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  • Writer's pictureJosh Nix

Fantasy Baseball Waiver Wire Madness

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Happy Memorial Day Weekend gang! I hope you are all grilling, drinking, taking in some baseball, and generally avoiding work for a few days. But, unless you’re in one of my leagues, don’t have so much fun that you forget to make your FAAB bids and set your lineups this holiday weekend. As usual, there was a lot of news this week and I’ve got some great waiver wire options for you to ensure you stay at the top of the standings. At the Memorial Day turn, now is the time to take stock of your team and dive into the standings – for roto, in which categories can you make up some ground? In which other categories do you have a substantial lead so that you can work a trade to offload some surplus in one category to gain in another? Play the wire, but also take stock of your competitor’s needs and always be thinking of ways that you can make your team better. Stay active and you’ll stay on top! Good luck all!

Shallow Leagues – 10/12 team mixed leagues:

Kyle Lewis, OF, Seattle Mariners:

The 2020 Rookie of the Year is back! After missing the start of the season with a knee injury, Lewis was activated by the Mariners on the 24th and promptly collected two hits in his first game back. Early season concerns over a crowded outfield in Seattle have largely dissipated with the demotion of Jarred Kelenic and, other than rest days, Lewis should have regular playing time, first at DH and then building up to a return to the OF. While he can be vulnerable to the strikeout, I have always liked Lewis for the many other things he does well at the plate—namely, he can take a walk (career 11% BB%), has always hit the ball hard (above average Statcast metrics), and his ground ball rate has declined over time. He does carry above-average injury risk, but Lewis is a very solid, middle-of-the-order add in 5 OF leagues for most teams. Grab him before his stock rises too much.

Mike Yastrzemski, OF, San Francisco Giants:

Yastrzemski was somewhat slow out of the gate to start the season, but he has turned it on now, with nitrous boosters. Since returning from the IL on May 4th, Yastrzemski has smashed to the tune of: .324/.442/.574 (1.016 OPS), with 3 HR, 17 R, and 12 RBI in 21 games. He has also played in every Giants game but one over that timespan and recently been hitting 2nd or 3rd in the order--deservedly so. Yastrzemski has always had a good walk rate, making him valuable in OBP leagues, but this year he has also cut down on his strikeout rate significantly; he currently has a 14.7% K% this year, compared with his career 24.2% K%. But in addition to getting the bat on the ball with more consistency, he is also hitting the ball harder than he ever has in his career, posting his highest ever Statcast average exit velocity and hard-hit rate. Some regression is to be expected here, but if the changes we see are real, we may get the best version of Yaz we have seen yet, and that could be a league winner if you get him for free off the wire.

Brady Singer, SP, Kansas City Royals:

Singer is a former first round draft pick that is now in his third major league season with the Royals. He is primarily a sinker/slider guy (combined 89% of pitches) that has never featured a four-seam fastball in his repertoire. His slider has, so far this year, generated whiffs nearly 43% of the time it has been offered. And Singer’s sinker has been far more effective in this limited 2022 sample than it has been in the past. This year, opponents are hitting just .125 (.212 xBA) and slugging .219 (.374 xSLG) against that pitch. Singer started the year in the pen, went down to the minors, and has made three starts since returning. In those starts, we have seen the best version of Singer since he has been in the majors, tossing a line of: 19.2 IP, 14 H, 3 ER, 3 BB, 20 Ks—fantastic. I have always liked Singer’s ability to induce ground balls (career 51%) combined with his strikeout potential (career 8.9 K/9). If the 25 year-old is starting to put it all together with that first round talent, a true breakout is not beyond the realm of possibility.

Cristian Javier, SP/RP, Houston Astros:

I profiled Javier as a deeper league pickup several weeks ago when it looked like he would get some starts for the Astros. Javier is an extremely talented pitcher that has bounced between the bullpen and spot starts for this Astros squad over the past couple of seasons. He utilizes a high-spin fastball that generates an amazing 30% whiff rate—that ranks 5th among starters in MLB. Add to that a slider, changeup, and curveball that all generate at least a 20% whiff rate and you have the recipe for a top-tier SP on a very good team. In 37 innings pitched this year, Javier has allowed just 25 hits, 10 earned runs, 11 walks and struck out 48, to the tune of a 2.43 ERA. 97 WHIP (2.88 xERA and 2.71 FIP). He has substantially lowered his walk rate this year and looks like the real deal. I am not worried about a rotation crunch when Odorizzi is ready to return (or McCullers, although who knows when that will happen), as those things have a way of working themselves out. Always bet on talent and Javier has plenty to spare.

Aaron Ashby, SP/RP, San Diego Padres:

In San Diego, injuries have opened the door for yet another highly-touted prospect to move from the pen to the rotation. Aaron Ashby is young, tooled-up, and comes packing a soft-porn Statcast page that should be called 50 Shades of Red. He is primarily a sinker/slider guy and his slider is absolutely filthy, generating an over 40% whiff rate on a pitch that he throws almost a third of the time. Ashby is still being stretched out as a starter, but he has an amazing amount of potential to dream on and is off to a fast start. His 2022 line sits at: 34 IP, 26 H, 11 ER, 20 BB, 39 Ks, 2.91 ERA, 3.46 FIP. No doubt, the walks are far too high, but if he can just keep the free passes down to an average amount, his stuff is so good that he should be able to thrive. The control could make for a bumpy road, but the ceiling is very high.

