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Fantasy Baseball Waiver Wire: Turnbull twirling gems, Kjerstad crushing and more

It has been an extremely challenging couple of weeks for fantasy managers navigating injuries to upper-echelon starting pitchers, which makes stockpiling additional depth even more critical to sustained success over the course of the six-month marathon. The latest Fantasy Baseball Waiver Wire column takes a look at a pair of minor leaguers who are off to brilliant starts and appear to be on the precipice of forcing their way to the majors. It also features a starting pitcher making an unexpected return to fantasy relevance in his Phillies debut.

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Heston Kjerstad, OF, Orioles

The Norfolk Tides have arguably been the biggest story in baseball the first couple of weeks of the minor-league season, putting up astronomical offensive numbers. Kjerstad, the former second overall pick from the 2020 MLB Draft, has served as the club's primary offensive catalyst so far, posting a stratospheric 1.547 OPS with six homers, 25 RBI and 40 total bases through nine games. With Anthony Santander, Cedric Mullins and Austin Hays (not to mention Jordan Westburg and Ramón Urías) scuffling at the dish in the early stages of the season, it feels like only a matter of time before Baltimore's front office is forced to inject some much-needed life into their outfield mix.

It's abundantly clear that Kjerstad, who struggled a bit last year in a brief cameo at the highest level, has nothing left to prove in the minor leagues, and he's the type of talent that could become an immediate four-category fantasy contributor, if his hot start translates to the majors as a key component of a loaded Orioles lineup. He's worth stashing for fantasy purposes, especially in deeper mixed leagues, on the chance that he's summoned to the big leagues at some point in the coming days.

Spencer Turnbull, P, Phillies

Spencer Turnbull headshot
Spencer Turnbull
SP - PHI - #22
2024 - false season
45.2
IP
2.96
ERA
1.07
WHIP
50
K
16
BB

Turnbull's extremely encouraging Phillies debut continued Monday, when he allowed just three baserunners and piled up six strikeouts over six shutout innings in a no-decision against the Cardinals. The 31-year-old righty, who has reeled off 11 consecutive scoreless frames with a 13/1 K/BB ratio over two starts so far, was a complete afterthought for fantasy purposes after missing the overwhelming majority of the past two seasons while recovering from Tommy John surgery and a lingering neck issue.

Now the fastball velocity has returned to pre-surgery levels, and the addition of a sweeper has given him a legitimate weapon, which has boosted his strikeout totals. He's available in the vast majority of fantasy leagues at the moment and is in line for a pair of extremely favorable matchups against the Pirates and White Sox in his next two starts. There's undoubtedly some regression coming from a run-prevention standpoint, but Turnbull should be rostered in all fantasy formats.

Yariel Rodríguez, P, Blue Jays

It's unclear how much longer Toronto can continue rolling with Bowden Francis as their fifth starter, given that he has allowed a staggering 12 runs on 12 hits with a 12/4 K/BB ratio over 8 1/3 innings (two starts). That looming development leaves the door open for Rodríguez, who signed a five-year, $32 million contract during the offseason, to make the leap into the Blue Jays' starting rotation after a pair of dominant outings for Triple-A Buffalo. The 27-year-old Cuban right-hander has posted 6 1/3 scoreless innings with a 10/3 K/BB ratio and appears close to ascending to Toronto after a lingering back issue delayed his ramp-up process during spring training.

How he holds up from a workload standpoint as a starter will be the central question for fantasy managers as the season progresses, but obviously, there’s a lot to like about how he’s looked so far in the minors. He's another excellent stash candidate who could be making a tangible fantasy impact in the near future.