Martin Maldonado was the best catcher available on the wire, for what it’s worth. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
The 2017 Fantasy baseball season is now done like dinner, and here’s hoping you had a great campaign and that our waiver wire picks played a role in that.
Using the wire can provide value in many ways. Sometimes, it offers a temporary fix to an injury issue or it’s simply a case of jumping on a player delivering short-term value. But when you pick up a player and he sticks on your team for all or most of the season and contributes throughout, that is the true definition of waiver wire gold.
With this in mind, we rank players higher that were identified earlier in the season as they — in theory — had an opportunity to provide value for your team for a longer stretch.
Oh sure, we had plenty of misses among our picks, and because of the weekly nature of our column it means that some hot free agents get scooped up days before we can tout them. Given the way Fantasy baseball leagues tend to operate, we also use the second half of the season as a time to tout keeper league options. But the fact is that if you managed to wound up with, say, three or four of these guys on your team, chances are you were a pretty happy camper this season.
Without further ado, we present the 2017 MLB Wire Troll All-Star Team…
Dates in parentheses represent the first time we recommended them (some of these dudes needed more than one shout out before peeps caught on).
Martin Maldonado, Los Angeles Angels (Week Six): As per usual, catcher was a wasteland this year, and there weren’t really any difference makers available on the wire, but Maldonado represented the best option. In his first season as a full-timer, he hit better even if he seemed to forget how to draw walks. So, we saw improved BA and slugging, but the OBP took a bath and prohibited him from a real breakthrough season. If the Puerto Rican backstop’s walk rate bounces back next year, we may get to see the best he has to offer. Either way, he clearly likes to keep things light on the field (see video below).
Honourable mentions: Kurt Suzuki, Atlanta Braves (Week 15); Yan Gomes, Cleveland Indians (Week Seven); and Christian Vazquez, Boston Red Sox (Week 18).
Trey Mancini, 1B/OF, Baltimore Orioles (Week Nine): When we recommended Mancini in early June, we talked about his slugging and didn’t care about his high BABIP bringing him down. He saw even more action in June before coming down to earth in July, bouncing back with a productive August and then hitting well (but in a hollow way) to close out the season. In a non-Aaron Judge season, Mancini might have garnered more attention for ROY considering the solid counting cats he accumulated. Hell, Mancini even somewhat helped improve the Orioles’ dire defensive situation in left field.
Honourable mentions: Mark Reynolds, Colorado Rockies (Week One); Justin Smoak, Toronto Blue Jays (Week Seven); and Matt Adams, Atlanta Braves (Week Seven).
Ian Happ, 2B/OF, Chicago Cubs (Week Six): It speaks to the Cubs’ depth that Happ doesn’t play every day — despite the fact he smacked 24 dingers. But he still had a hell of a rookie season, entrenching himself as one of the top power hitting middle infielders in the game, with tons of upside to come.
Honourable mention: Kolten Wong, St. Louis Cardinals (Week Three); Brandon Phillips, Atlanta Braves (Week 10); and Jed Lowrie, Oakland Athletics (Week Eight).
Paul DeJong, SS/2B, St. Louis Cardinals (Week 14): Yup, another stellar rookie here, folks. The counting cats DeJong put up in two-thirds of a season bode extremely well for his future. A shortstop that spanks 25 homers in less than 110 games and has yet to reach his power prime? Sign us up! There was nothing wrong with his BA, either. This kid sure made an impressive transition to the Show.
Honourable mention: Jose Reyes, SS/3B; New York Mets (Week Four); Jorge Polanco, Minnesota Twins (Week 21); and Tim Beckham, Baltimore Orioles (Week 18).
Eduardo Escobar, Minnesota Twins (Week 22): Escobar worked his way into more a full-time role this year, seeing few days off. He responded with career highs in triples and homers, while even chipping in with a couple more steals than usual.
Honourable mention: Cory Spangenberg, 3B/OF, San Diego Padres (Week 13); Matt Davidson, Chicago White Sox (Week Two); and Jeimer Candelario, Detroit Tigers (Week 18).
