In a perfect world Madison Bumgarner would’ve stayed off his dirt bike. Starling Marte would’ve stayed away from PEDs, Noah Syndergaard would’ve have made his last start, and numerous other injuries would not have occurred. We don’t live in a perfect world, and players we draft succumb to injuries and other outside forces. Luckily, the waiver wire exists, and those who grab players early enough are able to counteract these outside forces. With the 2017 All-Star Game a week away, I want to look at my top-5 players who have been fantasy all-stars off the waiver in this week’s article of “That’s Amore!” Waiver Wire All-Stars 2017.
Cody Bellinger – Los Angeles Dodgers ADP: ESPN (260+) Yahoo (154.6) Fantrax (406.86)
Each season there’s a rookie, who gets his call, and absolutely takes Major League Baseball by storm. This year, it’s been Cody Bellinger. There’s been no stopping the powerful lefty, and he’s made owners look like geniuses. Yes, there are numerous owners that drafted Bellinger, but it’s safe to assume more owners snatched him off the free agent pool. The 21 year-old has been off to a tear slashing .261/.333/.630 with 24 home runs and 56 RBI. He’s had almost as many starts at first base (33) as he has in left field (35) and he made it easy for the Dodgers to maneuver past the slow start from Adrian Gonzalez. This has been even more valuable in fantasy leagues given his dual-position eligibility. With the injuries the Dodgers have suffered, Bellinger has been the brightest spot on a Dodgers team currently sitting in first place, in their division, and with unfinished business in the playoffs.
Bellinger’s power numbers have been a thing of beauty. He’s tied for second, in MLB, with 24 home runs. He currently sits seventh in MLB with a 47.5 Hard%. He’s 1.9% behind league-leader Miguel Sano (49.4%). Given his Hard%, he’s not getting cheating at the plate, and he’s making solid contact with his swings. His Z- contact percentage (Z-Contact%), with swings at pitches in the zone, currently sits at 75.7%. While Melky Cabrera is sitting atop MLB with a 95.9 Z-Contact% it’s not a shock Bellinger is killing pitches inside the hitting zone. While Bellinger takes my list as the top waiver wire All-Star, we may see him representing the National League All-Stars on July 11.
Ryan Zimmerman – Washington Nationals ADP: ESPN (260+) Yahoo (159.8) Fantrax (388.94)
Nearly undrafted, Zimmerman was a power machine right out of the starting gates. If you would’ve said he would keep his batting average above .320 by the All-Star Break I would’ve called you crazy. Zimmerman has been able to do just that currently sitting at .335. While the powers numbers have cooled off only hitting four home runs in each of May and June he still has recorded 19 through the first half of the season. The National first baseman has slashed .335/.375/.619 and added 62 RBI. His 62 RBI ties him for third with who other than Aaron Judge.
While healthy has played a huge factor in Zimmerman’s renaissance, he’s been consistent with contact currently sitting 22nd with a 40.9 Hard%. While the Nationals are looking to run away with the NL East division (second place trails by 7.5 games as of Sunday), Zimmerman has been a consistent producer for a team that’s already suffered injuries to Adam Eaton and Trea Turner, while having arguably the worst closer situation in all of Major League Baseball. There’s no question the Nationals will have to hit their way into the playoffs, and Zimmerman has been one of their main producers.
Earlier in the season, I wrote an article specifically on Ryan Zimmerman. I talked about what he brings to fantasy baseball, and discussed whether or not he was a sell-high candidate. As previously mentioned, after starting April hitting 11 home runs, he’s cooled off combining for only eight in May and June. While the production is still high, he’s definitely cooled off since an April that saw him slash .420/.458/.886. If you’re still in desperate need of a piece come the fantasy trade deadline, Zimmerman may be the best bet on acquiring a player. While the numbers are still great, he’s fallen off his pace of breaking his career-high 33 home runs set in 2009. Either way, Zimmerman is in my top-5 waiver wire all-stars for 2017.
Avisail Garcia – Chicago White Sox ADP: ESPN (260+) Yahoo (193.2) Fantrax (515.48)
After the White Sox acquired Garcia from Detroit, I immediately added him to my personal watch list. After getting his call, I grabbed him from the waiver wire as soon as I could. At 26, it was do or die time for Garcia. He hasn’t panned out as the White Sox were hoping for, and they signed him to a one-year deal this past off-season. In a contact year, he’s been solid for the White Sox. Through the first half of the season, Garcia has slashed .318/.362/.512 with 11 home runs, 51 RBI, and 40 runs scored. He’s helped a Sox team stay in contention (eight games back) when most people thought otherwise entering the season. What can be said about Garcia’s contact? His Hard% has been the highest in his career (36.3%) and this has put him on pace to shatter his career-best marks of 13 home runs (2015), 59 RBI (2015), and .257 average (2015).
One of the biggest factors in his success has been the ability to keep his strikeouts in check. He’s been able to maintain a 21.7% which is the lowest in his career, and 2.1% lower than his career average. Another factor is being aggressive at pitches in the zone. He’s at an all-time high in Z-Contact% (83.8%) and Z-Swing% (82.3%). While his numbers may not be eye-popping to most fantasy fans, he has been a great acquisition especially for teams in need of injury replacements and solid production from the utility spot. It remains to be seen if the White Sox look to sign Garcia for the future. I’d love to see him get on a hot streak and rattle off 5+ home runs by the trade deadline. If he can increase his value, even the slightest bit, he could be a solid addition for an owner looking to make a move. Either way, Garcia is having a career-year and he’s been a top choice from the waiver wire.
