But Abbott is already rostered in 71 percent of CBS Sports leagues. Smith-Shawver is already rostered in 62 percent. I'm not sure either needs to be rostered in more.
To be frank, they haven't revealed much in the way of upside so far. Maybe the upside is presumed from their minor-league track records, but it's never totally clear how the numbers will translate. Abbott was an especially curious case given that he racked up strikeouts at a ridiculous rate (13.7 K/9 for his career, including 15.0 this year) despite his fastball only registering in the low 90s.
His whiffs relied on a deceptive delivery and release angle that so far hasn't baffled major-league hitters to the same degree. Sure, he's kept the hits down and has yet to allow an earned run, but his swinging-strike rate is a mere seven percent through two starts. He got exactly one whiff on 51 fastballs Saturday, and if bat-missing isn't going to be his thing, then there isn't much to fall back on. The results Saturday could have been far worse given that he allowed an average exit velocity of 96.4 mph.
I have a little more hope for Smith-Shawver given that his fastball averaged only 93 mph in his first career start Friday (following a relief appearance earlier in the week). That's down a couple miles per hour from his time in the minors, and it's possible the 20-year-old has been reluctant to go all out after moving so quickly up the ladder. Like Abbott, the results have been good, but the underlying numbers have given reason to believe it's all smoke and mirrors. To whatever degree Abbott and Smith-Shawver have excelled, it's not in the manner that got them to the majors.
It doesn't mean you shouldn't add them, of course, but it does mean that you should do so with the proper skepticism. And frankly, I'd prefer Brayan Bello and Garrett Whitlock (featured below) to both
Brayan Bello SP
BOS Boston • #66 • Age: 24
My hunch is that the next big breakout pitcher this year will be Bello. He's already so close. His seven-inning gem Sunday, in which he gave up two runs on three hits, makes it seven of eight in which he's allowed two earned runs or fewer, his ERA coming in at 2.80 during that stretch. Sure, he had just three strikeouts in that Sunday start, dropping him below one per inning for the season, but rarely does a pitcher with a ground-ball rate as high as Bello's (56.9 percent) achieve a strikeout per inning in the first place. It's a rare combination of skills known to pitchers like Framber Valdez and Logan Webb, but few others. If Bello can show a little more trust in his changeup, which has a 44 percent whiff rate, he might take off.
ATL Atlanta • #20 • Age: 33
I know it's hard to put your trust in Ozuna after the way his 2021 and 2022 seasons went, and you could argue his numbers are merely so-so even now. But you have to remember he was batting .085 at the end of April. It takes time to dig out of a hole that deep, but he's done an admirable job, batting .319 with 11 homers and a 1.020 OPS over his last 31 games to make him the No. 11 outfielder in points leagues during that stretch. Those numbers aren't so unlike the ones he put up during the shortened 2020 season, when he was the No. 1 outfielder. The Statcast data fully backs up what he's doing, and he's getting everyday at-bats in one of the best lineups in baseball. Time to add him everywhere.
Nolan Jones LF
COL Colorado • #22 • Age: 25
Jones' 472-foot walk-off home run Sunday may have been the surest sign that he's here to stay. It was reasonable to wonder given that the 25-year-old came up only after both C.J. Cron and Kris Bryant got hurt. This is despite him hitting .356 with 12 homers and an 1.193 OPS in Triple-A. He's capable of playing all four corner spots and has been such a smashing success in his two weeks on the job that you have to think, even at full health, the Rockies would make a point to find at-bats for him. He's the only player in baseball with two home runs in excess of 470 feet, for goodness' sake. And while his strikeout rate is scary high, there's reason to believe his premium exit velocities and optimal hitting environment will make up for it. He's even stealing bases!
BOS Boston • #22 • Age: 27
Whitlock has been something of a tease since he first entered the Red Sox starting rotation last year. We all want to believe he'll be just as effective in that role as in short relief, but apart from the occasional hopeful outing, the stuff hasn't translated. So was his quality effort Friday at the Yankees just the latest example? Maybe, but I'll note that he got a career-high 18 swinging strikes in that contest, including 10 on his sweeper. It's 4 mph slower than the iteration of a slider that he threw last year and has been far more effective with a whiff rate over 50 percent. If he continues to throw it 30 percent of the time, like he did Friday, he may turn into an even better bat-misser than he was in relief, which would open up a new world of possibilities for him upside-wise.
CHC Chi. Cubs • #28 • Age: 33
Did you see who threw eight one-hit innings Saturday? That's more like it for Hendricks, who was a Fantasy mainstay from 2014 through 2020. Then again, 2020 was a long time ago. Is 1 1/2 shaky seasons, followed by surgery to repair a capsular tear in his shoulder, so quickly forgotten? Hendricks' first three starts off the IL were no great shakes, after all. Part of the issue is he throws 88 mph and defied all convention even when he was at his best, so what clues are there to suggest he's back on track? It's possible his improved health will return him to his pre-2021 form, but it remains just a theory for now. Still, if you're short on pitching and can afford to stash him away, now's the time.
MIN Minnesota • #47 • Age: 24
Is the third time the charm for Julien? He's back in the majors, once again filling in for an injured Jorge Polanco, who's once again out with a strained hamstring. But this strain is said to be worse than the one that kept Polanco out for the final two weeks of May, and since it's to the same hamstring, you can trust the Twins will be even more cautious about bringing him back. Meanwhile, manager Rocco Baldelli threw Julien right back into the fire, batting him leadoff both Saturday and Sunday. He's demonstrated nothing but trust in the 24-year-old when he's been in the majors, and Julien has reciprocated by hitting for power and working deep counts. If he gets a chance to settle in, then he may come even closer to resembling the .437 on-base guy he's been in the minors the past three years.
COL Colorado • #61 • Age: 29
The Rockies have a new closer. We're not sure who it is yet, but Patrick Saunders of The Denver Post has confirmed that Pierce Johnson and his 7.20 ERA are out of the role -- and not a moment too soon. There's a case to be made for moving last year's closer, Daniel Bard, back into the role. He's been effective since returning from a bout with the yips that first cropped up in the World Baseball Classic. But the Rockies' most trusted reliever all year has been Lawrence, who got a chance to work the ninth, with Johnson working the eighth and Bard the seventh, in a one-run loss Saturday. If saves are scarce in your league, he's the prime target.
DET Detroit • #30 • Age: 26
Is your league so deep that waiver wire targets like Marcell Ozuna and Nolan Jones are already long gone? It may be so in a five-outfielder format, in which case Carpenter may interest you. He just returned from a six-week IL stint for a sprained shoulder and, in three games back, has gone 8 for 12 with a double. Hitting for average isn't as much his game as hitting for power, but two of his singles were hit 105 mph. Clearly, he's come back seeing the ball well and hasn't lost his ability to put a charge in it. We still don't know whether the power that saw him hit 30 homers in 98 minor-league games last year will translate to the majors, but going back to Sept. 7 of last year, Carpenter is batting .275 (36 for 131) with eight home runs.