Keston Hiura and a Wave of Emerging Prospects Are Ready to Take Fantasy Baseball by Storm

The players fantasy owners should be targeting on the waiver wire this week.
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A wave of prospects hit MLB’s shores this week, with Keston Hiura, Austin Riley, Brendan Rodgers and Nicky Lopez all getting the call, along with still-sort-of-a-prospect Willie Calhoun. We’ll Waive Hello to all of them in this week’s look at the fantasy baseball waiver wire, but the one we’ll focus on is Hiura, the Brewers' new second baseman.

Hiura’s been on the fast track to the majors since the Brewers selected him with the ninth overall pick in the 2017 amateur draft. Hiura played his first full season of pro ball last year at 21 years old, slashing .293/.357/.464 with 13 homers and 34 doubles between High-A Carolina and Double-A Biloxi. He moved up to Triple-A San Antonio this year and lit the Pacific Coast League on fire, hitting .333/.408/.698 with 11 homers and 12 doubles in 147 plate appearances.

Hiura was always going to make his debut at some point this season, but his success at San Antonio combined with Travis Shaw’s struggles opened the door a bit earlier than expected. The Brewers placed Shaw on the IL with a wrist injury earlier this week, and when he returns it’s more likely than not that he’ll be a reserve infielder, spelling both Hiura and Mike Moustakas. Around the horn, the Brewers are looking at a default infield of Jesus Aguilar, Hiura, Moustakas and Orlando Arcia going forward.

The 22-year-old Hiura is an empty-the-budget brand of player, the sort of guy who can add significant punch to any fantasy team. It only helps that he’s joining what should be one of the best offenses over the rest of the season, giving him environment-based upside no matter where Craig Counsell slots him in the lineup. Every prospect who got the call this week should have an ownership rate near 100% by Monday, but, if I can only have one, I’m making it Hiura.

With that, let’s find some other players to Waive Hello to in this week’s look at the waiver wire.

All players have ownership rates of 40% or lower in at least two of Yahoo, ESPN or CBS leagues.

Austin Riley, 3B, Braves

Riley got the call from the Braves after hitting .299/.377/.681 with 15 homers and 10 doubles in 162 plate appearances with Triple-A Gwinnett. The 22-year-old entered this season as a consensus top-40 prospect with Baseball America the most bullish among the rating services, ranking him 22nd. Riley only has third base eligibility on most sites for now, but he’s going to play plenty of outfield for the Braves and should eventually pick up eligibility there, as well.

Brendan Rodgers, 2B, Rockies

Rodgers is the most confounding of all the prospects who got the call this week. Like Hiura and Riley, he pretty much proved all he could in the minors, hitting .356/.421/.644 with nine homers and 10 doubles in 152 plate appearances at Triple-A Albuquerque. His path to playing time, however, isn’t necessarily as clean as theirs. Rodgers can play anywhere on the infield, but he’s not moving Nolan Arenado or Trevor Story off the diamond. That leaves the right side, where Daniel Murphy and Ryan McMahon are the team’s default starters. We could be looking at a three-player mix for two spots, though it’s clear the Rockies didn’t promote Rodgers to be a bench bat. You might have to deal with spotty playing time early on, but he’s still a must-add in all leagues.

Willie Calhoun, OF, Rangers

Had everything gone as planned for Calhoun, he wouldn’t be getting promoted this week. That’s because he would’ve proved himself MLB-ready last year. Unfortunately, he hit just .222/.269/.333 in 108 plate appearances and spent most of the season at Round Rock, then the Rangers’ Triple-A affiliate. He started this season at the team’s new Triple-A club in Nashville, hitting .304/.416/.557 before getting the call. He, too, will have to bide his time with Shin-soo Choo, Nomar Mazara, Hunter Pence and Joey Gallo clogging up his potential spots, but chances are we’ll be seeing plenty of him this summer.

Derek Dietrich, 1B/2B/OF, Reds

I know that before this season we saw 2,000-plus plate appearances of Dietrich being a .254/.335/.422 hitter. That’s not all out the window, but we also can’t ignore what he has done this year. The veteran is hitting .242/.352/.615 with 10 homers and 25 RBI in 108 plate appearances, starting every day for the Reds. This run could end at any point, but for the time being he has the trust of the fantasy community.