Chris Taylor – Los Angeles Dodgers ADP: ESPN (260+) Yahoo (Undrafted) Fantrax (977.7)
If you look at his ADP through ESPN, Yahoo, and Fantrax you’ll notice Taylor went undrafted in nearly each site. Unless your his biggest fan, no one drafted him in your fantasy leagues. However, Chris Taylor has been my favorite waiver wire All-Star of 2017. Ben Zobrist has been the MLB Swiss Army Knife for many years, and this season Taylor has given him a run for his money. We’ve seen Taylor gain eligibility at second base, third base, and the outfield. This is the perfect type of player to add and slot into each of the aforementioned positions or even in a utility spot. There’s no questioning the Dodgers have suffered injuries, and horrendous starts, since the April. Taylor has filled in admirably each time he’s been asked to, and he’s put together a solid first-half of the season. His slash line sits at .277/.376/.482 with 10 HR, 37 RBI, 40 runs scored, and 10 stolen bases. It’s hard to argue any other player could put together across-the-board stats as Taylor has. While he only hit .227 in June after hitting .296 (April) and .322 (May) to start the season, he’s kept his power numbers and RBI consistent. While he’s not going to outperform the likes of Bellinger and Zimmerman, Taylor been a nice addition to plug in while players such as Mitch Haniger and Starling Marte (examples from my specific teams) have dealt with injuries and suspensions.
As with numerous players, Taylor’s hot start has fizzled off. We’ve seen his batted ball of 5.6 Soft%, 55.6 Med%, 38.9 Hard% (April) go to 6.5 Soft%, 59.7 Med%, 33.9 Hard% (May) and 15.4 Soft%, 56.9 Med%, 27.7 Hard% (June). There’s no question pitchers have made adjustments as we can see in the dramatic decrease in Taylors Hard% (-11.2% since April) since the start of the season. Also, Taylor’s K% has increased from 31.0% in April to 26.2% in May and 29.6% in June. While April saw a decrease, June was another story. Another sign, pitchers are attacking Taylor differently than they did to start the season. One number that I do like is Taylor’s BB%. In April, it sat at 6.9%. Since, we’ve seen 15.9% in May and 10.2% in June. May and June both saw an increase in walk percentage. While Taylor started off April and May in phenomenal fashion, June was a month to forget in terms of strikeouts and Hard%. Still, for a player that went undrafted, he’s been a great piece to compete weekly while waiting for injuries players, and suspended players, to return.
Trey Mancini – Baltimore Orioles ADP: ESPN (260+) Yahoo (Undrafted) Fantrax (649.39)
Just as Chris Taylor went undrafted, so did Trey Mancini. It wasn’t long into the season that Mancini started receiving regular at-bats and producing in a big way. Through the half-way mark, Mancini has slashed .303/.353/.576 with 14 home runs and 43 RBI. The production has been consistent after an April start of .216/.245/.549. Since he’s posted .342/.398/.479 and .340/.383/.630 for May and June. He’s been a great source of power off the free agent pool, and he’s managed dual-position eligibility for first base and outfield. After the first month, I was looking for any type of power potential off the waiver wire. Many of my players were off to slow starts, and waiver wire power was a scarcity. Low and behold, I spotted Mancini immediately, and he didn’t let me down.
Mancini entered Sunday a top-50 player with a 36.6 Hard%. Through April, Mancini’s batted ball numbers sat at 12.5 Soft%, 53.1 Med%, and 34.4 Hard% with a 35.8 K% and 3.8 BB%. While he hitting the ball hard, he was striking out at an astronomical clip. Fast forward to May, and is numbers were: 15.8 Soft%, 50.9 Med%, and 33.3 Hard% with a 21.7 K% and 8.4 BB%. As we can see, the numbers were similar with a drastic decrease in strikeouts and his walk percentage increased 4.6%. Finally reaching June, Mancini’s numbers again jumped. His Hard% was the highest in two months at 41.4% (15.7 Soft% & 42.9 Med%). He also totaled seven homeruns through June. While his K% increased to 28.0% he was able to keep his BB% higher than April at 5.6%.
Mancini’s been one of the deeper value picks in terms of power. After a sluggish April, he strung together two-straight months in which he’s had an OBP over .380 and an OPS north of .875. If he stay on his current pace, he could come close to 30 HR and 90 RBI. It’s hard to think of another waiver wire pickup that could produce these types of power numbers that isn’t named Cody Bellinger. If you’re still looking to acquire any pieces as your team approached the playoffs, Mancini could be the perfect piece to acquire your team’s needs. On the other hand, if you’re looking for an under-the-radar source of power, Mancini could be the perfect player to be had a modest price.
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Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio Show: Join guest host Andrea LaMont, and Kyle Amore live on Sunday July 9th, 2017 from 7-9pm EST for episode #93 of Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio. We are a live broadcast that will take callers at 323-870-4395. Press 1 to speak with the host. We will discuss the latest information in the world of fantasy baseball.
Our guest this week is Kyle Kilnker. Kyle is a staple member of majorleaguefantasysports.com, and also a MLFB Champion.