As the calendar flips over into May, Major League Baseball is getting infested with high-upside rookies, especially on the mound. But don’t worry, this is a good infestation. A good infestation? Does such a thing exist? Not when it’s insect-related, but when the infestation consists of top prospects like Walker Buehler, Gleyber Torres, and Ronald Acuna, I’d consider that a very good infestation. Buehler and Mike Soroka are the first big name pitching prospects to lock up long-term rotation spots, and they lead the way in this week’s waiver wire report.
Waiver Wire: Pitchers
Walker Buehler (SP – LAD)
Ownership: Fantrax 82%, Yahoo 38%, ESPN 23%
With Hyun-jin Ryu scheduled to be out for several weeks, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts confirmed yesterday that Walker Buehler will be a fixture in the rotation moving forward. That now means that these ownership percentages are way too low. There aren’t many pitching prospects with a higher ceiling than Buehler. In fact, Michael Kopech is the only one I can definitively say has more upside than Buehler. Through 106.2 minor league innings, Buehler compiled a 3.04 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 3.2 BB/9, and 12.4 K/9.
Buehler offers a mid-90s fastball that can touch triple-digits, two plus breaking balls, and an above-average change-up. Better yet, he can control all his pitches well. The 23-year-old rookie shows the poise of a 10-year veteran on the mound. Buehler is long gone in dynasty formats, but if he’s still chilling on your waiver wire in re-draft leagues, scoop him up immediately.
Mike Soroka (SP – ATL)
Ownership: Fantrax 62%, Yahoo 42%, ESPN 23%
Let me start with a quick reminder: Mike Soroka is really good. Like, really, really good. I went over him last week when his major league debut seemed imminent. Well, he’s up with Atlanta now and out-dueled Noah Syndergaard in his debut on Tuesday. In six innings of work, Soroka allowed six hits and one earned run while walking none and striking out five. Soroka has the stuff and control to succeed right away and needs to be owned in all standard fantasy leagues. Consider this your final reminder. He won’t be nearly as available come this time next week.
Look at the drop on this Mike Soroka fastball at 95mph.
It's stupid. pic.twitter.com/81BjzmNrHm
— Nick Pollack (@PitcherList) May 2, 2018
Nick Kingham (SP – PIT)
Ownership: Fantrax 57%, Yahoo 46%, ESPN 34%
After nearly a decade in the minors, Kingham finally got the call to the show earlier this week. Kingham isn’t as highly regarded as Buehler or Soroka in the prospect world, but his debut was even more impressive than either of them. Let’s be honest, he was dominant. Just one hit allowed over seven shutout innings with nine punch outs. A big reason for his recent success has been adding a damn good slider into his arsenal, which Al Melchior went in depth on a few days back. If you’re in need of some pitching help and missed out on Buehler or Soroka, Kingham makes for a solid consolation prize.
Waiver Wire: Infield
Francisco Cervelli (C – PIT)
Ownership: Fantrax 78%, Yahoo 63%, ESPN 65%
Blah, catchers. Boring! I know, catcher isn’t the sexiest position for fantasy purposes, but it’s still a spot you need to have some production coming from. In Pittsburgh, Francisco Cervelli is quietly putting together a strong start to the season. Amongst qualified catchers, he is tied for third in hits, tied for fifth in runs, fourth in home runs, tied for second in RBI, third in total bases, second in batting average, and first in OPS. I’m cheating a little here since his ownership is above 50% on Fantrax, Yahoo, and ESPN, but the fact that he’s still unowned in over 1/3 of leagues is preposterous.
Daniel Robertson (2B/SS – TB)
Ownership: Fantrax 55%, Yahoo 41%, ESPN 32%
Even without a set position, Robertson is stringing together some solid fantasy value while making starts at second, third, and shortstop. His plate approach has taken a major step forward this season, which is a major reason for his early season success. After striking out in 28.7% of his plate appearances in 2017, that number has dropped to 22.2% this season while Robertson’s walk rate has climbed from 11.4% to 18.9%. The upside is limited, but the multi-position eligibility will be nice for fantasy owners as long as Robertson continues to hit for a high average with a little bit of pop.
Matt Adams (1B/OF – WAS)
Ownership: Fantrax 25%, Yahoo 21%, ESPN 4%
Can someone just give Matt Adams a chance at regular at-bats over a full season? What’s it going to take for that to happen? Each and every time Adams is called upon to step in for an injured starter, he produces. For his career, he’s a .272 hitter with 27 home runs per every 600 at-bats. Furthermore, Adams absolutely rakes against right-handers, with a career .841 OPS against them compared to .589 against left-handers.
The injury to Adam Eaton has opened up a full-time role for Adams, and once again he’s producing with six homers, 15 RBI, and a .316/.426/.684/1.111 slash line in 57 at-bats. As long as he’s starting, Adams is worth rostering in fantasy leagues. That could be for a while, too, as Adam Eaton is trending in the wrong direction with his ankle injury.
Waiver Wire: Outfield
Alex Verdugo (OF – LAD)
Ownership: Fantrax 45%, Yahoo 5%, ESPN 6%
When your all-star starting shortstop and a key member of your pitching staff succumb to long-term injuries within 48 hours of each other, it’s reasonable to be extremely bummed out about it. But if there’s any silver lining to these injuries, it’s that it’s opened up playing time for Buehler and Alex Verdugo.
A plus hit tool (and elite outfield arm) are where any conversation about Verdugo starts. He’s a .304 career hitter in the minors and has averaged 13 home runs and 13 steals per every 600 at-bats. The power and speed contributions won’t be bountiful, but he should receive regular playing time going forward in a good Dodgers lineup. If he hits like he’s capable, Joc Pederson will be the one losing playing time when Yasiel Puig comes back, not Verdugo.
Jorge Soler (OF – KC)
Ownership: Fantrax 54%, Yahoo 17%, ESPN 15%
Remember him? Yes, this is the same Jorge Soler that many were clamoring over just a few short seasons ago. In fact, MLB.com, Baseball America, and Baseball Prospectus all had him as a top-25 prospect entering the 2015 season. A .417 BABIP means his average is likely to dip back below .300, but the power is for real, folks. Soler averaged 36 homers per every 600 at-bats in his minor league career. With literally zero competition for playing time, Soler has a chance to finally prove why he was a top-25 prospect. The high upside here makes him an intriguing option if you’re looking for some help in the outfield.
Have a question about a player who wasn’t covered here? Ask below or find me on Twitter. Check back next Friday for more waiver wire recommendations.