Fantasy Baseball Waiver Wire: Josh James, Reynaldo Lopez highlight one-start sleepers for final week

Adam Aizer and I have a running bit on Monday editions of the Fantasy Baseball Today podcast. He offers his one-start sleepers for the upcoming week, I tell him there's no such thing since the possibility of a second start is the only reason anyone would consider sitting a tried-and-true for a waiver wire pickup, and it's a rollicking time for all.

But here's the thing: I've already established in my two-start rankings for this final week of the 2018 season that the two-start designation is not to be trusted with rosters expanded and teams preparing for hibernation. We have to treat every pitcher as if he's making only one start, because despite how it looks today, there's a good chance he is.

Which puts some people in a bind. For weeks, they've been patching holes in their pitching staff with two-start sleepers, and I now I'm telling them there are no two-start sleepers. You know what this situation calls for? Some one-start sleepers.

Get Adam on the phone.

Or maybe I'll take crack at it. I have a few pitchers in mind, some scarier than others. I could offer up Trevor Richards, who struck out nine (on 19 swinging strikes) over seven shutout innings Sunday against the Reds. He's in line to face the Mets and has a changeup that's awe-inspiring at its best. But he had three miserable outings prior to this one, so why take the chance?

I could also suggest Cody Reed, who struck out 16 without allowing a run over his past two starts. Again, the matchup is great — he's facing the Royals — and he has a genuine swing-and-miss pitch in his slider. But he's too much of a johnny-come-lately for my comfort.

There's also Derek Holland, who I already pegged as the top two-start sleeper for this week because, well, I had to pick one. But I'm not counting on him actually making two. Thankfully, the first will be against the Padres.

But if I'm eliminating the possibility of two starts for any pitcher I might find on the waiver wire, there are two in particular who stand out: Josh James and Reynaldo Lopez.

The former was one of the minors' breakthrough pitchers, ranking among the leaders in strikeouts per nine innings (13.5) with a fastball that routinely reached triple digits. And in his most recent outing, a start against the Mariners Tuesday, he did this:

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Josh James HOU • RP • 63
Tuesday vs. Mariners
IP5.1
H4
ER0
BB2
K7

Overall, he has 24 strikeouts in 16 innings as a major-leaguer, so the stuff translates. And this week, he'll put it on display against the rebuilding Blue Jays.

As for Lopez, his transformation has continued long enough for him to earn some benefit of the doubt. After Friday's gem against the Cubs, his fourth in five of seven innings or more, his matchup against the Twins this week doesn't seem so daunting.

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Reynaldo Lopez CHW • SP • 40
past five starts
ERA.79
WHIP.76
IP34
BB6
K36

Now then, how 'bout some hitters?

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Adalberto Mondesi KC • SS • 27
past 24 games
BA.347
HR8
SB11
AB101
K25

Every September, a Fantasy darling emerges, and Adalberto Mondesi is this year's, finally making good on the promise he never lived up to in the minor-league system. I wouldn't even say he has favorable matchups this week, but he is the majors' most prolific base-stealer right now and has power to boot. We may be beyond playing matchups with him.  

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Yuli Gurriel HOU • 1B • 10
2018 season
BA.288
HR13
2B33
AB518
K61

The Astros, meanwhile, have some of the most favorable matchups this week, and while I've already made the case for Tyler White as a top 10 sleeper hitter, Yuli Gurriel is more available at 69 percent ownership. He's also the hotter hand of the two, having gone 10 for 18 with four homers over his past four games.

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Mallex Smith TB • CF • 0
second half
BA.321
SB20
AB184
BB21
K31

I say that Mondesi is the majors' most prolific base-stealer right now, but really it's a toss-up between him and Mallex Smith, who's only one behind him for the entire second half. And while the ceiling isn't as high for Smith, he's a safer bet from week to week because he doesn't depend on a high BABIP for his production, striking out at a much lower rate. Better matchups than Mondesi this week, too.

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Jeff McNeil NYM • 2B • 0
2018 season
BA.340
HR3
OPS.889
AB200
K21

Speaking of striking out at a low rate, Jeff McNeil may be the new poster child. His is so low that he can put together the sort of batting average he has with a BABIP around .360 — not such an unbelievable mark, particularly for a line-drive hitter who uses the whole field. Since reaching the majors, he has as many starts with two hits as with zero, and the power he showed in the minors this year, popping 19 homers in 88 games, hasn't even manifested yet. And oh yeah, he has good matchups this week.

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Willians Astudillo MIN • C • 64
2018 season
BA.338
HR3
OPS.877
AB71
K2

Here's someone I added in a couple leagues myself — one where I had yet to find an adequate replacement for the now little-used Evan Gattis and one where I could no longer trust in Francisco Cervelli to take the field either. Willians Astudillo has started six of the Twins' past nine games behind the plate, and there's nothing fluky about his two strikeouts in 71 at-bats. No, really — he struck out 81 times in 2,265 at-bats across nine minor-league seasons. It's an unbelievable rate in today's game, and that skill alone gives him an uncommonly high floor at a position bereft of dependable hitters.

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Raised in Atlanta by a board game-loving family during the dawn of the '90s Braves dynasty, Scott White was easy prey for the Fantasy Sports, in particular Fantasy Baseball, and has devoted his adulthood... Full Bio

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