Fantasy Baseball Waiver Wire Column (5/9/22 - 5/15/22) - Prospect Parade Edition
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It’s that time folks! We’re one month into the season and prospects are being promoted faster than your boss’s nephew. Get ready to make it rain because the first wild FAAB weekend is upon us. This week’s article features some guys breaking through as well as key prospects that have been recently called up around the league. Everyone wants the shiny new toy, so if you’re in a FAAB league, be ready to submit a hefty bid if you’re going to land these guys. Note that the recently-promoted prospects are highlighted in the deeper league section of this article, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take a chance in shallow leagues – as always, this is very team and league dependent. Some of these guys could very easily become relevant in shallow leagues with the skills they have flashed.
Before we jump in, whether you’re in a daily or weekly league, I cannot overemphasize the importance of regularly checking your waiver wire. Teams are going to dump guys that are off to slow starts, especially in shallow leagues where roster space is at a premium. But fantasy baseball is a marathon and it is far more likely than not that established stars will find their rhythm soon (see Kyle Tucker, Willy Adames, and many others). And while you might be reading this thinking, "No one would cut those guys," I have seen Adames, Jorge Polanco, Charlie Morton, and many others cut in shallow leagues. And don't forget about guys returning from injury/suspension, like Ramon Laureano and Kyle Lewis. In short, be on the lookout – if you can weather their short term struggles, your team will be better off in the long run once these studs find their groove.
Alright, now let’s take a closer look at some of the young guns on the rise and one scorching hot veteran that is finally getting everyday playing time. As always, we’ve got you covered @weknowfantasy and you should follow me on Twitter @fantasybbguru – always happy to field fantasy questions throughout the week. Good luck all!
Shallow Leagues – 10/12 team mixed leagues:
Rowdy Tellez, 1B, Milwaukee Brewers
In case you haven’t heard, Rowdy Tellez has been absolutely destroying baseballs lately – his Statcast page is blood red when it comes to hard hit metrics. Tellez has long been seen as a guy with substantial upside, but one who struggled to get an extended look during his time in Toronto. Well, he’s getting that playing time now and he’s cashing in. On the season, Tellez is batting .282 (.344 OBP) with 7 HR (T-3rd), 15 runs (T-9th), and 24 RBI (T-2nd). Since snagging the full-time 1B job about 10 days ago, Tellez has raked – posting a league-leading 295 wRC+ and leading the league in RBI. He can’t stay this hot, of course, but if the playing time continues, Tellez will be a valuable fantasy contributor for your team this year.
Tommy Pham, OF, Cincinnati Reds
In an environment where so many hitters are off to slow starts, Tommy Pham has been red hot lately and should be added if your team needs an offensive boost (especially in OBP leagues)—and don’t we all. Pham is a fixture in the Reds’ lineup, where he has batted third and played every game this year except for two, when he sat for injury. He currently sports a slash line of: .247/.344/4 HR/14 R/7 RBI/2 SB and has a hard hit % of 56% . . . crushing. He also ranks top 15 in wOBA over the past week. Pham has a lot to play for and could very easily be traded to a contender where his lineup context will be substantially better, thus boosting his value and numbers. He’s worth grabbing now.
Garrett Whitlock, SP/RP, Boston Red Sox
I profiled Whitlock as an acquisition target a couple of weeks ago when he was merely a guy with immense talent but without a clear role on the Red Sox staff (he has now made 3 starts and 4 relief appearances with a win and a save). But a picture is emerging as to how the Red Sox plan to use Whitlock and it looks increasingly as though he will be a starter. Whitlock is still building up to a starter’s workload, but in his three starts, he has posted a line of: 12IP, 7H, 2ER, 2BB, and 18Ks . . . yeah, exactly. Whitlock is primarily a sinker/slider pitcher, two exceptional offerings that he relies on over 80% of the time. Those two pitches have an astounding 36% whiff rate per Statcast, contributing to his overall 16.3% SwStk%, which ranks 4th in major league baseball (min 20 IP) behind Gausman, Burnes, and McClanahan. He could develop into an ace starter and should be acquired now . . . before one of your competitors scoops him up.
