Welcome to Week Two of Waiver Wired for the 2017 MLB season. I hope Opening Week treated you well, but if not, take some deep breaths. It’s easy to freak out and do something rash if you are sitting at the bottom of the standings in your league(s), but keep in mind that most teams have only played around nine games so far. That’s 5.5 percent of the schedule. We have a long way to go here.
One of the biggest problems with the first couple of weeks of the season is that we just don’t have much data to go on. And with the data we do have, it’s hard to surmise what is sustainable. With certain situations, you have to be aggressive in order to land a breakout player or a pitcher next in line for saves. If you wait too long, you are probably going to miss your chance. It’s a tricky balance between trusting the players you drafted and recognizing the opportunity for value. Some of the notable injuries we have seen in recent days have added an interesting variable to the mix here. Here's hoping you find something in this week's column, whatever your need might be.
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Jarrod Dyson OF, Mariners (Yahoo: 26 percent owned)
Dyson was originally discussed as the Mariners’ leadoff hitter after coming over from the Royals, but plans changed after Mitch Haniger’s hot spring. Dyson also dealt with a hamstring issue during Cactus League action. However, he’s getting a chance there now as Jean Segura nurses a hamstring strain, at least against right-handed starters. There’s obviously no power here, but hitting leadoff makes Dyson a lot more interesting in fantasy leagues, even if it’s just for couple of weeks. And who knows, maybe he produces enough to stick there. Dyson should be scooped up in most leagues, especially if you are trying to make up for some of the speed you are missing with Segura or Trea Turner on the disabled list.
Sean Doolittle RP, Athletics (Yahoo: 20 percent owned)
I recommended Santiago Casilla last week as part of the A’s crowded bullpen situation, but I might as well mention Doolittle now that we at least have more clarity on how manager Bob Melvin intends to use his bullpen. After Casilla pitched the eighth and Doolittle got the ninth on Monday against the Royals, Melvin said during an appearance on MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM on Tuesday that those are his two main options for saves depending on the matchups. It’s not ideal for fantasy owners, but it’s a fine strategy for winning baseball games. And that’s sort of his job, no? This situation favors Casilla, but Doolittle still offers value here. And he can help your team with ratios and strikeouts even if he isn’t getting saves.
Asdrubal Cabrera SS, Mets (Yahoo: 40 percent owned)
Did we completely forget about Cabrera’s monster production down the stretch last year? Despite playing through a nagging knee injury, the 31-year-old put up 10 homers with a 1.041 OPS over his final 41 games. He ended up with his most home runs (23) since 2011. Yes, weird things can happen in a small sample, but Cabrera moved closer to the plate and suddenly started pulling more fly balls. Plugged in as the Mets’ regular No. 2 hitter, he deserves some more respect in mixed leagues. Sure, the shortstop position is crowded right now, but you can justify the pickup in all formats with Segura and Turner sidelined.
Aaron Judge OF, Yankees (Yahoo: 43 percent owned)
I was initially more interested in Judge than Gary Sanchez when they were called up last year, so maybe you shouldn’t listen to me. Of course, Sanchez went on to have a historic showing down the stretch while Judge struck out 42 times in 95 plate appearances during his first stint in the majors before going down with an oblique injury. Still, I keep coming back to that power potential. After getting off to a bit of a slow start this year, the towering Judge has homered in each of his last three games. He has multi-hit games in all of them. And perhaps most encouraging, he has struck out just six times in 29 plate appearances. I don’t expect him to maintain that pace, but if he can keep the strikeouts at a manageable level, there could really be something here. Don’t rule it out. Judge has shown an ability to make adjustments moving his way up the minor league ladder. He’s in a great situation, so I can see taking a chance on him in most leagues.
Amir Garrett SP, Reds (Yahoo: 35 percent owned)
I was surprised to see Garrett end up with a rotation spot out of spring training, but he’s quickly proving that he belongs. The former college basketball player notched victories over the Cardinals and Pirates in his first two MLB starts while allowing just two runs in 12 2/3 innings along the way. He started his career with a 12-inning scoreless streak before giving up a two-run homer to David Freese in the seventh inning on Wednesday. The southpaw has averaged around 91 mph with his fastball so far, getting most of his whiffs on his slider and changeup. Garrett averaged 3.7 BB/9 in the minors, so his control was an issue at times, so the thing that stands out to me so far is that he has issued only two walks. It’s not always going to be this smooth. Coupled with the inexperience, he’s in a tough home ballpark with some challenging matchups coming up. But I always like a rookie pitcher with upside. Sign me up.
Howie Kendrick 1B/2B/3B/OF, Phillies (Yahoo: 43 percent owned)
Kendrick might be turning into one of my favorite swiss army knife fantasy options. Sure, the upside isn’t crazy high here. Sorry to break it to you, but he’s not going to hit .355 all year. There’s also not a lot of power here. But I definitely think he can be better than the .255/.326/.366 batting line he had last year with the Dodgers. He's in a good situation hitting second in the Phillies' lineup, but what I like most is the multi-position eligibility. If you have been reading this column over the years, you know how much I like these sort of plug-and-play options, but I think it’s more relevant than ever this year with the switch to the 10-day disabled list. You need players like this to make it through the season with a competitive roster.
