Fantasy Baseball Waiver Wire: Esteury Ruiz, Max Meyer, Kyle Finnegan (2022)
The All-Star break is nearly here, which means we’re well into the second half of the fantasy baseball campaign. This is the time of year when more casual fantasy managers — and those far out of contention — begin to disengage and turn their minds to other things, like fantasy football. But there is still plenty of work to do for those of us who are intent on taking home fantasy baseball championships.
It’s not hyperbole to say that a league-winning fantasy player could still be sitting on your waiver wire. It happened to me back in 2018. That year, Adalberto Mondesi didn’t get his first Big League at-bat until late June. He went on to hit 14 home runs and steal 32 bases over 75 games, leading yours truly and many others to the promised land.
Nor is it hyperbole to say that the best candidate to be this year’s Mondesi is headlining this week’s waiver wire.
Note: Rostered rates are from Yahoo leagues as of Friday.
FAABulous Four: Top Waiver Targets
Esteury Ruiz (2B – SD): 44% Rostered
Take a minute and look at Ruiz’s minor league numbers this season. Go ahead, I’ll wait. No, that’s not a misprint, he really did hit .333 with 13 HRs and 60 SBs over 291 at-bats between Double-A and Triple-A. He’s 4-for-12 with another steal since getting the call to San Diego.
Ruiz appears to be an everyday player for the time being, although that could soon change with Jurickson Profar about to return. Still, none of the Padres’ other outfielders (Profar, Trent Grisham, and Nomar Mazara) are players who demand everyday playing time ahead of Ruiz if he’s providing the team with a spark. And even if manager Bob Melvin pays deference to the veterans, the 23-year-old Ruiz brings the kind of dynamic skill set that makes him worth rostering even if he’s riding the pine once or twice a week.
Count it! First AB, first @MLB hit for Esteury Ruiz! 👏 #TimeToShine pic.twitter.com/VDlTLTUeCK
— San Diego Padres (@Padres) July 13, 2022
Max Meyer (SP – MIA): 23% Rostered
Ruiz wasn’t the only big-name prospect getting the call this week; we also have a hurler to discuss. MLB.com’s #23 overall prospect, Meyer features a fastball that’s been known to occasionally reach 100+ mph, as well as a nasty slider. He’s posted a solid 3.72 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, and 10.09 K/9 over 58 innings at Triple-A this season, including a 1.96 ERA in four starts since returning from a one-month stint on the injured list with ulnar nerve irritation.
While Meyer hasn’t been throwing with quite as much zip this season, his slider remains a dominant offering, and he’s also developed a changeup. It’s always possible he’ll struggle out of the gate, but Meyer presents top-of-the-rotation fantasy upside and is a must-add in all formats ahead of his first start against the Phillies on Saturday.
Marlins are calling up No. 2 prospect Max Meyer who they drafted third overall in 2020, per @CraigMish!
In 14 career Triple-A starts:
68 IP, 3.31 ERA, 21 BB to 82 K
— Farm To Fame (@FarmToFame_) July 15, 2022
Kyle Finnegan (RP – WAS): 15% Rostered
Tanner Rainey had a pretty decent run as the Nationals’ closer, but it came to a screeching halt when he landed on the 60-day injured list with a right UCL sprain this week. Soon after, Washington manager Dave Martinez confirmed that Finnegan will be “the guy” to close out games moving forward.
Finnegan can be a bit wild at times, but he has career-best 10.64 K/9 and 3.38 BB/9 rates this season, and his peripherals indicate that he’s pitched a bit better than his 3.89 ERA would suggest. He stands a good chance of replicating the fantasy value that Rainey had been providing.
Ramon Laureano (OF – OAK): 44% Rostered
Laureano has found himself in my waiver wire recommendations on more than one occasion, and while his roster rate has risen since then, he’s still free for the taking in more than half of Yahoo leagues.
The A’s outfielder missed the first month-plus of 2022 serving what remained of a PED suspension, but he’s made up for the lost time by hitting eight homers and swiping nine bases in 59 games since returning. While he may not be the .280+ hitter he looked like early in his career, Laureano is due for some positive regression to his .239 batting average. He’s also been the subject of trade rumors, and a change of uniform could create more run and RBI opportunities for him down the stretch.
