Fantasy Baseball Waiver Wire Prospects (Week of 4/11-4/17/22)
By @fantasybbguru on Twitter
Amen, we have baseball! With games upon us, now is the time when we transition from draft preparation to in-season management. Winning your league requires mastery of two separate— but equally important — skills. First, is knowing how to draft your team in a way that identifies value and will, based on your player projections, keep you competitive within your selected scoring format (be it traditional roto, points or H2H.)
In addition to drafting well, winning a fantasy championship requires that you constantly evaluate your team to understand your needs and then balance that against what is available on the waiver wire. The best fantasy managers also look ahead and anticipate players that will be called up in the near future and that could contribute to the team right away. For example, a couple of the players in this waiver wire/FAAB article are minor leaguers that are likely to get the call soon. Waiting until they are called up to scoop them up means you drastically decrease your chance of landing the player or, if a FAAB league, you make it much more expensive. Grabbing a stud off the wire early can be the difference between winning your league and well . . .
With that backdrop, let’s take a look at some of the players that are out there in leagues of different sizes (shallow/10-12 team or deeper/AL or NL only leagues).
Shallow Leagues – 10/12 team mixed leagues
Robbie Grossman, OF, Detroit Tigers
Grossman isn’t a sexy name but he can contribute to your fantasy team. He’s slated to bat second in what is a — don’t look now — pretty strong lineup in Detroit with the additions of Javier Baez, Austin Meadows and Spencer Torkelson. Not to mention that Riley Greene, although injured, should be back around June. Grossman has 20/20 potential, gets on base at a high clip, and should score a ton of runs for this Tigers' team. If he’s available, he’ll give you stats across the board and help keep you at the top of the standings.
Nathaniel Lowe, 1B, Texas Rangers
Nate Lowe is a guy that has a ton of potential and I’m hoping this is his breakout year. His plate discipline is off the charts and he will likely hit cleanup or fifth most days behind Semien and Seager, meaning he’ll rack up RBIs. If he could elevate the ball just 5-10-percent more, we could see a 30 HR season as well.
Jo Adell, OF, Los Angeles Angels
Of all the guys in this shallow league section, Adell may be the guy with the lowest floor but the highest ceiling. He is tooled up and was a top prospect for a couple of years before being called up in 2020 and looking, well.. terrible. He had an over 40-percent strikeout rate and ended up hitting .161 with four HR and two SBs across 132 ABs. But in 2021, he looked much better after getting the call – and lowered his K% to just 22.9-percent across 35 games to close out 2021. Adell is going to get his shot this year with the Angels and if he can strikeout at just 30-percent or less, he has the power and speed to deliver a 25/15 season, although he may only hit .240.
Andrew McCutcheon, OF, Milwaukee Brewers
He’s well past his prior glory days, but don’t count him out. That Brewers' lineup looks fantastic and he was the cleanup hitter on Opening Day and leading off in the Brewers’ second game. McCutcheon looks healthy and last year — in 144 games — he popped 27 HRs with a ridiculously high 14-percent walk rate. He should definitely be owned in all OBP leagues and should be an across-the-board contributor in all others.
Miguel Sano, 3B, Minnesota Twins
As those of you that follow me on Twitter know, for the life of me, I still cannot figure out why Miguel Sano was going nearly 100 picks after Joey Gallo in drafts. He has just as much power and both hit for a low average but have a high OBP with plenty of expected runs and RBIs. If you need power, take Sano with confidence.
Tanner Houck, SP, Boston Red Sox
Houck is a young pitcher that looks to have a bright future. He made the Red Sox rotation this year and may be poised to take the next step. If you follow me, you know I’m a sucker for a pitcher with a high GB% and good swinging strike rate (SwStr%.) Houck isn’t just good in these combined categories, he’s elite. Last year, he had a GB% > 48% and a SwStr% > 13% -- only 17 other pitchers in MLB did that last year and some of them were Corbin Burnes, Sandy Alcantara, Luis Castillo, Tyler Glasnow, and Shane McClanahan... get it? As a starting pitcher in the second half of 2021, he pitched to a 3.38 ERA/1.07 WHIP and had 75Ks in 56 innings. He’s worth a shot to see if he can build on that start.
Alex Cobb, SP, San Francisco Giants
If you haven’t been paying close attention, seeing Alex Cobb’s name on this list may seem like a game of “one of these things is not like the other,” but in 93 innings last year with the Angels, Cobb struck out 98 batters, had an over 50-percent ground ball rate and posted a 3.76 ERA and 3.38 FIP. He posted those numbers even with a .315 BABIP against and a low 66-percent strand rate, numbers that suggest he underperformed his expected stats. In addition to that, he is now in a pitcher’s park in San Francisco and showed up with substantially increased velocity this year. He looks primed for a good year, so grab him early and see how his first few starts shake out.
