Happy Sunday, fantasy managers! Don’t let the holiday weekend distract you from improving your roster(s) on the waiver wire!
With the first full week of baseball under their collective belt, fantasy managers can begin to assess their needs, both immediate and long-term, and start to compensate for them with waiver wire pickups. This week brought the fantasy baseball community some notable prospect call-ups, a handful of pitch clock confrontations, and a bazillion stolen bases.
Entering the weekend slate on Friday, a total of 128 bases have been stolen with 90 different players having recorded at least one swipe. Gleyber Torres and Myles Straw lead the league with five stolen bases each, while the Baltimore Orioles have stolen a league-high 11 bags as a team (Cedric Mullins and Jorge Mateo have four each).
Along with the increase in stolen bases, managers have seen a lot of bullpen volatility as well. Entering Saturday’s slate of games, 40 different relievers had notched at least one save. The Cleveland Guardians and Arizona Diamondbacks have each had an MLB-high three different pitchers record a save, while the Toronto Blue Jays‘ Jordan Romano and Pittsburgh Pirates closer David Bednar lead the league with three each.
The moral of the story is: Be careful when chasing steals or saves. They’re relatively easy to register across a number of different players. Keep that in mind when making FAAB bids this week.
A total of 12 squads have a full slate of seven games from April 10 through April 16, including the St. Louis Cardinals who travel to Coors Field for a three-game series, and the Philadelphia Phillies who play four in Cincinnati over the weekend.
SEVEN GAMES: BAL, BOS, CIN, MIL, MIN, NYY, OAK, PHI, PIT, SD, STL, TB
Investment Rating System
Trevor Larnach ($$$): On Wednesday, Minnesota faced left-handed starting pitcher Jesus Luzardo. The most notable thing from that box score was obviously Luzardo’s stat line, but what some might have missed was that the Twins brought all their right-handed platoon bats off the bench and into the lineup… and they didn’t take out Larnach, batting him eighth in the order. Especially now after the injury to Max Kepler, Larnach is a main bat in the Minnesota lineup and a productive one at that. A popular pickup a week ago, Larnach is still widely available in 12-team leagues.
Brian Anderson ($$$): Brian Anderson has been outstanding so far this season, hitting .500 (9-for-18) with three home runs, 10 RBI, and seven runs entering the Brewers’ weekend series with the Cardinals. With an xAVG of .401 and an xwOBA of .547, Anderson is clearly due for some regression, but his success has been legit. He’s reduced his K% significantly from the last three seasons while his BB% has nearly doubled to a career-high. Obviously, the sample size is small, but whatever adjustments he’s made, paired with his park shift from Miami to Milwaukee, make his improvements at the plate seem at least slightly sustainable.
Alec Burleson ($$): Burleson was featured in Monday morning’s Batter’s Box recap after his massive Sunday performance, but he’s been relatively quiet since with just one hit in each of his appearances this week. Still, the rookie outfielder is batting second in the Cardinals’ lineup when they face right-handed pitching. He’s worth a pickup for his opportunity at runs and RBI alone.
Jason Heyward ($$): Wow. That’s a lot of red.
Heyward has shown some promising signs early in the season but has been a part-time player so far this season. With injuries to Miguel Rojas and Miguel Vargas opening up some playing time, Heyward could feature in the Dodgers’ outfield more often this coming week. If he keeps making hard contact at a league-leading rate, he could be a sneaky cheap pickup.
Myles Straw ($$): In 2022, it took Myles Straw 22 games to reach five stolen bases. In 2023, it took Myles Straw seven games to reach five stolen bases. Straw has hit well in his first week of the year but has also taken off running far more often (thank you, new rules). He’s a stolen base asset and can contribute with runs scored, and as long as he’s hitting he won’t destroy the batting average. Grab him while he’s hot, but don’t expect him to sustain a .364 batting average with his .201 xAVG and .313 xwOBA.
Matt Vierling ($$): Back from an injury that sidelined him for most of Spring Training, Vierling is another outfielder with an opportunity to become a household name. There’s not much competition in Detroit for playing time, unless Akil Baddoo catches lightning in a bottle again, which nearly guarantees Vierling as the everyday right-fielder. Leading off for the Tigers against lefties, Vierling has flashed both power and speed with a good chance to reach double-digits in both categories. He would make a solid pickup that could stick in deeper leagues.
