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Fantasy Baseball Waiver Wire: Albert Pujols, Nick Lodolo, Bubba Thompson (2022)

by Andrew Seifter | @andrew_seifter | Featured Writer
Sep 17, 2022
Albert Pujols

Let the 42-year-old Albert Pujols take you to the promised land while your league mates aren’t paying attention.

As we fast approach the end point of the 2022 fantasy baseball season, it is becoming easier and easier to find impact players on the waiver wire. Even a phenom like the Orioles’ Gunnar Henderson is only rostered in 47% of Yahoo leagues, despite being off to a solid start to what should be a terrific career.

The truth is that many of your league mates may be checked out at this point and have fantasy football on their minds. Use that to your advantage, and a fantasy championship could be yours!

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

FAABulous Four: Top Waiver Targets

Albert Pujols (1B – STL): 35% Rostered
What better way to take home a fantasy title than with future first-ballot Hall of Famer Albert Pujols as your team captain? Pujols is a great real-life story as he chases 700 home runs at the tail end of an incredible career, but he is also a player that can help your fantasy team in the here and now. Since July 27, he has hit .317 with 12 HRs and 30 RBIs in just 116 plate appearances.

While Pujols was little more than a bench bat for the Cardinals earlier in the season, his improved play and pursuit of history, combined with the Cards’ comfortable playoff positioning, all but ensure he will regularly be in the St. Louis lineup — at least until he joins the 700 Club.

Nick Lodolo (SP – CIN): 51% Rostered
Lodolo missed more than two months of the 2022 season with a back strain, but when healthy, he’s flashed signs of the dominant repertoire that made him a top-40 overall prospect. While he’s had his ups and down and struggled with control at times, he has been flat-out awesome of late, allowing just five runs and 13 hits over his last 20 1/3 innings (three starts) while striking out 31 batters. If you need a boost in strikeouts, it is hard to imagine a better option right now.

Bubba Thompson (OF — TEX): 29% Rostered
Thompson isn’t the most polished hitter — his .278 batting average is sure to fall as long as he continues to strike out in 30+ percent of his plate appearances. But one thing he most certainly brings to the table is speed. The 24-year-old outfielder swiped 49 bases in just 80 games at Triple-A Round Rock and has gone right on running since joining the Rangers, stealing 15 bases in his first 37 MLB games. If you have a need for speed, Bubba is your man.

Jon Gray (SP – TEX): 46% Rostered
Gray was one of my top recommended pickups back in June, but then an oblique strain cost him six weeks of action. On the year, Gray has a strong 3.79 ERA, 1.16 WHIP and 10.18 K/9, and his advanced stats are even better than that. He impressed in his return to the mound last week, allowing 0 ERs on three hits over 3 2/3 innings against the Marlins while striking out five. He should be able to pitch deeper into his next start against the Rays on Saturday.

Priority Pickups: <40% Rostered

Oscar Gonzalez (OF – CLE): 30% Rostered
Gonzalez came out swinging a hot bat when he initially got the call to Cleveland in late May, hitting .417 with nine doubles over his first 15 Big League games. However, he did not hit any home runs during that stretch, despite standing 6-foot-4 and weighing in at 230 pounds. Gonzalez then missed 30 games with an abdominal strain. Still, once he was ready to return, the Guardians made room for him by parting ways with Franmil Reyes, recognizing Gonzalez’s potential to be an impact bat down the stretch.

It turned out to be a great decision, as Gonzalez has hit .307 with seven homers and 21 RBIs in 39 games since returning from the IL. Four of those home runs have come in the last week. The talented 24-year-old hit 31 homers between Double-A and Triple-A last year, so this spike in production is no fluke.

Isiah Kiner-Falefa (SS – NYY): 24% Rostered
Kiner-Falefa got a shout in this space last week, and he’s only strengthened his case for a pickup since then. While he won’t hit for much power, run production opportunities should continue to be there in New York. Above all, Kiner-Falefa is an appealing source of steals, nabbing two more bases on Wednesday to give him an even 20 for the season, matching last year’s career high.

TJ Friedl (OF – CIN): 23% Rostered
Now 27 years old, Friedl is a bit of a late-bloomer, but the combination of power and speed he displayed in Triple-A over the last couple of years has translated seamlessly to Cincinnati. While he hasn’t been making a lot of hard contact, his 15.6 percent strikeout rate is excellent for a rookie. He’s also been swinging a particularly hot bat lately, hitting .307 with six homers and 14 RBIs over the last month, good enough to rank as a top-65 overall player in standard 5×5 formats during that stretch.

Lane Thomas (OF – WAS): 21% Rostered
Thomas is basically Friedl in a Nats uniform instead of a Reds one. He’s another 27-year-old late bloomer who offers a smattering of power and speed, and he has also been a top-65 player in 5×5 leagues lately, hitting .317 with 15 runs, four homers, 12 RBIs, and three steals over the last month. Like Friedl, Thomas has also taken over the leadoff spot on a rebuilding roster.

