We’ve almost made it through the first complete month of the season. It’s a great time for fantasy managers to take a step back and assess their teams, audit performances and then address categorical needs. It’s definitely not time to overreact to the movement of prospects up (Tanner Bibee) and down (Taj Bradley), right? RIGHT? Bibee was fantastic in his debut, though as we’ve seen with Bradley that may not be enough to stick at the major league level.
Outside of pitching prospects, there are a lot of interesting developments throughout the world of baseball. The Pittsburgh Pirates are the best team in the National League, the Baltimore Orioles are the main contenders to the untouchable-looking Tampa Bay Rays, and in what was supposed to be a weak and winnable AL Central, the Chicago White Sox are getting lambasted by fans on sports radio for looking completely lost and listless.
Hopefully, your fantasy squads aren’t looking lost and listless! Let’s get them back on the right track with some potential waiver wire adds.
SEVEN GAMES: ATL, BOS, CHC, NYM, TOR, WAS
FIVE GAMES: ARZ, TEX
Investment Rating System
Jack Suwinski ($$$): The Pirates have been extremely aggressive on the basepaths, creating additional RBI opportunities for their hitters and causing havoc to opposing pitchers, catchers and defenses. Suwinski has become a main beneficiary with four stolen bases and five home runs. Yet somehow he is still available in a majority of 12-team leagues, and even a fraction of 15-team leagues. Creeping into the conversation as a top-50 outfielder, Suwinski can provide power, speed and counting stats while maintaining a decent average. His .276 so far this season has been boosted by a .314 BABIP, but with an xWOBA of .423 it seems sustainable.
Nelson Velázquez ($$): Velazquez’s contact metrics are incredible, posting a 50% hard contact rate and 28% barrel rate through six games. He’s worth a speculative add to see if he sticks in the Cubs’ outfield. With Bellinger back from the paternity list, Velazquez may need the Cubs to cut ties with Eric Hosmer or Edwin Rios to get at-bats. We can only hope that the Chicago brass keep him in the lineup.
Randal Grichuk ($$): By the time FAAB runs on Sunday night, Grichuk could be back with the Rockies after his rehab assignment. With Brenton Doyle fresh from AAA (and the Colorado front office’s history of preferring veterans) and Jurickson Profar underperforming, Grichuk looks to have a clear path to playing time once he does return. Of course the Rockies play half their games at the best hitter’s park in the game, so Grichuk becomes a plug-and-play option for power and counting stats upon his return.
Corey Julks ($): Since Yordan Alvarez went down with an injury, Julks has become the Astros’ starting left-fielder. He’ll be an every day player for the Astros for the time being, until Chas McCormick returns from his IL stint. Even then, the Rule-5 draft pick may keep his spot in the lineup while Jake Meyers is platooned out. It might be a tough week for Julks as Houston travels to Seattle next weekend, but if the need is at-bats, Julks can provide them.
Pavin Smith ($): Smith earned his way back to the major leagues and immediately the first thing that pops off his stats page for this season improved plate discipline. Smith is walking at a career-high 18.6% clip, lending itself to a .465 OBP. Through 14 games, Smith has posted a ridiculous .465 BABIP, while recording a .343 batting average. A strong-side platoon bat for the Diamondbacks, Smith will likely only start in three games this week, but could be worth a stash for the next week if he keeps his numbers up.
Sam Hilliard ($): Hilliard may see his playing time reduce slightly as Michael Harris returns, but should still be the strong-side platoon split with Kevin Pillar in center field. Hilliard has flashed the potential that industry pundits saw in him as a prospect with the Rockies, launching three home runs and swiping four bases, but is still striking out over 40% of the time. The swing-and-miss indicates that regression is coming. He can’t continue to hit at a .500 BABIP, and his xAVG of .215 is likely more indicative of what fantasy managers should expect if they pick him up as a streaming outfielder.
