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Fantasy Baseball Waiver Wire: Taj Bradley, Hunter Brown emerging as Yoshibonu Yamamoto replacements



We’re going to be welcoming some big-name pitchers back from the IL in the coming days and weeks, with Gerrit Cole (elbow) and Bobby Miller (shoulder) potentially making their returns to the rotation this week, among others. Those returns are welcome – though you can’t necessarily trust every pitcher coming back from injury to stay healthy and effective – especially because, of course, we’re continuing to lose contributors to ever more injuries.

This weekend we lost several more starters to injuries, including a couple of the more exciting pitchers in the league of late with what could end costing them significant time. In this week’s waiver-wire column, we’re going to have some pitchers to target on waivers for leagues of all shapes and sizes, but first, a quick rundown of the latest pitchers we’re looking to replace: 

Yoshinobu Yamamoto (triceps) – File this one under, “Sometimes you have to protect players from themselves.” Yamamoto felt tightness in his triceps earlier in the week, which was why his start was pushed back from Thursday to Saturday, and he opted to pitch through it despite feeling it in warmups. Now we learn he has a strained rotator cuff, and while Dodgers manager Dave Roberts told reporters it’s not expected to be season-ending, it’s pretty much impossible to say that with any degree of confidence right now — it’s a tricky injury that could just require a shutdown for a couple of weeks, but any setback could wreck his season. According to BaseballProspectus’ Recovery Dashboard tool, only four pitchers over the past six seasons have returned from a rotator cuff injury in less than 55 days – nine needed at least two months.

Kyle Bradish (elbow) – This one is especially concerning. Bradish has suffered another sprain in his UCL, the same injury that derailed his spring and delayed his start to the season. Bradish was arguably pitching at a higher level than ever, with a 2.75 ERA and 2.48 FIP before the injury, but now there’s a chance he’s out for a while – with surgery potentially on the table. If you don’t have an IL spot to stick him, you might just need to drop Bradish, though I’d prefer to avoid that if I can. 

Justin Verlander (neck) – The hope here is that Verlander will only miss one start, after he was scratched from Saturday’s start with neck tightness. At this point, it doesn’t sound like Verlander is going on the IL, but given his age, it never hurts to be cautious. I would at least sit Verlander for this week, especially with Verlander struggling in his past couple of starts. 

Kyle Harrison (ankle) – This one seems less serious, but Harrison was placed on the 15-day IL, retroactive to Thursday, after rolling his ankle in the weight room Saturday. It might only require a minimum stay on the IL, but Harrison’s absence strains a Giants rotation that is already without Blake Snell, Robbie Ray, Alex Cobb, and Tristan Beck. Harrison is droppable if you need the roster space. 

Before we get to the rest of the positions, here are the SP targets to look for on waivers this week:

  • Hunter Brown, Astros (75%) – His season ERA is still all the way up to 5.00, but Brown has been much better than that for the past couple of months. He was dominant Friday against the Tigers, striking out nine over seven shutout innings, and now has a 2.58 ERA with 52 strikeouts and, notably, only 15 walks over his past eight appearances. That coincides with the introduction of a sinker that Brown actually used as his primary pitch in Friday’s start, which has helped him throw strikes and generate weak contact more consistently. With the way he’s rolling right now, Brown belongs in your lineup in all leagues. 
  • Brandon Pfaadt, Diamondbacks (73%) – Pfaadt delivered a much-needed bounceback start Thursday, striking out eight while allowing one run over six innings against the Angels after he was tagged for 13 runs in his previous three starts. HIs ERA sits at an inflated 4.38, but his expected ERA, which takes into account strikeout and walk rates as well as quality of contact allowed, is down at 3.12. Consistency has been an issue for Pfaadt in his career, but when the strikeouts are there, he can be pretty good, especially if he keeps limiting damage on his fastballs. 
  • Taj Bradley, Rays (71%) – I’m listing the pitchers by roster rate in CBS Fantasy leagues, but make no mistake, Bradley should be your top priority this week if you need a pitcher and he’s available. Consistency has also been an issue, but when he’s at his best, he has the kind of overwhelming stuff that Pfaadt can’t touch. And Bradley has looked a lot like the best version of himself so far this season, striking out 31.6% of opposing batters after a dominant 11-strikeout showing Thursday of last week. He’s had issues with hard contact, especially with his four-seamer, but he simplified his approach in his most recent start, throwing almost exclusively four-seamers and splitters, and it’s an approach that could work for him, with a few cutters and curves sprinkled in. If Bradley can miss barrels and limit hard contact, he has legit ace upside. 
  • Alec Marsh, Royals (44%) – When things were going well for Marsh early in the season, I wasn’t really buying it, and I’m still not too enthusiastic about adding him. But he was pretty impressive against the Yankees, who had been teeing off on Marsh’s teammates all series prior to his seven one-hit innings, so we can take another look with a very enticing matchup against the A’s on the way this week – though the second start against the Rangers is tougher to trust in a Roto league. 
  • Miles Mikolas, Cardinals (40%) – You know exactly who Mikolas is. When things are going well, he’s a perfectly fine pitcher to keep around, but he’s also someone you can pretty happily drop when things turn. Things are going well for him right now, with five quality starts in a row after Sunday’s win against the Cubs. I’m fine starting MIkolas against the Giants this week. 
  • Cade Povich, Orioles (25%) – Despite his relative youth, I’m not convinced Povich has a ton of upside. However, the Orioles are one of the best teams in the league and they play in a terrific park for pitchers, so the context certainly gives him a little boost. With Bradish’s injury, Povich figures to stay in the rotation for the time being, though his matchup against the Yankees in New York this week makes him awfully tough to trust as a streamer. 
  • Davidjohn Herz, Nationals (12%) – He’s “DJ” most places, but he was dominant by any name in a start against the Marlins Saturday, striking out 13 in six one-hit innings – immediately after two pretty mediocre starts to open his MLB career. Hertz used his four-seamer to generate 13 of his 21 swinging strikes in the outing, with six more coming on his change, as those two pitches clearly played well off each other. Hertz’ fastball isn’t necessarily anything special at 92.8 mph, so I’m inclined to write this one off more about the Marlins being a really good matchup than anything else, however, Hertz did post massive strikeout numbers in the minors, with a 33.6% rate over 317.2 innings, so there’s clearly something there. If he can limit the walks (15.3% rate in the minors), Hertz could be pretty useful, though I’m inclined to remain skeptical until we see more. That Hertz’s next start comes at Coors Field makes it even easier to pass up on him, though if you have a roster spot to play with and don’t need to start Hertz, he’s an interesting flier. 

Here’s who else we’re looking to add at every position this week: 

Catchers

Mitch Garver, Mariners (37%) – Garver’s batting average has remained stubbornly low all season, but if you can look past that, he’s been a lot more useful than you might think. Garver hit his eighth homer of the season Friday and has three to go along with 11 RBI in 13 games in the month of June. The power has mostly been there since the start of May (close to a 30-homer, 90-RBI pace), and if Garver gets a bit more BABIP luck at some point, we might even notice it. I still believe Garver can be a viable starting option given the playing time edge he continues to have over most catchers, especially in two-catcher leagues. 

Deep-league target: Tyler Soderstrom, Athletics (21%) – Soderstrom is a 22-year-old, top-100 prospect who has hit 29 home runs in 113 games in his Triple-A career, so yeah, I’m interested in him. He’s playing pretty close to everyday for the A’s as a first baseman and has three homers over his past six games. There’s difference-making upside here. 

First Base

Andrew Vaughn, White Sox (41%) – After the first game of a double-header on May 14, Vaughn’s season OPS dipped to .541, but it’s been on the rise ever since. He homered twice in the second game of that double-header and is hitting .265/.318/.539 with a 50-homer pace since then. I don’t expect him to keep up anything like that pace, but Vaughn has been especially hot of late – five homers in his past 10 games entering Sunday – and is worth using now that he’s locked in. 

Deep-league target: Tyler Locklear, Mariners (13%) – With Ty France (heel) starting to make progress  – he took batting practice and ran the bases Sunday – Locklear might not be long for the major-league club, so this one is truly for deep leagues.

