Fantasy Baseball Waiver Wire Madness (7/11/22 - 7/17/22)
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Well gang, I’m back from vacation and it's time to make a final push to the All Star break! During the season, I've recommended guys in this column that have gone on to become waiver wire gold and are carrying their teams to the top of the standings (think Spencer Strider, Nestor Cortes, Taylor Ward, Clay Holmes, Josh Naylor, Jhoan Duran, Jon Berti and many more). And this week, there is another group of intriguing names that may be available in your leagues, so take a close look. In addition to these guys, a few top-tier players should be returning from injury soon, for example: Chris Sale, Jacob deGrom, Nate Eovaldi, Mitch Haniger, and Yasmani Grandal – these guys may have been dropped in a roster crunch in shallow leagues, so jump on them before your competition does.
Now down to business - as always, the recommendations below are divided among shallow leagues (10/12 team mixed) or deeper leagues (15+ team mixed or AL/NL only). Be sure to check in to @weknowfantasy for professional content on all sports and feel free to hit me up on Twitter or DM with questions and I'll get back to you as quickly as I can. Good luck!
Shallow Leagues – 10/12 team mixed leagues:
Aaron Hicks, OF, New York Yankees:
Aaron Hicks? Is this guy off his meds again?? Maybe, but hear me out . . . Look, no doubt about it, Aaron Hicks looked awful at the beginning of the season and there’s no other way to say it. While the entire Yankees team was on fire, the former first round draft pick was mired in an extended slump that saw him hitting just .196 with 1 HR, 12 R, 7 RBI, and 5 SBs through his first 34 games. The only thing that was saving him was a high 17% walk rate in OBP leagues (.331 OBP). But Hicks has shown signs of life lately and any exposure to that high-powered Yankees offense is a positive for your fantasy team. Over his last 20 games, Hicks has slashed .288/.391/.576 with 4 2B, 2 3B, 3 HR, 11 R, 14 RBI, and 3 SB – all with an avg EV of over 91 mph (compared with his season avg of 88 mph). That's a lot of crooked numbers. The only real downside to owning the guys in pinstripes is that Boone regularly rotates guys in and out of the lineup given the team’s depth (a good problem for a real manager and a headache for a fantasy manager), so Hicks isn’t going to be out there every day. That said, he has started 17 of the Yankees last 21 games and should be out there most days while he is hitting up to his potential. He's a great add for a slumping 5th OF in shallow leagues, especially in OBP leagues.
Juan Yepez, 1B/OF, St. Louis Cardinals:
Juan Yepez burst on the scene for the Cardinals as one of the many highly-touted prospects across major league baseball to make an appearance in 2022. He had multiple hits in 5 of his first 7 MLB games and looked poised to justify all of the owners that made it rain FAAB dollars to get him on their teams. But, as with many rookies, the league made an adjustment and Yepez went through a period where the shine appeared to come off his star. Over a 24-game period from late May through mid-June, Yepez hit just .222/.284/.347/2 HR/9 R/8 RBI and he was consistently losing playing time. Since then, however, Yepez is looking much better and some injuries to the Cardinals’ OF have opened the door for Yepez to show what he can do on an everyday basis. In the 19 games since June 18th, Yepez has hit .265 with 6 HR, 6 R, and 13 RBI – that will definitely play. Yepez needs to barrel the ball up more consistently, but when he does, he crushes – 95th percentile in max exit velocity to go with a great batted ball profile (65% combined FB and LD). He’s worth an add while he’s getting the playing time and swinging the stick like this.
Hunter Dozier, 1B/3B/OF, Kansas City Royals:
The Royals stealing headlines this year and causing a buzz in the fantasy community have been the rookies – Bobby Witt, Jr., M.J. Melendez, and Vinnie Pasquantino – and rightfully so, as those guys have plenty of talent and the future in KC looks bright. But through it all, Hunter Dozier has retained his playing time in KC – starting 23 of the last 27 games – and been a steady contributor in that offense. On the season, Dozier is hitting .263/.326/.440 with 9 HR, 34 R, 30 RBI, and 2 SBs. But over his last 13 games, Dozier has hit .296/.345/.556 with 3 HR/9 R/9 RBI/1 SB (153 wRC+) and has been regularly slotted 5th in what is increasingly a very good Royals lineup. Beyond his recent hot run, Dozier has played across the diamond for the Royals and multi-positional flexibility is an often overlooked and underappreciated attribute for players. Dozier isn’t going to light the world on fire, but he could be a steady contributor and an important piece in your march to a championship.
