Fantasy Baseball Waiver Wire: James Wood, Noelvi Marte emerge as must-add players despite prospect woes



You surely know by now that it’s been a pretty miserable season for top hitting prospects at the major-league level. Wyatt Langford, Jackson Chourio, and Evan Carter have been the biggest disappointments, often going off the board as top-100 picks in drafts this winter and providing across-the-board below average production as we hit the mid-way point in the season. But this isn’t just a phenomenon where the highest profile names have struggled the most.

No, the success stories are easily the outliers right now – there are 14 players from Scott White’s preseason top-100 prospects list who have had at least 100 plate appearances this season, and only five have even been average hitters by wRC+ this season; that includes Wilyer Abreu who has been a part-time player for much of the season, as well as Michael Busch and Colton Cowser who have really trended down since their hot starts.

You might think, given all that, that it’s time to pump the breaks on hyping top prospect callups. And I’m open to that suggestion … next draft season. The transition to the majors seems to be tougher than ever right now, and it should probably make us think twice before investing valuable top-100 picks in whoever ends up being the Wyatt Langford of 2024 Draft Prep season.

But when it comes to in-season callups, you should still very much be willing to blow a bunch of FAB on the likes of James Wood and Noelvi Marte, the latest top prospects to get the call to the big leagues. Because, while veteran breakouts can happen on the waiver-wire, if a player is widely available in June, it’s usually for a reason. In the case of veterans, it’s because we’ve seen enough of them to have a pretty good idea of who they are, and that’s usually not a particularly valuable Fantasy asset.

And, it’s worth noting that there’s a decent chance both Wood and Marte’s likeliest outcomes are pretty mediocre, too. Wood is an incredible prospect – on a different level than Marte, frankly – but he’s also a 21-year-old with 52 games of experience above Double-A, with some potentially massive swing-and-miss issues that could be exploited by major-league pitchers. But he also has raw power that might be just below the Giancarlo Stanton/Aaron Judge tier, and he’s also stolen 20 bases in 139 games between Double-A and Triple-A in his career.

That’s the kind of prospect you have to get excited about on waivers, even if we all know there’s a decent chance they’ll flop. But that upside is still worth chasing, because you just don’t tend to find it at this point of the season with non-prospects. There’s a wider range of potential outcomes with someone like Wood than say, Carlos Santana (who I like and have recommended as an add later in this article); but there’s almost no chance of Santana playing like a top-20 player the rest of the way. Wood might actually be capable of that. 

Here’s who else we’re looking to add this week: 

Catchers

Hunter Goodman, Rockies (18%) – With Elias Diaz back from the IL this weekend, Goodman doesn’t look like quite as good a bet for playing time, but I still think he’s a solid No. 2 catcher for at least this week, with the Rockies playing seven games at Coors Field. With seven homers in 106 plate appearances this season, he has potentially impactful pop from the catcher position. 

Deep-league target: Kyle Higashioka, Padres (6%) – At this point, I think we know who Higashioka is, and I don’t think this recent power surge changes that. But he has pop, and he’s playing regularly right now for the Padres, so I don’t mind trying to ride the hot streak if I need a second catcher.

First Base

Carlos Santana, Twins (51%) – Is Santana just unfairly overlooked? He’s played 143 games over the past 365 days and has 27 homers, 84 RBI, and 76 runs scored. He’ll never help much in batting average, but he’s still a really solid hitter who probably deserves more credit than he’s given from the Fantasy world. 

Deep-league target: JD Davis, Yankees (5%) – He probably only matters in AL-only leagues right now, but I’m still interested to see if Davis can figure anything out with the Yankees. He’s been pretty miserable this season, but has started three of the past five games as of Sunday and did have 18 homers last season.

Second base

Jonathan India, Reds (71%) – Given how poorly the first month or so went, it’s incredible that India already has his season line up to .276/.382/.401. He’s a perfect fit at the top of the lineup, and is even running a bit more, with three steals since the start of June. He’s going to be a standout in runs and OBP and might just be a solid five-category contributor the rest of the way. 

Deep-league target: Miguel Rojas, Dodgers (7%) – It’s probably going to be just a fairly empty batting average, but that still has some value with Rojas playing more or less everyday since Mookie Betts’ injury. He’s eligible at multiple spots and should chip in a solid average, some runs, and maybe even the occasional steal. 

Third base

Mark Vientos, Mets (57%) – I’m not sure I buy Vientos’ apparent breakout fully, but I also don’t think we need to buy it fully to think he should be more widely rostered than this. He has a .398 wOBA for the season, which is borderline superstar production; his .365 expected wOBA isn’t quite that good, but it would still be good for 25th among all qualifiers if Vientos had enough PA, just between Alec Bohm and Kyle Schwarber. He’s improved his plate discipline enough to think it might not be a problem anymore, and while he still hits too many balls on the ground, Vientos quality of contact remains a real strength. Combine it and you’ve got a guy who might just hit .270 with 25 homers over a full season. There’s some Nick Castellanos potential here, as we’re seeing lately. 

Deep-league target: Yoan Moncada, White Sox (10%) – Moncada still looks like he’ll be out until after the All-Star break, but hey, that’s only a few weeks away at this point. He’s returning from a high-grade adductor strain, and while Moncada will never be the difference maker we hoped he could be a few years back, he can still be a useful Fantasy option, especially with a spot in the top part of the White Sox lineup likely waiting for him.

