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Fantasy Baseball Waiver Wire: Hunter Brown, Josh Jung, Cal Raleigh (2022)

by Andrew Seifter | @andrew_seifter | Featured Writer
Sep 10, 2022
Hunter Brown

Hunter Brown was great in his first start and lines up to face the Tigers next.

With just a few weeks left in the regular season, this is the time when fantasy leagues are won and lost. It’s a time to be hyper-attuned to hot streaks, matchups, and playing time. A time where the rest-of-season value is really no different than next week’s value.

In other words, the time for stashing struggling rookies in redraft leagues is over. But it’s important to remember that not all prospects struggle when they first get the call, and those that don’t can often be league winners. Let’s start this week’s waiver wire with two intriguing candidates to do just that.

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

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FAABulous Four: Top Waiver Targets

Hunter Brown (RP – HOU): 34% Rostered

Brown is currently listed as a relief pitcher in Yahoo leagues, but he was great in his first Big League start against Texas (6 IP, 0 ERs, 3 Hs, 1 BB, 5 K) and is lined up for a favorable matchup with the Tigers next. Before arriving in Houston, Brown dominated Triple-A hitters, posting a 2.55 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, and 11.38 K/9 rate in 23 appearances (14 starts) with the Sugar Land Space Cowboys. Armed with a 96 mph fastball as well as a plus curve and slider, he currently ranks as MLB Pipeline’s #71 overall prospect and enters a great environment to succeed in Houston. The Astros have no shortage of starters, but Brown should remain in their six-man rotation at least until Justin Verlander returns, and he could force the issue and remain a starter through the end of the season.

Josh Jung (3B – TEX): 13% Rostered

Jung has been widely regarded as a top-50 prospect since shortly after the Rangers selected the Texas Tech product with the eighth overall pick in the 2019 draft. Unfortunately, his ascension to the Majors has been repeatedly delayed, first by a stress fracture in his foot last year and then by a torn labrum suffered while lifting weights this winter. Thankfully, Jung returned to action in late July, and after connecting for nine home runs in 31 minor league games, the Rangers have deemed him ready for primetime.

Jung similarly obliterated both Double-A and Triple-A pitching in 2021, highlighting his potential to make a real impact in both the batting average and home run departments. It stands to reason he should be in the lineup every day for a Rangers squad that has its sights set on 2023 and beyond.

Cal Raleigh (C – SEA): 34% Rostered

What if I told you that a player who is tied for the league lead in home runs among catchers was free for the taking in two-thirds of Yahoo leagues? Well, it’s true! Raleigh’s tally of 23 long balls is tied with the red-hot Daulton Varsho for the most round-trippers among backstops, while his 54 RBI are tied for seventh-most at the position. He’s also swinging a hot bat, hitting five of those homers over his last seven games. Yes, his .210 batting average is an eye sore, but beggars can’t be choosers at fantasy baseball’s weakest position. If you need some pop, give Cal a call.

Pete Fairbanks (RP – TB): 39% Rostered

All the usual caveats with the Rays bullpen still apply: Fairbanks is not going to see every single save opportunity on a team that might as well have invented closer-by-committee. But Tampa Bay has been winning so many games — and so many close games — over the past month that Fairbanks has seen as much ninth-inning work as the exclusive closer for many other teams. He’s picked up four saves since August 20 and has the lowest expected weighted on-base percentage allowed of any pitcher in baseball, according to Statcast. He doesn’t need to be “the guy” to have plenty of fantasy value.

Priority Pickups: <40% Rostered

Alec Burleson (OF – STL): 3% Rostered

Burleson, David Villar, and Oswald Peraza currently have roster rates so low that they’d typically land in the “deep league target” section. But they deserve to be higher priorities than that.

Burleson isn’t considered an elite prospect, but he’s been totally mashing at Triple-A Memphis this year, hitting .331 with 20 homers and 87 RBIs in 109 games. That batting average is tops in all of Triple-A, and his low 14.3 percent strikeout rate is also awfully impressive for a player hitting the ball over the fence with regularity. He’s hit well against both right- and left-handed pitching, but most of his power production has come against righties. Joining a Cardinals lineup that is third in MLB in scoring, run, and RBI opportunities should be abundant whenever he’s in the lineup. If I was more confident that he would play every day, Burleson would be neck-and-neck with the much more highly-touted Josh Jung as a rest-of-season pickup in redraft leagues.

David Villar (1B, 2B, 3B – SF): 2% Rostered

Like Burleson, Villar isn’t an upper echelon prospect, but it is hard to ignore what he accomplished in the minors. The Giants corner infielder hit 20 home runs in 106 games at Double-A in 2021 and followed that up with 27 long balls in 84 games at Triple-A this season, each time with a solid .275 batting average. He struggled in his first taste of Big League pitching in July, but following a brief demotion, he is back with the Giants and starting to heat up, hitting a cool .500 (7-for-14) with three homers over his last five games. Villar doesn’t offer much on the base paths, but he is eligible at three infield positions and could be a sneaky source of power down the stretch.

