We are teetering on this tightrope for another week as we take a long look at fantasy baseball waivers. My fellow degenerates playing along can attest that we are finding diamonds in the rough every week. That keeps our teams in the hunt for a title (or broadening a lead) with depth at every position. To recurring readers, good to see ya. To new folks, welcome. Let’s get to work.
I’ll always start with the caveat that this column is for all fantasy baseball players. There will be names that do not apply to those of you in deeper leagues. There will be names that matter none for you in shallow ones. That’s up to you guys and gals to figure out. The goal is to find quality players that will strengthen your bench (maybe even crack the lineup consistently). All this does is aid you in getting to the promised land.
***All availability percentages are from Yahoo! fantasy baseball leagues.***
Alex Cobb (SP – SF) 47% owned
Cobb was likely drafted and dropped and added and dropped and added and dropped by multiple teams in your league this season. If your league is even medium-deep, he should be rostered. His numbers are misleading, as (headed into Sunday), Cobb was the victim of a .411 BABIP, which is terribly unlucky. After coughing up 13 runs in two starts, he held the Cincinnati Reds (I know, I know… but they’ve been scoring a lot lately) to two runs in six innings. Cobb is too talented to let his ERA hang out in the 6.00 range for long, and he is always good for strikeouts. In medium-deep and deep leagues, he’s a must-roster, even if it means picking and choosing when to have him available for the next few weeks.
Nolan Gorman (2B, 3B – STL) 63% owned
He’s likely unavailable in deep leagues, but Gorman being available in 37 percent of leagues overall is ridiculous. If he is free on waivers in your league, I can virtually guarantee you have someone on your bench worth dumping for this talented rookie. I mentioned in last week’s Walking the Waiver Wire that his positional availability would increase. It has, and that’s important because most teams already have a capable third baseman. Gorman now qualifies at second base, which is a far greater need for fantasy teams, and he could become a permanent fixture in a starting lineup if he keeps hitting like he has. Since his call-up on May 20, the left-handed hitting Gorman has not disappointed. In 9 days, he is hitting .360 with a dinger and five RBI, batting second in a potent lineup, and comes off a 4-for-4 Saturday.
Roansy Contreras (SP – PIT) 34% owned
Tough to resist the hype on Contreras. The fact that he tossed 84 pitches in his first 2022 start alone makes him worthy of a roster spot. The issue is suggesting anyone from Pittsburgh is an upside option. However, that was also the case for the early 2000s Oakland Athletics and more recently, the Miami Marlins. Those teams cost their pitchers plenty of decisions with their inability to hit, but the pitchers were still able to shine. Contreras was a monster in Triple-A, and between his one start and relief appearances at the major league level, he backpacks a 2.13 ERA and totes a tiny 0.95 WHIP over four appearances. Fair to say that the 22-year-old could have a clunker here and there, but he already looks like the real deal. Dealing out 84 pitches and shutting out the Rockies for five innings was a nice start. His workload will be limited towards the end of the season when the Pirates are out of contention, so he won’t help you in the playoffs. He could still possibly be a secret weapon in getting you there.
Kyle Farmer (SS, 3B – CIN) 10% rostered
Don’t look now, but the Cincinnati Reds are showing signs of life. At the plate the main sparkplug has been Farmer, Cincy’s Swiss Army Knife. After being 0-for-a million early in the season, Farmer had some time away and came back absolutely smoking hot. It’s always a good idea to jump on the hot hand, and his has been like an iron in the coals. Farmer does not start every single day, but five out of seven ain’t bad. In his last eight games, the 31-year-old has been hitting at a whopping .500 clip with a 1.462 OPS. He had three doubles, three homers, and brought a .929 slugging percentage to the table. Farmer has played literally every single position on the field in his career. He’s eligible at shortstop and third base currently, but one injury and that availability will expand, as he is also a great defender.
