Fantasy Baseball Waiver Wire Madness (7/4/22 - 7/10/22)
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Happy 4th of July weekend all! It’s time to fire up the grill, enjoy some drinks with friends, watch some fireworks and baseball, and generally celebrate this amazing country we get to call home. Before jumping into the waiver recommendations for the week, I want to thank everyone that has taken the time to check out my article – over @weknowfantasy, the article has enjoyed increased viewership every week and set a new high last week – I appreciate you all, this has been a fun ride!
All right, now down to business. We’re just a couple of weeks away from the All-Star break, when it will be time to take stock of your season and decide if you’re making a run for the title or, in keeper and dynasty, looking to rebuild for the future. So don’t take your foot off the gas yet because I’ve got some recommendations to keep you on top or help you make a run for 1st place. Let’s do this!
As always, the recommendations are divided among shallow leagues (10/12 team mixed) or deeper leagues (15+ team mixed or AL/NL only). In addition to the below, always keep an eye out for guys returning soon from injury – some that pop to mind are Chris Sale, Mitch Haniger, Brandon Lowe, Kyle Lewis, and Miguel Sano. Good luck!
Shallow Leagues – 10/12 team mixed leagues:
Andrew McCutchen, OF, Milwaukee Brewers:
Don’t look now, but McCutchen is doing some damage at the core of that Brew Crew lineup. McCutchen did not have a good first two months of the year – through May 31st (38 games), he hit just .214/.263 with 3 HR, 16 R, 17 RBI, and 3 SBs. But June has been another story and as the weather has warmed, so has McCutchen. In the 25 games he played in June, he hit .315/.411/.500 with 4 HR, 15 R, 15 RBI, and 2 SBs. McCutchen also started every game but two for the Brewers last month and has been slotted in the 3rd or 4th slot in the order in his last 12 starts (for a team that is 12th in league in runs scored). If you need an OF in a shallow league, McCutchen is striking out less than 20% of the time, walking more than 8%, and is hot in a very good lineup. What’s not to like?
Eddie Rosario, OF, Atlanta Braves:
It’s not clear exactly when he’ll be back, but Eddie Rosario is now at AAA completing a rehab assignment as he comes back from laser eye surgery that he underwent at the beginning of the season. So, we should expect to see him relatively soon barring anything unexpected. Rosario is just a few seasons removed from an exceptional 2019 with the Twins, when he hit .279 with 32 HR, 91 R, and 109 RBI. He then hit 13 HR and drove in 42 in just 57 games in the shortened 2020 season. While he wasn’t nearly as good last year, he still hit 14 HR and stole 11 bases in just over 400 plate appearances. All that to say, Rosario is a very good player with the tools and potential be even better, especially if the eye issue that he remedied was holding him back. In addition, there isn’t any reason that Rosario can’t get immediately back into that Braves lineup. Adam Duvall, while a strong power threat last year, is having a bad season, no other way to say it – he’s hitting just .205 with 10 HR in 75 games. If you have room to stash Rosario and need an upgrade to your 4th or 5th OF, take a flyer on Rosario.
Christian Vazquez, C, Boston Red Sox:
With the injury to Salvador Perez and underperformance by Yasmani Grandal and others, there have been very few bright spots at the catching position this season. And yet, somehow the Red Sox’s Christian Vazquez is still available in a large number of shallow leagues. This despite the fact that, among all MLB catchers he ranks: 3rd in batting average, 5th lowest K%, 6th in OBP, 9th in RBI, and 10th in slugging %. While Vazquez isn’t known for prodigious power, his hard-hit rate dipped to it’s lowest point in a few years in 2021, causing many to jump ship. But that number is back up to 38% this year, putting him on pace for more extra base hits this year in what has become a very good Red Sox lineup. And Vazquez is about as much of a fixture in the Boston lineup as you can expect from a catcher (started 20 of last 24 games). With the catcher position in your fantasy lineup, you need regular ABs and positive production – Vazquez checks both boxes.
