Fantasy Baseball Waiver Wire: Reynaldo Lopez, Mallex Smith lead the way
Looking to make an impact add? A few showed their upside Monday and are worth adding.
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Looking for upside on the waiver wire? A few players showed they have the potential to be difference makers on Monday, and they lead the way in our latest look at the waiver-wire targets you need to add.
Alright, this is your last chance. If Reynaldo Lopez is still available in your league, you need to go add him. There are still concerns about his control, but Lopez has simply been too effective in the early going this season not to add at this point. He has 21 strikeouts in 19 innings, and has backed it up with an 11.8 percent swinging strike rate. This is the first time we've seen Lopez miss this many bats in the majors, and it's a great sign. Whether he can keep it up moving forward while avoiding damage from walks is another question, but if you're chasing upside, it's impossible to ignore what he's doing right now, especially with his stuff and pedigree.
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With Kevin Keirmeier going on the DL with a thumb injury that is likely to keep him out for months, Mallex Smith is going to get a chance to play every day for the Rays in center field. That should be exciting for Fantasy owners in need of stolen bases, because he has the chance to be a real difference maker there. Smith was overmatched in his first taste of the majors in 2016, hitting .238, but has sported a .280/.340/.372 line with 18 stolen bases in 327 plate appearances since the start of 2017. You'd like to see a better success rate on steals than his 2-for-5 pace so far, but Smith averaged more than 80 steals per-150 games in the minors, at a 78 percent clip, so he should be better than that moving forward. And, after another four-hit game Monday, it wouldn't be a surprise to see him start moving up the lineup for the Rays.
We've witnessed the apparent emergence of a handful of really interesting young pitchers so far this season, including Lopez, which makes it easier for someone like Ryu to get buried. He's a veteran with a well-established track record of perfectly acceptable performance, and he doesn't throw particularly hard or have a long history of racking up strikeouts, so why get excited about Ryu? Because you still need guys who can get wins and prevent runs, and Ryu should be pretty good at both. He has a career 3.39 ERA, with his 3.77 mark last season representing the worst of his career. The upside might not be huge – I'm not buying Ryu's 30.7 percent strikeout rate – but the floor is pretty high, too. You'd rather have Lopez (or Sean Newcomb, or Nick Pivetta, or any of the young pitchers with a higher ceiling), but Ryu isn't a bad guy to have around.
He didn't hit three homers on Opening Day, but Christian Villanueva has pretty much matched Matt Davidson's production through the first two-plus weeks of the season so far. He homered for the third consecutive day Monday, giving him six in 14 games, and a .333/.423/.822 line. Combine what he did last season, and Villanueva is hitting over .300 with 10 homers in 84 plate appearances so far in the majors. The minor-league numbers don't quite back it up – he hit .263/.328/.457 in 1,210 Triple-A plate appearances – and he strikes out too much to sustain a .300 average, but Villanueva is owned in just 44 percent of leagues, and is a fine consolation prize if you missed on the early Davidson rush.
Rumors of Matt Kemp's demise have been greatly exaggerated. He was basically ignored in Fantasy circles coming into the season, despite the fact he was going to be playing nearly everyday for the Dodgers, and was coming off a better-than-you-remember season, hitting .276/.318/.463 for the Braves. His real-world impact is lacking thanks to his defense and baserunning, but Kemp can still swing the stick, and he's reminded us of that in the early going. He won't continue to run a .480 BABIP, obviously, but I'd bet he won't keep striking out in one-third of his plate appearances moving forward either. Kemp is a good hitter, in a good lineup, and that should be enough to get him on your roster.
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