Jhoan Duran, RP, Minnesota Twins
Duran is another guy that I highlighted a few weeks ago as a deeper league closer candidate with mind-boggling skills. Since that time, the 6-foot-5 fireballer (who can hit 101 and has a 96 mph “splinker”) has continued to rack up the Ks and now looks to be the frontrunner for saves after closing out a game for his first MLB save on May 2nd. Duran’s stuff could be measured against some of the best relief pitchers in the game—he has four different pitches that have induced a whiff rate over 35%. Although he has not yet been named the closer, this talented reliever with a 1.52 xFIP and 2BB and 19 Ks in 12 IP seems clearly the guy most suited to assume that role in Minnesota. Don’t wait too long to grab him or he’ll be gone.
Ryan Helsley, RP, St. Louis Cardinals
Like a number of other bullpens, the full-time closer role in St. Louis is up for grabs in what has turned into a two-man race. Giovanny Gallegos was thought to be the clear front-runner coming into the season, but he has had a couple of tough outings (one particularly rough 4 ER outing against the Mets) that have raised some doubts. Combine that with the fact that Helsley has been absolutely other-worldly so far this year and we now have a legitimate closer debate in St. Louis. And when I say Helsley has been other-worldly, I mean to the extent that he is breaking the evaluations systems – he currently has a -.74 FIP and -.10 xFIP . . . negative! Helsley has pitched 8 innings so far, allowing just 1 hit and no earned runs or walks while racking up 16 strikeouts . . . unbelievable. These video game numbers won’t continue, but at this rate, it is safe to assume that Helsley will get at least some save chances, while helping your team’s ratios and providing a boat load of strikeouts.
Deeper Leagues (15 team or AL/NL Only)
Edward Olivares, OF, Kansas City Royals
Olivares is a tooled up OF that was called up and sent down many times in 2021, much to the chagrin of fantasy owners that were dreaming on his talent. But this 2022 call up seems different somehow (or is that just me?) and Olivares has been not only in the KC lineup 8 times in the last 11 games, but has been the Royals’ leadoff man for the last four straight. And rightfully so, in 2021-22, between AAA and the majors combined, Olivares has a .297 average with 20 HR and 16 SBs across 119 games and 400 ABs. This year, in an admittedly small 14-game sample, Olivares is off to a great start, batting .364 (.417 OBP) with 5 runs, 2 RBI, and 2 SBs, all with a miniscule 11.1% K%. Olivares has plenty of tools and, if he earns regular playing time in KC, could be an early season steal off the wire. Get in early.
Jose Miranda, 1B/3B, Minnesota Twins
I highlighted Miranda as a prospect to watch in my very first waiver wire article of the season. Miranda was called up by the Twins last week and is a guy that burst on the scene in 2021 by hitting .343 with 30 HR, 97 R, and 94 RBI in 127 games across AA and AAA. An injury to Kyle Garlick in Minnesota opened the door and, with any luck, Miranda will be up for good. Although he doesn’t walk much (5%-6% BB%), Miranda has exceptional bat-to-ball skills (expect a K% around 14%) and plenty of pop. He won’t steal bases, but a guy that impacts the ball with authority, hits the ball in the air with regularity, and posts a low strikeout rate is a recipe for success. He may not be successful immediately, but I am bullish on Miranda’s long-term prospects.
Juan Yepez, OF, St. Louis Cardinals
The Cardinals couldn’t just sit around and watch other teams have all the fun, so they called up one of their top prospects, Juan Yepez early this week. Yepez had his coming out party in 2021 when he broke through and posted a line of .286 (.359 OBP)/27 HR/67 R/77 RBI across 111 games in AA and AAA. Yepez has good plate discipline—he can take a walk (posted 11% BB% in 2021) and shouldn’t strike out more than about 20-23% of the time based on his minor league track record. He also hits the ball hard and has the kind of batted ball profile you’d like to see for a guy to deliver power—specifically, he lifts the ball and hits ground balls only about 30-35% of the time. Through his first three games, Yepez has a run and a RBI and is hitting .455. Rookies are always a crap shoot, but if you have roster space in a deeper league, Yepez is worth a gamble to see what he can deliver.
