Monday, May 20, 2024
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Fantasy Baseball Waiver Wire: Nate Lowe, Vaughn Grissom could be must-add coming off the IL

It’s been a tough start to the Fantasy Baseball season when it comes to injuries, though this weekend was actually one of the best in a while in that regard, because we didn’t have several superstar pitchers go down with season-ending injuries. Small victories, folks.

But, of course, there were still plenty of injuries this weekend, so before we move on to a breakdown of the top waiver-wire targets for every position heading into Week 5 of the Fantasy season, here’s a quick rundown of the injuries from the past few days you need to know about:

Alright, now let’s go position-by-position for the top option available in more than 30% of CBS Fantasy leagues: 

Catchers

Ivan Herrera, Cardinals (22%) – Herrera is the No. 2 catcher on his own team, so I suppose I understand the hesitance to buy in fully here. But the Cardinals need their best bats in the lineup as often as possible, and Herrera and Willson Contreras might just be two of their five best hitters at this point. In any two-catcher league, Herrera is going to matter the rest of the way, and I wonder if the addition of catcher Pedro Pages to the roster Sunday wasn’t a sign that they might roll with both Herrera and Contreras in the lineup everyday moving forward.  

Deep-league target: Patrick Bailey, Giants (15%) – Bailey didn’t show much upside as a hitter in 2023, and playing in the Giants home park for half his games didn’t help his outlook. But he suddenly looks pretty interesting to open this season, with drastically improved quality of contact metrics. He’s sporting a 93 mph average exit velocity and 48.7% hard-hit rate, and this version of him looks like he might actually matter for Fantasy.

First Base

Nate Lowe, Rangers (55%) – This one is simple: Lowe was going to be drafted in pretty much every league before his oblique injury in the spring that cost him much of the first month of the season. He’s back now, and even in a pretty rough 2023 season, he had 171 runs and RBI. This is your only real chance to get a dirt-cheap piece of the Rangers lineup, so go get him. 

Deep-league target: Miguel Sano, Angels (4%) – Uh … Sano actually looks pretty good right now. He’s still striking out a ton, but he’s also turned the clock back with his 96.1 mph average exit velocity and 61.3% hard-hit late, leading to a very good .492 expected wOBA on contact. Should you expect him to keep hitting .300? I think it goes without saying that you should not. But a cheap 20-plus homers could be here.

Second base

Jonathan India, Reds (60%) – India has been pretty awful so far this season, hitting .173/.326/.232 through the first 19 games. His quality of contact hasn’t been great, as you might surmise, but it hasn’t been that bad – his .369 expected wOBA on contact is very similar to what he managed in 2023. He’s still getting on base and should be a must-start Fantasy option when he finally heats up. 

Deep-league target: Michael Massey, Royals (5%) – Massey isn’t a star, but he hit 15 homers and stole six bases last season and could be a useful Fantasy option in this much-improved Royals lineup.

Third base

Junior Caminero, Rays (67%) – If you need immediate help at third base, you’re out of luck. But if you need what we hope is near-term help? Well, Caminero has an OPS near .900 at Triple-A and remains the top prospect to stash in the minors. He’s going to be up at some point soon and very well could be an immediate difference maker whenever that point is. 

Deep-league target: Graham Pauley, Padres (5%) – Pauley barely played the first time he was called up to the Padres, but when he went down to Triple-A and hit .290/.436/.677 with three strikeouts to seven walks in nine games, he seemingly forced the Padres to call him back up. The Padres are getting a .209/.254/.313 line from their third basemen so far and Manny Machado may not be ready to play there for a while, so let’s see if Pauley gets a second chance. A real chance this time.

Shortstop

Vaughn Grissom, Red Sox (37%) – Grissom has begun his minor-league rehab assignment and figures to make his return to the Red Sox lineup at some point this week. It’s not entirely clear which middle infield position he’s likely to play, but I do expect him to play more or less everyday, and he could be a real batting average standout playing half his games in Fenway Park. There’s upside here for sure. 

Deep-league target: Gabriel Arias, Guardians (8%) – Arias is a former top-100 prospect whose development kind of stalled out at Triple-A, and he’s hitting just .217 in 150 career MLB games, so I definitely get his low roster rate. But he is eligible at three middle-infield positions, has some pop and speed, and has started six of the past seven games for the Guardians. Do I expect him to keep hitting around .290? Nope, but a player with his eligibility and skill set can be a useful player to have around in any category-based formats.

Outfield

Andy Pages, Dodgers (34%) — Pages hit his first career homer Sunday, but that’s not why I think he’s the top outfield target on waivers right now. It’s because he’s started five straight since being called up by the Dodgers, including twice against lefties. I assumed he would be a platoon player, but if he’s going to play everyday as a top prospect, I think he needs to be rostered in all formats just in case he builds on Sunday and emerges as a must-start player in a great lineup. 

Daulton Varsho, Blue Jays (57%) – Varsho started to garner a bit of post-hype sleeper appeal with a big spring, and now he’s got five homers and two steals through the first 21 games of the season. He still probably strikes out too much for someone who doesn’t make a ton of hard contact, and that limits his appeal in H2H points leagues. But he should probably be rostered in any and all category-based formats at this point. 

