Hello, again. Weird to think we don’t have too much of a fantasy baseball season left. We’re basically at the halfway point before fantasy playoffs start, more or less. Real baseball keeps chugging along despite more positive COVID tests. Each week I’m mentioning a new team it feels like, and this week it’s the Mets. The entire weekend Subway Series was cancelled, but maybe the Mets will be back in action early next week. The Reds didn’t take long getting back into action, so maybe it’ll work out similarly. Who knows! I’m just glad there’s still baseball and my Cardinals are playing again cuz my St. Louis Blues made an early exit in their quest to defend the Stanley Cup. Really bummed me out.
Anyway, you aren’t here to read my sad sack malarkey about a sport you probably haven’t even heard of. You’re here for fantasy baseball waiver targets. Cuz it’s almost crunch time. A hot bat/arm can carry you a long way down the stretch. I’ve picked some names you might want to take a look-see at. May the odds be ever in your favor.
I’m trying out a new format this week. Hoping that it makes reading a little more streamlined and easier for you to see the standout points I want to make on each player. But really I wanted to get in on that fancy baseball bullet point action.
Note: Stats accurate as of 8/22/2020, before games began. Remember, only players available in the 30th percentiles (39% or below) of either Yahoo or ESPN leagues are eligible. Thought being that most of who you read about below will be there for you to add.
Wilmer Flores – 1B/2B, SF (Yahoo: 28%, ESPN: 50%)
I know I wrote about this dude not long ago, but I think it’s prudent to write about Wilmer Flores again since he’s still pretty widely available. He just keeps on doing things, y’all. I’m a little surprised he’s been this good and this consistent. Did you realize he’s currently #36 overall on Yahoo? I didn’t, to be honest. I just thought he was a hella good bargain if you even bothered drafting him. But here he is, a top-50 player, and he’s out there for a LOT of owners to snatch up.
- Last time I wrote about his low K-rate and solid xBA. Well that xBA has matured into a delicious .321. Still hardly striking out (94th percentile in K%).
- No matter the pitch type, Flores is producing. Breaking balls are giving him the most trouble, but he’s still got a .281 xBA and is slugging .563 against ’em. Some other hot starts have been guys blowing up fastballs, but seems Flores is super locked in at the plate. Nothing gives him too much trouble, and again, that K-rate is so very nice.
- Brought up his pull rate and line drive rates last time, and those still look quite impressive and are way above his career norms. Just to give a rough idea, other batters hitting line drives about as often as Flores are Nick Castellanos, Corey Seager, Wil Myers, and Luis Robert. Not bad company.
- Flores doesn’t barrel a ton and doesn’t hit the ball especially hard, but he’s rocking a career-best solid contact percentage.
- Five multi-hit games in his last six. Dude is scorchin’. Oh yeah, also has a homer in each of his last three.
Not sure I’m ready to say I’m all in on Wilmer Flores, but it’s getting really hard to ignore what he’s doing. There are a lot of fantasy teams that could use him right about now. The Universal DH has totally revitalized his career. If it’s here to stay, Flores will be as well.
Jonathan Schoop – 2B, DET (Yahoo: 13%, ESPN: 24%)
Briefly mentioned Jonathan Schoop early in the season for a nice hot streak and the fact he’s not too far removed from a 30-HR/100-RBI campaign. At the same time, I said I wasn’t really buying in. I’m gonna be straight up: I don’t buy him still. In addition to pointing out the hotties to target, I want to sometimes point out the ones I don’t feel worth wasting a transaction over. Most leagues have a weekly limit, and sometimes it’s rather harsh. Some leagues have season limits! That’s just plain masochism.
- Slashing .287/.317/.511, but a four-hit game on Friday has helped that look better than it is. Give me a guy who consistently gets hits as opposed to a lot 0-fers in between.
- Zero shades of red on the Statcast profile except for an above-average sprint speed, which doesn’t even translate to any steals at all.
- That .287/.511 BA/SLG is accompanied by an xBA/xSLG of .253/.428.
- Tops among qualified 2B in HR/FB%, according to FanGraphs, but it’s an unsustainable rate. Regression is coming.
- Over 52% of the type Schoop hits grounders and only 11.3% of the time it’s a fly ball anyway. I would not expect too many more HR to finish out the year. Launch angle is a career-low 6.6 degrees, and that’s a career low by a big margin.
