One week is now in the books, and we have all quickly learned the names of Trevor Story, Eugenio Suarez, and Tyler White among others who opened fantasy players eyes in the first week of the season. The good thing about fantasy baseball is that no matter how long the season is, it is very rare that the waiver wire runs dry.
Although we are only about ten games into the baseball season, injuries have already hit a lot of fantasy teams. Some of you might be here because you lost Kyle Schwarber in your outfield. Some may be without Shin-Soo Choo, while others might be worried about Jacob DeGrom’s lat muscle or Adam Jones’ oblique.
Even though it is early in the season, there are always people who get really nervous about those veterans who get off to slow starts. Many head to the waiver wire to find someone to play over, or even in some cases looking for a replacement for a guy they just have to drop.
You might want to put Freddie Freeman on the bench, or perhaps Curtis Granderson’s lack of hitting is grinding your gears. Are you waiting for Joey Votto to break out in a big way? Or has the early season struggles of Kris Bryant have you heading for the local pub? Most of these guys you can count will hit the stats on the back of their baseball cards by season’s end, but I know it is hard to mot make a move
While I continue to preach patience in the first month of the season, fear not dear Readers! Below you will find a number of options that are available in at least half of fantasy baseball leagues that you can you put on your squad and help you through a tough time with one or more of the guys you drafted. As always, please follow me on Twitter @fightingchance.
Fantasy Baseball Waiver Wire Targets
Mallex Smith, OF, Atlanta Braves
An injury to Ender Inciarte has caused the Braves to bring up one of their more exciting prospects in Mallex Smith. One of the pieces that Atlanta received in the Justin Upton trade, if you need to know anything about Smith it is that he can flat out fly! And when I mean fly, I almost literally mean fly!
OK, not literally, but you get the point. In 2013 he stole 64 bags in the Minors. If that wasn’t enough he swiped 88 in 2014! He followed that up with an impressive 57 steals. Throughout his career down on the farm he has also kept his batting average at a good level, and that has allowed him to rack up a good number of runs scored as well.
Smith has been leading off for the first few games that he has played for the Braves, and while he hasn’t stolen a base yet, he has been caught once. The Braves haven’t won a game yet, and they are clearly going nowhere. While Smith didn’t win the job out of Spring, I would assume that the Braves will keep him out there and let him develop. Even on a terrible team if he is leading off Smith has a chance to steal a lot of bases. If you are in a roto league and need steals he is certainly a target for you to go after.
Nomar Mazara, OF, Texas Rangers
One of the prizes of the Minor Leagues, Mazara was ranked among the top 20 prospects in baseball. Shin-Soo Choo will miss 4-6 weeks due to injury, and the Rangers brought Mazara up to play! If you wanted to have an indication of how much the organization thinks of him, he has been batting second in every game since his call up. Mazara’s impressive 6’4”, 215 pound frame is capable of delivering a good deal of power, even if his baserunning ability isn’t great.
Mazara homered in his first game, and has had at least one hit in each game he has played in so far. Mazara should hit for a solid average, and it wouldn’t surprise me if he kept it around .275. He has the ability to hit 20 home runs, and he still hasn’t hit his 21st birthday yet. He could face competition when Choo is able to return, or if fellow prospect Joey Gallo proves he’s ready to come back to the Majors, but Mazara is a monster prospect and should be on rosters in every league right away.
Jeremy Hazelbaker, OF, St. Louis Cardinals
A 28 year old career Minor Leaguer, Hazelbaker was given an opportunity with the Opening Day injury to Tommy Pham. Pham injured his oblique and likely won’t be back until early May. Hazelbaker had a great 2015 at Triple-A as he mashed 10 home runs in just 58 games. I don’t know how long Hazelbaker will be with the Cardinals after Pham comes back with Matt Holliday, Randal Grichuk, and Stephen Piscotty also contending for those three spots.
He is certainly making the most of his chance though as he has driven in a run in five straight games, hit two home runs, and stolen two bases. A lot of this has been against subpar pitching in Atlanta and Milwaukee, but you still can’t deny the numbers. He might only carry value for another three or four weeks, but right now few players are as hot as Hazelbaker.
