Get all of Michael Beller’s columns as soon as they’re published. Download the new Sports Illustrated app (iOS or Android) and personalize your experience by following your favorite teams and SI writers.
The baseball season may just be starting, but that doesn’t mean it’s too early to hate your fantasy team. It’s entirely possible you made some missteps in your draft or auction that you need to rectify as soon as possible. Luckily for you, there’s no rest for the weary on the waiver wire.
SI.com will be here for you all season with waiver wire recommendations for leagues of all shapes and sizes. As always, players will need to be available in at least 55% of leagues to be considered, and those with ownership rates between 40% and 45% will need to have special cases to be mentioned in this space.
Let’s get back to the owners who already need a quick fix for their team. Here’s the good news. There has never been a baseball season in the history of the fantasy game in which there weren’t a handful of waiver-wire gems. Some may not emerge until May or June, but chances are a couple are sitting on your wire right now. Below are some players who probably should have been drafted in your league, but have instead turned into the first waiver buys of the season.
Socrates Brito, OF, Diamondbacks (Mixed: $7, NL: $15)
We nearly made it through spring training without a major injury to a big-name player, but our hopes for a clean spring were dashed on Friday. A.J. Pollock, who had been dealing with right elbow troubles for most of the spring, fractured the elbow and will miss significant time after undergoing surgery. That opens the door for the 23-year-old Brito to show the Diamondbacks what he can do. He impressed at Double A Mobile last season, hitting .300/.339/.451 with nine homers, 17 doubles, 15 triples and 20 steals in 522 plate appearances. That earned him a September promotion to Arizona, where he went 10 for 33 with four extra-base hits. Those 33 at-bats were the first of Brito’s professional career above the Double A level, so there are likely some growing pains in his future, but Brito has good enough hit and speed tools to make him an intriguing add, especially now that he has an opportunity to play nearly every day in what should be a potent Arizona lineup.
Eugenio Suarez, SS/3B, Reds (Mixed: $4, NL: Owned)
For the time being, Suarez is only eligible at shortstop in most formats. He’s going to be Cincinnati’s everyday third baseman this season, so it won’t take long for him to pick up eligibility there as well. In just 398 plate appearances last year, the 24-year-old Suarez hit .280/.315/.446 with 13 homers. He’s likely to threaten the 20-homer threshold this season, and will also give you modest production in the speed department. Suarez is hitting second in Cincinnati’s lineup, meaning he’ll see plenty of fastballs with Joey Votto behind him, and he carries significant run-scoring upside. Shortstop and third base are strong at the top, but both positions are weak when it comes to their backend starting classes. Suarez could be a top-12 or top-14 player at both positions this season.
Domingo Santana, OF, Brewers (Mixed: $5, NL: Owned)
It’s the first week of the season. We’re shooting for upside, right? There’s no question that Santana has it. The 23-year-old spent about one-third of the season in the majors last year, splitting his time between the Astros and Brewers. He hit .238/.337/.431 with eight homers in 187 plate appearances. Santana played most of the year at the Triple A level where he absolutely raked, slashing .333/.426/.573 with 18 homers, 23 doubles and 77 RBIs. There’s little doubt that the power is for real. The question is whether or not Santana can make enough contact to take advantage of all that pop. He struck out 63 times in those 187 major league plate appearances last season, and racked up 108 whiffs in 411 trips to the plate in Triple A ball. If he can cut his strikeout rate back to what it was in Triple A last year, he’s going to do some serious damage for the Brewers. Santana is essentially the ideal early-season flier, especially in a deep outfield position.
Justin Bour, 1B, Marlins (Mixed: $4, NL: Owned)
Bour was a pleasant surprise for the Marlins last season, hitting .262/.321/.479 with 23 homers in 446 plate appearances. The late bloomer—he was a rookie last year in his age-27 season—turned into a steady middle-of-the-order bat for a team that was largely punchless once Giancarlo Stanton went down with what is unfortunately becoming his annual injury. It’s highly likely that Bour’s 2015 season represents his ceiling. He was never a top prospect, and he needed five full years in the minors before reaching the Triple A level. Still, even if he just gives his fantasy owners low-to-mid-20s homers with 75 RBIs and decent rates, he’ll be a profitable player. He doesn’t have the upside to be much more than a top-20 first baseman, but if you’re in a deeper league and are starting someone like Kendrys Morales or Mark Teixeira at the position, give Bour a shot on your roster for a few weeks. Don’t sleep on how much he’ll benefit from having Stanton in the lineup for a full season, should the slugger manage to stay healthy this year.
