Remember the first time you tried (fill in the blank), and how it made you feel foolish that you’d never tried it before? The exhilarating experience excited your mind, body and soul so much that a day without (again, fill in the blank) was a day not worth living, Indeed, it became an almost religious awaking each time (fill in…you know the rest) coursed through your pleasure centers.
This is what most waiver wires look like just four weeks into the season. Each day brings another player to the DL (as I type this, Yoenis Cespedes owners are grinding their teeth and feeling the nervous rush that comes with seeing a major offensive piece get helped off the field) to the point that, in one league, I have nine players on the DL and only four DL spots. This has also made finding waiver wire bargains more of a challenge for me because it feels like every damn one of you is picking it clean of players out of sheer necessity.
You’re either lucky or lying if you tell me your roster hasn’t been affected by at least one injury thus far. I don’t believe in luck, so that narrows down things significantly. At the same time, I’m always up for a challenge, so let’s take a deeper dive into the waiver wire in hopes of finding a player or two below the radar before injuries take his ownership beyond our interests.
Taylor Motter, OF/SS, Mariners: Benefiting from injuries to Jean Segura and Kyle Seager, Motter has emerged as a hitter who, if given steady at-bats, could emerge as a 15 HR/15 SB player with crazy position eligibility to boot. After batting .188 in 93 plate appearances with the Rays last season, Motter moved to the Pacific Northwest as part of a nothing-to-see-here trade last November. His strikeout rates have climbed as he’s worked his way to the majors, but Motter’s improved BABIP has made him ownership worthy in just over 25 percent of polled leagues. Entering Thursday, he had five homers in 66 plate appearances, and while his HR rate will eventually drop, the power is real. His versatility is attractive and if his strikeout rate dips below 20 percent, Motter’s value in mixed leagues will rise, especially if the M’s keep finding ways to plug him into the lineup.
Aaron Hicks, OF, Yankees: Like Motter, Hicks could finally be putting it all together at age 27. Then again, Hicks might also be going through an Opposite Day-like stretch, as evidenced by his 22.1 percent walk rate versus a 9.1 percent whiff rate. Both numbers go against his previous career arc, so the 20 percent who own him in polled leagues are living a charmed life. The surprising power surge (four homers in 44 plate appearances entering Thursday) is a result of what looks like an emphasis on driving the ball more (41.4 percent fly ball rate). Don’t buy in too hard on Hicks, but if the plate discipline and pop are indeed real, a career year is possible if he could find steady work in the lineup.
Hernan Perez, UT, Brewers: Last year’s super-sub was more super-dud before feasting on Reds pitching earlier this week to the tune of six hits in 11 at-bats that included a pair of homers, eight RBIs and his first stolen base of the season. That spurt of offensive brilliance rocketed Perez’ batting average a whopping 81 points (.179 to .260) in the span of three games, and should also see his current 10 percent ownership rise. He’s getting the bulk of his starts at third base, but Perez should also have eligibility at shortstop and the outfield. Keep in mind that Perez stole 34 bases last season, so there’s little reason he should be sitting out there in most leagues.
Dan Vogelbach, 1B/DH, Mariners: Danny Valencia’s lack of pop opened the door for Vogelbach, who was slash-lining his way through Pacific Coast League pitchers to the tune of .309/.409/.473 before being called up. The hefty lefty-swinging Vogelbach has yet to truly translate his prodigious power to actual game action, but his impressive plate discipline only enhances an offense that is fifth in the majors in runs scored and ninth in OBP. So, do expect to see his ownership begin a rapid climb from his current two percent in polled leagues. He’s more of an AL-only shout out for now, but Vogelbach is a name worth stashing with the promise of a hitter who could go .280-17-80 the rest of the way.
Jacob Barnes, RP, Brewers: With a fastball averaging 96 mph, Barnes is all about making hitters feel, feel, feel, feel his heat. Thus far, batters are having about as much success against Barnes as Dirk Diggler had with his singing career (Sweet Jeebers, that movie is 20 years old. Damn … time does fly), as he is whiffing them at a 30.4 percent clip. His ownership in polled leagues began to rise when he recorded his first save last Thursday, and he has yet to allow a run in 12.1 innings entering play on Thursday. Approaching 10 percent ownership, Barnes may have passed the struggling Corey Knebel as the Brewers’ closer-in-waiting. While Neftali Feliz has an iron grip on the role, he’s also likely to be moved as the trade deadline approaches, so it is worth keeping an eye on Barnes, who also has value in leagues that use holds as a category.
Lewis Brinson, OF, Brewers: It’s not a question of if Brinson makes his debut with Milwaukee, but when. Consider this a “Hot Prospect Warning,” meaning that you may want to stash him if your roster isn’t filled with as much red as my first semester papers in college algebra. Brinson is batting .388/.426/.653 with a 1.079 OPS in Triple-A, yet his path will be held up because 1) the Brewers aren’t ready to start the clock on his arbitration path and 2) as of now, there’s no room. However, if Keon Broxton can’t shake off his .158 start, the Brewers will consider unleashing Brinson, who is owned in around five percent of polled leagues. Few players possess true 30/30 potential. Brinson is one of those few.
Andrelton Simmons, SS, Angels: Simmons is beginning to show signs of being more of an offensive force than he has since his 17-homer, 76-RBI season with the Braves in 2013. Simmons has three homers in his first 90 plate appearances, which is one fewer than what he mustered over 483 plate appearances last season. He’s nearly doubled his walk rate, currently sitting at 11.1 percent compared to just 5.8 percent in 2016. With three multi-hit games in his last 10 starts, Simmons, owned in 25 percent of polled leagues, might finally emerge from the label of “good glove, no bat” that has plagued him since joining the Angels after the 2015 campaign.
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