Jorge Soler, OF, Royals

Soler continues to be a source of easy power, slugging .509 and belting 10 homers with 27 RBI in 182 plate appearances this season. His walk rate leaves a bit to be desired, but there’s still enough value in his consistent power for him to find a home in most fantasy leagues.

Mitch Moreland, 1B, Red Sox

Moreland is making the most of his regular spot in Boston’s lineup, hitting .230/.319/.574 with 12 homers and 30 RBI in 141 plate appearances. He typically hits third or fourth against righties and sixth or seventh against lefties, but no matter what he spends most of his time in the middle of one of the league’s most potent lineups. Even if he’s a drag on batting average and OBP, he brings more than enough to the table to warrant a pickup.

Willians Astudillo, C/3B, Twins

The Twins earlier this week placed Mitch Garver on the 10-day IL with a high ankle sprain, an injury certain to keep him out longer than the minimum. Astudillo and Jason Castro will share the job behind the plate in his absence, and the former is certainly worth a look in all fantasy leagues. He has two homers, six doubles and eight RBI in 70 plate appearances this year, and could easily clear the low bar to be a fantasy-relevant catcher with three or four starts per week.

Alex Verdugo, OF, Dodgers

Verdugo continues to rake for the Dodgers, hitting .330/.377/.536 with four homers, seven doubles and 20 RBI in 122 plate appearances. He plays nearly every day in one of the best lineups in baseball. Why are we still doing this? Pick up Verdugo already so I don’t have to keep writing about him every week.

Jarrod Dyson, OF, Diamondbacks

Dyson is literally and figuratively running with his opportunity to be something close to an everyday player with the Diamondbacks this season. He’s hitting .290/.391/.419 with 27 runs and 11 steals in 110 plate appearances on the year. His 11 steals rank third in the majors, and he’s making the most of his speed by drawing 16 walks and racking up a 14.5% walk rate. He was never much for the free pass earlier in his career, but he had an 11.4% walk rate across 237 plate appearances last year, so this is developing into a skill we can trust. With that, he’s made himself into a fantasy-relevant player.

Ronny Rodriguez, 1B/2B/3B/SS, Tigers

Rodriguez began the season at Triple A Toledo, but ascended to the Tigers in the middle of April. He’s now playing mostly every day and is hitting .294/.337/.671 with six homers, eight doubles and 17 RBI in 92 plate appearances. He’s turning into the team’s regular shortstop, but his eligibility at every position across the infield makes him quite valuable in fantasy leagues. That versatility, combined with his to-date production, should have him on the fantasy radar.

Avisail Garcia, OF, Rays

Garcia is quietly putting together a strong debut season with the Rays, hitting .296/.358/.519 with seven homers, seven doubles and 17 RBI in 148 plate appearances. This is the guy who hit .330/.380/.506 with the White Sox two years ago, not the one who slogged his way to a .236/.281/.438 line last year.


Lucas Giolito, SP, White Sox

Giolito was the focus of the Waive Hello last week. He has made one start since then, and it was a gem. Giolito tossed seven innings in that start, allowing one run on four hits, striking out eight and walking one in a win over the Blue Jays. He now has a 3.55 ERA, 1.18 WHIP and 46 strikeouts against 16 walks in 38 innings this season. Regardless of what happens in his return matchup with the Blue Jays on Saturday, he needs to be owned in all competitive fantasy leagues.

Andrew Heaney, SP, Angels

Heaney threw four innings and 58 pitches in an extended spring training game earlier this week, and reported no issues afterward with the elbow that has kept him out all season. The outing was supposed to be part of a minor league rehab assignment, but the Angels’ affiliate with which he was supposed to pitch was dealing with weather issues, and the team didn’t want to mess with his schedule. He remains on track to rejoin the Angels’ rotation in late May or early June.

Ty Buttrey, RP, Angels
Brandon Workman, RP, Red Sox
Sam Gaviglio, SP/RP, Blue Jays

We’ve been beating the drum for Ryan Pressly and Diego Castillo all year, and those two have both reached a level of ownership rate where it’s likely they’re now owned in the majority of leagues where they have value. With that, we can turn our attention to the next group of like relievers who need to be owned in more fantasy leagues. Buttrey, Workman and Gaviglio all have gaudy rates, including in the strikeout department, while getting a ton of work out of their respective bullpens. They may combine for zero saves the rest of the season, but the contributions they can make to strikeouts, ERA and WHIP make them worth owning in most fantasy leagues.