Priority Pickups: <40% Rostered
Ross Stripling (SP,RP – TOR): 36% Rostered
Stripling began the 2022 season in the Blue Jays’ bullpen, but he’s been far superior since joining Toronto’s rotation, posting a 2.84 ERA and 1.01 WHIP in 13 starts. Even when counting his subpar relief numbers, the 32-year-old right-hander has been a top-50 fantasy starter in standard 5×5 leagues. The key to his success is a BB/9 below 2.0. That’s an accomplishment he also achieved during his heyday with the Dodgers in 2018 and 2019, when he similarly posted a sub-3.50 ERA and sub-1.20 WHIP.
David Peterson (SP – NYM): 39% Rostered
Peterson is not without his warts, namely a bloated 4.01 BB/9 that has pushed his WHIP up to 1.25. But this is also a pitcher who boasts a 3.48 ERA and 10.16 K/9 rate, and with the Mets’ powerful offense supporting him, his win total could easily rise substantially if he can just pitch a little deeper into games. Peterson has been particularly good over the last month, compiling a 3.29 ERA and 1.13 WHIP with 41 strikeouts in 27 1/3 innings since June 20. He gets a favorable draw with the Cubs heading into the All-Star break and is well-worth deploying for that start and beyond.
Aaron Ashby (SP,RP – MIL): 25% Rostered
Ashby’s surface stats kind of stink, to be honest. A 2-6 record, 4.37 ERA and 1.47 WHIP aren’t helping people win their fantasy leagues. But Ashby is still generating a ton of ground balls and strikeouts, which portends future success. His Statcast numbers also provide plenty of hope, as the gap between his 4.37 ERA and 3.20 expected ERA is one of the widest in all of baseball. A former top-40 overall prospect, believe in Ashby’s talent and underlying numbers, not the surface stats.
Brett Martin (RP – TEX): 36% Rostered
Rangers manager Chris Woodward didn’t name a replacement when he removed Joe Barlow from the closer role and even hinted that Dennis Santana could lead a committee. But actions speak louder than words, and it sure looks like Martin is Woodward’s preferred ninth-inning option at the moment. The 27-year-old left-hander racked up three saves in four days from July 8-11, and he hasn’t given up an earned run since May. Now in his fourth season with Texas, Martin is not a prototypical closer with his 7.27 career K.9 rate, but he has been a serviceable reliever. If you need saves, you know what to do.
Jose Miranda (1B,3B – MIN): 16% Rostered
I’ve recommended Miranda before, only for him to falter. But the upside remains clear for all to see, and he could be taking a big step forward before our eyes. While a .260 average and eight home runs in 55 games are solid numbers for a rookie, it is Miranda’s recent performance that has to get you excited. Over the last two weeks, he’s hitting .343 with three homers and 12 RBIs. Remember, this is a player who hit .344 with 30 home runs in 127 games between Double-A and Triple-A last season.
SECOND-DECK WALK-OFF HR 😤
Jose Miranda knew it right away 💪 pic.twitter.com/dfes3K1acC
— ESPN (@espn) July 13, 2022
Brandon Belt (1B – SF): 28% Rostered
Belt is another player that I’ve recommended before, and if we knew for sure he was fully healthy, he’d be even higher up this list. As it stands, Belt is dealing with some knee swelling and could get the knee drained over the All-Star break. The ailment has been limiting his playing time recently, but it certainly hasn’t affected his performance at the dish. Since July 9, he is 9-for-14 with two home runs. Between the 2020 and 2021 seasons, Belt .hit 285 with 90 runs, 38 HRs and 89 RBIs in 145 games, so if he can overcome the knee issue, he could keep the hot streak going through the season’s second half.
Leody Taveras (OF – TEX): 18% Rostered
After short stints with the Rangers in 2020 and 2021, Taveras looks like he could finally be up to stay this time around. Through 27 games, he’s hitting a robust .338 with two homers and four steals. His batting average is sure to come down soon, perhaps below .250, but the steals should continue to come in bunches. Taveras has run at a 20-30 SB pace throughout his minor and Major League careers, and he’s also flashed 20-HR power. He’s a terrific option in all formats while he’s running hot, and should remain a viable option in roto/categories leagues even if he ultimately ends up being a batting average liability.
.@Leodytaveras is hitting .541 over his last 8 games. 😳 pic.twitter.com/ymho7IcSuP
— Texas Rangers (@Rangers) July 15, 2022
Matt Carpenter (1B,2B – NYY): 38% Rostered
Aaron Hicks (OF – NYY): 19% Rostered
Getting a share of the highest-scoring offense in baseball is usually a pretty good idea, and the Bronx Bombers’ two hottest hitters are widely available on waiver wires across the land.
