Royals’ Nicky Lopez among fantasy baseball’s best waiver-wire gems

People go to the beach for some fun in the sun — you lay out in the sand, go for a swim, play a little paddleball or throw a football around. Maybe you build a sand castle … then Billy steps on it while yelling, “Nana, nana boo-boo, stick your head in doo-doo,” and you start to cry.

Everyone’s beach experience is different, but one commonality is the man or woman roaming the beach with a metal detector. They’re in search of buried treasure. Even if they come up with cans, bottles or loose change, at times they strike gold and find something of value.

Roto Rage’s metal detector has been pinging, as there are tons of buried treasures on the waiver wire. You just have to look deep — real deep.

Before this season, the Royals’ Nicky Lopez was a guy who played well over four season in the minors, but didn’t leave a lasting impression in the majors in 2019-20. He hit .228 with three homers, 43 RBIs, 92 strikeouts, only one stolen base and a .586 OPS in his first 159 games.

In the first half this year, he hit a respectable .265 with 15 RBIs, 35 runs eight stolen bases and a .676 OPS.

Fantasy owners, however, should be taking notice of the 26-year-old now, as he has hit .302 with a homer, 18 RBIs, 17 runs and 10 stolen bases over his first 35 second-half games.

Lopez, eligible at shortstop and second base, ranks fourth in the majors in stolen bases for the second half (10, eight of which have come in the past 11 games). He also has the 25th-lowest swinging strike rate (7.2 percent) in the second half. For the season, he ranks 11th in stolen bases and his 13.9 percent strikeout rate is 14th lowest in the majors.

Nicky Lopez
Getty Images

Lopez found success hitting ninth in the Royals’ batting order (.287, 22 RBIs, 41 runs, eight stolen bases, .716 OPS), but they recently moved him to the No. 2 spot (behind Whit Merrifield). In 16 games batting second, he has hit .274 with one homer, nine RBIs, eight runs, 10 stolen bases, a .338 OBP and .677 OPS.

Lopez offers nothing in terms of power, but he gets steady playing time while offering speed, a respectable batting average (.278) and solid plate discipline (walks in 9.5 percent of his at-bats). He was the second-most added player in ESPN leagues this week, but remains 74 percent available. This is the type of under-the-radar move that could help boost your chances at a title — and he isn’t the only buried treasure.

Opportunity is everything, and Frank Schwindel has gotten plenty of playing time since being traded from the Athletics to the Cubs. In his first 23 games in Chicago, he is 29-for-79 (.367) with four homers, 16 RBIs and a 1.071 OPS — which includes an 14-game stretch from Aug. 5-18 in which he hit .412 with four homers, 15 RBIs and a 1.229 OPS. He was the third-most added first baseman this week, but remains available in 80 percent in ESPN leagues.

The fifth-most added first baseman was Colorado’s Connor Joe, who was 21-for-67 (.313) with six homers, 19 RBIs, 13 runs and 1.027 OPS in his past 19 games before Friday. He also is eligible as an outfielder and is available in more than 80 percent of ESPN leagues.

The Rangers’ Andy Ibanez is eligible at both second and third base, and it doesn’t hurt that he has hit .303 with four homers, 12 RBIs, 16 runs and a .839 OPS over 36 games since the break. He is hitting .313 with three homers, nine RBIs, 10 runs and a .845 OPS over his first 23 games this month. Ibanez entered Friday with a 10-game hit streak, going 19-for-38 (.500) with a homers, five RBIs, five runs and a 1.262 OPS in that span.

Catcher is a position that brings power, but a lot of really bad averages. Yes, the Diamondbacks’ Daulton Varsho is hitting .229 this season, but he is 27-for-85 (.318) with eight homers, 18 RBIs, a stolen base and a 1.090 OPS over his past 28 games. The most added catcher in ESPN leagues this week is also eligible as an outfielder and remains 70 percent available.

Big Hits

Vladimir Gutierrez SP, Reds

Has not allowed more than two earned runs over his past six starts, going 5-1 with a 1.86 ERA, 36 strikeouts and .220 opponents average.

Dansby Swanson SS, Braves

After hitting .243 with 15 HRs, 40 RBIs and a .755 OPS in the first half, he has hit .320 with 10 HRs, 37 RBIs and a .961 OPS in 37 second-half games.

Hunter Renfroe
Hunter Renfroe

Hunter Renfroe OF, Red Sox

Before going on the bereavement list Thursday, he was hitting .333 with seven homers, 17 RBIs, 14 runs and a 1.230 OPS over his past 13 games.

Chris Sale SP, Red Sox

Though he hasn’t been going deep into games, Sale is 3-0 with a 2.35 ERA, 12.3 strikeouts per nine, 1.8 walks per nine and a .228 opponents average in his first three starts since 2019.

Big Whiffs

Tylor Megill SP, Mets

Has not won since July 23, giving up 21 runs (20 earned) over his past 29 ²/₃ innings (6.07 ERA). He has allowed eight homers and a .309 opponents average in that six-start span.

Adam Frazier 2B/OF, Padres

In his first 26 games in San Diego, the All-Star was 22-for-97 (.227) with two RBIs, 15 strikeouts, one stolen base and a .540 OPS.

Jon Gray us taken out of the game by manager Bud Black.

Jon Gray SP, Rockies

Over his past four starts, all losses, he has allowed opponents to hit .321 with a .828 OPS. He has struck out 28 and walked seven.

Fernando Tatis Jr. SS/OF, Padres

Struck out 14 times over his past eight games (four times on Wednesday), while going 3-for-32 (.094) with two homers, four RBIs and a .529 OPS.

Check Swings

  • Tyler Naquin, the most added player in ESPN leagues this week, entered Friday with a 15-game hit streak, going 25-for-56 (.446) with five homers, nine RBIs, 15 runs, six walks and a 1.339 OPS for the Reds. He is available in more than 30 percent of leagues.
  • Though Starling Marte had a stellar start to the season with Miami (.306, seven homers, 25 RBIs, 52 runs, 22 SB, .859 OPS), he has been even better since being traded to Oakland. In his first 25 games with the A’s, he has hit .355 with two homers, 14 RBIs, 15 runs, 18 stolen bases (including seven over his past eight games, and 17 this month) and a .877 OPS.
  • St. Louis veteran Adam Wainwright has turned back the clock over his past seven starts. The 39-year-old is 5-1 with a 1.76 ERA, 44-7 strikeout-walk rate and .197 opponents average.
  • Atlanta’s Max Fried has allowed just two earned runs over his first four starts this month, going 4-0 with a 0.67 ERA, 23-2 strikeout-walk rate and .204 opponents average.

Team Name Of The Week

Kiner’s Koerner

Submitted by Joseph Carolla

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