If you’re dying to catch an outfielder, this is the waiver wire piece for you. This is especially true if you’re in an NL-Only league, where this pair is almost assured of delivering positive fantasy value in the near term.
Steven Duggar | OF SF | CBS 5% Owned
The Giants have run out quite the cast of characters in center field this year, including Gorkys Hernandez, Austin Jackson, and Gregor Blanco. Now, Hernandez remains in the outfield, while Jackson was recently traded to the Rangers, and Blanco finds himself in the minors. That opened up an opportunity for Duggar, who many thought had a shot at winning a starting job during the spring. It didn’t happen, but he may finally be up for good.
Let’s talk about the positives first — he draws his fair share of walks, posting double digit walk rates at literally every stop he’s made in the minors, he has shown at least average power at times, and he possessed above average speed, allowing him to steal as many as 15 bases in a season. That sounds like a nice little player who does a lot of things decently, without owning a standout skill. It often gets players underrated, especially in fantasy circles. A 25 homer season looks a lot sexier than 10 homers and 10 steals, but the combinations deliver similar fantasy value. Lastly, he has consistently maintained inflated BABIP marks thanks in part to low IFFB% marks.
Now the negative — he has struck out far too frequently for a hitter who has displayed just league average power at best. During his first two professional seasons from 2015 to 2016, he had consistently posted strikeout rates around 20%. But then something happened in 2017, when his strikeout rate skyrocketed, and he hasn’t been the same since. The good news is that he isn’t swinging and missing all that often, as his SwStk% has never jumped into double digits. But how do you strike out around 30% of the time while posting a SwStk% of 9% to 10%?!
Out of all qualified hitters, there are 30 hitters sporting SwStk% marks between 9% and 9.9%. Only three of those hitters have posted strikeout rates of at least 25%, and only one above 25.4%. So as you could see, it’s tough to swing and miss that infrequently and still strike out frequently. I would guess that he has been overly patient, not swinging at pitches in the strike zone. Luckily, that is seemingly more correctable than issues making contact.
As a lefty, he’s likely to sit against southpaws, but his playing time should be rather secure if he doesn’t completely bomb and he could contribute some homers here and steals there.
Andrew Toles | OF LAD | 3% Owned
Yasiel Puig’s injury has opened an opportunity for Toles, who still owns that intriguing combination of power and speed, but we’ve only seen 221 plate appearances from him up to this point. While he has only attempted three steals during his limited MLB sample, he has swiped as many as 62 all the way back in 2013 in the Rays organization. He obviously won’t ever do that again, but there’s some hidden stolen base upside here.
He has shown some surprising power with the Dodgers, though, as he has swatted eight homers during his time, which if extrapolated over a full season (let’s go with multiplying by three), you get 24 long balls. Add in a handful of steals, and suddenly you may even have an acceptable shallow mixed league option.
Unlike Duggar, Toles rarely walks, which means his chances of finding himself in the leadoff slot are slim. But interestingly, his SwStk% and strikeout rates paint a completely opposite picture from Duggar. Toles has consistently posted double digit SwStk% marks, yet his strikeout rate only once exceeded 20%. The majority of his stints resulted in marks in the mid-teens. How does that happen? Swinging at everything, of course! It’s how Javier Baez sports a disgusting, and league “leading”, 18.6% SwStk%, but has “only” struck out 24.1% of the time. Yup, his 60.9% Swing% is also highest in baseball. When you are terrible at making contact, just keep swinging and eventually you’ll get bat on ball. Toles isn’t nearly as extreme as Baez, of course, but the latter is essentially an extreme version of the former. Sure enough, Toles sports a career 54.2% Swing%.
Also like Duggar, Toles is left-handed and will likely sit against southpaws. But he should contribute a homer here and there and might steal the occasional base…or more if he suddenly remembers his speedy days.
Simply because Toles will lose his job once Puig returns and Duggar’s playing time outlook looks better for the rest of the season, I prefer Duggar of the two.
Mike Podhorzer is the 2015 Fantasy Sports Writers Association Baseball Writer of the Year. He produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X 2.0: How to Forecast Baseball Player Performance, which teaches you how to project players yourself. His projections helped him win the inaugural 2013 Tout Wars mixed draft league. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikePodhorzer and contact him via email.