The baseball season is underway and we are hardly a week in. Now is the best time to pick up batters that have value on the waiver wire before anyone else in your league finds them out.
We don’t want to overreact to hot starts from players we don’t expect to produce moving forward. We want to concentrate more on some bats that are owned in less than 50% of leagues. Whether it’s because of a previous injury or the fact that they are coming off a down year. Either way, here are five bats that are being slept on for all types of reasons.
**Using Fantrax waiver wire data
Ji-Man Choi, Tampa Bay Rays (31% Owned)
**His shoulder injury figures to be a minor one as he should be back within the next few days.**
Ji-Man Choi was projected to be on the strong side of a platoon heading into the 2020 season. However, that is until he learned how to switch-hit out of nowhere. The once left-handed hitting first baseman cracked a 429-foot home run off of Anthony Kay in just his second right-handed at-bat.
After sitting on Opening Day, Choi has hit leadoff for the Rays in every game, against both handedness of pitching. Due to the fact that he can now switch-hit he should continue to be a consistent starter for the Rays.
Choi slashed .274/.377/.492 against right-handed pitching last season. If he can improve at all on his .630 OPS he posted against left-handed pitching (by making the move to switch-hitting) he could become a legitimate bench bat to fill in for off days and injuries.
7/31- 8/02 : @ Baltimore
8/04- 8/05: vs. Boston
8/06- 8/09: vs. New York
Tyler O’Neill, St. Louis Cardinals (48% Owned)
Tyler O’Neill has started off the season playing every day in left field for the Cardinals, slugging two home runs in the first five games of the season. Playing time is important to keep note of because of the logjam the Cardinals have in their outfield. It seems St. Louis is going to give O’Neill a real shot at earning an everyday role moving forward.
While it is an incredibly small sample size, it’s important to note he has only struck out one time in 17 games. If you know anything about O’Neill, it’s that he has a big problem with striking out. In his first 310 big league plate appearances, he struck out 35.8% of the time. That strikeout rate is so high it would be hard to keep him in the majors if it were to continue.
O’Neill can fill in a hole for you if you had an injury, or if you were rostering Juan Soto or Austin Meadows and are still in search of a replacement. Due to the Cardinals’ favorable schedule coming up, he is the perfect pickup for the short-term and a possible bat to ride if he gets hot in the next month or so.
7/31-8/02: @ Milwaukee
8/03-8/06: Home-and-Home with Detroit
8/07-8/09: vs. Chicago
Aaron Hicks, New York Yankees (48% Owned)
Aaron Hicks is the often forgotten man in the stacked Yankees lineup. Mostly because he has really had trouble staying on the field in his career and is entirely unreliable in a full 162-game season. With only the need to play 50-55 games this season, Hicks can be a valuable bench bat on your fantasy team.
The last time Hicks was healthy, he put up a 27 home run, 11 stolen base season in 2018. As long as he can get back into rhythm after not getting consistent at-bats for a long time, he should provide five-category value.
Hicks batted fifth on Wednesday against the Orioles and figures to hit in the middle of the order for the rest of the season. Expect some home runs, a few steals and lots of runs scored from the Yankees outfielder in this stretch coming up–with favorable matchups against the Orioles and Red Sox.
7/31-8/02: vs. Boston
8/05: @ Baltimore
8/06-8/09: @ Tampa Bay
Chris Taylor, Los Angeles Dodgers (36% Owned)
Chris Taylor is coming off a rough 2019, posting just 12 home runs and eight stolen bases, losing his starting job in the process. Though he hit .266, the rest of his numbers continued to decline for a second straight season.
He certainly isn’t the most talented player but he is getting everyday at bats in the heart of the best lineup in baseball. Whether he is playing second base, shortstop, outfield, or designated hitter, Taylor always finds a way to get into the lineup. Even after Gavin Lux eventually gets the call back to the big leagues, Taylor figures to be ahead of Kiké Hernandez in the pecking order.
In the worst case scenario, Taylor will mash against left-handed pitching. Last season, he slashed .255/.342/.518 against the opposite hand. As long as his barrel rate and xWOBA on contact go back to career norms, we can expect a nice bounce-back from the Dodgers second baseman.
As long as the Dodgers continue to trot him out every day, they obviously believe in him and fully expect him to return to his ‘18-19 form. Taylor should be able to provide a stolen base or two with a decent average and some pop with counting stats to round everything out as a utility-man off the bench.
07/31-8/02: @ Arizona
8/03-8/05: @ San Diego
8/07-8/09: vs. San Francisco
Deeper League Add
Daulton Varsho, Arizona Diamondbacks (30% Owned)
After getting the call yesterday, Daulton Varsho figures to get into the lineup enough to make a fantasy impact this season. Varsho has played second base and left field in the past, so even if Carson Kelly is still the primary catcher he can still get into the lineup. Varsho slashed .301/.378/.520 last season in his first Double-A stint, tallying 18 home runs and 21 stolen bases.
What makes Varsho so appealing is the fact he is a stolen base threat with catcher eligibility. Not only that, but with a 13.9% strikeout rate at Double-A last season he could even help you in the batting average department, becoming a possible all-category threat.
While there is no guarantee he will get playing time, the Diamondbacks are last in most offensive categories to start the season. Varsho could provide a spark for an offense that will need it moving forward. He could spell some starters on routine days off, play backup catcher and possibly replace Jake Lamb, who is currently their designated hitter.
Though the Diamondbacks play the Dodgers and Astros within the next week, they have a relatively weak schedule for the remainder of August. Pick up Varsho if you are in need of stolen bases or a catcher, otherwise you can stash him as a bench bat if your team’s health allows you to do so.
7/31-8/02: vs. Los Angeles
8/04-8/06: vs. Houston
8/07-8/09: @ San Diego