Consider this week’s Waiver Wire an act of therapy. As a longtime resident of Houston, my life has been altered by the tragedy and full-scale horror and devastation of Hurricane/Tropical Storm Harvey, and while I suffered some damage, it pales in comparison to the loss — both physical and material — that so many of my family and friends endured. Breaking down which minor leaguers can impact the last month of the season is hollow when you’re helpless and cannot help a dear friend trapped in high water and crying out for help on social media.
At the same time, this column and I have been “in a relationship” for the past four seasons and in moments of despair, you turn to those you love. That means, you, the reader. Whatever you have done to support the area I have spent 42 of my 46 years of existence in (much love to San Marcos, TX and Gresham, OR, my other homes) over the past week, I thank you.
Now, let’s find some waiver wire help….
Jorge Polanco, SS, Twins: In case you missed Polanco’s impressive impersonation of ex-teammate Eduardo Nunez last month, all you did was skip out on a bat that sizzled at a .373/.413/.686 slash line clip while swatting six homers and driving in 23 runs. Once at a middling 16 percent ownership in CBSSports.com leagues, Polanco is now at 37 percent and should continue to climb as he does offer above-average production for a middle infielder. The Nunez comp extends to his speed (ten steals). I don’t think he tails off down the stretch when you consider that he has greatly improved both his groundball and fly ball rates compared to last season. Keep in mind that Polanco is only 24 years old. That means his budding power and improved plate discipline could translate into a possible 15-18 homers and 18-22 steals somewhere in the future.
Andrew Heaney, P, Angels: The one-time potential staff ace showed the A’s just how good he could still be on Monday night with ten strikeouts over six innings of two-hit ball. Heaney is only three starts removed from Tommy John surgery and could be a stealth play in deeper leagues and AL-only formats. Owned in 24 percent of CBSSports.com leagues, Heaney isn’t going to blow hitters away with a heater averaging 91.7 MPH, but his increased usage of his changeup might be the key to a possible September run. The Angels entered the weekend just 1.5 games behind the Twins for the last AL wild card spot, so if Monday is a precursor to what Heaney can offer down the stretch, now is a good time to scoop him up.
Kendall Graveman, P, Athletics: A brutal outing against the Angels on Wednesday (five earned runs over five innings that included three homers allowed) may dampen Graveman in the eyes of some, yet he came into that game having given up three runs or fewer in six of his previous nine starts, including five of the quality persuasion. Graveman has shown some strikeout potential but shouldn’t be considered a swing and miss kind of hurler. He tends to lean toward being a groundball pitcher, but his 1.13 HR/9 rate (raised mostly by Wednesday’s start) shows his bad side. Owned in 38 percent of CBSSports.com leagues, I think Graveman shakes his last start and puts together a solid September.
Miguel Gonzalez, P, Rangers: The “other” waiver deadline trade involving a Texas-based team on Thursday sent Gonzalez from the White Sox to a Rangers team four games behind in the AL wild card hunt. He had been pitching well since the All-Star Break, sporting a 3.11 ERA and dropped his opponents’ batting average from .287 to .252. The trade more than doubled Gonzalez’s ownership in CBSSports.com leagues from 15 percent to 31 percent. Oddly enough, Gonzalez was a better pitcher at home in Chicago (3.17 ERA) compared to the 5.23 ERA outside the Windy City. While that presents a minor concern, the smart bet is that Gonzalez dials it up now that he’s playing meaningful games this month.
Blake Parker, P, Angels: The latest contestant in the Angels’ Wheel of Closers, Parker rattled off saves in three straight appearances to end the month of August and heads into the home stretch as the new cool kid in the ninth inning class of relievers. More of a situational arm before being given a test drive to close, Parker is now owned in 19 percent of CBSSports.com leagues, a nice climb from his previous status of eight percent. Finding saves in September is darn hard to do, so if you’re fishing for them, cast your line in the path of Parker and reel him in.
Mark Leiter, P, Phillies: Aside from Aaron Nola, you get in where you fit in when it comes to the Phillies’ rotation. Yet, Leiter is bidding for a higher end chair before the music stops this season. He’s yet to go into the eighth inning in any of his six starts, but he’s shown potential in his last two outings, including a shutout of the Marlins over seven innings of one-hit ball on August 23. Leiter is a fly ball pitcher, a nerving proposition considering his home park, yet his ownership in CBSSports.com leagues is now up to 29 percent. There’s some intrigue here, enough to entice Fantasy owners in deeper leagues to kick the tires and give him a spin.
Jack Flaherty, P, Cardinals: The Redbirds called up their third-rated prospect in time to make his big league debut at the Giants on Friday night. Flaherty went 14-4 with a 2.18 ERA between Double-A Springfield and Triple-A Memphis while striking out 147 batters over 148.2 innings. Enough Fantasy owners received the message, as Flaherty’s ownership status in CBSSports.com leagues stands at 21 percent. The first-round pick of the Cards in 2014, Flaherty projects as a possible number two starter and should be a strong Rookie of the Year candidate heading into the 2018 season. His asking price just went up in keeper/dynasty leagues.
Howie Kendrick, OF, Nationals: He’s smoking the daylights out the ball this season, albeit quietly. Kendrick enters the weekend hitting .340 with an impressive .389 OBP that would rank among the Top 15 in the majors if he qualified in the category. Even with the increased playing time in the wake of Bryce Harper’s injury, Kendrick continues to hit well, swinging it at a .381/.440/.476 rate over the past seven games, a big reason his ownership is now at 38 percent in CBSSports.com leagues. His power has improved since the All-Star Break and Kendrick can still swipe a bag or two (ten steals this season). Kendrick is a must-grab option for those in need of a boost in batting average along with those in leagues that use OBP as a category.
Chris Stratton, P, Giants: There has been little to like when it comes to the Giants and Fantasy production this year, yet Stratton is making a late push to be an exception to the rule. He comes into the weekend having recorded five straight starts of two or fewer runs since returning to the majors in late July. He’s also strung together a pair of 10 K outings in his last three starts while lowering his ERA from 7.71 to 3.82 since coming back to the bigs. Stratton has an ownership rate of 22 percent in CBSSports.com leagues and while the number isn’t too high when it comes to more standard leagues, those in deeper leagues should pay attention to Stratton before he’s swiped off the wire.
Ozzie Albies, 2B, Braves: Atlanta’s second-rated prospect has held his own, hitting .272/.327/.456 in his first 29 games in the majors. Albies has a pair of stolen bases, a number that should rise in the last month, yet a better display of his speed is shown in the four triples he’s already recorded in 103 at-bats. The two homers are a bit of a surprise but Albies had been flashing signs of better than expected power while in Triple-A. He’s owned in 38 percent of CBSSports.com leagues. Make no mistake: he’ll be a good sleeper pick for next year’s drafts/auctions.