The big story from the weekend was the promotion of two infield prospects, one who we've seen before and one who we didn't see coming.
Chris Towers Brett Baty and Zachary Neto, and I'll have more to say about them below. Speaking broadly, though, I'll point out that both promotions seem entirely merit-based. The Mets wanted to upgrade at third base, where Eduardo Escobar was off to a miserable start and Baty was breaking down the door at Triple-A. Meanwhile, David Fletcher had made himself unplayable at shortstop for the Angels, and Neto, they decided, had proven his worth at Double-A.on
Between the two, Baty is the higher-priority pickup in Fantasy, but Neto meets a widespread shortstop need that's opened up in recent days.
I want to begin, though, with another headline-grabber from the weekend, one of lower stature but bigger production so far. I'm talking, of course, about Johan Oviedo.
Johan Oviedo SP
PIT Pittsburgh • #24 • Age: 25
Forget who we're talking about for a minute and just imagine I told you about a strapping 6-foot-5, 245-pound hurler whose fastball regularly touches 99, whose slider regularly touches 91, and who so far has had no issues finding the strike zone. You'd be pretty excited, right? Well, that describes Johan Oviedo to a tee. One start after shutting out the White Sox over 6 2/3 innings, registering 18 swinging strikes on 89 pitches, he threw seven one-run innings against the Cardinals, striking out 10. He issued just one walk between the two starts. He's added about 3 mph to that slider from a year ago, and it's turned him into a legitimate bat-misser. Of course, pitching for the Pirates isn't ideal, but for a waiver wire pickup, the upside here is enticing.
Rowdy Tellez 1B
MIL Milwaukee • #11 • Age: 28
At 75 percent, Rowdy Tellez's roster rate is pushing the boundaries of what's acceptable for a waiver wire article, but it still seems too low for one of only 23 players to hit 30-plus homers last year. Maybe now that he's heating up, going 8 for 22 (.364) with four homers in his past six games, we'll see a correction. The exit velocities so far haven't been as high as they were last year, but the expected stats (especially the .272 xBA) nonetheless suggest he deserves better than he's gotten. He may sit against some tougher lefties, but high-end power is too valuable of an asset to leave unrostered.
ATL Atlanta • #18 • Age: 22
Before you turn to Zach Neto to meet your unexpected shortstop need, make sure Vaughn Grissom isn't rostered already. We've already seen him deliver at the major-league level, after all, batting .291 (41 for 141) with five homers, five steals and a .792 OPS down the stretch last season. True, he doesn't have eligibility at shortstop yet, but he's started the past three games there for the Braves, filling in for an injured Orlando Arcia, and should pick it up by the end of the week. The 22-year-old was considered the favorite for the starting shortstop job coming into spring training and may run with it now, giving you a dual-eligible middle infielder who'll help in batting average while making reasonable contributions in home runs and stolen bases.
Brett Baty 3B
NYM N.Y. Mets • #22 • Age: 23
Even if the incumbent Eduardo Escobar wasn't off to a 6-for-48 (.125) start, Brett Baty's performance at Triple-A Syracuse might be too much for the Mets to ignore. He was not only batting .400 14 for 35) with five homers and a 1.386 OPS but also hitting the ball harder than any minor-leaguer, with an average exit velocity of 100.0 mph. His exit velocity was a more realistic but still impressive 91.1 mph during his brief time in the majors last year, with him showing an ability to square up righties and lefties alike. While there are no guarantees for a 23-year-old rookie, the upside here is considerable, and we can only hope the Mets don't play games with his playing time.
BOS Boston • #22 • Age: 27
I'm actually lukewarm on Garrett Whitlock, but it seems wrong to leave him out after the start he had Sunday in only his second turn since coming back from hip surgery. The converted reliever seemed to have trouble extending himself during a brief look in the starting rotation last year, so to see him go seven innings right away is particularly encouraging. And even though his velocity wasn't the same as in shorter spurts, he still had 14 swinging strikes on 99 pitches. It's reason to think this experiment will go better than it did last year even though I suspect the strikeout rate will be underwhelming. Particularly if you play in a points league, where you can better take advantage of his relief pitcher eligibility, Whitlock is someone to consider.
Taj Bradley SP
TB Tampa Bay • #45 • Age: 22
Taj Bradley's major-league debut Wednesday was impressive enough, especially when you consider that he retired 10 of the first 12 batters he faced. He may have been a little gassed stretching to 78 pitches after throwing no more than 55 in either of his two minor-league starts, but he certainly showed why he's soared up the prospect rankings the past couple years. Last year, he had a 2.57 ERA, 1.04 WHIP and 9.5 K/9 between Double- and Triple-A. Because he wasn't sent right back down after his debut, he didn't seem worth adding at the time, but since then, Jeffrey Springs has suffered an injury that could keep him out a couple months. When Bradley returns this week, it may be for good.
TOR Toronto • #16 • Age: 32
With his latest gem Saturday, in which he struck out nine over six one-run innings, Yusei Kikuchi has impressed in 2 of 3 starts this year, with a disastrous outing in between. What the good starts have in common is him fading his fastball, throwing it more like a third of the time rather than half. His slider and changeup have historically been better pitches for him, whether on contact or by whiffs, and his selection this year has for the most part acknowledged it. It helps that the velocity has been up on all three of these pitches, but particularly the slider and changeup. Kikuchi still offers as much risk as reward, but he has made some changes this year that may be tipping the scales more in the reward's favor.
Zachary Neto SS
LAA L.A. Angels • #9 • Age: 22
The Zach Neto promotion caught most everyone by surprise because the 2022 first-rounder had barely made it to Double-A, playing 44 minor-league games between this year and last. True, his performance in those 44 games was impressive, but he's not the most conventional prospect, standing out less for his physical attributes than his knack for getting the most out of what he has. Most obvious is his use of a huge leg kick to help his power play up. It's worth noting, though, that Neto's promotion wasn't a response to injury. The Angels simply viewed him as an upgrade at shortstop. Their confidence may prove to be misplaced, but with all the injuries at the shortstop position lately, you could do worse than to invest in the shiny new toy.
J.D. Davis 3B
SF San Francisco • #7 • Age: 30
If you've followed me for long enough, you may remember that J.D. Davis was one my most treasured breakout candidates heading into the 2020 season. He had just hit .307 with 22 homers and an .895 OPS in a semi-regular role for the Mets, and the underlying data suggested there was more where that came from. It didn't turn out that way, and since then, he's moved on to San Francisco, where he may have finally landed that everyday gig. He's started nine of the team's past 10 games, and his performance certainly justifies it -- not just the forward-facing numbers but, again, the underlying data (85th percentile for both max and average exit velocity). The Giants have a history of maximizing overlooked veterans, and Davis may be their latest success story.
Brent Rooker DH
OAK Oakland • #25 • Age: 28
Rebuilding teams normally aren't a wellspring for Fantasy talent, but they offer no shortage of opportunities for players who've been passed over elsewhere. Enter Brent Rooker, a former first-rounder who never failed to deliver power in the minors, batting .289 with 28 homers and a 1.044 OPS in just 81 games for the Royals' Triple-A affiliate last year. The 28-year-old has gotten some run for the Athletics lately, and boy, has he made good on it, batting .423 (11 for 26) with four homers in his past seven games. It's a tiny sample, obviously, but it's already made him a fixture in a terrible lineup. What's most encouraging is that he's struck out just 18.4 percent of the time,. Even if you can't make room for him yet, he's someone to monitor.