The Atlanta Braves and the Cleveland Indians both called up heralded prospects this week to fill holes in their lineups, and that always begs the question: Which rookies are worth taking a shot on when it comes to combing the waiver wire?
There is no formula for this, in truth. Some people argue that if they’re not worth drafting in March, they’re not worth claiming in May. Others keep a more open mind. Look at Braves third baseman Austin Riley. In his first four games, he hit two home runs and drove in four base runners. Not many would have drafted him in March.
The key is watch the prospects long before they reach the majors, to see who may get called up in a few weeks—and grab them in your league before someone else does. If they perform, great. If they do not, it’s always possible to trade them to a fellow owner who really wanted the player(s) in the first place but fell asleep at the wheel.
Players to Get on Your Team Now
1. Luke Jackson, RP, Atlanta Braves: Cheap saves are always on waivers. Jackson is an example, as the Atlanta bullpen has been shredded by injuries. He may not keep the job long, as he blew a save on Saturday, but Jackson is the best option the Braves have right now in the ninth inning. Use him until Atlanta loses him.
2. Lucas Giolito, SP, Chicago White Sox: He was terrible last year, leading the league in earned runs given up (118) and walks allowed (90), but this year, Giolito may have figured it out in his age-24 season. His K rate is up to 10.5/9IP, and he has five wins already on a squad that is not going to win a lot of games.
3. Tommy La Stella, UTL, Los Angeles Angels: Something is amiss. In his first 396 MLB games, La Stella hit 10 HRs combined. In just 40 games this season, he has 11 dingers so far. Maybe the switch from the National League to the American League was what La Stella needed to get his career on track at age 30. Position flexibility is a big bonus, too.
4. Austin Riley, 3B, Atlanta Braves: We noted his hot start above, yet also keep in mind that this kid was putting up a 1.057 OPS in Triple-A ball through his first 37 games at that level in 2019. That bodes well for his being a solid contributor as a rookie to a fantasy baseball roster, even if he cannot sustain his hot start (.533 batting average, for example).
Players to Drop to Waivers Now
1. Miguel Andújar, 3B, New York Yankees: He was second in the AL Rookie of the Year vote last year, and he was highly drafted this year. But his season is over now due to shoulder problems, and if he is still on your roster, he should not be. Look above on how to replace him quickly with someone who is playing well right now.
2. Collin McHugh, SP, Houston Astros: He is on the downside of his career, and McHugh has been brutal this season so far. If you’re looking for the 2014-2016 version(s), stop wishful thinking right now. His HR-allowed and walks-allowed rates are basically the highest of his career. At age 32, McHugh may be done as an MLB pitcher.
3. Mike Foltynewicz, SP, Atlanta Braves: After winning 13 games last season with a 2.85 ERA, expectations were high for Folty in 2019. But he’s been hurt, and something is not right with him as his 8.02 ERA and 1.594 WHIP illustrate. Maybe he gets it back later in the season, but you cannot afford to wait until then.
4. Justin Smoak, 1B, Toronto Blue Jays: He hit 38 HRs in 2017 during an All-Star season, but it’s been downhill for Smoak since then as he is hitting just .215 this year. The good news that he’s drawn just as many walks as times he has struck out, so maybe there is hope for a recovery this season. Perhaps you let someone else hold on to that hope?