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Don’t look now, but we’re just about half way through the month of June. Before we know it, we’ll be watching the best players in the league partaking in the All-Star break festivities. There have been plenty of disappointments, but even more pleasant surprises to begin the season. With veterans improving and young players getting the opportunities to showcase their talents at the highest level, you should always be lurking on the waiver wire, waiting to pounce on the next appealing wire option.
In this week’s points league waiver wire article, I touched on a couple of young talents and a couple of veterans who could help your points league rosters. The waiver wire never sleeps, and neither should your desire to improve your points league rosters. Let’s get into it.
Points League Options
(Players rostered in under 50 percent of ESPN leagues)
Andres Gimenez 2B/SS, Guardians (36 percent rostered)
Andres Gimenez signed with the Mets in summer 2015 as an international free agent. He made his professional debut in 2016 and immediately impressed. Playing in rookie ball, Gimenez slashed .350/.469/.523 with three home runs, a 62 percent steal rate (13-for-21), a 16.7 percent walk rate, and an 8 percent strikeout rate across 275 plate appearances. Right away we got a glimpse of his advanced plate approach, plus bat control, and stolen base upside. His game power was still developing, but he’s always had sneaky pop given the natural loft in his swing, meaning that at his peak, he could be a 20-home run hitter. Well to start 2022, we’re starting to see his game power blossom.
In 2020, he hit three home runs over 118 at-bats. In 2021, he hit five home runs over 188 at-bats. Through his first 155 at-bats of 2022, he’s hit seven home runs. He’s hitting the ball harder than ever, and he’s been barreling the ball at a career-high rate. Because of his improved quality of contact metrics, it’s not surprising to see him sporting a career-high .357 BABIP. If these improvements stick for the remainder of the season, Gimenez should have the most productive campaign of his young major league career. Take a chance on the 23-year-old speedster if you’ve been searching for an upside middle infield option.
Zach Eflin SP, Phillies (13 percent rostered)
Personally, I did not expect Zach Eflin to be ready to start the 2022 season on time following his season-ending knee surgery in September 2021. Clearly, I was wrong, as Eflin has already made 10 starts. Through 55 innings, he has a 3.76 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, and 47/13 K/BB (14.9 percent K-BB). He’s been limiting hard contact once again while also continuing to showcase his deep arsenal of pitches. But most notably, he’s made his curveball his second-most used pitch early on.
His curveball has always been his finest putaway offering. But given his deep arsenal, the pitch never had a usage rate above 13.1 percent – until this year. Eflin’s curveball has a career-high 19.7 percent usage rate to start the season. It seems like he finally understands that his curveball needs to be one of his most featured pitches. He’s been commanding the pitch well, and in his May 22nd start against the Dodgers, he struck out a career-high 12 batters (113 career starts). And yes, you guessed it, his curveball was his second-most used pitch in the outing. If he continues to utilize his curveball at this rate, he’ll be well worth a roster spot in all points leagues.
Hunter Dozier 1B/OF/DH, Royals (20 percent rostered)
The Royals have been giving several of their young players opportunities to perform at the highest level to start the season, which makes sense for a team that’s trying to work its way back to being a competitor. Even so, Dozier should continue to receive regular at-bats given his defensive versatility, and because he signed a four-year extension in spring 2021. The 30-year-old has seen time at first base, right field, left field, third base, and designated hitter so far. As long as he remains healthy, he should be able to reach at least 400 plate appearances for the third time in his MLB career.
On top of that, Dozier’s plate approach appears more refined up to this point. Over 213 plate appearances, he has a career-low 21.6 percent strikeout rate. What’s changed? He’s been whiffing at breaking pitches at a career-low rate (38.2 percent). Throughout his career, breaking pitches have been his Achilles' heel, as he’s never had a whiff rate below 44.2 percent against them – well, until now, of course. His whiff rate against breaking pitches could very well return to career norms as the season progresses, but it’s hard to ignore this growth that he’s shown at the plate. I don’t think that he’s going to hit 26 home runs again this year, but his multi-positional eligibility and sneaky power potential makes him an intriguing waiver wire option.
Ross Stripling SP/RP, Blue Jays (10 percent rostered)
At one point, Stripling was a popular draft day selection in fantasy land – and for good reason. Pitching for the Dodgers in 2018, he earned a 3.02 ERA (3.13 SIERA) and a 22.7 percent K-BB over 122 innings. He’s never possessed overpowering stuff, but he’s always been a strike-thrower who understands how to locate his offerings. Moreover, because he utilizes a changeup, slider, and curveball, he’s capable of keeping batters guessing when he’s sequencing his pitches effectively.
However, over his past two campaigns, he’s battled command issues. And as a result, he’s struggled with run prevention. Fortunately, to start 2022, his command looks similar to how it did before 2020. More than that, he’s made his changeup his second-most used pitch for the first time in his big league career, as he’s been using it against left-handed hitters more than ever (36.7 percent usage rate). As evidenced by his 3.50 SIERA, Stripling’s early-season success appears to be real. His strikeout upside is limited, but I truly believe that Stripling is being undervalued right now. If your starting pitching depth needs a boost, go grab Stripling.
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Deep Points League Options
(Players rostered in under 10 percent of ESPN leagues)
Gabriel Moreno C, Blue Jays (8 percent rostered)
Gabriel Moreno opened the season as the fourth best prospect – and the second-best catching prospect – in baseball according to MLB Pipeline. The 22-year-old has a beautiful compact swing, plus bat speed, strong pitch recognition skills, developing power, and middling speed. He’s (probably) not going to be a hitter who finishes with a double-digit walk rate long term, but he doesn’t need to be given his ability to strategically attack hittable pitches. Additionally, he’s a capable defender behind the plate, which helps support his future role as a starting catcher on a major league club.
He was officially called up on June 11th following Danny Jansen’s placement on the injured list. And in his MLB debut, he recorded his first major league hit – a 105.2 mph single. He’s still in the midst of his development, so if you’re expecting him to produce All-Star numbers while he’s up, you’re probably going to be disappointed. There’s no guarantee that he will be a reliable fantasy asset this year, but he certainly possesses the tools to positively impact your deep points league rosters. Stash him if you have the space.
Lane Thomas OF, Nationals (6 percent rostered)
Lane Thomas was one of my favorite breakout candidates of the offseason. After being traded to the Nationals in summer 2021, he slashed .270/.364/.489 with seven home runs and a 66.7 percent steal rate (4-for-6) over 178 at-bats. He was hitting the ball hard, making contact at a high rate, and showcasing well above-average plate discipline skills. Furthermore, his sprint speed ranked in the 93rd percentile. Add on the fact that he was going in the later rounds of fantasy drafts this offseason and the stars looked aligned for a breakout.
Alas, Thomas struggled to begin his 2022 campaign. Through his first 137 plate appearances of the season, he slashed .195/.255/.325 with three home runs and a stolen base. His overall profile still looked similar to his strong 2021 sample size with the Nationals, but the hits just weren’t falling. Then on June 3rd, Thomas had MLB’s 340th three-home run game since 1884. And since that date, he’s batting .385 with much-improved quality of contact and plate discipline metrics over 39 at-bats. Yes, this is a very tiny sample size, but we also know that Thomas is capable of producing at a high level in the majors. Now, he’s attempted just one steal through 52 games, but he doesn’t have to steal to have fantasy relevancy. I can see his rostership percentage rising rather expeditiously if he continues to perform well. Stay ahead of the curve and pick him up if he’s available in your league.