George Kirby, SP, Seattle Mariners
And next we have one of the Mariners' top prospects; starting pitcher George Kirby. Kirby has not yet logged an inning at the major league level and, in fact, is skipping AAA entirely, which demonstrates the faith that the Mariners have in the young hurler. This former 20th overall pick in the 2019 draft has the tools to succeed at the major league level. He throws four different pitches, but his best offerings are his 95-99 mph fastball and complimentary slider, which is already a well-developed offering. Like many of the other guys receiving promotions this week, Kirby has substantial upside, although pitchers often face a bumpy road in making the jump from the minors, so temper your expectations. That said, if you have a roster spot you can churn that is currently occupied by a middling SP or middle reliever, take a gamble on Kirby.
Jarren Duran, OF, Boston Red Sox
Duran is one of the many young guns being summoned to the majors after dominating in the minors to start 2022. Through 15 games at AAA this year, Duran has posted a ridiculous .397/.478/.638 slash line to go along with 2 HR, 15 R, 11 RBI, and 7 SBs. This is, however, not Duran’s first rodeo – he was called up by the Red Sox last year and simply wasn’t able to make enough consistent contact to make an impact. In 36 games in 2021, Duran struck out nearly 36% of the time en route to a .215 batting average and just a .241 OBP. Duran has speed for days and may legitimately be one of the fastest guys in all of major league baseball. And he is not just empty speed due to a swing change in 2021 that helped him launch 16 HR in just 60 games at AAA in 2021. Duran has an exceptionally high ceiling and also a very low floor. If he makes more consistent contact and gets on base, he could be a very valuable addition to your fantasy team – contributing a substantial number of stolen bases with some home runs to boot. On the other side, he could once again struggle at the dish and find himself back in the minors in the next couple of months. It is sink or swim time for this tooled up Red Sox outfielder. In my opinion, the substantial upside here is worth a shot.
Note: Although I realize Duran was sent down on Saturday when Kike Hernandez was reactivated, I decided to leave this write-up in because I think the probability is that Duran is back sooner rather than later.
Pavin Smith, OF, Arizona Diamondbacks
Although not one of the rookie call up class, Pavin Smith is receiving pretty regular playing time in Arizona (starting about 75%-80% of the time) and has been slotted in the leadoff or second spot of the lineup five times in his last eight starts. Smith is showing good patience at the plate (12.8% BB%) and displaying more power in the early going than he has in the past. Smith is currently hitting .274/.372/.452/3 HR/7 R/ 11 RBI/1 SB in just 86 PAs so far this year, compared with 11 HR in 545 PAs with the Dbacks in 2021. It is hard to know if this is a hot streak or something that can continue with Smith, but he is hitting now and his 138 wRC+ clearly plays in a deep league where consistent ABs and production are at a premium.
Yadiel Hernandez, OF, Washington Nationals
Yadiel Hernandez has gone from a rotating outfielder that would get inconsistent starts at the beginning of the year (8 starts in the Nats first 17 games) to a guy that is a nearly every day fixture in the Nationals lineup (9 starts in the last 11 games). Hernandez is also producing, currently slashing .373/.394/.522, although he has been aided by an unsustainable .453 BABIP. Even when that BABIP normalizes, however, Hernandez is likely to remain in the lineup and—while he is unlikely to be a superstar—he will provide your team with steady production; he already has 7 runs and 14 RBI in just 18 games. Given the lack of OF talent on the Nats roster (outside of J Soto, of course), that lineup spot looks like Hernandez’s to lose. He is hitting well and producing now, so ride that streak for as long as possible.