Jarren Duran, OF, Boston Red Sox:
Duran was included in the deep league section of my article several weeks ago and he has now graduated to being worthy of a roster spot in shallow leagues. After a bumpy start to his MLB career last year, the speedy Duran is now showing he belongs with the big club. The Red Sox clearly believe in him – he has been the Red Sox leadoff hitter in 17 of the team’s last 19 games (excluding games on restricted list in Toronto). And that trust is justified – so far in 21 games in 2022, Duran has slashed .305/.360/.488 with 1 HR, 12 R, 6 RBI, and 5 SBs. Duran is very under rostered for a guy that is hitting over .300, can steal a ton of bases (92nd percentile sprint speed), and is leading off for a team that is 6th in MLB in runs scored. There may be some prospect fatigue given his subpar performance last year, but that is no reason to discount the changes Duran has made this year and his success. Just look at his K% and BB% from the 33 game sample with the Red Sox last year (35.7% K% and 3.6% BB%) versus those same stats for 2022 (23.6% K% and 6.7% BB%). I am a Duran fan and you should be too.
Aaron Ashby, SP/RP, San Diego Padres:
This recommendation may give some people serious heartburn given how Ashby has performed lately, but stay with me! Aaron Ashby’s pitching numbers are elite in many ways and despite the poor headline numbers over his last five starts (1-3, 7.61 ERA . . . ugh), the underlying numbers are very encouraging (25Ks in 23.2 IP, 52.8% GB%, and 3.08 xFIP). Ashby’s Statcast page is dripping with red and pink – the guy is top 25th percentile (or much better) in nearly every measurable pitching category with whiff rates over 40% on his slider and curve, two pitches he throws a combined 43% of the time. More importantly, Ashby is elite where it is most important for a pitcher, he combines an exceptional ability to strikeout batters (11.2K/9) with top-tier ground ball percentages (61.5%). To put these numbers in context, this would be like combining G Cole or C Burnes’s strikeout ability with Framber Valdez’s ground ball ability – it’s exceedingly rare. Again, I realize scooping up Ashby after this performance requires a bit of a leap of faith, but sometimes you have to buy low for a big payout.
Nick Lodolo, SP, Cincinnati Reds:
Nick Lodolo has arrived and this rookie for the Reds has filthy stuff. Don’t let the 4.19 ERA fool you in the small sample, Lodolo has been fantastic. The ERA is inflated by a .375 BABIP and a very high HR/FB rate – both will normalize and pull that ERA down to around the 3.44 xERA or 3.10 xFIP. Lodolo’s eye-popping 12.57 K/9 is generated through essentially a three-pitch mix – a sinker, curveball, and changeup. Each pitch has very good movement, explaining how all three have a Statcast whiff rate in excess of 25%. In his last two starts, Lodolo has a line of 10.1 IP, 8 H, 0 ER, 3 BB, 15 Ks – and that against the Mets and Cardinals. His roster percentage is rising quickly, so grab him while you can if he’s available in your league and you need some help at the SP position.
Lou Trivino, RP, Oakland A’s:
Lou Trivino started the year as the A’s presumptive closer only to be such a train wreck that the A’s had to look for other options. Through mid-June, Trivino had a 1-5 record with just 2 saves and a 9.18 ERA – but, that was largely driven by a ridiculous .500 BABIP against that vastly inflated those numbers. But since June 17th, Trivino has been much better: 7.2 IP, 10 H, 1 ER, 9 Ks, 1.35 ERA, 2.20 FIP, 5 SVs. The WHIP is high due to too many hits and walks over the small sample, but the numbers are generally good and beggars can’t be choosers when it comes to securing saves for your squad. And he has the current hold on the closer’s role following the injury to D. Jimenez, so he’s worth rostering if you need a few saves and have a current roster spot you can churn.
