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Fantasy Baseball Waiver Wire: Two young hitters riding hot stretches need to be added

The latest Rotoworld Fantasy Baseball Waiver Wire column examines unexpected breakthroughs from youngsters Nick Gonzales and Patrick Bailey in Pittsburgh and San Francisco, respectively, in addition to a new opportunity for southpaw Cole Irvin as part of Baltimore’s starting rotation mix.

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Nick Gonzales headshot
Nick Gonzales
2B - PIT - #39
2024 - false season
.306
AVG
4
HR
23
RBI
14
R
2
SB

Gonzales hasn’t skipped a beat since returning to the majors earlier this month after tearing the cover off the ball at the outset of the season for Triple-A Indianapolis, batting .358 (43-for-120) with four homers in 137 plate appearances over 30 games. The versatile 25-year-old infielder, who got into 35 contests last year for Pittsburgh, is putting up some near-elite Statcast batted ball metrics so far with a sublime 15.9 barrel percentage, 54.5 percent hard-hit rate and 91.2 mph average exit velocity. It’s too small of a sample size to draw any firm conclusions, but the underlying data backs up his strong performance so far as he’s batting .286 (16-for-56) with six extra-base hits (two homers), 14 RBI and two stolen bases in 65 plate appearances over 16 games.

He doesn't project as a five-category fantasy superstar, but he's taken over as the Pirates' everyday option at the keystone and appears poised to contribute across all five categories for fantasy purposes until further notice. He should be rostered in all fantasy formats moving forward, especially if he's going to continue making consistent hard contact.

Bailey’s early-season breakthrough at the plate was cut short by an early-May concussion, and some lingering symptoms, which kept him sidelined for a couple weeks. The positive news here is that the 24-year-old emerging franchise cornerstone was cleared to return to play by a renowned concussion specialist and has torn the cover off the ball since rejoining San Francisco's lineup, batting .409 (9-for-22) with one homer and eight RBI in seven games since May 21. A quick glance under the hood at Bailey's underlying Statcast metrics back up his apparent breakout as he boasts a near-elite 92.6 mph average exit velocity and 47 percent hard-hit rate.

Patrick Bailey headshot
Patrick Bailey
C - SF - #14
2024 - false season
.279
AVG
4
HR
22
RBI
16
R
2
SB

All signs point to the former first-rounder sustaining his current robust .308 batting average, while also chipping in the occasional homer and stolen base, which makes him worthy of a roster spot in all fantasy formats, especially two-catcher leagues. He's been extremely impressive so far and is still somehow available on the waiver wire in the overwhelming majority of fantasy formats.

Injuries to John Means (forearm) and Dean Kremer (triceps) have opened the door for Irvin to receive another extended opportunity in Baltimore's starting rotation and he delivered on Monday afternoon with five shutout innings against the division-rival Red Sox at Fenway Park. He kicked off a two-start week by limiting Boston's lineup to just four hits and was able to cruise to a relatively easy win after the Orioles' lineup got him an early lead. He finished with six strikeouts and also issued three walks.

Cole Irvin headshot
Cole Irvin
SP - BAL - #19
2024 - false season
68.1
IP
3.03
ERA
1.23
WHIP
51
K
13
BB

The 30-year-old southpaw isn't missing a ton of bats, which limits his realistic fantasy ceiling. Yet, he's been effective in his last couple outings following a rocky start to the year by cutting back on his sinker and cutter usage against right-handers, leaning more heavily on his fastball, curveball and changeup. He'll carry a sparkling 2.84 ERA, 1.13 WHIP and 36/11 K/BB ratio across 50 2/3 innings (10 appearances, eight starts) into a home outing on Sunday against the strikeout-prone Rays and is at least worthy of a speculative roster spot in deeper mixed leagues until further notice.