The 2017 baseball season has cleared its second month, but it’s still imperative that fantasy owners remain vigilant on the waiver wire. The Yahoo fantasy baseball crew is here to help identify the players to go after:
Q: There are seven hitters currently owned in less than 60 percent of Yahoo leagues that have returned top 100 roto value through the first two months of the season – Logan Morrison, Scott Schebler, Domingo Santana, Steven Souza Jr., Justin Smoak, Yonder Alonso, Aaron Hicks. Rank these players in terms of expected roto value over the final four months of the season, and give us a brief comment on the player you prefer the most.
Brandon Funston: 1) Alonso 2) Schebler 3) Santana 4) Souza 5) Hicks 6) Morrison 7) Smoak – You can have those former M’s first basemen at the backend of my rankings, I’ll take Alonso over them every day and twice on Sunday. Alonso’s change in batted ball profile is real, a dramatic shift towards hitting the ball in the air – his current 52% Fly Ball rate is almost 20% higher than his career average. Given his solid contact skills, I’d prefer him over Schebler because there’s a decent chance Alonso can at least orbit the HR neighborhood of the Reds’ outfielder, but with a much better batting average to show for it.
Andy Behrens: Schebler and Santana (tie), Alonso, Hicks, LoMo, Smoak, Souza – I’ve said plenty about SCOTT SCHEBLER already; the power is entirely real and consistent with his minor league history. If SANTANA can simply remain healthy, he’ll challenge for a 20/20 season, or at least 20/15.
Scott Pianowski: 1) Schebler, 2) Santana, 3) Alonso, 4) Hicks, 5-T) Smoak and Morrison, 7) Souza – Hicks can’t be at the top of the list now, but he would be if the Yankees make a full commitment. He’s the No. 13 outfielder in Yahoo’s game to this point on 126 at-bats! He has more walks than strikeouts, for crying out loud, and we know there’s a first-round pedigree here; maybe he’s a kid the Twins didn’t handle properly. Perhaps the gridlock will sort itself out. At the moment, the Yanks have the second-best lineup in the AL, only trailing the slaughterhouse Astros.
Dalton Del Don: 1) Schebler 2) Santana 3) Alonso 4) Souza 5) Hicks 6) Smoak 7) Morrison – He won’t be a big help in batting average, but Schebler is on pace to finish with 50 homers and 94 RBI. He’ll regress some, of course, but the power is for real. It’s absurd he’s still available in so many leagues.
Q: Which infielder, readily available in shallow leagues (12 teams or less), are you most interested in adding to your fantasy team?
Brandon Funston: CHRIS TAYLOR. After watching him play sporadically for the M’s over the past few years, I honestly would never have believed his current hitting binge was possible. But a career .858 OPS mark in the minors offers something to believe in, and with a 38-steal campaign on his farm record, there’s legit hope that he can impact more than he has to this point in the SB (1) department. He’s pinched a bit for playing time with everyone healthy in the infield for the Dodgers, but he owns four-position eligibility, which is a fantasy bench luxury item, and that flexibility is going to keep him in business in a super-utility role as long as he continues to be a productive contributor.
Andy Behrens: Traditionally, whenever I add JED LOWRIE to a fantasy roster, he breaks within a week. But that’s really my only concern with Jed. He’s an excellent hitter, with respectable pop for a middle infielder. His current average (.290-ish) is completely sustainable.
Scott Pianowski: WHIT MERRIFIELD is a pretty name with a peppy game; he’s filling every category for the Royals these days. When is Uncle Ned going to raise him in the lineup? I can’t say. But a .294-17-6-12-6 line is worthy of ownership, and that’s over a modest 126 at-bats.
Q: Which infielder, potentially available in deeper leagues (14 teams or more), are you most interested in adding to your fantasy team?
Funston: HOWIE KENDRICK. Like Taylor (above), Kendrick offers the convenience of four-position eligibility. He’s a career .290 hitter with 10 HR/10 SB skills, which isn’t going to carry your squad, but it plays nicely as a stop-gap coming off your bench. Kendrick has a HR and a SB in his first three games since coming off the DL (oblique) and, with a .854 OPS on the season to go with the utility to play almost anywhere on the diamond, he should find fairly regular at bats in the Philly lineup going forward.
