Top fantasy baseball free agents by position

Is a 30-homer campaign a legitimate possibility for Seattle Mariners catcher Mike Zunino this season? Scott R. Galvin-USA TODAY Sports

Typically, Eric Karabell provides fantasy baseball managers with his weekly blog entry to identify undervalued players who could potentially be available in your league(s). Fear not, he shall return! However, Eric has been wearing his football helmet this week for the ESPN Fantasy Football Summit, so I've been tasked with taking over his tour around the waiver wire -- albeit with a slant toward points formats. In any event and without any further ado, let's get to it!

Players rostered in more than half of ESPN's standard leagues are not eligible for inclusion on this list.


Mike Zunino, Seattle Mariners (48.4 percent): Between the DL stint (oblique) to start the season and a strikeout-heavy first 40 at-bats, Zunino has been a points league albatross. Even so, his hard-hit percentage when he does make contact is a career-best 44.0 percent, and his three homers in 11 games bodes well for a potential 30 HR season that should counteract any batting average drag he may provide in roto leagues.

Others: James McCann, Detroit Tigers; Tucker Barnhart, Cincinnati Reds, Jorge Alfaro, Philadelphia Phillies

Corner infield

Jeimer Candelario, Detroit Tigers (40.5 percent): He has already had nine multi-hit games this season, including two such efforts during his current four-game hitting streak. He seems to have recovered from a wrist injury that put him into a brief slump, and since April 25, Candelario has a .951 OPS.

C.J. Cron, Tampa Bay Rays (38.3 percent): Not only is the first baseman in the midst of a 10-game hitting streak (with 5 HRs, 12 RBIs), but he's had a hit in all but four of his 27 starts this season. Cron is hitting .319 with 17 RBIs with runners on base this season.

Colin Moran, Pittsburgh Pirates (13 percent): Nobody should have been buying Moran's .343 batting average on April 12. However, after a "correction week," when he hit just .179, Moran has now seemingly stabilized his average to around .290. He may not help you on a daily basis in terms of run production, but he's also not going to hurt you in any statistical category. There's something to be said for that.

Others: Joe Mauer, Minnesota Twins; Ryon Healy, Seattle Mariners; Maikel Franco, Philadelphia Phillies

Middle infield

Jose Peraza, Cincinnati Reds (48.7 percent): In his past 10 games, Peraza has hit .391 with a pair of home runs and a trio of steals. If he can keep his strikeout rate at or near his current 10.8 percent, he should continue to put the ball in play and use his speed to help that batting average remain in the .280 neighborhood.

Eduardo Escobar, Minnesota Twins (39.2 percent): Not only is Escobar in the midst of a nine-game hitting streak, during which he has hit .389, but he has also scored a run in seven of those games. He's hitting far more line drives (29.2 percent) than in seasons past, so his elevated .275 ISO might not be a fluke.

Nick Ahmed, Arizona Diamondbacks (16.4 percent): In the past week, he's had more fantasy points than Manny Machado, as many as Jean Segura and just one fewer than Francisco Lindor. The humidor doesn't seem to be bothering Ahmed, as he's slashing .286/.352/.571 at home.

Others: Jason Kipnis, Cleveland Indians;Wilmer Difo, Washington Nationals; Miguel Rojas, Miami Marlins


Denard Span, Tampa Bay Rays (24.1 percent): There may be some grey in his beard, but the veteran has 12 RBIs in his last 12 games, while raising his batting average nearly 60 points since mid-April. Not to mention that a BB/K rate of 1.00 is about as good as it gets in fantasy circles, with only 17 qualified hitters currently at or above that level.

Jorge Soler, Kansas City Royals (14.7 percent): Boneheaded plays on the basepaths aside, Soler already has matched last season's 110 PA, and this time, he's performing at a pace that will not force the Royals to send him back to Triple-A. Ride this current eight-game hitting streak (.419) for as long as it lasts.

Joc Pederson, Los Angeles Dodgers (5.1 percent): Yes, rookie Alex Verdugo (5.8 percent) may be the "sexier" pick here, and with Yasiel Puig (hip/foot) injured, he's likely to see more playing time than Pederson. That said, even with limited at-bats, Pederson and his .421 RISP may be far more profitable an asset to fantasy managers.

Scott Schebler, Cincinnati Reds (26.2 percent): Sure, when Schebler (elbow) went on the disabled list just three games into the 2018 season, there was good reason for you to cut him. However, since April 22, he's hit safely in all nine of his starts, with double-digit RBIs. Get him back if you can.

Franchy Cordero, San Diego Padres (17.8 percent): Sure, he's already had a pair of golden sombreros this season, but he's also batting .308 in his last 10 games with six runs scored and eight RBIs. In the 2018 environment of "all-or-nothing free-swingers," I'll take a chance on a guy like this with a 48.9 hard-hit rate.

Others: Howie Kendrick, Washington Nationals; Delino DeShields, Texas Rangers; Mark Canha, Oakland Athletics

Starting pitcher

Kyle Gibson, Minnesota Twins (16.6 percent): Combine his 10.13 K/9 rate with a ground ball rate of near 50 percent, and I think you can see why Gibson's ERA sits at just 3.38 this season -- compared to two consecutive seasons at 5.07. Again, given the 2018 hitting environment, those strikeouts might continue to come, which means Gibson may well keep his current level of fantasy production going forward.

Nick Kingham, Pittsburgh Pirates (33.6 percent): Nobody expected Kingham's exciting debut, and he wasn't expected to get a second start before being returned to Triple-A, but here he is. Sure, if Christian Yelich and Ryan Braun take him back-to-back in the first inning on Friday, the ticket to Indianapolis will likely be purchased -- but what if he does shine again? You won't get another chance to claim him at that point, so why not roll the dice now?

Caleb Smith, Miami Marlins (8.2 percent): At 13.6 percent, Smith ranks No. 19 in swinging-strike percentage (min. 20 IP). That's a strong sign that the 12.9 K/9 rate is not a fluke. A full 11 of his 16 walks occurred in two games, but he's had a 19:1 K/BB ratio in his last two starts. So while he may have his off days, if he can keep those to a minimum, he'll be solid for fantasy.

Others: Tyler Mahle, Cincinnati Reds; Jacob Faria, Tampa Bay Rays; Tyler Chatwood, Chicago Cubs; Sean Newcomb, Atlanta Braves

Relief pitcher

David Robertson, New York Yankees (23.8 percent): He's allowed hits to only 2 of 16 batters faced since April 22, striking out six with no walks. He's also managed to earn two wins and two holds in this five-game stretch. Aroldis Chapman has the closer job well in hand, but that doesn't mean his setup man can't help your ratios and counting stats.

Tyler Clippard, Toronto Blue Jays (1.6 percent): With a 1.76 ERA and a .102 BAA to go along with four wins on the season, even with just around four innings per week, Clippard has earned more fantasy points than Felipe Vasquez and just three fewer than Brandon Morrow and Kelvin Herrera.These guys can help you!

Others: Fernando Rodney, Minnesota Twins (Eric told me he must continue to appear in this space every week until he gets to 50 percent rostered, so here he is); Keone Kela, Texas Rangers; Daniel Stumpf, Detroit Tigers, Juan Nicasio, Seattle Mariners