The kids are taking over. It feels like the league is getting younger and younger (or maybe I’m just getting older), and the biggest stars of today have yet to reach their 25th birthday. That’s not to say the veterans haven’t held their own, but players like Josh Lowe and Taj Bradley have started the season so well that I never even got a chance to mention them for this column (they didn’t qualify – rostered over 50%). Luckily, there are still a few young studs out there that do qualify, so make haste when considering them because they won’t last for long.
Continuing with our weekly series, this next group of waiver-wire targets is all rostered in 50% or less of Yahoo Leagues. They are broken down into categories based on how they’re most likely to help you, although many will aid you in multiple ways. There have been some strong additions already mentioned (I try my best not to repeat players), so with a little luck, these next few guys will keep the good times rolling.
Week 4 Fantasy Baseball Category & Waiver Wire Targets
Ruiz was a target of mine coming into the season after putting up such gaudy numbers in the Minor’s last year. The current rule changes were already in effect for those down on the farm in 2022, and Ruiz took full advantage. After swiping an eye-popping 85 bags last year in Double and Triple-A, you knew he was going to run this season in Oakland. He also hit for average, posting nearly a .330 BA over 114 games.
He struggled in his short cup of coffee last year, but it allowed Ruiz to get his first taste of Major League pitching before starting this year. Now the everyday center fielder for Oakland, the 24-year-old Dominican has already swiped five bags, including three this last week. He’s also reaching base at an impressive .382 clip and is currently hitting for a .300 average. Ruiz had also knocked in nine runs in the 20 games he’s played. It doesn’t take a genius to add the speedy leadoff hitter if you’re lacking in the steals department.
Rooker has been Oakland’s most productive hitter, and it’s not even close. Finally granted a full-time playing gig (largely because Oakland is so bad), the 28-year-old outfielder has produced an outstanding 199 wRC+ with 11 RBIs and four home runs. His most impressive stat is the identical 14.6 BB% and K% he’s currently maintaining after striking out heavily for most of his career.
He dealt with a bit of a hamstring injury late in the week but seems to be back at full strength after going one-for-three in Friday night’s game with two walks. Rooker’s the everyday cleanup hitter for the A’s and should offer a sizable amount of RBIs while he’s playing so well.
Burger should continue to play nearly every day, even after Yoan Moncada returns. The former 11th overall pick has been abusing baseballs of late, crushing five home runs over just 28 at-bats. He already boasts the hardest-hit baseball in all of MLB and has hit tanks to both sides of the field.
What’s even more impressive is after teeing off on off-speed pitches last year (.577 SLG), three of his homers this season have come off of heaters and two off of breaking pitches (and none off of off-speed). He’s putting any type of offering into the seats, and despite hitting lefties better, three of his homers (and one double) have come off of RHP.
If he stops hitting homers and is sent back to platoon duty, then you can always drop him; right now, the dude is locked in and is someone you want on your fantasy squad. He does have to deal with Tampa Bay this weekend and again later this week, but he’s still worth a flier in most leagues.
The Pirates are winning games, and Suwinski is a big reason why. After hitting 19 long balls in limited action last season, the 24-year-old outfielder is off to a similar start this year. He’s already hit five homers and is currently sporting a fine .999 OPS. The Pirates have suffered a rash of injuries, so Suwinski should have a clear path at regular playing time. He doesn’t often start against lefties, but that could be changing soon – he’s reached base in four out of 10 plate appearances. Add the Pittsburgh outfielder now to help boost your home run totals.
Hernandez has moved up in the lineup, and so far, he’s lived up to the promotion. After struggling to kick off the season, Hernandez has been hot, collecting 14 hits and three walks over his last ten games. Those 16 times on base have led to 11 runs scored and five RBIs. He even stole a base and hit a home run. The Red Sox’s best defensive player was subpar last season but looks to have turned things around for 2023. With middle infield so tough to fill these days, Hernandez is worth a shot while he’s producing at the plate.
Duran is currently boasting a .412 batting average but with a .500 BABIP. Before you scoff at that number, it has not all been luck. Duran’s line drive rate (although a minimal sample size) is 29% which would be among the league’s best hitters. Also, he’s rarely putting the ball on the ground and has hit the ball solely the other way or up the middle. This type of batted-ball profile is ideal for a high batting average and has already led to four doubles and six RBIs over just 21 plate appearances.
The former top prospect’s strikeout rate will likely hover around 25%, but if he continues to make solid contact with balls within the zone, he could be a productive hitter all season long. Add Duran now for what could be a four or even five-tool addition to your squad.
Drew Smyly pitched modesty well last year, but few took notice. Over 22 starts, the southpaw from Arkansas finished with a 3.47 ERA and a 1.19 WHIP to go along with seven wins. Those numbers may not be great for shallow leagues, but in deeper ones, they are more than serviceable.
After his latest performance, however, more are bound to take notice. Smyly took a perfect game into the eighth inning and only lost it because of a miscommunication with his catcher on a swinging bunt. He not only silenced the Dodgers’ bats in his latest outing but also shut them down five days earlier. He lasted just under six innings in that one but also earned the victory after allowing just one run. He was just as dominant the week before too, limiting Seattle to just one run.
Smyly will have a few stinkers throughout the year but can be counted on to give you quality outings most of the time. His 3.13 ERA is excellent in today’s starting pitching market and should stay below 3.50 for the duration of the year.
Wells is up to the same old tricks that put him on the fantasy map last year. Hitters are kept off balance by a plethora of pitches he finely places around the plate. Wells limits hard contact and induces a ton of ground balls by mixing his five-pitch repertoire effectively. Every offering is thrown at least 10% of the time, and rarely are any thrown down the middle of the plate. All five pitches have allowed less than a .214 average, and he’s only given up two free passes over 23.1 innings. The 6-foot-8 righty currently holds a .171 BAA and 0.69 WHIP.
Wells is still flying under the radar because of a couple of untimely home runs he gave up and because of his lack of strikeouts. But even if he surrenders a few gopher balls now and then, his WHIP will likely stay in the bottom 15% of the league (the lower, the better). Add Wells everywhere you need help lowering your WHIP.
If Miller can stay healthy, the sky is the limit for him. The 24-year-old looked fantastic in his first Major League start, blowing away a hot Cubs team with triple digits up in the zone and a filthy high-80s slider. His cutter was also nasty, averaging over 95 miles per hour.
Miller threw very few games in the Minor Leagues, but when he did, the strikeout totals were extreme. Last year over 14 innings, he K’d 25 batters. And this season, over just two starts, he totaled 19 Ks in just 9.1 innings.
Oakland will cap his innings at some point this season, but in the interim, he could be a diamond in the rough. He deserves a spot in nearly all league types.
Allen is scheduled to make his Major League debut this Sunday against the Marlins and could be another valuable asset for strikeouts. In deeper leagues, he’s worth adding now, but in standard ones, he’s more of a wait-and-see candidate.
Gibson is coming off his fourth win of the season and is set to take on Detroit in his next outing. The Orioles “ace” is your typical middle-of-the-pack starter but does last deep into games and has the support of an excellent bullpen and offense. I don’t advise starting him against some of the better teams in the league but pitching against Detroit is a choice matchup. Add Gibson everywhere he’s available before he adds his league-leading fifth victory.
I highlighted Puk as someone to target in our offseason, Closers to Target From Unsettled Situations series, and so far, he’s made me look good. With four saves already to his credit and not a single run allowed this month, Puk has been an excellent late-round sleeper pick in fantasy leagues. His rostership has shot up in recent days, so if he’s still available in your league, now is the time to get him.
Austin Lowell is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Austin, check out his archive.