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Fantasy Baseball Takeaways: Happy Wander Franco Day

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Buzzy prospects arrive in the majors all the time, but Tuesday is a special day.

Wander Franco isn’t merely considered a top prospect, he’s viewed as *the* prospect in baseball. The top three scouting clipboards ranked Franco at No. 1 in each of the last two years.

And Tampa Bay appears ready to call up its prize shortstop prospect.

Franco, who turned 20 in March, has been cruising at Triple-A Durham (.315/.367/.586, seven homers). He’s shown a willingness to run, though he’s still working on efficiency — he’s snagged 27 bags in 48 attempts through three seasons. His professional slash line is a robust .332/.398/.536. He’s walked more than he’s struck out since turning pro, and anytime that ratio appears, you get weak in the knees.

This is the spot where we throw out the obvious disclaimers: baseball is hard, Franco is just 20, the development curve is different for everyone. But plausible upside is undeniably present, which is why Franco should be rostered in any seasonal fantasy league (obviously he’s long gone in the keeper formats). Jarred Kelenic and Mike Trout didn’t smash things in their first lap around the majors, but Fernando Tatis Jr. and Juan Soto did. Let’s be open-minded to what’s possible.

Franco has been aggressively added in Yahoo formats over the last 24 hours, but he’s still free in about a quarter of leagues. Do what you need to do.

Wander Franco #5 of the Tampa Bay Rays
At last, Wander Franco is here. (Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images)

James Kaprielian settling in with Oakland 

I’m trying to figure out why James Kaprielian is carrying a roster tag under 50 percent. He beat the Yankees over the weekend, his fourth victory in seven starts. He’s striking out better than a batter per inning, and a 2.84 ERA and 1.105 WHIP will play in any format. And when you link up with an Oakland pitcher, you’re also linking with a big park and a plus defense. Oakland pitchers are always welcome on my rosters.

It’s not all sunshine and rainbows for Kaprielian, to be fair. His walk rate is still a little too high, and the ERA estimators don’t completely trust his front-door number; Statcast data spits out a 3.67 number, while FIP pushes it over 4. A fair amount of his Statcast measurements are on the left side of the meter, the lesser side.

Nonetheless, I’ll ride with Kaprielian where I can. He was a first-round pick in 2015, and he’s already been through the Tommy John cycle. This is what a post-hype sleeper often looks like. He’s in an age-27 season, a perfect time for a breakout. His next two starts come against Texas, a favorable target. There’s still time to get on board.

Eating Ws in the Yankees bullpen 

Jonathan Loaisiga scored the final win in the New York-Oakland series, his seventh of the year. Maybe that sounds absurd for a reliever — and obviously, you need some good luck to have that many Ws — but the Yankees have settled in on Loaisiga as one of their high-leverage relievers. The rest of the stats are delicious; 1.63 ERA, 0.96 WHIP. The strikeout rate is low for a reliever (just 31 over 38.2 innings), but Loaisiga’s robust ground-ball rate (64.4 percent) is keeping him out of trouble.

We have this discussion over and over; you want impact relievers on your fantasy roster, but the wrong time to collect them is before the season. Breakout bullpen aces will pop out of the weeds every year, and you can collect them at the lowest buy-ins possible. If you want to be a good fantasy player, you have to learn how to shop at the bottom of the market, not at the top. And if you missed out on Loaisiga, no worries, the next bus will be arriving shortly. Let’s find the next under-the-radar for your roster (you might recall, we pitched Anthony Bender a week ago).

Another chance for Daulton Varsho

We know two things about Arizona catcher Daulton Varsho; he’s consistently hit in the minors (.302/.372/.527) but it’s yet to translate in two brief MLB trials (.586 OPS). But the Diamondbacks are likely ready to give Varsho another look after Carson Kelly fractured his right wrist on the weekend.

Varsho had nothing more to show at Triple-A, where he was batting .313, slugging .750, and had nine homers in 18 games. He picked up a Sunday start, hitting seventh and taking the collar, then didn’t play Monday against Milwaukee (a game the Snakes mercifully won). The Brewers are throwing right-handed pitchers the next two days (albeit star righties; Freddy Peralta, Brandon Woodruff), so you’d expect Varsho will get some time. And heck, catcher is a fantasy wasteland for most of us.

If you have a backstop need, Varsho is rostered in a modest eight percent of Yahoo leagues.