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Fantasy Baseball Waiver Wire: C.J. Abrams, Alejandro Kirk, Tylor Megill (2022)

Fantasy Baseball Waiver Wire: C.J. Abrams, Alejandro Kirk, Tylor Megill (2022)

Greetings, friends and fantasy baseball fans! My name is Andrew, and I’ll be the concierge for your visits to the waiver wire during the 2022 MLB season.

This first week of the fantasy baseball season is an especially tricky one in terms of how you play the waiver wire.

There are likely to be more breakout stars freely available for pickup this week than at any other point in the season, and it’s better to be too early on these players than too late. At the same time, you don’t want to throw out all the research you did to prepare for your draft and bail on a guy because he starts the season 0-for-8. There is a balance to be struck.

We need to separate the signal from the noise, and the key to doing that is to distinguish between short-term hot streaks and more lasting changes. We’re looking for talented young players who have newfound opportunity for playing time, emerging closers, past stars back from injury, starters showing better velocity or an effective new pitch mix, hitters with improved plate discipline or a change to their approach.

By the same token, if we are jettisoning a player from our roster, it should be for a good reason. Maybe their playing time has evaporated, or they’re injured, or they’re showing diminished velocity. The best reason to drop a player, though, is that they lack upside and are easily replaceable.

The waiver wire is an exotic locale, full of surprises and local flare. If you pack accordingly, you’ll find your trip to be very rewarding by year’s end.

Note: Rostered rates are from Yahoo leagues as of Sunday morning.

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FAABulous Four: Top Waiver Targets

C.J. Abrams (SS — SD): 38% Rostered
Padres fans were surely devastated to learn that Fernando Tatis Jr. would miss the first half of the 2022 season, but one saving grace is that his injury opened the door for Abrams to break camp with the team.

Abrams, the sixth overall pick from the 2019 Draft, is only 21-years old and played in just 76 minor league games prior to this season. He’s going to bat near the bottom of the order, at least initially, and his power is still developing.

It doesn’t matter. You want this guy on your fantasy team to see what transpires.

While you would have needed to spend a draft pick to acquire other top-10 prospects like Bobby Witt Jr., Julio Rodriguez, and Spencer Torkelson, Abrams is freely available in more than half of fantasy leagues. I can’t promise you he will hit for much power or batting average in Year One, but it wouldn’t be shocking if he did, either.

Regardless, his speed alone could pay the fantasy bills, at least in roto/categories leagues. Abrams stole 28 bases in those aforementioned 76 minor league games, and he could quickly emerge as one of the better base stealers in MLB.

Alejandro Kirk (C — TOR): 39% Rostered
I had Kirk ranked as a top-six fantasy catcher heading into the season, and yet he is still free for the taking in more than 60 percent of fantasy leagues.

Well-run baseball teams tend to prioritize defense over hitting from their catcher, and the Blue Jays are no exception. That’s why Danny Jansen was widely expected to serve as Toronto’s primary catcher heading into the season. The Randal Grichuk trade was huge for Kirk’s fantasy fortunes because it opened up regular playing time at designated hitter for the bat-first backstop.

Last season, Kirk belted eight home runs in just 189 plate appearances for the Blue Jays. He should get more than twice that many plate appearances in Toronto this year, so it’s pretty easy to imagine him hitting 20+ home runs.

Kirk also walked nearly as often as he struck out, and his 11.6 percent strikeout rate was second-best among all catchers who saw 150+ plate appearances. That suggests last season’s .242 batting average is on the low end of what we can expect, and even a .280+ average is possible if he runs into some good fortune with batted balls.

Tylor Megill (SP — NYM): 47% Rostered
Megill got his first taste of Major League hitters last season, and his 4.52 ERA and 1.28 WHIP over 18 starts didn’t win anybody their fantasy leagues. There were good reasons for optimism behind the numbers, though.

Megill was snakebitten by the long ball (1.91 HR/9), but he actually excelled at avoiding home runs in the minors. His 9.94 K/9 rate and 2.71 BB/9 rate were both solid marks for a rookie, and both his xERA and xFIP indicated that he deserved a sub-4.00 ERA.

