Sweet Jeebers, there’s an actual closer available in this week’s waiver wire! Head toward The City That Rocky Balboa Built, grab a Cheesesteak and drop into the Phillies’ bullpen. Whether there’s long-term gold or just a casual flirtation remains to be seen, yet if you’re scuffling for saves….
Joaquin Benoit, RP, Phillies: Imagine if your closer treated every batter as if they were Todd Helton. See those line drives and rockets spraying all over the outfield? That’s exactly what Jeanmar Gomez was doing in the first week of the season, as hitters banged him to the tune of a .316 batting average, a number that happens to be Helton’s career BA. The Phils are turning toward Benoit, who has been a middle reliever/setup man for most of his 16 seasons but does have 51 career saves. Benoit is still averaging better than a strikeout per inning and has a K rate of 25 percent or better in all but one season since 2010 (he recorded 24.8 percent in 2015), so he projects as a sound option for at least the immediate future. Owned in almost 23 percent of polled leagues, Benoit could serve as a nice stopgap at least until the Phillies come to their senses and realize Triple-A starter Mark Appel’s future is as a closer.
Jayson Werth, OF, Nationals: He’s approaching the 25 percent barrier and will easily cross it if his early-season power display remains in form. Werth entered Thursday’s play with three homers, seven RBIs and six runs scored, and his .389 OBP is a far cry from his .302 and .335 numbers in 2015-16. The one concern about Werth is a hellacious strikeout rate, as he has whiffed in exactly one-third of his plate appearances thus far. While I don’t see him keeping his current .937 OPS, the prospect of him exceeding his .752 mark from last season looks strong in the early going. He’s a deeper league play right, but could work his way to more standard formats if his plate discipline reverts back to his peak days of 2008-14.
Avisail Garcia, OF, White Sox: If you work in the Fantasy sports industry long enough, you’ll become a mark for a player or two. I won’t lie: I was a Garcia mark for several seasons before finally giving up the ghost last year with the belief that what we had seen out of him was all we were going to get. However, the Garcia train is slowly picking up passengers, due in part to his increased fly ball rate (40 percent) and a new-found religion of going the opposite way (35 percent). We tend to forget that while Garcia is in his fourth season in Chicago, he’s just 25, so the potential for post-hype production makes him a tempting player to pursue. He’s owned in just 11 percent of polled leagues right now, but if Garcia can raise up his 3.4 percent walk rate and start running more frequently, the 25-homer, 15-stolen base player we once projected might finally be here.
Marwin Gonzalez, 1B/3B, Astros: He’s on the way to adding another slash as he started four straight games in left field prior to Wednesday night. Gonzo is a shout-out to AL-only and very deep leagues as he is owned in just under seven percent of polled leagues, but his versatility and low-risk knack for providing homers and stolen bases makes him appealing to those of us who play in leagues of 16-plus teams. He’s gaining attention due to a surprising 15.4 percent walk rate that has soared his OBP to .385. Trust me, he’s not going to stay at that pace, but if you’re in a league that sets lineups daily, Gonzalez should still get the bulk of the starts against righties over the flaccid bats of Nori Aoki and Josh Reddick.
Antonio Senzatela, SP, Rockies: I suppose if you live long enough, you’ll see just about everything. The latest example is the smattering of Rockies starting hurlers holding Fantasy value, with Senzatela staking his claim in the trend with a solid seven inning outing against the Padres on Tuesday in which he struck out five while allowing two runs on five hits. The 22-year old began the season as the organization’s ninth-rated prospect. He has the tools to become either a reliable middle of the rotation arm or a filthy setup man/closer with a heater than can be dialed up to 98 mph and a slider with late bite. He’s owned in just 11 percent of polled leagues and while standard leaguers may hesitate on committing to Senzatela, I’d scoop and stash. He and Jon Gray are looking as if they may become the anchors of a surprisingly better than expected Colorado staff.
Edinson Volquez, SP, Marlins: A 5.37 ERA and decreasing K rate are two good reasons to have forgotten about Volquez in most drafts, but the savvy vet has shown signs of life in his first two starts, striking out 13 in 11 innings of work. The 10.64 K/9 rate is a marked improvement on his 2016 mark of 6.61, as an uptick in velocity and a reduced fly ball rate have helped Volquez gain nearly 19 percent ownership in polled leagues. I like his long-term potential mostly because he plays in a pitcher’s park in Miami. So while you shouldn’t expect him to keep blowing away hitters at his current pace, Volquez is a workhorse who can be a good streaming option in most leagues.
Chase Headley, 3B, Yankees: The last time Headley had a good Fantasy season, Carly Rae Jepsen and LMFAO assured that I insulated my ears from pop music. Hell, I was actually in a relationship at that time, so we’re certainly talking about distant memories. The early season spurt from Headley has resulted in five multi-hit games and nine runs scored, both totals explaining why he’s reached nearly 20 percent ownership in polled leagues. Headley hasn’t slugged above .400 or put together an OBP above .747 since 2012, so history says this is just a trend. Then again, last November taught us a thing or two about trends, so perhaps Headley could be in range to defy the odds and become Fantasy viable again. He’s a low-risk in deeper leagues at this point, so if he does return to form, there will be another 3B/CI just waiting to be scooped up. In the meantime, just enjoy the ride.
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