Fantasy Baseball Waiver Wire (9/4/15): Frankly, You Should Pick Up Franklin Gutierrez

Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY SportsCredit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

It’s the final month of the fantasy baseball season and chances are that many of the team managers in your league who are no longer in contention have checked out and stopped paying attention to the waiver wire. It’s an unfortunate circumstance in my opinion, as I like to play in leagues where teams remain competitive till the very end, but it does improve the chances of winning because that just means less competition when racing to the waiver wire to pick up some useful players.

So this week I am bringing to you another set of 6 hitters but only 5 pitchers this time because there just wasn’t a decent 6th pitching recommendation that I haven’t already given. These players could be of fantasy use to you for the upcoming week or even the remainder of the season. Let’s review last week’s recommendations first (see last week’s full article here) and then we will look at this week’s recommendations. Good luck!

***NOTE: To qualify as a waiver wire recommendation, a player must be owned in less than 50% of Yahoo and ESPN leagues and less than 60% of CBS leagues (players typically have higher ownership levels on CBS).

LAST WEEK’S RECOMMENDATIONS

  • Marcell Ozuna has gone 5 for 20 (.250 AVG) with 2 HR, 6 RBI, and 6 R since last Friday to make him a pretty decent waiver wire pickup. I said that he could be a good source of power and that production is pretty solid. His ownership levels are virtually unchanged from last week, so he still could be had — though a very similar player in Khris Davis also is still widely available.
  • Javier Baez was in the first wave of September call-ups on September 1 and he immediately was slotted in the starting lineup at second base for the Cubs on the first day. He then made a pinch-hit appearance the following day, but still remains without a hit. Unless he gets hot, Baez may not be seeing everyday starts, but he was super hot at AAA and he has the upside to produce enough that fantasy owners in most mixed leagues (that don’t penalize strikeouts) should be willing to take a chance on him given his dual position eligibility at shallow the shallow positions of 2B/SS. Predictably, Baez’ ownership rate has gone up, but he’s still available in more than 50% of leagues on each major platform.
  • Domingo Santana has gone 5 for 21 (.238 AVG) with 2 HR, 2 RBI, and 3 R since last Friday.. Santana is much more of a very deep league pickup because similar players Khris Davis and Marcell Ozuna are more reliable plays, but as long as Santana is still being given everyday starts he is going to be worth keeping in mind.
  • Travis Jankowski has gone just 3 for 20 (.150 AVG) with 2 R and 1 SB since last Friday’s recommendation. However, Jankowski was merely recommended for deep leagues with the specific need for stolen bases, so not a whole lot should be expected of him. He should still continue to see semi-regular starts in September, so keep him on the radar if you need the speed because he is virtually unowned.
  • Jason Bourgeois has gone 8 for 24 (.333 AVG) with 1 HR, 3 RBI, and 6 R since last Friday. He didn’t collect any stolen bases, which is what he was mainly recommended for, but that’s still a pretty good week’s worth of play for a player that is still owned in 0% or 1% across all major platforms. Given that Bourgeois has been starting regularly and hitting from the leadoff spot for the Reds, it is very surprising that not many fantasy owners are taking notice of him. He’s starting because Billy Hamilton is on the DL and Hamilton is still a ways away from returning. If Bougeois keeps getting on base then he will be a good source of runs with the hot Joey Votto hitting behind him, and he should start to log some more stolen bases.   
  • Hector Olivera received a call up by the Braves once September 1 came around as expected and he’s played in a few games so far. He hasn’t been super impressive going just 1 for 10 in 3 games and he is a bit of a wildcard, but his reputation as a slugger in Cuba is good enough reason to give him fantasy consideration. Yahoo added him to the player pool and he should be off waivers by now, so he could make for a good under the radar grab still.
  • Kris Medlen didn’t have the best of starts this past week, but he still was serviceable with 5.1 IP, 4 H, 3 ER, 2 BB, and 5 K with the W over the Rays. Medlen should be able to provide decently in ERA, WHIP, and K, but his biggest fantasy asset might be his win potential as he pitches for the best team in the AL, the Royals. His ownership has been on the rise since last week and it should continue to trend in that direction, so be sure that you’re the one to scoop him up in your league. Medlen is still a highly recommended option if he’s still available.
  • Tom Wilhelmsen has made 4 appearances since last Friday and they have resulted in 4 saves with a 0.00 ERA, 0.80 WHIP, and 6 K in 5 IP. A week’s worth of play doesn’t get a whole lot better than that for a closer. It’s looking like Wilhelmsen will remain the closer for the Mariners down the stretch and he needs to be owned everywhere. While his ownership levels have shot up, he’s still available in over 2/3 of leagues across all major platforms.
  • Drew Pomeranz converted just 1 of 2 save opportunities in the past week, but he’s still looking like the best bet to collect saves for the A’s down the stretch run. If Sean Doolittle can show some improvement in his performance then he may begin to see some save opportunities, but for the time being Pomeranz is still the guy. The A’s might not be providing a whole lot of save chances, but there’s still little reason to leave him unowned in your league if you need saves.
  • Marcus Stroman is currently out on a rehab assignment as he is vying to make an early return from a torn ACL. His first rehab start went as good as it could have as he tossed 4.2 innings of no-hit ball while striking out 7 on 69 pitches. With his first rehab start going over so well, it appears that he will only make one more rehab start on Monday before joining the big league squad and possibly being inserted into the rotation next weekend. There’s a chance that he may pitch out of the pen when he returns, but he’s making a strong case to start and you’re going to want him on your fantasy team for the stretch run if he does start. He’s still very much available on all fantasy platforms.
  • Jose Berrios will not be receiving a call up to the Majors by the Twins this season as general manager Terry Ryan said a couple days ago, citing the desire to limit Berrios’ workload as the reason. This is very disappointing news, especially after such a glowing recommendation here last week. It was a little bit of a gamble to recommend him since it was unknown if he would be called up, but I’m still very surprised that the Twins are not going to call him up. He’s currently at 161.1 IP this season after finishing last year at 140 IP, so I could see not bringing him up to start even though he could be their best starting pitching option immediately. But at the very least, I think they could use him in relief, which would help limit his workload and also provide some depth in their bullpen with closer Glen Perkins battling injuries. What makes it even more surprising that they won’t be calling up Berrios is that they currently sit just 1.5 games back of the Rangers for the second AL Wildcard spot. For a team that has not made the post-season since 2010, you would think they would be more aggressive with Berrios since they are so close to post-season play, especially after having already promoted fellow top prospects Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano. If the Twins fail to make the post-season then they will have to look back at the non-promotion of Berrios as a big reason why.
  • Brandon Finnegan continues to struggle getting stretched out as a starting pitcher in AAA for the Reds, which is not very encouraging for his outlook for the remainder of the season. He should still eventually receive a call up, but he may not be very productive. I think that we can kind of forget about him being a usable fantasy option for the remainder of the season.