Josh Lowe ($$): It’s Deja Vu all over again. This time last year, Josh Lowe was a waiver wire darling. He still plays for Tampa Bay, meaning he’ll be battling for playing time in the Rays’ ever-rotating lineup. He still carries a scary floor, with a 33.3% strikeout rate in the majors last season (and a 32.8% K-rate in the minors). BUT Lowe still has the potential to reach 20 stolen bases and 20 home runs this season. Lowe’s boom-or-bust potential is best suited for contests with large-scale overall prizes rather than a run-of-the-mill rotisserie league. Unless he can stabilize his volatility and reduce the swing-and-miss in his game, he will be a high-risk, high-reward addition.
Alex Call ($): Featured in this article a week ago, Call has moved up in the Nationals’ order, batting second or higher in each of the Nationals’ last four games heading into Sunday. Despite below-average contact numbers so far, Call has an excellent plate approach, lending itself to a .400 OBP despite a .214 batting average entering the weekend. If Call can continue to develop, he’ll have all the opportunity he can handle with the lowly Nats.
Adam Frazier, 2B ($$$): Frazier is off to a hot start with the Orioles. Batting .350 with a home run, a stolen base, six runs, and four RBI, Frazier is contributing in all standard categories, while his .435 OBP makes him almost a must-add in those leagues. He’s the everyday second baseman in Baltimore, which has proven to be a solid offense from top to bottom. He’s boring… but he’s an excellent middle infield option, as long as he keeps hitting at a solid clip.
Patrick Wisdom, 3B ($$): When Patrick Wisdom doesn’t strike out, good things happen. So far this season, Patrick Wisdom is not striking out. Wisdom carries a 36.7% career strikeout rate but has been rung up just three times in 18 plate appearances so far in 2023. If Wisdom can continue to make contact, he could be a cheap power asset at a shallow position, but as soon as he starts whiffing managers should cut bait and run.
Jason Vosler, 3B ($$): The left-handed Vosler has filled in as the strong-side platoon at first base for the Reds. In just four starts, Vosler has three home runs and seven RBI. With the Reds scheduled to face right-handed starters in six of their seven games this week, Vosler will receive the majority of at-bats at first base.
Chris Taylor, SS ($$): Chris Taylor has been the beneficiary of his teammates’ injuries, jumping into the Dodgers lineup in a full-time role. With two home runs and five RBI in six games, Taylor is a fine fill-in at middle infield.
Geraldo Perdomo, SS ($): The strong side of a platoon opposite Nick Ahmed in Arizona, Perdomo has worked his way to .667 OBP so far this year. With a ridiculous 30.8% walk rate, Perdomo is seeing a lot of pitches but not doing much with his bat. He should regress significantly in the coming weeks, but until then fire him up, especially in OBP leagues.
Addison Barger, SS ($): A potentially exciting prospect stash, Barger has been climbing the prospect ranks after a stellar 2022 season. Check out Matt Heckman’s article on the Blue Jays’ farm system to learn more about Barger. With the Blue Jays’ win-now window seemingly wide open, the team could be aggressive with their top-hitting prospect. With Whit Merrifield playing mostly outfield and neither Santiago Espinal nor Cavan Biggio popping off, Toronto could make a move at second base. Currently a shortstop at AAA Buffalo, Barger could be moved to second base for the major league club. Keep an eye out for his name.
Francisco Álvarez, UT ($$): Alvarez was called up this weekend, but still has yet to be featured in a game by the Mets. Alvarez was touted as a hitter to target after pick 300 in drafts prior to the season, but he remains an unknown commodity despite his minor league track record.
Matt Carpenter, UT ($$): Hitting in the middle of the dangerous Padres’ lineup, Matt Carpenter has all the opportunity in the world to make as much noise this season as he did with the Yankees a year ago. Despite a negative home park shift, Carpenter still holds appeal for power and RBI numbers as a strong-side platoon DH in San Diego. So far, he’s shown a great plate approach, registering a 19.0% walk rate and .441 xwOBA. Stay patient with Carpenter. As the weather warms up, so will his bat.
Mitch Garver, C ($): Garver had an outstanding series against the Phillies to open the year, but came back to Earth over the Rangers’ next few games. He’s still a streaming option in two-catcher leagues but temper your expectations.
Grayson Rodriguez ($$$$): There’s no way that the manager who drafted Grayson Rodriguez dropped him after he was optioned to AAA to begin the season, right? Check your waiver wire, just to be completely sure he’s not there.
