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It’s MLB All-Star break week, but that’s not an excuse to ignore your fantasy baseball roster. Here are five guys to consider adding off the waiver wire in your league.
5. Bartolo Colon, Minnesota Twins
The presence of “Big Sexy” on this list is a bit tongue-in-cheek, but hear me out. He posted an ugly 8.14 ERA with the Atlanta Braves this season over 13 starts (63 innings), but a .360 BABIP, 5.09 FIP, 5.00 xFIP and in particular a 48.2 percent strand rate point toward bad luck.
Colon’s 6.7 percent walk rate this season is right in line with his career mark (6.6 percent), but his strikeout percentage (14.1 percent) and swinging strike rate (4.9 percent) are both down. He needs to work ahead and be able to work the edges of the strike zone, so it’s worth noting opposing hitters are swinging less overall against Colon and making more contract on pitches deemed to be outside the strike zone by FanGraphs.
Colon will make at least one start for Minnesota’s Triple-A affiliate, but barring injury or an incredibly bad outing he should be with the Twins in short order. He pitched at least 190 innings in four straight seasons prior to this one, so he can at least be an innings eater with an ERA between 4.50 and 5.00. The Twins are taking a flier, and owners in AL-only leagues can think about doing the same.
ESPN Ownership: 1.1%
4. Tommy Pham, OF, St. Louis Cardinals
Since being recalled in early May, Pham is hitting .289 with 10 home runs, 32 RBI, 40 runs scored and 11 stolen bases over 201 at-bats for the Cardinals. The recent return of Dexter Fowler should simply bring a shift back to left field going forward, and Pham should still be a regular in Mike Matheny’s lineup.
Good fortune (.361 BABIP, 32.3 percent home run/fly ball rate) has been a factor in Pham’s success. But even with some expected regression, useful counting stats are still there as long as he’s an every day player.
Pham should already be on a roster in most NL-only leagues, but mixed league owners should start paying some attention.
ESPN Ownership: 25.2%
3. Trevor Cahill, SP, San Diego Padres
Cahill returned from a shoulder injury last Tuesday, and he pitched 4.1 scoreless innings with four strikeouts and two walks. An elevated pitch count (85-48 strikes) led to that early exit, but Cahill’s fairly lengthy absence obscures what he’s done this year (2.96 ERA, 10.8 K/9, 62.3 percent ground ball rate).
Fantasy owners looking for the intrinsic value of wins will be disappointed with any Padres’ starter, but Cahill does have three notches in that a column in his eight starts this year. His next start is coming Sunday against the Phillies, in a favorable matchup, so Cahill may go into the All-Star break on a good note.
Cahill has to be on the radar in mixed leagues, but it’s reasonable to wait and see what happens in his final start before the break.
ESPN Ownership: 29.3%
2. Brad Miller, 2B, Tampa Bay Rays
In two games since coming back from a groin injury, Miller is 3-for-5 with a double, an RBI and two walks. His overall numbers this season are dismal (.208/.358/.319 slash-line, two home runs, 15 RBI). but any hint at 2016 production returning puts Miller on the fantasy radar.
Miller came out of nowhere to hit 30 home runs and drive in 81 last year, spurred by hitting more fly balls and pulling the ball more. A full repeat, even if he had been healthy all season, was unlikely. But 16 of those home runs came in the second half of 2016, and now Miller is back in the lineup heading into the All-Star break.
Miller carries eligibility at shortstop (105 games) and first base (39 games) from last year. Don’t look for batting average help (.243 in 2016), but a middle infielder with power potential has a place on mixed league rosters.
ESPN Ownership: 16.7%
1. Starling Marte, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates
Marte is nearing the end of his 80-game performance-enhancing drug suspension, as he’s eligible to re-join the Pirates on July 18. At the time of his ban he was hitting .241 with two home runs, seven RBI and two stolen bases over 54 at-bats, but the last two seasons (.311, 47 stolen bases in 2016; 19 home runs, 81 RBI and 30 steals in 2015) point to his potential.
Marte’s ownership rate is already going back up in ESPN leagues ahead of his return, but there’s still an opportunity to add him. The risk of production enhanced by cheating is there, with a looming downturn now that he’s been busted. But Marte has to be owned in all mixed leagues, and he’s not there yet.
ESPN Ownership: 66.5%