Fantasy Baseball Waiver Wire: Jack Flaherty, Jared Jones look like must-roster players after sharp debuts



jack flaherty detroit tigers usatsi

We haven’t even seen one full turn through the rotation for most teams, which means that, as of Sunday evening, we still haven’t even seen full debuts from intriguing pitching options like Max Meyer or Gavin Stone. Let alone second starts from the likes of Jack Flaherty or A.J. Puk, two pitchers who received a bunch of hype this spring and then had very different debuts. 

And that’s not even to mention the hitting side of the equation, where we tend to need a lot more information about a player to ascertain if they’d made any changes to their underlying skillset. Which is to say, if you just decided to take an across-the-board pass on waivers this early in the season, it might be a defensible decision, because we’re just dealing with tiny, tiny sample sizes right now.

But we’ve also had enough injuries in the early going that you might not be able to afford that, with Royce Lewis, Justin Steele, and Sean Murphy all going on the IL this weekend, among others. We’ve got a full complement of waiver-wire targets to consider adding at every position, but first, here are five pitchers who look more or less like must-add players after the season’s first weekend: 

  1. Jack Flaherty, SP, Tigers (77%) – After an impressive spring training, Flaherty looked terrific in his first start Sunday, striking out seven over six one-run innings. His fastball velocity was up about half a mile per hour from last season, and he garnered 13 swings and misses on 87 pitches. It’s just one game, albeit after a very good spring, but that’s enough to make him worth adding in all formats, just in case this is the start of him recapturing his former ace form. 
  2. Abner Uribe, RP, Brewers (47%) – Joel Payamps got the save for the Brewers Sunday, but that was after Uribe got the save in each of the first two games, so I’m just going to assume Payamps’ usage was a reflect of Uribe not being available for a third game in a row. Uribe’s got the kind of stuff that could make him an overpowering option in the ninth inning if he can keep the walks down, and getting the first two saves is a good sign that he’s the guy here. I wouldn’t drop Payamps outright, but he looks to be on the shorter side of a split, if there is one. 
  3. Garret Crochet, RP, White Sox (64%) – Crochet looked overwhelming in his Opening Day start, striking out eight while averaging 97.6 mph with his fastball – up from 96.3 mph in 2023, when he pitched out of the bullpen. It’s still fair to wonder how he’ll hold up as a full-time starter, but the stuff looks like it plays up in that role, and he flashed a cutter and changeup that could help him avoid too serious of a third-time-through-the-order penalty. I’m adding Crochet everywhere he’s still available this week. 
  4. Jared Jones, SP, Pirates (57%) – Jones came as advertised in his MLB debut, averaging 97.1 mph with his fastball and racking up double-digit whiffs on both his slider and four-seam fastball. He relied on those pitches 87% of the time, but that’s a bit misleading, because he varies the shape and velocity of his slider plenty, sometimes throwing it more like a cutter, sometimes more like a traditional slider. I don’t know if he’ll throw enough strikes to remain a viable starting option, but given the upside he just showed (10 strikeouts in 5.2 innings especially), he should be rostered in all formats. 
  5. Jason Foley, RP Tigers (27%) – The Tigers had two save opportunities in three games, and Foley got both of them. Both saves came in somewhat unusual circumstances, with Foley coming in with one out already recorded against a left-handed hitter to open the inning and the bases empty in the ninth, which is hardly typical closer usage. Foley struggles against lefties, so it makes sense, but it might complicate his value moving forward. On the other hand, Alex Lange worked the seventh in his only appearance of the weekend and walked three of four hitters he faced, so he sure doesn’t seem to be the closer. 

As for who I would drop for those players? Well, generally speaking, anyone drafted outside of the top-200 in your draft is a viable drop candidate, especially if they got off to a poor start. So, while I’d like to hang on to the likes of A.J. Puk, Trevor Rogers, or DL Hall, none were impressive enough in their debuts to be must-roster players at this point. 

So, that’s the range and type of player you should be looking to drop right now. That range does not include someone like Bailey Ober, who had a pretty disastrous first start, but should still have a longer leash than one bad start. 

Catchers

Luis Campusano, Padres (56%) – If you’re looking for a Sean Murphy replacement after he left the Braves’ first game with an oblique injury, Campusano should be your first choice. He probably isn’t available in many two-catcher leagues, but if he happens to be, he should be added – and he might need to be rostered in most one-catcher leagues as he has started off his season with just one strikeout in his first 22 trips to the plate with three extra-base hits and five RBI in six games. If Campusano isn’t available, Travis D’Arnaud (36%) is a natural choice, since he’s going to get the lion’s share of the work behind the plate in a very good Braves lineup as long as Murphy is out. 

Deep-league target:  Gary Sanchez, Brewers (9%) – Sanchez started just one of the first three games for the Brewers as a DH, but I do expect him to play more regularly moving forward, and he can at least still hit for power – he just won’t do much more than that. 

First Base

Josh Bell, Marlins (44%) – The Marlins have pretty good matchups on the way in Week 2 – Scott White says they have the fifth-best matchups of the week – and should face a bunch of lefties, which should work out well for him. He’s hitting second for the Marlins and should be a decent replacement for Royce Lewis if you’re looking for a CI, specifically. 

Deep-league target: Connor Joe, Pirates (2%) – The Pirates faced four left-handed starters to open the season, a stretch of good fortune that benefited Joe specifically, as he hit leadoff in all four games. He might not start everyday against RHP, but Joe’s current role looks pretty valuable in daily lineup leagues, at least.

