If you have been needing to add some offense at catcher or saves to your pitching staff, 2022 has been a frustrating season so far. This weekend, at last, you can find multiple options to help in both of those areas
We received a welcome addition to the catcher pool a week ago when the Blue Jays announced that they would be promoting the prospect Gabriel Moreno. Even with Danny Jansen (hand) out indefinitely, I had concerns about Moreno’s playing time and the lack of power he had displayed at Triple-A Buffalo (one home run in 150 plate appearances). Since then, Zack Collins was sent down, and Moreno has started four of six games behind the plate, with Alejandro Kirk catching two games, serving as DH twice and sitting out the other two games. While it’s generally inappropriate to draw conclusions from four games, there is reason to be encouraged if you are thinking of adding Moreno in a one-catcher league. He has seen 48 pitches so far and swung and missed on only three of them (6.3 percent), and he has only one strikeout in 16 plate appearances. The 22-year-old has yet to barrel a ball, but with a 105.6 mph max EV, he has already hit a ball harder this season than Jeff McNeil or Bryson Stott has.
That doesn’t mean that Moreno is guaranteed to be a great source of power or batting average, but he is getting playing time and hasn’t been overmatched so far. If you need a replacement for Tyler Stephenson (thumb) or Yasmani Grandal (back) or a temporary upgrade for a struggling Gary Sánchez (.496 OPS in June) in a one-catcher league, Moreno is worth a try.
Moreno has already been added in enough leagues that he is highly unlikely to be your solution in a two-catcher league, but there are other catchers who could be. Jose Trevino has started 13 of the Yankees’ past 22 games, and with a big drop in his strikeout rate (from 19.3 percent over parts of four seasons with the Rangers to 12.7 percent), he is batting .291 with five home runs, 16 runs and 18 RBIs to boot. Christian Bethancourt is suddenly playing every day for the A’s – mostly at first base – and he is slashing .260 / .297 / .427 with four stolen bases and a 15.8 percent barrel rate. Finally, Brian Serven has been getting the bulk of the starts behind the plate for the Rockies, and he’s batting .333 with three home runs in 55 plate appearances. Just be aware that if you add Serven this week, you’ll be getting him on the road for six games, and all four of his extra-base hits have come at Coors Field.
As for closers, Tanner Scott and Kendall Graveman are in position to get the vast majority of the Marlins’ and White Sox’s save opportunities, respectively, for the foreseeable future, and both may still be available in some deeper leagues. Red Sox pitching coach Dave Bush was non-committal when asked if Tanner Houck was the team’s primary closer, but for what it’s worth, he has recorded their past two saves and has not allowed a run or a barrel over his past eight appearances covering 16 innings. All three relievers are worth bids of at least 10 percent of FAB in deeper leagues and at least 5 percent in 12-team leagues. Seranthony Dominguez should be part of your contingency bid plan, even if he is not assured of getting the bulk of the Phillies’ save opportunities in the wake of Corey Knebel being removed from the closer’s role. He has been the Phillies’ best reliever this year and figures to get at least some opportunities in the coming weeks.
In a topsy-turvy week, the waiver options are not as plentiful at other positions, but here are a few players to consider.
Michael Harris, OF, ATL: Through his first 18 games in the majors, Harris has been just as productive as he was during his 43-game tenure with Double-A Mississippi. An aggressive approach and ground-ball tendencies (53.8 percent ground-ball rate) have not sapped his power, as his two home runs, six doubles and one triple have landed Harris with a .209 ISO that is actually eight points higher than his mark and Mississippi. He is probably due to some regression, but even so, his ability to make reasonably frequent and hard contact should make him relevant for 12-team leagues. Even though Harris has been batting ninth, he has been starting every game and has not lacked for run-producing opportunities in an offense that leads the majors in wOBA (.331).
Bidding: 2-to-3 percent of FAB in 12-team leagues
Adam Duvall, OF, ATL: If I am going to tout the run-producing potential of Harris, then I need to draw attention to Duvall as well. And unlike Harris, Duvall is actually available in some deeper leagues. Given that he is sporting a .206 / .271 / .360 slash line, it should be no surprise that fantasy managers have not been eager to add him, but he is finally coming out of a season-long funk. In June, he is batting .261 with five home runs, and already he has 13 runs and nine RBIs for the month. Though his 10.6 percent barrel rate is down from his normal level, he is still pairing reasonably hard contact with a high fly-ball rate (54.9 percent).
Bidding: 2-to-3 percent in 15-team leagues
Luis García, 2B / SS, WAS: One weakness shared by Harris and Duvall is a lack of plate discipline, but with regard to that, Garcia requests that they hold his beer. Since García was called up by the Nationals on June 1, no qualified hitter has matched his 50.8 O-Swing%. That hasn’t stopped him from batting .328, as he is mashing flies and liners (94.9 mph EV FB / LD) while taking an all-fields approach. García’s hard contact may pay greater dividends going forward, because his .588 xSLG suggests that we are being misled by his actual .483 SLG. Given that he has been batting towards the bottom of Washington’s order, García may not be a great run producer, but he has something to offer deep-league managers looking to climb the home run and batting average standings.
