If you’re among the Fantasy owners who have Pirates OF Gregory Polanco on your roster, fret not: he’s coming to The Show, and it could be much sooner than you think. The Pirates entered May Day with a 10-16 record, leaving them nine games behind the blistering pace of the Brewers in the National League Central. Among the chief culprits of the sluggish start is an offense that is 27th in the majors in runs scored (96) and team batting average (.221). Imagine how much worse things could be if Pittsburgh wasn’t ranked 11th in home runs. No position bears more of the blame than the rollicking array of ineptitude that passes for right field, which ranks 26th with a .568 OPS. The timeshare of Jose Tabata (.262-0-5) and Travis Snider (.227-3-9) is a yawning hole in a lineup which has only reigning NL MVP Andrew McCutchen batting better than .235.
Meanwhile, Polanco is ripping up Triple-A pitching, mauling them to the tune of .400/.457/.632 with four homers, 25 RBI and four steals. The Pirates are saying that Polanco will come up from Indianapolis “in time,” yet that time is going to happen pretty damn rapidly if the Bucs continue to drift away from the NL Central pack. Having lost eight of their last 10, the Pirates chances of legitimately convincing fans that a return trip to the postseason is a realistic possibility will be similar to the pipe dream that lasted 22 years before this past campaign. Polanco has the potential to positively jolt your offense across the board, and while the power is slowly emerging, it’s the stolen base category in which he can make the biggest immediate impact. Polanco has 30-plus steal upside, and if he comes up, hmmm….say, May 15 or so, and remains up for the rest of the season, a realistic (yet conservative) line of .270-10-55-18 is surely going to be more productive than any other player currently slogging on the waiver wire.
There will be leagues that will put Polanco up for FAAB consideration once he is called up, and if you’re one of those who missed out on Astros OF George Springer (a blessing in disguise thus far), Polanco stands to provide a source of redemption. NL-only leagues that run under this system will make Polanco perhaps the biggest must-blow-most-of-my-FAAB-bucks opportunity of the season, when you consider the likes of Cardinals OF Oscar Tavares, Dodgers OF Joc Pederson and Cubs uber prospects SS Javier Baez and OF Jorge Soler are at a considerable distance at this point. Grab Polanco now if you’re in a first-come, first-serve league, even if it comes at the cost of a roster spot that will be unused for a period of time. You could choose to have Chris Carter or Denard Span sucking away your bench options, or you could simply grab and stash Polanco away like the five-tool Christmas present he can be for your Fantasy team.
What else is out there that’s good? Let’s see…..
Collin McHugh, SP, Astros: He’s the “It” pitcher of the this week’s waiver wire, as the Houston hurler has fanned 19 batters in 15.1 innings en route to winning his first two starts. Here’s the deal with McHugh: he’s 27 and he pitches for the Astros. This is to say that the good times that have made him one of the waiver wire cool kids won’t last much longer, so if you haven’t grabbed on to him, get him while the getting is good and then bail when the real McHugh shows up, much to the delight of AL hitters. If you already have him, sell now.
James Loney, 1B, Rays: Loney is never going to hit for legit power, so let it go. Much like someone pining for a reunion with an ex, that dream won’t happen. However, Loney does hit for average (.301 entering Thursday), and that .812 OPS will do wonders for you if that category is in play in your league. He’s owned in just 19 percent of leagues polled and is one of the few available players who can help your batting average while also giving you a modest boost in RBI and runs scored.
Brandon Barnes, OF, Rockies: Colorado’s OF situation will remain fluid as long as Michael Cuddyer is on the DL, a place where he will probably remain for some time. That said, Barnes has at least one hit in eight of his last 10 games (including three multi-hit outings), five runs scored and two steals. He has taken the bulk of the at-bats from the disappointing Drew Stubbs in center, and long as he’s hittin Barnes (owned in just two percent of leagues polled) is worth the flier in deeper mixed leagues and an intriguing play in NL-only formats.
Tony Watson, RP, Pirates: You know I love my holds specialists, and while Watson has shown that attribute (six thus far), he also is very intriguing now that he is the setup man to current closer Mark Melancon. Watson is owned in nine percent of leagues polled and is worth the look, having struck out 15 batters in 11.1 innings of work. As unstable as the state of closers has been thus far, it is not a reach to suggest that Watson is either a Melancon injury or a few shaky outings away from getting the ball in more high-leverage situations.
Tom Koehler, P, Marlins: Koehler has made five starts this season; he has not allowed more than two runs in four of them. While it’s not quite Zack Greinke territory, his numbers are worthy of a test drive if you’re in need of a brief cameo appearance via your waiver wire. The one thing that could scare you away from a pitcher sporting a 2.97 ERA: his propensity for walks, such as the four freebies he allowed the Mets in his last start. Owned in eight percent of leagues polled, Koehler (who also qualifies as a reliever on some platforms) stands to eventually peter out, but that time