Let’s get the obvious out of the way. No one on the fantasy baseball waiver wire is going to be a 1-for-1 replacement for Bryce Harper. The All-Star outfielder had been hitting an excellent .318/.385/.599 with a .985 OPS and 15 home runs. He was playing like a clear NL MVP candidate.
But now he’s set to be out indefinitely after fracturing his thumb as a result of getting hit by a Blake Snell pitch
So yeah, no one player will replace the production of a Bryce Harper, which is no consolation to fantasy managers who used a top-10 draft pick to select the Phillies superstar.
What fantasy managers can do, however, is seek out a productive, maybe even underrated outfield-eligible player — or more than one — to fill the position slot while their star is on the mend.
You could try to swing a fantasy trade to help make up for Harper’s loss, but here are five low-rostered players to consider on the waiver wire today, if you prefer to go the traditional route.
Garrett Cooper, Miami Marlins (39 percent rostered)
Cooper has been delivering in June, going 29-for-80 and bringing his season line up to .307/.372/.452 with an .824 OPS. Statcast supports that sublime line, with his expected average and slugging to this point coming in at .298 and .499, respectively.
Cooper might not deliver Harper’s dynamic numbers, but he’ll help solidify your batting average and provide some over-the-fence pop. There’s also room for underrated run and RBI potential with Cooper, who usually bats in the middle of the order for a surprising Marlins offense that may just be playing in a park that seemingly no longer suppresses scoring. He also qualifies at first base as well, which is always a plus.
Jorge Alfaro, San Diego Padres (33% rostered)
Let’s see: A catcher who qualifies in the outfield, batting high in the batting order of a solid offense who’s finally getting the consistent playing time he deserves. What’s not to like?
Alfaro’s bat has always held serious potential even going back to his Miami days, and he could be reaching that potential now with increased opportunities. Alfaro’s expected numbers are now .271 (average) and .571 (slugging); those are drool-worthy marks for any fantasy hitter in today’s MLB, much less a CATCHER. His current BABIP is only 5 points higher than his career mark, so it does n’t look like this is just some blip on the radar.
San Diego will need Alfaro’s offense with Manny Machado still sidelined. Ride the wave.
Jack Suwinski, Pittsburgh Pirates (15%)
Speaking of riding the wave, yet another Pirates rookie hitter is making an impact. Suwinski has gotten off on a hot note in the power department to start his MLB career. Pittsburgh’s No. 28-ranked prospect is up to 12 home runs in 171 at-bats; hard to have seen this coming.
Of course, Suwinski comes with a major warning label: He could single-handedly debilitate your batting average category. With that, a current .242 BABIP might signify that the youngster has been mired in a bit of bad luck (his 112.4 average exit velocity does inspire some confidence that his fortunes could change), but he’ll have to cut back on his ugly 31.6 K-percentage mark for that to get going. For what it’s worth, he never struck out more than 28 percent of the time in the minors; of course, the Majors are a different beast.
Suwinski is not the first unheralded prospect to make an early mark in MLB this year. If you can stomach Suwinski’s batting average woes — say, if you have guys like Luis Arraez and Michael Brantley on your team — he could be worth a look for potentially dynamic power and underrated speed for as long as the good times last.
Jace Peterson, Milwaukee Brewers (14%)
This pick is solely for deep-league fantasy managers who are not only looking for a replacement outfielder but someone who can provide a stolen-base boost as well.
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Peterson is now up to nine stolen bases on the year in limited playing time for the Brewers. He also has six home runs, so a 10-15 season might be in the cards, especially with Peterson getting more playing time as a multi-position defender.
Max Kepler, Minnesota Twins (28%)
Full disclosure: Max Kepler might be my favorite pick out of this bunch, solely because of what he could be for the rest of the season.
If you open up Kepler’s Statcast page, you will witness a glorious sea of red. Kepler is currently slashing an unassuming .244/.348/.401, but Statcast says he should be up to a .305 average and a .523 slugging (not to mention, a .393 xwOBA).
Of course, Kepler’s issue has been the same one it’s always been: He’s struggled against lefties (he has a disappointing .642 lifetime OPS against them for his career), but there could be signs of hope this season. The 29-year-old outfielder has put together a .747 OPS against left-handed pitchers this year (not to mention a .360 OBP mark — helpful for his run-scoring potential as part of a potent Twins lineup).
You’ll want Kepler in your lineup if (and when) his Statcast expected numbers start taking shape on the field of play.