Fantasy Baseball Category Analysis: Jorge Lopez, Taylor Ward, Daniel Vogelbach (2022)
The weather has been frigid across most of America, mirroring many teams’ bats. Not everyone has been ice cold, but there have been more than a few sluggers who have yet to get things going. In Roto, a slow start won’t hurt you much, but in Head to Head leagues, these early slumps can be devastating. No one wants to start 0-3 or worse, so pay attention!
For every slumping All-Star, there is a relatively unknown tearing it up on the waiver wire. If your team has been sluggish out of the gate, then look no further than this list of un-rostered studs. Many of these players will help you in multiple ways but will likely give you the biggest boost in the category under which they are listed.
The standard parameter for this weekly series is to spotlight guys who are rostered in less than 50 percent of Yahoo leagues. This week, however, I’ve chosen to do things a bit differently. While all the players will still be available in more than half of Yahoo leagues, the hitters I focus on will include the even less heralded. Many will be far below the 50 percent threshold.
While there is value in discussing the in-demand players, for nearly half of the readers, those guys are already taken! So this week, I’m sending some love to the deeper league guys where players like Thairo Estrada are already rostered. And for those of you in standard ones (10 or 12 team), any one of these guys could still be worth the gamble depending on your roster. You may just be getting your most brag-worthy player when it’s all said and done.
It’s not every day you see a 270-pound beast leading off, but that is exactly the role Vogelbach’s been dispatched in. With the ability to work a walk, go deep, and even hit to the opposite field, Volgy has found himself atop the Pirates order more often than not. So far, the powerful DH has looked extremely confident at the dish (and in interviews), hitting for a robust .311 batting average, with a .936 OPS, and three dingers.
If possible, Vogelbach actually looks a bit trimmer and a lot more athletic than in years past. He’s still an absolute unit, able to send any offering into the seats, but with a bit more athleticism he’s been able to put the ball in play more often. He’s also been more aggressive early in the count, leading to more hits.
Although the Pirates stink and it’s never exciting to add a player on their roster, he could put up some decent numbers out of the leadoff spot. He’s a candidate to reach 30 bombs, produce a decent average, and contribute handily in the run-scoring categories. He’s already scored nine runs in just 13 games and has a solid six-game hitting streak going. Add the big man now!
*Quick side note: Brandon Nimmo is back and is still rostered in less than a third of leagues. He will probably finish in the top ten of runs scored, so if you need runs, he’s a no-brainer. I won’t spend time singing his praises again, but he should be your top target.
Tellez has been a steadfast option for the Brew Crew as a middle-of-the-order bat. Hitting either fourth or fifth (he also hit seventh once) Tellez has already accumulated eight RBI in just 40 at-bats. He’s not the most thrilling name to roster, but as long as the ex-Blue Jay keeps hitting the ball hard, good things are going to happen.
Tellez’s Statcast profile is full of red numbers (red = good). A few that quickly jump off the page are a 98th percentile max exit velo, a 91 percent xwOBA, a 96 percent xSLG, and an 86 percent barrel rate. With such quality bat-to-ball skills, it’s just a matter of time until Tellez really breaks out.
The left-handed-hitting first baseman did well in Milwaukee last season and could be a solid source of production once again. Add Tellez in deeper leagues and take a flyer on him in shallower ones as well.
I really want to put Sheldon Neuse here, but his hitting profile screams regression. While he projected as a power hitter in the Dodgers Minor League system, Neuse has suddenly become a ground ball, oppo-hitting specialist. While slap hitters tend to have high averages, Noise is still striking out at a high clip and it’s doubtful all those ground balls continue to leak through. That said, he may be worth a desperation add in deeper leagues, especially if he can add some pop back into his game. He also qualifies at the two hardest positions to fill and is currently batting second for offensively challenged Oakland A’s.
Who I do recommend is the Angels recently activated outfielder, Taylor Ward. While Jo Adell has continued to strike out at an alarming rate, it’s been his fellow grass-roamer who has been picking up the slack. Already with eight hits, including a home run in just 23 at-bats, Ward’s batting line sits at an impressive .348/.464/.522. His xBA is even higher at .366, with an eye-popping .462 xwOBA, and a .557 xwOBAcon.
Joe Madden has already sung Ward’s praises so there’s little reason to believe he’ll be back on the bench any time soon. Ward’s also walking more often than striking out. The former first-rounder has hit either second, fourth, or fifth in every game this week and will likely continue to do so throughout the season. Add Ward with confidence now as his rostership is sure to shoot up over the next few weeks.
With Eloy Jimenez needing a cart to exit the field on Saturday, it looks as though Sheets may be in for a boost in playing time. AJ Pollock just returned from his own injury, but there should still be plenty of room for the former second-rounder to get into the lineup. He’ll probably still sit against southpaws, but the damage he was able to do last year versus righties and the quality of at-bats Sheets has put together this year, tells me the 6’5″ masher could get hot at any moment.
His barrel and sweet-spot rate are well above league average. Plus, (even though it’s a short sample) Sheets has reduced his ground ball rate to a low 29.2 percent.
Hitting the ball hard and in the air, it’s only a matter of time until Sheets breaks lose and starts looking like the player who produced a .256 ISO last year. He has yet to walk and only has one home run to his credit, but with KC on tap and nine hits over his last 28 plate appearances, I’m buying the 70 raw-power-rated outfielder to start launching home runs soon.
