Beyond a handful of elites at the top of the position, third base has been an absolute horror show this year, and I wouldn't doubt that many of you reading this article are eager to upgrade there. It just so happens that a number of interesting alternatives are emerging on the waiver wire, four of which I'll address among the eight players depicted here today.
But first, I want to make a case to hold a player Braxton Garrett. After back-to-back impressive starts against the Pirates, one of which yielded 11 strikeouts on 23 swinging strikes, the prevailing question was whether he could get it done against anyone else. And early returns would suggest no, he cannot. He allowed five earned in five innings Wednesday at the Reds, a team not exactly known to be an offensive juggernaut.of Waiver Wire:
But a closer inspection reveals some reasons to be encouraged. Four of the runs came in the first inning, so he clearly settled down after that. He had eight strikeouts compared to one walk in five innings. HIs 13 whiffs on 87 pitches is certainly a good rate, and his slider continued to play like a plus pitch, responsible for 10 of those whiffs.
He probably isn't an ace in the making, but is he good enough to roster still? I believe so, in the same way someone like Eric Lauer is. Garrett seemed like a nobody a year ago, but his velocity is up more than a mile per hour on every pitch this year, which seems to have had a transformative effect.
Of course, if the choice is between him or the top two pitchers featured below, I'm sorry to say Garrett's got to go.
LAD L.A. Dodgers • #28 • Age: 31
Thanks to two separate IL stints for a shoulder injury, Heaney has made just five starts this year, but all of them have been bangers. His most recent return Wednesday was predictably short, lasting only four innings and 71 pitches, but again gave him the look of a world-beating bat-misser, collecting 12 swinging strikes on 71 pitches. He didn't even rely so much on his newfound miracle slider in this one, throwing it 24 percent of the time as compared to 40 percent previously, which is a testament to how effective his fastball itself can be. And of course, the Dodgers offer him all the win potential in the world.
Aaron Ashby SP
MIL Milwaukee • #26 • Age: 24
I've been banging the drum non-stop for Ashby since he joined the starting rotation in late May, and while the transition has mostly gone poorly, his latest start Monday in which he struck out nine over seven two-run innings offered a glimpse at what could be. Rarely do you find a pitcher with his combination of bat-missing skills and ground-ball tendencies. It's poor control that's held him back, but throwing 73 percent of his pitches for strikes Monday was a big step in the right direction. I expect him to be one of the breakout players of the second half, and it's clear the Brewers haven't lost faith either, inking him to a five-year deal over the weekend.
Cole Irvin SP
OAK Oakland • #19 • Age: 28
I'll level with you and say I don't think Irvin is good. His 3.05 ERA is good, and his past five outings have certainly been good, the latest Wednesday giving him five straight quality starts in which he's allowed two earned runs or fewer. But what is he actually good at? Not missing bats. Not limiting hard contact, as evidenced by his 4.51 xERA. He limits walks, sure, but more than anything, I think his success is a product of good home run luck. He's allowed just 12 in 18 starts despite a high fly-ball rate. Ah, but you know how many of those have come at home? Exactly one, which would account for his 1.73 ERA there. Fly balls are actually a benefit if they stay in the yard, and RingCentral Coliseum might just be big enough to keep Irvin useful as long as you're only using him there.
Nico Hoerner SS
CHC Chi. Cubs • #2 • Age: 25
I've been reluctant to endorse Hoerner, thinking he might just be a hollow source of batting average, but his latest hot streak, during which he's batting .364 (40 for 110) with a .939 OPS, has me rethinking things. He has three homers and four steals during that 28-game stretch, which is like a 15-homer, 20-steal pace, and when you look at his Statcast ratings, it's not unreasonable to think he could sustain it. He has 90th percentile speed, his quality of contact is no worse than average, and he doesn't put the ball on the ground too much. His line-drive swing and all-fields approach do lend themselves more to batting average than power, but hey, batting average is good, too. Hoerner may be developing into a slightly better version of Jean Segura.
Alec Bohm 3B
PHI Philadelphia • #28 • Age: 26
I can't explain what exactly has gotten into Bohm, but with his fourth straight multi-hit game Wednesday, he's suckering us into believing again. He's now batting .488 (20 for 41) during a 12-game hitting streak and .371 (46 for 124) in 32 games since mid-June. Of course, he has all of two home runs during that time, walking only four times and of course stealing no bases. That's about as hollow as a batting average gets. His average exit velocity and launch angle also haven't improved during that time, but then again, neither was so bad to begin with. I wouldn't say I'm eager to pick up the enigmatic 25-year-old, but at a position like third base, sometimes you just have to ride the hot hand.
Jose Miranda 3B
MIN Minnesota • Age: 24
If you're targeting any one third baseman off the waiver wire right now, it should be Miranda. The rookie collected three hits (including a homer) for the third straight game Wednesday and is now batting .386 (22 for 57) with four home runs in July. But really, his success goes back further than that. Since going 5 for 53 (.094) to begin his career, he's batting .347 (52 for 150) with eight home runs and a .964 OPS, striking out only 19.5 percent of the time. His exit velocity is acceptable. He elevates well. And need I remind you this is a guy who hit .344 with 30 homers and a .973 OPS between the two highest levels of the minors last year? Maybe it's translating better than we even imagined.
Nolan Jones RF
CLE Cleveland • #33 • Age: 24
Given that he struck out 27.4 percent of the time over his minor-league career, a rate that only climbed as he moved up the ladder, I imagine making contact will become an issue of Jones at some point, but the quality of that contact could be so high that it won't even matter. His average exit velocity (91.6 mph) is comparable to Freddie Freeman, and he's already hit a ball 111 mph, which is more than Francisco Lindor or Salvador Perez can say. Jones' three hits Wednesday, which included two doubles, raised his batting average to .306, and he's been walking just as well as he did in the minors, boasting a .404 on-base percentage. Even if you don't need him at third base, the outfield, where he recently picked up eligibility, is nearly as weak.
DET Detroit • #46 • Age: 28
Candelario was great in the second half last year, batting .282 with 11 homers and an .882 OPS. Could it be happening again this year? After homering three times in his previous two games, he collected another three hits Wednesday, including a double, and is 11 for 24 (.458) with four home runs to begin the second half. He has only middling power and bats in the worst lineup in baseball, so you have to ask yourself how impactful he could be even in a best-case scenario. But he's eligible at the weakest position in Fantasy and is highly available at 23 percent rostered. History suggests this is one hot-hand play who could become something more.