The early season body count of talent has the waiver wire hotter than Eric Thames’ bat. Before we dive into this week’s batch of forgotten yet talented options, here’s a salute to you owners who have avoided the minefield of injuries and whatever makes Starling Marte do Starling Marte things that cost him 80 games. Do know at some point, it will be you surfing this list some Thursday night or Friday morning.
*Trey Mancini, DH/OF, Orioles: While naysayers will keep in mind all four of his homers and eight of his nine RBIs came in two games in a span of four days. My response? So. Mancini smacked 20 homers and drove in 78 runs in the minors last season before hitting three in 15 plate appearances in B-More. He is benefiting from the absence of Seth Smith, but Mancini has 20-25 homer potential if the O’s allow him to get his hacks against righties. His 6.9 percent walk rate is fine for a power hitter, but if Mancini can curb his rate of hitting grounders (60 percent) and improve on putting more balls in the air (30 percent), the power numbers could go up along with his current ownership of 22 percent in polled leagues. p
*Wily Peralta, SP, Brewers: He’s off to a 3-0 start with a 2.65 ERA and 1.12 WHIP. The latter two numbers are what potential Peralta owners should focus on, as he’s not a strikeout artist (6.88 K/9 rate thus far) and you can’t bank on the Brewers maintaining their surprising start. Owned in 24 percent of polled leagues, Peralta is one of those pitchers whose hot hand needs to be ridden before the eventual cooldown. One sign of a possible falter in the near future: a 4.24 BB/9 rate, so pursue accordingly.
*David Freese, 1B/3B, Pirates: Jung Ho Kang’s legal issues and the frigid bat of Josh Bell has resulted in Freese seeing increased playing time, and the veteran has responded well, hitting .326/.453/.535 with a pair of homers and five ribbies. Owners are also catching on to Freese, who now is scooped up in nearly 21 percent of polled leagues. Don’t expect the OBP to stay at that rate, but Freese is striking out at just a 7.5 percent rate, a nearly three-quarters drop from last season’s 28.9 percent mark. There is some value here, especially since the Pirates are looking for some kind of offensive punch, so if Freese can maintain his production, his value in deeper leagues will continue to see an uptick. If not, that could force the Bucs to consider…..
*Austin Meadows, OF, Pirates: The organization’s top position prospect (second overall behind hurler Tyler Glasnow) is hitting just .184 in Triple-A, but the suspension of Marte and the team’s continued offensive struggles have the brass considering recalling Meadows from Indianapolis. His ownership is currently at five percent in polled leagues, but it has doubled over the past few days. If you’re a jilted Marte owner and have a roster spot to fill, you could do worse than stash Meadows, who is likely to be recalled at some point this season. His power/speed combination is intriguing, so keep an eye on him and see how this plays out.
*Michael Conforto, OF, Mets: Curtis Granderson is batting below .160 and might be in danger of losing his job if Conforto continues to display the solid start with limited ABs. He already has a pair of homers while also showing improvement in plate discipline, a trait that butchered his 2016 campaign. Currently owned in around 17 percent of polled leagues, Conforto offers the upside of youth and a high fly ball rate (52.9 percent) that, when combined with his 35.3 percent rate of hitting the ball hard, might translate into surprising power numbers. He’s worth a stash if you’re either a Granderson owner or seeking to replace the production of another disappointment in your outfield.
*Wade Miley, SP, Orioles: He was considered as an AL-only shout out, but the 11-K effort against the Reds on Thursday night puts him on the outer edges of deeper mixed leagues. The whiffs weren’t a fluke, as Miley fanned eight Blue Jays over six innings in his previous start on April 14 and has raised his K/9 rate over the previous two seasons. Perhaps one key to Miley’s solid start has been his increased faith in both his fastball and slider and less reliance on his changeup. He’s crossed the double-digit ownership barrier in polled leagues and could be a low-risk play for those looking for a boost in strikeouts.
*Cody Bellinger, 1B (and coming to an OF near you), Dodgers: To say he’s raking would be insulting, because Bellinger is well beyond just giving Pacific Coast League pitchers sheer horror to the tune of a .352/.426/.704 slash line with a 1.130 OPS. Adrian Gonzalez is hitting .269 but hasn’t homered and sports a paltry .674 OPS, and with outfielders not named Yasiel Puig hitting a combined .157, the Dodgers may begin pondering whether to bring up MLB.com’s 10th rated prospect and place him in left field. Bellinger has played some outfield and would be welcomed by the current four percent of owners who have stashed him. My bet is that he’ll be up sooner than expected, so now is a good time to hop on the train.
*Kevin Pillar, OF, Blue Jays: Sooner or later, the Blue Jays lineup will start doing Blue Jays things, and Pillar will benefit greatly. Pillar has just one homer and two ribbies, but it’s the .368 OBP and his stolen base potential that has helped raise his ownership to 19 percent in polled leagues (although the .345 batting average doesn’t hurt). Pillar is more than capable of exceeding last season’s total of 14 steals and should be in range of the career-best 25 he swiped in 2015. If he can keep his OBP at this rate, it’s not a stretch to suggest Pillar approaches 30 steals.