- The players you should be adding in your fantasy baseball league.
Welcome back to Waive Hello, our weekly column on players you should be adding from the waiver wire.
There are two important, often overlooked factors when considering post-hype prospects. The first is that not everyone can be Mike Trout or Juan Soto. It takes a lot of players time to adjust to the majors, even ones who enter the league with elite pedigrees and ultimately find success. The second is the age at which such players make their MLB debuts. Some guys disappoint so strongly so early that we lose sight of how young they actually are.
With those two factors in mind, I’d like to Waive Hello to Lucas Giolito, who is starting to look like the frontline starter he was promised to be from the moment the Nationals used the 16th overall pick in the 2012 amateur draft to select him. Giolito struggled last year, but it was his first full season in the majors. What’s more, it was just his age-23 season. I think we can forgive Giolito for not contending for a Cy Young Award as a 23-year-old rookie. It becomes especially easy to do so when you look at what he has done this season.
To be fair, Giolito’s to-date surface numbers don’t jump off the page. Through 31 innings and six starts, he has a 4.06 ERA and 1.29 WHIP. Dig a little deeper, however, and you find a pitcher coming into his own. Giolito has 38 strikeouts and a 29.2% strikeout rate in his 31 innings. His average fastball velocity is up to 94 mph, more than a full mile per hour faster than it was last season. He has completely ditched a problematic two-seam fastball, instead leaning more on his four-seamer and changeup. The latter has been particularly effective, registering a whiff rate of 19%. Let’s give it a look.
Giolito was excellent in his last trip to the mound, tossing 7 1/3 shutout innings in a win over the Indians, allowing three hits while striking out eight and walking three. Given the changes to his velocity and repertoire, his recent success and his upside, he’s well worth a shot in all fantasy leagues.
With that, let’s find some other players to Waive Hello to in this week’s look at the waiver wire.
All players have ownership rates of 40% or lower in at least two of Yahoo, ESPN or CBS leagues.
Robinson Chirinos, C, Astros
Chirinos is making the most of his time with the Astros, hitting .265/.388/.506 with four homers, eight doubles and 15 RBI in 105 plate appearances. That easily clears the low barrier to entry for fantasy value at the catcher position. He’s the primary starter behind the plate in a loaded Houston lineup, and he hit 35 homers in a little more than 700 plate appearances over the previous two seasons. You can play the hot hand at catcher unless you have one of the obvious top options, but Chirinos may be worthy of keeping around for the balance of the season.
Mitch Garver, C, Twins
Like Chirinos, Garver is a catcher who began this season as a blip on the fantasy radar and is now a top-seven catcher in standard 5x5 leagues. He’s hitting .354/.408/.738 with seven homers and 14 RBIs in 71 plate appearances. He’s in more of an even timeshare with Jason Castro in Minnesota than Chirinos is with Max Stassi in Houston, but he’s still doing more than enough with his opportunities to warrant a look in all fantasy leagues. While Garver spends most of his time in the bottom-third of Minnesota’s order, he’s had five starts as the leadoff man, including two in the last week.
Alex Verdugo, OF, Dodgers
Verdugo was the focus of last week’s Waive Hello, and he’s done nothing in the last week to dissuade us from believing he’s one of the best adds fantasy owners can make right now. Since that column was published, he has started five of the Dodgers’ six games, going 7-for-17 with three RBI and four walks against one strikeout in the process. He’s going to be playing every day in one of the best lineups in baseball. Grab him for free while you still can.
Brian Goodwin, OF, Angels
Goodwin has been one of the brightest surprises of the first seven weeks of the season, hitting .308/.387/.500 with four homers, six doubles and 11 RBIs in 120 plate appearances. He’s spending most of his time hitting fifth or sixth in the order, which gives him plenty of RBI upside, even if it hasn’t fully come through just yet. He’s shown some real strides at the plate, cutting his strikeout rate to 24.2% from last year’s 31.7%, and increasing his walk rate to 10.8%. These are all signs of a hitter who is genuinely improving, not one merely on a hot streak.
Leury Garcia, OF, White Sox
If you need power, Garcia is not the player for you. If you need anything else, he’s worth your attention. The 28-year-old is Rick Renteria’s default leadoff man, and is hitting .295/.341/.380 with eight doubles, 27 runs and five steals in 139 plate appearances on the season. His 4.3% walk rate and .398 BABIP suggest that his batting average and OBP are due for some regression, but his glove his going to keep him in the lineup, and his speed is for real.
