Need a power boost? A Yadier Molina replacement? How about a hitter with multi-position eligibility and a good schedule in the short term or a promising bat you can stash for later in the year? You can fill each of these needs (or wants?) off the waiver wire in the vast majority of mixed leagues. Normally, in this column, I set the cutoff for ownership rates at 33 percent, but I’ve dug a little deeper this week. Each of the five players included is available in at least three-quarters of the leagues on each of the major sites.
Note: Ownership rates on CBSSports.com and Fantrax are in parentheses, and in that order.
Pedro Alvarez, 3B, Orioles (3/10): Whether at third base or designated hitter, Alvarez has been in the starting lineup against righties on an everyday basis since the second week of the season. As long as Tim Beckham (core muscle surgery) is out — and that should be for several more weeks — Alvarez’s playing time status shouldn’t change. He has long been a power source, but he has been especially prolific lately, hitting five home runs over his last nine games.
Alvarez is not someone to target if you need to raise your team’s batting average, though he should improve upon his current .205 Avg and .191 BABIP. However, if home runs and RBI are what you need, he is likely to be one of your better options on waivers. He has already driven in 14 runs in 30 games, and he could have more RBI opportunities now that Jonathan Schoop and Mark Trumbo are back in the Orioles’ lineup.
Mitch Garver, C, Twins (3/10): Finding a catcher replacement in a two-catcher league is never any fun. Typically, you’re choosing among hitters who strike out a lot but offer the hope of some moderate power. With a 34.0 percent K-rate and a .186 Iso, that description fits Garver well, but he has the potential to be a bit better than your other waiver options. Also, with Jason Castro (knee) on the shelf, Garver’s chances for regular playing time may be better than for any other viable catcher you could pick up.
The 27-year-old has been a decent contact hitter in the minors, so there is some hope for him to chip away at his strikeout rate, now that he is getting more consistent reps at the major league level. Also, he is walking at just a 6.4 percent rate, but with a 19.0 percent O-Swing rate, he seems due for an uptick in walks and OBP. He is also averaging 96.4 mph in exit velocity on flyballs and line drives — the same speed achieved by Josh Donaldson and Matt Chapman — so a reduction in strikeouts could result in some real power.
Devin Mesoraco, C, Mets (5/10): If Garver is unavailable, it makes sense to see if Mesoraco is unclaimed. Now that he’s a Met, playing time should not be an issue. Performance could be, as indicated by his .196 Avg and one home run in 50 plate appearances. As Mike Podhorzer noted in his recent Deep League Wire column, putting in a claim on Mesoraco is something of a Hail Mary play, but it’s not a completely baseless gamble. His 7.5 percent swinging strike rate could portend some improvement in a 26.0 percent strikeout rate, and he is showing some thump with a 95.0 mph average exit velocity on flyballs and line drives.
Daniel Descalso, 2B/3B/OF, Diamondbacks (8/17): It’s not clear when Jake Lamb (shoulder) will be returning, but even though he may start playing games in extended spring training soon, he probably won’t be back early enough to threaten what could be a favorable schedule for Descalso. In Lamb’s absence, the former Rockie and Cardinal has been playing regularly against right-handed starters and even occasionally against lefties. With a 51.5 percent flyball rate and 50.0 percent pull rate, I’d be tempted to say he has sold out for power, but superb plate discipline and frequent hard contact have enabled Descalso to post a .264/.364/.529 slash line.
Next week, the Diamondbacks have three-game series at home against the Brewers and at Citi Field against the Mets. While the venues are not especially amenable for power hitting, Descalso will likely start at least five of those games, with Steven Matz being the only projected lefty starter. Then Arizona continues its road trip with visits to the Brewers and A’s. In addition to lining up to face a largely mediocre group of starters, Descalso could benefit from playing a three-game set at homer-friendly Miller Park.
Brandon Nimmo, OF, Mets (6/21): Nimmo is playing sparingly, but he is making the most of the opportunities he is getting. The good plate discipline he has shown in the minors has translated nicely to the majors, as he sports an 18.8 percent walk rate and a .453 OBP (he has also been hit by five pitches in 64 plate appearances). Last September, Nimmo appeared to be adding some power to his game, hitting four home runs, seven doubles and a triple in just 119 plate appearances. Though Nimmo has only one home run to date this year, he also has three triples and a double for a .213 Iso, thanks partially to a Descalso-like 53.3 percent flyball rate.
While there is nowhere currently for Nimmo to find regular playing time, between Adrian Gonzalez, Yoenis Cespedes and Michael Conforto, there is enough health risk in the Mets’ current starting lineup for Nimmo to eventually get his chance. Even if Gonzalez remains healthy, it’s not inconceivable that Jay Bruce could supplant him at first base, opening up a spot for Nimmo. Better to pick up Nimmo now and stash him than to have to battle your fellow owners in bidding when he finally gets his opportunity.
Al Melchior has been writing about Fantasy baseball and sim games since 2000, and his work has appeared at CBSSports.com, BaseballHQ, Ron Shandler's Baseball Forecaster and FanRagSports. He has also participated in Tout Wars' mixed auction league since 2013. You can follow Al on Twitter @almelchiorbb and find more of his work at almelchior.com.