Fantasy Baseball Waiver Wire: George Kirby, Edward Cabrera, Vaughn Grissom (2022)
Welcome to the home stretch of the fantasy baseball season. The smoke has cleared following a tumultuous trade deadline, and a whole host of new players are starting to settle into the roles they’ll hold for the rest of 2022. Many of the biggest changes happen at the backend of MLB bullpens — and this year is no exception.
But this is also the time of year where impactful prospect call-ups can fly under the radar, as many fantasy managers start multi-tasking baseball and football. As the number of remaining games dwindles, it’s also the stage of the season where we need to start placing a greater emphasis on riding the hot hand. Players with obvious warts and aging journeymen are more worthy of consideration now than they were earlier in the year — as long as they’re performing at a high level right now.
But before we get to those types of guys, let’s begin with a player who is under-rostered for more mysterious reasons…
Note: Rostered rates are from Yahoo leagues as of Friday.
FAABulous Four: Top Waiver Targets
George Kirby (SP – SEA): 48% Rostered
I’m having a hard time understanding why Kirby is free for the taking in more than half of Yahoo leagues. He seemingly checks all the boxes: A former first-round pick and top-35 overall prospect. A solid 3.40 ERA and 1.17 WHIP, and the xERA and xFIP to match. Perhaps most impressive of all, is a microscopic 1.25 BB/9 rate that trails only Aaron Nola among pitchers who have tossed at least 70 innings. Sure, Kirby only has three wins to his credit, but he plays for a Mariners team that is well above .500 and in the thick of the playoff chase. He should be rostered in closer to 100% of leagues than 50%.
George Kirby, Shoving. pic.twitter.com/ZLia7ufytf
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) August 6, 2022
Edward Cabrera (SP – MIA): 44% Rostered
Like Kirby, Cabrera is a highly-rated pitching prospect with oodles of upside. His relatively low roster percentage is somewhat more understandable than Kirby’s, but only because he missed close to two months with elbow tendinitis. Since returning, Cabrera has been lights out, tossing 10 2/3 scoreless innings with 14 strikeouts and just eight baserunners allowed. Cabrera averages 96.5 mph on his fastball, is generating a ton of whiffs with three different off-speed offerings (change, slider, and curveball), plays for a team with a strong track record of developing pitchers, and calls pitcher-friendly LoanDepot Park home. Go get him.
Edward Cabrera, Nasty 86mph Slider. 😨
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) August 11, 2022
Vaughn Grissom (SS – ATL): 28% Rostered
While most of the top-ranked fantasy prospects entering the season were called up months ago, this is the time of year where we see prospects who have earned an earlier-than-expected promotion to the Big Leagues. Take Grissom. He began the season in High-A ball, but he quickly outgrew that league with a .312 average, 11 homers, and 20 SBs across 74 games. The next stop was Double-A, where Grissom might have been expected to stay for the rest of 2022. But he took no time adjusting to Double-A pitching, hitting .363 with three homers and seven steals in 22 games, and when Atlanta needed a fill-in for injured second baseman Orlando Arcia (who was filling in for Ozzie Albies), Grissom got the call.
Grissom made his presence known in a big way during his Major League debut, going 2-for-4 with two runs, two RBIs, a homer, and a steal. As a 21-year-old with less than 250 games played in the minors, it would hardly be shocking to see Grissom struggle initially. But his ability to steal bases in bunches provides an immediate path to fantasy value, and his impressive contact skills in the minors (K% < 15% at every level) are reason to hope he can make a smooth transition to the Majors. The upside isn’t dissimilar to what his 21-year-old teammate Michael Harris has done, and that’s saying something.
VAUGHN GRISSOM GOES DEEP IN HIS MLB DEBUT ⚡️⚡️
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) August 11, 2022
Seth Brown (1B,OF – OAK): 42% Rostered
Brown recently celebrated his 30th birthday, so he doesn’t quite have the same breakout appeal of the other top pickups this week. What he does have, though, is a profile that is looking more and more like that of Adolis Garcia, who has emerged as one of the most underrated performers in fantasy baseball over the last two seasons.
