Isaac Paredes' power is real

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Key injuries continue to devastate the fantasy landscape. Ronald Acuña Jr. is battling a foot injury, Ozzie Albies fractured his foot about two weeks ago, Mookie Betts is dealing with a rib injury, Bryce Harper has a fractured thumb, and plenty of other MLB stars are dealing with some sort of injury. As a result, checking the waiver wire on a daily basis has never been more important.

Of course, it’s virtually impossible to replace star players who go down with injuries, but picking up a solid replacement for free should be your top priority. I once again touched on six players in this week’s points league waiver wire article. There aren’t many exciting options this week, but you don’t have to be an exciting pickup to be a helpful pickup. Let’s get into it.

Points League Options

(Players rostered in under 50 percent of ESPN leagues)

David Peterson SP, Mets (20 percent rostered)

Believe it or not, David Peterson is a former first round pick. The southpaw was taken 20th overall in the 2017 MLB Draft by the Mets. At the time, his 6-foot-6, 240 pound physique put to rest any future workload concerns, his fastball-slider combo was well known, and his command and control skills were solid. However, he also possessed – and still possesses – a fringe changeup and get-me-over curveball, limiting his ceiling as a major league starter. Peterson was never going to be an ace, but it was easy to see him developing into a backend starter. Fast-forward to 2022 and I think it’s fair to conclude that this is the best version of Peterson that we’ve seen.

Through 52 ⅓ innings, he has a 3.10 ERA (3.93 SIERA), a 12.7 percent K-BB, and a career-best 53.1 percent ground ball rate. Amazingly, each of his four-seam fastball, slider, changeup, sinker, and curveball have a ground ball rate greater than 50 percent. I doubt that this remains the case through the end of the season, but Peterson’s always been able to induce ground balls at a high rate with multiple pitches. On top of his ability to generate a lot of ground balls, his slider has undoubtedly been his money pitch this season.

His slider has been his best putaway pitch his entire professional career and so far this season, the pitch has a ridiculous 52.5 percent whiff rate (205 thrown). And because of his consistent release points, his slider plays well off his fastballs, aiding the pitch’s strikeout potential. All in all, Peterson becoming a high-strikeout arm out of nowhere is a very unlikely scenario. But given his improving command, plus slider, lack of workload concerns, and ability to generate ground balls with multiple pitches, Peterson has the makeup to be a reliable – albeit humdrum – fantasy option in points leagues for the remainder of the season.

Garrett Cooper 1B/DH, Marlins (19 percent rostered)

It feels like Garrett Cooper’s been on the verge of a breakout for years now. In 2019, he slashed .281/.344/.446 with 15 home runs over 381 at-bats. His quality of contact metrics were encouraging, contact rates were solid, and his overall plate approach didn’t have many red flags. Unfortunately for Cooper, the shortened 2020 season and an injury-plagued 2021 season hurt his development as a major league batter. His batting average in both 2020 and 2021 sat above .282, but he didn’t exceed 215 at-bats in either campaign. It doesn’t matter who you are, if you can’t surpass 215 at-bats, you won’t be able to showcase your true offensive potential.

To the delight of Cooper and the Marlins, he’s been healthy and playing frequently to begin his 2022 campaign. Across 258 plate appearances, he’s slashing .307/.372/.452 with five home runs. His HR/FB rate was greater than 22.4 percent from 2019-2021, but so far in 2022, it’s sitting at 10.9 percent – around league average. If his HR/FB rate can sneak closer to 20 percent, he should be able to reach at least 15 home runs before the season ends. Then when you consider the fact that he could finish with a batting average in the .270-.300 range, you start to see that a .300/20 finish is within Cooper’s range of outcomes. He’ll continue to be an underrated fantasy option for as long as his 2019 campaign remains the most productive campaign of his big league career.

Jonah Heim C, Rangers (47 percent rostered)

Above all else, Heim’s defensive abilities are his best tools. A catcher with average-to-below average defensive skills could struggle to find regular playing time at the MLB level. As a result, they’d likely either feel obligated to search for another defensive position, settle at designated hitter, or they’d find themselves without a major league job eventually. But when a catcher is as defensively gifted as Heim, all they need to do is figure out a way to be effective at the plate on an annual basis. In 2021, Heim hit 10 home runs over 265 at-bats. To start 2022, Heim’s blasted 10 home runs over 171 at-bats.

