In this week’s Waiver Wired, D.J. Short discusses opportunities for Seth Lugo with the Mets and John Hicks with the Tigers

Is White Sox right-hander Dylan Covey turning into a thing? It’s obviously too soon to say for sure. While the instinct is to wait until we have a larger sample size, the conservative approach just doesn’t play in competitive fantasy leagues these days. It’s a losing strategy which often leads to missing out on breakouts from unexpected places. Unless you draft really well and have excellent luck in regard to injuries, you need these surprise breakouts to have a winning season. Just look at the emergence of Max Muncy and Ross Stripling in recent weeks. With Covey, there’s at least reason to be intrigued.

Covey had a miserable rookie season with the White Sox last year, going 0-7 with a 7.71 ERA over 12 starts and six relief appearances, but he’s surprised with a 2.25 ERA over five starts with the White Sox so far this year. And we’re not talking about pushover teams here, as he’s allowed a total of two earned runs combined over his last three starts while facing the Indians, Red Sox, and Brewers. He’s outdeuled Chris Sale (who he was selected one pick behind in 2010) and Trevor Bauer in his last two starts.

Looking a little bit deeper on Covey’s small sample success, he’s relied heavily on his sinker while seeing an uptick in velocity and a sizable increase in strikeouts. He’s fanned 28 batters in 28 1/3 innings after striking out just 41 batters in 70 innings last year. The movement on his pitches have been unreal, but he’s also showing better control and he’s also inducing grounders at a very high (61 percent) clip. He’s yet to allow a home run so far this season.

It’s totally fair to question the track record. Covey’s swinging strike percentage is actually below the league average for starters, so it could catch up to him in time. Still, I’m putting my money where my mouth is here, as I just picked up Covey in the Yahoo Friends & Family League. It’s a deeper league with an innings cap, so strikeouts really matter. I have a bit of a cushion in regard to ERA and WHIP, so I can afford to see where this goes and pick appropriate spots to use him. If Covey flops after a couple of starts, it isn’t going to sink my season. And chances are, whomever you are dropping to pick him up is likely replaceable. As of Thursday morning, Covey was still available in 83 percent of Yahoo leagues, so he still fits in the category of deeper league gamble.

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MIXED LEAGUES

(Note: Percentages are from the morning of Thursday, June 14)

Seth Lugo SP/RP, Mets (Yahoo: 45 percent owned)

The bad news is that Noah Syndergaard is out indefinitely with a strained ligament in his right index finger, but Lugo is at least assured of a rotation spot during his absence. He struck out eight over six scoreless innings against the Yankees on Sunday (his second start of the season) and now owns a 1.77 ERA and 47/9 K/BB ratio over 45 2/3 innings on the year. He saw an uptick in velocity with the move to the bullpen and also relied more often on his high spin-rate curveball. We saw heavy usage of the curveball in his start against the Yankees on Sunday, so it’s going to be interesting to see where this leads. Don’t expect much help from the Mets’ offense, but Lugo should be owned in most leagues.

John Hicks C/1B, Tigers (Yahoo: 33 percent owned)

More injury fallout here, as Hicks should have the path to regular at-bats with Miguel Cabrera scheduled for season-ending surgery Thursday for a ruptured left biceps tendon. Hicks has been pretty solid when called upon over the last two seasons, batting .280/.331/.442 with 11 home runs and 44 RBI over 356 plate appearances. He hit fifth against the Twins on Wednesday in his first start since Cabrera’s injury, so he should have the chance to drive in some runs. The multi-position eligibility is nice, but he’s mostly going to come in handy as a No. 2 catcher in mixed leagues.  

Eric Thames 1B/OF, Brewers (Yahoo: 44 percent owned)

Jesus Aguilar thrived with the chance at regular playing time at first base, but the situation is more complicated now that Eric Thames has returned from the disabled list. Aguilar has started against two lefties so far while Thames hit leadoff against Cubs right-hander Tyler Chatwood on Tuesday. If this arrangement sticks, Thames is going to be the one to own in most mixed leagues. Thames had seven homers and a .976 OPS in 22 games prior to the torn ligament in his left thumb, so it’s not like that’s a bad thing. Grab him if you need some pop, but both of these players are probably best utilized in leagues which allow for daily lineup changes.

