Fantasy Baseball Waiver Wire: Alek Thomas, Brandon Marsh, Luke Voit (2022)
When scanning the waiver wire for pickups, the interesting names generally fall into two categories: young, up-and-coming prospects or old, often-injured veterans. Gerbers or Geezers.
That’s mostly what you’ll find here again this week. We’re trying to discover players who are being undervalued by the fantasy marketplace. That means there needs to be a believable case that the player in question can produce enticing fantasy numbers we haven’t seen recently (in the case of the vets) or ever (in the case of the rookies).
The name of the game is chasing upside, and the best way to find it is via young players experiencing a breakthrough or old guys staying healthy and regaining their past form. So without further ado, let’s look at this week’s Gerbers and Geezers.
Note: Rostered rates are from Yahoo leagues as of Friday night.
FAABulous Four: Top Waiver Targets
Alek Thomas (OF – ARI): 27% Rostered
The Diamondbacks’ outfielder was the number 18 prospect in baseball heading into the season, according to MLB.com, Thomas’s unique swing generates plenty of bat speed, potentially allowing him to hit for more power than you’d expect from a player his size (5’11”, 175 pounds). He’s also very fast, which should help him leg out more base hits and steal plenty of bases. Put it all together, and you have a highly-regarded 22-year-old who could quickly develop into a five-category contributor, as demonstrated by his .313 average, 18 HRs, and 13 SBs in 106 games between Double-A and Triple-A last year.
Alek Thomas has his first major-league hit!
— Bally Sports Arizona (@BALLYSPORTSAZ) May 8, 2022
Brandon Marsh (OF – LAA): 46% Rostered
Marsh has consistently ranked highly on prospect lists, but it didn’t translate into big statistical production — until now. The 24-year-old is off to a nice start at the dish, hitting .264 with 4 HRs, 3 SBs, and 19 RBIs through his first 104 plate appearances. It certainly helps his cause that he’s currently hitting leadoff for an Angels team that is among the top-three highest-scoring teams in baseball.
With a previous single-season high of just 10 HRs and a strikeout rate hovering well above 30 percent for the second straight year, there is reason to be skeptical that Marsh can keep it up. But why not take a chance on him to see if he can continue developing and building on his early-season success? Worst case scenario, you move on for the next hot hitter in a few weeks. And in the meantime, at least your team can have some sweet Bigfoot vibes.
Bigfoot Sighting 👣🤠✅
Brandon Marsh Home Run💥
106.2 MPH 28° 429 Feet📏
Brandon Marsh homers (4) to center field. Max Stassi scores. 95.4 MPH four-seam fastball thrown by Josiah Gray.
— Anaheim Sports (@AnaheimSports1) May 8, 2022
Luke Voit (1B – SD): 39% Rostered
In just his second game back from the injured list, Voit launched a pair of home runs, hinting at the kind of power binge he’s capable of going on for weeks at a time. The hefty first baseman led the Majors in home runs during the Covid-shortened 2020 season, and he’s averaged 33 homers per 162 games for his career. Of course, using per-game stats is essential when discussing Voit, who has only managed to play more than 70 games in a season once in his career. The next injury is never far away, but Voit is worth rostering while healthy and producing in the middle of a well-stocked Padres lineup.
— San Diego Padres (@Padres) May 11, 2022
Grayson Rodriguez (SP – BAL): 19% Rostered
I mentioned Max Meyer in this space last week, so I’d be remiss if I didn’t give Rodriguez a shout-out. After all, he’s widely considered the game’s number one pitching prospect.
Even more impressive? Max Meyer has a 26.5% K-BB.
A whopping 32.2% https://t.co/zg5fz7WC2j
— Alex Fast (@AlexFast8) May 6, 2022
Baltimore is not a team with a strong tradition of cultivating young arms. Still, a new coaching staff, more pitcher-friendly dimensions at Camden Yards, and the universal DH have combined to make the Orioles less of a black hole for pitchers. Rodriguez is predictably mowing down hitters at Triple-A, posting a 3.09 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, and 12.94 K/9 through 32 innings (and his peripherals are even better than that). It’s unclear exactly how close he is to getting called up, but it’s virtually certain to happen at some point this season.