What’s changed? He’s been pulling fly balls at a higher rate while also hitting more fly balls in general. Hitting home runs isn’t just about how hard you can hit a baseball. If a batter has middling quality of contact metrics, but also pulls a lot of fly balls, they could easily hit double-digit home runs. Heim’s plate approach looks more home run friendly than ever, and his production through 52 games matches the changes that he’s made. The 27-year-old catcher could end the season with around 20 home runs and batting average in the .220-.250 range – a useful catcher option in points leagues.

Roansy Contreras SP, Pirates (15 percent rostered)

In 2016, Roansy Contreras signed with the Yankees as an international free agent. At the time, his fastball was sitting low-to-mids 90s, and he was armed with secondary pitches that had the potential to be plus offerings in time. In his minor league career (327 ⅔ innings), Contreras earned a 3.10 ERA (3.63 FIP) and a 23.3 percent strikeout rate. However, that strikeout rate doesn’t tell the whole story, as his strikeout rate significantly improved in 2021 due to his increased average fastball velocity.

To begin his 2022 campaign, Contreras has showcased a fastball that tops out at 98 mph, a slider, a curveball, and a changeup. Despite his intriguing raw stuff, the right-hander’s fastball has been giving up a lot of loud contact. To be more specific, his fastball has a 94.6 mph average exit velocity against it. That’s bad. What’s more, his fastball has a 13.8 percent walk rate. So why’s his fastball been performing poorly despite its above-average velocity and spin? Poor command.

Contreras has been leaving his fastball over the plate way too much and hitters have been taking advantage. He’s only 22-years-old, so it’s not surprising to see him struggling with his fastball command at this stage in his career. Even though he’s clearly still in the developmental stage of his career, Contreras is worthy of a bench spot in points leagues. You’ll have to deal with some poor starts moving forward, but I believe that he has the upside to win you weeks down the stretch – assuming that he remains in the rotation for the rest of the season.

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Deep Points League Options

(Players rostered in under 10 percent of ESPN leagues)

Luis Garcia SS, Nationals (8 percent rostered)

At one point, Luis Garcia was a sure-fire top-10 prospect in the Nationals’ farm system. His fluid and balanced swing has always been noticeable. And when you consider his plus bat-to-ball skills, it’s easy to see why some project him to have a plus hit tool as a major leaguer in time. He’s not much of a base stealer and his raw power is still translating to games, but he has the tools to eventually be an impactful fantasy contributor. He had 386 career major league plate appearances prior to this season, and while his career numbers aren’t eye-popping, they make sense when you have a firm understanding of the current state of his offensive profile.

To start 2022, Garcia’s batting .319 with two home runs over 94 at-bats. He’s only at 76 batted ball events, but he’s already recorded a career-high maximum exit velocity (113.4 mph). Moreover, his 39.5 percent hard-hit rate is a significant improvement over his 30.6 percent hard-hit rate from 2021 (193 batted ball events) and his 29.5 percent hard-hit rate from 2020 (105 batted ball events). He’s still hitting too many ground balls (56.8 percent career ground ball rate), but he should be able to sustain a strong batting average while hitting a few more home runs. His upside is limited, but if you’ve been searching for a cheap infield option in deep points leagues, give Garcia a look.

Isaac Paredes 3B/2B, Rays (8 percent rostered)

In early April of this year, Isaac Paredes was traded to the Rays in a package deal that featured Austin Meadows. Meadows has yet to hit a home run with his new club (128 at-bats). Meanwhile, Paredes has hit a career-high 10 home runs over just 98 at-bats. It’s too early to say who won that trade, but early on, it’s looking like the Rays came away the victor – surprise, surprise.

Paredes is slashing .255/.315/.612 with 17 runs scored, 10 home runs, and 21 RBI through 108 plate appearances. His quality of contact metrics aren’t overly impressive, but his average launch angle is ideal (17.3 degrees) and he’s been pulling fly balls at a career-high rate. In fact, all 10 of his home runs have been pulled to left field. This pull-heavy, fly ball-heavy approach could cap his batting average ceiling, but he should continue to launch home runs. Given his home run-friendly profile, the 23-year-old infielder makes for a solid pickup in deep points leagues.