Mike Soroka
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Waiver Wired

Waiver Wired: Grab the Mike

Updated On: April 25, 2019, 11:38 am ET

I have seen some things, man. In the 10 seasons writing this column, there have been a ton of highly-touted prospects who have made their way to the majors. Stephen Strasburg, Bryce Harper, Kris Bryant, and Ronald Acuña Jr. stand out as far as the most anticipated, but Vladimir Guerrero, Jr. might have the most hype of the bunch going into his now official major league debut Friday against the Athletics. That’s mostly because Guerrero has already deserved it for a long time and business is what has kept him on the farm.

There’s nothing actionable to advise at this point in fantasy leagues because Vladito has been rostered everywhere already. If for some reason he is available, I have a lot of questions. Even knowing that we would likely have to wait a few weeks — especially after his spring oblique injury — Guerrero carried an average draft position of 49.2 in Yahoo leagues. That checked in ahead of the likes of Ozzie Albies, Gary Sanchez, Corey Seager, Gleyber Torres, and Adalberto Mondesi. The expectations will be high from the jump and there’s plenty of evidence to suggest that the 20-year-old Guerrero is up to the task. The numbers are gaudy. He hits for average and power and gets on base. He’s had more walks than strikeouts while making his way up the minor league ladder.

A system that would encourage a major league team to keep a talent like Guerrero in the minors is begging to be retooled. It’s counter to common sense and logic. Oh, and the goal of putting the best talent on the field. Those flaws can’t be ignored even now that Guerrero is on his way to the Blue Jays, but at least now we finally get to enjoy his exploits against major league pitching. Let’s have some fun.

Have specific questions about your roster? Ask @djshort on Twitter.

MIXED LEAGUES

(Players rostered in under 50 percent of Yahoo leagues)

Note: Percentages are from the morning of Thursday, April 25th

Mike Soroka SP, Braves (Yahoo: 35 percent rostered)

Soroka probably would have been an established mixed league starter by now if it wasn’t for his shoulder issue last year. He looked every bit like the polished pitcher he was billed as with a 3.51 ERA and 21/7 K/BB ratio over his first 25 2/3 major league innings. The 21-year-old got a late start this spring due to renewed soreness in the shoulder, but he impressed in his season debut with the Braves last week and got a chance to stick around after Touki Toussaint’s blow-up. He was solid again Wednesday against the Reds, allowing just one run over 5 2/3 innings while striking out seven and walking five. The Braves have the ability to shuffle their young arms back and forth and could easily do the same if Soroka falters, but he needs to be scooped up on the chance that he gets an extended run. Please stay healthy.

Max Kepler OF, Twins (Yahoo: 45 percent rostered)

I always monitor the waiver wire to see players who fall under the 50-percent mark and Kepler really stood out to me this week. Granted, he hasn’t had the sort of start to the season many were hoping for on draft day. With an 0-fer on Wednesday, he’s batting just .236/.321/.403 through 81 plate appearances. The strikeout rate has been up so far this year, but he’s still making plenty of contact and drawing his share of walks as the Twins’ primary leadoff man. And when he does make contact, he’s hitting the ball hard. According to Baseball Savant, he’s in the 87th percentile as far as average exit velocity and 81st as far as hard-hit percentage. This looks like a prime buy-low opportunity.

Ty Buttrey RP, Angels (Yahoo: 18 percent rostered)
Hansel Robles RP, Angels (Yahoo: 4 percent rostered)

I don’t have a great read on what the Angels are going to do at closer — some things never change — but the one thing we do know is that Cody Allen is out. It makes sense why the Angels gave Allen a shot, but he wasn’t good last year and his velocity continues to trend down. Buttrey showed some potential after coming over from the Red Sox in the Ian Kinsler deal last year and has been very solid so far this season. While he took the loss Wednesday against the Yankees, he didn’t really deserve it. Buttrey is getting most of the attention in mixed leagues, but clearly Brad Ausmus isn’t against using him earlier in games, so Robles is worth watching as well. As a Mets fan, I remember him mostly for pointing up on fly balls that usually ended up going over the fence, but he’s pitched well since coming over to the Angels. This includes a 3.09 ERA with 16 strikeouts and three walks over 11 2/3 innings this season. He’s also added an awesomely-weird Undertaker music intro. Again, it’s unclear who has the edge, but get in the game where you can.

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Avisail Garcia OF, Rays (Yahoo: 17 percent rostered)

It was a shame to see Austin Meadows go down with a right thumb sprain over the weekend, but Garcia is off to a solid start himself. Through 22 games, he’s batting .262/.319/.476 with four homers, 10 RBI, 11 runs scored, and two stolen bases. He missed a bunch of time last year with knee problems, but he still managed 19 homers in 385 plate appearances. There’s reason to believe he can build on this power exploits, as he’s increased his launch angle and hard-hit percentage while checking in among the league’s best for exit velocity and barrel percentage. He’s benefitted from some good BABIP fortune in the past (.392 in his 2017 campaign), but he’s mostly earning his luck so far this season. He needs to be rostered in more leagues, at the very least.

Cole Tucker SS, Pirates (Yahoo: 17 percent rostered)

Erik Gonzalez hit the 60-day injured list after suffering a fractured left clavicle in a collision with teammate Starling Marte, clearing the way for Tucker to join the big club. The 22-year-old never really put up good numbers at the plate in the minors, but he had a good showing in the Arizona Fall League and was hitting .333/.415/.579 with seven extra-base hits (including three homers) and five steals over his first 13 games in Triple-A prior to his call-up. And then, of course, he homered in his major league debut. It’s obviously too soon to say whether he’s progressed with the bat. I’m skeptical. However, he’s swiped 131 bases over 457 games in the minors, which should be enough to give him a shot in deeper formats.

Yonder Alonso 1B, White Sox (Yahoo: 15 percent rostered)

Let’s keep rolling with another buy-low. Alonso seemingly doesn’t have much going for him so far, with a .179 batting average and just three homers through 23 games. I get it if you’ve already bailed on him, but just keep in mind that he’s greatly increased his contact rate while not giving him up anything in terms of hard contact or his fly ball rate. His average exit velocity is up so far and his hard-hit percentage is in the 85th percentile, according to Baseball Savant. The 32-year-old is in a good park for power and I expect better results moving forward. It’s always better to get on board before a player turns things around rather than being reactionary and miss out of the good stuff, right? Those in deeper formats should be able to find room.

Niko Goodrum 1B/2B/3B/SS/OF, Tigers (Yahoo: 46 percent rostered)

You see that position-eligibility? I’m sure he’ll add catcher before long, don’t worry. I actually mentioned Goodrum in Waiver Wired last year (he was part of one of my favorite headlines I’ve ever done), but I’m even more optimistic about him this year. After reaching 16 homers and 12 steals in 2018, he’s been much more patient this year, nearly doubling his walk rate to 16.5 percent compared to 8.5 percent last year. The selectivity has helped, as he’s seen major jumps in average exit velocity and hard-hit percentage, suddenly among the league’s best. He’s also hitting cleanup in the Tigers’ lineup, which admittedly isn’t much to get excited about these days. Still, it sure looks like he’s putting things together.  

Jerad Eickhoff SP, Phillies (Yahoo: 12 percent rostered)

No, I don’t think Eickhoff is necessarily a long-term option in mixed leagues. Heck, Nick Pivetta might get another chance in the Phillies’ rotation before long if/when he shows signs of progress in the minors. But Eickhoff has been solid enough so far, allowing four runs in 10 innings with a 14/4 K/BB ratio through his first 10 innings with the Phillies this season. He hung in there despite pitching in Coors Field in his first start over the weekend and he has a much easier matchup against a weak Marlins’ offense in Miami on Friday night. If you need a streamer, here’s your man.

Dwight Smith Jr. OF, Orioles (Yahoo: 42 percent rostered)

I have to be honest, Smith wasn’t the Orioles’ outfielder I was the most excited about this spring. That would be Cedric Mullins, who was demoted this week after posting a brutal .094/.181/.156 batting line through his first 74 plate appearances. Win some, lose some. Smith has been a heck of a pleasant surprise so far with a .286/.327/.527 batting line along with five homers, 18 RBI, 17 runs scored, and three steals through 23 games. While the 26-year-old doesn’t stand out in terms of batted ball data, he’s put up some decent power/speed numbers in the minors and finds himself in a hitter-friendly home stadium. Riding an eight-game hitting streak, he’s claimed the No. 3 spot in the order in recent days. I’ll give my lukewarm endorsement here, though picking him up all depends on roster need.