Anthony Santander (OF – BAL) 26% owned
You have no idea how many times I wrote Christian Walker into this header, deleted it, changed to Santander, and then lather/rinse/repeat. It is not for lack of talent on either player’s part. They are each so close in production it was tough to choose. I like Santander as the 3-hole hitting for a Baltimore club that (while often slagged) is capable of putting up plenty of runs. They are a young enough team that this 27-year-old looks like an old man, but I digress. Santander is having a season worthy of a fill-in slot on your team. His .223 average is ugly, but in 2022 that’s kind of par for the course. He’s got eight moonshots with the boomstick to his credit, as well as 25 driven in and 23 times crossing the plate himself. Santander is a solid bench option and the metrics suggest that in the heat of summer, that average will rise.
So what about Walker? If you don’t like the Santander pick, Walker is still there in 66 percent of leagues. He would be the ultimate boom/bust roster fill-in for fantasy teams. The guy has hit eight bombs in May, but is weighed down by a .193 average. In short, he’s a “cross your fingers” guy. He is sneaking a 1.5 WAR into this article on a triple slash of .193/.283/.452 (that’s a .753 OPS, for you mathematicians out there). 12 dingers gets you a little respect in these situations. Between the two, I’d be erring on the side of Santander as a more consistent producer going forward. However, if you need lumber off the bench (particularly in rotisserie) and are ok with the boom-or-bust aspect, Walker is the guy.
This part was mostly left out last week, as there had not been many changes for teams at the finish line of games. There still haven’t been many changes, but there were a few things to note.
Cincinnati is still a closer-by-David-Bell-committee, but Tony Santillan (4%) appears to be leading the way as an endgame player. He’s a speculative add in deep leagues, as he’ll likely only see action in a hold or save situation going forward. That’s only noteworthy because the Reds are finally winning games. Santillan has two saves and a hold in the last 10 days, including a four-out save versus San Francisco on Saturday night.
Despite my recommendations, Joe Barlow (70%) is still available in 30 percent of leagues, which is mind-blowing. The Rangers aren’t a good team, but anyone worth their salt knows closers on unsuccessful teams do well. After all, when they win, it’s not by much. Not only that, but the chances of Barlow being traded to a contender and ramping up that production during your playoffs couldn’t hurt.
In Tampa, Andrew Kittredge is dealing with a lower back strain. While he was serviceable in the role as his freight only held a 0.78 WHIP, his stuff was far from dominant. Everyone prognosticated multiple closing options and snatched them up. While no one was looking, Colin Poche (7%) crashed the party. Poche has two saves and a hold in the last five days. He’s a decent gamble in deeper leagues, tug boating a 1.20 ERA and a 0.73 WHIP in 16 relief appearances. Back injuries are not good, particularly for pitchers. I’d say Kittredge is in for a long season. They may return him quickly, but that’s a bad idea. Re-injury is a real possibility. Poche, coming off Tommy John surgery has some snap to the ball and could thrive in the closer role.
Keep An Eye Out
If your league has multiple IL slots, just go ahead and skip this section. This is for shallow leagues and those that have no IL. There are a trio of pitchers set to make their returns in June or July, and if you’ve got dead weight they are worth stashing. Stephen Strasburg has started rehab assignments and should join the Washington Nationals in about three weeks. He is set to toss 70 pitches in his next rehab, so when he comes back, fatigue should be no issue. Anyone needing a boost to their rotation would do well to nab him.
Jack Flaherty (shoulder) has also made significant progress. He’s tossing to live hitters and will probably hit the minors in the middle of June. If he is healthy at that point, they’ll waste no time in bringing him back up to the major league club. The Cardinals are in the middle of everything early in the season, and returning Flaherty would be a major boon to the team. He should be up by July 1, if not sooner.
Maybe the most anticipated (and likely rostered) returnees is Jacob deGrom (shoulder). He is throwing for distance right now, and is chomping at the bit to get on a mound. The Mets are taking it slow. deGrom should be back in mid-July, and with the return of Max Scherzer, one of the NL favorites get an enormous boost. Once again, it’s a waiting game, but stashing deGrom (if available) now will pay off late-season. Considering the Mets have never given him much run support, he will be deadly since New York learned how to put runs on the board.
Best of luck with all of your claims, may you get every player you’ve set your sight upon.