Rodolfo Castro (SS – $$$): Rodolfo Castro is the starting shortstop for the Pirates. Plain and simple. There is no competition at the position. And Castro has taken advantage, posting career high numbers through the month of April. He’s adjusted his plate approach to post a career best strikeout rate and walk rate to improve his OBP to .383 so far this year. With the way the whole Pirates’ lineup is hitting right now, it might be worth it to scoop several Pittsburgh players. Castro will receive every day at-bats and is a fine fill-in at MI or CI.
Paul DeJong (SS- $$): After a prolonged stint in the minors, DeJong is finally back as the Cardinals’ shortstop, while Brendan Donovan has dropped back into a utility role. Through a very small sample, DeJong is making excellent contact, including a 47.6% hard contact rate, and already smashed a pair of home runs. Once upon a time, DeJong was a top-10 option at shortstop. He may not return to that level, but he certainly is worth a speculative add especially heading into a week that he’s scheduled to face multiple left-handed starters.
Connor Joe (1B – $$): Another everyday bat in the Pirates’ lineup, Joe has batted in the heart of the Pittsburgh order in five of the Pirates’ last six games entering Sunday. Joe exploded two weeks ago in Coors Field but has since quieted his bat sllightly, lowering his average to .304 with an xWOBA of .399 (24th in MLB). He’s a solid CI/OF bat that will get regular at-bats.
Miguel Vargas (2B – $$): In some leagues, people have started to give up on Miguel Vargas. NOT SO FAST, MY FRIEND! Forgive my poor Lee Corso impression, but Vargas is still a top-15 2B and should definitely be rostered in 15-team leagues and deeper. He started the season with just eight hits in his first 60 at-bats this season, but has eight more hits in his last 32 at-bats (entering Saturday). His increased success at the plate could be a precursor to the breakout that pundits were so hopeful for entering the year.
Jose Barrero (SS – $): Barrero has started in 11 of the last 12 games for the Reds, including a start in center field on Friday. His plate discipline has improved with career marks in strikeout rate and walk rate, but he’s still only making hard contact in 26.0% of his plate appearances. If he continues to develop his power, he could be an asset but for now he’s just a low-dollar middle infield option.
Jordan Diaz (2B – $): A warm body for Oakland, Diaz has about as much opportunity as anybody else in the organization to post numbers. With Tony Kemp and Jace Peterson each hitting well below the Mendoza Line for the past two weeks, Diaz has gotten some playing time batting second in the order against left-handed pitching while dropping in the order against righties.
Kevin Smith (3B – $): Another warm body in Oakland, but this one with some power. Smith popped a pair of home runs this week, making him a decent cheap pickup for those in need of at-bats.
Yan Gomes (C – $$): Gomes is on a hot streak, recording nine hits including a pair of home runs in his last five games to increase his batting average to .302. He’s become the primary catcher in Chicago and is a fine option in two-catcher leagues.
Blake Sabol (C- $$): He’s still available in 15-20% of 15-team leagues, Sabol is in the Giants’ lineup more often than Joey Bart currently. With Roberto Perez on the 60-day IL and Bart not living up to expectations, Sabol is the primary backstop in San Francisco.
Jason Delay (C – $): He’s better offensively than Pittsburgh counterpart Austin Hedges. That’s about the peak of his appeal.
Reese McGuire (C – $): He’s the primary catcher in Boston after returning from a brief injury stint. He’s not an exciting offensive option but he suits up more often than Connor Wong.
Michael Busch (UT – $): He’s getting an opportunity with a large contingent of Dodgers on the paternity list this past week. He’s only gone 1-for-10, but it’s a small sample and he’s shown out in the minors. If he sticks around he could be a solid power bat, but it would take some roster maneuvering to make that happen.
Logan Allen ($$$$): Can we just take a second to admire the Cleveland Guardians‘ ability to stockpile and develop elite-level pitching talent? Allen debuted on Sunday with a 6.0 inning, eight-strikeout performance to earn a win against Miami, while allowing just one earned run on five hits. Despite the success, somehow he is just the second-most exciting Guardians’ pitching prospect this week.
NOTE: Double-check (or even TRIPLE-check) that you have placed a bid on the correct Logan Allen before FAAB runs.
