6 Fantasy Baseball Waiver Wire Pickups for Week 19
It appears as though I, too, have fallen victim to infatuation with baseball's influx of young talent. That stuff's contagious, fam. Get out while you can.
The elder statesman of this week's waiver wire recommendations turned 26 this summer. Two of the others are 21, and four have rookie eligibility. This is not a disorder to be taken lightly, but these pups are balling out right now. Can you blame me?
As always, we're going to keep these recommendations to guys who are owned in one-third or less of ESPN leagues. That means Roberto Osuna (who is also somehow only 20 years old) doesn't make the cut. But how on this beautiful Earth is the closer of the best team in baseball owned in only 46.7 percent of leagues? Y'all. Please amend this injustice and roster him if you can. Now, let's get cracking on the rest of the deserving candidates.
Addison Russell, SS/2B, Chicago Cubs
You know when a team picks one guy over another who signed a seven-year, $60 million contract within the past few years, homie's got talent. That's the case with Addison Russell, and he is earning that spot with how he's hitting the ball.
Considering Russell originally got the call when he was just 21, his early struggles made sense. Those have since come and gone, though, especially post-All-Star break. He's slashing .289/.333/.421 with a 36.1 percent hard-hit rate and just an 11.5 percent soft-hit rate. Those numbers would be great for any player, not just a 21-year-old shortstop.
The one glaring problem with Russell is his spot in the batting order. Batting ninth both restricts his plate appearances and limits RBI opportunities with the pitcher right in front of him. Having the big boppers behind him props up his runs scored, but it's still not ideal to have him hitting where he is. Fortunately, if he keeps hitting like he has been, he could eventually force his way higher in the lineup.
Stephen Piscotty, 3B/OF, St. Louis Cardinals
Do the Cardinals just have an endless supply of dudes waiting to provide crazy productivity at every freaking position? Matt Holliday goes down, Stephen Piscotty sees an expanded role and immediately comes out the gates bashing. Where do they come from?
Piscotty hasn't provided a whole lot of pop so far with his .103 isolated slugging through 64 plate appearances. And while that is reflective of the majority of his Minor League career, he did post a .203 isolated slugging in Triple-A this year. He's not exclusively a singles guy, even if he's not going to rack up the extra-base hits.
There are two other things that make Piscotty attractive: he doesn't strike out a lot, and he -- like Russell -- is hitting the ball well. Between every stop both in the minors and the majors, he has never had a strikeout percentage above 16.7. Thus far while with the Cardinals, he has a 39.1 percent hard-hit rate and a 13.0 percent soft-hit rate. These factors add up to make Piscotty a potential profitable roll of the dice.
Richie Shaffer, 3B, Tampa Bay Rays
Am I over-reacting to a small sample size? Probably. Do I care? Heck naw. Because if this small sample size is indicative of how good Richie Shaffer is, then I'm all in.
In 2013 and 2014, Shaffer was a'ight at the plate in the minors, posting wOBA's of .323 and .344 in High-A and Double-A respectively. But dude has taken off this year. He upped that wOBA to .384 in 39 games at Double-A. He then earned himself a promotion to Triple-A, where he scoffed at his previous mark and finished his 55 games with a .423 wOBA. Now, he's in the Majors, and that success has followed him.
This lack of a successful track record does bring its concerns for Shaffer. It's a concern I'm willing to inherit. Clearly the Rays believe in it if they're willing to put him in the lineup regularly. He's got some good upside at 2.1 percent ownership, and that helps minimize the concerns about sustainability.
Byron Buxton, OF, Minnesota Twins
Things are so bad for the Twins now that outfielder Shane Robinson may be their best reliever (he threw a scoreless inning of relief on Saturday). So, maybe Byron Buxton can actually contribute in every roto category when he comes back. I'm not ruling it out.
Buxton -- relative to his other-worldly expectations -- was disappointing in his first foray into the big leagues. But we should probably keep in mind that that was a sample size of 11 games. Now that he's rehabbing at Triple-A and nearing a return, we should pounce on the upside we were promised in that first go-round.
It's hard to figure out where Buxton will fit in within the Twins' outfield after he returns. The encouraging thing (for Buxton's fantasy value -- not the sanity of my fellow Twins fans) is that the Twins are slipping from contention. They're not going to let their prized center fielder sit on the bench when they can develop him for next year. That means runs, stolen bases, and a whole lot of Gucciness from this beautiful hunk of glory.
Drew Smyly, SP, Tampa Bay Rays
Let's play a game of, 'How much stock do you put in rehab-start performances?' It's sure to get the party started if you hate your guests and want them to suffer. Unfortunately, Drew Smyly has given us no other choice.
Because of how he pitched both last year and in his first three starts of this season, I know I want Smyly on my team when he's healthy. But his first three rehab starts have left much to be desired. Over 10 innings, he has allowed 13 earned runs, four walks, and three bombs. He has also struck out 12, so this is partially wrath-of-BABIP related, but it's still a bit concerning.
If you want to play the waiting game, I don't blame you. He's supposed to make his next start Tuesday, so you can hold off if you prefer. For me, though, I'm willing to take the gamble and pick him up now if he's available in my league. It could bite you, but I think he's worth the upside.
Tommy Kahnle, RP, Colorado Rockies
Ah, yes, the dreaded Rockies pitcher. Neat. It's much better than a starter, but a reliever still brings its share of concerns. Thankfully, Tommy Kahnle looks like he's pretty snazzy, and he's now in a position to close games. Waddup to fantasy relevancy.
Although Kahnle walks way too many dudes, he gets ground balls and strikeouts to help make up for it. This has kept his xFIP down at 3.27 through his 28.2 innings this season. It's not ideal when you factor in Coors, but he shouldn't hurt you enough with his ERA to cancel out the added saves.
The obvious second downside here is that Colorado isn't very good. They rank 29th in numberFire's power rankings, and they're only projected to win about 20 more games this season. Is it worth it to take on the potential increase in ERA associated with Coors? Obviously it depends on your situation. But Kahnle is good enough and in a good enough situation where it's at least something to consider.