Bidding: 4-to-5 percent in 15-team leagues
Lane Thomas, OF, WAS: Thomas has shown a similar level of power to García (94.6 mph EV FB / LD), but in a few important ways, he is a more intriguing fantasy option than his teammate. He is far more likely to pull fly balls (career 27.1 percent fly-ball pull rate), and he has been frequently batting leadoff, so he should be a better bet for home runs and runs scored. Thomas also has far superior plate discipline, so while he could be a drag on batting average, he has more value for managers in OBP or points leagues. Though he has cooled off lately, Thomas is still having a very nice June, batting .327 with four home runs, 15 runs and eight RBIs.
Bidding: 0-to-1 percent in 12-team leagues, 4-to-5 percent in 15-team leagues
Caleb Kilian, SP, CHC: With Marcus Stroman (shoulder), Drew Smyly (oblique) and Wade Miley (shoulder) all on the IL, Kilian is getting a chance to stick in the Cubs rotation. In each of his two starts to date, he has had trouble getting ahead of batters (56.1 percent first-strike rate) and inducing chases (20.4 O-Swing%), so his issues with free passes could go beyond the five walks he issued against the Padres on Wednesday. Even if that is the case, it will not necessarily render Kilian irrelevant for fantasy, even in 12-team leagues. At least half of the batted balls he allowed in each of his starts were grounders, and of the 27 batted balls he has yielded, none has qualified as a barrel. If nothing else, Kilian is a worthy 12-team streamer this week with starts at Pittsburgh and St. Louis, but he ought to be useful beyond those outings.
Bidding: 1-to-2 percent in 12-team leagues, 6-to-7 percent in 15-team leagues
Anthony DeSclafani, SP, SF: After nearly two months on the IL with right ankle inflammation, DeSclafani could be nearing a return. He is actually eligible for activation on Tuesday, which makes a two-start week possible. Even if he does not return for Tuesday’s game at Atlanta, DeSclafani could make a start next Sunday at home against the Reds. Especially since the first of those two potential starts would be an especially tough assignment, it’s probably best not to start DeSclafani in most mixed leagues this week, but now is the time to add him in 12-teamers, where he has been widely dropped during his IL stint. He won’t likely start every week in 12-team leagues, but he should start enough to be worth stashing.
Bidding: 1-to-2 percent in 12-team leagues
Rich Hill, SP, BOS: Though Hill emerged from four April starts with a 3.71 ERA, his peripherals – including a 15.5 percent strikeout rate and an 8.5 percent rate rate – made him almost impossible to trust in mixed leagues. Since then, Hill has put up much better indicators, which has translated into 33 strikeouts and seven walks over 38 innings. Because he has stranded just 59.0 percent of his baserunners, the lefty has been saddled with a 4.74 ERA, but he’s actually been more deserving of the high-3.00s ERA he had earlier in the season. It’s the kind of profile that makes Hill worth streaming when he has good matchups, and his upcoming start against the Tigers on Tuesday is clearly one of those.
Bidding: 1-to-2 percent in 12-team leagues, 4-to-5 percent in 15-team leagues
Tyler Wells, SP / RP, BAL: Wells is decidedly a fly-ball pitcher, and while that can make him vulnerable, especially against his AL East opponents, it can also be a positive. There are 99 pitchers who have allowed at least 50 flies and popups combined this season, and Wells has the highest average launch angle on flies and popups of them all. It’s a big reason why he has a .242 BABIP, and in concert with a 5.0 percent walk rate, it’s how he has a 1.07 WHIP. Wells is coming up on a two-start week, and with scheduled outings against the Nationals and White Sox (who rank 24th and 25th, respectively, in HR-to-fly-ball ratio), his fly-ball tendencies should not be a liability. He can only help with strikeouts in two-start weeks, but Wells could be worth keeping around even after this week is done.
Bidding: 0-to-1 percent in 12-team leagues, 4-to-5 percent in 15-team leagues.
Beau Brieske, SP, DET: To look at some of Brieske’s indicators from his rookie season, such as a 22.0 CSW% or 1.98 HR / 9, there would be enough reasons to ignore him outside of AL-only leagues. However, he has altered his pitch mix recently, and it just might be making him a more effective pitcher. His past three starts have been the only ones where he has used his four-seam fastball less than 42 percent of the time, and those starts have also featured his highest slider and sinker usage. Those starts have produced decent whiff (11.4 SwStr%) and chase (32.9 O-Swing%) rates and an outstanding 76.9 Z-Contact%. In terms of top line stats, that has translated into 15 strikeouts and three walks over 18.2 innings with an 0.96 ERA (and for you skeptics, a 3.49 xFIP and 3.60 SIERA). It’s just three starts, but at least in deeper leagues, it’s worth taking a flier on Brieske with road starts at Boston and Arizona.
Bidding: 1-to-2 percent in 15-team leagues
(Top photo: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports)