Waiver wire pick-ups this season can offer wildly different options depending on league variables.
Expanded rosters and teams with nothing – or everything – to play for can trot out eclectic rosters that make setting daily lineups for fantasy managers anything but straightforward. The only thing more bananas than late-September major league baseball rosters is what’s available on most fantasy waiver wires this season.
For some in head-to-head leagues, playoffs sometimes even wrap up by now to avoid these unique roster fluctuations. For those in Roto leagues and anyone still in a playoff hunt, here are five waiver wire pick-ups who can help fantasy managers in specific categories.
Fantasy Baseball Playoffs Waiver Wire Pick-Ups
Waiver Wire Pick-Up #1
Sawyer Gipson-Long (Strikeouts)
Once in a while, a middling prospect will come out of nowhere and flip a switch to take it to the next level. Detroit Tigers Sawyer Gipson-Long is that guy right now. The team’s 29th-ranked prospect recently debuted at 25 years old.
In two starts so far, he’s shoved. His stuff and demeanor on the mound both pass the eye test. Locating and sequencing five unique pitches, the mid-20s rookie pitches with the conviction of a seasoned veteran.
Stuff+ confirms with its peripheral indicators that Gipson-Long possesses some high-caliber weapons in his pitching arsenal. He uses his four-seam and two-seam in reasonably equal measure. Both pitches rate out as elite with a respective 130 and 133 Stuff+.
Meanwhile, his slider is average, while his changeup features elite qualities that put it at 125 Stuff+. Overall, Gipson-Long grades out as a well-above-average pitcher with a 117 Stuff+.
Gipson-Long won his first start against the Chicago White Sox and didn’t receive a decision in his next against the Los Angeles Angels. But he did strike out 11 Angels over five innings.
While neither of those opponents was formidable, his final matchups come against similarly lackluster offenses in the Oakland A’s and Kansas City Royals. Fantasy managers needing strikeout juice should consider Gipson-Long as a waiver wire pick-up.
Waiver Wire Pick-Up #2
Ryan O’Hearn (Avg. + HR)
The Baltimore Orioles have defied expectations and made the playoffs, though some predicted in the early season that the team might play out a Cinderella story.
One player who may himself individually encapsulate a Cinderella story would be infielder and designated hitter Ryan O’Hearn. The 30-year-old veteran is in a career year, timed perfectly for his new team’s playoff run.
Previously with the Kansas City Royals, O’Hearn’s previous high of 370 plate appearances came in 2019 – the year before the shortened season 2020. That season of 2019, he hit under .200 and delivered an average power output of 14 home runs.
Arguably, the ups and downs that followed could have hindered his development. This is particularly relevant considering in his rookie season in 2018, O’Hearn walloped a ridiculous 12 home runs in only 170 plate appearances and batted .262.
O’Hearn was tabbed by FanGraphs scouts with an elite 60-grade Raw Power, which that rookie season promised to deliver eventually. Strikeouts are often the undoing of power hitters, and this was the case with O’Hearn, who struck out at almost 29% until this year.
In 370 plate appearances with the Baltimore Orioles, the lefty slugger has rehabilitated his hitting profile – cutting his strikeout rate to 22%. He’s also increased his career contact percentage by 5%.
These improvements in his approach have yielded a top-tier season line of .306/.335/.508.
In the past week, O’Hearn has been mainly on fire, going 11 for 26 with two long balls, six RBI, and six runs scored. Fantasy managers who need power and batting average should find a spot on the roster for this sneaky, late-season waiver wire pick-up.
Waiver Wire Pick-Up #3
Julian Merryweather (Saves)
This one only takes a little analysis. Chicago Cubs closer Adbert Alzolay went down with an injury. If managers own him or need extra Saves to put their teams over the top in a Roto category, look no further than his replacement, 31-year-old veteran Julian Merryweather.
The high-leverage reliever came over from the Toronto Blue Jays. Merryweather claims some classic Closer pitches in the fastball and slider, which are both nasty.
By Stuff+ metrics, not only are the fastball and slider elite pitches, but he also throws an above-average changeup occasionally.
Merryweather sports an excellent 12.2 K/9 for the season, bolstered by an exceptional 15.6% Swinging Strike rate.
Perfect closers on good teams only fall into the free-agent pool sometimes. But at this time of the season, Merriweather should be available in most leagues to provide managers some quick and dirty help in the Saves category.
Waiver Wire Pick-Up #4
Charlie Blackmon (Avg. + Runs)
Veteran outfielders with something to prove can often be counted on to bolster fantasy playoff contenders’ rosters. Arizona Diamondbacks outfielder Tommy Pham has been on a tear that has seen his roster ownership climb sky-high. So, if Pham isn’t available, check out another late-30s outfielder in the Colorado Rockies, Charlie Blackmon.
Blackmon has always boasted a plus-hit tool. Very little has changed in his superb contact profile, as he still makes contact at nearly 90%. This, coupled with his ideal home-hitting park, has allowed Blackmon to carry a .296 batting average for his career.
Blackmon has spent much of what could be his last year in Colorado on the injured list. Despite that, rumors have circulated there is mutual interest in another season for Blackmon in a Rockies uniform.
And to observe how Blackman is performing since he returned from the injured list would indicate he’s playing like a man who wants another year.
Over the past month, he’s hitting over .290 with 11 Runs scored. Despite raising his Launch Angle to a career-high 17.9, Blackmon has no homers for that period. However, Blackmon might sneak one over the fence in mile-high sky with the Colorado Rockies scheduled to play their final week at Coors Field.
Regardless, grab Blackmon for boosts in batting average and a handful of Runs in the final weeks of the 2023 season.
Waiver Wire Pick-Up #5
Elehuris Montero (OPS + RBI)
And why not double down on Colorado Rockies hitters when the season’s final week is played in their home hitters’ paradise? Mainly when the hitter benefits from regular playing time, which can be a luxury this time of season.
That hitter would be 25-year-old infielder Elehuris Montero. Going back to mid-August, Montero has been kicking it up a notch after a somewhat sluggish season.
In just under 300 plate appearances, Montero is hitting a pedestrian .242 with a dreadful .292 OBP.
However, in just over 100 plate appearances since mid-August, he’s slashing .326/.400/.522. He’s also mashed three homers in that span. Getting more consistent playing time has contributed, but Montero looks like a different and much-improved player.
There’s a good bit of raw power in his bat. If Montero can keep these on-base improvements going, he could come into 2024 fantasy drafts as a sleeper pick. For now, he’s widely available in fantasy leagues. For the Rockies’ final homestand and fantasy managers’ final stand in the playoffs, Montero can help now.
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