Brown was never considered a blue chip prospect, but he does have some big statistical seasons under his belt at the minor league level. He hit .270 with 30 HRs, 109 RBIs, and 7 SBs in High-A in 2017, and followed that up two years later by hitting .297 with 37 HRs, 104 RBIs, and 8 SBs at Triple-A. The power and speed have translated well to Oakland, where he’s piled up 37 HRs and 12 SBs in 668 plate appearances since the start of the 2021 season. While he’s struggled to hit for average, Brown has cut his strikeout rate to 24.4% this year — lower than it was in the minors — and he currently has an expected average of .266. He should see regular playing time for the rest of 2022, and perhaps beyond.
Seth Brown got that Dad Strength 💪 pic.twitter.com/LvvGTtJjQz
— The Rickey Henderson of Blogs (@RickeyBlog) August 4, 2022
Priority Pickups: <40% Rostered
Vinnie Pasquantino (1B – KC): 16% Rostered
Regular followers of this column and my podcast will know I am a huge fan of Vinnie Pasquantino, and my faith in the Italian Nightmare is beginning to bear fruit. Pasquantino displayed a rare blend of power and plate discipline throughout the minors, and he’s maintained a walk rate over 10% and strikeout rate under 15% at the Big League level. The early results in Kansas City were not great, but the underlying stats suggested better days were ahead. Sure enough, Pasquantino is heating up, hitting .391 with three homers over his last six games. As one of the more polished prospects in the class of 2022, look for his numbers to continue to rise in the coming weeks.
Rowan Wick (RP – CHC): 22% Rostered
It was a virtual certainty that the Cubs would deal closer David Robertson, and sure enough, he landed in Philadelphia on deadline day. While Mychal Givens and Scott Effross were candidates to earn save chances in Robertson’s absence, they were both sent packing, too, leaving Wick as the last man standing on the North Side. While Wick will never be confused with Lee Smith or Bruce Sutter, he has managed to pick up three saves and a win over four scoreless innings since inheriting the ninth. His ratios could be a little dicey, but even bad teams generate saves.
Alexis Diaz (RP – CIN): 21% Rostered
With Hunter Strickland pulled from the closer role, Diaz would seem to be the natural fill-in, but manager David Bell reportedly wants to maintain flexibility in how he deploys the flame-throwing right-hander. Even so, Diaz should see his fair share of save chances moving forward. His 1.90 ERA and 0.96 WHIP are both due for some regression, but he should remain helpful in those categories while continuing to pile up a ton of strikeouts.
These filthy pitches are brought to you by Alexis Díaz. pic.twitter.com/H7tfWJfPzQ
— Cincinnati Reds (@Reds) August 7, 2022
Jonathan Hernandez (RP – TEX): 14% Rostered
Despite his dubious peripherals, Joe Barlow was having a sneaky-good season until he hit a rough patch in July and ultimately landed on the injured list due to a recurring blister issue. Barlow is reportedly nearing a return, but it is unclear whether he will regain the closer role from Hernandez, who appears to be staking a claim to the role of late. While he has not formally been named the closer, Hernandez has the Rangers’ last two saves, and he’s only given up two runs over eight innings since returning from Tommy John surgery on July 16. Prior to going under the knife, Hernandez posted a solid 2.90 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, and 9.0 K/9 across 31 innings back in 2020.
John Schreiber (RP – BOS): 28% Rostered
Garrett Whitlock remains the top pitcher in Boston’s bullpen, but Alex Cora has made it abundantly clear that Whitlock will not be used like a traditional closer. Whitlock was sharing closer duties with Tanner Houck, but that’s no longer the case now that Houck is on the IL with lower back inflammation. That’s opened the door to more save opportunities for Schreiber, who earned his fourth save on Thursday. Schreiber has quietly put together an impressive 1.80 ERA, 0.80 WHIP, and 10.20 K/9 rate on the year, and he doesn’t need to get all of Boston’s save chances to have fantasy value.
Aledmys Diaz (1B,2B,3B,SS,OF – HOU): 39% Rostered
Diaz isn’t suddenly turning into a different player than he’s been throughout his seven-year career, but he doesn’t have to. There is only a month and a half left in the fantasy baseball season, and Diaz is blistering hot, hitting .366 with four homers and 11 RBIs over the last two weeks. He’s also eligible at every position on the diamond other than catcher, and hitting in the heart of a strong Astros lineup. No need to overthink this one — just point, click, and enjoy for however long it lasts.
