Except for unexpected call-ups, September usually holds few fantasy surprises on the waiver wire, but there are still a few undiscovered gems available out there, including one of the top prospects in the game. Whether you’re in contention or not, remember what your mamma always told you: quitters never win, and winners never quit (assuming your mamma was Vince Lombardi).
Ownership levels for Lucas Duda (Yahoo! 14%, ESPN 37%, CBS 38%) have been climbing ever since Daniel Murphy was lost for the season, and a recent seven-game hit streak (during which Duda collected an extra base hit in five games) helped push those ownership levels through the VP ceiling. Since becoming a Value Pick, Duda has hit .283/.327/.478, part of a four-week .317/.385/.512 stretch. Mostly playing in right field—where he has even more fantasy value—Duda leaves the VP list with his head held high, unlike our next departure.
When you’re a marginal talent like Brent Morel (Yahoo! 1%, ESPN 1%, CBS 7%), even the smallest stumble removes you from the margins. His 2.1 percent walk rate makes him even more vulnerable to BABIP fluctuations, and pitchers are working him with heaters and changeups instead of the curveballs he hit so well last season. I added Morel after the trade of Mark Teahen led to a burst of productivity, but that burst has turned to bust as Morel has hit just .244/.292/.356 as a VP despite collecting an uncharacteristic three free passes in that thirteen-game span. Playing time for a contending team is the only fantasy value Morel’s bringing these days, so we tell him, “Here’s your hat—there’s the door.”
I didn’t have to tell BP readers about the call-up of Mike Moustakas (Yahoo! 9%, ESPN 7%, CBS 43%), whom fantasy owners expected to follow in the footsteps of rookie success Eric Hosmer. After all, Kevin Goldstein ranked Moose first among Royals’ prospects (ahead of Hosmer) and seventh among all prospects, and BP 2011 called him “the rare batter who is more of a hitter with power than a power hitter” and a “future cleanup hitter.” Instead, Moose has scuffled with southpaws (.179/.247/.224 this season), battled with BABIP (.179 in July), and mamboed with the Mendoza line throughout much of July and August, and his slash line bottomed out at .185/.245/.238 on August 8.
Unlike the short leash they gave to Kila Ka’aihue, Royals management has been patient with Moustakas, in part because his core ratios have remained solid. Moose makes contact with 90.3 percent of strikes, leading to a very good 14.7 percent strikeout rate—right in line with his 15.4 percent minor league whiff rate. His 6.6 percent walk rate also shows he is just as aggressive as he was in the minors, where he logged a 6.9 percent rate.
That consistent approach has paid dividends since that August 8 low point. Moose has found his stroke, hitting .329/.368/.402 in 22 games, including his latest 14-game hit streak, during which he’s hit .423/.464/.538, correcting his low BABIP with a .478 mark. His .060 ISO shows that his power is still lagging, but that shows better development in Moose than a higher ISO and strikeout rate. His power will come eventually, just not this season, so keeper owners who are out of contention better snatch him and stash him. Everyone else can ride his hot bat, banking that Moose’s turnaround will continue and put you over the top in your hunt for a fantasy championship.
Now that they’ve brought him up, Oakland has played Brandon Allen (Yahoo! 5%, ESPN 13%, CBS 22%) in every game, and trading Conor Jackson cements their conviction to Allen. He has rewarded them with a .290/.333/.551 line since being inserted in the starting lineup, but that comes with a 28 percent strikeout rate and is assisted by a .370 BABIP. Allen is pressing to prove himself, as shown in his 6.7 walk rate, and his whiff rate has accelerated to 40.5 percent since his two-dinger night in New York. Allen’s up-and-down performance this week comes partly from facing lefties John Lackey, Erik Bedard, and David Huff, against whom he went a combined 1-for-11, the one hit being a homer off Lackey. This typifies the results you can expect from Allen, who will bring you homers and RBI while dragging down your batting average. Platoon him if you can, or just ride the rollercoaster.
If you watch Paul Goldschmidt (Yahoo! 7%, ESPN 8%, CBS 37%) hit, you see a guy calmly making adjustments, showing why the Diamondbacks promoted him so aggressively. He can pull the ball to produce a 416-foot jack—as he did against Tyler Clippard last Thursday—or he can line one up the middle—as he did later that game, nearly decapitating Henry Rodriguez. He hit .333/.417/.571 last week while walking three times to bring his season total to seven—more evidence of his balanced approach. Whether you need power or batting average, Paul is good as Gold.
