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Fantasy Baseball Waiver Wire: Royce Lewis, George Kirby, Juan Yepez (2022)

by Andrew Seifter | @andrew_seifter | Featured Writer
May 8, 2022


 
May is here, and while it’s still cold and rainy here on the east coast, there’s one surefire way to know that spring has sprung: Major League baseball teams are calling up their top prospects. Rookie-palooza is in full effect, which means the FAAB dollars will be flowing in fantasy leagues across our great nation.

Whether you play in keeper or redraft, taking a chance on prospects is a wise move because the payoff can be immense. Just make sure you go into it with your eyes open and your expectations kept in check.

For every Fernando Tatis Jr., Juan Soto, or Ronald Acuna, there are dozens of Jarred Kelenics and Jo Adells. This game is hard, and it takes most young players some time to learn to play it well at the highest level.

Then there’s the playing time issue. If this column had been written yesterday, it would have prominently featured Red Sox outfielder Jarren Duran. As it turned out, Duran was up with Boston for just one game before he was shipped out on the Purple Line back to Worcester. That’s life when it comes to rookies.

Duran should remain stashed in some formats, as should other top minor leaguers like Nolan Gorman and Max Meyer (more on the Marlins’ hurler in a moment). But Durran’s about-face is a good reminder that the path to regular playing time is absolutely something you need to factor in when deciding how much of your waiver budget to spend on recently-promoted young players.

When it comes to redraft leagues, in many cases you’ll be better off sticking to more established players who are locked into regular playing time. If you’re looking for an outfielder with a mix of power and speed, why blow all your FAAB on Durran when you could cheaply pick up Tommy Pham, Harrison Bader, or Ramon Laureano, three players who were included in this column last week but remain available in more than half of Yahoo leagues?

But enough with all the sober warnings. Let’s get PUMPED about some rookies, shall we?

Note: Rostered rates are from Yahoo leagues as of Saturday night.

FAABulous Four: Top Waiver Targets

Royce Lewis (SS — MIN): 21% Rostered
While rookies often struggle in their first taste of the Big Leagues, one thing that can ease the transition for fantasy purposes is the ability to steal bases a la Julio Rodriguez. Lewis offers such services. He’s nabbed eight bags in 24 games at Triple-A this season, and he’s had multiple minor league seasons with 20+ steals. He was considered a top-5 prospect in baseball before an ACL tear cost him the entire 2021 season. Lewis’ power is still a work in progress and it’s unclear what kind of batting average he can provide, but his speed alone can make a big impact in roto/categories leagues.

Like Durran, Lewis’s time in the Majors could be short. He was initially brought up when it was feared that Carlos Correa had fractured his finger, but it turned out just to be a bruise. That means the Twins will be left with a decision to make on Lewis when Luis Arraez returns from the Covid list. Still, Lewis is well worth adding as an upside play.

George Kirby (SP — SEA): 19% Rostered
Matt Brash’s trial run in the Mariners’ rotation did not go according to plan, so Seattle will turn to another highly-regarded young arm to see if he’s more ready for primetime. Kirby has not missed quite as many bats as Brash did in the minors, but he’s still missed plenty, with an 11.68 K/9 through 24 2/3 innings at Double-A. And unlike Brash, Kirby has displayed excellent command, walking fewer than two batters per nine. Utilizing a 97 mph fastball and effective changeup, Kirby has a shot at immediate success while pitching half his games in pitcher-friendly T-Mobile Park.

Juan Yepez (1B,3B — STL): 11% Rostered
Lost in all the other high-profile prospect call-ups, Yepez has quietly gotten his Cardinals career off to a great start, delivering multi-hit performances in three of his first four contests. While never considered an elite prospect, Yepez was very good in the minors last year, hitting .286 with 27 homers in 111 games between Double-A and Triple-A. Then he forced his way to St. Louis by hitting nine home runs in his first 22 Triple-A games of 2022. Time will tell just how good he is, but a 24-year-old with that kind of recent production is well worth rostering.


Alex Cobb (SP — SF): 44% Rostered
If there is one player on this week’s list with the best chance to be a strong fantasy contributor all season, it’s Cobb. Perhaps he’s more of a buy-low than a waiver wire pickup, but the fact he’s rostered in less than half of leagues is surprising.

The 34-year-old right-hander has a solid 3.88 ERA and 1.27 WHIP for his career, but he stepped up his game with the Angels last season by striking out over a batter an inning for the first time. Cobb’s surface numbers through his first 15 innings with San Francisco might suggest he’s off to a rough start this year, but he’s been one of the unluckiest pitchers in the league, with an expected ERA (1.24) that is over three and a half runs lower than his actual ERA (4.80). He’s generating more swings-and-misses than ever, and with an extra two miles per hour on both his sinker and split-finger, there’s reason to believe he can keep it up.