- I do like his ISO (.223). Currently the best he’s done in the majors. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying there’s no power in Schoop’s toolkit, I’m just not wasting time on a guy who might hit a homer and contribute very little in the other categories. Fine, fine – he has hits in four of his last five, with three of those being multi-hit efforts. I’ll give him some credit.
I’m wary, to say the least. You could do worse at 2B, for sure. I’d just make sure there aren’t better options. In my humble opinion, there’s one right below this sentence, even though right now Schoop is #127 overall in Yahoo while the guy you’re about to read about is outside the top-250. Could save you a fair amount of FAAB dough, I dunno.
Tommy La Stella – 1B/2B/3B, LAA (Yahoo: 30%, ESPN: 73%)
Hey Yahoo peeps, take a look at Tommy La Stella, especially if OBP is part of your scoring. I love guys in fantasy who can slot into two positions, let alone three. Not going to rack up the power numbers, but he can help in other ways. Getting on base with guys like Mike Trout, Anthony Rendon, and Shohei Ohtani bringing you home is gonna be a good thing more often than not. La Stella has been in the two-hole lately, and those guys in that order come after him.
- Itsy-bitsy, La Hella-Good K-rate: 5.1%. Best in baseball. Coupled with a 13.1% walk rate. And remember, three megaliths hitting right after him.
- Adding to that, his xBA is well above average, despite a middling actual BA.
- Nine RBI in his last nine games. Seven runs in that span, as well.
- Ground ball rate down (45.5%?38.8%), fly ball (21.6%?23.8%) and line drive (25.4%?31.3%) rates are up from 2019 to 2020.
- Barrel rate is above average at 8.8%. Nothing super special but nice to see it at a career clip thus far.
Lots of value to be had here. La Stella rocked a .301 xBA last year, and he’s doing it again this year. I’ll remind you a third time he’s hitting second in front of Trout, Rendon, and Ohtani. I’m not the only one around here pumping La Stella’s tires: check out Jay’s post.
Joey Bart – C, SF (Yahoo: 42%, ESPN: 29%)
I’d be doing the fantasy baseball world a disservice by not bring up uber-catching-prospect Joey Bart. With Buster Posey opting out, the Giants have let Bart develop for the first part of the season instead of throwing him directly into action (read: keeping that extra year of control – but can you blame them?). There’s not a ton to go off of at this point, but if you need help at C, Bart is the kind of guy you should probably take a shot on.
- Two games under his belt and he’s already got two doubles and an RBI.
- Great power numbers in 2018, but it was low-level minors. Fast-forward to 2019 and he hops up to Double-A and slashes .316/.368/.544 in 22 games.
- Career 1.016 OPS in the MLB. Lol I had to, sorry.
- 60-grade raw power but below-average hit tool. The defense will ensure he gets playing time, though.
That’s about all I got. Grey wrote more about him back in the spring, and there’s a comment embedded in there from The Itch that gives some nice insight for you keeper/dynasty folks. Chadwick Tromp’s little window of glory seems to be closing. It’s the Bart Show now for the rest of 2020.
Elieser Hernandez – SP/RP, MIA (Yahoo: 33%, ESPN: 29%)
I can’t believe it, but I’m about to hit you with back-to-back Marlins pitchers to target. I mean, if that ain’t the most 2020 thing you ever heard. First up is Elieser Hernandez. There’s an astounding amount of red jumping out at you from his Statcast page, and he’s doing it relying on pretty much just two pitches: a pretty slow four-seamer and a slider.
- 25 Ks in 19.2 IP. 0.76 WHIP. Only three walks.
- In four outings, he’s given up zero runs in two of ’em.
- 2.29 ERA supported by a 3.17 SIERA.
- Even though velocity is not his forte, Hernandez’s FB has a 22.7 Whiff% while his slider is at 42.4%. Both have been next to unhittable. He has a change but hardly uses it. Apparently doesn’t need to. Guess we’ll see if that sticks as the season moves forward.
Hernandez isn’t quite as lucrative in QS leagues given he has exactly zero this year, but good ratios are still good ratios. There isn’t much to suggest he can’t keep this up other than a .209 BABIP. I’d still take a shot if I needed SP, and you know I love a guy who can use up an RP slot too.
Pablo Lopez – SP, MIA (Yahoo: 38%, ESPN: 39%)
- Generating very weak contact: 92nd percentile in exit velocity and 90th in hard-hit rate.
- Aside from the spin categories, there’s no blue on the Statcast. Lopez is above average to good in all the categories you want.