Yoan Moncada (3B – CWS): 39% Rostered
I have never fully understood the appeal of Yoan Moncada, so I am hesitant to recommend him. While he was a highly-rated prospect many years ago, his big 2019 season always looked like a career anomaly to me. That said, his roster rate has dipped below 40 percent, and like many other White Sox hitters, he has saved his best work for the very end of the 2022 season. Since returning from the injured list on September 6, he’s hitting .361 with three home runs. Keep your expectations for Moncada in check, but if you need help at third base, I’ll reluctantly sign off on giving him a shot.

Bailey Falter (SP, RP — PHI): 24% Rostered
The only explanation I can come up with for Falter’s low roster percentage is that he is lined up to face the Braves in each of his next two starts. That’s tough, no doubt, but he’s been so good that you might want to consider using him anyway. The Philadelphia southpaw is 5-0 with a 2.52 ERA and 0.87 WHIP in his last six starts, dating back to July 29. Most impressive of all, he has 30 strikeouts and only three walks over that stretch — and has not walked a single batter in any of his last four outings.

Ryne Nelson (SP — ARI): 15% Rostered
Don’t look now, but we may have our first fantasy-relevant Ryne since Cubs star Ryne Sandberg retired in the ’90s (no, Ryan Stanek doesn’t count). As for Nelson, the D’Backs’ hurler struggled badly in Triple-A this season, posting a 5.43 ERA in 26 starts. But he had much more minor league success last year and has also been terrific in his first two Major League outings, tossing 13 scoreless frames with 13 Ks and two BBs. His next start comes against the slumping Padres, so perhaps he can keep the good times going.

Jose LeClerc (RP – TEX): 26% Rostered
Brandon Hughes (RP – CHC): 17% Rostered
If you’re on the hunt for saves, LeClerc and Hughes are two widely available relievers who can help you out.

LeClerc earned double-digit saves for Texas in both 2018 and 2019 before shoulder and elbow injuries essentially cost him two full seasons. It has been a long road back for the 28-year-old right-hander, but he looks to finally be there. Over the last month, he’s posted an excellent 2.45 ERA and 1.02 WHIP with 22 strikeouts in 14 2/3 innings, and he’s picked up the Rangers’ last four saves in the process.

Hughes was not on many peoples’ bingo cards as a potential save source when the season began, but that’s often how it goes with closers. He’s now got five saves on the year, all of which have come over the last month. Hughes was pitching well even before he took over the ninth inning for the Cubbies, as his 3.31 ERA, 1.03 WHIP and 10.80 K/9 rate demonstrate.

Deep-League Targets: <10% Rostered

Dylan Floro (RP – MIA): 7% Rostered
Need to look even deeper for saves? Well, don’t look now, but Floro has converted the Marlins’ last two opportunities. Floro ended the 2021 season as Miami’s closer, but he began this season on the injured list with rotator cuff tendinitis and then initially struggled when he first returned in May. He’s gotten better as the season has gone along, though, and now has a solid 3.45 ERA backed by a 3.17 xERA and 3.66 xFIP. He certainly won’t wow you, but saves are saves.

Rodolfo Castro (2B, 3B, SS – PIT): 8% Rostered
Castro’s minor league numbers are fairly pedestrian, but he does have 21 HRs and 11 SBs over 129 games between Triple-A Indianapolis and Pittsburgh. Seven of those homers have come for the Pirates in the last month, and three of them have come in the last week. Add that together with his multi-position eligibility, and you have a name of note in deeper leagues.

Aristes Aquino (OF – CIN): 5% Rostered
With a 36.7 percent strikeout rate that is sixth-worst among all hitters with 200+ plate appearances, Aquino is far from a reliable fantasy asset, particularly in terms of batting average. But he is capable of going on blistering hot streaks, as he did when he hit .259 with 19 HRs, 47 RBIs, and 7 SBs over the final two months of the 2019 season. What he’s doing right now doesn’t quite compare to that, but he does have five HRs and 10 RBIs over his last 12 games and is playing every day.

Tony Kemp (2B, OF – OAK): 7% Rostered
Kemp has always been a part-time player over his seven Big League seasons, but there is an opportunity to be had in Oakland, and right now, Kemp is the team’s primary leadoff hitter. While his season-long numbers are nothing special, Kemp is hitting .333 with seven runs, two homers, and six RBIs over the last week. He also has dual eligibility at second base and the outfield and makes for a decent deep league option if you want to ride the hot hand.

Mark Mathias (2B – TEX): 2% Rostered
Now 28 years old and with his third Major League franchise, Mathias is the classic player who emerges from obscurity in the season’s final weeks. He tore the cover off the ball with both the Brewers’ and Rangers’ Triple-A affiliates this year and is now batting .306 with six homers, 20 RBIs, and three steals in 21 games with Texas after swatting three homers and driving in six over his last two games. Up to this point, he has mostly only played against left-handed pitchers, but perhaps that will change with how well he is swinging the bat.

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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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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