Avisail Garcia, OF, Rays
Garcia has been quietly effective this season, slashing .277/.344/.479 with five homers, seven doubles, 13 RBIs and two steals in 131 plate appearances. So long as he’s healthy, he’ll find himself in the middle of Kevin Cash’s lineup, generally hitting fourth. Garcia is bouncing back from last year’s ugly campaign, and looks more like the guy who hit .330/.380/.506 back in 2017.
Jorge Soler, OF, Royals
If you’re an owner who skipped ahead of the Leury Garcia section after reading the first sentence, Soler is the guy for you. He’s likely to be a rate risk, he isn’t going to give you any speed and his 33.5% strikeout rate makes him prone to slumps. However, if you need cheap power, he has it in abundance. Soler has nine homers, 10 doubles and 24 RBIs in 158 plate appearances while playing all of Kansas City’s 38 games this season. That puts him on a 162-game pace for 38 homers, 43 doubles and 102 RBIs.
Eric Sogard, 2B/SS, Blue Jays
We’ve seen enough of Sogard this decade to know exactly what he is over a full season. Still, it’s hard to ignore the fact that he’s hitting .333/.432/.619 with four homers, four doubles, two steals and 12 RBIs in 76 plate appearances. To be clear, chances are if you pick him up now, you will be dropping him at some point, unless you’re in a deep league. The four homers are already a career high, and have increased his career total by 36.4%. If you’re inclined to chase a hot bat for the time being, though, he can help you out up the middle.
Jonathan Lucroy, C, Angels
Speaking of a hot bat, Lucroy is on a six-game hitting strike, going 8-for-22 with four homers and seven RBI in that span, raising his slash line to .276/.327/.448. He’s worth a spin on the catcher carousel until this good run takes a turn.
Andrew Heaney, SP, Angels
Heaney, who has missed the entire season because of an elbow issue, will throw three innings and 45 pitches on Friday after facing live hitters for the first time last weekend. If all goes well, he’ll likely head out on a rehab assignment. Assuming no setbacks, which is a large assumption for a player with his injury history, he’ll be back in the Angels’ rotation by the end of the month.
Brandon Woodruff, SP, Brewers
Woodruff just got some attention in our pages for his ability at the plate, but he’s not so bad on the mound, either. He has been great in his last three starts, allowing three runs on 16 hits in 15 innings, striking out 23 while walking just three in that span. He now has a 4.23 ERA and 1.29 WHIP with 54 strikeouts against 12 walks in 42 1/3 innings this season. His FIP is about a run and a half lower than his ERA at 2.87, and that, combined with his recent performance, suggests that a course correction is already underway.
Kyle Gibson, SP, Twins
Gibson is in the midst of a four-start hot streak, during which he has a 2.25 ERA, 0.83 WHIP and 29 strikeouts against three walks in 24 innings. We’ve seen stretches like this from Gibson before, and he’s never been a set-it-and-forget-it option in fantasy leagues. Still, going back to last season, he’s been trustworthy enough in the right matchups, especially considering his strikeout upside. Even if you don’t use him every time he takes the mound, he’s worth a look in most fantasy formats.
Julio Urias, SP/RP, Dodgers
Urias has made four appearances since moving to the bullpen, allowing two runs on five hits and two walks with nine strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings. He got the first save of his career in his last trip to the mound, filling in for an unavailable—and struggling—Kenley Jansen. Urias isn’t likely to become the regular closer for the Dodgers, but the occasional save is yet another way he can provide value to fantasy owners. Plus, with the team’s injury-prone rotation, it may not be long before he’s a starter once again.
Steve Cishek, RP, Cubs
Carl Edwards, RP, Cubs
Pedro Strop hit the IL earlier this week with the same grade of hamstring strain that cost him about three weeks at the end of last season. The Cubs will use a closer-by-committee while Strop is out, but it’s likely that Cishek will be the default option, with Edwards, who just returned from Triple-A Iowa, heavily in the mix, as well.
Ty Buttrey, RP, Angels
Brandon Workman, RP, Red Sox
Sam Gaviglio, SP/RP, Blue Jays
We’ve been beating the drum for Ryan Pressly and Diego Castillo all year, and those two have both reached a level of ownership rate where it’s likely they’re now owned in the majority of leagues where they have value. With that, we can turn our attention to the next group of like relievers who need to be owned in more fantasy leagues. Buttrey, Workman and Gaviglio all have gaudy rates, including in the strikeout department, while getting a ton of work out of their respective bullpens. They may combine for zero saves the rest of the season, but the contributions they can make to strikeouts, ERA and WHIP make them worth owning in most fantasy leagues.