Priority Pickups – <40% Rostered

Josh Rojas (2B,3B,SS,OF — ARI): 19% Rostered
Rojas hit .264 with 11 HRs and 9 SBs in his first extended action in the Majors in 2021, and before that, he showed the ability to steal 30+ bases with good contact and batting average skills in the minors. He has hit fifth and eighth in his first two games since returning from a strained oblique suffered just prior to Opening Day, but it wouldn’t take much to climb to the top of a batting order that featured Cooper Hummel and Jordan Luplow in the top two spots on Saturday. In the meantime, the fact you can play Rojas at just about any position is a huge plus.

Jose Miranda (3B — MIN): 12% Rostered
While Royce Lewis is getting all the attention now, his teammate Miranda is a highly-regarded prospect in his own right — and one who may have a clearer path to playing time with the Twins. Miranda wasn’t really on the fantasy radar until last year, when he mashed his way to a .344 batting average and 30 home runs in 127 games between Double-A and Triple-A. Miranda has always made a lot of contact, suggesting the potential to hit for a decent average, but it was the power outbreak that dramatically improved his fantasy appeal. He’s off to a slow start for Minnesota, but he did hit his first Big League home run on Friday and could get an extended audition with Miguel Sano on the IL and Gio Urshela off to a relatively quiet start of his own.

Max Meyer (SP — MIA): 14% Rostered
Heading into 2022, Meyer ranked right beside Kirby among the best pitching prospects in the game. While Kirby beat him to the Majors, Meyer’s Big League debut appears to be imminent. He’s next in line if the Marlins need a starter, and the team is reportedly considering bringing him up to replace Elieser Hernandez, who’s been struggling. Meyer has dominated minor league hitters since he debuted last year, and he’s dazzled over 31 1/3 innings in Triple-A this season, posting a 1.72 ERA, 0.86 WHIP, and 11.20 K/9. Stash him now and avoid the bidding war.

MJ Melendez (C — KC): 20% Rostered
Last season was a banner year for catchers in the Royals’ system. While we all know about Salvador Perez’s 48 home runs in Kansas City, the organization had another catcher who topped the 40-HR mark: Melendez. Melendez had always had significant raw power, but he changed his swing following a dreadful 2019 campaign, and it paid huge dividends when the minor leagues resumed in 2021. Between Double-A and Triple-A that year, he hit .288 with 41 bombs and 103 RBIs, eye-popping numbers for any hitter, let alone a catcher. Perez isn’t going anywhere, but with backup catcher Cam Gallagher on the IL, Melendez should play fairly regularly between catcher and DH.

Francisco Mejia (C — TB): 12% Rostered
Speaking of catchers who can swing the bat, Mejia returned from the Covid list on Friday and immediately went 3-for-4, raising his average to .407 on the young season. Through his first 611 Major League at-bats, he’s got a solid .247 batting average and 20 home runs, and there is potential for more. While Mejia’s abilities as a hitter have never really been in doubt, his playing time is less certain. Not known for his defense, Mejia is unlikely to jump Mike Zunino on the depth chart, but he may be able to earn some at-bats at DH if he continues to hit like this. Given the perennially-sorry state of the catcher position, it could be worth finding out.

Kolten Wong (2B — MIL): 38% Rostered
Wong has always seemed to be an underrated fantasy asset, and his current rostership level shows it’s no different this year. While he was only hitting .233 entering Saturday’s action, he’s been much better lately and is a .273 hitter in 337 games since the start of the 2019 season. He’s also got 45 steals in that time span, including four this season. Frequently batting leadoff for a Brewers team that currently leads the league in runs scored, Wong can be a nice source of average, runs, and steals with low-double-digit HRs at a position not known for its offensive production.

Alex Kirilloff (OF — MIN): 32% Rostered
With a .251 average, eight home runs and 34 RBIs over 215 at-bats, Kirilloff held his own during his Big League debut in 2021. But his Statcast data gave added reasons to get excited about the hard-hitting prospect. His expected batting average was .291, and he had the second-largest disparity between his slugging percentage (.423) and expected slugging percentage (.541) of any hitter in baseball. Unfortunately, wrist surgery cut his season short, and renewed wrist soreness cost him roughly three more weeks this season. If the injury continues to linger, all bets are off, but Kirilloff is worth adding to see if he can get back to hitting the ball like he did last year.