THIS WEEK’S RECOMMENDATIONS

HITTERS

Brett Lawrie 2B/3B, A’s (Ownership: Yahoo 48%, ESPN 28%, CBS 49%)

Lawrie has been pretty hot lately going 17 for 47 (.361 AVG) with 5 HR, 9 RBI, and 12 R in the last 12 games. He’s always had great potential, which he showed off in 43 games played in his rookie season in 2011, but injuries and just a failure to improve at the Major League level have hampered him. He’s still pretty young at 25 years old, so perhaps this hot stretch is a great sign of things to come for Lawrie over the remainder of the season and for the future. Give him a look at either 2B or 3B down the stretch because at this point in the fantasy season it’s all about playing the hot hand and good matchups, and at the very least Lawrie has the hot hand.

Marlon Byrd OF, Giants (Ownership: Yahoo 48%, ESPN 38%, CBS 53%)

Byrd doesn’t provide anything positive in the AVG department, but what he does do well is hit HR and produce runs and that is exactly what he has done since being traded from the Reds to the Giants a couple weeks ago. Moving from from hitter friendly Great American Ballpark to the pitcher friendly AT&T Park didn’t figure to be a great switch for Byrd, but since the trade the veteran has hit 3 HR (all at AT&T Park) with 17 RBI and 5 R while hitting .240 in 12 games. And what’s nice for Byrd is that the Giants will be playing at Coors Field this weekend before traveling to another hitters park in Arizona, and overall, the opposing pitchers they will be facing for the next couple of weeks seems like a pretty soft slate. This looks like a good opportunity for Byrd to keep up the solid production.

