Every waiver wire move made this time of year has to be practical. There's no more dreaming on the upside with only two scoring periods to go.
It can make a column like this one pretty repetitive. The remaining matchups are of course set in stone, and there isn't much at this point that can move the needle performance-wise. But the short timetable can also be clarifying, specifically with regard to which players *aren't* worth the trouble even if our normal process would suggest that they are.
Take, for example, Josh Jung. He's a top prospect who plays third base and has already hit three home runs in 10 games. Seems to check all the boxes, right? Well, he's also struck out 45 percent of the time without walking even once.
Plate discipline was one of his strong suits in the minors, which suggests he's still adjusting to the highest level. If it was June, I'd stash him away and see how things shake out, but we don't have that luxury anymore. As things stand, I don't see how he's going to have time to earn my trust.
Luke Voit, meanwhile, is looking as strong as he has all season, not only batting .339 (2 for 62) with three home runs in September but also striking out just 16.7 percent of the time for the month. Strikeouts are mainly what have prevented him from producing like he did with the Yankees.
His remaining matchups, though, make it so you probably won't see fit to use him. He faces the Braves and Marlins this scoring period, followed by the Braves, Phillies and Mets next scoring period. Those teams have some good pitching to offer, particularly the Braves and Mets.
For that matter, you may have gotten all you can out of Joey Meneses as well, though he's at least eligible in the outfield. Of course, the size of your league and strength of your alternatives matters in each of these situations, but speaking, Jung, Voit and Meneses aren't as deserving of your time as they might seem.
So who is?
BAL Baltimore • #2 • Age: 21
I want to make one last pitch for Henderson before he's (hopefully) scooped up in too many leagues to qualify for this list anymore. For as much hoopla as stud prospects receive when they're promoted, why would you pass up one of the few in recent years who's done exactly what he's supposed to do from the get-go? He's making high-quality contact (92.3 mph average exit velocity), keeping the strikeouts under control (22.4 percent), playing every day, and has even picked up eligibility at third base. Most every publication will have him as the No. 1 prospect entering next year, so why does his roster rate continue to languish? Even if you don't have a lineup spot for him, we're at the point where you should pick him up just so your opponent doesn't.
MIL Milwaukee • #24 • Age: 25
Contreras just connected for his 19th home run Sunday and his second in four games, going 7 for 16 during that stretch. His numbers are outstanding for a catcher, so why is he still available enough to feature here? The answer is inconsistent playing time. The Braves have another All-Star-caliber catcher in Travis d'Arnaud, and the DH spot hasn't always been available because of Ronald Acuna's on-the-job recovery from knee surgery. But it is right now. Acuna has started four straight in right field after two weeks of playing DH exclusively, and that's where that nice four-game stretch for Contreras came from. He's back in for the Braves and should be back in one-catcher Fantasy leagues as well.
KC Kansas City • #9 • Age: 25
Just when Pasquantino was beginning to live up to his enormous hitting potential, his shoulder began acting up, forcing him to the IL. He's been back for a little over a week now and is showing signs of breaking through again, going 5 for 9 with two doubles between Saturday and Sunday. The amount of contact (13.6 percent strikeout rate) and quality of contact (91.8 mph average exit velocity) both remain excellent by any standard, but particularly for a rookie. They suggest it's only a matter of time before he emerges as a middle-of-the-order threat. The first four pitchers he's facing this week -- Dylan Bundy, Bailey Ober, Josh Winder and Marco Gonzales -- are pretty suspect, which is enough to lure me in.
Jon Gray SP
TEX Texas • #22 • Age: 31
Gray's second start back from a six-week absence for an oblique strain went about like his first. It was short, but it was sweet, seeing him pile up 10 swinging strikes on just 67 pitches, up from 45 pitches in his previous outing. Another step forward against the Guardians this week should put him in a position to take on a full workload against the Mariners and Yankees in the season's final week. Those matchups are a little on the iffy side, but clearly, his stuff is working. You may remember he was beginning to take to life after Coors Field in his final 11 starts before the one where he got hurt, compiling a 2.65 ERA, 1.04 WHIP and 10.7 K/9.
CIN Cincinnati • #21 • Age: 23
Finally, we get to the standout of the weekend, Greene, who returned from a six-week absence for a shoulder strain looking stronger than he has at any point during his rookie season. He averaged 101 mph on his fastball, which is 2.2 mph higher than his season average, and set a new record for 100 mph pitches thrown in a game, bettering his own mark by eight. The 11 strikeouts were also a new high. He's had an up-and-down rookie season, as evidenced by his 4.97 ERA, so you may not want to move him into your lineup right away. But if he carves up the Brewers this week, you'll be glad you stashed him away for the Pirates and the Cubs the following week.
Elvis Andrus SS
CHW Chi. White Sox • #1 • Age: 34
Just when you thought things couldn't possibly get better for Andrus, the 34-year-old has started running again, swiping a bag in three straight games and four of five overall. That goes along with his five home runs in 15 games, a stretch during which he's batting .354 (23 for 65). Again, I have no explanation for this rejuvenation but consider it a gift at a time when there's so left to be mined on the waiver wire, especially now that he's come up with another way (perhaps the most valuable of all) to contribute. Sure, it could all end at a moment's notice, but over the small sample of season we have left, literally, anyone could go bust.
Luis Rengifo 2B
LAA L.A. Angels • #2 • Age: 25
The most unlikely contributor of the second half keeps making his unlikely contributions. Rengifo had not just one but two two-homer games over the weekend, giving him 15 home runs for the season and a .290 batting average and .825 OPS in the second half. He puts the bat on the ball a fair amount, striking out just 15.7 percent of the time, so I can sort of understand the batting average, but his low quality of contact gives him just a .390 xSLG compared to his actual .455 mark. Still, there's something to be said for simply playing the hot hand this time of year. Rengifo is eligible at four positions, making him a handy player to have around if you're in the sort of league where Gunnar Henderson is already long gone.
OAK Oakland • #68 • Age: 28
When Dany Jimenez hit the IL and Zach Jackson soon followed, it seemed like A.J. Puk would be next in line for saves in Oakland. But now we know the Athletics had someone else in mind. Acevedo has handled each of their past two chances, one coming Wednesday and the other Saturday. The second-year pitcher doesn't have the sort of strikeout rate you'd expect to see from a closer, but his 15.3 percent swinging-strike rate suggests he has untapped potential in the regard. He also doesn't beat himself with walks. If you're hurting for saves in a league where other low-end sources like Peter Fairbanks and Jose Leclerc have already been scooped up, here's another possibility.