Shortstop

Xander Bogaerts, Padres (69%) – Bogaerts is recovering from a fractured left shoulder, but he’s been making real progress of late, taking batting practice for the first time last week and beginning fielding drills. He’s another one who could be back around the All-Star break, and while he’s probably not the superstar he once was, Bogaerts’ multi-eligibility in the middle infield makes him a very valuable starting option when healthy. He’s worth stashing in pretty much all leagues. 

Deep-league target: Isaiah Kiner-Falefa, Blue Jays (34%) – In a Blue Jays lineup with so many disappointments, somehow Kiner-Falefa is having a career-year? I don’t really buy it – his quality-of-contact metrics are are mediocre as ever – but Kiner-Falefa has hit .340/.382/.457 in the month of June and is eligible all over the place, giving him some utility in categories leagues, at least.

Outfield

Jarred Kelenic, Braves (70%) – There are still massive holes in Kelenic’s game. He still absolutely cannot hit anything but fastballs (.282 xwOBA vs. breaking balls, .231 vs. offspeed pitches), and his production against lefties still leaves a lot to be desired. But he’s put together a great month of June, hitting .304/.356/.543, and he can still clearly be a very valuable hitter when he’s locked in – and hitting at the top of the Braves lineup sure doesn’t hurt. There will be another slump coming at some point, and I think it’s awfully unlikely Kelenic will be a must-roster player all season long in all formats. But right now? Yeah, he should be rostered everywhere. 

Heston Kjerstad, Orioles (44%) – The Orioles have a logjam in the outfield/DH spots, and you saw how frustrating that can be this weekend, with Kjerstad starting just one of three games. He has started four of seven since being recalled, and he probably has to get hot quickly to force his way into the lineup more consistently – or to even keep his spot on the roster. But he’s a high-upside bat who is worth betting on if you have a roster spot to play with, even if he isn’t necessarily a high-probability bet. 

Jhonkesky Noel, Guardians (25%) – Noel started for just the second time in five games Sunday since being called up, which has been frustrating to see. Still, he’s a young hitter with upside and little left to prove at Triple-A after he hit .295/.369/.578 as a 22-year-old in his second stint at the level this season. I’d love to see the Guardians give him an extended run, but until that happens, he’s more of a fringe Fantasy option for deeper leagues. 

Starting pitcher

Reese Olson, Tigers (68%) – It has, occasionally, been a bumpier ride than you’d like to see for Olson, who ended June with a 5.73 ERA over 33 innings of work despite striking out 20 and allowing just four combined runs over his final three starts of the month. When Olson gets ahead of hitters early in counts, he has multiple weapons he can put them away with, and he does a good job of limiting damage on contact when he isn’t getting strikeouts – for the most part. His 3.33 ERA is backed up by a 3.43 xERA, and it’s not hard to see how there could be more upside than that if he taps into more consistency. 

Christian Scott, Mets (49%) – Scott has continued to pitch very well at Triple-A, putting up a 2.12 ERA with 19 strikeouts in 17 innings since being sent back down, and it sure seems like he’s going to be back in the majors soon – the Mets don’t have an announced starter for Wednesday against the Nationals, so that could be a natural spot. Scott probably isn’t going to be an ace in the majors, but we’ve already seen him find some success at this level, and he’s probably the top minor-league arm to stash if Shane Baz is already rostered in your league. 

Gavin Williams, Guardians (69%) – Williams was a little underwhelming in his first taste of the majors last season despite a pretty 3.29, as he only struck out 8.9 batters per nine with 4.1 BB/9. Strikeouts were never an issue for him in the minors (11.9 K/9), and while there are plenty of injury red flags as he makes his way back from an elbow injury. He’ll make his season debut with a nice soft landing against the White Sox this week, and has enough upside to be worth stashing in all leagues. 

Landon Knack, Dodgers (20%) – I’m not sure there’s a ton of upside with Knack, an older prospect with good, but hardly overwhelming results in the minors. But he looks like a classic, projectable Dodgers starter, and you know they’re going to get the most out of him. If you’re looking for wins and decent ratios, Knack could be pretty useful. 

Spencer Arrighetti, Astros (30%) – And now let’s look in the other direction entirely. Arrighetti has spent most of the season in the majors and we’ve seen massive highs and extreme lows from him. But his 4.24 FIP suggests better days ahead than his 5.68 ERA, and he’s coming off a very impressive 10-strikeout showing against the Rockies last week. When he’s commanding his fastball well up in the zone, Arrighetti has several breaking balls he can use to put hitters away with, so let’s see if last week’s start was something to build on. 

Relief pitcher

Devin Williams, Brewers (62%) – It sounds like Williams is going to be back before the end of the month, and potentially by the All-Star break. The Brewers haven’t exactly struggled in his absence, but I still have to think they’re going to put him back in the closer’s role once he’s ready – Williams has been one of the best closers in baseball over the past couple of seasons and could be back to make a big second-half impact. 

A.J. Puk, Marlins (8%) – If you had to bet on one current closer being traded by the end of the month, Tanner Scott has to be on the top of the list. Which could put Puk back into a Fantasy relevant role, since he has mostly pitched very well since returning to the bullpen. The overall strikeout numbers (16 in 19.2 innings out of the bullpen) are disappointing, it’s worth noting that he had just one strikeout in his first six appearances; he has 15 in 14.2 innings since. We saw Puk emerge as a very useful Fantasy closer last season, and I wouldn’t be surprised at all if he was one yet again to close out this season. 





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