Fantasy Baseball Waiver Wire: Nolan Gorman, Harrison Bader, MJ Melendez (2022)
This week’s waiver wire comes to you from the Outer Banks of North Carolina, where the heat index is over 100 degrees, but the ocean is ice cold. I swear I’m not complaining, though. Apparently, it’s snowing in Colorado?
This week, you’ll see some familiar names, including a top prospect who was already worth stashing, a speedster who deserves more respect in fantasy circles, a young power-hitting backstop with some newfound opportunity for playing time, and a versatile infielder coming off a three-homer game. Even old friend Joey Votto makes a cameo!
So whether you’re baking in the sun, chillin’ in the snow, or hanging in your temperature-controlled home or office, sit back, relax, and enjoy this week’s waiver wire.
Note: Rostered rates are from Yahoo leagues as of Friday night.
FAABulous Four: Top Waiver Targets
Nolan Gorman (3B – STL): 43% Rostered
Gorman was one of the headliners in this article three weeks ago, when he was merely a stash, so suffice it to say he is a must-roster player now that he’s getting the call to St. Louis. The 2018 first-round pick and the top-30 overall prospect led all of Triple-A with 15 home runs, so he’s certainly earned the promotion. With Paul DeJong sent to the minors, Gorman is set to be the Cardinals’ everyday second baseman moving forward, with Tommy Edman sliding over to shortstop.
In addition to his impressive power output, Gorman was also hitting .308 in Triple-A. Still, his bloated 34 percent strikeout rate suggests he could be a batting average liability against Major League pitching. We’ve seen many young hitters struggle to transition to the Big Leagues in recent seasons, and it wouldn’t be shocking to see Gorman do the same. Still, his demonstrated upside is well worth taking a chance on in fantasy leagues of all shapes and sizes.
There goes homer No. 14 for Nolan Gorman.
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) May 15, 2022
Harrison Bader (OF – STL): 44% Rostered
Continuing with the St. Louis theme, I’ve recommended adding Bader several times already, but perhaps featuring him as a top add can finally get his roster rate over 50 percent. Bader has been doing everything in his power to merit a pickup, producing top-100 value in standard 5×5 formats, including top-50 value over the last month.
Bader was quietly productive last year, hitting .267 with 16 HRs and 9 SBs in 103 games, but now he’s stealing bases at a much higher clip, swiping 11 bags in 36 games thus far. He’s also cut his strikeout rate to 15.8 percent, roughly half the rate he had earlier in his career. Bader has been playing sparingly against left-handed pitchers, but perhaps that will change now that Tyler O’Neill is on the IL.
Harrison Bader plays old school baseball pic.twitter.com/80iKhNpvHA
— St. Louis Cardinals (@Cardinals) April 23, 2022
MJ Melendez (C – KC): 31% Rostered
Melendez is yet another repeat recommendation, albeit one whose circumstances have significantly improved of late. While Melendez was getting the odd start at DH and in the outfield, his playing time was inconsistent. That changed when Salvador Perez was placed on the IL with a sprained thumb, opening up regular playing time behind the plate for Melendez. Then, Melendez went out and swatted home runs in back-to-back games, reminding fantasy managers of the power potential he possesses. After making a change to his swing, he hit .288 with 41 bombs and 103 RBIs between Double-A and Triple-A last season. The Royals are one of those teams that can be slow to utilize young players fully, but Melendez could force their hand if he continues to rake while Perez is out.
Making a habit out of going deep.
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) May 19, 2022
Joey Votto (1B — CIN): 46% Rostered
It’s not surprising that Votto is available in more than half of Yahoo leagues. After all, he was dreadful in April and has been on the Covid list since May 1. But Votto returned to the Reds’ lineup on Friday, and he is just one year removed from a season in which he hit .266 with 36 home runs and 99 RBIs. Yes, he’s 38 years old and had a few unproductive seasons before last year. Maybe he’s done. But players with Votto’s demonstrated upside don’t show up on the waiver wire every day, so he deserves another chance before we give up on him as a fantasy asset.
Priority Pickups – <40% Rostered
Josh Rojas (2B, 3B, SS, OF – ARI): 19% Rostered
Rojas appeared here two weeks ago, but his roster percentage hasn’t moved since then. That should finally change after his three-homer outburst on Friday. This is a player who is eligible at four different positions and has the potential to give you double-digit homers and 30+ steals. He missed the beginning of the season with a strained oblique and got off to a slow start upon returning, but it’s safe to say he’s beginning to heat up.
