Welcome back to Deep League Risers and Fallers, Volume VI, where each week we aim to identify some targets in deeper leagues that have caught our attention, for good or not-so-good reasons, with the hope of providing some guidance on improving your team.
Hopefully, you heeded the wisdom of my partner-in-crime Sam Lutz last week and added Christopher Morel who has homered FOUR times in his seven games played entering Tuesday. He’s now rostered in 74% of Yahoo! leagues and was a home-run (insert pun apology) recommendation by Sam. We aim to please here at Deep League Risers and Fallers. And while Logan Allen stumbled in a matchup against the Angels, Sam offered another shrewd pickup with RP Yennier Cano who has still allowed nary a run this season with a microscopic 0.20 WHIP—zero point two zero!—to go along with 10 saves+holds.
Note: There are many different league shapes and sizes. We’ll primarily be discussing players that were roughly ranked outside the Top 200 during draft season in March and/or are currently rostered in less than 50% of Yahoo! leagues at the time (at least for the players we are bullish on.)
Some of my previous recommendations:
OF Jarren Duran BOS (56% rostered) – Grady Sizemore 2.0 has started 10 straight games for Boston and added two more steals last week. Duran has cooled down predictably but still boasts a stellar .344/.402/.556 slash line entering Tuesday. Duran then homered and stole a base on Tuesday night.
SP Tanner Bibee CLE (43% rostered) – The 24-year-old right-hander had his best start of the season on Sunday (7.2 IP, 1 ER, 7 K). Add him wherever you can. He has not appeared overmatched at all since joining Cleveland’s rotation, and the Guardians have a history of getting the most out of their pitchers.
OF Esteury Ruiz OAK (74% rostered) – Ruiz leads the majors in stolen bases (20) and connected for his first homer over the weekend.
SP Mitch Keller PIT (85% rostered) – I hope you added him in April. Keller is currently ranked as a top-five pitcher and is coming off a week in which he threw a complete game shutout and THEN followed that up with seven shutout innings and 13 Ks! Early contender for league-winner status.
OF Harrison Bader NYY (63% rostered) – The 28-year-old outfielder finally returned to the Yankees lineup at the beginning of the month and has been red hot at the plate, homering three times to go with a .333 AVG and 1.021 OPS entering Tuesday.
Alex Kirilloff, 1B, Minnesota Twins
The 25-year-old Kirilloff was a highly-regarded prospect in the Twins system in recent years but has not had his breakout season yet, primarily due to lingering wrist issues that have derailed him over the past couple of years. Well, perhaps now is the time. The left-hander raked in Triple-A (.300 AVG, 1.006 OPS, 4 HR in 14 games) before getting called up to Minnesota last week and enters Tuesday with a sublime .345 AVG and 1.078 OPS after homering twice on Saturday. Kirilloff may sit occasionally against left-handed pitching (a rampant trend throughout baseball) but has hit either second or fourth in the batting order since being recalled, which should be a nice boost to his counting stats. He is this week’s priority add in virtually all leagues.
Alex Kiriloff has hit his first two homers of the season today! pic.twitter.com/isVaRf1aGg
— Talkin’ Baseball (@TalkinBaseball_) May 13, 2023
Yoán Moncada, 3B, Chicago White Sox
The 27-year-old former top prospect got off to a hot start this season before landing on the IL with a lower back injury. Moncada returned over the weekend—picking up three hits in a game on Saturday—and has been batting cleanup for Chicago which boosts his RBI potential. The days of dreaming for Moncada to finally reach his sky-high fantasy potential are likely in the rearview mirror by now, but the switch-hitter still has the skills to be a viable fantasy contributor (.300 AVG, .867 OPS currently). Moncada added a pair of hits, two runs scored, and an RBI on Tuesday night against Cleveland.