Bryan De La Cruz, Marlins (45%) – De La Cruz has pretty much been the sole bright spot for the Marlins on the position player side, as he is hitting .277 with five homers and 24 combined runs and RBI in 24 games. He flashed some upside in the second half of 2022, but lost whatever hype might have existed around him with a pretty underwhelming 2023, but he’s back to hitting line drives all over the field right now and is hitting in the top-third of Miami’s lineup. He’s a solid starting option right now. 

Brandon Marsh, Phillies (50%) – I’m not much of a believer in Marsh as a Fantasy option, since he’s a platoon bat with limited power and speed. Or at least, that’s what he has been in the past; in the early going so far, his quality of contact has taken a big step forward and it has him looking like a legit power threat. I don’t expect him to suddenly be a 25-homer guy, but Marsh’s average exit velocity and hard-hit rates are both are career-high levels, and he’s a decent hot-hand play, especially since he has consistently outperformed his quality-of-contact metrics in the past.

Deep-league targets: Alexander Canario, Cubs (4%); Jonatan Clase, Mariners (20%); Wilyer Abreu, Red Sox (13%) – There’s a lot of swing-and-miss in Canario’s game, but there’s plenty of power here as well; he has 40 career homers in 150 games between Double-A and Triple-A, with 22 steals to go with them. He’s on the Cubs roster right now and playing due to Seiya Suzuki‘s injury, and he’s an interesting bet as a low-risk upside gamble.

Starting pitcher

Edward Cabrera, Marlins (69%) – Cabrera’s second start back Sunday against the Cubs wasn’t quite as dominant as his first, but he went with his “everything-but-fastballs-first” approach and has seven strikeouts in 5 innings, giving him 17 through his first two starts. Cabrera’s upside has always been sky high, and so far, he’s keeping the walks to manageable levels. If he keeps doing that, he has top-50 upside at SP. 

Ryan Weathers, Marlins (31%) – We haven’t seen how Weathers will follow up his 10-strikeout showing the last time out, but coming off the upside he showed in that outing, you’ve gotta view him as one of the top targets this week. He’s gonna be tough to trust this week with a matchup against the Braves among his two starts, but the one against the Nationals over the weekend could help make up for that. I’d probably prefer to avoid starting Weathers in weekly leagues, but if he racks up a bunch of strikeouts against the Braves, we might have to start taking him seriously as a starting Fantasy option. 

Albert Suarez, Orioles (2%) – As with Weathers we haven’t seen what the second start looked like, but Suarez was pretty impressive in his first outing of the season against the Twins, tossing 5.2 scoreless with three hits and no walks while striking out four. I think the two guys ahead of him have higher ceilings than Suarez, but pitching in a great home park, with an elite offense backing him up probably gives him a higher floor if he can just be passable. Based on a strong spring and that first start, there are reasons to believe he can.

Yariel Rodriguez, Blue Jays (41%) – I’m not sure how immediately useful Rodriguez is going to be, especially in H2H points leagues, where volume matters so much more. But it’s hard not to be impressed by his performance so far, allowing just two runs while striking out 13 in 7.2 innings over his first two starts. The Blue Jays might continue to handle him with kid’s gloves after he didn’t pitch last season, but Rodriguez’s slider and splitter both look like they could be very good swing-and-miss pitches (42% whiff rate with both so far on small samples), and his fastball passes the eye test, too. If you don’t need help right now and just want to speculate on upside, Rodriguez is a fine target. 

Jameson Taillon, Cubs (23%) – Taillon got a nice soft landing spot with the Marlins in his first start back from the IL, and he did what he was supposed to, limiting them to one run over 5 innings of work. Taillon is nobody’s idea of an ace, but he’s got the Astros and Mets on the way over the next two starts, and neither has looked like a matchup worth avoiding so far. 

Deep-league targets: Mitchell Parker, Nationals (5%); Randy Vasquez, Padres (4%); Cade Povich, Orioles (8%) – Parker is the best of this group to add if you need immediate help, as he lowered his ERA through two starts to 1.50 with seven shutout innings against the Astros Sunday. He got 12 whiffs on 73 pitches in that one, and might be a useful Fantasy option if he can keep the walks down (11.4 K/9, 4.3 BB/9 in the minors). If you’re looking for upside on your bench, Povich has been dominant in Triple-A, with two earned runs and 33 strikeouts in 21.2 innings so far this season and figures to get an opportunity at some point with the Orioles.

Relief pitcher

Kirby Yates, Rangers (56%) – Yates might just be the closer for the defending World Series champions moving forward, which means he probably needs to be rostered in all formats right now. Maybe he’ll falter, or maybe Jose Leclerc will get the job back somehow, but Yates looks pretty awesome right now, and was excellent in the Braves bullpen last season, so he might just hang on to the job for good. 

Deep-league target: Hector Neris, Cubs (19%) – The Cubs have hinted that Adbert Alzolay has been removed from the closer’s role for the time being, and Neris is probably the guy to speculate on here – though Mark Leiter has been pretty impressive in his own right and could factor in, as well. I’ll defer to Neris after he got a save against the Marlins Saturday, especially given his closer experience.

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