Priority Pickups – <40% Rostered
Royce Lewis (SS – MIN): 20% Rostered
The headliner from last week’s waiver wire, Lewis’s roster rate in Yahoo, is slightly lower than last week. Perhaps that is because his box scores have been mostly empty aside from the occasional base hit, but there is potential for much more production than he’s shown so far. Check out last week’s article for more details, but let’s just say Lewis has plenty of five-category upside if the Twins opt to keep him in the Big League lineup when Carlos Correa returns.
And right on cue, Lewis just smacked a grand slam as I wrote this. That oughta move those roster numbers!
Royce Lewis’s first career home run is a grand slam! pic.twitter.com/pi3Yvapt1A
— MLB (@MLB) May 14, 2022
Alejandro Kirk (C – TOR): 35% Rostered
Kirk hasn’t appeared on the waiver wire since back in the Opening Week, but he deserves your attention once again. While his season-long numbers are nondescript, you’ll probably take a .274 batting average from your catcher, and there’s definitely more power potential in his bat than he’s shown so far. The Blue Jays as a whole are off to a slow start offensively, but you know that won’t last, and once this lineup heats up, Kirk is sure to benefit. He has 10 hits, including a homer in 28 at-bats since May 2, and is gradually moving his way up into the heart of the batting order.
AJ Pollock (OF – CHW): 31% Rostered
Like Luke Voit, Pollock is another veteran who can be very useful in spurts. In fact, he was a top-36 fantasy outfielder in standard 5×5 formats on a per-game basis last season, on par with much bigger names like Giancarlo Stanton, Bryan Reynolds, and Whit Merrifield. Even at his advanced age of 34, Pollock is capable of chipping in across all five standard roto categories, including stolen bases, and he should have plenty of opportunities to drive in runs once the White Sox awaken from their team-wide offensive slumber. He’s already endured one IL stint this season and will likely have another, but he can be a helpful option in standard mixed leagues while healthy.
Jorge Mateo (2B, SS, OF – BAL): 32% Rostered
I mentioned Mateo in this space several weeks ago, but his roster percentage has only climbed from 18% to 32% during that time. I’m going to go ahead and assume that more than 32 percent of Yahoo managers play in roto/categories leagues, so that number should be substantially higher. Mateo’s nine stolen bases trail only Julio Rodriguez, and he’s also hit a couple of balls over the fence for good measure. According to Statcast, he’s unlucky not to have even better numbers. Combine that with his eligibility at three different positions, and you have a very useful player. Perhaps fantasy managers are reluctant to roster Orioles, but that’s the same mindset that would have kept you from adding Cedric Mullins last year.
Vidal Brujan (2B, OF – TB): 6% Rostered
By the time you read this, Brujan could be back in Triple-A. That’s the life of a Rays prospect. But if he can somehow work his way into regular playing time, Brujan could easily steal 40+ bags. He’s accomplished that feat in each of his last three seasons of professional baseball and only has one level left to do it at: MLB. He’s off to a rough 1-for-10 start, but he’s actually making plenty of contact. Brujan has a more immediate appeal in leagues with daily lineups, given the likelihood of inconsistent playing time. Still, he’s worth keeping track of in any league where steals are coveted.
Jordan Hicks (SP, RP – STL): 19% Rostered
Once upon a time, it looked like Hicks was destined to be the Cardinals’ long-term answer at closer, but after missing most of the last two seasons following Tommy John surgery, he is trying his hand at starting. It’s a somewhat surprising shift in roles for a pitcher who throws 99 mph and heavily relies on just two pitches, a hard sinker and a slider. Still, there is intriguing upside in terms of wins, strikeouts, and ratios if he can settle into the role.
Reid Detmers (SP – LAA): 18% Rostered
You’ll often see fantasy managers rush to the waiver wire to add a pitcher after he throws a no-no, but that didn’t really happen after Detmers no-hit the Rays on Tuesday. Maybe that’s because we’ve all become bored by no-hitters, but the more likely explanation is that he only struck out two batters in completing the gem. It’s fair to question how long a pitcher like Detmers can be successful while striking out fewer than six batters per nine innings, but there’s also reason to believe he can substantially improve his K rate moving forward. While he’ll never be mistaken for a fireballer, the 22-year-old did miss bats at a high clip in the minors and was considered a top-25 prospect in baseball last year.
