Dynasty Waiver Wire: Early Season Edition
Now that we’re a few weeks into the season, it’s prime time to check in on how some under-the-radar call ups and injuries to lineup regulars have changed the opportunity and trajectory of fringe fantasy relevant players. This article will seek to do just that, by examining three players whose stocks are on the rise but are still likely available in many dynasty leagues.
DH/1B Kennys Vargas, Minnesota Twins
Kennys Vargas was an interesting sleeper heading into 2017 but couldn’t make the major-league roster to start the season. Since he was recalled on April 23, he has seen fairly consistent at-bats since. Vargas’ playing time has mostly come from giving rest to Joe Mauer, Robbie Grossman, and Max Kepler, which does leave some risk that he won’t find consistent playing time moving forward. On the other hand, because the Twins called up him up so early in the season it seems likely that they have plans to play him on a regular basis.
As for the skills, Vargas has shown the ability to hit for power. This is illustrated by a .184 ISO and 19.1 HR/FB% through 610 career plate appearances in the big leagues. In addition, unlike many younger players with pop, he has been able to manage his strikeout rate throughout both his major and minor league at-bats. This should help him at least keep his average afloat.
Minnesota has had a middle-of-the-road offense to this point, and they could reasonably be expected to fall into the bottom third of the league as the season wears on. That makes it imperative that Vargas remain sixth or higher in the lineup in order to make his power translate into the counting stats. He has batted fourth through sixth for the overwhelming amount of time he has been in the majors, and if that continues Vargas’ power can be an asset that could pay off in both the long and short term.
SS/OF Taylor Motter, Seattle Mariners
Thanks to injuries to both Kyle Seager and Mitch Haniger, Taylor Motter has gotten his chance to play regularly as a member of the Mariners’ lineup. Add in the DFA of Leonys Martin, and suddenly there is a clear path to playing time for the utility man. What he will be able to do with that playing time is a different question.
Motter has hit for power early in the season, though not at a sustainable rate. That said, there have been serious changes to his plate discipline and batted ball profile that are worth noting. For one, Motter has brought his out of zone swing rate down to 18%. That rate is likely to trend upwards some, but improved patience has been clear thus far. His batted ball profile has undergone a similar transformation as he has very clearly been looking to the pull the ball, which has manifested itself in a 72.3% pull rate and 51.1% hard contact rate in the early going this season. Again, these rates cannot be expected to continue, but they show a change in approach paired with at least some positive skills growth.
Motter’s minor-league numbers seem to indicate some power-speed upside, but he has always been old for his level. He also has just 158 major league plate appearances, meaning there isn’t a “book” on him quite yet at the major league level and pitchers haven’t adjusted to the holes in his swing. Once that happens, Motter’s production will presumably cool quite a bit, and that leaves Motter best suited as a streaming option while his bat remains hot.
OF Delino DeShields, Texas Rangers
The Texas Rangers have a crowded outfield and have plenty of lineup combinations at their disposal, which could keep DeShields on the outside looking in for everyday playing time. He is also the least likely to show up on your dynasty league waiver wire. But if he’s still available in your league, he may be worth preemptively picking up in case more playing time opens up thanks to his stolen base upside and run scoring potential.
Not only will DeShields have to earn more playing time, but he will also need to work his way into the leadoff spot in the Rangers’ lineup to hit his ceiling. Although everyone knows about his steals (he already has four this season in limited playing time) his run scoring upside doesn’t get enough attention. Despite a strikeout rate more akin to a power hitter than the slap hitter that he is, DeShields is capable of getting on base at a good clip thanks to a high walk rate. If he can get to the top of the order and have the likes of Nomar Mazara, Rougned Odor, and Mike Napoli as run producers behind him, there is plenty of reason to be intrigued. That could make DeShields a standout producer in two fantasy categories, enough to make him relevant in nearly any dynasty league. Even if he’s owned in your league, he may be someone to target in a trade as a buy-low given his uncertain playing time situation so long as you are willing to buy the skills instead.