Fantasy Baseball Waiver Wire: Michael Harris II, Riley Greene, Andres Gimenez (2022)
If you notice that this column often leads off with rookies, there are a couple of reasons.
First off, I won’t lie: rookies are fun to write about. Much more fun than, say, Kolten Wong or Gio Urshela, who could have easily made the cut as a top add this week.
But the other thing about rookies is that their range of plausible outcomes is vast. They could go 0-for-10 and be back down in the minors within a week, or they could be fantasy stars for the next decade.
Sure, most rookies will struggle in their first taste of the Big Leagues, but the path to success is not linear and not easily predictable for each prospect. History tells us that those who defy the odds and hit the ground running can quickly turn into legitimate difference-makers in fantasy leagues of all sizes. That’s precisely the kind of lottery ticket you want to take a chance on in 10- and 12-team leagues with moderately-sized benches.
Note: Rostered rates are from Yahoo leagues as of Friday.
FAABulous Four: Top Waiver Targets
Michael Harris II (OF – ATL): 33% Rostered
If you want to get excited about Harris’s potential, just listen to what former Braves outfielder Marquis Grissom had to say about him last year:
All I can say as a former player is, he’s different. And the last time I saw a player when I said he was different, that was Chipper Jones, that was Barry Bonds, that was Gary Sheffield, that was Jim Thome. All the great players, they’re different. And that’s what Mike Harris is — he’s different.
Harris is only 21 years old and had played a grand total of 43 games in the high minors before getting the call to Atlanta. He was good in those 43 games, though, hitting .305 with five homers, 33 RBIs, and 11 steals. Harris has made some fantastic defensive plays in the six games since he got called up, and he also had five hits in his last 12 at-bats entering Friday’s action.
Harris is hitting at the bottom of the order, which caps his upside in the short-term and puts him under less pressure to produce. It’s an open question how much power he has at this early stage of his career, but he brings immediate stolen base potential and clear five-category upside long-term.
Michael Harris II vs. Madison Bumgarner
Advantage: Rookie ✔️ pic.twitter.com/TuNrVbm8F1
— Bally Sports: Braves (@BravesOnBally) June 1, 2022
Riley Greene (OF — DET): 23% Rostered
The excitement around Greene was palpable during Spring Training, but he suffered a broken foot from a foul ball just before Opening Day. It wasn’t how the prized prospect was hoping his Major League career would begin, but he still has plenty of time to have a productive rookie season. Greene is currently on a rehab assignment at Triple-A, where he just smacked his first homer, and he should find his way to Detroit sometime this month. Currently ranked as MLB.com’s number two overall prospect, Greene hit .301 with 24 HRs and 16 SBs over 124 games between Double-A and Triple-A last season, showcasing the mouth-watering five-category fantasy upside he’ll present from Day One. Beat the rush and add him now.
RILEY GREENE IS COMING!!
— Ben Verlander (@BenVerlander) June 3, 2022
Andres Gimenez (2B, SS – CLE): 44% Rostered
As fantasy analysts, we all have our pet players, and Gimenez and Alejandro Kirk — who I’ll get to in a moment — are two of my guys. I touted Gimenez in the first waiver wire article I wrote this season, back when he was just 8% rostered, and I’m touting him now when he’s 44% rostered.
Gimenez has taken some time to get a foothold in the Major Leagues, but he’s still just 23 years old. Last year, he compiled 15 HRs and 19 SBs over 120 games between Triple-A and the Majors but struggled to hit for average in Cleveland. That hasn’t been a problem this year. He currently boasts a .302 batting average, and Statcast puts his expected average at a still-healthy .291. Meanwhile, he’s demonstrated his enticing combination of power and speed by hitting five homers and stealing four bases over 40 games.
The only thing standing in the way between Gimenez and a big fantasy season is his playing time, which has been sporadic at times. However, he started five games before sitting on Friday, and hopefully, his current hot streak will put that issue to rest once and for all. He may be a left-handed hitter, but he’s hitting .391 after lefties, so platooning him would make little sense.
ABSOLUTLEY UNREAL. 😱
— Bally Sports Cleveland (@BallySportsCLE) May 31, 2022
Alejandro Kirk (C – TOR): 46% Rostered
Now to my other pet player. I had Kirk ranked as a top-six fantasy catcher heading into the season because of the hit tool he brought to the table and the formidable lineup that would surround him. The Blue Jays’ offense has not been as good as advertised so far, but Kirk is certainly doing his part, hitting .301 and walking more than he’s striking out. He’s been absolutely on fire over the last 10 days, hitting .480 with two of his three home runs since May 24. Kirk regularly hit for a high batting average in the minors, too.