Ryon Healy 1B/3B, Mariners (Yahoo: 22 percent owned)

We’re going heavy on Miguel Cabrera alternatives to start out with here. Fortunately, Healy has really turned things on from a power perspective in recent days, slugging four homers over his last three games. He’s now up to 13 homers and 31 RBI on the year to go along with a .780 OPS. Healy pretty much is who he is. The approach isn’t great, so he’s never going to be a big on-base guy, but he socked 25 homers in 149 games for the A’s last year and could surpass that if he continues to receive regular at-bats with surprising Seattle.

Kevin Kiermaier OF, Rays (Yahoo: 18 percent owned)

Kiermaier hit the disabled list with a torn ligament in his right thumb in mid-April, but he began a minor league rehab assignment with High-A Charlotte on Tuesday and could be activated at some point next week if all goes well. The 28-year-old was batting just .163 (7-for-43) prior to the injury, but he’s just a year removed from amassing 15 homers and 16 steals with a strong .276/.338/.450 batting line. That sort of across-the-board potential can’t be left sitting on the waiver wire. Stash him away in leagues where he was dropped.

Carlos Rodon SP, White Sox (Yahoo: 35 percent owned)

Rodon made his long-awaited return from shoulder surgery against the Red Sox last Saturday and allowed four runs (two earned) over five innings while striking out seven and walking a pair. While he took the loss, there were a bunch of positives to take away. The southpaw threw 63 out of 97 pitches for strikes and compiled 15 swinging strikes while topping out at 97.3 mph on his fastball. Missing bats hasn’t been a problem for him so far in the majors, but his control has been inconsistent. Nipping that in the bud could take him to the next level. I mentioned him as a DL stash over am month ago, but Rodon should be owned in most leagues now that he’s active again.

Josh Harrison 2B/3B/OF, Pirates (Yahoo: 37 percent owned)

The counting stats haven’t been overly exciting, but Harrison is hitting .313 (26-for-83) with two homers, three doubles, one triple, 11 RBI, one steal, and eight runs scored in 19 games since returning from the disabled list last month. When healthy, he’s been the Pirates’ leadoff hitter dating back to the first week of the season. It’s a good situation for him, though as Ryan Boyer noted in this week’s Hot Hitter Rundown, it’s fair to wonder about what his role could be if he ends up being traded by July 31. Still, there’s definitely a place for Harrison on most mixed league rosters right now.

Jamie Barria SP, Angels (Yahoo: 27 percent owned)

I wish it was under better circumstances, but Barria would appear to have a secure rotation spot with Shohei Ohtani sidelined due to a Grade 2 sprain of the ulnar collateral ligament in his elbow. Garrett Richards also left his start on Wednesday with left hamstring tightness, so the Angels could decide to play it safe there. Barria took a loss against the Mariners on Tuesday, but he’s been excellent when called upon this year, posting a 2.61 ERA and 32/9 K/BB ratio in 41 1/3 innings over nine starts. The 21-year-old doesn’t blow batters away, but the control and command have been impressive. Assuming Barria gets an extended opportunity, he’ll also get to make half of his starts in a pitcher-friendly home stadium.

Scott Schebler OF, Reds (Yahoo: 22 percent owned)

Schebler has been on quite the nice run at the plate recently, hitting .396/.431/.625 with two homers, five doubles, five RBI, and eight runs scored this month. The 27-year-old has spent most of the season hitting out of of the sixth spot in the order, but he has now hit leadoff in six straight games. And why not, as he’s now reached base safely in 14 straight games. Schebler appears to be approaching things a little differently this year, not selling out as much for power. The result has been a drop in strikeout percentage and an uptick in line drives and average exit velocity. There’s still an outfield rotation here, with Billy Hamilton, Jesse Winker, and Adam Duvall (who hit a grand slam on Wednesday) in the mix, but Schebler deserves more attention that he’s getting in mixed leagues.

Jordan Hicks RP/SP, Cardinals (Yahoo: 14 percent owned)

Hicks received a ton of attention for his ridiculous velocity upon his call-up to the majors, but it wasn’t exactly translating to strikeouts early on. While he had a 2.18 ERA over his first 20 appearances, he somehow struck out just eight batters in 20 2/3 innings. Something has clicked for him recently, though, as he’s piled up 20 strikeouts in his last 14 1/3 innings. He’s wife at least two batters in five out of his last seven appearances. Yes, he’s still throwing in triple-digits, but progress with his slider has been a big key. He’s looking like a future closer, perhaps sooner than you might think.

