Week 23 Deep League Waiver Wire – 9/4

These four players can bring added value in deeper leagues.

Each week we’ll look at a handful of different players who fantasy managers in deeper leagues should consider picking up. Many of these players will have the most value in larger leagues where waiver wire options aren’t as plentiful. Still, they could also occasionally be useful additions in other, more standard-sized leagues depending on your options at their position.

This week it’s Tanner Houck, DJ Stewart, Ryan Noda, and Robert Stephenson who are worth your time as potential additions in deep leagues.

All roster percentages mentioned in this column are via Yahoo fantasy leagues as of Friday afternoon.


Tanner Houck – 9%


There isn’t a ton about Tanner Houck’s stat line for the season that screams out priority waiver wire add. He’s posted a 4.93 ERA and a 4.48 FIP in 76.2 innings while striking out 8.22 batters per nine frames to go along with 3.29 walks and 1.29 home runs surrendered per nine frames.

The home runs have been a particular thorn in Houck’s side from a production standpoint. His home run-to-fly ball rate (18.0%) is the highest it’s ever been as a professional, Majors or minors, and has played a significant role in having such (relatively speaking) bloated run prevention numbers after three strong seasons to start his career in Boston.

Tanner Houck’s Run-Prevention Numbers By Season

The home runs have also overshadowed some quality bat-missing metrics. Among 135 starters with at least 70 innings pitched this season, Houck’s 12.5% swinging strike percentage ranks tied for 20th. His most utilized offering, a slider, is also sporting a 39.5% whiff rate, up from 37.3% in 2022.

Elsewhere, the Red Sox hurler’s split-finger offering is missing bats at a higher rate than ever, with a 43.2% whiff rate, the ninth-highest in the league and the best among full-time starters.

So there’s certainly some fantasy upside here, particularly as a streaming option in the right matchups. And while Houck hasn’t had the right matchups in his last two starts since returning from the injured list – he allowed a combined nine hits, five walks, for earned runs, and two homers striking out six in nine total innings against the Houston Astros, and Los Angeles Dodgers – things open up considerably in the season’s final weeks.

That started on Saturday with a matchup in Kansas City against the Royals.

Houck’s next scheduled start falls in a home start against the Baltimore Orioles, which is hardly ideal. Nor is a potential start in Texas later in the month if Boston’s rotation order remains unchanged.

However, assuming the rotation doesn’t face any interruptions, Houck will also see matchups against the New York Yankees and Chicago White Sox before the season is through.

New York and Chicago both have the rather unfortunate distinction of being in the bottom five in the league in runs scored in the second half while ranking in the top 10 in strikeout rate during the same span.


DJ Stewart – 10%


With Mark Canha and Tommy Pham among the veterans traded away by the New York Mets prior to the trade deadline, outfielder DJ Stewart has stepped into a regular role and taken full advantage of the opportunity.

In 36 games, the 29-year-old is batting .279 with a .364 on-base percentage and nine home runs (also a stolen base) in 101 plate appearances.

He’s also logging, perhaps unsurprisingly, a rather high barrel rate during that span, with a 16.9% metric. What’s more, the slugger is also sporting a .395 xwOBA, a .529 xwOBAcon, and a 50.8% hard-hit rate.

He was particularly effective in the month of August. Among batters with at least 70 plate appearances last month, only Mookie Betts, Julio Rodriguez, Bryce Harper, and Marcell Ozuna logged a higher wRC+.

wRC+ Leaders In August, Minimum 70 Plate Appearances

Furthermore, Stewart is doing all this with a rather mundane .306 BABIP.

This is all to say that the hot streak looks like it has a strong chance of continuing through the end of the regular season. It’s a smaller sample size to be sure, but the contact (equal parts loud and quality) is particularly encouraging.

What’s more, with so little left in the season, players in the midst of such a strong run of form at the plate without the biggest sample size, like Stewart, have more fantasy value and upside with only weeks left in the season as compared to say sometime in April or May, when the combination of hundreds of plate appearances on the horizon and pitchers around the league adjusting to how they attack them can often lead to statistical regression.


