Fantasy Baseball Waiver Wire: Matt Chapman playing his way into must-start territory, and more



The nature of baseball – 15 games nearly every single day for six full months, with dozens of players featured in most games – means that unexpected, unlikely things have a tendency to happen every single night. 

Some nights, the unexpected borders on the sublime, as happened in Houston Monday night, when Ronel Blanco tossed a no-hitter in just his eighth ever MLB start. Blanco is a 30-year-old who didn’t even know he made the Astros rotation until the final day of Spring Training, and might not even be in the rotation if not for an injury to future Hall of Famer Justin Verlander, and he delivered the first unforgettable performance in baseball this season. 

And then there’s the other side of the spectrum, where the unexpected, unlikely events are just the result of cruel, dumb luck. That was the case with Josh Jung, who’s unreal run of bad luck to open his MLB career continued with a fractured wrist on a hit-by-pitch late in Monday’s game against the Rays. It was the third HBP of the inning delivered by Rays pitcher Phil Maton, but the only one that resulted in a player leaving the game. How’s that for bad luck?

Some might point to this latest injury for Jung as “proof” that he’s “injury prone” and was a bad pick, but I think that’s a ridiculous assertion to make. I think this is just what it looks like: Rotten luck. Jung’s MLB career got off to a delayed start when he suffered a torn labrum in his left shoulder while weight lifting during spring training, and then he fractured his left thumb fielding a hard-hit ball last August, and now this. That’s three unrelated injuries, all of which are freak accidents to different parts of his body, so your takeaway should definitely not be that Jung was somehow destined to suffer this injury because he had a calf issue this spring. 

Baseball giveth, and sometimes, baseball taketh, too. Sometimes in the same night. 

Blanco is definitely someone you need to be looking at on waivers, though how much of a priority he needs to be relative to other early-season standouts like Monday standout Tanner Houck is a fair question – one Scott White dove deep into in his breakdown of Blanco’s start here

As for me? Well, I’d add Houck ahead of Blanco, but that’s the only pitcher from Monday night I’d be prioritizing over him – his seven strikeouts might seem somewhat pedestrian, but Blanco got 20 whiffs Monday night after showing an arsenal full of swing-and-miss pitches last season. Is he an ace? Probably not, but he’s clearly a talented pitcher despite his age and lack of experience, on a team that tends to maximize every pitcher they come across. 

In today’s newsletter, we covered what you need to know from Monday’s action, beginning with a look at some Jung replacements at third base – where we’ve also already lost another must-start option in Royce Lewis. Plus, we’ve got all the latest news and biggest performances you need to know about from Monday night. Be sure to sign up for the Fantasy Baseball Today newsletter to get the latest Fantasy baseball news sent directly to your mailbox. 

Without further ado, let’s get to the top waiver wire targets.

The Rangers will likely move Ezequiel Duran to third base as their primary option to replace Jung, and he’s not without appeal coming off a season where he hit .276 with 14 homers and eight steals in 122 games. Duran is just 13% rostered in CBS Fantasy leagues and has eligibility at shortstop and outfield in addition to third base, and he could be a viable starting option as a MI/CI or OF for as long as Jung is out.

But Duran probably doesn’t have much appeal in points leagues, and there’s probably at least two 3B I’d be looking to add in most Roto leagues, if he’s available, so we’ll start there:

  1. Matt Chapman, Giants (72%) – Chapman is crushing the ball right now and making a ton of contact. It’s a small sample size from a hitter who hasn’t really been a must-start Fantasy option in a while, but you can at least play the hot hand with a guy we know has 30-homer upside. 
  2. Maikel Garcia, Royals (56%) – But I’ll be honest, I might just prefer Garcia to Chapman straight up. He showed off solid raw power last season, with a 91.8 mph average exit velocity, but just wasn’t elevating the ball consistently enough to take advantage of it. That hasn’t been an issue for him so far this season, with a couple of homers and three barreled balls already – he had just 14 on 352 more batted balls last season. Garcia has athleticism too, and I think 15 homers and 25 steals may not be asking too much here. 
  3. Colt Keith, Tigers (60%) – Keith hasn’t done much of note yet, but he also hasn’t looked overwhelmed in his first taste of the majors, striking out just twice in his first 14 plate appearances. He’s a top-25 prospect in baseball who just hit .287/.369/.521 at Triple-A, so I’ll keep batting on him. 
  4. Michael Busch, Cubs (41%) – Busch hasn’t given us much reason to be optimistic yet, which is a problem considering how much he struggled with the Dodgers last season when he got the chance. Still, it’s a bet on a player with huge minor-league numbers and some upside if he can figure out how to translate that to the majors. 
  5. J.D. Davis, Athletics (21%) – Run production could be a problem for Davis in that A’s lineup, but he’s got 20-homer upside in a full-time role and could do a poor-man’s Jung impression. 

