Matt Bishop | June 20, 2019
If any of these players are available in your league, pick them up immediately. If they are not, try to make an offer as most of these names have little to no market value and can be acquired for pennies on the dollar. These guys are trending upward and could help you claim a championship down the stretch.
*All waiver wire add recommendations were available in a 14 team H2H points league where 4 players are kept and one minor leaguer is rostered that I am in. I know that doesn’t help.
GRIFFIN CANNING, SP LAA
(79% CBS, 22% ESPN, 42% Yahoo)
Griffin Canning was not in the minor leagues long. After only logging 129.1 IP across only 4 levels and with the exception of his first stop at Triple-A, Canning has dominated at every level of the minor leagues.
3.27 ERA 1.22 WHIP 9.90 K/9 3.20 BB/9 0.56 HR/9
3.93 ERA 0.99 WHIP 9.66 K/9 1.79 BB/9 1.61 HR/9
Since his call-up on 4/30, Canning has been nothing short of spectacular. While he has never been known for his control, his current 1.79 BB/9 has been a pleasant surprise, while his 1.61 HR/9 has been surprising compared to his minor league career numbers.
He is currently carrying a 21.5% K-BB, which ranks 21st in the league and he is pitching to his peripherals (3.93 ERA 4.26 FIP 4.47 xFIP). While his 34.8% o-swing is firmly in the Top 25 in the league, his 16.1% swinging strike rate ranks 4th in the MLB and his 65.6% contact rate ranks 2nd in baseball.
While 2 out of 4 of Canning’s pitches currently hold a positive pVAL, all 4 of his offerings have a double-digit swinging strike rate. His curveball currently carries a 4.4 pVAL, which is the 9th best rate in baseball. Opposing batters are also hitting .090 against it, while the curve is yielding a 13.3% swinging strike rate, which sits firmly in the Top 20 in baseball.
But his slider may just be one of the best in the league. Even though the slide piece only has a 2.7 pVAL and opposing batters are hitting .250 against it, he is making hitters look foolish. His 26.9% swinging strike rate on this slider ranks 4th in baseball, while his 55.2% whiff/swing ranks 1st in the MLB:
Canning is only 23 and has all the makings of an ace. His arsenal of plus pitches, paired with double-digit swinging strike rates on all of his offerings indicate an impressive future. And if he can learn to limit damage from the long ball, he can only get better from here.
MATT OLSON, 1B OAK
(76% CBS, 59% ESPN, 57% Yahoo)
Matt Olson is currently hitting .325 against lefties on the season with a 1.150 OPS. That is good for a .466 wOBA and 202 wRC+. His 1.150 OPS ranks 10th in baseball against left-handed pitching, while his wOBA ranks 8th and his wRC+ is 5th in baseball. His 56.3% hard contact rate also ranks 13th in the league.
Why is this relevant? Because Matt Olson is a lefty. And lefty on lefty ain’t sexy. Left-handed hitters (LHH) are historically bad against left-handed pitchers (LHP). In 2019, LHH are hitting .253 with a .726 OPS against LHP.
Olson is a career .250 hitter with a .768 OPS against lefties. This change is significant and shouldn’t go overlooked. His 51.0% fly ball percentage and 51.5% hard contact rate are career highs, while his 29.0% groundball rate is a career low.
You know that you are getting a low batting average and 30+ home run potential with Matt Olson, but if he can continue to hit lefties well, he could be special.
IAN DESMOND, OF COL
(51% CBS, 60% ESPN, 60% Yahoo)
You should really take a look at Ian Desmond’s Statcast numbers:
If that wasn’t enough, you should also take a look at his batted ball profile (LD, GB, FB):
And if that wasn’t enough to convince you, since May 1 (39 games), Desmond is hitting .331/.404/.605 (1.009 OPS) with 6 HR 25 R 25 RBI. That comes with a .418 wOBA and a 145 wRC+. Peep these ranks:
Desmond is old(er) and might not be very good at baseball, but a drastic increase in flyball rate for a player with a violently low career launch angle should demand your attention. He could be useful down the stretch.
WAIVER WIRE ADDS
SANDY ALCANTARA, SP MIA
(33% CBS, 9% ESPN, 14% Yahoo)
Sandy Alcantara’s seasonal stats are nothing special:
(3-6) 3.73 ERA 1.39 WHIP 6.37 K/9 4.17 BB/9 0.66 HR/9
47.1% GB 30.6% FB 34.1% Hard 11.6% SWSTR
But when you hone in on his recent performances, you begin to see progress:
LAST 5 STARTS:
(1-2) 2.79 ERA 1.34 WHIP 6.8 K/9 4.30 BB/9 0.0 HR/9
48.8% GB 26.8% FB 42.2% Hard 11.7% SWSTR
In this five-game span, his 11.7% overall swinging strike rate ranks 32nd in baseball, while his 56.3% first-pitch strike is the 9th worst in the league. This means he is getting behind in counts and still putting up favorable numbers.
