who was expected to be the opening day catcher before injuries sidelined him, will be in the minors on the outside looking in.
Josh Bell, 1B, Pirates: After a slow start, Bell hit a stretch where he hit four homers in his last 10 games entering Thursday’s play while also raising his batting average from a low water mark of .138 on April 14 to his current .238 mark. Owned in nearly 15 percent of polled mixed standard leagues, Bell is good enough to shake off a sluggish beginning of May (1 for 11) and should be able to begin living up to the promise that made him the franchise’s top position prospect entering the season. Deeper league owners in need of corner infield help should keep an eye on Bell, as he’s capable of going on a tear.
Tim Beckham, SS, Rays: Almost nine years after being selected as the first overall pick in the draft, Beckham is starting to show brief flashes as to why the Rays chose him over Buster Posey. Most likely, Beckham is never going to completely reward Tampa Bay management for their faith in him, but he is becoming a useful asset in deeper mixed polled standard leagues, where his ownership falls in at nearly 11 percent. Beckham has become more of a line drive hitter this season while also being more pull-heavy with his swing. At this point, Beckham may be heading toward a 2-4 year stretch where he’s a .270 hitter with 15-homer potential, although his speed indicates Beckham should be running more. If the Rays can get that kind of production, it’s better late than never, right?