Amed Rosario, SS, Cleveland Guardians:
Although it seems like Amed Rosario has been around forever (he debuted with the Mets in 2017), he is still only 26 years old and appears to be taking step forward in 2022. He has lowered his strikeout rate from about 21.5% across 2020-21 to just 14.4% this year. And, while his avg EV is essentially in line with career numbers, his max EV this year jumped to 115.8 – a standout number for a guy known as essentially a speedster with some pop (98th percentile sprint speed cannot go unmentioned). Rosario has become a fixture in the #2 spot in the Guardians lineup and has missed just one game out of the last 31. Overall, he carries a .287 batting average for the season, but he was light's out during June – hitting .360/.378/.509 with 7 2B, 2 3B, 2 HR, 20 R, 12 RBI, and 6 SBs (154 wRC+). Given these numbers, Rosario is available in too many leagues, so scoop him up while you can.
Josiah Gray, SP, Washington Nationals:
Josiah Gray had a tough day at the office on Friday night, but hear me out! Prior to that, in case you hadn't noticed, Josiah Gray had been on a tear – since June 1st and even including this poor showing, Gray has made five starts and compiled a stat line of: 29.2 IP, 23 H, 9 ER, 10 BB, 34 K, 2.73 ERA, and a 1.11 WHIP. And this doesn't appear to just be a fortunate statistical sample because this performances is supported by some noticeable changes. Gray’s two best pitches are his slider and curveball, which he has thrown overall in 2022 about 53% of the time combined. These two pitches generate whiff% of 47.2 (slider) and 37.5 (CB) – excellent. During this latest run, however, Gray threw his fastball less often, which is a good thing considering the expected slugging % against that pitch in 2022 is .740 and the xBA is .288. Substituting for that fastball was, you guessed it, more sliders and curveballs. The percentage of SL and CB went up to over 60%, while the percentage of FBs thrown went down to about 38%. This change in approach won’t turn Gray into an ace, but the underlying metrics still suggest a highly effective pitcher (3.26 FIP). If you are in search of a SP in a deep league, take a shot on Gray while he is on a roll (FYI, the other Gray – Jon Gray – is great too and was in last week’s column!).
Tanner Scott, RP, Miami Marlins:
What waiver wire column would be complete without a recommendation for chasing saves? Tanner Scott doesn’t have flashy numbers (see 4.20 ERA), but he is the guy in Miami and that is all that matters in fantasy. But even as the headline numbers seem unimpressive, if you look closer, there is a lot to like about Tanner Scott. First, although he has a 4.34 ERA, he has a 3.13 FIP and 2.86 xFIP, indicating that he may have been a little unlucky so far. Second, Scott can rack up the strikeouts, big time – he is currently sporting a 14.40 K/9 number, which is elite and would put him behind only Edwin Diaz, Josh Hader, and Devin Williams in all of MLB . . . yeah, impressive. Scott is basically a fastball/slider guy that relies substantially on his slider (over 70%) and the numbers bear out why; that pitch has a 42.4% whiff rate. Scott isn’t a big name among closers, but he has the job, has very good stuff, and is performing (since June 1st, his 7 saves is tied for 3rd in MLB). Based on this, Scott is very under rostered - snag him if you can.
Deeper Leagues (15 team or AL/NL Only)
Vinnie Pasquantino, 1B, Kansas City Royals:
His time has arrived! I (and many others) have been calling for Vinnie Pasquantino to get called up by the Royals for a ridiculously long time. Pasquantino was dominating AAA to the tune of .280/.372/.576 with 18 HR, 51 R, 67 RBI, and 3 SBs. Those are impressive power numbers from the young slugger, but even more impressive is that he put up those numbers with a miniscule 12.2% K% and 12.5% BB% - yes, more walks than strikeouts at the AAA level from a guy that was a AAA leader in home runs. Let’s be honest, predicting how rookies will fare in the short term is a fool’s errand, but Pasquantino has the tools to be successful at the major league level and the prediction algorithms all show Vinnie P as having an above league average wRC+. Although a very small sample, in his first three major league games, Pasquantino has smashed his first pro home run and has 2 BB and 0 Ks. He is an immediate add in 15 team or deeper leagues and could easily become a shallow league add in short order if he keeps mashing as he was in AAA. Let’s go Vinnie P!!!