Oswald Peraza (SS – NYY): 6% Rostered

With DJ LeMahieu recently placed on the injured list, the door has opened for Peraza to get regular playing time in New York, at least as long as he keeps hitting and playing good defense. Peraza put up some eye-catching numbers this year at Triple-A Scranton Wilkes-Barre, hitting 19 home runs and stealing 33 bases in just 99 games. He’s currently the number 53 prospect in baseball, according to MLB Pipeline, and could make some noise down the stretch as long as he remains in the lineup.

Bailey Falter (SP, RP – PHI): 23% Rostered

After posting a dominant 1.91 ERA and 0.66 WHIP over nine starts with Triple-A Lehigh Valley, Falter has been much more hittable since joining the Phillies, but his pinpoint control remains. His excellent sub-2.0 BB/9 rate helps keep his WHIP down and limits the damage when he runs into trouble with the home run ball. He’s also gotten much better as the season has gone along, as demonstrated by his excellent 2.73 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, and 26-to-3 strikeout-to-walk ratio over his last five starts. With one of the league’s better offenses supporting him and a matchup with the weak-hitting Marlins on tap, he’s a strong pickup for the stretch run.

Seth Brown (1B,OF – OAK): 22% Rostered

Brown has been super streaky this season, but he’s on one of his torrid streaks right now, and it could well last through the rest of the season. He’s 7-for-16 with four homers over his last four games and has now reached the 20-HR mark for the second straight season, despite limited plate appearances. He hasn’t stolen a base in over a month and has yet to hit for average at the Major League level, but he’s a decent option if you need power, especially while he’s swinging the bat like this.

Elvis Andrus (SS – CHW): 22% Rostered
AJ Pollock (OF – CHW): 27% Rostered

It’s taken the White Sox five months to come alive, but it’s finally happening, and these two veterans are playing their part.

Now at the ripe old age of 34, Andrus has at least one hit in 11 of his last 12 games, including multiple hits in seven of those contests. He’s hitting .360 over that stretch, along with 10 runs, four homers, and 11 RBIs. Pollock, the South Side’s other 34-year-old batsman, is hitting .283 with 10 runs, four homers, and eight RBIs over his last 15 games.

Neither player is nearly as exciting a fantasy option as they were in their salad days. Still, boring, under-the-radar players like these can absolutely make a difference over these final weeks.

Isiah Kiner-Falefa (SS – NYY): 19% Rostered

The Yankees’ offense has cooled off considerably, but don’t blame Kiner-Falefa. The former Ranger won’t be confused for the Robin to Aaron Judge’s Batman anytime soon, but he has been one of the Bronx Bombers’ few bright spots lately, going 8-for-19 with five runs, two homers, six RBI, and three steals over his last five games. He’s even begun to hit cleanup. Don’t expect the recent power binge to continue. Still, Kiner-Falefa does offer plenty of stolen base ability, a decent batting average, and good run production potential in what still ranks as baseball’s fourth-highest-scoring offense.

Eduardo Escobar (1B, 2B, 3B – NYM): 39% Rostered

Escobar hasn’t done a whole lot this season, but like many other names on this week’s list, he seems to be saving his best for last. Following a six-hit outburst in Wednesday’s doubleheader with the Pirates — including his 15th homer of the season — the Mets’ 33-year-old third baseman is now 10 for his last 19 with three homers and six RBIs. Escobar is undoubtedly having a down year, but he did hit 28 HRs and drive in 90 runs as recently as last season, so a strong finish to the 2022 campaign cannot be counted out.

Deep-League Targets: <10% Rostered

Jose LeClerc (RP – TEX): 7% Rostered

While it looked for a while like Jonathan Hernandez was the closer in Texas, it is actually LeClerc who has converted the team’s last two save chances. Granted, those two saves were nearly two weeks apart on a collapsing team that has lost 10 of its last 11 games, but the Rangers don’t need to play .500 ball the rest of the way for their closer to maintain some fantasy value. LeClerc looked like he could be the long-term answer in the ninth for the Rangers after posting an excellent 1.56 ERA, 0.85 WHIP, and 13.27 K/9 rate in 2018, but a series of injuries — including Tommy John. surgery in 2021 — put the kibosh on that. Still, he’s got a 1.29 ERA, 0.86 WHIP, and 20 strikeouts in 14 innings over the last month, and looks like the best bet for saves in Texas at the moment.

Erik Swanson (RP – SEA): 10% Rostered

If you’re looking for a middle reliever who can help with strikeouts, ratios, and the occasional win or save, give Swanson a look. He’s second or third at best in the Mariners’ closing pecking order but has still been just about as valuable as Juan Soto in standard 5×5 formats this year (chew on that one for a minute).

Anibal Sanchez (SP – WAS): 2% Rostered

Remember Anibal Sanchez? Like teammate Patrick Corbin, the 38-year-old Sanchez hasn’t been a viable fantasy starter since before the Pandemic. But Sanchez has allowed a total of just two earned runs and eight hits over his last four starts (23 1/3 innings). He’s not going deep into games and still walking too many batters, but he’s at least back on the deep league radar for the first time in a while. I wouldn’t trust him this week against the Phillies, but if that start goes alright, he could be a viable streamer in his next two starts, which are both lined up to be against the Marlins.

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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