Tuesday, June 25, 2024
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Fantasy Baseball Waiver Wire: Break the bank for Hurston Waldrep, Drew Thorpe, Adael Amador?

This has not been the best season for the most-hyped rookies in Fantasy Baseball. Oh, sure, there have been some success stories: Joseph Ortiz and Colton Cowser have been pretty awesome, and Shota Imanaga and Luis Gil have been two of the best pitchers in the entire league – and Paul Skenes and Jared Jones aren’t far behind – so it’s not like the rookies have been a total flop.

But you try telling people who spent top-100 picks on Evan Carter, Wyatt Langford and Jackson Chourio that things haven’t been so bad for the rookies. Ditto for everyone who dropped massive FAB bids on Joey Loperfido, Victor Scott, or, most famously, Jackson Holliday. While there have been some notable exceptions, on the whole, the most-hyped rookies this season have been mediocre at best. 

But we’re not going to just ignore rookies because of that. Because, while an established player will, occasionally, unexpectedly, level-up and become a much more valuable Fantasy option than expected in the middle of the season, rookie call-ups are always going to be among the best bets to go from Fantasy afterthoughts to potential difference makers. And this week, we’ve got more than a few prospects getting called up who you need to know about. 

So, before we get to the full breakdown of the top targets on the waiver-wire for this week, let’s take a look at three top prospects who made their MLB debuts this weekend and one more who will make his debut later this week. I don’t think any of these players should draw gigantic FAB bids, because the likeliest outcome for all of them is probably a flameout – especially since the three most interesting are making the leap from Double-A, increasing their risk factor. 

But all four should be added in plenty of leagues this week. Here’s how I rank them and what I’m expecting: 

Hurston Waldrep, SP, Braves 

Well, that debut wasn’t what we hoped for, surely. Waldrep gave up seven runs on four hits over 3.2 innings against the Nationals, with the biggest red flag being the four walks he issued. If you read the scouting reports on Waldrep, the iffy command is what  always jumped out; Waldrep has a violent delivery that has consistently led to walk problems. Of course, it’s easy to see what the upside here is, as Waldrep averaged 95.7 mph with his four-seamer Sunday with good movement, though his splitter was, as expected, the star – he generated six of his eight whiffs on just 14 swings against the splitter. And he was tough to hit, generating just one hard-hit ball on 13 balls in play. With Waldrep struggling in this one, you might think I’d rank him lower than this, and if he ends up getting sent down because of this start, there won’t be much reason to add him, obviously. But if the Braves are going to give him a second chance, I think he’s worth adding on upside alone – if you’re looking for someone who could go all Jared Jones on hitters, Waldrep has that kind of upside. I’ll put in some low FAB offers and hope this start scared people off. 

Adael Amador, SS, Rockies

Amador pretty much wasn’t on Fantasy radars at all at this point, making him one of the most surprising promotions of the season. He is the Rockies’ top prospect, and probably a top-50 guy across the minors right now, but he’s hitting just .194/.337/.329 through his first 46 games down at Double-A this season. His plate discipline has been pretty good (15.8% walk rate, 18.7% strikeout rate), and Amador’s 22 stolen bases (on 25 attempts) could make him an especially valuable option for Fantasy … if he can just hit. To that end, he’s gotten hot lately, hitting six of his seven homers in the past nine games, so maybe the Rockies have had him make some adjustments, or have just seen the changes they needed to see to believe he is ready. This is, pretty clearly, a high-risk profile, with a player who is exceedingly unproven against high-level competition. But if Amador is ready, he could be an impact source of speed who gets a lift from the Rockies home field. We’ve been bitten by a lot of rookies this season – and the track record for Rockies prospects over the past half-decade or so is pretty terrible – but Amador’s upside is worth chasing, even if I wouldn’t necessarily be looking to drop a triple-digit FAB bid on him, or anything. 

