Fantasy Baseball Waiver Wire Pickups: Priority adds ahead of 2023 MLB Opening Day
We understand many of you consider the act of drafting a player in fantasy baseball to be some sort of binding commitment — not quite an oath sworn in blood but close. You would never dream of dropping a player Wednesday if you just drafted him Sunday.
If that describes your general approach to fantasy transactions, then you are excused from reading any further. No need to continue scrolling because you're not going to act on any of today's recommendations.
For the rest of you — that is, for the people simply trying to construct the best possible rosters ahead of Opening Day, without sentimentality — we're pleased to offer a dozen widely available players with fantasy appeal. Add them as needed, because it's actually never too early in the season to get better.
Darick Hall, Util, Philadelphia Phillies (19% rostered)
Hall is in line for a huge bump in playing time following the season-ending knee injury suffered by Rhys Hoskins. It's possible that Hall might sit against tough lefties, but that isn't necessarily a bad thing for fantasy purposes. The 27-year-old had a monster spring, homering five times and delivering a beefy OPS of 1.028. He also walked as often as he struck out (9). Hall hit 28 bombs at Triple-A last season and another nine for Philadelphia, so you can trust him as a power source, though he isn't likely to hit for average. He'll have first-base eligibility soon enough.
Trent Grisham, OF, San Diego Padres (7%)
Grisham has enjoyed a four-homer spring while maintaining a batting average of .277 and more or less looking like the guy who seemed like an ascending semi-star just two years ago. He was a mess last year, hitting just .184, despite his 17 home runs and was already a strong candidate for positive regression in 2023; his BABIP last season was .231. What's more, the new rules limiting defensive shifts could benefit him in a meaningful way. Even if he struggles early, his stellar outfield defense should keep him in the mix.
Esteury Ruiz, OF, Oakland Athletics (40%)
Honestly, the only two things you need to know about Ruiz are that A) he made Oakland's Opening Day roster and B) he stole EIGHTY-FIVE bases last season in the high minors. He's a potential category leader, people. You can't leave a guy such as this on the wire. Check out the cartoonish wheels:
Esteury Ruiz is gonna be sooo much fun to watch this year. The only thing that can slow him down is the runner in front of him. #Athletics pic.twitter.com/fSpkW32Vbg
— Joe Hughes (@VegasJoeHughes) March 26, 2023
Ruiz slashed .332/.447/.526 last year at three minor-league stops, and he has kept his average north of .300 this spring, with more walks (7) than Ks (4). He's a sneaky-good value as a Rookie of the Year candidate, too, considering his potential to steal 60-plus bags.
Spencer Steer, 1B/3B, Cincinnati Reds (5%)
Cincinnati's roster is full of fantasy bargains, and Steer is among the most interesting in deeper leagues. The past two seasons, he has hit 47 homers in the minor leagues, plus another two in an end-of-year cameo with the Reds. Steer is looking like the Opening Day third baseman for Cincy, and we can reasonably expect pop, on-base skills and run production. At a talent-scarce position such as third, he definitely belongs in the fantasy conversation.
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CJ Abrams, 2B/SS, Washington Nationals (43%)
Abrams was a relative disappointment in his first big-league season, but he's still only 22 years old, and he's exactly the sort of player who should feast in a friendlier base-stealing environment. He swiped 42 bags in 114 career minor-league games while slashing .331/.385/.511. His multi-position eligibility is an added bonus. If you're light on steals, give him a test drive.
Gabriel Moreno, C, Arizona Diamondbacks (30%)
Arizona acquired Moreno in the Daulton Varsho trade, and the 23-year-old should receive all the playing time he can handle in the early weeks. Carson Kelly is expected to miss at least eight weeks due to a fractured forearm. Moreno has had a stellar spring (10-for-27, 3 HR), and he has hit for average with decent power and speed at every minor-league stop. It wouldn't be much of a surprise if he produced a top-10 positional finish in his first full season in the bigs.
James Outman, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers (6%)
Some of you might recall Outman's ridiculous, four-game binge for the Dodgers last season, when he went 6-for-13 with three extra-base hits, six runs, three RBIs and two walks. If not for the fact that L.A.'s lineup was absurdly loaded, he would've stuck in the majors. Outman has earned an Opening Day roster spot with a fabulous spring, hitting .300/.390/.600 with three bombs. His swing will surely bring you joy:
A sneak preview from @james_outman. pic.twitter.com/eCg4jZtkAq
— Los Angeles Dodgers (@Dodgers) March 27, 2023
Assuming he sees regular at-bats, he has power/speed upside and on-base skills. Outman is an excellent lottery ticket if you're looking for a potential across-the-board fantasy contributor.
Graham Ashcraft, SP, Cincinnati Reds (23%)
After a dazzling spring, Ashcraft is one of the buzzier young pitchers in the National League. His high-velocity sinker-cutter-slider mix is sort of a nightmare for opposing batters:
Graham Ashcraft's 9th and 10th Ks. pic.twitter.com/MzlvlZmY2L
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) March 23, 2023
He struck out 25 batters over 17.1 frames this spring, walking only two and producing a WHIP of 0.87. He's going to be such a problem. Ashcraft was high up on the Stuff+ leaderboard in 2022, ahead of some very big names, and he's looking better than ever right now. Among all lightly rostered starters, Ashcraft is the priority add.
Ryan Pepiot, SP, Los Angeles Dodgers (7%)
Pepiot has experienced command and control issues in the minors (96 BB in 216.1 career innings), but he has also been a strikeout machine. Last year, splitting his time between Triple-A and the majors, he struck out 156 batters in 127.2 innings. His spring was solid enough to earn him a rotation spot to open the season, replacing the injured Tony Gonsolin. If nothing else, Pepiot should be a highly streamable option in his first start, facing either Arizona or Colorado.
Clarke Schmidt, SP/RP, New York Yankees (35%)
Like Pepiot, Schmidt has also found his way into a very good team's early-season rotation, which lands him on the fantasy radar in pretty much any league. He'll face the Giants in the second game of the season for New York. Schmidt is 27, he has been well-hyped as a prospect in the past, and he struck out 56 hitters in 57.2 innings for the Yankees last season. He has had a quality spring (15.1 IP, 18 Ks, 1.04 WHIP), earning the April starting role.
Brusdar Graterol, RP, Los Angeles Dodgers (39%)
This will serve as yet another reminder to get a few shares of the Dodgers bullpen, which might or might not unfold as a committee. Graterol and Evan Phillips (and various others) are fully capable of working the ninth; everyone in this team's bullpen has the stuff necessary to help fantasy managers regardless of their specific roles. Graterol has a closing-quality nickname and a triple-digit fastball, and he has worked to develop bankable secondary offerings. If he eventually claims the closing role for his 100-win team, he clearly has upper-tier fantasy potential.
Michael Fulmer, RP, Chicago Cubs (26%)
Fulmer has thrown 8.0 scoreless frames this spring, striking out eight while issuing only three hits and two walks. He and Brad Boxberger are the presumptive closing options for the Cubs; neither has allowed a run during exhibition play, though Boxberger has had control issues (5 BB). Save-chasers should consider Fulmer the favorite for early closing duties, but we should also acknowledge that there are no perfectly safe options in this team's bullpen.