Jim Thome (Yahoo! 6%, ESPN 10%, CBS 10%) took his return to Cleveland in stride, homering against the Royals in his second game back. His playing time should increase with Cleveland, yielding the spot to Shelley Duncan against tough lefties. Progressive was also friendlier to him last season (.389/.522/.944) than Target (.292/.425/.688). Since he’s hit just .160/.300/.320 in his new home park this season, I’d expect him to improve there, and the shift from an offense that produced 3.85 runs per game (13th in the AL) to one that scores 4.25 (8th in the AL) should help his counting numbers too. This favorable trade means he ought to be on your roster, particularly in leagues that count OBP.
Juan Rivera (Yahoo! 4%, ESPN 3%, CBS 13%) slowed down his torrid pace this week, picking up just one hit in 19 plate appearances, but he reached three times on an error, and his small-sample BABIP was a measly .059. Stick with Rivera, who remains a low-end mixed-league option or a strong NL-only corner infielder.
Like Mike Carp and Rivera before him, Kyle Seager (Yahoo! 12%, ESPN 13%, CBS 20%) leaps from single-league to mixed-league VP after a great two-week-plus stretch of games. He broke his nine-game hit streak (including five straight multi-hit games) on Monday but picked right back up again on Wednesday with another two-hit game. He’s risen to sixth in the Mariners’ lineup—the top of which has begun to produce again—so you should be able to get more value from Seager down the stretch, at least in counting numbers.
Facing an awfully thin waiver wire, I’ll make this week’s AL-only option a pick-‘em. The first choice is Jack Hannahan (Yahoo! 2%, ESPN 2%, CBS 5%), who has become Manny Acta’s choice at the hot corner thanks to a six-game hit streak that Hannahan followed with a seven-game stretch during which he logged five multi-hit games. His overall .249/.335/.389 line—which approaches his 90th PECOTA percentile—and his .514 August BABIP both point towards an impending correction, but the playing time is there, and you can ride the hot streak while it lasts.
Or, you could go with Scott Sizemore (Yahoo! 3%, ESPN 2%, CBS 9%), who has settled into the ninth spot as Oakland’s regular third baseman, where he hit .236/.333/.461 in August with three home runs and two steals. Unlike Hannahan, Sizemore could be in for a positive correction as his .240/.336/.384 overall line sits just below PECOTA’s 50th percentile projection. PECOTA sees Sizemore picking up two more longballs and two swipes down the stretch, while Hannahan has already exceeded PECOTA in both departments. I prefer Sizemore because of this, but Hannahan is the hotter hand. Still, either one should help your AL-only team down the stretch.
Jimmy Paredes (Yahoo! 1%, ESPN 2%, CBS 7%) hit .333/.429/.389 last week, stealing one base in two tries and scoring four runs. He continues to strike out with some regularity but nearly doubled his walk total with three free passes this week. Providing batting average, runs, and speed, Paredes cuts against the typical power profile of a third baseman, but he’s valuable in your NL-only league nonetheless.
Nick Evans (Yahoo! 1%, ESPN 1%, CBS 2%) is starting at first with Duda getting a tryout for next season in the outfield, perhaps achieving the power-patience package the Mets have always expected of him, making him worth a flyer in NL-only leagues.
Since coming to Colorado, Kevin Kouzmanoff (Yahoo! 1%, ESPN 1%, CBS 4%) has started seven straight games, hitting .296/.367/.370, but six of those games have been away from home. With Colorado playing 13 of its next 17 at home, he could be worth a roster spot to see if Coors Field boosts his line even further.
Josh Harrison (Yahoo! 1%, ESPN 0%, CBS 2%), another hot hitter who could be worth a flyer in deep NL-only leagues, has started at third for the Pirates for ten straight games, hitting .361/.385/.639 for an overall .283/.296/.384 line that’s almost exactly like his 80th PECOTA percentile. Pedro who?
Wily Mo Pena (Yahoo! 0%, ESPN 0%, CBS 1%) has started at DH for five of the last eight for the Mariners but picked up just one hit (a single) in three games last week. If you play Pena, you’re taking your chances.