Corey Seager SS, Dodgers (Ownership: Yahoo 18%, ESPN 12%, CBS 52%)

The Dodgers have finally called up their top prospect Corey Seager and there will be some pretty big buzz surrounding him. The shortstop Seager has hit .293 with 18 HR, 76 RBI, 81 R, and 4 SB between AA and AAA this season, and he also has displayed excellent contact skills by only striking out 13.8% of the time, which should help him maintain a respectable batting average if he can maintain that rate. I feel that Seager’s promotion is more of a depth move as the Dodgers are dealing with injuries to middle infielders Howie KendrickEnrique Hernandez, and Jose Peraza. So I don’t imagine that Seager will be seeing a great deal of playing time down the stretch for the Dodgers, but if he hits well in the playing time that he is given then that could potentially snowball into more playing time. So for redraft leagues, Seager is surely worth a flier to see what happens with him, but don’t expect a whole lot right now. For keeper and dynasty leagues, he should have been scooped up a while ago, but if for some reason he is still available then you need to pounce on him right now as his potential as a fantasy shortstop is pretty nice — not Carlos Correa type of nice, but still solid.

Franklin Gutierrez OF, Mariners (Ownership: Yahoo 14%, ESPN 18%, CBS 15%)

Gutierrez missed all of the 2014 season and the first two and a half months of this season, but since rejoining the Mariners in late June, he has quietly been very productive while seeing the majority of his starts in games where the Mariners oppose a left-handed starting pitcher. For the season, Gutierrez is hitting a tremendous .315/.366/.646 with 11 HR and 30 RBI in 130 AB. Against left-handed pitching, he has been even more dominant with a line of .349/.387/.674 with 7 HR and 18 RBI in 86 AB. He is just incredibly locked in at the plate right now, especially against southpaws. With the Mariners set to face 6 lefties in the next 13 games, Gutierrez has a very favorable schedule and he can be extremely useful in leagues where daily lineup changes are allowed. As an added bonus, Gutierrez may even see more starts against righties down the stretch with Nelson Cruz nursing a strained quad. Gutierrez’ batting average should probably come down if he begins to see more starts against righties, but the additional playing time will give his counting stats a boost. For this final month of the season, Gutierrez most certainly needs to be picked up as he is one of the league’s hottest hitters.

Michael Conforto OF, Mets (Ownership: Yahoo 8%, ESPN 13%, CBS 35%)

I recommended Conforto as a waiver wire pickup shortly after he was called up by the Mets in Late July, but then the Mets went and traded for Yoenis Cespedes, which kind of killed any immediate value that Conforto had since both players play the corner outfield positions and Cespedes of course was set to start everyday after being acquired. However, the top prospect and left-handed swinging Conforto has been finding his name in the starting lineup against right-handed pitching and has been crushing the ball to make him waiver wire relevant once again. He is currently hitting a robust .311/.396/.963 with 5 HR and 17 RBI through his first 106 plate appearances as a Major Leaguer, and he is showing a great approach at the plate with a 12.3% walk rate. He’s a big part of the Mets future and for fantasy purposes this season he can be well utilized whenever he is in the starting lineup against righties with his ability to hit for both power and a solid average.

Michael Taylor OF, Nationals (Ownership: Yahoo 11%, ESPN 14%, CBS 36%)

I’ve been reluctant to include Taylor as a waiver wire recommendation so far because of the fact that Denard Span was nearing a return to the Nationals lineup, which was going to push Taylor back to a reserve role. Span recently returned, but then he incurred a season-ending injury shortly after, so the center field position in D.C. is for Taylor’s taking for the remainder of the season. Taylor has a great blend of power and speed as a very athletic player and he already has 13 HR and 15 SB on the season. Where he struggles though is his ability to make contact and hit for a good batting average as he has an obscene 31.4% strikeout rate with an ugly .238 AVG. If your league doesn’t penalize strikeouts and you can stomach the low batting average, then Taylor should be able to contribute a handful more of HR and SB the rest of the way. The caveat here though is that Taylor has been shelved for a few days with some knee soreness. He should return to the lineup soon, but there’s the possibility that the knee soreness could hamper his play.

