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We’re a little over a week into the 2022 MLB season, but based on some of the universal reactions to these small sample sizes, you’d think that it was summer. We’re still a couple weeks away from the end of April, folks. The fantasy baseball marathon has only just begun.
I get it, though. We just endured a long offseason that was filled with worries of there being no baseball played in 2022. So, now that baseball is back, we want to react to every small thing that happens. I truly do understand that mindset, but it’s a problematic mindset. Overreacting can lead to acting on your overreactions, and that’s when poor managerial decisions are made. Stand firm on the conclusions you made this past offseason and continue to hold players who are having slow starts. Trust me, you don’t want to regret dropping a breakout after they started 1-for-20.
Now, in this week’s points league waiver wire article, I’ll be diving into six total players who you should consider adding to your rosters this week. There are a lot of intriguing names sitting out there on waiver wires at the moment and a handful of these names could help you all season long. Let’s get into it.
Points League Options
(Players rostered in under 50 percent of ESPN leagues)
Jeremy Pena SS, Astros (30 percent rostered)
After Carlos Correa was signed to a three-year contract by the Twins last month, rookie infielder Jeremy Pena’s perceived fantasy value increased substantially. Drafted 124th overall in the 2018 MLB Draft by the Astros, Pena’s best tool has always been his defense. I’m just making an educated guess here, but it seems like having strong defensive skills gives you a higher chance of being an everyday player at the major league level. Add in above average speed (73% steal rate over 182 career minor league games games), a solid hit tool, and budding game power (47.6% hard-hit rate through first 21 career batted ball events), and you get the man of the hour, Jeremy Pena.
He slashed .291/.371/.443 over 690 career minor league at-bats and through his first seven career games, he’s 10-for-29 with a home run, a 3.1% walk rate and a 15.6% strikeout rate. It’s easy to picture him reaching double digit stolen bases and home runs this season. If you need a shortstop or a middle infielder and Pena is sitting on your waiver wire, pick him up yesterday. Act quickly; it’s not often that you see someone with Pena’s upside so readily available.
Jameson Taillon SP, Yankees (27 percent rostered)
When you have a four-seam fastball that spins at a well above average rate and you know how to consistently attack the top of the strike zone with the pitch, your chances of generating a lot of swings and misses on the pitch increases. Enter Jameson Taillon’s four-seam fastball. A pitch that once topped out at 98 mph and averaged 95.5 mph topped out at 95.1 mph and averaged 93.7 mph in his first start of 2022. He’s been forced to undergo Tommy John surgery twice, so it’s not shocking to see his four-seam fastball averaging a career low 93.7 mph at age-30. Nevertheless, the pitch can still be effective if he continues to locate it at the top of the strike zone.
Moreover, I know that it’s just been one start, but it looks like he’s decreased the vertical drop on his four-seam fastball (more “rise” when thrown at the top of the zone) and the horizontal break on his slider is up. It’s very possible that these marks are outliers, but if Taillon’s raw stuff has legitimately improved, he could be a very valuable waiver wire pickup. He’s no ace, but picking up a starter who’s capable of regularly getting double digit fantasy points is how you build a championship roster. If you have the space, add Taillon to your roster today.
Jesus Sanchez OF, Marlins (18 percent rostered)
It’s a shame to see hitters who possess plus power, plus bat speed, quick hands, and the potential to be an All-Star caliber player never figure it out because their plate approach is too poor. Whether it’s their pitch recognition skills or just having a tendency to be too aggressive, a poor plate approach hindering a player’s development is a tragedy. Let’s hope that that’s not the path Jesus Sanchez takes.
Sanchez has the potential to be a perennial above average fantasy contributor, but after posting a 31.1% strikeout rate over 251 plate appearances in 2021, it’s fair to question who exactly Sanchez will be at the major league level. Along with that 31.1% strikeout rate, Sanchez posted an eight percent walk rate, hit 14 home runs, and earned a .250/.319/.489 line. However, a concerning trend has carried into his time as a major leaguer: a high ground ball rate. Sanchez had a high ground ball rate on a regular basis as a minor leaguer and in 2021 (150 batted ball events), he had a 45.3% ground ball rate. It’s not the worst mark, but when matched with his 8.7° average launch angle from 2021, you start to see the profile of a hitter who’s home run upside could be capped – for the time being, at least.