While his three home runs to date are a little disappointing, Kirk did hit eight long balls in just 60 games last year and has the raw strength to at least flirt with 20 HRs over an entire season. He’s currently the 10th-best catcher in standard 5×5 leagues, but he’s got plenty of time to get into the top-six by the season’s end.
— VaynerSports (@vaynersports) June 2, 2022
Priority Pickups – <40% Rostered
Spencer Strider (SP, RP – ATL): 39% Rostered
Strider’s first start didn’t go according to plan (5 ERs in 4 1/3 IP at Arizona), and his second start is Saturday at Coors Field, so it would be no great shock if he has another rough outing. That said, as long as the Braves stick with him in their rotation, fantasy managers should do the same. This pitcher ranks in the 98th percentile for fastball velo and 99th percentile for strikeout percentage. Granted, Strider accrued most of those numbers out of the Braves bullpen, but if Strider’s terrific stuff can translate to the starting rotation, he will be a fantasy mainstay.
Jon Gray (SP – TEX): 22% Rostered
I hesitate to recommend Gray, who is 30 years old and has a 4.60 career ERA in 870 1/3 innings. But most of that damage was done while he pitched for the Rockies, and he’s only now writing the post-Coors chapter of his story. Gray has always had decent swing-and-miss stuff and a manageable walk rate, and he’s shown glimpses of utility at times, including a 3.67 ERA in 110 1/3 innings in 2017 and a 3.84 ERA in 150 innings in 2019. On Wednesday, the most recent glimpse came when he struck out 12 Rays while allowing just one run and three hits over seven innings. Finally freed from Colorado, Gray still has the potential to emerge as a viable back-end fantasy starter.
Daniel Hudson (RP – LAD): 17% Rostered
Craig Kimbrel pitched a clean ninth inning on Thursday after taking a few days to clean up his mechanics, so he’s probably not on the verge of losing his job despite giving up runs in five of his previous seven outings. Still, Kimbrel is 34 years old, has a 4.50 ERA, and was bad and/or hurt in 2019, 2020, and the second half of last season. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts has also repeatedly expressed a desire not to overwork him.
These are all good reasons to roster Daniel Hudson. Hudson is 35 years old, but he’s aged better than Kimbrel, putting together arguably the best stretch of his career since 2021. He currently has a 2.12 ERA, 0.76 WHIP, and 10.59 K/9, along with two wins and three saves. He’s the clear handcuff for a shaky closer on a winning team, and he should continue to collect the occasional win and save even if he never overtakes Kimbrel in the ninth.
Tommy Pham (OF – CIN): 32% Rostered
No, this recommendation isn’t for a “points per slap” league. Pham was wrong to slap Joc Pederson, and he was apparently wrong about fantasy football etiquette, too (if my league provider allows me to stash a guy on IR, you better believe I’m doing it). But he’s currently on pace for yet another season with 15-20 HRs and 10-15 SBs, which explains why he’s been a top-200 player in standard 5×5 leagues even while hitting just .232. Pham’s average exit velocity is in the 96th percentile. His expected batting average is .281, so we can expect his fantasy numbers to trend upward from here as long as he avoids any more fantasy football-related beefs.
Kyle Farmer (3B, SS – CIN): 38% Rostered
There is very little in the 31-year-old Farmer’s Major League track record to suggest he will be a viable fantasy option all season, but there’s also no doubting that he is scorching hot right now. Since May 13, he has been hitting .452 with four home runs and 14 RBIs in 12 games. He’s even chipping in a stolen base here and there. He’s sure to come crashing down to Earth at some point, but in the meantime, there is no shame in riding the hot streak and getting him in your lineup ASAP if you have a free roster spot.
Jonathan Schoop (1B, 2B – DET): 23% Rostered
Like many Tigers hitters, Schoop has had a dreadful start to the 2022 season. He’s hitting just .198 entering Friday. But Schoop has begun to turn things around lately, hitting .318 with two homers and nine RBIs over his last 11 games. Last year, Schoop quietly finished 13th among 2B-eligible players and 14th among 1B-eligible players in standard 5×5 leagues, thanks to solid production in every category other than stolen bases. His run production numbers are way down along with his batting average this season, but that could change if his BABIP misfortune normalizes and the Tigers lineup begins to reach its potential.