— Arizona Diamondbacks (@Dbacks) May 20, 2022
Mike Yastrzemski (OF – SF): 34% Rostered
Yastrzemski got his Major League career off to a great start, hitting .281 with 103 runs, 31 home runs, 90 RBIs, and four steals over 160 games in 2019 and 2020. He followed that up with 25 home runs in 139 games last year, but his batting average tumbled to .224 due to a low .254 BABIP. He was already due for a bounce-back but has also helped his cause this year by trimming his strikeout rate and boosting his average exit velocity. His .290 batting average looks sustainable, and while he’s only hit three home runs so far, he’s shown in the past that he’s capable of producing at a 25-30 homer pace.
Spencer Torkelson (1B, 3B – DET): 36% Rostered
You can be forgiven if you’ve lost hope in Torkelson for 2022 — I recently traded him away in a league where I can only keep six players. But while the most likely outcome is that Torkelson is a year or two away from figuring out Major League pitching, let’s repeat the mantra: the progression of young players is not always linear.
The young slugger is striking out in over 30 percent of his plate appearances, but that number has dropped to just 25.5 percent in May. While Statcast pegs his expected batting average at just .227, he ranks in the 77th percentile for average exit velocity and 67th percentile for hard-hit rate. Widely considered one of the best hitting prospects in baseball heading into the season, Torkelson wouldn’t be available in nearly two-thirds of leagues if he had hit the ground running. If you have a spare bench spot, he is precisely the kind of upside bat you want to stash, just in case he takes a step forward sooner than expected.
Santiago Espinal (2B, 3B – TOR): 26% Rostered
The Blue Jays are off to a slow start offensively, but this is still a lineup you want to invest in, and Espinal represents a cheap way to get it done. The 27-year-old infielder never put up massive numbers in the minor leagues, but he consistently hit north of .280 while chipping in 10-20 steals and displaying low-double-digit power potential. He’s carried that over to Toronto, hitting .298 with four homers and 10 steals through his first 403 Major League at-bats. He’s also frequently hitting out of the fifth spot in the lineup, which should translate to plenty of run and RBI opportunities once his teammates start to heat up at the plate.
Christian Walker (1B – ARI): 25% Rostered
It’s been a couple of years since Walker had a lot of fantasy appeal, but he’s forced his way back onto the fantasy radar by smacking nine home runs through his first 39 games of 2022. And while his .206 batting average isn’t pretty, his Statcast metrics look much better, as evidenced by his .278 expected average. He’s no longer likely to offer much of anything as a base-stealer, but he could continue to be a reliable source of HRs and RBIs as the Diamondbacks’ cleanup hitter.
Tyler Naquin (OF – CIN): 14% Rostered
After a nondescript five-year stint in Cleveland, Naquin started and finished very strongly in his first season in Cincinnati. This year he’s off to another nice start, hitting .266 with four homers, three steals, and 21 RBIs through 30 games, good enough to rank as a top-30 outfielder in standard 5×5 formats. Naquin’s Statcast numbers support the production, and it doesn’t hurt that he plays his home games in the most favorable park for power in all of baseball.
Tyler Anderson (SP – LAD): 31% Rostered
Anderson began the 2022 campaign pitching out of the Dodgers’ bullpen, but he joined the starting rotation in late April and has pitched well outside of a rough outing against the Phillies on May 12. While Anderson is the definition of a soft-tosser — his fastball velocity averages 90.1 mph — he’s been getting great results with his changeup and generating lots of weak contact. His 3.42 xERA and 3.79 xFIP suggest that, if anything, there is room for a little bit of improvement to his 4.04 ERA. And pitching for the Dodgers is certainly a favorable set-up for success.
Chase Silseth (SP – LAA): 31% Rostered
Silseth was close to a finished product coming out of the University of Arizona, throwing just 31 1/3 minor league innings before becoming the first player from the 2021 Draft class to reach the Majors. He dominated Double-A hitters over five starts this spring, posting a 1.73 ERA, 0.50 WHIP, and 12.81 K/9, and then kept it going with six scoreless frames in his Major League debut against Oakland. Given his pedigree and minor league numbers, Silseth will be worth an extended audition even if his Friday night rematch with the A’s doesn’t go as well as the first outing did.
