Each season stars struggle out of the gate. At times, these struggles seem unexplainable, but there are deciding factors in certain circumstances. Take for instance, Giancarlo Stanton. Who would’ve thought the reigning NL MVP would open the season slashing .239/.323/.440 with five home runs and 40 strikeouts in 109 at-bats? On the mound, no one could’ve predicted Madison Bumgarner would miss a significant chunk of starts for two straight seasons. Still, injuries and slow starts hamper fantasy rosters right of the gates, but luckily there are those players that make solid impacts early. Last season, we saw monster starts from Chris Taylor and Trey Mancini. Both went on to be waiver wire MVPs and helped numerous owners win their fantasy leagues. Who can forget Ryan Zimmerman’s 2017 season? He went on to set career-highs in home runs (36), slugging percentage (.573), and OPS (.931). This week, I want to take a look at batters that are owned in 50% of leagues, or less, in this week’s installment of “That’s Amore!” Waiver Wire Gems: Batters Owned in 50% (Or Less) of Leagues.
Jose Peraza – CIN (29.4%)
Peraza is a player that has been on fantasy managers’ draft sheets for sometime now. He’s a player we look to steal 30+ bases while helping solidify middle infield positions. Only 24, Peraza looked destined to breakout after a solid 16 season that saw him steal 21 bases in 72 games. Fast forward to 2017 and Peraza managed to slash .259/.297/.324 in 487 at-bats. He doesn’t strike out a lot, but we’ve seen weak contact and his offensive production hasn’t translated to the success numerous experts expected at the Major League level. However, as I mentioned earlier Peraza is only 24, and has the experience to put it all together. Early into the 2018 season, Peraza has slashed .299/.321/.411 with two home runs and three stolen bases. After starting off slow, Peraza has managed eight multi-hit games in his last 23 games played, and four have come in the last seven games. If you’re looking for a player with 2B/SS eligibility then Peraza could provide some immediate success. As I mentioned earlier, he’s locked in at the plate, and he’s put together three games with three, or more, hits in his previous six. Jim Riggleman took over as Cincinati’s skipper on April 19th. He has a history of helping bad teams produce, and I don’t expect anything less with the Reds. That being said, Peraza has hit .395 since Riggleman took over for Bryan Price. Much of his success has come hitting the ball up the middle as his Cent% (40.4) and his Hard% (25.3) are currently career-highs. His 22.2 Soft% is also a career-best.
Matt Davidson – CWS (49.9%)
Entering Sunday, Davidson’s own percentage was near 50%. Monday morning, that went up 1.1%. He’s currently tied for second in MLB with nine home runs. Home run potential has always been there since his minor league days, but as with most young power hitters strikeouts were a major problem. Still, Davidson put together a 2017 season in which he hits 26 home runs in 414 at-bats while accumulating strikeouts in nearly 40% of his at-bats. Arguably one of the hottest free agent pickups after hitting three Opening Day home runs, Davidson’s production quickly dissipated racking up 30 strikeouts, two home runs, and 11 hits in his next 64 at-bats. After seeing numerous owners, including myself, drop Davidson he did what any streaky power hitter would do and put together consecutive two home run games last Thursday and Friday. Believe me, it’s extremely frustrating rostering a player that frequently strikeouts and kills your OBP, but it’s hard to not hold onto a player with 40 home run potential. While it’s debatable if streaky hitters are worth the roster sport, there’s no denying Davidson’s power as he enters Monday third in Major League baseball with a 53.7 Hard% just behind Yoan Moncada’s 54.2% and league-leader J.D. Martinez’ 57.6%. But of course, where he is a league leader in Hard% he also is top-10 with a 31.7 K%. If you can stomach the strikeouts, and extended days without home runs, Davidson is more than likely available and could be that waiver wire pickup that easily hits 40 home runs. If he put together 20+ by the All-Star break, he could be the perfect player to sell high.
