Time for our annual sort-of grousing about the waiver-wire advice offered by America’s Leading Fantasy Sports Aggregator, whose e-mails pop up like weeds in our In Box. Their standard-issue recommendations are ludicrous—those guys are long gone—and even their “Deep League Targets”—Delino DeShields, Jeimer Candelario, Mark Reynolds—will bring a sneering laugh, or a laughing sneer, to the lips of hard-bitten deep-league veterans, of whom we are two and you are probably one.
So as a public service, we bring you a genuine deep-league waiver wire, where anything better than a dead roster spot is gravy. Our criteria: the player must be generally available even in deep leagues, active on a major league roster, and have a pulse Fantasywise right now—upside is nice, and some of these guys have it, but you’re looking to stanch the bleeding, right? Not have elective cosmetic surgery. We’ll give you one player and one alternative at each position except shortstop, where it was tough enough to find a single guy.
Catcher: Kevan Smith. The aggregate slash line of major league catchers last season was .233/.304/.374. Smith won’t get you much more in the way of slugging or OBP, and sure, you’d prefer to have Yadier Molina, but you don’t or you wouldn’t be shopping for a catcher, and if you are, you can’t afford to disdain a guy who’s going to hit .260 or .270 in 200 plate appearances, whatever else he does or doesn’t do. Also consider: Blake Swihart, whom we are mentioning for the third time this year, and who is the backup catcher in a strong lineup and has significant upside as a hitter and multi-position player.
First Base: Matt Adams. If Ryan Zimmerman stays healthy, Adams won’t play much, but when he does, he should hit plenty. The Nationals knew what they were doing when they got him: his career slash line in Nationals Park is .310/.371/.658. Plus, as you no doubt know, Zimmerman has missed significant time in four of the last five seasons, and figures to do so again this year, in which case Adams will be, at the very least, the strong side of a platoon. Also consider: Tyler Austin. Austin is no outfielder, so he probably isn’t going to wind up on the weak side of a platoon with Max Kepler. But he’s not a horrible first baseman, he has a huge amount of power, and when we look at C.J. Cron, who’s ahead of Austin at the position, we see Logan Morrison.
Second Base: Daniel Descalso. As always-on-the-ball Jeff Sullivan noted in December, Descalso revamped his swing after a dismal 2015 season and started hitting (a) the ball hard, and (b) home runs. His move from the Diamondbacks to the Cubs isn’t going to reward his left-handed power, but it isn’t going to kill it, either. Moreover, Joe Maddon loves him, and figures to use him the way Maddon used Tommy La Stella—i.e., all around the diamond for about 200 at-bats a season—more, if anyone gets hurt. (Of course, that’s how Maddon uses David Bote too. Descalco is a better hitter, though he doesn’t have Bote’s glove. There’s room for both of them.) You won’t get much more than a .240 batting average from Descalso, but you should get a home run every 25 or so at bats, plus some RBIs if (as he did in one of his two starts this season) he bats sixth in the Cubs’ lineup when he starts. Also consider: Alen Hanson. That’s right, we’re recommending a guy who got DFA’d by the Giants. But It’s not as if that team has impressed with its acumen about personnel. Playing in the worst hitters’ park in the majors last season, Hanson hit .252 with a .425 slugging percentage. In other words, he’s got some pop, at least from the left side, and now he’s in Toronto, which ain’t Yankee Stadium but also ain’t AT&T Park. If he’s Devon Travis’s primary backup, he will play, and if he does he will not only show some power but also steal some bases.
Shortstop: It’s tough to love any of the scrubs at this position, but if you’re desperate you might try Dylan Moore, current occupant of the Bloomquist-Motter Chair of Utility Guy Studies in Seattle. Yes, we know about his three-error adventure at third base on Saturday in his first major-league start. But it looks like it didn’t cost him his job, and what with injuries and grizzled veterans waiting to be traded, there’s room for a couple of hundred at-bats’ worth of playing time with the Mariners. If that happens, Moore should hit about .250 with five to ten home runs and maybe ten steals.
Third Base: Descalso qualifies here. But we also kind of like J.D. Davis. We have been forced to consider the novel notion that the Mets’ front office knows what it’s doing, and they arguably gave up some promising players to get Davis. Like Moore, he’s had some early-season travails in the field. But he plays a lot of different positions, and though he hasn’t shown it in the majors yet, he’s got plenty of power—if he gets, say, 300 at bats, figure 15 home runs. He’s supposedly stuck behind the injured-but-back-soon Todd Frazier at third base, but we suspect that Frazier is done for and won’t keep the job long after he returns.
Outfield: Ben Gamel. No one’s going to crack Milwaukee’s Braun-Yelich-Cain outfield if it stays healthy, but Braun usually doesn’t. And Gamel’s already started two of the Brewers’ six games, evidently in order to keep Braun spry for the remainder. So he’ll get perhaps 200 or 250 at bats, with a few home runs, a few more steals, a .270 average, and as many runs and RBIs as a fourth outfielder can get in Milwaukee’s awesome lineup. Also consider: Ryan Cordell. He was one of our Bold Predictions for 2018, whereupon he broke his collarbone, returned a couple of months later, was bad in Triple-A, and was even worse as a late-season callup to the White Sox. He feels okay now, and celebrated his recent callup with a pinch-hit home run. We think that what we expected to happen last season will happen now instead, viz., Cordell wins the White Sox center-field job over Jon Jay and/or Leury Garcia (whom we nonetheless like as a super-utility guy) and hits for low average but with walks, power, and speed.
The Birchwood Brothers are two guys with the improbable surname of Smirlock. Michael, the younger brother, brings his skills as a former Professor of Economics to bear on baseball statistics. Dan, the older brother, brings his skills as a former college English professor and recently-retired lawyer to bear on his brother's delphic mutterings. They seek to delight and instruct. They tweet when the spirit moves them @birchwoodbroth2.