Matthew Liberatore ($$$): The St. Louis Cardinals are in dire need of starting pitching. After one round through the rotation, three Cardinals starters have a WHIP of at least 2.00 and an ERA of 6.00 or greater. Miles Mikolas has been knocked around in each of his first two starts, Steven Matz looks uninspiring against Atlanta and Jake Woodford gave up three home runs in less than five innings. With Adam Wainwright still on the mend, the Cardinals need to look at calling up Liberatore. The crown jewel of the Randy Arozarena trade, Liberatore has shined in AAA for the Memphis Redbirds, tossing 14 strikeouts in 10.0 IP while allowing just a 1.10 WHIP. His fastball has sat around 95-96 mph in his last start, up from an average of 93.3 mph in his MLB cameo last year. The Cardinals close the week with a three-game series at home against the Pirates, a perfect time to elevate their top pitching prospect for his 2023 major league debut. NOTE: In some formats, like NFBC, Liberatore will not be available as a FAAB acquisition unless he was drafted and subsequently cut by a fantasy manager. Liberatore will only be available in those leagues after he is called up and has made his debut.
MacKenzie Gore ($$$): MacKenzie Gore is becoming a massive post-hype sleeper this season, dealing in both of his starts to open the year. Gore tossed 5.1 innings of one-run ball against Atlanta and then allowed just two runs in six innings at Coors Field, shutting down the Rockies. Though his 5.22 PLV ranks just 98th, Gore has pitched his way to a 2-0 record with a 31.4% CSW and 2.96 xERA. So far, Gore has increased his curveball usage from 18% to 23%, flummoxing hitters with a .071 batting average against while eliminating his changeup which opponents crushed a season ago.
Anthony Desclafani ($$): The return of Tony Disco! DeSclafani pencils in for a start against the Tigers after a superb outing against the White Sox to begin the year. His 16.4% swinging strike rate and 62.5% ground ball rate combined to allow just four baserunners in six innings as the Giants rolled. Keep eyes on him on Sunday afternoon as he faces the Royals. If he shoves again, his price may go up.
Kyle Gibson ($$): Remember last year when Jordan Lyles rose from his fantasy grave to be a viable option in Baltimore? That’s going to be Kyle Gibson this season. With a career-best 5.71 PLV through two starts, Gibson could absolutely sustain his success, especially in the new dimensions of Camden Yards (Walltimore, if you will). A two-start week at home against Oakland and at the White Sox next weekend makes him an even more appealing streaming option.
Matt Brash ($$$): Matt Brash’s slider is the GIF that keeps on GIFing. Yes, I know the GIF below is from last year but not much has changed since. Brash still throws his slider at a roughly 45% clip, has a 20.0% swinging strike rate with the pitch, and has not allowed a single hit off of it yet this season. Out of 35 sliders that Brash has thrown this season, only ONE has been put into play. Brash has shown control issues in the past, but with his role as a fireman in the Mariners’ bullpen, he should generate strikeouts, help with ratios, and potentially vulture a win. He’s as good a reliever to roster as any non-closer, especially in holds+saves leagues.
Adbert Alzolay ($$$): Somebody show this to David Ross, please.
Alzolay ranks 11th in the MLB with a 6.01 PLV while hurling 4.2 innings of relief with a 47.1% K-rate and a 0.43 WHIP. This man needs to be the Cubs’ closer, ASAP. Even in a middle relief, setup, or fireman role, Alzolay could absolutely boost your ratios and be a valuable fantasy asset even without saves.
Trevor May ($$): The Oakland Athletics have earned just two wins so far this season. Trevor May has both of them. May has shown every indication of being the primary closer in Oakland, despite not receiving many chances to close things out. He’s still available in a significant amount of leagues and if Oakland ever ends up winning another close game, he’ll likely be working the ninth.
Jakob Junis ($): So far this season, Junis has made two appearances in relief and vultured wins in each outing. The Giants seem to have placed a pitch limit on Alex Wood, pulling him after three innings and just 75 pitches and piggybacking Junis for the victory. He could serve as the team’s sixth starter and/or long reliever and continue to snag chances at wins in his outings moving forward. He’s worth a speculative add as the Giants face Colorado, Pittsburgh, and Miami in each of their next three series.
Featured image by Justin Paradis (@JustParaDesigns on Twitter)