Cesar Hernandez, 2B/3B/SS, Phillies (Mixed: $5, NL: Owned)
Just like you want to follow the touchdowns in football, you want to follow the runs scored in baseball. The Phillies are going to be bad this year and probably won’t score very many runs. That’s going to make Hernandez’s job as the team’s leadoff man not quite as lucrative as that of his counterparts across the league. The fact remains, however, that he should get at least 600 plate appearances this season, making him one of the most underappreciated speed threats in the league. Hernandez swiped 19 bags in 452 plate appearances last season. If he keeps up his sustainable .339 OBP from last year while playing every day, he’ll be a lock for 25 steals, with an upside of pushing toward 40 if a few things break in his favor. He gives you eligibility at three positions, two of which are among the most shallow in fantasy baseball. You might not want to tune in to very many Phillies games to watch Hernandez do his work, but rest assured that he will be one of the few players on the team who delivers.
Jose Berrios, SP, Twins (Mixed: $9, AL: Owned)
Like we said earlier, the name of the game at this stage of the season is upside. No widely available pitcher has nearly as much upside as Berrios, my pick for the AL Rookie of the Year award. You’re probably going to have to wait until June, at the earliest, for him to make his debut, but you’ll forget about that wait soon after he gets the call to the Twin Cities. Berrios throws three plus pitches, including a changeup that he can command to both sides of the plate and that he uses not only to offset the platoon advantage, but as a weapon against righties as well. Of all the big-time pitching prospects who are expected to make their debuts this season—Lucas Giolito of the Nationals, Tyler Glasnow of the Pirates and Julio Urias of the Dodgers are also among them—Berrios is the best bet to be the first one promoted to the majors. Not only did he prove he was ready for the show by posting a 2.62 ERA, 0.97 WHIP and 83 strikeouts in 75 2/3 innings at Triple A Rochester last year, he has the lowest barrier to entry, with Ricky Nolasco and Tommy Milone currently in the Twins’ rotation. If there’s one pitcher to add and stash on your roster, Berrios is the guy.
Jerad Eickhoff, SP, Phillies (Mixed: $3, NL: Owned)
Another Phillie? Yes, it’s going to be an ugly year in Philadelphia, but that doesn’t mean the team is devoid of fantasy relevance. The 25-year-old Eickhoff made his debut last season, throwing 51 innings in the majors after a strong season split between Double A and Triple A. He started the year with the Rangers and was one of the key pieces going to Philadelphia in the Cole Hamels deal, and he showed why once he landed with the Phillies. In those 51 innings, he fanned 49 batters and pitched to a 2.65 ERA and 1.04 WHIP. Eickhoff also did a good job making hitters earn their way on base, issuing just 13 free passes. Again, and not to belabor the point, now is the time of year to swing for the fences. Eickhoff has a profile that suggests he could climb into the top 40 at his position if he follows the trajectory he set in his stint with the Phillies last season. That’s worth a bet in early April.
Nate Karns, SP, Mariners (Mixed: $3, AL: Owned)
Did you know there’s a pitcher available in about 90% of leagues who struck out nearly a batter per inning across 147 frames last season? It’s true, and given the heading of this section, you probably figured that it’s Karns. The former Ray barely won a spot in the Seattle rotation after a disastrous spring, but let’s focus on what he did last year. In his first full year in the majors, Karns fanned 145 batters and racked up a 3.67 ERA and 1.28 WHIP. When he gets hit, he gets hit hard. He gave up 19 homers in his 147 innings last season and had seven starts in which he surrendered at least four earned runs in six or fewer innings. Despite that, there’s always room for a guy who can fan a batter per inning with a high-3s ERA and WHIP in the 1.25 to 1.30 range. The one concern for Karns is that the Mariners could turn to James Paxton if he falters, but he provides easy fantasy value if he remains in the rotation for the balance of the season.