After struggling mightily during his final three seasons with the Cardinals, we probably shouldn’t expect Carpenter to have a career year at age 36. Then again, he’s well on his way to doing it despite sporadic playing time. Even in his best seasons, Carpenter was merely a .270 hitter, but he is currently hitting .338. He also has already hit 11 home runs in just 28 games, putting him on pace to challenge his career-high of 36 set back in 2018. Sure, the numbers will regress some, but Carpenter looks to be a legitimate piece of the Yankees’ modern-day Murderers’ Row.
As for Hicks, he is currently dealing with a shin injury but should return to the Yankees’ lineup in a matter of days. Before the injury, he was blazing hot, hitting .435 with nine runs, three homers, eight RBIs and two steals over a seven-game stretch from July 2 to July 9. In some respects, Hicks has been a maddening player, never fully realizing his potential. But he has been very good for long stretches before and has a good shot to deliver strong counting stats while playing regularly in this Yankee lineup.
Nick Senzel (2B,OF – CIN): 24% Rostered
A former top prospect in the Reds’ system, Senzel displayed intriguing five-category potential throughout the minors and got his Big League career off to a strong start by hitting .256 with 12 HRs and 14 SBs in 414 plate appearances in 2019. Since then, it’s been a series of injuries, struggles and sporadic playing time. But he’s finally found his way back to a regular role in Cincinnati and could be ready for a delayed breakout at age 27. Over the last month, he’s hitting .325 with a couple of homers and three steals. Not massive numbers, but precisely the kind of slow and steady across-the-board production he showed as a prospect.
Deep-League Targets: <10% Rostered
Nick Pratto (1B – KC): 2% Rostered
Nearly half the Royals roster is unvaccinated and currently on the restricted list for the team’s series in Toronto, prompting Kansas City to give Pratto a potentially brief audition to show what he can do. A top-70 prospect according to MLB Pipeline, Pratto possesses immense power, as demonstrated by him hitting 36 home runs in 124 games between Double-A and Triple-A last year and 17 HRs in 74 Triple-A games this season.
Pratto also shares teammate Vinnie Pasquantino’s propensity to draw a walk, but he has nowhere near the contact skills of “the Italian Nightmare.” Pratto was hitting .240 with a 30.6 percent strikeout rate when he got the call, and K’d three times in his Major League debut. He can probably produce at a 30-HR pace for however long he’s up, but given the swing-and-miss in his game and the Royals’ inevitable roster crunch, it may not be too long. Still, he’s a logical add in deeper (and keeper) formats for upside alone.
Luis Patino (SP – TB): 8% Rostered
A former top-25 overall prospect, Patino dominated hitters at all levels of the minor leagues, but he has yet to excel at the Major League level. Still, he has thrown less than 100 innings with Tampa Bay, and at just 22, has plenty of time left to prove himself. Finally recovered from oblique and blister injuries that have sidelined him since his first appearance of 2022, Patino is rejoining the Rays’ rotation on Friday against Baltimore. Regardless of how he performs in that start, he’s a worthy stash given his potential upside.
Domingo German (SP – NYY): 9% Rostered
With Luis Severino heading to the injured list, a spot in the Yankees’ rotation has opened up for German. He was a strong option for the Pinstripes back in 2019, but then missed all of 2020 due to suspension. He was solid again last year but missed a big chunk of the season with shoulder issues that have also kept him out this year. Based on his track record, it’s fair to expect German to produce an ERA in the 4.00-.450 range, a sub-1.20 WHIP, and around a strikeout per inning for however long he is healthy and in the Yankees’ rotation. And he should get plenty of run support.
Justin Steele (SP,RP – CHC): 10% Rostered
Steele is another pitcher whose surface stats don’t look great, particularly his 1.41 WHIP. That is largely his own doing thanks to an unhealthy 4.04 BB/9 rate. But Steele has also been rather unlucky in some respects, as his 3.36 xERA and 3.77 xFIP are both significantly lower than his 4.15 ERA. He’s also been doing a much better job of limiting baserunners of late, posting a 3.31 ERA and 1.22 WHIP in six starts since June 14. He can be a solid innings-eater for the Cubs and deep league fantasy managers.
Jose Iglesias (2B,SS – COL): 9% Rostered
Iglesias was primarily known as a glove-first prospect, and his 11-year Major League career has been fairly nondescript offensively outside of a couple of double-digit steal seasons. One area he is fairly strong in, though, is contact skills, which makes him a good fit for Coors Field. While he won’t contribute much in terms of power or speed at age 32, he can continue to be a solid source of batting average with decent run production. That plus his dual eligibility up the middle gives him some appeal in deeper leagues.
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 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.