We’re just about ready to close the book on another season, and as we’re well into the throes of the 2015 stretch run, we need every bit of fantasy ammunition, each spare part we can scrounge from the waiver wire dumpster.
As a reminder, the players recommended in this space are best suited for mono formats, and the ownership percentages are by way of CBS.
Gregor Blanco / OF / San Francisco Giants / 12%
Angel Pagan hit the DL with patella tendinitis in his knee over the weekend, and from the sound of it, he won’t be resuming baseball activities for a few days. In his place has stepped the veteran Blanco, who lost out on regular playing time when Hunter Pence returned last month. But he’s put that all behind him recently, smacking the ball to the tune of a .385/.467/.577 slash line since Aug. 9, and zooming out, the 31-year-old is quietly putting together a solid season, hitting .301/.380/.429 in 95 games.
But despite those fine batting averages and respectable slugging figures, Blanco’s appeal owes to his wheels: he’s already reached the double-digit plateau in steals for the fifth time in his career, and he is slotted atop the lineup of a team that is clawing at the door of both the NL West and wild card races. And between Pagan’s knee injury and Nori Aoki remaining out with concussion-like symptoms for the better part of a week, it’s reasonable to believe Blanco is a candidate to get regular at-bats the rest of the way.
As with any contestant on the waiver wire game, there are caveats: Blanco, a career .262 hitter, is benefiting from some serious batted ball luck this year, and he’s more of a fourth outfielder at this stage in his career. The Giants also have a tough schedule ahead of them this week: they’re facing the Cardinals and Giants on the road, so Blanco will see the likes of Michael Wacha, Lance Lynn, Jaime Garcia and Gerrit Cole this week.
But who cares? This is damn-the-torpedos time, and Blanco is a reliable commodity who promises steals off the wire. If you need speed right now, this is your man.
Keyvius Sampson / SP / Cincinnati Reds / 8%
If you thought I’m writing about Sampson this week because he has a cool name, you would be … not completely wrong. But not completely correct, either: the Reds’ right-hander has made three impressive major league starts so far, posting a 3.38 ERA against the Pirates, Dodgers and Diamondbacks, and with competitive baseball nothing more than just a dried-up dream in Cincinnati in 2015, the ballclub seems content to let him keep auditioning for a rotation spot for next year.
Sampson, 24, was claimed off waivers from the Padres earlier this year, and had compiled a 24.3% strikeout rate in the minors when he was promoted in late July. He’s essentially a two-pitch pitcher, relying on a fastball that sits in the low-to-mid 90s and a curveball with an above average whiff rate, with an occasional slider and changeup mixed in. The combination has led to a solid 7.9 K/9 so far, and while a piddling overall SwStr% forecasts a drop in his strikeout rate, there’s hope he can maintain the punchouts at at least a league average clip.
There are, however, considerable red flags with Sampson. Control is the most significant: he graduated from the minors with an 11.6% walk rate, and while the free passes have so far been at manageable levels in his major league career — all 17 innings of it — it’s already responsible for a 4.11 FIP in that span. He’s also a fly ball pitcher in Great American Ball Park, and that lack of a third pitch hints strongly at a future in the bullpen.
But for the moment, Sampson is experiencing a taste of big league success in his first time around the league, and he has a pathway to playing time on a Reds team that, as of now, has little incentive to pull him from the rotation. He’s nothing more than a fringe NL-only option, but a track record of generating strikeouts gives him some intrigue.
Karl, a journalist living in Washington, D.C., learned about life's disappointments by following the Mets beginning at a young age. His work has appeared in numerous publications, and he has contributed to the 2014 and 2015 editions of The Hardball Times Annual. Follow/harass him on Twitter @Karl_de_Vries.