In this week’s Waiver Wire column, we take a look at three relievers who could become closers in the second half of the season depending on what happens at the trade deadline, as well as two hot outfielders.
Tommy Kahnle RP, CHW
Of all the closers likely to get traded, the White Sox’ David Robertson seems like the surest bet. He’s been connected to the Nationals ever since the preseason, and those rumors only continue to intensify. When and if Robertson does get moved this month, Kahnle should step into the closer role for the South Siders (unless he’s moved too). Kahnle has been better statistically than Robertson this season; in fact, he’s been one of the best relievers in baseball. His K/9 is ridiculous as it currently sits over 15, while his 1.64 xFIP and 1.2 WAR are both elite. Some may be worried about how this has come out of nowhere for Kahnle, but he has the big fastball (97.9 MPH average FB velocity) that makes many dominant relievers. Consider stashing Kahnle now for more saves in the back half of the season.
Keone Kela RP, TEX
Kela looked to be entering the discussion for the closer job in Texas after Sam Dyson’s exit but was placed on the DL last week due to a sore shoulder. However, Kela is a Low Injury Risk with an Above Average Health Performance Factor according to Inside Injuries, and the injury isn’t expected to keep him out much longer than the mandatory 10 days. Once Kela returns, it’s possible, even likely, that he pushes Matt Bush for the closer spot in the Rangers’ pen. Over his last 17 appearances, Kela has posted a 1.02 ERA, 0.78 WHIP and 13.8 K/9. He has had the benefit of a .183 BABIP, but his FIP still sits at a solid 3.06, so the balls in play regression likely won’t hurt too bad. He too has the big 96-98 MPH fastball to lean on, which gives him the profile you look for in a closer. Kela, like Kahnle, is a good bet for second half saves.
Brad Boxberger RP, TB
This is likely a bigger reach than the previous two speculative closer adds, but what is certain is that Rays’ closer Alex Colome has been both terrible lately (10 ER in last 10 innings) and involved in numerous trade rumors. If either of those persist, Boxberger could be the Rays’ closer sooner rather than later. He’s had injury trouble the past couple years but currently holds an above average HPF and looks to be healthy for the time being. And it wasn’t too long ago that Boxberger put up a monster 2014 season as a setup man (1.95 xFIP, 14.47 K/9) and followed it up with 41 saves as the Rays closer in 2015. If he can sustain his health, Boxberger could be thrust back into his old closer role sooner than many anticipated. He’s worth a speculative stash in deeper leagues.
Mallex Smith OF, TB
With Kevin Kiermaier banged up, the speedy youngster Mallex Smith has taken the reigns in centerfield for the Rays and has acquitted himself quite nicely. He’s slashing .333/.405/.417 in 31 games since Kiermaier went down, while going 10-for-14 in stolen base attempts. He’s leading off, giving him ample at-bats and stolen base opportunities, which will drive his value. His BABIP is high and will likely regress, but not as much as it would for some other players thanks to his speed. He also gets to hit in front of Tampa’s power bats, which helps his run scoring potential. With Kiermaier out until sometime in August at least (he was just moved to the 60-Day DL), Smith is worth a look.
Lonnie Chisenhall OF, CLE
Chisenhall has been one of the hottest hitters in baseball over the past few weeks but remains under the radar. He’s batting .368 with four homers and 22 RBIs in his last 21 games. He’s already just two shy of his career high in home runs, and it doesn’t seem all that flukey. He has a career high 46.2 percent fly ball rate and a 33.6 percent hard-hit rate, also a career high. Hitting the ball both harder and in the air more often is a pretty good recipe for hitting the ball out of the yard. His 145 wRC+ illustrates just how good he’s been at the plate this year. While he won’t keep this pace up for the remainder of the season, there’s no reason to say he won’t continue to be a useful player. Give him a look if you need outfield help.
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