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Fantasy Baseball Waiver Wire: Alex Kirilloff, Christian Walker, Jon Gray (2022)

by Andrew Seifter | @andrew_seifter | Featured Writer
Jun 25, 2022
Alex Kirilloff

As much as I’d love to open this week’s waiver wire with another exciting rookie call-up, Oneil Cruz is one of the few prospects who remained highly-rostered as he toiled away in the minor leagues. But that’s OK. We’ve still got plenty to discuss as we fast approach the mid-point of the 2022 fantasy baseball season.

While the first name on the list may not technically count as a prospect any longer, he’s still just 24 years old and has less than 300 Major League plate appearances under his belt.

Note: Rostered rates are from Yahoo leagues as of Friday.

CTAs

FAABulous Four: Top Waiver Targets

Alex Kirilloff (1B, OF — MIN): 29% Rostered

Kirilloff was one of the better breakout candidates in baseball entering the 2022 season, and while the first half of the year didn’t go according to plan, there is still plenty of time for that breakout to happen.

A former top-10 overall prospect, Kirilloff posted a respectable .251 average, eight home runs and 34 RBIs over 215 at-bats last year. Still, his Statcast metrics showed he deserved much better based on his contact quality. His 2021 season was eventually cut short by a wrist injury that required surgery, and a re-aggravation of the same injury sent him back to the injured list early in 2022. But tests revealed no new damage to the wrist, and Kirilloff proved he was healthy by returning from the IL and hitting .359 with 10 HRs in 35 games at Triple-A. Now back in the Majors, he’s driven in five runs in his first five games as the Twins’ starting first baseman.

Kirilloff projects as a middle-of-the-order hitter who can pair batting average and power, and it could be happening before our very eyes.

Christian Walker (1B – ARI): 43% Rostered

It’s easy to take a look at Walker and yawn. He’s 31 years old and batting .208 for a team that ranks near the bottom of the league in runs scored. But a closer look reveals a player who should be more heavily rostered in fantasy leagues.

First, the obvious point: Walker has already swatted 19 home runs, and he hit 29 bombs in 2019, so this isn’t coming entirely out of the blue.

However, I suspect the real reason people are skeptical of Walker isn’t that they doubt his power potential. It’s the notion that he will be a batting-average liability. In reality, his batting average is due for quite a bit of improvement. Walker is a .243 career hitter, and his current 20.0 percent strikeout rate is the lowest of his entire career. He’s also making very solid contact, ranking in the 76th percentile in average exit velocity and 79th percentile in hard-hit rate according to Statcast, which puts his expected batting average all the way up at .277. Maybe he’s not so boring after all.

Jon Gray (SP – TEX): 45% Rostered

After finally escaping the thin air of Colorado, Gray carried some fantasy buzz heading into the 2022 season, but that quickly evaporated as he posted a 5.56 ERA through the end of May. He’s gotten back on track in a big way in June, though, posting a 2.64 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, and 10.6 K/9 in five starts this month.

Throughout his career, Gray has consistently struck out over a batter per inning with a manageable walk rate, but a high BABIP and too many homers were often his undoing with the Rockies. Thankfully, Globe Life Field in Texas is a much more pitcher-friendly park than Coors in terms of home runs and overall park factor. His next start is against the light-hitting Royals, so now is the perfect time to take Gray for a test drive and see if he can keep the good times rolling.

Josiah Gray (SP – WAS): 50% Rostered

Really, you can’t go wrong picking up a “J. Gray” this week (unless it’s Brewers’ minor leaguer, Joe Gray). Like Jon Gray, Josiah Gray, who got some love in this column back in April, has also been thriving after a rough start to 2022. Over his last four starts, the Nationals hurler has a terrific 0.82 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, and 9.0 K/9.

While he’s still walking more batters than you’d like to see, Gray is the kind of talent who could be taking a big step forward. One of the main pieces acquired by the Nationals in the Max Scherzer/Trea Turner trade, the 24-year-old dominated hitters at every level of the minors, putting up a sub-3.00 ERA at every stop with strong strikeout-to-walk ratios. He has the stuff of a front-end starter, too, including a nasty curveball and slider that both generate plenty of whiffs.

Priority Pickups – <40% Rostered

Tanner Scott (RP – MIA): 35% Rostered

Scott is widely available and seemingly up to the task if it’s saves you’re looking for on this week’s waiver wire. With Anthony Bender on the IL, Scott has earned the Marlins’ last six saves. Fantasy managers should note that he has a career ERA of 4.70 and BB/9 of 5.48, so rostering Scott isn’t necessarily going to be a smooth ride. But he won’t just give you saves — he also offers plenty of strikeouts. In fact, his 14.46 K/9 rate trails only Edwin Diaz and Josh Hader among pitchers who have thrown 20+ innings.