Corey Dickerson OF, Rays (Yahoo: 37 percent owned)
I’m not surprised to see Dickerson under the 50-percent threshold here. Keeping him on your roster in shallow formats requires attention to detail. Dickerson owns a .654 OPS against left-handers for his career, so it’s not a good idea to start him in those matchups even on the days when he’s in the lineup. The good news is that he still mashes right-handers. While the 27-year-old had an underwhelming year on the surface in 2016, he still had 22 homers and an .807 OPS against righties. With Logan Forsythe out of the picture, the Rays are rolling with him as their leadoff man against right-handed pitching. It’s sort of strange. Dickerson is a big swinger and doesn’t exactly have much patience, but the more plate appearances, the better. At least for fantasy owners, that is.
Brandon McCarthy SP, Dodgers (Yahoo: 15 percent owned)
McCarthy missed most of 2015 due to Tommy John surgery and showed some uncharacteristic struggles with his control in his return last season, but so far, so good this year. The veteran right-hander owns a 1.50 ERA through his first two starts, including six scoreless frames over the defending World Series champion Cubs on Wednesday night. I’m not going to break down two starts to say whether he “deserves” a 1.50 ERA, but the velocity has looked good and he has thrown a lot of first-pitch strikes. The injury history looms large here and the Dodgers have some moving pieces if things go south, but we know what McCarthy is capable of doing when he’s healthy. He’s also in a really good situation. There are worse options to round out your rotation in mixed leagues.
Joey Gallo 3B, Rangers (Yahoo: 11 percent owned)
I view Gallo in a similar vein as Aaron Judge, who I mentioned earlier in this week’s column. We know he has some of the best raw power in the game, but he just needs to make enough contact to justify regular at-bats. He’s a work in progress on that end. Gallo has whiffed 11 times through 31 plate appearances so far this season. On the bright side, that’s a big improvement from what he showed during his brief time in the majors last season. I wouldn’t advocate picking him up in a shallow league, but he’s getting regular playing time at third base with Adrian Beltre (calf) sidelined and could be thrown into the left field mix depending on how things go. Lottery ticket territory here.
Michael Conforto OF, Mets (Yahoo: 17 percent owned)
Speaking of lotto tickets, Mets manager Terry Collins might not know that he already has a winner. The opportunities have been few and far between in the early part of the season, but Conforto has already slugged a couple of homers, including one out of the leadoff spot Wednesday against Philadelphia. This situation remains complicated. Jay Bruce isn’t sitting right now with the way he’s hitting, so moving Conforto into a prominent role would mean Curtis Granderson would become more of a part-time player. Juan Lagares is also close to coming off the disabled list. Still, there’s enough talent with Conforto that it’s worth stashing him in deep leagues in hopes that he finds himself on the lineup card more often than not.
Shopping at the five-and-dime:
(Players owned in under 10 percent of Yahoo leagues)
Devin Mesoraco C, Reds (Yahoo: 6 percent owned)
So, the catcher position is brutal right now. I was into Tom Murphy as a sleeper this spring, but he was forced to begin the year on the disabled list with a fractured forearm. And of course, in more recent days we’ve seen Gary Sanchez and Buster Posey go down. Sure, you could grab someone like Jason Castro or James McCann as a stopgap. That’s fine. But I like the idea of stashing Mesoraco in a DL spot. It’s been a while. Mesoraco has appeared in just 39 games in the majors over the past two seasons due to hip and shoulder injuries, but he’s on a minor league rehab assignment right now and could be ready to join the Reds next week. Who knows how much he’ll play. It would be smart to take it easy with him. But here’s hoping he can be anything close to what he showed in 2014. Fortunately, it doesn’t cost much to find out.
Tony Barnette RP, Rangers (4 percent owned)
“All I know is that I don’t know. All I know is that I don’t know nothing.” Operation Ivy said it best. Sam Dyson’s nightmare start to the season has continued, throwing the Rangers’ bullpen into chaos. Matt Bush is the most obvious alternative here, but he’s getting treatment for a shoulder issue. Meanwhile, Jeremy Jeffress has also looked a little shaky in the early going. Jose Leclerc (Yahoo: 2 percent owned) has impressed so far this season and might have a future in the late innings, but he walked a ton of guys in a small sample last year and might not be ready for primetime just yet. Barnette was in line for a save chance on Wednesday before the Rangers pulled away, so I’m willing to at least speculate here in deeper formats. After several successful seasons in Japan, the 33-year-old returned to the states last year and posted a 2.09 ERA and 49/16 K/BB ratio over 60 1/3 innings in his first taste of the majors. He should be owned in more leagues until there’s some clarity here.