Drew Thorpe, SP, Padres 

Thorpe was one of the key pieces in the trade that sent Dylan Cease to San Diego, and he has continued to dominate the minors following his breakout 2023 campaign. Thorpe has a 1.35 ERA through 11 starts at Double-A, and combined with his cup of coffee at that level a year ago, has a 1.39 ERA with 100 strikeouts and 22 walks in 90.1 innings of work. Thorpe doesn’t come to the table with a dominant fastball like most hyped pitching prospects these days, typically sitting in the lower 90s and peaking around 95; if it’s an average pitch in today’s MLB landscape, it’s more because of how devastating Thorpe’s changeup is and the way the pitches play off each other. That changeup is the primary draw here, with his slider looking more like an above-average pitch – though the whole profile tends to play up thanks to his command. The whole profile sounds a lot like Gavin Stone, another righty with a mediocre fastball and elite changeup, and after some growing pains last season, Stone is pitching well so far for the Dodgers, albeit with a low enough strikeout rate that he’s more of a low-end starting option for Fantasy. I think that’s more or less what I expect from Thorpe in the majors, and with the dreadful White Sox backing him up, it’s unlikely he’s going to be a difference maker as a rookie. However, if that changeup plays up and lets him tap into more strikeout upside than Stone has shown … well, Garrett Crochet has managed to be a must-start Fantasy player on the White Sox, hasn’t he? Thorpe makes his debut Tuesday against the very beatable Mariners, making him a potential add-and-stream option. 

Tyler Locklear, 1B, Mariners

Locklear’s an interesting prospect. He’s pretty much a 1B-only prospect despite decent athleticism that has allowed him to swipe 16 bases in 167 games in his minor-league career; despite being a 1B-only prospect, Locklear doesn’t necessarily have ideal power, hitting 13 homers in 85 games last season and nine in 51 games this season – solid power, but hardly elite, especially for someone with a 25.4% strikeout rate. And, though he does have the most experience of any of this group at the highest level of the minors, that still comes out to just 10 games at Triple-A. It’s a tough profile to figure out how to value, but in an ideal world, he could be a poor-man’s Christian Walker. The Mariners desperately need an offensive boost, but his home park will work against him — though with Ty France dealing with a fractured heel, there could be some runway here for Locklear to prove himself. He’s more of a fringe prospect than the other guys listed above, and I’m viewing him as more of a low double-digit dollar bid in 15-team leagues. 

Here’s who else we’re looking to add at every position this week: 

Catchers

Tyler Stephenson, Reds (49%) – Stephenson continues to have a playing time edge on most catchers, and he’s been hot lately, hitting .323/.364/.484 since the start of June. He’s a rock-solid starting catcher, even in a one-catcher league.

Deep-league target: Mitch Garver, Mariners (32%) – It’s been a disaster for Garver in Seattle this season, but he’s starting to show signs of life, homering twice in the past three games entering Dunay and hitting 6 for 21 since the start of June with four walks to four strikeouts in 25 PA. There’s still significant power upside here.

First Base

Nate Lowe, Rangers (61%) – The power hasn’t been there for Lowe, and he’s now starting to sit against some lefties, which is a red flag. But there aren’t many widely available first baseman with his kind of all-around upside, so I still like betting on Lowe. 

Deep-league target: Andrew Vaughn, White Sox (27%) – Maybe there’s still some upside left here. Vaughn is 8 for 20 with a couple of homers since the start of June and still hits the ball hard (77th percentile average exit velocity), so maybe this is just him starting to figure his swing out.

Second base

Nick Gonzalez, Pirates (64%) – I wasn’t super excited about Gonzales when he got the call, but he’s done nothing but hit, and even when he’s been a little colder in June, it’s come with more RBI (seven) than strikeouts (six) in eight games. There might even be some steal upside if he decides to start running (90th percentile sprint speed).

Deep-league target: Adael Amador, Rockies (16%) – Amador isn’t second base eligible yet, but he will be sometime this week, presumably. He’s not a must-add player in 12-team leagues, but I’m taking a flier in deeper formats.

Third base

Joseph Ortiz, Brewers (65%) – Ortiz doesn’t have a ton of power, but that’s the only limitation in his game right now – he’s in the 80th percentile or better in chase rate, whiff rate, strikeout rate, and walk rate, leading to a .272 expected batting average and .37 on-base percentage. I’m not sure how high the ceiling is unless he taps into more over-the-fence power or starts running more (three steals on six attempts, but 80th percentile sprint speed), but Ortiz looks like a solid starter in all formats. 