Fast forward to 2022 and there are even more reasons to believe in a Megill breakout. In his first start, Megill hurled five innings of shutout ball, while striking out six and allowing just three baserunners. Yes, it was against the Nationals, but the results were still awfully impressive.

More importantly, Megill’s stuff has clearly improved. Both his fastball and changeup velocity are up significantly from last season, and his slider looks like a legitimate strikeout pitch, too. All the signs of a breakout are here.

Anthony Bender (RP — MIA): 48% Rostered
With Dylan Floro on the Injured List due to shoulder tendinitis, Marlins manager Don Mattingly said that Bender is his “go-to guy” in the ninth inning to begin the season.

Mattingly’s allegiance to Bender was put to the test right away when he blew a one-run lead in the ninth on Friday, but the Marlins’ skipper stuck with Bender for another save chance on Saturday and that one went smoothly. Bender will want to convert more than 50 percent of his save opportunities to hold onto the job, but the fact that Mattingly went back to him after a blown save is encouraging.

The hard-throwing right-hander posted an impressive 2.79 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, and 10.42 K/9 rate across 61 1/3 innings last year, and could provide top-10 fantasy closer numbers as long as he’s able to hold onto the job. Floro is a 31-year old journeyman who doesn’t have dominant stuff, so he is no great threat to retake the job if Bender does well in his absence.

Priority Pickups – <35% Rostered

Akil Baddoo (OF — DET): 45% Rostered
Baddoo is a good example of a player who you should try to resist dropping just because he is off to a slow start. He is coming off a season where he hit 13 home runs and stole 18 bases in just 124 games as a 22-year old rookie, and it wouldn’t be surprising if he took a big step forward in his second season. Yes, it is disappointing that the Austin Meadows acquisition has pushed Baddoo towards the bottom of the batting order, but it shouldn’t be hard for him to break back into the top half of the lineup once he starts raking. Plus, the overall strength of the Tigers’ lineup should ultimately help his run production numbers.

Tommy Pham (OF — CIN): 43% Rostered
Pham is a player who is often underrated in fantasy circles, especially roto/categories leagues. At 34, he is no spring chicken, but he did manage to hit 15 home runs and steal 14 bases even in a “down” year in 2021. He’s landed in a plum hitting environment in Cincinnati, and has been batting third to begin the year, which is obviously a great place to be situated. Pham is still looking for his first hit of the season, but he’s walked in a third of his plate appearances and already stolen a base. Another 20-20 season is still very possible here.

Jeff McNeil (2B,OF — NYM): 43% Rostered
Unlike a lot of the names on this list, McNeil is off to a scorching start at the plate, hitting .462 with a homer through Saturday’s action. We probably shouldn’t expect too many more home runs over the course of the season, but McNeil is a great bet to significantly rebound from last year’s disappointing .251 batting average. He hit .311 or better for three straight seasons before that, and has a better shot than most to hit .300 this year. At the very least, you should be happy to ride the hot hand here, especially given his second base eligibility.

Andrew Vaughn (1B,OF — CWS): 39% Rostered
Vaughn’s rookie campaign was underwhelming, and his current playing time situation is a little uncertain, but he’s precisely the kind of intriguing talent that you want to have stashed early in the season. There is a reason Vaughn was considered the top White Sox prospect heading into last year, and he’s beginning to display his exciting blend of power and bat skills in the early going of 2022. If he continues to hit, the playing time concerns will quickly evaporate.

Matt Brash (SP — SEA): 38% Rostered
Brash dominated hitters in High-A and Double-A in 2021, and after looking similar excellent this spring, he’s earned a spot in the Mariners’ rotation. He can be wild at times, but he also posted a K/9 over 13.0 and sub-2.50 ERA in the minors, so he’s worth an immediate look in mixed leagues.

Oneil Cruz (SS — PIT): 37% Rostered
My love for Cruz is well established on this website, and I’m not about to write him off just because the Pirates are playing service time games with him for a few weeks. Cruz hit .311 with 18 HRs and 19 SBs over just 70 games between Double-A, Triple-A, and the Majors last year, and picked up right where he left off this spring. He brings a mouth-watering blend of power and speed to the table, and his contact skills should also be solid enough to provide a serviceable batting average. Whether he breaks in with the Pirates at shortstop or the outfield, he should be an impact player from the moment he gets the call.