Clay Holmes, RP, New York Yankees:

It’s no secret that Aroldis Chapman has not looked like himself this year, but Clay Holmes has stepped in to be the beast at the backend of the Yankee pen. And Chapman’s placement on the IL this week means that Holmes is almost certainly “the guy” to close out games in the Bronx. Holmes secured his 5th save on Wednesday evening and he has been absolutely lights out so far this year, check this: 24.2 IP, 15 H, 2 BB, 1 ER, 26 Ks, 0.36 ERA, 0.69 WHIP, 1.40 FIP; amazing. It remains to be seen how the bullpen will be handled upon Chapman’s return, but for now, grab Holmes and take the saves that are sure to come pitching for that very good Yankees squad.

Deeper Leagues (15 team or AL/NL Only)

William Contreras, C, Atlanta Braves:

Time to play the game of which Contreras . . . no, this isn’t Willson Contreras, stud catcher for the Chicago Cubs. Instead, this is his brother, who is also a catcher but in the Braves organization. William Contreras was recalled from the minors by the Braves after raking at AAA during April and all he has done since April 29th is hit .304/.407/.804 with 7 HR, 13 R, and 12 RBI in just 54 PAs. That is the most HRs by a catcher during that span and would qualify him generally as a top 5 catcher overall. Even better, the Braves have just this week started using Contreras in the OF, so it looks like he will get more ABs than your typical catcher. Contreras is an immediate add in all two catcher leagues and I would be willing to take him over all but the top-tier catchers in baseball. Scoop him quick.

Oscar Gonzalez, OF, Cleveland Guardians:

Oscar Gonzalez was called up by the Guardians a couple of days ago and, although we have no real major league track record to go on, I am intrigued by the profile and minor league stats. Gonzalez has some real pop that should play at the major league level, as well as a very good strikeout rate for a slugger. Across 487 AAA plate appearances in 2021-22, Gonzalez smashed 27 HR with 60 R and 75 RBI in 113 games. And he did so while hitting .274 and slugging over .500. In his first MLB game, although he went 0-for-4, Gonzalez did not strike out and absolutely crushed three different hits, each with an exit velocity over 107 mph and with a max EV of 113 mph . . . that is an elite number and he did it in his very first game. That has my eyebrows raised and it should for you as well. This is a very speculative and deep league play until we can see how the PT will break out in Cleveland, but it is clear that Gonzalez has legit power and, while he won’t walk, he should make enough contact to be valuable in a batting average league.

Brendan Donovan, SS/3B/OF, St. Louis Cardinals:

The versatile and multi-position eligible (check your league eligibility rules) Brendan Donovan has been rolling ever since he was called up by the Cardinals about two and a half weeks ago. He has started 14 of 17 games since his major league debut and has earned every second of that playing time. Donovan has, so far, displayed elite plate discipline, striking out just 16% of the time while also walking an exceptional 16% of the time; this is absolutely huge in OBP and points leagues. His current 2022 line is .310/.444/.466 with 1 HR, 11 R, 9 RBI, and 1 SB, although it is reasonable to expect some regression given his current .378 BABIP. Donovan’s minor league track record doesn’t suggest a guy that will provide power or speed in bunches, but he is a very solid, multi-eligible guy that could provide 10/10 with a good average and strong OBP, and that is valuable in 12 team leagues or deeper. Take a shot if he’s still out there.

Emmanuel Rivera, 3B, Kansas City Royals:

A number of injuries in Kansas City have opened the door for a new wave of young players to show their worth. One guy that is getting increased playing time for the Royals is Emmanuel Rivera, who started 9 of 10 straight until missing time this week due to an illness. This is a deep league/AL only play, but Rivera has some pop and is worth a flyer if you have a need at 3B or CI due to injuries. Across 2021-22 in AAA, Rivera hit .286/.360 with 22 HR, 59 R, 63 RBI, and 4 SBs in just 81 games . . . not too shabby. And so far this year in the show, Rivera has held his own, striking out just around 20% of the time and smashing 3 HR with 11 R and 10 RBI in just 68 plate appearances. As we see players return from injury, or if Vinnie Pasquantino is called up by the Royals (please, let it happen . . .), it will be interesting to see if KC finds room for Rivera or how much he will play. But for now, he is getting playing time and more than holding his own at the major league level. With minor league numbers like what he has shown, Rivera is worth a shot in a deep league.

Tyrone Taylor, OF, Milwaukee Brewers:

Tyrone Taylor has been a pleasant surprise for what was already a very strong Brewers lineup. Taylor has some pop and speed and his batting average is respectable in this environment (currently .248). He has started 12 of the Brew Crew’s last 13 games and has already logged 4 HR, 9 R, 19 RBI, and 1 SB in his first 117 PAs this year. Taylor also has the batted ball profile you want to see out of a hitter – his hard hit rate is high (45% per Statcast) and his ground ball rate is low (34%). Even before Hunter Renfroe’s hamstring injury, Taylor had become a fixture in that Brewers lineup and that is sure to continue now, as long as he keeps coming through in the clutch as we’ve seen recently. He’s definitely worth a deeper league add as a hot hand play.

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