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Fantasy Baseball Pickups: Nick Pivetta and others to add

Nick Pivetta’s off to a hot start and worth adding in all fantasy leagues (AP Photo).

Nick Pivetta: His 2.70 ERA and 0.96 WHIP are nice, but Pivetta’s 19:2 K:BB ratio over 16.2 innings is the real eye-opener. He had a strong K rate last year, which made him more interesting than the usual pitcher with a 6.02 ERA, and he’s shown real signs of progress in 2018. The early gains in control may soon regress (it’s been quite the leap, and a soft early schedule has helped), but Pivetta throws hard, and there’s real upside here. He’s still available in more than 75 percent of Yahoo leagues.

Mike Minor: So far his transition back into the rotation has gone as well as anyone could’ve hoped, as Minor sits with a 2.53 ERA and a 0.84 WHIP with a 12:4 K:BB ratio after two starts (don’t hold it against him if he doesn’t continue the hot stretch during a tough start in Houston on Saturday). Minor is actually throwing harder now (92.1 mph) than when he posted a 3.21 ERA and a 1.09 WHIP over 204.2 innings back in 2013 with the Braves (90.4 mph), albeit a bit down from last year when he was working out of the pen (94.4 mph). The Rangers have a shaky defense, and more of Minor’s fly balls will start leaving the fence, but he clearly should be owned in far more than just 13 percent of leagues right now.

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Scott Schebler: Schebler is currently on the DL, which is why he’s widely available. He has feeling back in his fingers (which is nice) and should return shortly after he’s eligible Tuesday. Schebler hit 24 homers over just 339 at-bats versus righties last year and was off to a hot start before suffering the fluke HBP injury. Meanwhile, Adam Duvall (.449 OPS), Jesse Winker (.650) and Billy Hamilton (.537) are all off to dreadful starts in Cincinnati’s outfield.

Mallex Smith: He’s hitting .323 with as many walks (four) as strikeouts early on, and while it’s not ideal that he’s been caught stealing in three of the past four games, Smith’s five attempts are tied for the third-most in MLB. He’s really fast and has upside to start racking up steals in big bunches.

Sean Newcomb: He followed up a rough first outing with a dominant performance in Coors Field, when he struck out nine with zero walks. He gets another tough assignment against the Cubs on Saturday, but Newcomb has real talent, and he’s barely owned in a quarter of leagues. His shaky control will likely lead to non-elite WHIPs, but Newcomb has produced a 12.9 SwStr% in the early going, which ranks top-30 among starters.

Andrew Heaney: He’s one of the bigger injury risks but is healthy now and locked into a depleted Angels rotation. Heaney is a former top-10 pick, benefits from a pitcher’s park and strong defense and produces impressive swing-and-miss stuff, yet he’s available in more than 95 percent of leagues.

Nate Jones: He recently recorded his first save since 2016, and the team’s first since Joakim Soria allowed three runs during a blown opportunity. Soria has been solid other than that outing, but Jones has superior stuff and might now also have the job. Jones has a career average FB velocity of 97.4 mph and currently sports a 23.5 K-BB% with a 15.2 SwStr%, yet he’s owned in just 37 percent of leagues.

Aaron Hicks: Just a reminder in case he was dropped while on the disabled list. Hicks homered twice during his second game back (including an inside-the-parker), so his ownership is climbing fast. Health remains a worry, but Hicks broke out at the plate last year and is in such a terrific spot in that park and lineup. He should be owned in all leagues, while teammate Gleyber Torres is inching closer to a call up and should be stashed in deeper formats. Unfortunately, it doesn’t sound like Brandon Drury is returning anytime soon.

Franchy Cordero: He’s up in San Diego and hitting leadoff with Manuel Margot on the disabled list, and Cordero has the tools to force his stay in the bigs. He hit .326 and went 17/15 in just 93 Triple-A games last season with a 146 wRC+ as a 22-year-old and has already homered twice since getting recalled, yet he’s still widely available.

Yuli Gurriel: He’s back after returning from surgery to remove the hamate bone in his left hand, which in the past has caused players to slowly recover their power. But Gurriel is looking at regular playing time in a loaded Astros lineup, and he hit .304/.342/.522 over 69 at bats in the postseason. Meanwhile, teammate Chris Devenski just picked up a save even with Ken Giles rested and ready, so he needs to be owned in far more than the third of leagues he currently is. Devenski has a 38.5 K% and is more effective than Giles against lefties.

Addison Reed: It should only be a matter of when not if he overtakes Fernando Rodney (who’s 41 years old and currently sports a 1.93 WHIP) as Minnesota’s closer. Other relievers with surprisingly low ownerships right now for those searching for saves include Keynan Middleton and Sergio Romo (or if you prefer Jose Alvarado, either way Alex Colome’s job looks in serious jeopardy).

Eric Thames: He should be long gone in competitive leagues, but if he happens to be available in yours grab him now. Thames may have been dropped after a poor finish to last year was followed by what appeared to be a platoon situation early on in 2018, but he’s since clobbered five homers (only Bryce Harper has more in MLB) and is locked into Milwaukee’s lineup, often batting second. Miller Park has increased homers by 31 percent for left-handed batters over the last three seasons, second-most only to Yankee Stadium over that span, and don’t forget Thames finished April last year with 11 homers and a .345/.466/.810 line over 84 at bats. This is less of a pickup recommendation and more of a congratulations if you already did (or drafted him late), as Thames looks poised to make a run at 45 homers this season.

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