Deeper Leagues (15 team or AL/NL Only)
Josh Lowe, OF, Tampa Bay Rays
Depending on your league, Lowe may not have been available for the draft given that he was only called up the day before opening day. If he is available, scoop him up. Lowe has had some prospect buzz in the Rays' organization for a while and trading Austin Meadows to the Tigers finally created his opportunity. This is a guy that went 18 HR/30 SBs in AA in 2019 and then 22 HR/26 SBs in AAA last year. He’s ready and it appears the Rays are going to see what he can do – even as a lefty, he started opening day against a left-handed starting pitcher and, as I'm sure you all realize, that is a big vote of confidence from the Rays.
Jorge Mateo, SS, Baltimore Orioles
Make no mistake, the O’s are awful but they are going to score some runs this year, and in an environment where SBs are hard to come by, Mateo is an absolute burner that is currently in line to be the everyday shortstop. Across just over 200 major league ABs so far, Mateo has stolen 11 bases and he is more than empty speed. In 119 games in AAA in 2019, Mateo hit 19 HR to go along with his 26 stolen bases. He’s finally getting his shot and worth a flyer with this talent.
Steven Kwan, OF, Cleveland Guardians
Kwan is a rookie OF with the Guardians that has elite plate discipline and bat-to-ball skills. He was a BA and OBP standout in the minors (.327 BA and over .400 OBP across AA and AAA in 2021) and, most importantly, was batting second in the Guardians' lineup yesterday. If that sticks, he could also be a plus in runs for you, although he isn’t likely to hit more than 12-15 HRs tops and steal a handful of bases with full playing time. If you need average/OBP and runs, Kwan is worth a shot.
Kevin Smith, SS, Oakland Athletics
Smith was a high performing minor leaguer in the Blue Jays' system until he was traded to the A’s this spring in the deal that sent Matt Chapman back to the Jays. Smith may struggle to make contact at times, but he will get playing time in Oakland and he is an intriguing power/speed combo, posting double-digit HRs and SBs every year in the minors 2018-21. He’s worth a stash to see what he can become.
Jake Fraley, OF, Cincinnati Reds
I’m high on Fraley and was very disappointed when the Reds obtained Tommy Pham, stealing some of Fraley’s ABs. Fraley is another guy that strikes out too much, but he counterbalances that with a high BB% - in OBP leagues, Fraley is an asset. In addition to a high walk rate, Fraley is another power/speed combo. In just 265 ABs with Seattle last year, Fraley had nine HRs and ten SBs, along with a .352 OBP. If he gets regular playing time in Cincinnati (and he batted fifth yesterday), he could be a 20/20 guy and a must own in OBP leagues.
Jesus Luzardo, SP, Miami Marlins
Not long ago, Luzardo was the can’t miss, #1 pitching prospect in baseball but he was horrendous last year. He struggled with his command and ended 2021 with a 6.61 ERA, 4.5 BB/9 and nearly two HR/9 allowed – you don’t have to be a stat geek to know that those numbers are disgusting. But Luzardo looks like he has been reborn after the trade to Miami. He came into spring training this year with increased velocity (averaging 97 on FB) and gave up only one ER in 11 innings, while striking out ten. He may be in line to finally reach his potential – don’t let it happen on someone else’s team.
Rookies to Stash
Keep an eye on these budding stars in the minors – all are kicking down the door and they may be only an injury away from fantasy superstardom.
Jose Miranda, INF, Minnesota Twins
Miranda is an infielder for the Twins that looks ready to face big league hitting now. Across 127 games in AA and AAA in 2021, he mashed to the tune of a .344 BA/.400 OBP/30 HR/97 R/94 RBI, and he picked up right where he left off, homering in his first minor league game of the 2022 season. The Twins upgraded in the offseason, but I would expect to see Miranda at some point in the first half of the season, and perhaps in just a few weeks.
Adley Rutschman, C, Baltimore Orioles
Rutschman was the consensus number one overall pick in 2019 and easily the most polished college hitter that year. All he has done since going pro is hit, play strong defense at the catcher position and be a team leader. His plate discipline is off the charts – he had 79 walks to 90 strikeouts across two minor league levels in 2021. But he’s not just a hitter that will hit for average, he also hits for power, smashing 23 HRs in 123 games last year. He’ll be up early and could immediately provide a boost for your team at what is typically a very thin catcher position. He should already be owned in two catcher leagues.
Nick Pratto, 1B, Kansas City Royals
Pratto plays 1B for the Royals and, if you haven’t heard, he absolutely destroyed minor league pitching last year. His combined line across AA and AAA in 2021 was .265/.380/36 HR/98 R/98 RBI in 124 games. He started 2022 in AAA and has already popped two HRs in the first four minor league games. Pratto is a three true outcomes player and I have questions about whether he will hit enough to stick in the majors, but if he can keep the strikeouts under control, the power will play. Carlos Santana appears to have him blocked at the moment, but roster crunches usually have a way of working themselves out and he’s an injury away from his shot.
Be aggressive on the wire early, but don’t cut your stars. Some will struggle out of the gate and you don’t want to dump a great player off to a slow start only to watch him carry another team to a fantasy championship. Good luck all!