Fantasy Baseball Waiver Wire: Sky's the limit for Orion Kerkering

This week’s pickups include a spring training star who has already been dropped in a bunch of leagues and a pair of rehabbing youngsters.

Daulton Varsho - OF Blue Jays (44% Rostered)

OK, perhaps calling Varsho a spring training star is a reach, given that he finished Grapefruit League play with a modest .808 OPS, but there were two very positive developments. The first was that he sported a 9/10 K/BB ratio. He struck out 3 ½ times for each time he walked last year, and his previous lifetime K:BB ratio in spring training was 3:1. The second was that he was 8-for-8 stealing bases. That’s five more steals in 19 games than he had totaled in his five previous springs. It was also half as many steals as he had in 158 regular-season games last year. It seemed to bode quite well for 2024, and I moved him up some in my rankings, more because of the aggressiveness on the basepaths than because of the improved plate discipline.

Daulton Varsho headshot
Daulton Varsho
LF - TOR - #25
2024 - false season

Alas, Varsho has opened the regular season at .158/.238/.184 in 42 plate appearances. He’s yet to drive in a run or attempt a steal. His 10/4 K/BB ratio is only slightly better than last year’s. It’s probably not as bad as it sounds, though. While Varsho’s strikeout rate is right where it was the last two years, his contact numbers are actually much improved. He’s also been a bit unlucky to have seven hard-hit balls and just one extra-base hit.

It’s unfortunate that Varsho is never going to get catcher eligibility back, but that he’s one of baseball’s best defensive outfielders should continue to make him a mainstay in Toronto’s lineup and there’s still hope that he’ll get to 20 homers and 20 steals this season. He’s batting ninth right now, but he was in the fifth spot on Opening Day and the Jays will have no qualms about returning him to that spot once he heats up. He’s probably not a fantasy star, but he’s a worthy play.

Orion Kerkering - RP Phillies - (12% Rostered)

It was rather scary when the Phillies switched Kerkering’s injury designation from illness to a forearm strain in putting him on the injured list just prior to the start of the season; it had been known for a while that he’d miss Opening Day, but there was no previous word of an arm injury. All indications since are that there wasn’t really ever an arm problem... the Phillies just needed another reason to put him on the IL and give him a rehab stint since he had already overcome the illness that cost him much of the spring.

Kerkering is ready to rejoin the Phillies now and is expected to be activated this weekend after striking out 10 in 4 1/3 scoreless innings during his rehab assignment. That’s pretty impressive, of course, but what’s also boosted his stock is the start José Alvarado has gotten off to as the favorite for saves in the Phillies pen. It’s true Alvarado hasn’t allowed any additional runs since giving up five and taking a loss on Opening Day, but he’s walked a batter each of his last four times out, leaving him with a 7/6 K/BB ratio through 5 2/3 innings.

With his dominant slider and high-90s fastball, Kerkering has the stuff to become one of the league’s best relievers. It might not lead to saves right away, but he’ll quickly become a threat if Alvarado continues to struggle with his control and he’ll likely excel elsewhere. He ought to be viewed as a top-30 RP.

Vaughn Grissom - SS Red Sox - (26% Rostered)

Acquired from the Braves for Chris Sale to take over as Boston’s second baseman, Grissom suffered a hamstring injury in February that cost him the entire Grapefruit League campaign. Healthy again now, he’s starting a rehab assignment Friday that will likely see him play both second and shortstop. Within a week or two, he should be starting at one of those two spots for the Red Sox.

Listen to the Rotoworld Baseball Show for the latest player news, waiver claims, roster advice and more from our experts all season long. Click here or download it wherever you get your podcasts.

That Atlanta deemed Grissom expendable wasn’t much of a knock on him. If he were a better shortstop, then they probably should have kept him as Orlando Arcia’s eventual replacement. Second base is where he belongs, though, and he wasn’t about to unseat Ozzie Albies. How much power Grissom ends up with remains to be seen, but he’s hit .287/.339/.407 in 236 plate appearances as a major leaguer. He came in at an impressive .330/.419/.501 last year as a 22-year-old in Triple-A. He probably won’t hit a ton of homers at Fenway Park, but the Green Monster will turn quite a few of his flyballs into doubles.

The Red Sox likely will ease Grissom in initially. Since he didn’t play at all in March, he might need a couple of weeks in the minors to find his swing, and he’ll probably get a fair number of days off once activated. Perhaps it won’t be until June that he turns into a real factor in mixed leagues. Still, there’s some nice potential here, particularly in batting average; he excels in that anyway and now he’ll be playing in the second best ballpark for average in the league. There isn’t reason to expect much more than 10 homers or 10 steals, but between the average and some solid run and RBI numbers in the Red Sox lineup, he should be a useful MI option.

Quick Hits

Lance Lynn headshot
Lance Lynn
SP - STL - #31
2024 - false season

- Lance Lynn isn’t someone I’d permanently keep in mixed leagues, but he’s 28% rostered right now with a two-start week against the A’s and Brewers coming up.

- Sean Manaea (45% rostered) and MacKenzie Gore (43%), on the other hand, are well worth permanent spots in 12-team leagues and probably in 10-team leagues for Manaea.

- I assume Michael Kopech is gone in most competitive leagues by this point, but he’s still just 30% rostered on the whole. The White Sox won’t be getting many wins, but Kopech should get most of the saves and, with the way he’s throwing, it looks like he’ll be of assistance in ERA and strikeouts, too.