Fantasy Baseball Waiver Wire: Will Aaron Altherr bring his A-game?
The Phillies outfielder started his season late and in dramatic fashion, and Fantasy owners need to take notice. Al Melchior explains why, and identifies three other underowned players.
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With the non-waiver trade deadline around the corner, the current focus on the Phillies is much more on their potential subtractions than on their additions. Yet Aaron Altherr, who recently made his 2o16 season debut after having wrist surgery in March, is gaining some traction in Fantasy circles. For someone who was not a heralded prospect and had played all of 41 games coming into this season, being added in 8 percent of the leagues on CBSSports.com upon activation is worth noting.
Still, that means that Altherr is virtually unowned in mixed leagues. This is a situation that needs fixing, and if you own a team in a mixed league with at least 14 teams, we need your assistance. If your mixed league is a five-outfielder format with 12 teams, you might as well stick around for this appeal for help, too.
There are reasons why we didn't hear much about Altherr as he was coming up through the minors. He was a little too prone to striking out, and when he reached Double-A, he hit for precious little power away from a homer-friendly home park in Reading. However, Altherr improved on both fronts last season in both Double-A and Triple-A. When the Phillies called him up in mid-August, he did a lot of raking. Though a setback in strikeout rate limited his batting average to .241, Altherr bashed five home runs, 11 doubles and four triples in 39 games.
It's not always a good idea to trust the stats from one-quarter of a season, particularly from a player who had nearly no previous major league experience. Then again, the doubles power reflected the gains he made in the minors last year, and he can also provide a little bit of speed. Altherr got his 2016 season off on the right foot with a home run and two singles on Thursday. While that performance unto itself isn't a signal that he's ready to pick up where he left off, Altherr showed us enough last season to be worth a flier in far more leagues than the ones he is currently owned in.
Trea Turner, 2B, Nationals (65 percent owned)
Even though Turner has rewarded Fantasy owners with a steady stream of hits and stolen bases, his ownership rate has plateaued. The rookie hasn't lacked for playing time since the All-Star break, but it's still understandable that owners would be reluctant to take him on. After all, Ryan Zimmerman's absence made it easy for manager Dusty Baker to move Daniel Murphy from second to first base, opening up the keystone for Turner. And when Zimmerman returned, the Nationals conveniently had a two-game series in Cleveland that gave them the DH spot to fill.
However, we have now had the luxury of seeing how Baker would fill out his lineup card in three games with Zimmerman available and no DH. Turner has started two of those contests, so it doesn't appear that Baker has any intentions of burying him on the bench. It's time for owners in standard mixed leagues -- particularly in Rotisserie formats -- to give Turner a chance. Though he has yet to homer, his .173 Isolated Power shows he has some thump, and who couldn't use some steals?
Tommy Pham, OF, Cardinals (5 percent owned)
The Cardinals' hitters have a great schedule coming up for Fantasy Week 18 (Aug. 1-7), facing the Braves and Reds. Not necessarily because of the schedule, Fantasy owners have been flocking to Jedd Gyorko, but he's not the best Cardinal bat to target to take advantage of the upcoming matchups. While Gyorko could lose significant playing time with the possible returns of Jhonny Peralta (thumb) and Matt Carpenter (oblique) in the next week, Pham has been settling in as the Cardinals' primary center fielder. He's been producing, too, batting .264 with five home runs and five doubles in 72 July at-bats.
Pham not only provides power, but he hits to all fields, so he won't hurt owners with his batting average, even when he is striking out a lot. Though Pham is a right-handed hitter, he has had no problem producing against right-handed pitching, posting an .876 OPS against righties in his major league career. That should help him against his two toughest opponents this week, Julio Teheran and Mike Foltynewicz.
Logan Verrett, SP/RP, Mets (11 percent owned)
After showing some promise as a swingman last season, it's not been a great follow-up campaign for Verrett. For the most part, he has been allowing too many walks and home runs, which are not welcome trends for a pitcher who has been allowing contact at a rate in excess of 80 percent. After last season's performance, in which Verrett compiled a 3.59 ERA, it's been a definite letdown.
Now that Verrett is entenched in the Mets' rotation, having taken over for Matt Harvey, who is out for the season, it may look like a wasted opportunity. A closer look reveals that Verrett just might be seizing this chance to make an impression. He has rattled off consecutive quality starts against the Cardinals, Marlins and Phillies, showing the trademark control he demonstrated in the minors as well as last season as a rookie.
As endgame draws nearer for Fantasy owners, weekly matchups taken on even greater importance, and those should work in Verrett's favor, at least in the short term. In Week 18, Verrett is scheduled to face the Yankees, who have not been much of an offensive threat and appear to be sellers, and the Tigers, who have been a middle-of-the-pack offense over the past month. The following week, he lines up to pitch against the Padres, who simply don't hit righties. Especially in deeper formats, Verrett will almost certainly be an upgrade over someone in your rotation.
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