And let’s not forget about zero percent rostered Matt Davidson! He was cheat code in the Minors to start the season, leading the world with a ridiculous eight bombs in just 11 games. He also hit a dinger in his first Major League at-bat since 2020. He likely won’t hold onto a starting spot once a few of the regulars return from injury, but considering he’s probably the Diamondbacks’ best home run threat, he may stick around longer than expected.
He can play either first or third and while those spots are taken, Christian Walker isn’t exactly setting the world on fire, and their current third baseman rank dead last in terms of offensive production. Plus, Josh Rojas who is projected to start once he returns, only played a handful of games at the hot corner last year and didn’t do a very good job.
Davidson is someone to add to your watch list and keep close tabs on. Dare I say he is this year’s Patrick Wisdom? He could be if given a real chance.
Jorge Mateo bought 100 pairs of batting gloves, one for every base he plans on stealing. The O’s starting shortstop has been a blur on the basepaths, especially of late. In the current Angeles series, Mateo has already swiped three bags, while only accounting for one hit and no walks. His sprint speed is currently ranked in the 85th percentile, but last season he was clocked at over 30 miles per hour, something only seven other players were able to accomplish.
He bats at the bottom of the lineup and likely won’t hit above .250, but with steals being such a hot commodity, Mateo immediately becomes worthy of an add. Add the middle infielder now if your team is lacking speed.
Josiah Gray has the curveball WORKING. A pitch he throws nearly 30 percent of the time has yielded a .125 BA, .113 xBA, a 52 percent whiff rate, and 10 strikeouts. His slider is also doing damage by accumulating an even higher whiff rate (58%) while allowing just one hit on the year. Gray’s fastball is being hit, but not at any sort of alarming rate. The former Dodger has already racked up 18 K’s over just 14.1 innings and should be a solid source for strikeouts all season long.
Gonsolin has been a force since he joined the Dodgers in 2019. Starting the year off the same way he has in the past, the 6’3″ righty has put up nothing but zeros over 12 of his first 13 innings. As his pitch count continues to grow, expect Gonsolin to pitch deeper into games which should allow him to earn more strikeouts and wins. The Dodgers have been on fire and with such a strong arsenal, Gonsolin could easily win 13 games while maintaining an ERA below 3.00. I highly doubt he qualifies for this list next week. Add him ASAP.
While I’d love to highlight a few arms that are absolutely shoving, for the sake of not repeating myself (from weeks past) I’ll go with Michael Wacha. Wacha is pitching like it’s 2015 again, allowing only six hits over his first 14.1 innings. While he is walking a batter every two innings, the 6’6″ Wacha looks rejuvenated on the bump and could be in for a solid season.
He is lined up to take on the Blue Jays in his next outing, but besides Vlad, their lineup has been slow out of the gate and has been a bit banged up. Ross Stripling is scheduled to match up against him, who was absolutely shelled by Boston last year. If Wacha can avoid getting into too much trouble, the game could set up nicely for him to earn his second victory on the season.
Eric Lauer‘s worth an add as he was downright nasty at times last year. Overshadowed by the rest of the staff, Lauer, when healthy, has shown the ability to put up zeros and win games. He doesn’t allow many hits and also doesn’t give up a ton of free passes. His biggest weakness is the long ball, as he is a fly ball pitcher and tends to let a few leave the park. He will strike out nearly a batter per inning, however, and should be able to keep his ERA below 4.00. If your WHIP is taking a beating, Lauer can help lower it.
Jorge Lopez looks like an entirely different pitcher as a full-time reliever. His velocity is up over two miles per hour, and his break on his off-speed pitches is greater. He also still incorporates four different pitches, which doesn’t make things easier. His sinker has reached 100 at times and suddenly looks nearly unhittable. Walks have been an issue in the past, but as long as Lopez is throwing strikes and keeping the ball on the ground, he could retain the job all year.
The Orioles bandbox stadium has played like a pitchers haven so far. Granted it’s only been six games, but the change in field dimensions seems to have gotten into the hitter’s heads a bit and helped boost the pitcher’s confidence. Yes, it’s been cold (which usually favors the pitchers), but the mere fact that the average total score for home games has hovered around five supports that notion. Not only have they gained confidence by pitching well at home, but it has carried over to the road as well where Baltimore’s ERA is extremely lower than it has been in seasons past.
Even if it’s just in the short term, the O’s could still produce 65 wins which should lead to an ample amount of save opportunities. The victories they do claim will more often than not be of the 1 to three-run lead variety so Lopez could be a very busy man. If he is somehow able to stay somewhat consistent, he could be one of the year’s biggest surprises.
Dany Jimenez is also someone to target. Lou Trivino is on the covid-list, but unless he can return to his early 2021 form, it could be Jimenez who takes over the role even after his activation. Jimenez offers a devastating slider/slurve that has resulted in an eye-popping 61 percent whiff rate to start the season, so he is definitely someone to keep an eye on.
If you want to dive deeper into fantasy baseball, be sure to check out our award-winning slate of Fantasy Baseball Tools as you navigate your season. From our Lineup Assistant – which provides your optimal lineup, based on accurate consensus projections – to our Waiver Wire Assistant – that allows you to quickly see which available players will improve your team, and by how much – we’ve got you covered this fantasy baseball season.
Austin Lowell is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Austin, check out his archive.