Fantasy Baseball Waiver Pickups: Week 2
John breaks down the second week's crop of up-and-coming fantasy baseball options.
Fantasy Baseball Waiver Pickups
SP MacKenzie Gore, San Diego Padres
Blake Snell just hit the IL, which means the Padres suddenly have room for Gore in their rotation. He can now put his Spring Training success to the test until at least the 22nd. Gore’s first game was a bit underwhelming as far as the stats go, but he looked dominant while I was watching him for the first couple of innings. He is still worth a pick-up in case he shoves it next time out.
SP Kyle Wright, Atlanta Braves
Wright is quietly very interesting going forward. He has done well in both his games so far, K’ing nine over five innings with no walks in his game today. Looking under the hood, Wright’s velo is up a tick, he is pitching more strikes, and it seems he has replaced his slider with a curveball. This appears to be working very well for him and warrants attention from owners in virtually all formats.
RP Daniel Bard, Colorado Rockies
Ever since Alex Colomé blew his first save opportunity, Bard has been whom the Rockies have turned to for closing out games. He’s a Coors pitcher, so the occasional blowup is to be expected. With that said, Bard has done pretty well so far and has yet to walk a batter. In a game where saves are becoming harder and harder to predict, he’s really not a bad option despite his intimidating home field.
1B Owen Miller, Cleveland Guardians
Miller had consistently good numbers all through the minors (career .305/.368/.450) and is on fire to start the season. His .526 BABIP is obviously unsustainable, but considering his minor league production this isn’t just smoke and mirrors. He has also cut his strikeout rate in half from last year. If at all sustainable, this will continue to lead to good things. Don’t expect Miller to keep up this level of production, but he should be good enough to warrant an add.
1B Ji-Man Choi, Tampa Bay Rays
Choi has more walks than strikeouts so far and has been barrelling everything. All of Choi’s ratios are ridiculous right now, buoyed by a .667 BABIP that will undoubtedly fall way back down to earth. Choi is also not currently an everyday player as he has historically been bad against lefties, but if he keeps hitting this well then perhaps he’ll tempt Tampa into trying him every day (he actually has four hits in five at-bats against lefties this year, interestingly enough). Additionally, Choi’s walk rate has been sneakily improving every year since 2017, and if he can keep up the excellent plate discipline and batted ball numbers then he will be valuable even if he remains on the strong side of that platoon. Choi is a particularly good pick-up for daily formats where you can switch him out on the days he sits, but I’m recommending him in weekly formats as well because of how good he’s been thus far.
SS Elvis Andrus, Oakland A's
Andrus has doubled his walk rate from last season and his BABIP which has been low for a couple of years now is back up around his career norm. He had 12 steals in around 500 at-bats last year, but if he can continue getting on base regularly we could see a bit of a resurgence. It’s easy to forget that this is a guy who had 30 steals as recently as 2019, and that was the year before his BABIP dipped. Go ahead and snag Andrus. It’ll be worth it if we’re witnessing a bounceback, and you can always drop him and feel fine about it if not.
RP Michael King, New York Yankees
Aroldis Chapman has had some issues throwing strikes in his past couple of games. To be clear, this is probably nothing as he’s had issues with walks in the past and has still been one of the game’s best closers. However, in the event that this is because of an unknown injury or part of a decline (his fastball has interestingly been a tick lower than normal this year and his walk rate last year was the worst it’s been since 2011) then you’ll want to be proactive about it. Many will look to Chad Green or Jonathan Loáisiga as handcuffs, but I think there’s a chance that this guy could actually become the King of the bullpen (so lame, I’m sorry) if Chapman is ever dethroned. In his minuscule sample size of 5.2 innings thus far, the velo on Michael King’s sinker is up a bit from last year and he is throwing the slider/curveball that he learned from Corey Kluber more frequently. He has a 7/1 K/BB ratio so far and actually earned a save in the last opportunity for the Yankees. Even if he never becomes the closer, King could be a good ratio and strikeout guy for your team.
SP Michael Lorenzen. Los Angeles Angels
In his first game, Michael Lorenzen struck out 7 players in 6 innings and most importantly didn’t walk anyone. This is notable since walks have been a big thorn in his side throughout his career. Interestingly, his sinker was the pitch he threw most often in this game. If this is at all telling of how he’ll pitch this year, then it is a big change in his pitch mix. The last time he used his sinker as his primary pitch was back in 2017-18. The reintegration of his sinker as the primary pitch in his game could be in an attempt to get his groundball % back up. Another point of interest is that his velocity was down almost a full tick from last year. Maybe his pitches are playing differently because of this? Or maybe I’m reading way too deeply into a six-inning sample. Lorenzen is the guy I feel least strongly about of any name in this article, but I think he is at least worth monitoring.