Aledmys Diaz, SS, St. Louis Cardinals
Given the chance after injuries to both Jhonny Peralta and Ruben Tejada, Diaz has stepped in and given the Cardinals some much needed offense. The 25 year old Cuban shortstop was solid between two levels of the Minors as he hit 13 home runs in 116 games. He also has a little bit of speed as he stole six bases, but was also caught six times.
In five games so far, Diaz has eight hits, including three doubles, and has driven in five runs. A more impressive stat for a young hitter, Diaz has only struck out twice in 15 at-bats. He does have some competition for playing time with Jedd Gyorko also vying for time, and Ruben Tejada should be back in a few weeks. Diaz has the most talent by far though, and should have a good chance to own the shortstop position until Jhonny Peralta returns in late June or July.
Aledmys Diaz has a homer, a triple, three doubles, two singles, and five RBI in his first 13 major league plate appearances. 1.865 OPS.
— Drew Silva (@drewsilv) April 11, 2016
Matt Moore, SP, Tampa Bay Rays
Many moons ago I was a huge fan of Matt Moore. The year was 2013, he had just come off a solid start to his career, and looked to be even better. That was the last season that he had any fantasy relevance. He started out ’14 with two wild starts and the next thing you knew it was Tommy John Surgery! My heart was broken. I thought I would never love another. That thought was quickly dashed with a solid waiver pickup, but I digress. Last season he came back and wasn’t great, but that is to be expected.
2016 started off with a rough one against the Blue Jays, but it is tough to blame him for that one as they tattoo every starting pitcher. Moore looked great against the Indians in his second start allowing just one run over seven innings and striking out five. Even more encouraging, he only walked one batter. In two starts he now has just three walks against 11 strikeouts in 12 innings.
Moore is still owned in well less than half of fantasy leagues, and a guy who is a former All-Star, nearly two years removed from Tommy John Surgery is a solid bet, and one that I would be willing to take unless you really focused on starting pitching in your draft. There are three things you can never have too much of, and that is beer, sleep, and starting pitching in fantasy baseball.
Nick Tropeano, SP, Los Angeles Angels
Andrew Heaney’s flexor injury opened the door for Tropeano to come to the Majors and get a chance. While not a top prospect in baseball, he always had great strikeout stuff in the Minors, and progressed nicely from year to year. However, he had a horrible Spring and was sent back to Triple-A for seasoning. The injury to Heaney came very quickly though, and the Angels made the move to bring Tropeano up.
He isn’t a hard thrower, but Tropeano is able to miss bats with his fastball as well as a solid slider. He was very solid in his first time out on Monday as he didn’t allow a run through five innings and struck out six. He was also able to keep the walks under control, as he only allowed two free passes and one was intentional.
Matt Shoemaker is his competition for the rotation spot, and I think Tropeano is more talented. I also think he will stay up because it’s only a matter of time before Jered Weaver comes up injured. Tropeano isn’t going to win or lose you a league, but the way starting pitchers get injured, he is certainly a great candidate to give you depth to your rotation.
Chris Bassitt, SP, Oakland Athletics
I know the A’s are a terrible offensive team, and it isn’t going to be easy for their pitchers to rack up wins, but I do like what I see from Bassitt. He had a very solid Minor League career, and while he hasn’t really broken out at the Major League level yet, I think he has a chance to be a very good waiver pickup for you going forward.
Bassitt is a great sinkerball pitcher, which keeps a lot of balls on the ground, and also helps him to not allow many home runs. Couple that with the fact that his home park in Oakland is one of the more cavernous in baseball, and I don’t expect a lot of long balls hit off of him this season. In fact, he only gave up five taters in 18 appearances last season (13 starts).
Bassitt is firmly entrenched in the Athletics rotation, and you don’t have to worry about him losing his spot, unless he blows up for weeks. He has had a bit of a control problem in his career, and he will need to keep the walks down. After a shaky first start, Bassitt was much better his second time around, and I can see him being a 10-12 game winner and striking out 130-140 guys.