September isn't the easiest time to play the waiver wire. At other points in the year, your pickups can be more speculative in nature -- a nod to ability that you hope will pay off at some point down the road.
But "down the road" is now off the table. With a mere three lineup locks to go (presuming your league runs through the final week of the season), you need moves that can pay off immediately, and the truth is that any player who meets that standard of trustworthiness is likely rostered already.
Perhaps a rookie, then? Someone who, by definition, hasn't established himself as trustworthy but who, at least in theory, has impact potential? Sure, in theory. But the problem with, say, a Glenn Otto or Gavin Sheets is that you can't be sure how much volume they'll give you. It hasn't stopped me from recommending them at times. The nature of the job is that there must always be recommendations. But truthfully, you'd need to be in a dire situation to turn to either of them.
TOR Toronto • #30 • Age: 25
Alejandro Kirk has now put together back-to-back three-hit games, hitting a double and a home run in the first one and two homers, both to the opposite field, in the second. So the power is playing up for the 22-year-old, backed up by his 92 mph average exit velocity, and there was never any doubt about his bat-to-ball skills. He hit .317 as a minor-leaguer, and his 11.3 percent strikeout rate so far this year would rank fifth among qualifiers. The playing time hasn't always been there for him, but having started seven of the Blue Jays' past 10 games, he's finding it at the right time.
A.J. Alexy RP
CHW Chi. White Sox • #59 • Age: 25
OK, so there is one problem for Alexy. Depending on whether the Rangers go with a five-man or six-man rotation moving forward, he's in line to face either the Astros or White Sox next week, which might be too big of a risk after only two big-league starts. But what a two starts they've been, particularly after he put together a 1.66 ERA, 1.02 WHIP and 10.5 K/9 between Double- and Triple-A. His control has been shaky, and his fly balls could come back to bite him. But if his next start also turns out nicely, he'll make for an interesting play the final two weeks.
STL St. Louis • #27 • Age: 28
Another three-hit performer Tuesday, complete with two doubles and a stolen base, Tyler O'Neill is back to doing damage again after a midseason lull, batting .389 (7 for 18) with three homers in his past five games and .317 (33 for 104) with seven homers since the start of August. His strikeout rate remains ridiculous, which holds back his points-league value, but according to Statcast, his .275 xBA is in line with his season mark (.278). Given the disparity between his xSLG (.566) and actual slug (.518), you could make the case he's actually underperformed, and again, he's heating up now.
PHI Philadelphia • #55 • Age: 28
Ever so gradually, Ranger Suarez's roster rate is climbing to the point where I can no longer feature him in this space, but we're not there yet despite another strong showing at the Marlins over the weekend. His overall ERA is still 1.38, and it's been nearly as good (1.71) since he joined the starting rotation at the beginning of August. His extreme ground-ball rate (63.3 percent, which would be a distant first among qualifiers) limits his damage on balls in play, and he's good for a strikeout per inning as well. With the Rockies and Cubs due up next for him, you need to get with the program already.
KC Kansas City • #43 • Age: 26
Though many have salivated over Carlos Hernandez's 97 mph fastball, which occasionally breaks triple digits, I look at the lackluster minor-league track record, the disappointing 8.8 K/9 and the discouraging 4.49 xFIP and think, OK, what's the big deal? But I can't deny he has allowed two earned runs or fewer in six of his past seven appearances, including four quality starts, for a 1.91 ERA. Plus, his remaining matchups, if everything holds, include the Orioles once and Indians twice. If everything doesn't hold (as is the norm), the Mariners, Tigers and Twins are also possibilities.
CHC Chi. Cubs • #18 • Age: 31
I keep thinking Frank Schwindel is bound to cool off, but the longtime minor-leaguer seems to get better and better, collecting multiple hits every day during the four-day weekend while homering three times during that span. As good as his season numbers look (see above), keep in mind they're skewed by a 3-for-20 stretch he had with the Athletics earlier this season. Due to his lack of patience and limited defensive profile, his bat skills were left to languish in the minors despite impressive production there. Now, with his 18.5 percent strikeout rate and ability to elevate the ball, he may be here to stay.
Ian Happ LF
CHC Chi. Cubs • #8 • Age: 29
If you miss out on Schwindel, you can always fall back on Ian Happ, which is a funny reversal of fortune given where the two stood coming into the year. As disappointing as Happ has been overall, though, he has caught fire of late, his home run Tuesday giving him nine to go along with a .376 (32 for 85) batting average over his past 23 games. Of course, his .451 BABIP during that stretch betrays the performance, and he continues to strike out too much. Still, he's a power hitter who's hot right now, and at this stage of the season, you don't need to analyze it much further than that.
TEX Texas • #23 • Age: 33
With Tuesday's start, Jake Odorizzi has allowed no more than two earned runs in four straight. Granted, three were against the Mariners and one against the Rangers, so he's been doing it against weaker lineups. Also, he's been pulled at right around five innings each time (a trend for which he voiced his displeasure Tuesday), with manager Dusty Baker having figured out he can get the most out of the troublesome right-hander by limiting him two turns through the lineup. With two more weak lineups on the schedule next week (Rangers and Diamondbacks), here's hoping the pattern holds.