Boy, that escalated quickly.
A.J. Smith-Shawver, who began the year at High-A and rocketed through practically the entire minor-league system in about a month's time, is receiving yet another promotion of sorts. Though called up to work out of the bullpen, he's moving into the rotation after just one appearance, scheduled to make his first start this weekend.
The Braves decided Mike Soroka has more work to do in the minors, so they sent him down and replaced him with a 20-year-old who only began pitching in 2020, the same year when Soroka first tore his Achilles. You read that correctly. Soroka has been attempting to return for as long as Smith-Shawver, his replacement, has been pitching in any capacity.
We're all rooting for Soroka, but that little tidbit really underscores just how much time he's missed, and it shouldn't surprise anyone, really, that he has to learn to pitch all over again. His delivery has changed. His entire physique has changed. He's not the same guy anymore, and we can't be certain he ever will be again.
OK, so Smith-Shawver is clearly a better Fantasy option, but how good is he in general?
ATL Atlanta • #62 • Age: 20
A.J. Smith-Shawver, as you may well know, has been a pitcher for less than three years. He's been a good pitcher for approximately 35 innings, the 33 he threw between three minor-league stops plus his 2 1/3 hitless innings from Sunday's debut. He was very much still learning the craft last year, and so the numbers are too poor to mention. Still, it makes him more of a mystery than anyone would like heading into his first start. Though the line from his first relief appearance was good, he had just two swinging strikes on 39 pitches. While he's limited damage on contact across all levels this year, he's also had a tendency to issue free passes. The Braves have a good track record with prospect promotions, which itself is reason enough to add him, but who can honestly say how it'll go?
TEX Texas • #20 • Age: 24
Prior to his brief stint on the IL with oblique discomfort, Ezequiel Duran had established himself as a fixture in the Rangers lineup. It began with him filling in for an injured Corey Seager and continued with him picking up starts at DH and left field following Seager's return. Through it all, Duran hit for average and power, with data that fully backed up the production (he has a .298 xBA and .535 xSLG). The one thing missing from his game was even just a modicum of plate discipline. He had only four walks through 40 games. Well, now he's back from that oblique discomfort, and guess what? He already has four walks in three games. Better yet, he's 5 for 7. The dude is eligible at three positions, and like I said, the data backs up everything. Pick him up already.
CIN Cincinnati • #41 • Age: 24
By most accounts, including the most surface-level, Andrew Abbott's major-league debut Monday was a smashing success. He allowed just one hit in six innings, for crying out loud. Who does that? He also had four walks, but that's not really the issue for me. What concerns me is that, facing a Brewers lineup that's dead last against left-handers in OPS, with a strikeout rate near 30 percent, Abbott, whose rise to prominence was built on his ability to miss bats, got only 10 swings and misses on 105 pitches. Most came on his fastball, but considering he threw 64 of them, the whiff rate was modest. It's concerning because he's a relative soft-tosser who relies on deception, which doesn't always translate to the majors. Obviously, you should add him after this start, but there's much still to be determined.
Jake Fraley RF
CIN Cincinnati • #27 • Age: 28
Jake Fraley stayed hot Tuesday, going 2 for 5 with two runs and an RBI to make him 24 for 83 (.289) with five homers and eight steals over his past 23 games. Notably, it was his first time batting leadoff all season. It was also the first game with Elly De La Cruz in the lineup, so perhaps it's how the Reds would prefer to configure their lineup moving forward. It would help make up for some of the at-bats Fraley loses to left-handed pitchers -- understandably, given his poor production against him. Lately, though, it hasn't much mattered. He entered play Tuesday as the 10th-best outfielder over the past four scoring periods in points leagues, which is supposedly his lesser format. You'll still want to deploy Fraley cautiously in three-outfielder leagues, but he's proven his worth.
LaMonte Wade 1B
SF San Francisco • #31 • Age: 29
It's difficult to make the case for any other hitter on the waiver wire when LaMonte Wade is still hanging out there in nearly half of all leagues. For goodness' sake, the guy is batting .285 with a .909 OPS. Granted, much of that OPS comes from his .429 on-base percentage, but is that supposed to be a bad thing? It ensures he bats leadoff for the Giants most days, which keeps his plate appearances high even though he occasionally sits against lefties. It's not like he's a zero for power either, homering at a similar rate (per plate appearance) to Luis Robert over the past three seasons. Maybe Wade's performance at the Rockies on Tuesday when he reached base six times (three hits and three walks) will be enough to get people's attention finally.
Mitch Garver DH
TEX Texas • #18 • Age: 32
Mitch Garver has been hurt far more than he's been healthy over the past three seasons, which makes it hard to know what to expect on those rare occasions when he's healthy. But what I can say for sure is that he's started all four of the Rangers' games since returning from a sprained knee, picking up catcher eligibility along the way. And he's doing what he needs to do to stay in the lineup, hitting a 113-mph double Tuesday to make him 6 for 16 (.375) with a home run and two doubles since returning. Catchers who can hit are few and far between, so Garver immediately becomes a player of interest in two-catcher leagues. And if you look up and down the Rangers' lineup, the run and RBI totals are insane. If Garver continues to get everyday at-bats, he could factor even in one-catcher leagues.