Manuel Margot OF, Padres (Yahoo: 28 percent owned)

Is Margot finally turning the corner? Hyped as a breakout candidate in the spring (by myself and others), the 23-year-old couldn’t have gotten off to a worse start. In addition to his struggles at the plate, he missed some time with bruised ribs. Margot was originally projected to be the leadoff man for San Diego, but he’s primarily batted in the bottom-third of the order since the start of May. Fortunately, he has shown signs of life recently by hitting .450 (9-for-20) with a triple, two RBI, and two runs scored over his last six games. He’s 0-for-3 in stolen base attempts during that time and just 6-for-11 overall this year, so he’ll need to do better to truly emerge as a viable option in standard mixed leagues. But he’s at least moving in the right direction with the bat right now.

Willy Adames SS, Rays (Yahoo: 11 percent owned)

Something is going to have to give in the Rays’ infield very soon. Adeiny Hechavarria is on a minor league rehab assignment and Daniel Robertson expects to return from the disabled list when he’s first eligible, but Adames is up for now and there’s always the chance that he sticks. The 22-year-old had cooled down of late in Triple-A, but he still put up a solid .286/.356/.424 batting line with Durham while compiling four homers, 30 RBI, and three steals in 54 games. The counting stats don’t look very exciting right now, but he has a good approach for his age and could grow into more power in time. He’s just a wait-and-see option in shallow leagues until that time comes, but feel free to take a shot in deeper formats.

Randal Grichuk OF, Blue Jays (Yahoo: 6 percent owned)

I mentioned Ryon Healy’s approach earlier, but Grichuk also has his share of flaws at the plate. He’s hit .244 with a .294 on-base percentage during his career while striking out in 29.8 percent of his plate appearances. Barring some sudden eureka moment, his approach will continue to limit his upside in fantasy leagues, but there’s no questioning his power. Grichuk slugged 46 homers in 254 games with the Cardinals between 2016-2017 and has gone deep three times in 10 games since coming off the disabled list at the start of June. He might be a slump away from losing some at-bats in this situation, but he needs to be owned in more leagues right now.

AL-ONLY

David Fletcher SS, Angels (Yahoo: 1 percent owned)

Called up after Jefry Marte was placed on the disabled list with a sprained wrist, Fletcher made the start at third base on Wednesday against the Mariners and went 3-for-4 with a two-run triple in his major league debut. The 24-year-old hasn’t ranked among the Angels’ top prospects, but he was tearing up Triple-A with a .350/.394/.559 batting line with six homers and seven steals over 58 games. He’s mostly played shortstop this season, but he also has experience between second base and third base. He actually made the start at the hot corner on Wednesday and there could be a path to continued at-bats depending on the status of Andrelton Simmons and Zack Cozart.

Jonathan Loaisiga SP, Yankees (Yahoo: 0 percent owned)

It’s apparent that the Yankees will need to add a starting pitcher in advance of the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, but Loaisiga is getting a chance for now with Masahiro Tanaka on the disabled list due to tightness in both of his hamstrings. The 23-year-old is slated to make his major league debut Friday against the Rays at Yankee Stadium. Loaisiga lost some development time due to Tommy John surgery, but he’s exhibited excellent control in the minors, posting a 3.00 ERA with 58 strikeouts and just four walks in 45 innings across 10 starts between High-A and Double-A this year. Young pitchers are a gamble and Loaisiga is a bit undersized, but he’s intriguing enough to pick up in this sort of deep format.

NL-ONLY

Tom Murphy C, Rockies (Yahoo: 2 percent owned)

I have no idea how the Rockies plan to manage having three catchers on their roster. It’s a tough situation to project meaningful fantasy value, but Murphy has been a breakout pick in the past and earned his call-up this week after batting .289/.359/.642 with 16 homers in just 49 games in Triple-A this season. The approach remains concerning, but there’s pop in his bat and he’s in a great setting to take advantage of it. It’s all just a matter of how much he’s going to play.

Jeff McNeil 2B/3B/SS, Mets (Yahoo: N/A)

McNeil isn’t in the Yahoo player pool yet, but he’s available on some other sites, so let’s run with this. Asdrubal Cabrera is looking rather hobbled at the moment due to a hamstring injury and while he’s trying to play through it, it’s hard to see this ending well. The uncertainty of the situation might be why Jose Reyes still has a roster spot, but he’s been terrible this year and this roster could really use a shakeup. McNeil is a name you should at least get acquainted with in the coming days. The 26-year-old has dominated Double-A to the tune of a .329/.405/.633 batting line with 14 homers over 56 games. He nearly has as many walks (22) as he does strikeouts (23). Who knows if this production will translate to the majors, but the Mets don’t have much to lose at this point.