It's been a rough couple days for pitchers, what with Julio Urias, Mitch Keller, Lucas Giolito, Bryce Elder, Tyler Wells, Alek Manoah, Tarik Skubal, Brayan Bello and Bryan Woo among those getting knocked around.
I point it out not to suggest I'm anywhere close to dropping them (well, maybe Manoah) but to help explain why the most attractive pickups on the waiver wire right now are by and large hitters. Leading the way are a couple of Twins (not the fraternal kind, but the Minnesota kind): Edouard Julien and Alex Kirilloff.
But is what they've been doing legitimate, or is it all smoke and mirrors? They've both been favorites of mine in the past, which inclines me to see the glass half full, but both have major red flags that prevent me from giving them my full endorsement now.
Still, this time of year, there isn't a flawless player available on the waiver wire. Sometimes you have to hold your nose and take the plunge.
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MIN Minnesota • #47 • Age: 24
The player who I dubbed the French Emperor of Walks for his career .437 on-base percentage in the minors is beginning to show a similar skill set in the majors. After getting on base four times Wednesday at the Mariners, twice on hits (including a homer) and twice on walks, Julien has now reached in 18 of his last 26 plate appearances. Over his past 10 games, he's batting .602 (17 for 28) with five home runs, and at this point, it's hard to say the offensively challenged Twins have a better hitter, period. That's important for two reasons. The first is that they're currently clinging to first place and have every incentive to keep good hitters around. The second is that Jorge Polanco is due back from a hamstring injury soon. It's only Polanco injuries that have brought Julien to the majors so far, and the only other position for him to play, most likely, is DH. Meanwhile, he almost never bats against left-handers and has shown a concerning amount of swing-and-miss, for all the on-base skills. There are several ways this could go wrong, but at the moment, the potential is too enticing to pass up.
MIN Minnesota • #19 • Age: 26
I've been one of Kirilloff's loudest backers throughout all of his wrist issues the past few years, but I've had to curb my enthusiasm during this long stretch of good health because it appeared to me like the injuries may have taken their toll. He ranks in the bottom third in both average and max exit velocity, with even his home runs being of the light-hit variety (generally somewhere between 100 and 102 mph). Nonetheless, he's homered three times in his past four games, adding a double and a triple while going 8 for 17 (.471). He has a crazy high line-drive rate (33.6 percent) and does a good job hitting the ball to all fields, so maybe Kirilloff doesn't need transcendent power to be a Fantasy asset. Maybe he just needs the Twins to play him a little more. As challenged as they are for offense, this hot streak helps.
C.J. Cron 1B
LAA L.A. Angels • #25 • Age: 33
Strangely enough, first base has been one of the most difficult positions to fill this year, which is why it's surprising Cron hasn't been scooped up everywhere by now. After all, he was basically a must-start player in 2021 and 2022. It's understandable why he was dropped in some leagues during his six-week absence for back spasms. He was off to a slow start and, well, six weeks is a long time. But since coming back in late June, he's looked like a must-start player again, batting .309 (17 for 55) with four homers and a .908 OPS. His home run Wednesday was hit 109 mph, and he also had a 111-mph lineout. For the season, his expected stats (.273 batting average, .512 slugging percentage) are better than his actual ones (.251,.466).
DET Detroit • #20 • Age: 24
The No. 1 pick in the 2020 draft hasn't lived up to the hype so far in the majors, but Torkelson has shown exactly the traits you want in a middle-of-the-order slugger, ranking in the 91st percentile for average exit velocity and the 83rd percentile for max exit velocity. The forward-facing numbers may finally be catching up. With another two home runs Tuesday, he has six in his past 17 games, batting .294 (20 for 68) with a 1.007 OPS during that stretch. It's an admittedly small sample following a much larger sample of disappointment, but a breakthrough has to start somewhere. And again, Torkelson has the pedigree and batted-ball data to support a breakthrough. If you're hurting at first base, as many are, it's time to give him another look.
Kenta Maeda SP
DET Detroit • Age: 35
It's true that Maeda missed some time earlier this year with a triceps injury, but it's becoming more and more clear that his overall state of health is much better than during his 2021 campaign, which ultimately ended with Tommy John surgery. "This is 2020 Kenta," said catcher Ryan Jeffers after Wednesday's game, referring to the pandemic-shortened 2020 season in which Maeda placed second in AL Cy Young voting with a 2.70 ERA, 0.75 WHIP and 10.8 K/9. Wednesday's outing saw Maeda strike out nine while allowing two runs on three hits in 6 1/3 innings, and he turned in a similar effort two starts ago. If you take away the 10-run disaster that immediately preceded his IL stint, he has a 3.20 ERA, 1.07 WHIP and 11.0 K/9.
HOU Houston • #20 • Age: 28
McCormick's hot hitting deserves to be noted. After going 2 for 4 with a home run Wednesday, he's batting .405 (17 for 42) with five home runs in July, bringing his season-long batting average to .285 and OPS to .904. But I'd be lying if I said I thought he could sustain it. His track record is underwhelming, even going back to the minors, and his Statcast readings are yuck, projecting him for a .239 batting average. So why mention him here? Because there's value in a hot-hand play, particularly at a position as in-demand as the outfield. And also, I don't know everything. Dusty Baker has taken to playing McCormick every day after previously sitting him against left-handers, so if there's ever a time he'll have value, it's now.
LAA L.A. Angels • #63 • Age: 23
Silseth had met mostly with disaster during his sporadic opportunities in the majors, but that changed Wednesday against the Yankees, an outing in which he struck out 10 over 5 2/3 innings. True, the Yankees offense has been a dumpster fire since Aaron Judge went down, but to reduce this performance to that is to overlook that Silseth's slider, a pitch he threw 46% percent of the time, registering 10 of his 14 whiffs, was unlike we've seen previously. It was down nearly 4 mph and had eight more inches of vertical break. That level of transformation makes it a potential game-changer, and it's probably no coincidence that we've seen similar adjustments to Reid Detmers' slider (and with similar results). There's no guarantee Silseth sticks around, but the Angels do utilize a six-man rotation more often than not.
Kevin Ginkel RP
ARI Arizona • #37 • Age: 29
Manager Torey Lovullo hasn't hesitated to go with the hot hand at closer this year, already displacing Scott McGough, Andrew Chafin and Miguel Castro once each. He may be turning the page on McGough again, giving Ginkel a save chance on back-to-back days. I'm a little hesitant to do the same in Fantasy because I do think McGough is the more talented pitcher of the two (meaning Lovullo's loss of faith may be short-lived), but there's no doubt he's been shaky lately, allowing 10 runs, nine earned, in his past six appearances. Meanwhile, the run Ginkel allowed Wednesday (while still closing out the Braves) was his first since May, a span of 12 appearances. He's allowed just three hits during that stretch. The strikeout rate is underwhelming for a closer, but if saves are scarce in your league, there's a non-zero chance he sticks in the role.