What a moment!
A no-hitter for Reid Detmers!
— MLB (@MLB) May 11, 2022
Emilio Pagan (RP – MIN): 27% Rostered
Jhoan Duran may be the reliever to roster in Minnesota if you’re looking for nasty stuff and strikeouts, but if it’s saves you’re after, Pagan remains the better bet to close games. The elder statesman has been granted five save opportunities compared to just two for Duran, and Pagan has successfully converted four of them with a 2.08 ERA and 12.46 K/9. The fact he’s walked over a batter per inning is somewhat alarming, but we’re still dealing with a small sample of innings, and wildness is not something that has generally plagued Pagan over his career. Fantasy managers should roster him in any league that is serious about saves.
Ian Kennedy (RP – ARI): 19% Rostered
Kennedy isn’t currently the closer in the desert, but he could be if Mark Melancon has another hiccup. Melancon has given up seven earned runs over his last 2 1/3 innings, throwing away two winnable games for a Diamondbacks club that has surprisingly stuck around in the National League West. Kennedy filled in ably while Melancon was on the Covid list, and he also saved 56 games over the 2019 and 2021 seasons. While many bullpen situations across baseball are headache-inducing, this one looks relatively straightforward, making Kennedy a wise stash in leagues where saves are hard to come by.
Deep League Targets – <10% Rostered
Art Warren (RP – CIN): 3% Rostered
Speaking of closers in waiting, the Reds placed Lucas Sims back on the IL with a bulging disc in his back, opening the door for Warren to take over the ninth inning on the rare occasions where Cincinnati has a lead to protect. While Tony Santillan and Hunter Strickland could also potentially factor into save situations, it was Warren who handled the ninth of a four-run game on Thursday. With a 6.55 ERA and 1.73 WHIP, it’s fair to say Warren has been shaky in the early going, but he’s got closer stuff and looked dominant last season. He’s working on three straight scoreless outings and could shift into high gear at any moment.
Ryan Pepiot (SP – LAD): 8% Rostered
With Clayton Kershaw heading to the injured list, the door is open for Pepiot to rejoin the Dodgers’ rotation, at least temporarily. Pepiot only made it through three innings in his first start with Los Angeles — that’ll happen when you issue five free passes — but he’s looked great at Triple-A with a 2.05 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, and 12.3 K/9 in six starts. The 24-year-old right-hander possesses a solid fastball and change-up, and any pitcher in Los Angeles merits attention in fantasy circles.
Brad Miller (1B, 2B, 3B, OF – TEX): 7% Rostered
There is some point in every season where Miller is fantasy relevant, and we’re there now. Last season, the 32-year-old utility man hit 20 homers with the Phillies and already has five homers and three steals through 25 games with the Rangers. Miller has hit leadoff for Texas in three of the last four games and is eligible at four different positions. He may not be a player you roster all year, but he’s worth a pickup in deeper leagues while swinging a hot stick.
Ben Gamel (OF – PIT): 9% Rostered
Gamel is the dictionary definition of a journeyman on his fifth team in a seven-year Major League career. But there are starting jobs in Pittsburgh, and Gamel has claimed one of them, often finding himself hitting out of the leadoff spot. Even for a lowly team like the Pirates, that opportunity to amass at-bats has real value in deeper leagues. Gamel also happens to be swinging a hot bat, hitting .307 with three homers and two steals over 113 plate appearances.
Jace Peterson (1B, 2B, 3B, OF — MIL): 3% Rostered
Peterson had fantasy value for stretches of the 2021 season, and he seems to be doing it again. His appeal primarily lies in his multi-position eligibility and potential to steal double-digit bases, but being part of the Brewers’ high-scoring lineup helps, too. Over the last two weeks, Peterson is hitting .320 with two homers and three steals. Like Brad Miller, his fantasy appeal could vanish at any moment, but there is no shame in riding the hot hand, especially in deep leagues.
Alright, that does it for this week. If you like what you see here, you can get more of my thoughts on waiver wire pickups, buy-low/sell-high candidates, rest-of-season player values, and more by subscribing to the Rest of Season Rankings podcast and going to ROSrankings.com. I’m also always happy to talk about anything fantasy-related on Twitter @andrew_seifter.
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