USA Today Sports

Fantasy Baseball Week 1: Waiver Wire Targets

Fantasy Baseball high-stakes expert Shawn Childs runs through player recommendations you should target to improve your Fantasy Baseball roster.

The first week of the waiver wire is upon us. Each one of us plays in many league styles and sizes, so it’s impossible to cater a waiver wire list that fits every Fantasy owner’s needs. This year I did one 12 team league with no trading. My options for pickups in this league won’t be the same as yours, but I’ll use this league as a baseline to see the best available players each week.

Catcher

As usual, the catching inventory looks bleak after draft day. The top option as far as at bats headed into Week 2 is Martin Maldonado on the Angels. Going into Saturday’s action, he’s started four of five games (.286 with two RBI). Geovany Soto started two of three games for the White Sox while delivering one monster games (2-for-3 with two runs, two HRs, and four RBI). His experience should lead to the better half of the split at catcher for Chicago.

First Base

For those drafters that rostered Ian Desmond, Mark Reynolds is a natural cover. He’s replacing him in the starting lineup, and his bat started off on the uptick (.389 with two HRs and six RBI) while being in the lineup every day. Ryan Zimmerman was the most overlooked batter in the high-stakes market this draft season. He could be found after round 23 in almost every 15-team league while being undrafted in most 12 team leagues or smaller. On Friday night, Ryan hit 5th in the Nationals starting lineup. After 17 at bats, he has three runs, two HRs, and two RBI. Zimmerman worked hard in the offseason to get his power swing back with Daniel Murphy. He’s a middle of the order bat when healthy and playing well. I don’t know what to make of Jesus Aguilar after the first week of the season. He has a five-game hitting streak (7-for-11 with two runs and two RBI). At age 26, he only has 69 career at bats in the majors (.246) with no home runs. Last year Aguilar hit .247 at AAA with 30 HRs and 92 RBI over 515 at bats. He’ll battle Eric Thames for playing time at first base. Jesus is more of a bench flyer in deep leagues.

Second Base

Raul Mondesi drew plenty of attention in the high-stakes market once he was named the starter in Kansas City. Raul won’t hit in a favorable part of the batting order, and his bat might not be ready to be a factor long term due to his inability to make contact. For now, Mondesi should offer flash speed with the occasional home run. He has four hits in 14 at bats while swiping three bags after four games. The three veteran bats I see in the free agent pool at second base are Jed Lowrie, Howie Hendrick, and Brandon Phillips. Based on overall career resume, Phillips would be my top choice of the three. Lowrie does have a HR after 17 at bats, and he does make sense in deeper leagues.

© Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Shortstop

The bottom of the order bat of Freddy Galvis went undrafted in many 12 team leagues. He followed up his nice 2016 season (20 HRs and 17 SBs) with two home runs over his first 14 at bats with four RBI while hitting at the bottom of the Phillies lineup. Galvis makes the most sense as an injury cover unless he moves up in the batting order. Andrelton Simmons comes across with a boring skill set leading to him being a free agent in most shallow leagues. Over 19 at bats, he’s hitting .421 with three runs, one RBI, and one SB. He did steal ten bases in 2016 plus his power still has a chance to develop based on his aggressive swing and low K rate.

Third Base

The Angels have decided to bat Yunel Escobar in the leadoff position in Week 1, which gives him a chance at scoring more runs. After 20 at bats, he’s hitting .350 with four runs and a RBI. His power has no real upside while offering no value in steals. Yangervis Solarte will bat cleanup on many nights for the Padres. His power should improve in 2017, and his bat has shown streaky upside in his career. Solarte hit the ground running after five games (.350 with a HR and seven RBI). After multiple years of emptiness in his bat, Chase Headley showed a spark over the first week of the season (.467 with a HR, two RBI, and a SB). At the very least, Headley will be in the starting lineup almost every day. The injury to Adrian Beltre created a short-term window for Joey Gallo. He has a HR, two RBI, and a SB after 13 at bats, but Gallo has whiffed eight times.

Outfield

For the life of me, I can’t understand way Jayson Werth was overlooked this draft season. I know he’s getting older and may not hit in a favorable part of the batting order, but he’s a professional bat. Over 16 at bats, Jayson hit .313 with two HRs and four RBI. He should be owned in all 12 team formats or larger leagues. Brett Gardner played poorly in 2016 leading to him being bypassed by most Fantasy owners on draft day in 12 team leagues or smaller. After 16 at bats, he’s hitting .375 with four runs and more importantly two stolen bases while batting leadoff on Friday night. Matt Joyce popped a three-run homer while batting in the two hole on Friday night. He’ll play every day against righties while needing to prove his worth against left-hand pitching. The Dodgers have given Andrew Toles a chance to bat leadoff over the first week of the season. He’s 1-for-12 with two runs scored and a RBI. Andrew did steal 62 bags in 2013 over 519 at bats while playing at single A. He may be a short-term speed out.

Adam Hunger / USA TODAY Sports

Starting Pitching

Jimmy Nelson threw the ball will in his first start against a tough Cubs lineup. He allowed one run over six innings with eight Ks. Nelson threw 63 strikes on 93 pitches, which is positive. His nest two starts will come on the road against the Reds and Cubs, so I may temper my expectations. I hate to even think about the Rockies starting pitchers, but both Antonio Senzatela (no runs and two hits over five shutout innings with six Ks) and Kyle Freeland (one run and four hits over six innings with six Ks) threw the ball well in the major-league debuts. Of the two, I would place my bet more on Senzatela even with minimal experience above High-A (34.2 innings at AA – 1.82 ERA). Jason Vargas looked the part in his first start on the road vs. the Astros. He allowed one run over six innings with six Ks. His next two starts come at home against the A’s and Giants, which look favorable. Edinson Volquez looks to be the ace of the Marlins staff after regressing in 2016 (5.37 ERA). He tossed five shutout innings with six Ks. Fantasy owners will have another look at him on Sunday vs. the Mets who he’ll face again next week.

Closer

The Nationals awarded Blake Treinen the closing job out of spring training. His arm looked electric in his first outing (no runs over one inning with two Ks). Over his next three games, Blake allowed three runs and six baserunners over 2.1 innings. Treinen is 3-for-4 in save conversions, but he needs to pitch better to keep the job long term. Koda Glover is expected to be next in line based on the news in March. He’s pitched two shutout innings while Shawn Kelley struggled in his only outing (two runs and two hits in one inning).

The closer most at risk after Week 1 is Sam Dyson. The Indians beat him for eight runs and nine base runners over one inning in two games to put his job on the line. The velocity of his fastball was down (94.9) compared to the last two seasons (2015 – 97.2 and 2016 – 97.0). His replacement will come from either Jeremy Jeffress (one run over one inning) or Matt Bush (one run allowed over 1.2 innings with two Ks). My bet would be on Bush even with Jeffress having some closing experience.


Scout Fantasy Top Stories