Avisail Garcia, Chicago White Sox (Week One): Garcia got fewer days off this year, and finally enjoyed that breakout campaign we’ve been waiting on seemingly forever. He put up some impressive runs and ribbie numbers and enjoyed his finest extra-base pop yet. Garcia was slightly better on the basepaths, but most importantly, he hit for a crazy good BA, finally returning to the high average hitter he gave us hints of in his first taste in the majors five years ago. If you nabbed Garcia in Week One, you struck gold!
Tommy Pham, St. Louis Cardinals (Week Six): Pham emerged as the Cardinals’ best player this season with a major breakout at the age of 29. He scored tons of runs and emerged as a major basestealing threat while maintaining his extra-base sock. The reason? Apparently, it was as simple as improved contact lenses that helped him see the ball better than ever and facilitated a major drop in his K rate.
Rhys Hoskins, Philadelphia Phillies (Week 19): Rarely does a rookie get called up so deep into a season and make as big an impact as Hoskins did. After spending most of the season dominating Triple-A and continuing to improve his walk rate as he rose through the system, he spent the final two months with the Phillies and upped that walk rate even higher. Better yet, Hoskins kept mashing long balls at a Ruthian like pace. Amazing transition to the bigs!
Honourable mention: Eddie Rosario, Minnesota Twins (Week 19); Byron Buxton, Minnesota Twins (Week 16); Josh Reddick, Houston Astros (Week Six); and Brett Gardner, New York Yankees (Week Five).
Luke Weaver, St. Louis Cardinals (Week 14): After winning 10 games with a 2.55 ERA at Triple-A, Weaver was brought up to the Cards and continued to win (earning another seven in just 10 starts and three relief appearances), while showing signs that he will be able to pitch deep into his starts in time.
Brad Peacock, SP/RP, Houston Astros (Week Eight): Peacock took his strikeout rate to a new level this season while exhibiting the finest command of his career. His peripheral stats back up his performance. It was the real deal.
Mike Clevinger, Cleveland Indians (Week Seven): Clevinger induced a higher groundball rate this year and that lower flyball rate translated into a much-improved homer allowed rate. Yes, his xFIP (4.05) suggested that his bottom line results were a tad fortuitous, but if you picked him up when we recommended him, you got your money’s worth!
Chase Anderson, Milwaukee Brewers (Week Eight): Anderson missed several weeks with an oblique strain, but was dynamite when healthy, breaking through with a career high K/9 rate. Yes, he was helped by a lower than usual BABIP, but Anderson proved to be a tremendous Fantasy starter this season.
Honourable mention: Lucas Giolito, Chicago White Sox (Week 10); Dinelson Lamet, San Diego Padres (Week Eight); Jake Junis, Kansas City Royals (Week Seven); Doug Fister, Boston Red Sox (Week 18); Luis Castillo, Cincinnati Reds (Week 12); and Josh Tomlin, Cleveland Indians (Week 23).
Corey Knebel, Milwaukee Brewers (Week Six): Once Neftali Feliz faltered, Knebel grabbed the Brewers’ closer job and ran with it, enjoying his first sub-2.00 ERA (he had never had a sub-3.00 before) despite a walk rate that continues to rise. The control will need to improve for Knebel to remain successful, but hey, you’ve got to love that he’s a Packers’ fan (as you can see below)!
— Corey Knebel (@coreyknebel29) October 7, 2017
Sean Doolittle, Washington Nationals (Week 15): Doolittle has always put up some very fine K/BB ratios, but what he was doing early on with Oakland this year was beyond amazing (21 1/3 IP, 31 K/2 BB). He failed to maintain that rate after getting dealt to Washington, but he did improve his ERA by nearly a run, and overall, did a much better job of keeping the ball in the yard this season.
Brad Hand, San Diego Padres (Week Eight): Hand’s velocity rose again this year, but as he’s become more reliant on his slider the last two years, his career has really taken off. In fact, rarely have we seen a failed starter make the conversion into top reliever as seamlessly as he has. Hand had a career best in ERA, significantly improved control and a much better save conversion rate.
Honourable mention: Blake Treinen, Oakland Athletics (Week 15); Blake Parker, Los Angeles Angels (Week 12); Alex Claudio, Texas Rangers (Week 15); Bud Norris, Los Angeles Angels (Week Two); and Brad Brach, Baltimore Orioles (Week Two).
Now it’s your turn. In the comments below, let us know which waiver wire gems made the biggest difference for you in 2017.