Second base

Jonathan India, Reds (67%) –  On the topic of early lineup trends, India has hit leadoff in each of the Reds first three games, including one in which he was the DH. That’s a very good sign for a player who entered spring with significant playing time concerns. We expected him to play a bunch once injuries and suspensions hit the Reds roster hard, but it’s nice to have confirmation here. He might end up a must-start option in all formats, though likely only as a 2B – we had hoped he might earn multiple eligibility before Matt McLain’s shoulder injury.  

Deep-league target: Austin Martin, Twins (4%) – Marin was called up in the wake of Royce Lewis’ quad injury, and the former first-round pick got his first start in center field Sunday. I’m not sure how much we should expect him to play, but in deeper category leagues, he’s worth a look after hitting .263/.387/.405 with 16 steals in 59 games at Triple-A.

Third base

JD Davis, Athletics (14%) – Davis is going to play everyday for the A’s, and he already has a two-homer game to his credit, a reminder of what he’s capable of. Davis struggled with the Giants last season, but he could still provide, say, 20-25 homers and decent run production numbers, even in a bad Athletics’ lineup. 

Deep-league target: Graham Pauley, Padres (7%) – Pauley didn’t get his first start until the Padres sixth game of the season, which is certainly a surprise given the aggressive promotion that got him to the majors. But that start did come on the heels of him hitting a big homer Saturday, so hopefully that’s the start of him seeing more opportunities.

Shortstop

Vaughn Grissom, Red Sox (35%) – Grissom probably won’t make his Boston debut for a few more weeks, so if you need immediate SS help, he won’t provide it. But, the hope is he’ll be back from his hamstring injury sometime in April, and he remains worth stashing where available. If you do need immediate help, there aren’t a ton of obvious options, but you can see if Jeremy Peña (54%) or Ezequiel Tovar (64%) are available and can get hot. 

Deep-league target: Brice Turang, Brewers (13%) – Turang started two of the first three games for the Brewers, recording multiple hits in both and stealing three bases Saturday. Turang flopped last season, but does have 29 steals in 139 games in the majors and could be a useful Fantasy option if he hits even .260.

Outfield

Victor Scott, Cardinals (48%) – Scott is going to have to hit to force the Cardinals to keep him on the roster, and he hasn’t quite done that yet, with five strikeouts in his first 11 trips to the plate entering Sunday. Still, he’s playing everyday and has as much stolen base upside as anyone in baseball, so I’m going to keep suggesting him as an add. 

Michael Conforto, Giants (34%) – Conforto is healthy and off to a terrific start to the season, with homers in two of his first four games, while reaching base in all four, with five of his first 10 batted balls coming off the bat at least 95 mph. Could we see a bounce-back campaign here? 

Mitch Haniger, Mariners (33%) – Speaking of bounce-backs, Haniger had a tremendous spring and is off to a strong start to the season, going four for 14 to open the season with a couple of extra-base hits. 

Deep-league targets: Jose Siri, Rays (26%), Oswaldo Cabrera, Yankees (17%), Lawrence Butler, Athletics (1%) – Butler has started each game for the A’s this season and has an interesting minor-league track record, so I’ll be looking to add him in my AL-only league, at least. Cabrera is off to a terrific start and should gain 3B eligibility, which is nice. But Siri is obviously the most interesting of this trio, having hit 25 homers last season and then opening this season with three steals in as many games. 

Starting pitcher

Zack Littel, Rays (52%) – I started to warm on Littell as a sleeper this spring under a fairly straightforward, “Just bet on the Rays” principle. I’m not convinced he’s going to be a must-start pitcher – and I’d try to avoid him against the Rockies in Coors Field this week if I can – but that principle looked pretty good in his debut, as he struck out six while walking two in six shutout innings. 

Brady Singer, Royals (17%) – Singer was asked why he was finally willing to consider some changes to his arsenal this spring, and he was pretty blunt: “Probably sucking,” Singer told MLB.com. “Probably that, yeah.” What was interesting about his debut against the Twins Sunday, then, was how he got such terrific results with the same arsenal as last season – he had 10 strikeouts and one walk in seven innings while throwing his sinker and slider almost exclusively. That might tell us more about what this Twins lineup might look like than anything about Singer moving forward, but double-digit strikeouts in your debut will earn you a spot in this column, at least. 

Deep-league targets: Erick Fedde, White Sox (32%), Jordan Wicks (40%) — Neither Wicks nor Fedde was dominant, exactly, but Wicks especially impressed with 19 swinging misses against a very good Rangers lineup. My expectations aren’t super-high, but it was an interesting debut. 

Relief pitcher

Kevin Ginkel, Diamondbacks (49%) – As expected, it was Ginkel who got the first save opportunity for the Diamondbacks with Paul Sewald out. This was one of the more obvious save replacement situations, and it worked out exactly as we expected. 

Michael Kopech, White Sox (34%) – The White Sox got swept in three games to open the season, so we didn’t get a chance to see who would get the first save for them. I’m not sure it would be Kopech, who worked the eighth and then the seventh and eighth innings in his first two appearances. It might be John Brebbia or Jordan Leasure who gets the first opportunity, but I still think Kopech will lead the team in saves this season, and seeing him get four strikeouts in 2.2 innings in the season’s first weekend with his stuff looking much improved as a reliever hasn’t shaken my faith there. 

Deep-league target: Hector Neris (24%) — I’d still be ton Adbert Alzolay getting the next Cubs save, but they never officially gave him the closer title, so the fact that he stumbled in his first save chance of the season could open the door for Neris. For what it’s worth, Neris has worked the eighth ahead of Alzolay in both of his appearances, so I’m not saying a change is coming soon. But if you’re in the save speculating business and have a roster spot to play with Neris is worth a look. 





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