Fantasy Baseball Waiver Wire: Four options for power, speed and saves
Tyler O'Neill is the latest potential power breakout, but can he overcome the contact issues that have sidetracked so many others?
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There's no question Tyler O'Neill can hit the ball a long way. He's one of the strongest men in baseball, and had 87 homers between 2015, 2016 and 2017 in the minors. When he opened the season at Triple-A Memphis with 13 homers in 29 games, the only question left was, "Can he do it in the big leagues?"
He hasn't had an everyday role, but the answer so far has been a pretty emphatic yes. Starting his third game in a row Monday against the Royals, O'Neill also went deep for the third straight game, going 2 for 4 with four RBI and a double for good measure. He now has three home runs and seven RBI and five runs in 22 plate appearances, while striking out just five times.
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The plate discipline will be a key for O'Neill, who homered 44 times and stole 15 bases in 159 career games at Triple-A, but also struck out in 26.4 percent of his plate appearances. If he can make enough contact, O'Neill is going to be a force, and one who looks like he could be a Fantasy stud with his speed. The playing time moving forward remains a concern, but O'Neill is forcing his way into the lineup, whether the Cardinals have room for him or not.
We'll keep on looking for power-speed guys, with one of last year's most unexpected breakouts. Aaron Hicks finally started to live up to his potential in 2017, hitting .266 with 15 homers and 10 steals in just 88 games, and he's mostly picking up where he left off after a slow start. In 32 games, Hicks has hit five homers and swiped five bases, while walking nearly as often (20 times) as he has struck out (24). Since the start of 2017, Hicks has 20 homers and 15 steals in 120 games, a nearly 30-20 pace. He plays in a great park for his skills, and is pretty much an everyday player at this point, making him arguably a must-own player in all five-outfielder leagues.
And, if you can't find Hicks on the wire, why not look for Dustin Fowler? The A's have mostly shielded him from lefties, starting him just eight times in 11 games since he was called up two weeks ago. They may not have a choice but to put him in the lineup everyday pretty soon, especially with Khris Davis potentially heading to the DL with a groin injury. He may ultimately be unable to hit enough against lefties to justify an everyday role right away, but he did sport an .899 OPS against them last season in the minors. If Fowler can hold down an everyday job, Fantasy owners should get excited about his potential because he's another power-speed threat worth targeting. In 100 career games at Triple-A, he has hit 16 homers and stolen 21 bases, while hitting .298. Put him below Hicks and O'Neill on the pecking order, but you should put him on your radar in category-based leagues.
The Orioles' closer situation has been a bit of a mess this season. Brad Brach leads the way with seven saves, but he also went nearly a month (April 11 through May 9) without getting a save, and his 3.79 ERA doesn't exactly scream "dominance." Darren O'Day was taking on the role in Brach's place for that month, and could take it back when he returns from the DL. Of course, his 3.77 ERA — and 3.58 mark over the last three seasons — is nothing to write home about either. There's an opening here, is what I'm saying, and Zach Britton is getting close to returning to action. He'll begin his rehab assignment on May 30, and if everything goes right, he should be back in the majors before the end of June. Britton is coming back from a torn Achilles, and had his 2017 season derailed by forearm issues, but if he's healthy, we know he can be one of the best closers in baseball. With the Orioles' ninth inning in flux, there's an opportunity for Britton to step in within the next month. Don't forget about him.
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