If his first pitch strike rate reverted back to his 2018 total of 61.6%, Alcantara could be in for some positive regression as he boasts a career .475 OPS against when he is ahead in the count, versus a career .860 OPS against, when he is behind in the count.
But let’s be honest. This five-game sample set looks almost identical to his seasonal numbers and appears to be nothing impressive. When I dug deeper into his pix mitch, I got a bit more excited.
Alcantara is a four-pitch pitcher:
FASTBALL (54.8%) SLIDER (23.1%) CURVEBALL (8.9%) CHANGEUP (13.2%)
On the season, four of his five pitches are currently carrying a positive pVAL, while 3 of them have a swinging strike rate in the double digits. That should not be ignored:
He has not allowed a home run in his last 5starts and also has not allowed a hit on his sinker in that time frame. Alcantara may never develop into a high strikeout pitcher, but if he can limit the walks and continue to limit the longball, he should offer a high floor and quality ratios going forward.
MATT STRAHM, RP/SP SD
(53% CBS, 17% ESPN, 30% Yahoo)
Matt Strahm is being dropped in a ton of leagues right now and that is a mistake. While his strikeouts per nine are down more than 1.5 strikeouts in an identical sample size from last season, his 22.0% strikeout rate is the lowest rate he has ever had at any level of professional baseball.
Strahm is pitching right, I mean right to his peripherals (4.66 ERA 4.68 FIP 4.66 xFIP), but his ERA is being decimated by the long ball (1.70 HR/9 – 17th worst in baseball).
But I am seeing positive regression in his profile. He has lowered his walk rate to an elite 2.12 BB/9, which is Top 25 in baseball (min. 60 IP) and his .298 BABIP is prone to come closer to his .226 BABIP from last season. He is also carrying a 75.1% left on base rate versus 86.1% in 2018. He is giving up a ton of hard contact (46.6%) and could regress to his career 37.7% rate.
But when I dig into his pitch mix, I’m not so sure he’s not injured. Strahm’s fastball velocity is down almost 3 mph from last season, not to mention his four-seamer went from a 4.7 pVAL in 2018 to a -5.8 pVAL in 2019. The batting average against the fastball is also up 90 points from last season and has clearly been his crux.
Even his slider, which was a Top 25 offering in terms of swinging strike rate last season (23.5%) is not working for him. The swinging strike rate is down more than 10%, while the contact rates and batting average against are through the roof. Being that 3 out of 4 of his pitches have a swinging strike rate in the double digits and the pitch that doesn’t this season (Fastball) did last year, you can see the skillset is clearly there and you have to question the health.
But if not the health, maybe Strahm could use an opener:
PABLO LOPEZ, SP MIA
(54% CBS, 16% ESPN, 27% Yahoo)
4.23 ERA 1.12 WHIP 8.57 K/9 2.11 BB/9
3.52 FIP 3.88 xFIP
Someone needs to buy the Marlins pitching coach a beer because they have been absolutely solid. Pablo Lopez has been no exception, currently pitching to career highs in K/9 (8.57) and career lows in walks per nine (2.11) and home runs per nine (0.94). While his 67.7% left on base rate is way down from 74.9% last season, his 55.4% first-pitch strike rate is the 4th worst in baseball. And both of these metrics scream positive regression coming.
Lopez is another Marlins pitcher with 2 out of his 4 offerings having a double-digit swinging strike rate, while 3 out of his 4 pitches have a positive pVAL. SHOULDN’T BE IGNORED.
Lopez’s changeup is a money pitch in all sense of the word (48.4% O-swing, 44.6% zone rate, 18.9% swinging strike rate). He has been terrific in his last 4 starts, pitching to a 1.80 ERA 0.88 WHIP 8.3 K/9 1.4 BB/9. And in this 4 game sample size, his changeup is inducing a 19.4% swinging strike rate with a .184 batting average against.
He is sharpening his command while getting a ton of swings and misses and should be a solid option rest of season.
COLIN MORAN, 2B/3B PIT
(27% CBS, 5% ESPN, 12% Yahoo)
Since 5/17, Colin Moran is hitting:
.302/.333/.547 (.881 OPS) 7 HR 19 R 26 RBI
4.5% BB 25.2% K .364 wOBA 127 wRC+
Pair this with a 42.3% hard-hit rate, he is raking. Moran is not a guy that strikes out a lot (18.4% K rate in 1968 minor league plate appearances) and his career minor league walk rate is right around 8.9% BB. His 33.1% flyball rate is also a career high, while 43.4% groundball rate is a career low.
His overall 38.4% hard contact rate is a drastic career high and up almost 6% from last season.
His contact rates are down across the board, while his swinging strike rate is a career high. If his numbers can level out to his 79.5% career contact rate, which should drop his swinging strike rate, a regression could be coming and Moran could have value in all leagues.
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Main Image Credit:Embed from Getty Images