- K:BB ratio is deflated by a bad outing where he issued four walks in five innings. Otherwise he’s shown excellent command, really locating the change and sinker well. Throws both about as often as he throws his four-seamer. I like that mix.
- 42.9% whiff rate on the changeup and an xBA of .212 to go with it.
- 2.42 ERA with a 3.26 SIERA. I’ll take that from a guy who was an afterthought in most drafts.
Gotta love weak contact if you’re a pitcher – Lopez is excelling in that area right now. Run support is gonna be dicey in Miami. Collectively, the Marlins offense is among the league’s worst in most team Statcast ranks. But for ratios and quality starts, Lopez is worth a look.
Taijuan Walker – SP, SEA (Yahoo: 9%, ESPN: 10%)
I know a Mariners pitcher is not sexy, so if you’re looking for wins, just move right along. Really all these guys I’ve mentioned so far are bad bets for a win. Quality starts, though – that’s where Taijuan Walker can help out.
- Three of his last four starts have been quality. Twice he’s gone seven innings, striking out eight in each of those. Those were against the Athletics and the Dodgers.
- 1.07 WHIP. Not the best K:BB ratio out there, but it’s getting the job done for now. I’m at least encouraged he’s only walked one in each of his last two starts.
- Cutter is by far his best pitch, and he throws it a lot. Kinda wish he’d throw it more.
2017 Taijuan Walker wasn’t too bad, and that was the last time we really got a good look at him. His numbers this season look really similar as far as metrics go. We don’t have an ace here, but there’s at least some fantasy relevancy.
Antonio Senzatela – SP, COL (Yahoo: 37%, ESPN: 56%)
It’s been a pretty alright season so far for Antonio Senzatela, I must say. Good record: 3-0. Good ERA: 2.90. Good WHIP: 1.03. Pretty solid. I’m not overly excited about the dude, but whenever he’s pitching way from Coors, I’ll take a look.
- Home ERA/WHIP are at 4.50/1.17 while road is nice and pretty at 1.89/0.95.
- In four of his five starts, he’s allowed two earned runs or less. I like.
- Walked three batters in his first start of the year but only two total since.
- Not a big strikeout guy. Pretty bad, actually. He’s a ground ball pitcher, which is a good thing to be if you pitch half your games at Coors.
- Might not be a big K guy, but at least his Whiff% is the best its been. Also getting guys to chase more pitches this year. Bad news is he’s below league average at both of those things. Oh well. I tried.
- Throwing his slider significantly more this year. So far, results have been good.
There’s some fantasy appeal here, given the right matchup, or given your need for quality starts.
Mark Canha is finally having the kind of season many thought he could. Not super widely available but not super widely owned either. Lots of hits lately has gotten his average close to .300.
Hunter Dozier could be hanging around out there for you as well. He’s hitting homers again. Not much else to report, but three homers in his last five is pretty ding dang good.
Brad Keller continues to quietly kick ass. Only 47% of Yahoo owners realize it I guess, but he has zero runs allowed in 2020. A nice cool 3-0 in three starts, with a 0.91 WHIP to boot.
Marco Gonzales is another Mariners guy who has been under-the-radar good, with three quality outings in his last four. He’s 2-2 with a 3.34 ERA and 0.88 WHIP. Juuust a hair too owned to make it up above.
Randal Grichuk blasted six homers over six-game stretch and is still not owned enough that you just may be able to get your hands on him. The dude is historically streaky, but that’s the kind of risk you take in 2020, amirite?
Taylor Williams pitches for a not good team but looks to be the top closer still. Batters are still hitting hard when they connect, but Williams’s Whiff% and K% are climbing higher.
Cristian Pache is up. Sexy name, Braves #1 prospect, but I’m not crazy about the fantasy appeal for 2020 (really even beyond) aside from the speed. Don’t rush to get him thinking he’s the next Ronald Acuna Jr. or something. He’s there for the glove, which could be the second coming of Andruw Jones, though.
JKJ is just an Arkansas guy who loves to play, watch, and sometimes write about sports. Loves his Hogs, St. Louis teams, US National teams, and Liverpool FC (since way before it was cool). He also teaches high school English. He greatly enjoys bourbon, bourbon cocktails, craft beer, and coffee at all times of the day. Married to a foxy nurse. Is a #girldad. Plays too many video games. Doesn’t care about sentence fragments despite his profession.
Follow him on Twitter (@jkj0787), where his DMs are always open for average to above-average advice. Complaints are welcome, too.