Tanner Houck, SP, Red Sox (38%) – It was just against the aforementioned A’s, so let’s not overreact … but Houck looked pretty brilliant Monday night! Once a two-pitch pitcher, Houck is not sporting a legitimate four-pitch mix, and he got at least two swings and misses on each of his slider, sinker, splitter, and cutter; 16 total on 83 pitches. The slider is still the star here, but the splitter was a legitimate weapon for him last season, and his response to any questions about his ability to make it through the lineup multiple times was to strike out three hitters in his sixth and final frame Monday night. I’m putting him right there with Garrett Crochet and Jared Jones as must-add pitchers from the first week of the season. 

Mackenzie Gore, SP, Nationals (68%) – Gore wasn’t dominant Monday against the Pirates, but he was extremely interesting, which is almost as good. Gore struck out six and walked two while allowing three runs over 5.1 innings, but he showed some signs of potentially taking a big leap forward. We’ll start with the fastball, because that’s always been the star here, and his velocity was up 2.0 mph from 2023; a good start. The most interesting thing, however, was his changeup, which Gore used 16 times, matching his single-start high for his career. He also took about 2 mph and 300 RPMs of spin rate off the pitch, creating more separation between the fastball and changeup from both a movement and velocity perspective. He got three swings and misses with the pitch and had a CSW% of 41%, which is extremely promising for a pitcher who has long searched for a softer pitch to round out his arsenal. There probably won’t be a mad rush to add him coming off just a decent start, so see if you can sneak him through with a low-dollar bid. 

Jose Siri, OF, Rays (29%) – Siri attempted another steal Monday, his fourth attempt in five games after stealing just 12 bases last season. He has a stated goal of stealing 30, and a 20-20 season isn’t looking unreasonable if you can stomach the poor batting average. 

News and Notes

The A’s optioned Esteury Ruiz to Triple-A to make room for Tyler Nevin, whom they claimed off waivers. Ruiz is 3 for 7 to open the season despite being in and out of the lineup early on, so yeah, I don’t get this one. A’s GM David Forst told reporters he wants Ruiz to focus on getting on base while hitting leadoff everyday at Triple-A, and said, “I’m hoping … it’s not a long stay for him down there.” I’m trying not to drop a player with 60-steal upside in my category-based leagues, but this is a bad start for a player who had significant questions coming into the season. 

Bo Bichette has missed two straight with neck spasms. Ernie Clement started at shortstop for the Blue Jays, and I’m hoping he doesn’t start too many more. 

Blake Snell will make his Giants debut next Monday, April 8, against the Nationals. I wouldn’t mind sitting Snell for his debut in theory, but in practice, he’s likely to be a two-start pitcher next week, and there’s just no way I can sit a two-start Blake Snell. 

Justin Verlander threw a three-inning, 52-pitch simulated game on Monday and came out of it without any issues. His next step is expected to be a rehab assignment, and he could be back in a few weeks. 

Jordan Montgomery is scheduled to make a start at Triple-A Reno on Sunday. He is aiming to make his Diamondbacks debut on April 19 in San Francisco. 

Bryan Woo has begun a throwing program. He was shut down for a little over a week ago with right elbow inflammation and remains worth stashing in all formats – in fact, if you’re in one of the 25% of CBS Fantasy leagues where he is available, go claim him!

Jordan Romano is set to throw a bullpen session Tuesday. He’s on the IL due to right elbow inflammation, with the hope he can return in around 10 days if he avoids a setback. 

Alek Manoah will pitch a three-inning simulated game with minor leaguers on Tuesday. He only made one spring outing due to right shoulder soreness, and honestly, he needs to show something on a minor-league rehab assignment to expect much of anything from him. 

Eloy Jimenez is day-to-day after undergoing an MRI on his left adductor, so it seems like he avoided the worst-case scenario. I still wouldn’t be surprised if he ended up on the IL if he can’t get out there in a day or two, but at the very least it seems like it won’t be a long absence either way. 

Kenley Jansen was available to pitch Monday after dealing with back tightness the previous two days, though he didn’t pitch with the Red Sox entering the ninth by nine runs. 