Ryan Noda – 4%


Speaking of players who are thriving in extended opportunities, Ryan Noda is doing just that in Oakland with the A’s.

The 27-year-old, who made his Major League debut this season after reaching Triple-A in the Los Angeles Dodgers system in 2022, is batting .234 with a .380 on-base percentage, 12 home runs, and three stolen bases in 382 plate appearances.

Eligible at first base and in the outfield in Yahoo leagues, Noda can fill a variety of roles for fantasy managers looking for additional production at the plate, particularly those in leagues where on-base percentage is part of the scoring, in which case he’s a borderline must-add.

Because it’s not just the .380 on-base percentage or the 17.0% walk rate.

Or the fact that Noda has been particularly productive since a return from the injured list, batting .273 with a .415 on-base percentage, a home run, and a stolen base in 41 plate appearances since August 21.

No, it’s that he’s doing all that while predominantly hitting leadoff for the A’s.

Since returning from the injured list, seven of Noda’s nine starts for Oakland have come as the club’s leadoff hitter.

And while the A’s have struggled mightily to score runs – they’ve scored the fewest in the league at 483 as of the start of play Friday, with no other team having scored below 520 – hitting leadoff in Oakland these days generally means getting to hit in front of Zack Gelof, who’s hit nowhere but second for the American League West club since August 12.

Gelof has logged just 177 plate appearances in the Majors, but he’s already collected 10 home runs to go along with a .263 average, a .328 on-base percentage, and a .275 ISO.

The rest of the A’s lineup could be more ideal from a fantasy production standpoint, but continuing to hit in front of Gelof should do wonders for Noda’s fantasy scoring numbers down the stretch, especially considering all those walks.


Robert Stephenson – 2%


Stephenson is purely an add for fantasy managers in leagues where holds are part of the scoring. Still, for managers in those types of leagues, he makes for a quality, under-the-radar addition down the stretch.

On the surface, or at least from a surface-level metrics standpoint, the 30-year-old has enjoyed a solid season. He entered play Friday with a 3.59 ERA and a 3.64 FIP in 42.2 innings split between the Pittsburgh Pirates and his current team, the Tampa Bay Rays.

He’s struck out 35.9% of the batters he’s faced, and his strikeouts per nine innings rate sits at 12.66. Elsewhere, he’s surrendered 3.16 walks and 1.48 home runs per nine frames.

All that is reasonably good.

But Stephenson has been borderline great since joining the Rays.

In 28.2 innings with the American League East club, the veteran has pitched to a 2.83 ERA and a 2.81 FIP while logging a 40.6% (!) strikeout rate and just a 6.6% walk rate.

Compare those numbers to full-season metrics for qualified relievers and Stephenson would boast the third-highest strikeout rate after only Félix Bautista and Aroldis Chapman. His walk rate would be tied with Mason Englert for the 24th-lowest out of 169 qualified relievers.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, with those kinds of metrics, he’s worked his way into a key role in the Tampa Bay bullpen. Since he made his debut with Tampa Bay on June 3, Stephenson is tied for second on the team with holds in that span, with his five trailing only Colin Poche’s eight.

(In crucial fantasy news, three of the former Pirates’ five holds have come in the last week.)

Elsewhere, Stephenson ranks behind only Pete Fairbanks, Poche, and Jason Adam in high-leverage relief appearances since June 3, though if the holds continue with this type of regularity, Stephenson has a chance to be a league-winning option down the stretch for fantasy managers in saves+holds leagues.

Rays’ Bullpen High-Leverage Appearances Since June 3

Ben Rosener

Ben Rosener is baseball and fantasy baseball writer whose work has previously appeared on the digital pages of Motor City Bengals, Bleacher Report, USA Today, FanSided.com and World Soccer Talk among others. He also writes about fantasy baseball for RotoBaller and the Detroit Tigers for his own Patreon page, Getting You Through the Tigers Rebuild (@Tigers_Rebuild on Twitter). He only refers to himself in the third person for bios.

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