Matt McLain, SS, Cincinnati Red
This week’s most notable prospect call-up comes from Cincinnati, where Matt McLain was summoned to The Show and promptly picked up a hit and a pair of runs in his MLB debut on Monday night. While not considered an elite-level prospect, McLain was certainly a Top 100 prospect and was crushing the ball in Triple-A this season (.348 AVG, 1.184 OPS, 12 HR, 10 SB in 38 games) after some struggles in 2022, forcing the Reds to make the move. McLain has drawn some Alex Bregman–esque comparisons and offers a nice blend of power and speed. The 23-year-old warrants consideration in the vast majority of fantasy leagues.
Josh Naylor, 1B/OF, Cleveland Guardians
The 25-year-old first baseman homered in three consecutive games over the weekend and has been regularly hitting cleanup for the Guardians over the past week, as offseason acquisition Josh Bell has continued to struggle. Batting behind José Ramírez has its perks. Naylor had a sneaky 20 homers and 79 RBI last season in just 122 games played and could be a viable source of power contributions moving forward. The added multi-positional eligibility helps his case as well.
James Paxton, SP, Boston Red Sox
I don’t feel great about this one, but any time a pitcher with Paxton’s track record makes a season debut and strikes out nine batters, he’s going to get some attention. Big Maple is not a good bet to stay healthy at 34 years of age but clearly has some gas left in the tank after an impressive season debut. The southpaw pitched a COMBINED 21.2 innings from 2020-2022 so proceed with caution. But if you need a cheap source of strikeouts and maybe a few wins, Paxton could be your guy. A tough matchup at San Diego awaits later this week.
In his first outing since April 6, 2021, @James_Paxton brought the 🔥. pic.twitter.com/EEbAddAd8N
— MLB (@MLB) May 13, 2023
Michael Wacha, SP, San Diego Padres
The 31-year-old Wacha over his past three turns through the rotation:
5/2 – 6 IP, 0 ER, 3 K
5/9 – 6 IP, 1 ER, 4 K
5/15 – 7 IP, 0 ER, 11 K
Count them—that’s three straight quality starts for the resurgent right-hander, who now holds a 4.06 ERA and 1.17 WHIP on the season. Wacha has another start coming this weekend against a tough Red Sox lineup, followed by the Yankees next week, so he isn’t a priority add but should be on your radar nonetheless given his recent stretch of success.
José Abreu, 1B, Houston Astros
At what point do we sound the alarm on Abreu? It’s been…..awful. I want to recommend patience with a slugger with his track record, especially given how impressive his underlying advanced metrics were last season. But the Astros’ big off-season acquisition is sporting career lows across the board and enters Tuesday with a .542 OPS. Five forty two! Only Tony Kemp and Jean Segura have been worse. Abreu is 36 years old, so it’s fair to wonder if Father Time is coming for him.
Alejandro Kirk, C, Toronto Blue Jays
I predicted in my season preview article that the 24-year-old Kirk might prove to be a draft-day bust this season. The acquisition of Brandon Belt and the presence of Danny Jansen have caused Kirk to be a part-time player this season, and his performance has suffered in addition to the drop in playing time. Kirk is hitting just .217 with a pair of homers and is on the bench again on Tuesday, making it the third time in four games that he has not started. While his strikeout rate (13.3%) and walk rate (15.9%) both remain terrific, his quality of contact (85.6 mph avg. exit velocity) has taken a big step back this season. Kirk will likely be landing on a lot of waiver wires this week.
Grayson Rodriguez, SP, Baltimore Orioles
Rookie pitching prospects are usually a roller-coaster ride in fantasy leagues, and Rodriguez has been more down than up this season. The 23-year-old top prospect was shelled for eight runs on Monday, ballooning his season ERA to 6.57 with an unsightly 1.73 WHIP. Batters are hitting .309 against him this season. Not to mention, he has yet to complete six innings in a start and has served up seven homers over his past three outings. Rodriguez obviously remains a hold in dynasty/keeper formats, but the chances of him being a meaningful contributor in redraft leagues in 2023 are looking slimmer by the week.