Jesus Aguilar (1B — MIA): 29% Rostered
Aguilar may never come close to repeating his .274/35/108 season in 2018, but the .261/22/93 he put up in 131 games last year wasn’t too shabby, either. He got off to an ice-cold start to begin 2022, but has been swinging a hot bat of late, hitting .364 with three homers and 11 RBIs over his last 12 games. Locked into the second spot in the batting order, he should get a ton of plate appearances, and he gets an added boost in points leagues thanks to his high walk rate. Add it all up and you have a poor man’s Jose Abreu.

Brendan Rodgers (2B,SS — COL): 36% Rostered
After a series of stops and starts, the bloom is off the rose for Rodgers as a fantasy prospect. But he wasn’t too bad last year, hitting .284 with 15 home runs in 102 games, and he’s been swinging a very hot bat since missing four games with back stiffness last week. Rodgers hasn’t stolen a base since 2018 and his power upside is very much in question, but he could at least develop into a solid contributor for AVG and RBIs while playing his home games at Coors. It feels like he’s been around forever, but he’s still just 25 years old.

Rafael Montero (RP — HOU): 15% Rostered
After a rough year with Seattle last season, Montero is throwing much better in 2022, posting a cool 0.73 ERA, 0.89 WHIP, and 12.41 K/9 over his first 12 1/3 innings. Closer Ryan Pressly is back from the IL and picked up a save on Saturday, but Montero has clearly established himself as next-in-line should Pressly have a recurrence of his knee issues or simply go through a prolonged rough stretch. Given his ability to help your strikeouts and ratios, Montero isn’t a bad guy to roster even with Pressly back.

Deep League Targets – <10% Rostered

Edward Olivares (OF — KC): 5% Rostered
Olivares has produced mouth-watering five-category fantasy production in the minors, including hitting .283 with 18 HRs and 35 SBs in 127 games at Double-A in 2019 and .313 with 15 HRs and 12 SBs in 66 games at Triple-A last year. He’s just never had a real opportunity to show whether it can translate to the Majors, but perhaps that is about to change. Olivares has been in the Royals’ lineup in five of the last six games, and he’s even hit leadoff in each of the last three. He’s off to a strong start at the dish, hitting .364 with a couple steals, and he could quickly ascend from a deep league guy to a 10- and 12-team league guy if the playing time holds.

Manuel Margot (OF — TB): 6% Rostered
Now 27 years old, Margot may not be likely to have a full-fledged breakout, but he’ll be plenty useful in deeper leagues if he just does what he usually does. While he doesn’t excel in any one statistical category, Margot has shown himself capable of providing a .250-.260 average, 10-15 HRs, and 15-20 SBs over a full season. He’s playing just about every day for the Rays and has been running hot, hitting .385 with six runs, a homer, eight RBIs, and a steal over the last week.

Mike Moustakas (1B,3B — CIN): 7% Rostered
Moustakas was an offensive force from 2017 to 2019, hitting 101 home runs over that three-year stretch. Since then, it’s been nothing but injuries, but Moustakas is healthy right now and regularly batting cleanup for Cincinnati. How long he’ll stay healthy is anyone’s guess, but his power should play in the meantime. It certainly doesn’t hurt that Great American Ballpark is the single best launching pad in baseball.

Glenn Otto (SP — TEX): 4% Rostered
Otto’s brief cup of coffee with the Rangers last year wasn’t pretty (9.26 ERA in six starts), but things have gone a lot better through his first two turns this year. Otto posted excellent strikeout and walk rates in the Yankees’ farm system, and he has continued to miss a lot of bats since he joined the Rangers organization in the Joey Gallo trade. He’s probably best left on the bench for a matchup with his former team on Sunday, but could have more success against the underperforming Red Sox and Astros after that.

Bryson Stott (SS — PHI): 3% Rostered
Stott was a buzzy name this spring after breaking camp with the Phillies, but the helium quickly came out of the balloon after a slow start that got him demoted to Triple-A. However, he hit well in Triple-A, and will get another chance in Philly now that Didi Gregorius has landed on the IL. Stott had a productive year in the minors last season, hitting .299 with 16 HRs and 10 SBs in 112 games across three levels. He only needs to beat out Johan Camargo to get regular playing time while Gregorius is on the shelf.

Spencer Strider (RP — ATL): 8% Rostered
Armed with a 100 mph fastball and nasty slider, Strider has quickly emerged as one of the most dominant long relievers in baseball. He currently has a 2.16 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, and 24 strikeouts in 16 2/3 innings. If he was a starter or a closer, he’d be a must-roster player. Perhaps he’ll get that chance at some point soon. As it is, he’s more of a deep-league addition, although the strikeout and ratio help he provides is also useful in innings-capped formats.

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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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.

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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