Braxton Garrett will throw a three-inning and/or 50-pitch simulated game at extended spring training Tuesday. He’s probably at least three weeks away from being a factor in the Marlins rotation, but he could get out on a rehab assignment shortly if he avoids a setback. 

Alek Thomas was placed on the IL with a strained left hamstring. Jake McCarthy was recalled and started in right field Monday. McCarthy has 49 steals over the past two years, but he’s pretty much just a one-category specialist. 

Tylor Megill was placed on the 15-day IL and won’t throw for the next five days before beginning his ramp-up process. The Mets probably won’t need a fifth start until next week, and they may opt to go for a bullpen day, given their rotation depth issues. 

Jason Heyward was out of the lineup due to back tightness. Teoscar Hernandez was in right field with Chris Taylor in left.

Mike Clevinger agreed to a contract with the White Sox. He had a 3.77 ERA and 1.23 WHIP, last season, but with peripherals that suggest he was lucky to even get those fringe results. There is little reason to be interested in him for Fantasy. 

Monday standouts 

Shota Imanaga, Cubs vs. COL: 6 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 9 K – Imanaga came exactly as advertised in his first start, including the fact that he didn’t generate a single ground ball on 12 balls in play, with eight hard-hit balls. It didn’t hurt him this time around, but there are going to be stretches where he gives up too many homers and his ERA suffers for it – even if I think everything else should be very good for him. Think Joe Ryan. 

Cristopher Sanchez, Phillies: 5 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 8 K – On the surface, this was a decent start from Sanchez and not much more, but if you drafted him, I think you can breathe a sigh of relief. Sanchez’s velocity was up, as it was in the spring, and he managed to sustain the control improvements that made him such a useful pitcher last season. That combination is really enticing, and Sanchez should be a solid starting option moving forward if he can maintain it. This was a promising start. 

Sean Manaea, Mets vs. DET: 6 IP, 1 H, 2 BB, 8 K – Manaeas will go through stretches like this where he gets a bunch of strikeouts and generally pitches well, but he usually doesn’t do it consistently enough to be more than a streamer. 

Reese Olson, Tigers @NYM: 5.2 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 3 K – Olson was fine in this one, but hardly exceptional, and with so many exceptional pitching performances in the first week of the season, he’s going to get lost in the crowd. But I’m trying to hang on to Olson, who unlocked some strikeout upside late last season and still had a solid 13 swinging strikes Monday. 

Luis Gil, Yankees @ARI: 4.2 IP, 1 H, 1 ER, 3 BB, 6 K – Likewise, Gil was fine Monday, but it’s hard to be too excited about him when you see what Blanco and Houck accomplished. I’d drop him for those two, but think it’s fine to keep him on your bench if not. 

Max Meyer, Marlins vs. LAA: 5 IP, 2 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 4 K – Ditto for Meyer, whose slider looked solid and whose velocity was up to pre-injury levels, but who wasn’t impressive enough to justify rushing out to add. Especially when I’m assuming he’ll be the first guy out of Miami’s rotation whenever Braxton Garrett or Edward Cabrera is ready. 

Ryan Pepiot, Rays vs. TEX: 5.2 IP, 4 H, 6 ER, 4 BB, 3 K – I wasn’t as high on Pepiot as a lot of analysts, so I’m fine dropping him for someone like Houck or Blanco after this start. However, if you spent a top-200 pick on him, I understand wanting to give Pepiot another chance before making that call. 

Charlie Morton, Braves @CWS: 5.2 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 6 K – It was a fine start from Morton, but I actually think I’d be fine dropping him for Blanco or Houck, mostly because his 94% roster rate in CBS Fantasy leagues is just too high. He’ll win a bunch of games with Atlanta, but I’m not sure he’s a plus contributor in either points or Roto at this point. 

Teoscar Hernandez, OF, Dodgers: Hernandez went 1 for 4 Monday, but clubbed his fourth homer of the season to join Mookie Betts atop the leaderboard. He sure seems to be seeing the ball well in Los Angeles, at least. 

Jarren Duran, OF, Red Sox: Duran continues to hit leadoff for the Red Sox, and he went 3 for 5 Monday with three steals. It had been a quiet start before that, but I still think there might be 40-steal upside here with solid power and a ton of runs. I’m very happy with this three-steal performance. 

Anthony Volpe, SS, Yankees: 4-4 with two doubles, and he’s now hitting .571 in the early going. That change to a flatter bat path in his swing seems to be paying off so far, though I still think he’ll need to run a lot more often than he did last season to be a must-start Fantasy option, and he hasn’t attempted a steal yet despite being on base 10 times so far, so that isn’t a great sign. 





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