Jeremy Pena (SS — HOU): 32% Rostered
Pena was limited to 30 games in Triple-A last season due to a wrist injury, but he showed mammoth potential in that brief window, putting up 10 HRs, 5 SBs, and a .287 batting average. He delivered his first Big League home run on Friday, and is locked into the Astros’ lineup as their starting shortstop now that Carlos Correa is in Minnesota. A rookie year with 20+ HRs and 10+ SBs is entirely within the realm of possibility.

Tony Santillan (SP,RP — CIN): 30% Rostered
The Reds have not formally named a closer, but the first opportunity went to Santillan, who had no problem slamming the door. Although he occasionally struggled with walks, Santillan was very good in both Triple-A and the Majors in 2021, posting a sub-3.00 ERA and 11.5+ K/9 at both levels. The Reds certainly have other options in their bullpen, including pre-season fantasy favorite Art Warren, and expected closer Lucas Sims could be back before long, too. Still, none of those guys are big enough names to necessarily push Santillan out of the closer role if he can get a couple more saves under his belt.

Nick Lodolo (SP — CIN): 28% Rostered
Lodolo absolutely dominated Double-A hitters in 2021, posting a 1.84 ERA and 0.91 WHIP. His 13.91 K/9 and 1.84 BB/9 were even more impressive. Lodolo features a terrific slider that he effectively pairs with his sinker, and his excellent control could allow him to have immediate success in the Reds’ starting rotation.

Harrison Bader (OF — STL): 25% Rostered
Bader is a player who quietly chips in across the board in roto/categories formats. He hit 16 home runs and stole 9 bases in just 103 games last season, while posting a respectable .267 batting average. He would likely be a lot more heavily rostered if he had put together a full season’s worth of plate appearances. Maybe he will this year, but even if he doesn’t, he should be quite useful for however long he’s healthy.

Deep League Targets – <10% Rostered

Connor Joe (1B,OF — COL): 10% Rostered
I know this section is technically for players less than 10 percent rostered, but I had to get Joe’s name in here. It took the 29-year old seven years and five different organizations to get to this point, but the stars are finally aligning for him. Joe hit .285 with eight home runs and 35 RBIs in just 63 games with the Rockies last year, and is off to an excellent start this season, going 3-for-7 with a homer in his first two games. He’s even vaulted to the top of the Rockies’ lineup. Coors Field has turned many hitters into fantasy mainstays, and the Rockies are at home for eight of their next 10 games.

Andres Gimenez (2B,SS — CLE): 8% Rostered
Gimenez’s 2021 season was a big disappointment, but he flashed an intriguing blend of power and speed, producing 15 HRs and 19 SBs over 120 games between Triple-A and the Majors. Still just 23 years old, it isn’t hard to imagine Gimenez putting up a .250/15/20 season in Cleveland if he can get comfortable against Major League pitching, and there’s upside for even more.

Lorenzo Cain (OF — MIL): 6% Rostered
Fast approaching his 36th birthday, Cain is a boring pickup, but he could also be a prudent one. Cain hit 13 home runs and stole 18 bases in just 78 games last year, and while he may not be able to quit match that pace over a full season, double digit home runs and 20+ stolen bases would be plenty useful in a deeper league, especially given that Cain can also hit for a respectable (.260+) batting average.

Rich Hill (SP — BOS): 5% Rostered
Hill is 42 years old and an exceptionally poor bet to make it through the entire season healthy. You don’t have to add him for the entire season, though; just take what he can give you and be happy. Hill has been excellent on a per-start basis for the better part of a decade, and he’s got decent starts against the Tigers and Twins lined up over the next couple weeks.

Chris Stratton (RP — PIT): 5% Rostered
The Pirates don’t have a set closer and probably won’t win too many games this season, but Stratton can still help your fantasy team, especially in deeper leagues. While some closer committees feature three and even four relievers, Pittsburgh is expected to divvy up save chance between only two relievers, Stratton and David Bednar. Bednar is the preferred option because of his excellent ratios, but Stratton can provide some decent accompanying numbers, too. His WHIP may not be great, but expect a sub-4.00 ERA, more than a strikeout per inning, and a smattering of saves over the course of the season.

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Andrew Seifter is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Andrew, check out his archive and follow him @andrew_seifter.

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