Ross Stripling (SP, RP – TOR): 31% Rostered

Whether in the rotation or bullpen, Stripling was a quality pitcher for the Dodgers over his first four Big League seasons, posting a sub-4.00 ERA each year from 2016-2019 and a sub-1.20 WHIP from 2017-2019. His numbers took a major turn for the worse in the Covid-shortened 2020 season and did not improve during his first full season with the Blue Jays in 2021. But Stripling has gotten back on track this year, posting a useful 3.08 ERA and 1.06 WHIP over his first 52 2/3 innings.

One thing Stripling has done to help his own cause is lowering his BB/9 below 2.0, a feat he also accomplished during his best seasons with L.A. While he’s not striking out nearly as many batters as he did back then, his 11.1 percent swinging-strike rate is in line with his Dodger days, suggesting a spike in his K rate could be coming.

Roansy Contreras (SP – PIT): 35% Rostered

Contreras has a sparkling 2.89 ERA through his first 37 1/3 Major League innings, so frankly, it is a little surprising he is still available in nearly two-thirds of leagues. Perhaps it’s because he recently had a couple of subpar starts against top-tier offenses, or people just aren’t excited to be adding Pirates?

It’s true that Contreras’s peripherals indicate that his ERA is due for a fair amount of regression. He’s been giving up a lot of hard contact, walking his fair share of batters, and his 81.4 percent strand rate is a bit high. But he’s also a highly-regarded 22-year-old prospect with an excellent fastball and slider with immediate success in the Majors. He could take his game to the next level at any time.

Brady Singer (SP – KC): 22% Rostered

Singer is a pitcher who wasn’t really on my radar until my Rest of Season Rankings podcast co-host Bart Wheeler mentioned him on a recent episode. While his ERA sits over 4.00 as it’s been the previous two seasons, Singer has impressively cut his walk rate in half to 1.77 BB/9 while his strikeout rate has remained steady. The main thing hurting him so far this season has been the home run ball, but that isn’t something that was a big issue for him previously. The lack of walks makes Singer an asset in WHIP, and if the home run rate normalizes, he could post a decent ERA, too.

Although the jury is still out on whether he can be mixed league-worthy long-term, Singer at least merits streaming consideration with how well he’s been pitching this season. He gets Oakland and Detroit the next two times out, so you couldn’t ask for better matchups.

Alek Thomas (OF – ARI): 24% Rostered

Thomas has gone right on producing since I mentioned him in this space last week, adding his sixth homer and a fourth steal of the season over the last few days. The talented young outfielder is now up to an impressive .275/24/6/15/4 fantasy line in 41 games. He also appears to be locking down the second spot in the Diamondbacks’ lineup, which could allow him to continue scoring runs at a good clip.

Jarren Duran (OF – BOS): 13% Rostered

The speedy 25-year-old Duran was considered a top-25 prospect in baseball last year, according to MLB.com, and he has dominated Triple-A by hitting .305 with six homers and 11 steals in 43 games. He’s also held his own during his short time in Boston, hitting .297 with a couple of steals in 41 plate appearances. He’s even been hitting leadoff in Kiké Hernandez’s absence, which is a plum spot in an offense as explosive as Boston’s. Duran would be an even bigger waiver priority if we knew for sure that he would stick with the Red Sox once Hernandez returns from the injured list. He’s already been demoted to Triple-A twice this season, but perhaps the third time will be the charm.

Jorge Alfaro (C, OF – SD): 18% Rostered

Alfaro hasn’t really been on the fantasy radar since 2019 when he hit .262 with 18 HRs and four steals in 130 games, but it’s time to welcome him back onto our fantasy rosters. The 29-year-old former Phillie and Marlin is hitting .288 with six home runs through 39 games while getting regular playing time at catcher and DH. He’s only stolen one base so far but stole eight last season — and is the rare C/DH with 90th percentile sprint speed. Alfaro is a must-roster option in two-catcher leagues, and he’s even worth picking up in single-catcher formats with guys like Salvador Perez and Tyler Stephenson on the IL.

Randal Grichuk (OF – COL): 38% Rostered

Grichuk hasn’t quite performed to the level fantasy managers hoped for after his move to Colorado, but there’s still more than half the season left to go. The 30-year-old outfielder delivered 31 home runs for the Blue Jays in 2019 and hit another 12 in just 55 games in 2020. Last season was a down year, but he still managed to hit 22 HRs and drive in 81 runs.

Grichuk has started to show signs of life at the plate by homering twice over the last week, so perhaps this is the start of a hot streak. He’s still capable of producing at a 30-HR pace over the rest of the season, especially when you consider he’ll be getting an assist from Coors Field.

