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The Wire Troll: Neil Walker Morphing into Utility Role

May 12, 2018 | By RotoRob | comment on this post
Neil Walker is hitting better for the New York Yankees lately.
Neil Walker could find his niche as a utility man. (Kim Klement | USA Today Sports)

Welcome back to another week of Fantasy baseball. We’re into mid-May now, leaving us just over three weeks away from the 2018 MLB Draft, so expect more dynasty picks in the coming weeks.

This week, the Pirates finally got a big home crowd… there to see former fan fave Andrew McCutchen; Willson Contreras went hog wild on his bobblehead doll day, driving in seven runs; and former pitching great Jim Kaat thinks seven-inning games would solve many of baseball’s issues.

And now, let’s get to this week’s Fantasy baseball waiver wire recommendations…

Neil Walker, 2B/1B, New York Yankees (ESPN: 2.5 per cent; CBS: 13 per cent): Walker has been holding down first base, but with Greg Bird back soon and Gleyber Torres now entrenched at second, he’s been taking reps at third base to increase his chance of PT. Walker has hit safely is six of the last eight games, and before Friday, had scored runs in seven straight games (nine total runs), so actually has been playing better lately. There were concerns that by signing Walker (and Chris Drury) the Yanks would block some of their prospects, but clearly that’s not the case. And now Walker may become a utility man, a role which may still hold value in AL-only leagues and actually increase his value in some instances, given the positional flexibility. He also seems to have quickly grasped the Yankee way (see video below).

Brad Brach, RP, Baltimore Orioles (ESPN: 22.6 per cent; CBS: 31 per cent): Brach remains a solid short-term source of saves while the O’s await the return of Zack Britton (Achilles). Brach hit a rough patch a couple of weeks ago, but has righted the ship with three straight scoreless outing, recording saves in each of the last two. He somehow won 14 games as a reliever over the previous two years, but is winless so far. Still, Brach’s already earned five saves despite some awful bouts of wildness. Roll with him while you can.

Eloy Jimenez, OF, Chicago White Sox (ESPN: 4.5 per cent; CBS: 39 per cent): Jimenez may be the next top prospect to get recalled. After missing some time at the start of the season with a pectoral injury, he’s gone 30-for-90 so far at Double-A, but is really heating up lately. He had a streak of nine straight multi-hit games, and had gone 19-for-43 over the last 10 games, with 10 RBI before Saturday (when he was 3-for-5 with a homer and three RBI). Jimenez’s walk rate is down, but he’s offset that by making better contact. It’s clear he’s ready for the next step, so jump on him now while his ownership is fairly low.

Jeremy Hellickson, SP, Washington Nationals (ESPN: 16.9 per cent; CBS: 48 per cent): The veteran righty seems to have nine lives, doesn’t he? On Tuesday, he hurled 6 2/3 shutout frames, allowing just two hits to the Padres while whiffing eight and walking none to earn his first win of the season. That gives Hellboy back-to-back scoreless outings, and through five starts, his hit rates have never been better. His control has been off the charts good, his command fantastic, and he’s even limiting long balls. Given Hellickson’s history, it’s doubtful this lasts for long, but while he’s rolling, you may as well grab him and see how it plays out.

Quick Hits

  • Jose Bautista has gone six days without a hit for Atlanta and now it seems he’ll only play against lefties. His OPS is 470, so feel free to cut him immediately.
  • How frustrating is White Sox hurler Carson Fulmer? At the end of April, he put together back-to-back strong outings, including seven shutout innings in Kansas City. Since then, Fulmer has been shredded for 10 hits, 10 runs (nine earned), five homers and six walks in 5 1/3 IP over two starts, both losses. The White Sox are giving him every opportunity to remain a starter, but he’s not capitalizing.
  • Chase Utley just keeps on keeping on. He was in an 0-for-9 slump earlier this week that dropped him to .244. He’s gone 4-for-7 with a double and three RBI since. Utley’s on pace to see more action this year, he remains a good baserunner and he’s getting on base at a .370 clip. At the age of 39.
  • Tyler Chatwood may lead the majors in walks, but he’s generally managed to limit the damage lately, going 3-0 over his last four starts. Run support always helps. In two of those three wins, the Cubs scored 21 combined runs. It’s hard to imagine Chatwood maintaining that 3.35 ERA given his control issues.
  • Reds’ outfielder Scott Schebler is losing traction. Not only did he have some adventures in the outfield on Friday, but he went hitless for the seventh time in his last nine games. That .317 BA he put up in April has been killed by a 4-for-28 May. Time to cut bait here.
  • In his first season in the Oakland system, veteran minor league outfielder Nick Martini knows how to get the A’s attention. He’s got a .410 OBP, and is hitting better after a slow start. Martini, a 2011 seventh rounder by St. Louis, is still seeking his first promotion to the bigs.
  • You can’t blame Manny Machado for the sad state of affairs in Baltimore. A day after spanking two homers (including his 150th career shot) and driving in six, Machado went yard again Saturday, giving him four jacks in three games and a five-game hit streak. He’s now tied with Mookie Betts for the MLB lead in home runs and is likely headed for his first 40-bomb campaign.

Now it’s your turn. Let us know in the comments below who your favourite Fantasy baseball waiver wire pick of the week is.

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