Shopping at the five-and-dime:

(Players rostered in under 10 percent of Yahoo leagues)

Pablo Lopez SP, Marlins (Yahoo: 7 percent rostered)

I mentioned Lopez in the second Waiver Wired of the season, but he’s actually rostered in fewer leagues now than he was then. With a 4.44 ERA through five starts, he hasn’t exactly stood out. Still, it’s time to look deeper here. Lopez allowed just an unearned run over 6 1/3 innings of work against the Indians on Tuesday and now holds an impressive 29/5 K/BB ratio over 26 1/3 innings so far this season. His fastball velocity has been up slightly from where he was last year and he gets tons of whiffs on his changeup, but he could really take off if he gets that third pitch — his curveball — in check. Even with a terrible Marlins lineup, he shouldn’t be on the waiver wire in deeper formats.

Shawn Kelley RP, Rangers (Yahoo: 8 percent rostered)

I really thought Jose Leclerc could be a top-10 fantasy closer this year if he could maintain the control gains he showed last year. That was always a big if, though. And so far this year, it hasn’t happened. This includes a four-walk performance against the Astros on Sunday when he was pulled in the middle of a save chance. Kelley bailed him out for his first save of the season and could be first in line if the Rangers decide to give Leclerc a break. After giving Leclerc a four-year, $14.75 million deal in March, the Rangers will surely do everything they can to get him back on track, but Kelley is pretty interesting if he can stay healthy. I don’t really have high expectations on that end, but he’s been very good so far this year while relying more heavily on his slider. Jesse Chavez and Chris Martin are among the other options here, if you are feeling bold enough.

Eric Thames 1B/OF, Brewers (Yahoo: 3 percent rostered)

I wasn’t expecting a full repeat from Jesus Aguilar this year, but he’s been flat-out brutal, posting a .134/.234/.164 batting line with zero homers in 79 plate appearances. He’s been benched in three straight games and it might be worth moving on in standard mixed leagues. The Brewers have their fair share of moving pieces, but Thames could be poised to be the regular first baseman against right-handers once again. The 32-year-old has struck out a ton over the past two seasons, but he’s popped five homers with a .273/.327/.614 batting line through 49 plate appearances so far this year. He needs to be added again in deeper formats at the very least.

AL ONLY

Stevie Wilkerson 2B, Orioles (Yahoo: 0 percent rostered)

Adding southpaw John Means (Yahoo: 5 percent rostered) would be my first priority if he’s not already rostered, but let’s look at another Oriole who is more widely-available. After being designated for assignment in March, Wilkerson is getting another shot on the major league level after the struggling Cedric Mullins was demoted this week. The 27-year-old Wilkerson had some struggles of his own during his first stint in the majors last year, putting up a .174/.224/.239 batting line over 49 plate appearances, but he brings some versatility to the table and put up some decent numbers in the minors in 2017 before missing a big chunk of last season with a suspension for amphetamines. He slugged his first major league homer against the White Sox on Wednesday while making the start in right field. Watch the playing time, but he could have value in this format.

Daniel Robertson 2B/3B/SS, Rays (Yahoo: 1 percent rostered)

Robertson is batting just .174/.250/.217 through 22 games this season, but he should be in a better position for playing time with Joey Wendle set to miss time due to a fractured right wrist. The Rays are deep in alternatives, with Brandon Lowe as the most likely beneficiary. Still, Robertson showed some interesting pop and patience during his first look at major league pitching last year. The multi-position eligibility enhances his appeal when he’s in the lineup.

NL ONLY

Gio Gonzalez SP, Brewers (Yahoo: 8 percent rostered)

After using the opt-out clause in his minor league deal with the Yankees, Gonzalez inked a one-year, $2 million deal with the Brewers this week and should be added to the starting rotation before long. The veteran southpaw had a 6.00 ERA over three starts during his time with the Yankees’ Triple-A affiliate, but he struck out 19 guys in 15 innings and reportedly looked good. Brewers’ starters hold an ugly 5.84 ERA so far this season, so they could certainly use the help. And Gonzalez pitched well down the stretch with Milwaukee last season. Worth a try to see if he can keep that going.

Ty France 3B, Padres (Yahoo: 1 percent rostered)

Off to a red-hot start in Triple-A, France was called up on Wednesday with Jose Pirela hitting the injured list due to a strained left oblique. France isn’t a top prospect in what is a very deep minor league system, but he still has a chance to be a useful player on the major league level. After slugging 22 homers between Double- and Triple-A last year, he was batting .423/.500/.885 with nine homers through his first 19 games with El Paso this season. He probably fits best in a utility role, but there’s a chance he could pick up some at-bats from the struggling Ian Kinsler.


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