Denard Span – TB (12.6%)
Believe me, I’m just as shocked to see Span on a list as you are. However, entering week five, Span finds himself tied for eighth in Major League Baseball with 21 RBI. His career-high is 68 set back in 2009. What’s even more head scratching is the fact that he already has three home runs, and could possibly surpass his career-high of 12 that he set last season with the Giants. It’s not everyday that we see 34 year-olds have career seasons, but Span is playing for a Tampa team that figures to finish last in the American League East division. With players hitting the 10-day disabled list at an astronomical rate, I’ve found it extremely frustrating to find production out of numerous positions. Wil Myers finally gained OF eligibility in Yahoo!, but found himself seeing a second stint on the 10-day DL before finally gaining the eligibility. A guy like Span is extremely cheap (owned in 12.6% of leagues), and is playing for a team that is going to give him at-bats until he comes up lame trying to leg out an infield hit. While the production probably won’t last throughout the season, and we for sure know he won’t finish the season anywhere close to top-10 in RBIs, he’s a great play while he’s hot. His wOBA is at a career-best .369 mark and his 32.8 Hard% is 7.4% higher than it’s ever been. To be fair, he’s doing what numerous players, throughout baseball, have done and that’s use the opposite part of the field. Early into the season, Span’s 34.4 Oppo% is the highest it’s ever been at any point in the Majors. Again, at 34, it’s hard to see Span keeping up the production, but Tampa Bay won’t be competing and Span isn’t in jeopardy of losing at-bats. Assuming he’s healthy for the entire season, and that’s a big if as he’s averaged 126 games in the past six seasons, it’s not out of the realm of possibility for him to set career-highs in nearly all offensive categories. At this stage in his career stolen bases have completely went through the window, but he did steal 31 bases only four seasons ago at the age of 30.
Michael Taylor – WAS (37.3%)
Owned in 37.3%, this number was closer to the 50% range after drafts. Up until about a week ago, Taylor found himself with a sub-.200 average, and striking out in nearly 33% of his at-bats. However, since April 22 Taylor has seven hits in his last 22 at-bats to go along with three home runs, five RBI, and three stolen bases. This is coming from a player that from March 30 through April 21 hit zero home runs, and accumulated 28 strikeouts. Taylor is looking to have battled through the early season funk, and has much ground to makeup if he’s to surpass his career-highs in home runs (19) and stolen bases (17) that he set in 2017. In his last 15 games, Taylor has slashed .293/.408/.634. While in years past, Taylor had to fight for playing time, centerfield is Taylor’s job to lose. The Nationals currently sit fourth in the NL East at 12-16. This team is a 90-win team, and it’s only a matter of time before they start going. As the Nationals get going, I expect big things from Taylor especially as he looks to have overcome this early season woes. Taylor has a solid combination of power and speed. If he’s available, take a shot on the outfielder. Remember, we are only a season removed where Taylor’s Pre All-Star numbers sat at .278/.320/.510 with 12 home runs and 10 stolen bases.
Kurt Suzuki – ATL (40.3%)
It was a toss-up between Suzuki and C.J. Cron. However, through the years I’ve talked about my inability to roster a catcher that gets me any sort of positive production. 2018 was looking to follow the same path, but Kurt Suzuki, and the recent success of Elias Diaz, have helped ease the pain of always failing to draft a decent catcher. 2017 was one of the biggest seasons for Suzuki in terms of power numbers. He set career-highs in home runs (19) and OBP (.351). Keep in mind, these numbers came in 276 at-bats. This season, Suzuki is off to another solid start tied for fourth among Major League catchers in home runs, sixth in RBI (12), and fifth in OPS (.892). Early into his career, Suzuki was a perennial double-digit home run hitter, and set for 50+ RBI. Production slowly decreased starting in 2012, but rebounded in a big way last season. Thus far, Suzuki’s seen career-high marks with a .383 wOBA and 38.5 Hard%. He shown his bat still has some pop left, and he is on pace to easily shatter his career-best of 19 home runs set just one season ago. This young, exciting Atlanta Braves team have been fun to watch early into the season, and if they continue to keep the energy high, they could provide the motivation and adrenaline for Suzuki to not only set career-highs in all statistical categories but to help numerous fantasy owners who scooped him off waivers.
Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio Show: Join host Brian Roach, Jr, and John Gozzi live on Sunday April 29th, 2018 from 8-9:30pm EST for episode #118 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 Cole Freel. Cole is a writer with majorleaguefantasysports.com and his articles publish every Saturday afternoon. He will also be co-hosting with Brian starting next Sunday the 6th of May.