Consider the following previously recommended players who still fall under the waiver wire recommendation qualifications: Rusney Castillo OFJayson Werth OFOdubel Herrera 2B/SS/OFJackie Bradley OFKhris Davis OFWelington Castillo CJavier Baez 2B/SSDelino DeShields OFChris Coghlan 2B/OFAaron Hicks OFDanny Valencia 1B/3B/OFEugenio Suarez SSDerek Dietrich 2B/3B/OFMarcell Ozuna OFHector Olivera 1B/2B/3BJason Bourgeois OF

PITCHERS

J.A. Happ SP, Pirates (Ownership: Yahoo 17%, ESPN 22%, CBS 39%)

Happy was acquired by the Pirates right at the trade deadline after they learned that A.J. Burnett would be needing a prolonged stint on the DL. Happ’s first start with the Pirates didn’t go over so well, but the next 4 starts were pretty solid as he posted a 0.78 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, and 18 K in 23 IP. His next two starts are set to come on the road against the Cardinals and Reds, which aren’t super ideal matchups, but deep leaguers looking to utilize some innings could squeeze out so decent numbers out of Happ.

Josh Tomlin SP/RP, Indians (Ownership: Yahoo 13%, ESPN 25%, CBS 24%)

Since being recalled, Tomlin has done a pretty nice job for the Indians as he has gone 3-1 with a 3.08 ERA, 0.76 WHIP, and 26 K/2 BB in 26.1 IP. Obviously the WHIP isn’t going to stay that low because he has been very fortunate with a very low .175 BABIP, but the strong K/BB ratio is encouraging. The caution that you need to be aware of with Tomlin though is the fact that he is serving up a lot of HR. He is a fly ball pitcher and has given up 7 HR in his 4 starts, and he has always been prone to the long ball. His next starts will come against the Tigers, so proceed with caution, but he deserves an opportunity in deep leagues.

Matt Moore SP, Rays (Ownership: Yahoo 5%, ESPN 5%, CBS 26%)

When Moore rejoined the Rays in July after making his way back from Tommy John surgery, there was no way that I was going to touch him in fantasy leagues because of the fact that pitchers who return from Tommy John surgery generally have worse control and command initially. And since Moore was already a pitcher who battled control issues, I foresaw that Moore would likely have some pretty bad issues and indeed he did, which led to an 8.78 ERA, 2.06 WHIP, and 17 K/13 BB in 26.2 IP before the Rays couldn’t handle it anymore. Moore was demoted to AAA, but since his demotion he has been pretty effective with a 3.30 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, and 43 K/8 BB in 30 IP — including a 16 strikeout performance. So given that it looks like he’s shook off some of the rust, I’d be much more willing to give him a try when he returns to the Rays rotation this weekend. I would still be pretty cautious with him, but things look a lot better for him than they did a month ago.

Anthony DeSclafani SP/RP, Reds (Ownership: Yahoo 19%, ESPN 18%, CBS 42%)

DeSclafani has been fairly decent as a rookie pitcher with the Reds this season. He’s pitched his way to a 3.87 ERA and 1.35 WHIP with a mediocre, but serviceable, 7.00 K/9. The primary basis for this recommendation is that DeSclafani has a 2-start week a head of him next week, and in weekly leagues we love pitchers with 2-start weeks. He doesn’t have great matchups against the Cardinals and Pirates, so it would be a bit of a risk to deploy him in fantasy leagues. But there just aren’t a whole lot of other waiver wire pitcher options that I haven’t previously mentioned. Give him a try if you’re feeling frisky.

Roenis Elias SP, Mariners (Ownership: Yahoo 2%, ESPN 2%, CBS 7%)

Elias hasn’t been too sharp in the starts that he’s been given this season (4.35 ERA and 1.27 WHIP), but he’s got a 2-start week lined up with starts at a good home pitchers’ park in Seattle against the Rangers and Rockies. Both the Rangers and Rockies are susceptible to the strikeout against left-handed pitching, so this will be a nice opportunity for Elias to have a nice little run. I like Elias more than DeSclafani for the upcoming week.

Consider the following previously recommended players who still fall under the waiver wire recommendation qualifications: Drew Smyly SPArodys Vizcaino RPMatt Shoemaker SP/RPKris Medlen SP/RPKevin Jepsen RPJoe Ross SPJoe Kelly SPDrew Pomeranz SP/RPJean Machi RP, Kevin Gausman SP/RPMarcus Stroman SPBruce Rondon RPJohn Lamb SP

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