Evan Longoria (3B – SF): 11% Rostered
It’s been many moons since the 36-year-old Longoria was considered a fantasy star, but if the Giants can find a way to get some use out of him, perhaps fantasy managers can, too. Don’t forget, prior to suffering a shoulder sprain last year, Longoria was off to a terrific start, hitting .280 with nine homers and 30 RBIs in 50 games. This year he’s missed more action but has made up for lost time, hitting five homers since May 25. The Giants have found a way to make lesser names than Longoria fantasy-relevant, so he’s an option to consider if you’re looking for some cheap power.
Jorge Mateo (2B, SS, OF – BAL): 33% Rostered
I get it. Mateo isn’t a very good hitter. But does it matter? He has 13 stolen bases! He swiped six bags in May after stealing seven in April, so the potential to reach 35-40 steals is there as long as the playing time is. He’s eligible at three different positions and even added his first three homers of the season in May, demonstrating that he won’t be a total zero there.
Jace Peterson (1B, 2B, 3B, OF – MIL): 14% Rostered
This season, Peterson’s second appearance in the waiver wire column, and he’s earned it. The 32-year-old utility man has been an excellent across-the-board contributor over the last 30 days, hitting .299 with 16 runs, four homers, 14 RBIs, and five steals. He’s unlikely to keep it up for long, and he may not play regularly once Willy Adames returns from the IL. Then again, I said basically the same thing in this space three weeks ago, but Peterson just keeps producing.
Deep League Targets – <10% Rostered
Alex Faedo (SP, RP – DET): 6% Rostered
A first-round pick in the 2017 amateur draft, Faedo appeared to be on the fast track to the Majors after posting promising numbers in Double-A in 2019. But then the pandemic wiped out the 2020 minor league season, and Faedo was forced to undergo Tommy John surgery in January 2021. It’s been a long road back for Faedo, but he finally reached the Majors and held his own through his first six starts, posting a 3.09 ERA. He’s not striking out many batters but did show good swing-and-miss ability in the minors, including a couple of starts this spring. As a bonus, Faedo’s name is eerily reminiscent of Faygo, the second-best thing to come from Michigan (it goes 1. The University of Michigan, 2. Faygo, 3. The automobile).
David Peralta (OF – ARI): 10% Rostered
A .284 lifetime hitter, the 34-year-old Peralta has had a very solid career, even if his 30-homer 2018 season goes down as a significant outlier. Peralta has never hit more than 17 home runs in any other season, yet he’s already put eight balls over the fence in just 48 games. That pace will likely slow, but he is earning the results he’s had with lots of hard contact. According to Statcast, his .479 expected slugging percentage is right in line with his actual slugging percentage (.474) and easily the highest mark he’s put up since the 30-HR campaign.
Rougned Odor (2B, 3B – BAL): 6% Rostered
I honestly thought I’d never write about Odor in a fantasy article again, but here we are. The former Ranger and Yankee has been a black hole for fantasy production since 2019 and a batting average liability for even longer than that. Still, Odor is only 28 years old and has three seasons of 30+ HRs and 10+ SBs under his belt. You can forget about the steals — he has zero since the start of 2020 — but some power could be left in the tank, as demonstrated by his four homers since May 20. Odor is playing every day for the Orioles, and he is eligible at two relatively shallow positions, so you could certainly do worse in a deep league.
Tony Santillan (SP, RP – CIN): 10% Rostered
With both of Cincinnati’s last two saves, Santillan looks to have once again edged in front of Art Warren in the Reds’ closer committee. Neither pitcher has been particularly good, but Santillan has been less bad (4.67 ERA vs. Warren’s 6.87), and he can help out with strikeouts, too (10.38 K/9).
Jason Adam (RP – TB): 8% Rostered
Look Adam’s way if you’re more interested in pristine ratios than saves from your relievers. The 30-year-old reclamation project has played for six different organizations but seems to have finally found his groove with the Rays, posting an incredible 0.83 ERA, 0.65 WHIP, and 12.05 K/9 through 21 2/3 innings. He does have one save as well, but we all know that predicting save chances in Tampa is a pointless endeavor. Regardless, he is well worth rostering, even though the lack of an “S” in his last name makes him one of the more egregious examples of a player with two first names in baseball history.
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 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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