Deep-league target: Wilmer Flores, Giants (12%) – There are always stretches where Flores looks like a useful Fantasy option, and he’s in one right now, hitting three homers and driving in seven runs in seven June games.

Shortstop

JP Crawford, Mariners (65%) – Crawford was a 2023 breakout who slumped badly to open the season, leading many to assume last season was just a fluke. But since his return from the IL in late May, Crawford is hitting at a 25-homer pace, with close to a 100-run pace. He’s a solid starter in H2H points leagues, and a decent MI option in Roto now that he’s starting to get hot. 

Deep-league target: Paul DeJong, White Sox (10%) – Don’t laugh. DeJong is already up to 11 homers, after hitting just 14 in 112 games last season. He’s in a great park to hit in and actually looks solid right now – he’s in the 76th percentile in hard-hit rate and 81st percentile in barrel rate. The batting average will hurt, but as a cheap source of power, he has some value.

Outfield

Jasson Dominguez, Yankees (61%) – It’s not clear if the Yankees are on the verge of calling Dominguez up, but it feels like it has to be imminent at some point. Since getting up to Triple-A on his rehab assignment, Dominguez has homered twice in five games while going 10 for 19 with three strikeouts. If you’re looking for pure upside, Dominguez is the obvious top option to stash at OF. 

Helio Ramos, Giants (54%) – Ramos is on some kind of heater right now, with four homers and 16 combined runs and RBI in eight June games. He’s a former top prospect who might be figuring things out at the MLB level, and though the Giants can be tough to trust for playing time, it’s impossible to take his bat out of the lineup these days. 

Joey Loperfido, Astros (21%) – Loperfido struck out way too much in his first taste of the majors and didn’t hit for much power, but I’m still interested in the skill set now that he’s back. If nothing else, adding him now will cost a whole lot less than it did the first time he got called up. 

Deep-league targets: Jack Suwisnki, Pirates (13%) – Suwinski got off to such a bad start that the Pirates ultimately sent him back to Triple-A for a spell to try to find himself. There’s still rare athleticism here that could turn into 20-plus homers and double-digit steals if he can cut down on the strikeouts now that he’s back – though with 13 strikeouts in seven games at Triple-A, it’s not clear he’s solved that issue. 

Starting pitcher

Jake Irvin, Nationals (44%) – I don’t entirely buy it, but I’m not so stubborn that I’ll keep ignoring Irvin’s success. He tossed six shutout innings against the Braves Friday and now has a 2.18 ERA with 38 strikeouts in 41.1 innings since the start of May. The control is terrific, and in this new offensive environment where scoring is down, Irvin’s results on balls in play are good enough to be a viable starting Fantasy option right now. 

Max Meyer, Marlins (37%) – With Ryan Weathers on the IL with numbness in his pitching hand, all eyes turn to Meyer. The Marlins haven’t said they’re calling him up – and his 6.75 ERA in 26.2 innings since going back to Triple-A doesn’t scream “call me up right now!” – but he was so good in his first three starts before getting sent back down, sporting a 2.12 ERA with 14 strikeouts in 17 innings, that I don’t mind adding him before the Marlins make a call. Because it’s coming at some point soon. 

Deep-league target: Carlos Rodriguez, Brewers (4%) – The Brewers are expected to select Rodriguez’s contract from Triple-A to start Tuesday against the Blue Jays, and while he doesn’t have the pedigree of the other two prospects detailed in the intro, he’s still a pretty interesting prospect, sporting a 2.83 ERA and 0.89 WHIP since the start of May. Rodriguez has a 28.6% strikeout rate in his minor-league career, and that upside is worth chasing in deeper leagues – potentially even as a streamer against a struggling Blue Jays lineup. … Tobias Myers, Brewers (4%) – I don’t see a ton in Myers’ track record to get excited about – he has a 4.24 ERA in his minor-league career with just over a strikeout per inning – but we can’t just totally ignore eight shutout innings in his start Friday, can we? Well, he had just five whiffs and five strikeouts against the Tigers, so, while I’m not saying we should just ignore it, it would have to be a pretty deep league to consider adding him. 

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