At just 24-years-old, Sanchez has plenty of time to figure out how to improve his game power. He also has plenty of time to figure out how to be more patient and strategically selective against the best of the best. And through his first seven games of 2021, he’s only struck out five times over 30 plate appearances (16.7% strikeout rate). If you have him rostered, continue to hold onto him. If he’s available in your league, he’s the type of player that you want to have on your roster if everything goes right.
Jesus Luzardo SP, Marlins (40 percent rostered)
Messing with timing? Averaging a career-high 97.6 mph on his four-seam fastball? The gifted 24-year-old southpaw Jesus Luzardo absolutely needs to be on rosters everywhere.
Armed with pitchability, command, and stuff, Luzardo has all the ingredients to thrive as a major league arm for years to come. Unfortunately, injury-related and typical developmental roadblocks have slowed his progression as a major league arm. In 2016 – the year he was drafted 94th overall in the MLB Draft by the Nationals – he underwent Tommy John surgery after tearing the ulnar collateral ligament in his left arm. A potential contender for a rotation spot in 2019, a strained left rotator cuff forced him to miss the start of the season. In 2020, he had to deal with a coronavirus infection and following a poor start to 2021, he missed time after fracturing his pinkie will playing video games. When a young pitcher is trying to prepare for the majors, they just want to be on the mound getting experience, so for Luzardo to have gone through all this to begin his career is tough luck.
Nevertheless, in his first start of 2022, a healthy Luzardo fanned a career-high 12 batters, giving him two double digit strikeout performances over his last two career starts. As I previously touched on, his average four-seam fastball velocity has increased to start the year. In fact, the average velocity on all of his pitches are up a tick. Furthermore, he threw a couple quick pitches in his first start and pairing that type of additional deceptiveness with the stuff he possesses is almost unfair. Moving forward, only health should stop Luzardo from continuing to improve against major league batters. I don’t feel like it’s an exaggeration to say this: Luzardo should be universally owned in all points leagues.
Deep Points League Options
(Players rostered in under 10 percent of ESPN leagues)
Michael Lorenzen SP/RP, Angels (9 percent rostered)
It’s been a long time coming for Michael Lorenzen, the starter. In 2015, Lorenzen started 23 games for the Reds, but finished with a pitiful 5.40 ERA over 113 ⅓ innings pitched. Then, in 2016 – about three years after being drafted 38th overall in the 2013 MLB Draft – Lorenzen suffered a sprained ulnar collateral ligament. Fortunately, this injury never led to Tommy John surgery and aside from a shoulder strain that limited him to 29 innings pitched in 2021, Lorenzen has remained fairly healthy as a major leaguer. Of course, pitching primarily out of the bullpen might’ve played a role in his apparent durability, but finally, at 30-years-old, Lorenzen is getting another chance to compete as a major league starter. And in his first official start since late-2020, he did not disappoint.
In his first start as a member of the Angels, Lorenzen allowed one run on two hits, walked one, and struck out seven over six innings of work. He topped out at 96.8 mph with his four-seam fastball and threw six total pitches, per Statcast. It’s just one start, but a breakout waiver wire pitcher is more valuable than gold in points leagues. If Lorenzen’s success continues as the season progresses, he could end up being on a lot of playoff rosters.
Brandon Marsh OF, Angels (6 percent rostered)
Quality of contact isn’t everything, but over the first 163 batted ball events of Marsh’s career, he has a 10.4% barrel rate and a 51.5% hard-hit rate. Thanks to various mechanical adjustments as a minor leaguer, Marsh’s ability to hit for power has been steadily improving. Additionally, he has a sharp batter’s eye matched with a professional plate approach that helped him earn a 11.2% walk rate over 1,332 career minor league plate appearances. And to top it all off, Marsh is one of the fastest players in MLB.
He had 95th percentile sprint speed in 2021 and to start 2022, his sprint speed ranks in the 99th percentile (29.4 feet per second). He’s still getting used to facing major league pitching, but Marsh has the upside to an All-Star at some point in his career. I don’t believe that we’ll see him even come close to reaching his potential in 2022, but at just 24-years-old, this could easily be the most productive campaign of his young career. The strikeouts could hurt you a bit, but his budding game power, plate approach, and speed should help disguise the fact that he’s still adjusting against major league pitching more often than not.