Fantasy baseball: Alex Verdugo leads waiver wire picks

Fantasy baseball: Alex Verdugo leads waiver wire picks

This week offers up a clear case of opportunity knocking, especially when it comes to outfielders. A pair of longtime rivals, both of whom recently moved into his team’s cleanup spot, stand out among the most popular fantasy baseball pickups.

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    Perhaps Verdugo is a short-term add, best traded at the peak of an upcoming hot streak. However, as his skill set is well-suited for points-based leagues (currently OF8 in fantasy points), perhaps he’s ready to deliver something more.

    Wilyer Abreu, OF, Boston Red Sox (17.0% rostered): The most disappointing of Boston’s many outfield combatants this spring, Abreu was fortunate to make the Opening Day roster after hitting just .127/.286/.270 with a 33.8% strikeout rate over 77 Grapefruit League plate appearances. Trevor Story‘s season-ending injury, however, coaxed the team to shift Ceddanne Rafaela to shortstop to compensate, allowing Abreu to sneak into regular corner outfield duty.

    Abreu, thus far, has given the team plus-defense and similar power metrics to his brief 2023 stint, and his patience at the plate is another positive. Abreu brings much more power to the table than either Rafaela or Jarren Duran, having posted a .216 ISO while averaging one home run per 19 at-bats between the majors and minors from 2021-23. That’s probably why he has become attractive enough to the Red Sox to earn cleanup-spot starts in six of their past seven games. He’s another “universal add” thanks to his expanded opportunity.

    Pay attention: One more “outfielder,” or at least an OF-eligible player to consider is Houston Astros prospect Joey Loperfido (5.6%), reportedly set to join the team for the start of their series against the Cleveland Guardians. Eric Karabell will have much more to say about Loperfido’s fantasy potential on Tuesday.

    How are they still available?!

    Mason Miller, SP/RP, Oakland Athletics (56.6%): A sensation during the past week’s series against the Yankees, Miller has quickly emerged as a top-shelf closer, armed with a 100.7-mph fastball and slider, each of which has a 50% whiff rate thus far. He has notched the save in each of his past seven opportunities, striking out a stunning 17 out of 24 batters faced while allowing only one hit over that time.

    My mea culpa: I did not expect the Athletics to regard him as a traditional, single-inning closer this year — and certainly not this quickly. I likened his probable role to that of Garrett Whitlock‘s for the 2021-22 Red Sox. Well, Miller looks the part, and this year’s Athletics team is nowhere near as terrible as last year’s, on pace to shave 99 runs off their run differential (although admittedly, they’re still likely to be beneath minus-200 in that department).

    Riley Greene, OF, Detroit Tigers (40.4%): I was a huge Greene backer in the preseason and remain one today, not that that’s a difficult stance to take when he’s one of those players whose Statcast page is a sea of red — that’s the color you want to see there. Though his surface-level rotisserie numbers appear ordinary, among batting title-eligibles, he has the seventh-best Barrel rate and is the MLB leader in walk rate (19.2%). Greene still seems destined for a 2024 breakout. On a side note, what is it with Tigers outfielders with stunning metrics and so-so back of the baseball card stats (see: Castellanos, Nick while with Detroit)?

    Deeper-league add

    Jo Adell, OF, Los Angeles Angels (3.3%): Could Adell, the No. 10 overall pick of the 2017 amateur draft (as well as Kiley McDaniel’s No. 10 overall prospect entering his 2020 debut season), finally be breaking through after struggling through four disappointing big league years? He has hit .400 (8-for-20) with two home runs in six games over the past week and, while such small sample sizes carry minimal weight, what stands out in his season-to-date profile is a more all-field approach (career-low 35% pull rate) — especially against fastballs — along with a greater lift in his swing (career-low 32% ground ball rate) and a greater quality of contact (career-best 51% hard hit rate).

    It’s not the first time he has enjoyed some very short-term success as he managed to hit .300/.344/.533 over his final 16 games of 2021, for example. However, it wouldn’t be a complete shock to learn that this is the “figuring it out” phase for a player whom scouts said might struggle initially due to his free-swinging ways. Adell is well worth the speculative stash in any league larger than standard.

    Two-start streamer

    Bailey Falter, SP, Pittsburgh Pirates (15.1%): Any pitcher who draws matchups at the Athletics and at home against the Colorado Rockies is a seemingly automatic start for fantasy purposes (despite my earlier comment about the Athletics’ year-over-year “improvement”). The Forecaster grades both of those opponents as a top-five matchup on either the home or road side of things, for both run prevention and strikeout potential.

    What stands out with Falter, however, is his amount of extension with his pitches, releasing his fastball 7.4 feet in front of the pitching rubber, which ranks among the very highest numbers in baseball and gives his 91.3 mph pitch the look of a pitch noticeably faster. He averaged 92.0 mph with the pitch while striking out eight Milwaukee Brewers in his last turn, which was a solid stepping stone toward these advantageous matchups.

    Feel free to cut: Jackson Holliday (35.7%), although certainly not in keeper/dynasty formats; Triston Casas (64.0%); Adbert Alzolay (54.2%); Gavin Williams (14.9%).