Not gonna lie: the pickings are slim at this time of year. After a couple of weeks where it seemed like there were actually a few almost-interesting names on the wire in NL and AL-only leagues, the pool is pretty dried up. When I looked up “blech” on dictionary.com just out of curiosity to see whether or not it was considered an actual word, I was amused to see the sample sentence for its entry: “Blech, I feel like vomiting.” I suspect that is how many of us feel each time we peruse the waiver wire looking for help in an NL or AL-only league. In deep leagues, it can get incredibly frustrating reading recommendations about how it might be a good time to grab Reynaldo Lopez or Rhys Hoskins, when those guys have been owned in your league since April (if not before). But every once in a while, an under-the-radar minor leaguer, post-hype prospect, or washed-up pitcher who has a surprisingly good run of starts slips through at this time of year, so it’s still worth paying attention to who’s getting added and dropped.
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Two years ago it was Adam Duvall who gave me a little boost of power over the last month of the season after the Giants traded him to the Reds – his five homers were enough to gain me a difference-making point in my deepest NL-only league. Last year, it was Wily Peralta, who somehow managed to close out the season with four consecutive quality starts for the Brewers, carrying my injury-depleted pitching staff through September (of course, that one’s also a cautionary tale — Peralta pitched so well that I thought there was a slight chance he’d turned a corner and I actually drafted him in a couple of NL-only leagues this year). Who knows what zero-to-two-percent-owned players might be lurking out there to help your teams over the final weeks of the season (or beyond, in keeper leagues)? There may not be many, but it’s definitely worth having your radar up, just in case.
For now, here are some guys who might be available in NL or AL-only leagues, as we grind our way through the season:
Trevor Hildenberger. He’s been impressive since making his MLB debut in the Twins bullpen in late June. It’s a small sample size, of course, but in 20 innings he’s got a 2.70 ERA and 1.14 WHIP, with 22 strikeouts to just 3 walks. He had 6 saves in AAA this year before his promotion, after having 17 in the minors in 2015 and 19 in 2016. Another “just in case” bullpen arm to keep an eye on, both for the remainder of 2017 and in the future.
Tyler White. Speaking of small sample sizes, White has only appeared in 9 games at first base for the Astros, but already has 3 home runs and 9 RBI to go along with a .310 average. His .217 average in 86 games in 2016 might be more realistic, but he did hit 8 homers over that stretch, so if you need a very deep league fill-in with a little pop in his bat, White may be a not-completely-crazy option.
Doug Fister. Only in this, the season of seemingly endless atrocious starting pitching (thanks for another embarrassing “effort” against the Phils Tuesday night, Julio Teheran!), could two quality starts in a row from a guy who seems like he’s been around forever and has an ERA over 5 on the season, be something to pay attention to. I have a few ‘only’ leagues where I’m beyond starved for pitching, but it’s getting harder and harder to decide each week if I’m better off taking a chance on a guy like Fister — who’s looked decent of late but I know could implode at any moment — or just suffering through another week of falling further behind in strikeouts/wins/quality starts, etc. In addition to those two quality starts, Fister has a rotation spot on a team that likes to score runs, and all that might be just enough to tip the needle towards giving him a chance in the right league.
Abraham Almonte. Took over for a limping-off-the-field Michael Brantley in Tuesday night’s Indians game. Almonte hasn’t done much with the big club this season, but he was on fire when he was recalled from AAA on Saturday. As I write this I have no idea what Brantley’s status is, but going on what I’ll call past history with the fellow, I’m going to assume it’s not good and that Almonte could be in line for at least a little extra playing time in the very near future.
Matt Olson. Getting a shot to play first, against righties at least, after the A’s sent Yonder Alonso up to the Pacific Northwest. His first cup of coffee this season was not pretty: 22 Ks in 51 ABs and a .196 average, although he did go deep 4 times. His minor league career average (2405 ABs, so NOT a small sample size) is a mildly depressing .249, but he was in the middle of a great year at AAA, hitting .273 with 23 home runs. He’s still just 23, but if he wants to prove he’s a current or future major leaguer, now would probably be the time.
Daniel Nava You need to be in a pretty deep league for the Phillies’ third outfielder to be on your radar at this point in the season. Nava has started four straight games since Aaron Altherr re-injured his hammy and is probably the best bet for any super-deep NL-only fantasy relevance. There’s not a lot of speed or power here, but he’s hitting .311 on the year and should provide a light smattering of runs and RBI while he’s getting at least semi-regular starts.
Jarrett Parker. Parker has gone a ridiculous 8 for 17 since coming off the DL, which by my unofficial calculations just about doubles the production the Giants have gotten out of the left field position this season. It’s hard not to imagine things will go downhill for him in a hurry, but if nothing else he’s bought himself more at bats in a major league lineup.
Ryder Jones. I mentioned much earlier this season that the Giants seem to have an endless supply of quad-A type guys who appear in the big leagues out of nowhere throughout the season, and here in August, the parade continues with Jones. He was pretty much handed the third base job after Conor Gillaspie was DFA’d, but with Brandon Belt’s concussion he may play more first, with Pablo Sandoval seeing some time at the hot corner (who knows, maybe they’ll even be able to unload some of the thousands of extra panda hats that are no doubt still floating around in the bowels of AT&T Park!). There may also be special guest appearances by Kelby Tomlinson, and probably one or two other Giants I never knew existed thrown in for good measure. At any rate, Jones was absolutely tearing it up in AAA before his recall, and hit his first major league homer Tuesday night, so maybe his luck will continue for a while longer at the big league level. What this paragraph is really making me think about, however, is the fact that anyone in any league should start any pitcher facing the Giants, in any possible format, any time they possibly can, right now and until further notice.
Jose Martinez. I had to drop him in a roster crunch in a super deep NL-only last week, and I already kind of regret it. He’s the type of guy who is value-less in 97% of fantasy baseball leagues, but he might really be able to help you in the other 3%. Even with Dexter Fowler healthy, Martinez should continue to get some starts after the surprising (ultra surprising? shocking? or not really surprising at all after you think about it?) demotion of one Stephen Piscotty. (Also, I don’t really want to put this in print since I fear that will make it more true, but my 2017 fantasy baseball imaginary boyfriend Tommy Pham has been scuffling a bit of late, 5 for his last 21 without an extra base hit). I’m actually wondering if Martinez would be owned in more than 3% of CBS leagues if his photo on his player page didn’t look like he should be performing in the silliest Sábado Gigante skit ever rather than playing major league baseball – it’s a little difficult pulling the trigger on the “Add” button when it’s in your line of eyesight. Anyway, Martinez is hitting .289 on the season with 8 longballs, and the Cardinals collectively have been hitting up a storm lately. He’s not going to rock even your NL-only world (as least, not in the way Tommy Pham has this season, if you know what I mean), but he’s already on the way to outperforming at least a few of the hitters on my active roster this week in the league I dumped him in.