Deeper Leagues (15 team or AL/NL Only)
Darick Hall, 1B, Philadelphia Phillies:
Talk about a guy that has gotten lost in the prospect parade of 2022. Darick Hall is certainly not a splashy name like B Witt, R Greene, A Rustchman, or many of the other young rookies we’ve seen this year, but he performed as well as any of them at AAA prior to his call up by the Phillies just over a week ago; check out his 2022 in the minors: 72 G - .269/.346/.548/20 HR/47 R/67 RBI/5 SBs (20% K%, 9.5% BB%). . . solid. And in his short time in the show, Hall has carried over that minor league success – in a small sample, he is currently hitting .257/.257/.657 with 4 HR, 8 R, 7 RBI in just 9 games. Although Hall has not drawn a walk in his first few games with the Phillies, he displayed excellent plate discipline in the minors, posting an over 10% walk rate over the past three seasons. Pitchers are likely challenging the young slugger to see what he can do, but the walks will come for those in OBP leagues. Hall has performed well and is an intriguing add in deeper leagues.
Eric Haase, C/OF, Detroit Tigers:
Catchers are always in short supply in deep leagues and, unless you have one (or two) of the top-tier guys, you have to be searching for the hot bat, and for that, Eric Haase currently fits the bill. While his 2022 started off slowly, over his last 15 games, Haase is hitting .362/.392/.745 with 5 HR, 13 R, and 14 RBI (217 wRC+) and that is #1 among catchers during that time in HR, RBI, and wRC+ (above Kirk, Realmuto, Varsho, etc.). You cannot allow that kind of production to rot on the waiver wire while you are trying to squeeze production out of your second catcher in a two-catcher league. Haase splits time at the position with Tucker Barnhardt, so he isn’t going to be in the lineup every day, but if he keeps hitting like this, the Tigers will use him at DH or, as in 2021, throw him in the OF from time to time. He’s definitely worth rostering in deep leagues.
Harold Ramirez, 1B/OF, Tampa Bay Rays:
As I’ve said before, winning in deep leagues doesn’t require you to have stars in every roster spot; you need some of those guys and other guys that are just grinders. In my mind, a grinder is a guy that is out there on the field most days and, while he won’t grab many headlines, he’s compiling counting stats for your team at a consistent rate. Harold Ramirez has been a grinder for the Rays this year and would be a solid add in a 15+ team league or definitely AL only. Ramirez is hitting a robust .314/.364/.429 with 4 HR/28 R/29 RBI/3 SBs through 68 games for the Rays and has started 12 of the last 15 given the Rays injury woes. Batting average is not easy to find off the wire and Ramirez is doing his best Michael Brantley impression so far in 2022 – and over the past 9 games, he’s hitting .351 with 1 HR, 8 R, 4 RBI, and 1 SB. Not a flashy name, but definitely a guy that can add value to your team.
Nolan Jones, 3B/OF, Cleveland Guardians:
The Cleveland Guardians’ Nolan Jones is yet another top prospect is getting his shot at glory. So far in AAA this year, Jones has performed well: .311/.417/.500 with 3 HR, 24 R, 25 RBI, 4 SBs, in 23 games, although that average is substantially inflated by a .424 BABIP. Jones is a guy that I was high on a few years ago due to his plate discipline and power potential, but I was disappointed with his lack of progression in those areas. The 6’ 4” Jones has all the physical tools to succeed but we haven’t seen that power translate as much on the field as I had hoped (16 HR in 122 AAA games). That said, he has already launched one HR and driven in 4 in just his first two games with the Guardians. While Jones’s walk rate is exceptional (15% in AAA) and he should be an asset in OBP leagues, the strikeout rate does give me pause given it was 30% across AA and AAA in 2019 and 2021. The bright spot is that Jones does appear to have made some improvement in that area this year, reducing his K% down to about 26.9%. In deep leagues (especially OBP), Jones is someone worthy of a flyer if you need help at 3B or CI, but temper expectations as it may be a bumpy ride while he gets acclimated to major league pitching.
Luis Patino, SP, Tampa Bay Rays:
Luis Patino is a former top prospect in the Padres organization that was traded to the Rays before the 2021 season. In his most extensive taste of big league action during 2021, Patino was good, not great. At that time, he tossed 77.1 innings with a 4.31 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, and 74 Ks, and he was shut down after just getting just 2 outs in 2022 due to a strained oblique. Patino has been on a rehab assignment for some time now and he looks as though he is on the verge of a return to the show (although a blister may push that to later in July). Patino has great skills and, as we know, the Rays are proficient at getting the most out of their players. While he won’t be a fit for all teams, Patino is a sneaky add in very deep leagues, especially AL only. Pitchers often take a year or two to develop and understand how to pitch at the major league level, and Patino is a great talent that is right in that wheelhouse.