Often when we think back to our best waiver grabs, we glom onto the hitters or pitchers that we grabbed in late-April or early-May and rode to 130 games of success. But, with August creeping up on us, we're not only down to just 60-plus games on the schedule, but we're also down to scraps and driftwood.
You should be trying to snag streaky guys in the early stages of a hot streak. Sifting through very average pitchers with two-start weeks becomes more critical. Or, how about that player who's been stuck in a pinch-hitting role all year, but who now is set for everyday action because his team has waved the white flag of surrender, sending multiple starting bats elsewhere at the trading deadline?
In effect, it's no sin to have constant back-end roster churn moving forward through the remainder of the season. Pick a guy up for a week and feel free to dump him next week.
On a side note, I did want to mention that if there are any Colorado Rockies sitting around your leagues' waiver wire, you should take special interest. This is a remarkable note ... If you start on July 18 (this past Monday) and go all the way up to September 8, you will see that the Rockies are playing in a hitters' ballpark for 43 of their next 50 contests! Of course, many of those are in Coors Field, but there are also trips to Baltimore, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, and Texas. Names that might pop up in your league include Brandon Barnes, Daniel Descalso, Ryan Raburn, and Tony Wolters.
(Note: To make the list, I'll apply a loose definition that says a player is likely be unowned in a vast majority of 12-team mixed leagues. At the end of each player note, I'll also provide a suggested bid for those that use FAAB (Free Agent Acquisition Budget) for their waiver process (based on a $100 budget). Understand that this is only a suggestion ... if you've just lost your starting outfielder to injury and you have an immediate need or gaping hole in your lineup, you will find it necessary to bid more in order to get that week's top available outfielder.)
Ryon Healy, 3B, Oakland
After tearing up both Double- and Triple-A (a cumulative .326/.382/.558 slash at Midland and Nashville), Healy got the Bay Area ring last weekend. Immediately, he was granted full access to the A's 3B job. He's started each and every game and should continue to see a good deal of plate appearances for the remainder of the season. He's not an upper-end prospect, but he can certainly become an everyday regular in the bigs. He's a big dude (6'6", 230 pounds), but he's not necessarily known for launching baseballs over the wall. Instead, his skill is mostly average (.290+ average in four minor league seasons). We've seen a little more power in the last 12 months and with that we've seen more strikeouts, but there's nothing alarming on that front. If you get a .270 batting average with 60 starts, Healy could be a good 'off-day fill-in' for those in daily leagues. It's tough to think he can post an exciting fantasy line in 2016, but he has half the battle won with playing time in-hand.
Suggested FAAB bid - $3
Max Kepler, OF, Minnesota
Guess who is tied for 2nd in all of baseball with 25 RBIs over the past 30 days?? Pretty easy when it leads off the profile, right?! Kepler's name is right there with Albert Pujols (27) and Edwin Encarnacion (25) since the third week of June. He's mostly accomplished things with the long ball. In fact, 16 of his 25 RBIs have been courtesy of his eight homeruns since June 22. I'm not faulting the guy, I'm just letting you know how he's gone about his business, of late. The power can't stay at this rate. Plus, even during this run, the German-born outfielder has hit just .228. For comparison's sake, Pujols has hit .318 in his sprint and 'E5' has gone off for a .309 average. Yes, all streaks are not created equal.
Suggested FAAB bid - $4
Jurickson Profar, INF, Texas
Prince Fielder's (neck) year is mostly kaput. That issue will again shuffle the deck in the Texas lineup. Thus, a guy like Profar who can play all four infield positions becomes critical. But, Texas has a ton of trading deadline decisions to make and their direction will certainly affect Profar's outlook. He may stay in Arlington and have a chance to continue his growth as a hitter (.304 average with a near-.800 OPS). Honestly, though, both he and Joey Gallo, are prime chips that any team would be interested in. Regardless of how things pan out, I believe that Profar is due to be in the starting lineup for 75% of the games left on whoever's schedule he's a part of. His eligibility all over the diamond is eye-catching for the fantasy world. He's only available in some leagues because his bat has slowed a tad and playing time was sketchy. That issue has mostly been cleared up. He most likely can help in the average and runs categories.