Leody Taveras (OF – TEX): 34% Rostered
After a torrid hot streak in mid-July, Taveras’ numbers have tailed off significantly of late. However, his bat reawoke with a five-RBI game on Wednesday, and he followed that up with a second straight multi-hit effort on Thursday. For the year, he still has a solid .301 average, three homers, and six steals over 174 plate appearances. Taveras hit 20 homers and stole 23 bases between Triple-A and the Rangers last year, so it’s safe to say the 23-year-old still brings plenty of roto/categories league appeal to the table.
Elehuris Montero & Jose Iglesias (2B,SS – COL): 30% Rostered
Elehuris Montero is not considered an elite prospect, but he did hit .279 with 28 home runs between Double-A and Triple-A last season, and followed it up by hitting .310 with 15 HRs in 65 Triple-A games this year before getting the call to Colorado. He’s yet to post an attention-grabbing stat line with the Rockies, but he did have a string of five straight multi-hit games from Aug. 5-10. We’ve certainly seen players with less of a track record than Montero have tremendous success in the thin air of a Colorado summer.
Montero’s teammate Iglesias doesn’t bring the same power potential to the table, but his contact-heavy approach certainly plays well in the BABIP wonderland known as Coors Field. Over the last month, Iglesias has been a top-30 overall player in standard 5×5 formats despite hitting just one home run and stealing zero bases. Of course, that production has been fueled by an unsustainable .380 batting average, but Iglesias is capable of hitting around .300 while scoring and driving in a lot of runs from the second spot in the Rockies’ batting order.
Paul DeJong (SS – STL): 15% Rostered
Between injuries and ineffectiveness, DeJong’s career has been on a downward trajectory since his 30-HR campaign in 2019, and it looked to be the final nail in the coffin when he was sent down to Triple-A Memphis in May. But DeJong responded to the demotion by smacking 17 HRs in 51 games at Memphis, earning a recall to St. Louis after the Cardinals traded Edmundo Sosa. The time outside of the spotlight seemed to pay dividends for DeJong, who is hitting .297 with four homers and 13 RBIs in 11 starts since returning to the Cardinals.
Deep-League Targets: <10% Rostered
Sam Haggerty (OF – SEA): 2% Rostered
Aside from stealing a bunch of bases in the low minors while he was a member of the Guardians’ organization in 2017 and 2018, Haggerty had a fairly nondescript professional career prior to this season. But it’s hard to ignore what he’s doing in 2022. He began the year at Triple-A Tacoma, where he hit .283 with six homers and 15 steals over 179 plate appearances. He’s kept right on producing in Seattle, hitting a robust .323 with four homers and five steals over 103 plate appearances with the M’s. While his playing time is a bit uncertain when Julio Rodriguez, Mitch Haniger, Jesse Winker, and Carlos Santana are all healthy and available, it would be no surprise to see the latter three get routine maintenance days (Winker is dealing with back spasms as we speak).
Bubba Thompson (OF – TEX): 4% Rostered
Thompson is hitting just .160 since making his Major League debut on Aug. 4, but he has managed to steal three bases despite only reaching base four times. That speaks to the immense stolen base potential of a player who swiped 49 bags in 80 games at Triple-A Round Rock. Thompson does not appear ready to replicate the .303 average and 13 HRs he put up at Triple-A, but the stolen base upside alone is enough of a reason to roster him in some formats.
Daniel Vogelbach (1B – NYM): 9% Rostered
Since joining the Mets, Vogelbach has been the subject of some amusing memes of him running the bases. He’s also regained some fantasy relevance. He is strictly a platoon player who is DHing against right-handed pitchers, but that’ll work just fine in deeper formats. Vogelbach is hitting .282 with 14 HRs in 253 plate appearances against right-handers this year, and his move from Pittsburgh to the Mets is going to lead to a lot more RBI opportunities.
Joey Meneses (1B – WAS): 3% Rostered
Meneses is quickly staking his claim to the “Frank Schwindel prize” of 2022, awarded to a 30-year-old journeyman first baseman who comes out of nowhere to produce for a rebuilding team that is short on other options. Now playing for his fourth organization, Meneses has regularly posted a strong batting average and good power numbers in the minors. Whether he settles in as a “Quad A” player remains to be seen, but he’s off to an excellent start with the Nationals, hitting .348 with four homers in his first seven games in Washington.
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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