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We’ve entered the home stretch. With about two months of baseball left, now is the time to make sure that you’re equipped to make a championship run. It truly feels like the season just started, so coming to the realization that we’ll soon be without baseball for about half a year is a bit depressing. Nevertheless, there’s still plenty of baseball left to be played in 2022.
In this week’s points league waiver wire column, I once again touched on six players who could help you win your fantasy leagues. I’ll only be covering one starting pitcher this week, but I’ll also be diving into a few young players who you should consider taking a chance on. Let’s get into it.
Points League Options
(Players rostered in under 50 percent of ESPN leagues)
Gio Urshela 3B, Twins (21 percent rostered)
Nothing about Gio Urshela’s profile stands out, but that doesn’t mean he can’t be a useful fantasy asset in points leagues. As a minor leaguer, he flashed modest power upside while showcasing a solid hit tool and an advanced approach at the plate. On top of this, his defensive abilities have always been applauded, which meant that it was fair to project Urshela as a future above-average utility player at the major-league level – at worst. In other words, he was always going to have a role in the big leagues.
In 2019, he put the baseball world on notice by slashing .314/.355/.534 and swatting 21 home runs over 476 plate appearances. Unfortunately, he’s spent the past couple of seasons trying to rediscover his 2019 form. He had to endure the 2020 shortened season and in 2021, a plethora of injuries limited him to 116 games played (442 plate appearances). Thankfully, he’s now healthy and playing regularly for the Twins in his age-30 campaign. Over 286 at-bats, he’s batting .262 with eight home runs. His plate discipline metrics look similar to past seasons, as do his quality of contact metrics and batted ball tendencies. As long as he remains on the field, Urshela has a real shot at finishing the season with around 15 home runs and a batting average in the .260-.280 range. Don’t overlook him if you’ve been struggling to find an acceptable corner infield option.
Nathaniel Lowe 1B, Rangers (49 percent rostered)
You can have all the raw power in the world, but if your swing plane is too leveled, you’re going to hit a lot of ground balls and have a low average launch angle. Nathaniel Lowe’s raw power has always been his biggest strength. He clubbed 54 home runs in 1,460 at-bats as a minor leaguer, with his most notable season coming in 2018 when he hit 27 home runs over 482 at-bats.
He had his first full season of play in 2021 (157 games) and he went deep 18 times over 557 at-bats. His quality of contact metrics were encouraging, but he ended the season with a 5° average launch angle and 54.5 percent ground ball rate (398 batted ball events). That’s just not going to get it done. Well, through his first 248 batted ball events of 2022, Lowe’s made some improvements to his profile. His average launch angle is up to 8.5° and his ground ball rate has decreased (47.6 percent). What’s more, his strikeout rate has fallen despite being more aggressive than ever at the plate. Lowe’s big-league career has only just begun, so it’s not surprising to see him improving as his sample size grows. He’s a rock solid first base option in points leagues.
Braxton Garrett SP, Marlins (12 percent rostered)
Don’t ever let anyone tell you that you need a high-90s fastball to succeed in the majors. It’s just not true. Some pitchers throw 100-mph fastballs, but they lack command. Then there are pitchers like Braxton Garrett who lack a 100-mph fastball, but are able to command their entire arsenal. Garrett is armed with a fastball, a sinker, a slider, a changeup, and a curveball. He doesn’t succeed by blowing away batters – that’s not his game. Rather, Garrett utilizes his above-average pitchability and command skills to beat his opponents. The southpaw could be a mid-rotation arm at his ceiling, but likely nothing more.
He came into 2022 with a poor 5.18 ERA (5.13 SIERA), 1.80 WHIP, 20.7 percent strikeout rate, and 13 percent walk rate over the first 41 ⅔ innings of his MLB career. Neither his surface stats nor his advanced metrics over that 41 ⅔ innings sample size were encouraging. And when you take into account the fact that his command was shaky during this sample size – his best tool – it’s easy to understand why he struggled.
Fortunately for Garrett and the Marlins, his command has returned in 2022. But beyond that, his average fastball velocity is up a tick, he’s decided to make his slider his most-used offering, and he’s added a few inches of break to his slider. As a result, he has a 3.42 ERA (3.50 SIERA), 1.14 WHIP, 24 percent strikeout rate, and 5.6 percent walk rate over his first nine starts of 2022 (47 ⅓ innings). He’s looked like a new and improved pitcher in his third major-league campaign. If you’ve been reading these waiver wire columns, then you know how I feel about free starting pitching upside in points leagues. Don’t ignore Garrett if you see him out there.
Devin Williams RP, Brewers (38 percent rostered)
Devin Williams is a closer role away from being one of the most coveted relief pitchers in fantasy land. He won’t get the opportunity to be a closer for as long as he’s teammates with Josh Hader, but that doesn’t mean he’s irrelevant in points leagues. The 27-year-old reliever is armed with a devastating changeup, a four-seam fastball that can touch 100 mph, and a cutter. He knows how to command all three of his offerings, and his changeup is easily one of the best pitches in baseball. The pitch induces a ton of soft contact, barely gets hit, and generates whiffs at a high rate. And to ice the cake, he commands it exceptionally well.
When you consider the pitches that he has at his disposal, his 1.72 ERA (2.31 SIERA) and 42.5 percent strikeout rate through 36 ⅔ innings is completely understandable. And while he’s not the Brewers’ primary closer, he does have six saves on the season. Moreover, his 23 holds count for something if your league rewards holds. There’s a reason why he’s 38 percent rostered in spite of his lack of a closer role. If your relief pitching spot needs an upgrade and you notice that Williams is available in your league, take a chance on him.
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Deep Points League Options
(Players rostered in under 10 percent of ESPN leagues)
Jose Miranda 1B/3B, Twins (7 percent rostered)
Before 2021, Jose Miranda had 36 home runs over the first 1,356 at-bats of his minor-league career. Then in 2021 – playing in Double-A and Triple-A – he slugged 30 home runs over 535 at-bats. He also had a superb .344/.401/.572 slash line with a 7.1 percent walk rate and a 12.5 percent strikeout rate. This is what development looks like. Miranda’s always possessed above-average raw pop, so it’s not exactly shocking to see his game power improve as his garners more experience against better competition.
He made his MLB debut on May 2nd and went 5-for-53 (.094) with a home run to begin his big-league career. Oof. However, since May 20th, he’s batting .324 with seven home runs, a 4.6 percent walk rate, and a 19.9 percent strikeout rate. He’s been hitting the ball hard (47.3 percent hard-hit rate over 112 batted ball events), making plenty of contact, and racking up hits against all types of pitches and pitchers. He's definitely worth an add if you can afford to pick him up.
JJ Bleday OF, Marlins (1 percent rostered)
The former fourth overall pick collected the first two hits of his MLB career on July 24th: a 104-mph single and a 107.6-mph two-bagger. Jorge Soler is on the injured list, so if JJ Bleday continues to produce at the plate, he could stick with the big league club for the remainder of the season. Known for his plus hit tool and tantalizing raw power, Bleday has the potential to be a true fantasy force at his peak.
He launched 20 home runs over 302 at-bats prior to his call-up, but he also had an unsightly .228 batting average. In fact, Bleday has a .225 batting average over 839 career minor-league at-bats. It is a bit odd to see him struggle to hit for average given his strong hit tool and advanced plate approach. Nevertheless, we don’t buy young players because of their production, we buy them because of their skills, and Bleday has the skills to be an impact bat on an annual basis. He’s available in the majority of points leagues right now, so if you want to lock down a bat who could give your points league roster a boost, go add Bleday.