Suggested FAAB bid - $6
Jake Smolinski, OF, Oakland
Earlier in the column I brought up the case of a player who suddenly has been given a starting shot because his team has flipped regular starters elsewhere. Oakland has yet to fully involve themselves in the trade market, but that could change in mere moments. You can already see that they are preparing for 'tryout time.' I mentioned Healy up above and Smolinski is also in the same boat. The Athletics have sent Billy Burns to the bush leagues and are ready to move on from Coco Crisp. Smolinski is now set to start in centerfield. He's stuck in the bottom of the lineup, but he's held his own with enough pop to create a bit of interest. Give a low-ball bid and see if Smolinski can rack up some numbers as the A's leave the stifling offensive home environment and head on the road for a nine-game road trip starting on Monday.
Suggested FAAB bid - $2
Dan Vogelbach, 1B, Seattle
Vogelbach is not in the same realm as the likes of Josh Bell or A.J. Reed. He is similar to the two, though, because of his position and because of the fact that he's mostly finished proving himself in the minor leagues (16 homers and a near-.550 slugging percentage this year ... his 6th in the minors). Unfortunately, he wasn't going to get a shot with the Cubs who have a guy named Anthony Rizzo currently at 1B. That made him a trade candidate and the move went down earlier in the week when he was sent to Seattle in exchange for lefty reliever, Mike Montgomery. The Mariners have been on a seemingly eternal search for power at first for years now and Vogelbach should soon get the call-up to see if he's the answer. He bats from the left-side and would be replacing Adam Lind. I can see the move happening in the next week or so. If you're looking for pop, but can only make a small investment ... here's your guy.
Suggested FAAB bid - $3
Jose De Leon, SP, LA Dodgers
The Dodgers are reaping what they sowed. Throughout their spending spree of the past calendar year they seemed to have no sense of risk. They added multiple arms who were known throughout the industry for their fragility. Thus, what they're going through in the rotation is not unfair, unexpected, or something to feel bad about. They earned these problems. De Leon is another prospect in the Julio Urias-vein. He's probably behind Urias in most prospect rankings, but he's still one of the better arms yet to appear in the majors. I'm sure the Dodgers will find cameo chances for him over the final two months, but it's tough to see any real consistency in his usage. He won't be out there every five days (just like Urias), he may shuttle between the rotation and the bullpen (just like Urias), and he could make ready use of the LA-to-Oklahoma City plane route (just like Urias). Love the talent (a collective ERA under-2.50 since the start of 2014), but his role is entirely unsettled for anyone looking for help in a redraft league.
Suggested FAAB bid - $3
Mike Leake, SP, St. Louis
Man, oh, man ... look what Leake is doing, right now. Since the start of June, the veteran has punched out 45 hitters in under 49 innings. For many, that would be nothing noteworthy, but this is Leake we're talking about. He regularly sits in the 5.5 K/9-range, but is up near 7, right now. His overall numbers are just ... there. In other words, he's the same-ol' Mike Leake. I'd be interested in a two-start week (damn, that was this past week), but that's the extent of it. There's just so little true upside beyond falling into some wins.
Suggested FAAB bid - $3
Francisco Liriano, SP, Pittsburgh
You have to consider that Liriano has been the worst every-five-days' pitcher in baseball this year. The lefty has an ERA of five, has walked an enormous 5.4 batters-per-nine, owns a WHIP over one-and-a-half, and has netted just six victories in 19 starts. BUT ... he's coming off an attention getting 13 K effort (with NO walks ... just the second time this year he's had a start with zero free passes) in just 6.2 innings of pitching against Milwaukee. That's not shocking, of course, but it doesn't mean much for the immediate future. Or, perhaps I should say, it's not predictive of the future. Liriano has been impossible to peg for a full decade now. He has dynamite stuff one start and then gets hammered for six or seven runs in just three innings the next time out. Many of us have been down that road before and swore off the journey forever more. If you've yet to make the trip, though, take a shot. God speed and good luck!
Suggested FAAB bid - $5
Tyler Skaggs, SP, LA Angels
For a majority of this season, if you are listed as an Angels' starting pitcher then you are also listed as an injured Angels' starting pitcher. Skaggs has been in that category for nearly two years after undergoing Tommy John surgery in August of 2014. He missed all of '15 and has made nine minor league starts this year. His last one was a Triple-A gem as he fired 5.2 innings and allowed just one hit. The lefty is probably ticketed for a return to the 'Big A' in the next week. The Angels will be careful with him, but the former-top-end prospect is a fairly decent late-season flier. Maybe you'll get the Patrick Corbin of 2015.
Suggested FAAB bid - $4
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