Pianowski: For all the problems with the Mets right now — they can’t even get the mascot in line — the offense has been scoring plenty of runs. LUCAS DUDA has been part of that fun, in-between an injury: .556 slugging percentage, eight homers in 108 at-bats. For some reason, he’s still owned in about 18 percent of Yahoo leagues.
Q: Which outfielder, readily available in shallow leagues (12 teams or less), are you most interested in adding to your fantasy team?
Funston: DOMINGO SANTANA. Just look at the first question in this column. Santana ranked among the top three with each Yahoo panelist. As Behrens mentioned, there’s legit 20/15 potential if he can stay healthy. And grabbing him right now means you are striking while the iron is hot – he’s hit .340 since April 30th, ranking as a top 30 bat in fantasy over that 27-game span.
Del Don: HUNTER RENFROE. Strikeouts will keep his batting average down, but Renfroe is already up to 10 homers, and he just finished May with an .868 OPS, so the rookie continues to show signs of improvement. Renfroe posted a 95-30-105-5 line over just 133 games in Triple-A last season.
Q: Which outfielder, potentially available in deeper leagues (14 teams or more), are you most interested in adding to your fantasy team?
Funston: Kendrick (listed above) applies here, too, but another fantasy-versatile option I’d be interested in is DANNY VALENCIA, who has played first base almost exclusively for the M’s this season, but also carries eligibility at the hot corner and in the outfield in the Yahoo game. He was mostly miserable in April but is hitting north of .300 over his past 30 games. He’s carried an .800-plus OPS mark over his past two seasons, eliminating in the process the worries about his ability to hit right-handed pitching.
Behrens: As a (very) deep league play, I’m kinda interested in GUILLERMO HEREDIA. He won’t offer extreme power or speed, but there’s almost no question he’ll continue to hit for average. Heredia slashed .300/.395/.391 in the high minors last season, with more walks (48) than Ks (47).
Pianowski: I don’t know how long this TOMMY PHAM story is going to last, but he’s been good for too long for us to ignore him. And when I see a nine-percent Yahoo tag, I know you are ignoring him. He’s the No. 50 player in the Yahoo game over the last month, doing a little bit of everything.
Q: Which pitcher, readily available in shallow leagues (12 teams or less), are you most interested in adding to your fantasy team?
Funston: DAN STRAILY. He can be a bit of a bumpy ride, but he’s won three straight games, striking out 24 hitters over 17.2 IP in that span. And despite his start-to-start inconsistencies, you can’t shake a stick at his overall numbers, which currently have him sitting as the 27th most valuable starter in the Yahoo game.
Pianowski: I grant you, BRAD PEACOCK has tired in both of his starts, and the last one got messy in the fifth inning. But I see still 16 strikeouts over nine innings, and that’s on the heels of outstanding relief work. Maybe Peacock will get his stamina up for the starting gig, or maybe he’ll be back in the bullpen soon. Either way, I’m chasing the strikeouts, and strong ratios, from this post-hype make-good.
Q: Which pitcher, potentially available in deeper leagues (14 teams or more), are you most interested in adding to your fantasy team?
Funston: JOE BIAGINI, owned in just 12% of Yahoo leagues, has a lot to like, including a near K/IP rate, a .226 BAA, and a K/BB rate that ranks top 15 among all pitchers with at least 40 IP. He hit a rough patch in mid-May with a couple of rough starts, but he righted himself his last time out with a solid 6 IP, 2 ER, 7 K effort. With his ability to miss bats and keep the ball on the ground at an elite level (top 5 in GB%), he’s a safe starting pitcher play in deeper leagues.
Behrens: White Sox setup man TOMMY KAHNLE has K’d 39 batters in 21.0 innings so far this season, and his fantasy ratios are absolutely sick (1.29, 0.70). You can use a guy like that in any league. His swinging-strike rate is an absurd 16.9 percent.
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