This is a perfect time of the year for fantasy baseball owners to get one up on the rival owners and pick some players with a great deal of upside from the waiver wire. Many baseball owners are looking forward to Week 1 of the NFL season and might not pay as much attention to their team or the waiver wire as they should. This week’s list includes some good young prospects and some solid veterans that could help you down the stretch or in future seasons. These players are available in more than 50 percent of ESPN leagues with stats as of September 8.
Lucas Giolito, SP, Chicago White Sox
Ignore the September 8 performance against the Giants in which Giolito was tossed out of the game after he was pulled. He had to deal with an inconsistent strike zone and poor defense behind him. Giolito is starting to look like the former consensus top five overall prospect. Even though he allowed three earned runs in just a little over five innings, he ERA stands at 2.84 for the season with a 0.91 WHIP. After fastball command, Giolito’s changeup has been the biggest factor in his early success as many are seeing the type of pitcher he could be when he was considered a top pitching prospect.
— The Loop Sports (@TheLoop_Sports) September 9, 2017
Jose Martinez, 1B/OF, St. Louis Cardinals
With a few Cardinals recovering from injuries, Martinez has become the Cardinals everyday first baseman, which gives him added position eligibility for fantasy owners. In the second half of the season, Martinez has posted a .358 average, .716 slugging percentage, and 1.170 OPS. His line-drive rate of 25.3 percent would rank in the top 10 if he had enough at-bats to qualify. The Cardinals are beginning to see more indications of a patient approach. In his extremely brief big league audition late last season, Martinez swung at balls outside the strike zone 34.2 percent of the time. Overall, he swung at just under 50 percent of all pitches thrown. This year, he’s cut his swing percentage as a whole to just 40.6 percent and out of the zone he’s swinging just 29 percent of the time.
Robert Stephenson, SP, Cincinnati Reds
Stephenson has allowed two or fewer earned runs in each of his past four starts, striking out 25 and walking 12 in 22 1/3 innings. The biggest change for Stephenson since he was brought up from the minors has been the improvement of a new pitch, his slider. The slider is getting missed three times more often than it’s put in play and is actually getting thrown for a strike more than not. It also seems to make his other pitchers better, as opponents have gone from slugging .797 against his fastball to slugging .442 and slugging .500 against his changeup to slugging .174. If the slider remains this strong of an addition to his repertoire, he may yet be on his way to achieving the top of the rotation starter status the Reds have always seen in him.
.@robsteev44 is 4-0 with a 2.08 ERA, .198 avg against and 10.4 K/9 ratio since August 2.
— Cincinnati Reds (@Reds) September 6, 2017
Matt Olson, 1B/OF, Oakland A’s
Entering the 2017 season, Olson was ranked as one of Oakland’s top prospects. After a bit of a slow start, Olson has started to live up to that potential. In August he slashed .305/.359/.661 with 7 HR and 14 RBI. On the year he is hitting .252 with 15 home runs and 30 RBI. He also has a 135 wRC+ this season. Olson has demonstrated he can hit on the major league level and provide the A’s and fantasy owners with serious power.
Joe Mauer, 1B, Minnesota Twins
It is good to see Mauer return to fantasy relevance after a couple of seasons in which he struggled at the plate. What has helped Mauer this year is his ability to cut his strikeouts back down to 13.5 percent. The Mauer of old Mauer was able to avoid the strikeouts with an 11 percent rate but saw that number jump to 17.1 percent over the past three years. Fewer strikeouts mean more balls in play which leads to an increase in batting average. His .306/.390/.421 line is easily Mauer’s best since 2013 and the Twins and fantasy owners are pleased to see that production return.
Only 9 players in all of baseball have a higher BA & OBP than Joe Mauer – only 1 in AL – Jose Altuve –
— Ex Twins News (@Ex_Twins_News) September 8, 2017
Doug Fister, SP, Boston Red Sox
Reverting to old habits has allowed Fister to be a standout pitcher for the Red Sox this year. Just small, little nuances in things like going across the body, trying to stay down in the zone, and throwing the sinker have allowed Fister to pitch so well that he has allowed just five runs over 30 innings in his past four starts. In seven starts since July 31, Fister has a 2.79 ERA with a 44/14 K/BB ratio in 48 1/3 innings. Improvements from previous seasons include a strikeout rate near 21 percent, with his groundball rate improving to 50 percent. He’s averaging close to 90 MPH on his fastball, which is up a bit from the past few years.