— Los Angeles Angels (@Angels) May 14, 2022
Matthew Liberatore (SP – STL): 20% Rostered
So it turns out Nolan Gorman isn’t the only prized prospect the Cardinals called up this week. His lifelong best friend Matthew Liberatore is joining him in St. Louis. Regarded as the top pitching prospect in the Cardinals’ system, Liberatore has been solid, if not spectacular, in Triple-A over the last season-plus. His 46 strikeouts and 12 walks over 40 Triple-A innings this season provide some hope he can have success in the Majors. Whether Liberatore sticks in the Bigs remains to be seen, but he’s worth streaming against the Pirates on Saturday and reassessing from there.
Tanner Rainey (RP – WAS): 34% Rostered
Ok, look. The Nats are bad, and Rainey can be frustratingly erratic, but closers are closers. Rainey is the only Washington pitcher who has seen multiple save chances, and while he’s only converted three of his five opportunities so far, he’s still got a decent shot to end up with at least 15-20 saves by year’s end. He can also provide a nice boost in the strikeout department, and his walk rate is much more manageable than it was last season, which suggests he could hold onto the closer job all year if he isn’t traded.
Deep League Targets – <10% Rostered
Hansel Robles (RP – BOS): 8% Rostered
Speaking of widely-available closer options, Robles has Boston’s most recent save in a game where his main rival, Jake Diekman, pitched in the sixth inning. Robles has been giving up a ton of hard contact, so there is some risk he could burn your ratios, but he’s been a solid reliever for most of his career and does have some closing experience. He may not have the job all to himself, but he does appear to be the current frontrunner, which gives him value in deeper leagues at the very least.
Vidal Brujan (2B, OF – TB): 6% Rostered
Things have yet to click for Brujan at the Major League level, but he is a highly-regarded prospect who is currently playing almost every day. The fact he offers as much stolen base potential as any player in baseball is more than enough justification to roster him in any league that values steals. Brujan is currently hitting just .111, but he’s only struck out three times in 30 plate appearances. With his speed to first base, he shouldn’t be a major batting average liability if he continues to get the bat on the ball consistently.
Yonathan Daza (OF – COL): 4% Rostered
While Daza flashed some intriguing stolen base potential at times in the minors, the now-28-year-old has offered little power or speed since debuting with the Rockies in 2019. That said, he has shown strong contact skills and taken it to another level this year by striking out just six times in 80 plate appearances. That alone wouldn’t usually be much to get excited about, but remember, this player plays his home games at Coors Field. Daza has worked his way up to the number two spot in the Rockies’ lineup, and he’s been swinging a scorching bat, hitting close to .400 over the last couple of weeks. You could do worse in a deep league if you’re looking for a boost in AVG and runs.
Alexis Diaz (RP – CIN): 6% Rostered
After picking up his first career save on Tuesday, it looked like Edwin’s younger brother might be taking hold of the Reds’ open closer job. But then Diaz pitched in the eighth inning on Thursday while Tony Santillan picked up the save. No matter. With Santillan and Art Warren struggling and Lucas Sims hurt again, Diaz has been Cincinnati’s best reliever, which should eventually lead to more save opportunities. In the meantime, while his bloated walk rate is a bit of a red flag, there is potential for Diaz to help your strikeouts and ratios.
Nicky Lopez (2B, SS – KC): 7% Rostered
Lopez would always be a poor bet to repeat last season’s .300 batting average, but his batted ball luck has gone a little too far in the other direction this year. While he makes some of the weakest contact in baseball, he does get the bat on the ball most of the time, which should allow him to at least hit in the .250 range. And once he’s reaching base more consistently, his stolen base total should rise accordingly, perhaps into the 15-20 range by season’s end.
Miguel Cabrera (1B – DET): 9% Rostered
It’s been a good six years since Cabrera was the fantasy stud we came to know and love, but even at 39-years old, he still can hit a baseball. Regularly stationed in the third or fourth spot in the Tigers’ batting order, Cabrera has some run production potential if and when the Tigers improve on what has somewhat surprisingly been the worst offense in baseball so far. If nothing else, you can give Cabrera an audition while he’s on his current hot streak and be able to tell your grandkids that you rostered the future Hall of Famer in a fantasy league.
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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