Tanner Bibee ($$$$): The most recent of hyped pitching prospects to debut was Tanner Bibee, who toed the rubber for the Cleveland Guardians on Wednesday afternoon. If you missed it, check out the Tanner Bibee GIF Breakdown. Against the Rockies, Bibee allowed one earned run on six hits in 5.2 innings pitched while recording eight strikeouts on a 33.3% CSW to get the win. Most importantly, Bibee showed great command, not allowing a walk in his first career start. Both Bibee and Allen are outstanding options in the short-term and viable options in the long-term. Both clearly possess superior skill to Hunter Gaddis, show more promise than Aaron Civale and Zach Plesac and could stick even after Triston McKenzie returns to the rotation. Both are worth three-digit bids for fantasy managers seeking to strengthen their rotation.
Drew Smyly ($$): Can Smyly really keep up this charade of outstanding pitching? The metrics seem to indicate that he can. He’s been extremely effective at limiting hard contact through five starts this season, allowing just an 18.2% hard contact rate (league average is 27.6%). Smyly carries a 3.21 ERA and 3.21 FIP while his xERA (2.38) suggests that he could be even better. Though I don’t see him popping off for 10 strikeouts on a regular basis, Smyly could improve ratios and provide wins for fantasy managers. The Cubs have tended to limit him around 80-90 pitches so far this season, so managers in quality starts leagues may want to find an alternative.
Eduardo Rodriguez ($$$): He’s been masterful the last three times out, despite not really making much tangible change in his stuff, approach or pitch mix. He’s confounded Toronto, Cleveland and Baltimore lineups with a solid mix of cutters and changeups while mixing in varying amounts of sinkers as well. It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly what has changed, and exactly how sustainable his success is, but Rodriguez is on a hot streak and we might as well ride the wave.
Chris Flexen ($): With Robbie Ray undergoing season-ending injury, the Mariners have a rotation spot available. Though Easton McGee will get the first crack at it on Saturday, Flexen could easily step in from his long reliever role to get some starts as well. He’s not exciting, but could be effective in the right matchup.
Raisel Iglesias ($$$$): Did the person who drafted Raisel Iglesias drop him? You now have the chance to scoop up a potential impact closer for a team that is projected to win close to 100 games. Do it now! Iglesias just began a rehab assignment and A.J. Minter just blew another save… and it was a train wreck. There’s still plenty of time for Iglesias to get back and record 20+ saves the rest of the way.
Bryan Abreu ($$$): Are we seeing a changing of the guard in Houston’s bullpen? I’m not certain, but it is at least encouraging to see that Abreu earned and converted a pair of save opportunities this past week, snatching back-to-back saves against Atlanta on April 22 and 23. Ryan Pressly took care of business in the ninth inning to earn a save on April 26 in Tampa Bay, but he now has as many saves as blow ups (2) on the year. Abreu has been consistent this season allowing just one earned run in 12 appearances, which should be enough to at least get manager Dusty Baker’s attention. If Pressly blows another opportunity, Abreu should be next in line.
Yennier Cano ($$): The Baltimore Orioles have somehow become the gold standard for farming elite relievers out of nowhere. Last year it was Felix Bautista. This year it is Yennier Cano. Cano has been outstanding in a small sample size, recording a save and four holds in 8.2 innings pitched across seven appearances. He’s faced 26 batters and recorded 26 outs, including 10 strikeouts and one hit batsman. Though he’s likely not in line for save opportunities unless Bautista is fatigued or suffers an injury, Cano can do wonders for a team’s ratios if he keeps up this performance.
Garrett Cleavinger ($): Tampa Bay made the unpopular decision to demote Taj Bradley, allowing both Yonny Chirinos and Josh Fleming to get more innings in the starting rotation. However, both pitchers are likely capped at around 50-60 pitches. Cleavinger is one of the Rays’ best relievers at the moment, and could be in line for some middle relief with a chance at becoming a win vulture.
Featured image by Justin Paradis (@JustParaDesigns on Twitter)
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Gavin Stone to be called up for a Weds start.
Where does he rank $$$ wise?