We’re down to our final three waiver wire reports for the season, but there’s still available talent who can make a significant difference to your championship aspirations. A slow drip of top prospects enhances the pool, so let’s dive in head first.
J.P. Crawford, SS, Phillies: The franchise finally brought up their fourth-rated prospect this week, yet played him at third base in the early going. Crawford worked his way up the minors with a solid contact rate and speed, but found unexpected power this season at Triple-A Lehigh Valley. He had just one homer thru July 1, then hammered 14 homers the rest of the way. If the pop is legit, then Crawford’s value increases. He had just five steals in the minors, yet is capable of 25-30 swipes. Owned in 22 percent of CBSSports.com leagues, Crawford will spend this month as a utility infielder and can help leagues with his surprising pop and stolen base potential. He will be a name to pursue in what will be a deep crop of middle infielders in next year’s drafts.
Robert Stephenson, P, Reds: On the surface, Stephenson’s numbers (5.15 ERA, 1.69 WHIP, 5.98 BB/9) are toxic on a Chernobyl level (though not as bad as the movie Chernobyl Diaries. My goodness. I actually paid money to see that), but he’s shown signs of finally hitting the road toward becoming what the Reds envisioned when they made him their first-round pick in the 2011 draft. Stephenson has allowed two runs or fewer in each of his last six outings despite not reaching the seventh inning in any of his starts. His 11 K performance in 5.2 innings against the Pirates on August 25 is a sign of what he’s capable of doing, as his 9.6 K/9 rate is an improvement from the 7.4 K/9 he averaged in his eight-game debut last season. The Reds are going to be careful with his usage the rest of the way (see Bailey, Homer), but the 39 percent of CBSSports.com owners that have latched onto Stephenson have caught the opening stages of a player who could be a good sleeper choice in 2018.
Jose Martinez, OF, Cardinals: He’s becoming a popular add in deeper leagues. The part-timer has benefited from the rash of injuries that have hit the St. Louis outfield all season and appears to have saved his best for the home stretch. Martinez, owned in ten percent of CBSSports.com leagues, has hit .526 (10-for-19) this month with three homers and six RBIs, and he’s hammered opposing hurlers with a .358/.454/.716 slash line since the All-Star break. His ownership is small, yet was at only three percent last week before Martinez began to lift balls out of the park. With the Cards still in the thick of the playoff chase, expect Martinez to continue seeing at-bats, making him a strong candidate to see a further increase of ownership.
Jose Reyes, SS, Mets: One of two golden oldies in this week’s report, Reyes recorded his eighth season of double-digit homers and stolen bases when he hit his tenth dinger of the year on Monday. Owned in 33 percent of CBSSports.com leagues, Reyes also has 19 stolen bases and while it’s easy to sneer at his .236 batting average entering Thursday’s play, consider that he was hitting just .215 at the All-Star Break, yet has produced at a .285 clip and a .356 OBP after returning from mid-summer vacation. There’s still some magic left in his skills and with the Mets banged up in the middle of the infield, expect them to move Reyes around the infield to keep his bat in the lineup.
Dillon Peters, P, Marlins: Two stellar outings to begin his career helped Peters go from just over one percent ownership in CBSSports.com leagues to his current standing of 20 percent. The former University of Texas hurler has struck out 14 batters over 12 innings of work while allowing just three earned runs to continue a season that saw him start in the Gulf Coast League. The 5’9”, 195-pound Peters isn’t a run of the mill undersized lefty, as he can crank it up into the mid-90s with his heater while also displaying a deceptive curve that he take down into the mid-70s. Those who have already grabbed Peters may have found a potential difference-maker who can offer a late nudge in strikeouts and WHIP.
Doug Fister, P, Red Sox: In the midst of what may be the best four-game run of his career, Fister has allowed just five runs and struck out 25 batters over the 30-inning run that has also seen him grab three wins. The journeyman has seen his ownership climb to 38 percent in CBSSports.com leagues, as he is a long way from the pitcher who had a 6.14 ERA and let hitters tag him with a .302 opponents’ batting average in the first half. Never regarded as a strikeout pitcher, Fister’s 7.9 K/9 rate is indeed a shock from his previous rates. If you’re looking for a reason why Fister has become a waiver wire darling, look no further than his 50.2 percent groundball rate.
Joe Mauer, 1B, Twins: Along with Reyes, Mauer gives this week’s column a 2007-like feel. Like Reyes, Mauer is flashing the skills that once made him an elite Fantasy player, as he is hitting .429 with six ribbies to start his September. He’s hitting .306 with a .389 OBP this season, but his .421 slugging percentage and six homers explains why he’s owned in just 19 percent of CBSSports.com leagues. The appeal of Mauer comes obviously with the batting average and whether your team can withstand the lack of production he offers elsewhere, Mauer might be able to help nudge your overall BA a point or two; if you’re in a league where OBP is a category, then Mauer certainly should be a player worth considering for your roster.
Matt Olson, 1B, Athletics: Quietly, Olson is settling in as a productive player who has seen his ownership more than double over the past week, going from ten percent to 22 percent in CBSSports.com leagues. Olson hit .305 with seven homers and 14 RBIs in August and has carried it into this month, slugging four homers with seven ribbies in his first 25 ABs in September. The 30 percent strikeout rate is frightening but a bit misleading in that Olson has raised his walk rate to 8.7 percent while also sporting a .348 OBP since the ASB. When we profiled him earlier in the season, we felt he could still hit 20 homers; Olson entered Thursday with 15, so there’s still time for him to both help Fantasy owners and make us look good.
Carlos Gomez, OF, Rangers: Similar to last year, Gomez’s bat is starting to blister opposing pitchers in the month of September. Gomez, owned in 45 percent of CBSSports.com leagues, has a pair of homers while hitting .348 in his first 23 at-bats of the month while bidding to make Fantasy owners forget an August that saw him slug at a .302 clip. A .302 slugging percentage. Let that sink in for a moment. His track record and memories of last September grant Gomez some leeway in the eyes of some Fantasy owners in need of a possible power/speed combination off the waiver wire. Whether lightning can strike twice remains to be seen, yet Gomez has the skills and plays in the right hitter’s park to at least hold hope.
Kyle Gibson, P, Twins: Considered extended batting practice to opposing lineups for much of the season, Gibson has strung together a decent run of success with eight straight starts of three or fewer runs. Gibby’s been more efficient of late by going four straight starts with two runs or fewer. He’s seen his ownership go to 15 percent in CBSSports.com leagues and with the Twins fighting for a wild card spot, Gibson could be the type of player who thrives off playing meaningful games for a change. His biggest calling card is wins, of which he has three in his last four outings, as Gibson doesn’t offer much in the way of strikeouts. Still, his run is worth gambling on — especially in deeper leagues — if wins are the difference between your team finishing a spot or two higher.