Jake Meyers, OF, Houston Astros:
Jake Meyers is back with the Astros after undergoing shoulder surgery in the offseason last November, and he looks to have the CF job to himself after Jose Siri was demoted. Meyers performed well in his first 49 game taste of action last season, hitting .260/.323/.438 with 6 HR, 22 R, 28 RBI, and 3 SBs. The strikeout rate was too high last year (30.7%), but that was uncharacteristic based on his minor league numbers, where he typically had a strikeout rate that hovered around 20% or so. Since his return, Meyers has started every game in CF for the Astros and has batted toward the bottom of the lineup. He has some pop and some speed and a good batted ball profile (55-60% LD and FB) – combine that with everyday playing time in one of the best lineups in baseball, and you have a guy worth taking a shot on. Grab Meyers in your deeper leagues as a speculative play.
Josh H. Smith, 2B/3B, Texas Rangers:
Josh H. Smith was the #7 prospect in the Rangers’ system per MLB.com when he was given his ticket to the show at the end of May. Although injured for a good portion of that time, Smith moved quickly from the bottom of the order to the leadoff spot for the Rangers – a spot he has occupied in the lineup now in the last three games he has started. In his small major league sample, Smith has played 12 games and compiled a line of .258/.439/.290 with 5 runs and 2 stolen bases. Smith is a player that is unlikely to provide you a multitude of any one counting stat, but he will likely provide contributions across the board. In the minors, Smith showed great plate discipline, consistently striking out less than 20% and walking more than 12%, making him a valuable asset in OBP leagues (note he has walked at a 17% clip in the majors). In 40 AAA games this year prior to the call-up, Smith was slashing .273/.382/.422 with 4 HR, 30 R, 29 RBI, and 8 SBs. As you can see, he has enough pop and speed to be intriguing in deep leagues and the fact that he is slotted into the leadoff spot for the Rangers makes him more appealing. Note, however, that the Rangers appear to be sitting him versus lefties to start, so it will be interesting to see if he ends up as a strong-side platoon player.
Daniel Vogelbach, 1B/DH, Pittsburgh Pirates:
Every time I’m out . . . I’ve been a sucker for Vogelbach since he came up with the Mariners several years ago given the power profile and high walk rate (he’s a much better OBP league option). Although a strong-side platoon guy, Vogelbach is back on my radar given how he’s been swinging the bat for the Pirates lately. Over his last 14 games, Vogelbach has slashed .270/.438/.595 with 3 HR, 8 R, and 7 RBI. And he continues to hit the ball hard – a nearly 91 mph avg EV and a 47% hard hit rate via Statcast on the season. And, as we love to see from guys with that kind of hard-hit rate, he also elevates the ball a substantial amount of the time (45.7% FB rate and 13% LD rate). He won’t be in the lineup every day, but Vogelbach is a solid deep league option (especially OBP) if you need some HR and RBI. Give him another look.
Dean Kremer, SP, Baltimore Orioles:
This season, I have been forced to rethink my long-held bias against Orioles pitchers. But while the headline numbers for Wells, Kremer, and others are generally good, I do still have some hesitation about using them given the underlying numbers. However, for a deep league add where starting pitching is at a premium, it is definitely hard to ignore a guy that has pitched to a 1.29 ERA and 1.14 WHIP over his first 5 starts (28 IP) this season. Dean Kremer has pitched well, no doubt about it, and he can be added as a deep league fill in (AL only or very deep mixed) while he is hot. That said, temper your expectations and know that you may be holding Kremer when he has a blow-up start. I say this because he does not strike out a lot of guys (6.11 K/9), has much worse expected stats than his 1.29 ERA (see his 4.79 xERA and 4.69 xFIP), and is a fly ball pitcher that has somehow surrendered just 1 HR in 28 IP – assisted, no doubt, by that newly-spacious LF in Camden. Those numbers are going to correct at some point, but in the meantime, he can be started at home against weaker opponents as a matchup-dependent play.
A.J. Minter, RP, Atlanta Braves:
With Kenley Jansen now on the IL with a heart issue, it is truly a toss up as to whether A.J. Minter or Will Smith receives more save opportunities. The first chance went to Minter, who pitched a clean 9th with 1 K to secure the save last Tuesday. The next chance went to Smith, who also pitched a clean 9th, with 2 Ks to lock up the save on Wednesday. Both of the lefties have been very good this year, but Minter’s numbers show that he has been the more dominant of the two. Minter has a 1.64 ERA and 0.79 WHIP over 33 IP this season – he has allowed just 21 H and 5 BB and racked up 44 Ks in those 33 innings. Both guys are capable, but if I had to put money on one guy to receive the lion’s share of saves in Jansen’s absence, I’m taking Minter.