Second base

Adael Amador, Rockies (21%) – Amador needs to get hot quickly to have a chance to stay up when Brendan Rodgers (hamstring) comes off the IL, but if you need someone to plug into your lineup this weekend, you could do worse than the top prospect with seven games at Coors Field. 

Deep-league target: Spencer Horwitz, Blue Jays (10%) – If I needed to start someone this week, I might actually prefer Horwitz to Amador, just because he’s shown us more at the MLB level and is hitting leadoff when he’s in the lineup for the Blue Jays. There’s more upside with Amador, but Horwitz’s contact-oriented approach is playing up already and he should be a decent option in category leagues, especially with daily lineup decisions – he hasn’t started against a lefty yet.

Third base

Noelvi Marte, Reds (56%) – It becomes easier everyday to roster Marte, who is eligible to come back from his suspension on June 27. That doesn’t necessarily mean he will come back to the majors that day, but it seems pretty likely, given the team’s standing in the NL Central and the poor production they’ve received from the corners this season. Marte showed difference making upside when he hit .316/.366/.456 with three homers and six steals in 35 games last season, and if he can tap back into that whenever he gets the call, you’ll be glad you had him around. 

Deep-league target: Justyn-Henry Malloy, Tigers (11%) – Malloy has started 10 of 11 games for the Tigers since getting called up, but it’s kind of been a struggle – he has 15 strikeouts in 39 PA entering Sunday. He’s shown some pop, though, and hit 30 homers in 189 games at Triple-A, so he’s worth a look in deeper leagues.

Shortstop

Masyn Winn, Cardinals (60%) – Winn is pretty much locked into the leadoff spot for the Cardinals, starting each game there so far in June. He has slowed down a bit in that time, but is still hitting .300 with a line-drive approach that should continue to make for strong batting averages. Could he hit .280 with double-digit homers, 20 steals, and 90 runs as the leadoff guy? I think that’s a reasonable expectation. 

Deep-league target: Paul DeJong, White Sox (23%) – DeJong has been a godsend for me in my one AL-only league, but the way he’s hitting lately makes him worth a look even in mixed leagues. DeJong has seven homers over his past 15 games, while hitting .281 in that span. I don’t expect him to sustain this, but DeJong has been a useful source of power from the middle infield position, and is worth riding while he remains hot.

Outfield

Nolan Jones, Rockies (81%) – The fact that the Rockies kept Jones down for a few extra days to work on his swing even after he was healthy enough to be activated from his rehab assignment doesn’t exactly fill me with optimism. But it was nice to see him get on base six times in his first three games back from the IL this weekend, with just two strikeouts. Jones has significant five-category potential if he can get back to last year’s level, and I’m willing to say he still needs to be universally rostered even amid the miserable start to the season. 

Jarred Kelenic, Braves (38%) – How desperate are the Braves right now? With Ronald Acuna out for the year and Michael Harris on the IL, Kelenic was moved up to the leadoff spot this weekend, and he rewarded them with homers Friday and Saturday. He’s hitting .300/.349/.575 since the start of June, and while I think his strikeout issues will probably continue to limit how much of an impact Kelenic can actually make on a consistent basis, it’s fine to add him while he’s hot, especially with the move up the order. 

Deep-league targets: Parker Meadows, Tigers (9%) – Meadows was a popular breakout candidate before the season, and then he totally flopped, hitting .096 in his first 32 games before being sent to Triple-A. He’s hit .287/.390/.541 with seven homers and 13 steals at that level and has to be playing his way back up to the MLB roster relatively soon. In deeper leagues, I’m starting to stash Meadows just in case … Hunter Goodman, Rockies (3%) – Goodman came up to the majors with a bit of hype after hitting 43 homers in 138 games between Double-A and Triple-A. He hadn’t done much to justify any hype prior to this weekend amid inconsistent playing time, but his two-homer game Saturday is certainly going to open some eyes. You can’t really count on the Rockies to just make  him an everyday player, but hopefully that at least convinces them to give him the shot ahead of a seven-game week at Coors.





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