Fantasy Baseball Waiver Wire: Why Daulton Varsho is a useful Fantasy option despite batting average concerns

For the top 50 or so of the rankings, the first month of the season is going to see almost no non-injury related movement. Scott White wrote about exactly that topic in his rankings movers piece Tuesday afternoon, noting that, “I’d go so far as to say that nothing we’ve seen so far is particularly meaningful, so to sell a player of [Julio Rodriguez’s] stature short over so inconsequential of a sample is about the most self-destructive thing you could do.”

Of course, Scott did move Rodriguez down a few spots, and that’s where he and I differ, because I’m even more stringent about not moving anyone in the first-round range up or down based on a few weeks. In fact, my preference would be to leave my rankings completely alone for the first month or so of the season, only making exceptions for players with injuries or playing time changes that concretely impact their value.

Of course, I’m not actually that stringent about it. As I wrote in yesterday’s newsletter, I’ve aggressively ranked Jared Jones inside of my top-30 at starting pitcher already, and he’s not the only player to see a significant move inside my top 100. Nico Hoerner, for example, has moved down about 20 spots in my overall rankings after he opened the season hitting seventh most days for the Cubs; he’s been back up to the leadoff spot since Seiya Suzuki’s injury, and hopefully that can get him going, but he has no steals through 17 games with only two attempts, a far cry from last season’s 43 steals and 50 attempts in 150 games, and it’s going to be tough for him to be worth starting in Fantasy if he doesn’t start running more.

I’ve also been pretty aggressive with Mike Trout, moving him up to 41st overall and No. 13 in the outfield rankings with his throwback start. Trout looks like the MVP version of himself again, clubbing a league-best eight homers through his first 18 games while also stealing three bases – those three steals are already his most in a season since 2019. I think you could make a case that this version of Trout, one who is running with intention for the first time in half a decade and crushing the ball like he usually does might be a first-round caliber player again, though it’s hard to value him that way given the one lingering (and, unfortunately, unanswerable) question: Can he stay healthy? 

Those weren’t the only changes I’ve made to my rankings since the start of the season, and you can listen to Wednesday’s episode of Fantasy Baseball Today to hear Scott, Frank Stampfl, and I talk about our biggest rankings risers and fallersor check out our respective rankings here. You can also get a sense of the entire league landscape with my Trade Values Charts here, which show how to value the top 200-plus players in trades in both Roto and H2H formats. 

Wednesday’s top waiver targets

Daulton Varsho, OF, Blue Jays (46%) – Varsho is only 46% rostered in CBS Fantasy leagues, and to a certain extent, that makes sense: He’s much better in Roto and Category leagues, and there are more H2H points leagues on the CBS platform, and he’s probably a pretty fringe-y player in those leagues. But Varsho is also only 42% rostered in Yahoo, which tends to skew predominantly in the opposite direction, so I think we can still say he’s under rostered at this point. He’s off to a solid start to the season, as he hit his fourth homer Wednesday night to go with improved plate discipline in the early going. He still seems likely to remain a batting average liability, but I expect him to run more than his one steal to date would make you think, and that’s a very useful Fantasy option in those category-based leagues. 

Brandon Pfaadt, SP, Diamondbacks (69%) – Homers are probably always going to remain an issue for Pfaadt, who gave up another one Wednesday, his fourth in as many starts. However, he also turned in his best outing of the season because he issued zero walks while striking out six over seven innings against the Cubs. He isn’t getting enough strikeouts to quite make this approach work for him, but his swinging strike rate remains above 12%, so it’s not unreasonable to expect more strikeouts moving forward, and his miniscule 2.9% walk rate would certainly help limit the damage of those homers he’ll inevitably give up. Pfaadt has already been dropped in a bunch of leagues thanks to his 5.32 ERA, but I think you can probably expect something below 4.00 moving forward, likely with decent strikeout numbers and a helpful WHIP, so I’m actually pretty optimistic about him moving forward as a solid starting option against the right matchups. 

Andrew Abbott, SP, Reds (52%) – I liked Abbott as a sleeper coming into the season, so you’d think I was thrilled to see him sporting a 2.70 ERA through his first four starts. But I’m actually pretty pessimistic about him moving forward, because his swinging strike rate has completely collapsed from 10.9% to 6.3% entering Wednesday, when he had just seven whiffs on 104 pitches. Seeing as he’s a flyball pitcher in a bad park, it’s hard to be optimistic about Abbott if he isn’t getting strikeouts, but that’s more of a long-term question mark; in the more immediate future, he’s got two starts in Week 5 of the Fantasy season, and is a worthwhile streamer even against some tough matches with the Phillies and Rangers

Trevor Rogers, SP, Marlins (22%) – Rogers is kind of similar to Abbott, in that a big part of the reason you want to add him right now is that he’s facing two starts in Week 5, one against the Nationals and one against the Braves. The Braves are scary enough to consider avoiding in Roto leagues, but I think I’d be willing to roll the dice out there in deeper points leagues coming off Rogers’ third solid start in a row, including one against those oh-so scary Braves. He has 20 strikeouts and eight walks in 20.2 innings of work with a 3.92 ERA and peripherals that suggest he’s been even better than that. Injuries have derailed Rogers’ once-promising career – and they’ve shaved a few ticks off his fastball, too – but he still looks pretty effective right now. 

Bryan De La Cruz, OF, Marlins (25%) – De La Cruz is starting to step up for the Marlins, who pretty desperately need more production from their lineup, especially with Jake Burger on the IL. De La Cruz was batting second Wednesday against the Giants and hit his third homer of the season, a solo shot for the team’s only run of the game. De La Cruz has nine hits, including two homers (and a steal!) over his last six games, and has a .299 expected average and .533 expected slugging percentage, so he could continue to be pretty useful moving forward. 

Luis Garcia, 2B, Nationals (10%) – Garcia is one of those players I’ve always been intrigued by in flashes, which means I’m always going to be interested when those flashes show up in games. So far this season, they have been, as he’s hitting .294 after going 1 for 3 with two steals Wednesday, with underlying numbers to suggest it might not be a fluke. He’s always shown plus raw power, but Garcia is starting to tap into it a bit more often, with career-high 34% flyball rate and 18% barrel rate, a massive number. That has only led to one homer so far, but Garcia does have seven doubles, so I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect some more over-the-fence pop moving forward. Garcia has solid contact skills and good raw power, and it could manifest as 20-plus homers and a helpful batting average to go along with what should be double-digit speed. If you need a 2B or are just looking for some upside in a deeper league, give him a look. 

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