It’s never too early to too late to scour the waiver wire for hitting. May I remind you that Cody Bellinger was most likely on your waiver wire at some point this year? How about a breakout star like Yonder Alonso or a bounceback veteran such as Ryan Zimmerman? Useful bats are always on the waiver wire, you might just not know it yet. Let’s identify some of these bats that could help you this season and possibly beyond!
OF – Tommy Pham (STL): Owned in 10.6% of ESPN leagues
The St. Louis outfield hasn’t been as locked down as it may have appeared to be coming out of Spring Training. Randall Grichuk, Dexter Fowler and Stephen Piscotty were all set for full-time outfield duties. Since then, Grichuk has been demoted (to A-ball of all places), Piscotty has dealt with injuries and now Fowler is on the DL with a heel spur. Enter Tommy Pham who has arrived on the scene after initially not cutting the 25-man roster for St. Louis coming out of Spring Training. Pham homered in his first game since his call-up on May 5th and hasn’t looked back. He is now slashing a robust .281/.371/.488 on the season to go along with nine homers, seven steals and a .206 ISO across 160 at-bats on the season. In 2016, Pham had the same amount of home runs (nine) in almost the exact same number of at-bats (159). So, why is a guy whose pace for home runs at this rate over a full season is about 34 while his stolen base clip has him at 26 over a full season, still on the waiver wire? Likely because would-be owners are concerned that Pham won’t continue to receiver everyday at-bats when the original three outfielders the Cardinals penciled in on Opening Day are back in tact. I would beg to differ. No matter your thoughts on Matheny, it is completely illogical to sit Pham at this point, even with a healthy outfield. Pham leads all Cardinals in stolen bases, is tied for third in homers (with significantly less at-bats than his teammates) while ranking second in wOBA and wRC+. Even in the rare chance Pham sinks into a fourth outfielder role, it’s a waiver wire addition and you most likely did not lose anything in order to acquire him. Simply put, this guy is worth a shot in your lineup due to his cross-category contributions as he continues to make a case to cement himself as an everyday big league outfielder.
3B/DH – Matt Davidson (CWS): Owned in 27.7% of ESPN leagues
Davidson was a highly-touted prospect that simply never panned out in the big leagues, until this season. The former Diamondbacks’ farmhand is making good on his pre-debut praise as he currently sits with an .838 OPS on the season to go along with 17 home runs and 38 RBIs. Davidson was simply not given the playing time early in the season but he is receiving consistent playing time these days and rewarding Rick Renteria for his faith. Davidson recently hit five home runs over an eight-game stretch while starting every game since May 26th. Now, there are a couple of concerning peripherals stats when it comes to Davidson, namely his low 5.3% walk rate and his very high 39.4% strikeout rate. That strikeout rate has his average down to .255 and his OBP at just .296. Davidson is also a notably better hitter against left-handed pitching with his .290 ISO, .954 OPS, heightened 8% walk rate and lowered 26.7% strikeout rate against southpaw pitching. That said, there is another motive behind adding Davidson. The re-building White Sox will surely look to trade third baseman Todd Frazier by this year’s trade deadline. Given the state of the franchise it would bode very well for Davidson to receive every day reps at the hot corner should Frazier be moved as the organization likely wants to see what the 26 year-old can do on a full time basis, likely giving him the edge at the third base position for the 2018 season as well. While this particular motive applies to dynasty leagues, Davidson is certainly worth a look in deep mixed leagues this season as he continues to enjoy his breakout campaign for the White Sox.
2B/OF – Jose Pirela (SD): Owned in 15.8% of ESPN leagues
Another late-blooming prospect, Pirela seems to be coming around as full-time MLB contributor at the age of 27. Pirela is part of a re-building Padres team that is certainly prioritizing youth and development over the win-now philosophy that got them into trouble to begin with. As a result, Pirela figures to get everyday at-bats for the remainder of the 2017 season and likely beyond. After crafting an enormous .331/.387.635 slash line with 13 homers and eight steals across 181 at-bats at the Triple-A level this season, Pirela was called up by the Padres where he has continued to swing a hot stick. In 69 at-bats at the MLB level, Pirela has posted a .319/.382/.551 slash line to go along with three homers and three steals. Whether the .304 ISO at Triple-A or the .232 ISO at the MLB level are legitimate can be up for debate. Pirela’s highest ISO in any minor league stop with at least 100 plate appearances was .155 while at Double-A in the Yankees system in 2012. That said, he is making hard contact on 38.5% of the balls he has put into play in the big leagues this season and is striking out 22.4% of the time, certainly a reasonable figure for a rookie. It appears to me that Pirela is developing into an MLB regular, and one that carries cross-category appeal with his power and speed upside. The fact that he hits atop the Padres’ lineup adds to his runs scored and stolen base opportunities so don’t let Pirela simmer on your waiver wire much longer, because if you don’t scoop him up, somebody will.