Andrew McCutchen (OF – MIL): 14% Rostered

It’s been several years since the 35-year-old McCutchen was a must-roster player, but that doesn’t mean he’s lost all fantasy utility. We can still ride the hot streaks, and McCutchen is on one of late. Over the last 14 days, the Brewers’ cleanup hitter is batting .357 with a pair of homers, a couple of steals, and 11 runs scored. And while his overall numbers are nothing to write home about, he is on pace to reach double-digit steals for the first time since 2018.

Ramon Laureano (OF – OAK): 29% Rostered

If you’re searching for a more reliable source of steals than McCutchen, give Laureano a look. The A’s outfielder has nabbed five bases in 41 games since returning from a PED suspension after stealing 12 bases in 88 games last year. While his other numbers are unimpressive, Statcast data suggests he’s due to improve his batting average and slugging percentage substantially. Laureano is regularly batting in the top-four spots in Oakland’s lineup and could find himself moved to a much better offense at the trade deadline.

Anthony Santander (OF – BAL): 39% Rostered

I’ve never been the biggest Santander guy, but it sure looks like he is on the way to a career year in his age-27 season. The Orioles’ outfielder has already connected on 13 home runs, putting him on track to blow past his previous high of 20 set back in 2019. He’s been swinging the bat particularly well lately, hitting .313 with four homers over the last two weeks. The underlying Statcast numbers are largely in line with his current production, so we can expect him to continue to produce at a similar level over the rest of the season.

Deep League Targets – <10% Rostered

Oscar Gonzalez (OF – CLE): 8% Rostered

Gonzalez is not a player who has ranked highly on prospect lists, but he has produced. Last year, he hit .293 with 31 home runs and 83 RBIs over 121 games between Double-A and Triple-A. He’s continued to rake this season, hitting .282 with nine homers and 33 RBIs in Triple-A and .323 with two homers and 13 RBIs in 25 games since joining the Guardians on May 26. While he’s due for a bit of batting average regression, his .299 expected average is solid and his 19.8 percent strikeout rate is very reasonable, especially for a rookie.

Isaac Paredes (2B, 3B – TB): 6% Rostered

If you hadn’t heard of Paredes before, maybe you have after he hit four home runs in the final two games of Tampa Bay’s series with the Yankees this week. The 23-year-old infielder is now up to nine home runs in 32 games with the Rays, albeit with a .211 batting average. Paredes’ power production is sure to slow, but it’s not unreasonable to believe he can continue to produce at a 20-HR pace based on his minor league track record. He’s also quite adept at making contact, allowing his batting average to rise into the .240-.250 range, if not higher.

Bligh Madris (OF – PIT): 3% Rostered

It’s taken Madris a while to get to the Big Leagues, but the 26-year-old finally gets his shot in Pittsburgh after hitting .304 with five homers and two steals in 46 games at Triple-A Indianapolis. Madris didn’t show much power or speed before this season, but he has done a good job putting the ball into play. We should keep expectations for him in check, but the opportunity for playing time is readily apparent, which can go a long way in deeper leagues.

Aaron Hicks (OF – NYY): 2% Rostered

Remember Aaron Hicks? There were times when the former first-round pick looked to be on the verge of a breakout, but he never quite got there between injuries and inconsistency. Still, the 32-year-old has managed to find regular playing time this season in one of the league’s best offenses, which can only be good news for his run production numbers. Meanwhile, he’s stolen seven bases, putting him on pace to match or exceed his previous career-high of 13 steals set way back in 2015. He’s also on his way to posting a walk rate over 10 percent for the sixth consecutive season, making him particularly useful in deeper points leagues.

Ken Giles (RP – SEA): 8% Rostered

It’s been a long and arduous road back for Giles, who has missed most of the last two and a half years due to a forearm strain, Tommy John surgery, and most recently, a finger issue. He was hit around quite a bit on his rehab assignment but officially marked his return to the Majors with a scoreless frame on Tuesday.

Before the assortment of injuries, Giles was one of the more dominant late-inning relievers in the game. Whether he can get back to that level is anyone’s guess, but it should be no surprise if he sees save chances before too long. Seattle signed Giles to a multi-year deal in February 2021, knowing he would miss that entire season, with an eye on him serving as the team’s closer in 2022 and (perhaps) 2023. While Mariners manager Scott Servais says he won’t throw Giles directly into high-leverage spots, his first appearance came in the ninth inning — of a six-run game.

Alright, that’s 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 going to ROSrankings.com. I’m also always happy to talk about anything fantasy-related on Twitter @andrew_seifter.

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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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