I’ve got to hand it to Cory Ott. Ott, one of the 15 managers in my TGFBI league, pulled out all of the stops in the first week of the fantasy baseball season. He acquired three players – Hunter Greene ($185), Nick Lodolo ($175) and Steven Kwan ($165). Keep in mind that most MLB teams had played only three games when Ott put in his FAAB bids. But appears this manager knew what he was doing – at least on Greene and Kwan.
So, how good is Steven Kwan? The accolades just keep rolling in. The Guardians rookie is hitting .526 in the first six games. He came back to earth a bit on Wednesday, going 0 for 4 and striking out for the first time since Sept. 26, 2021, although he did add another RBI. In reaching base three more times Tuesday, Kwan had reached base 18 times in his first five games, surpassing the old record of 17 by Cincinnati’s Jay Bruce in 2008.
Sabermetric Statistical analysis indicates Kwan won’t end the season with the highest batting average in baseball. Nor, does the 24-year-old bring a lot of power or speed to the table. But he’s a must-add player in all leagues, based on this start and the fact that he had hit .328/.407/.527 in 77 games between Double-A and Triple-A. with 12 homers and six steals.
So, I must give credit where credit is due. When Ott picked him up on April 3rd, Kwan was still nothing more than an intriguing bench option in deeper leagues. Now, he’s someone who needs to be rostered in even the shallowest leagues (and probably will be soon). But Kwan is not the only player breaking out. Let’s take a look at eight more that are widely available.
CONNER JOE, 1B/OF, COLORADO (43% YAHOO/23% ESPN)
Drafted in 2015, Joe had only had 16 plate appearances in the majors before being called up to play 63 games last year. He hit .285, scored 23 runs and drove in 35. But his ADP was 300 plus heading into 2022, and he was only drafted in the deeper leagues. After five games, he’s hitting .316, with 7 runs, 2 home runs, 3 RB1 and a stolen base. Get him while you can.
JEREMY PENA, SS, HOUSTON (42% YAHOO/30% ESPN)
Pena wasn’t even drafted in my 15-team TGFBI league in March. But then Carlos Correa signed with the Twins, and Pena earned the starting shortstop gig in Houston. Pena hit .287/.346/.598 with 10 home runs and five steals (on six attempts) in only 30 games at Triple-A. He hit a home run in his second game and has a .stellar 550 slugging percentage.
ANDREW VAUGHN, 1B/OF, CHICAGO WHITE SOX (57% YAHOO/40% ESPN)
There was plenty of hype when Vaughn got called up last year by the White Sox, but he failed to impress with his .235 batting average and .396 slugging percentage. He went undrafted in most leagues but his .400 average and 1.000 slugging percentage in the first three games does impress. Vaughn won’t be available in the deeper leagues, but check your waiver wire.
GAVIN LUX, SS/2B/OF, LA DODGERS (62% YAHOO/41% ESPN)
Speaking of a failure to impress, Lux has been a bust since he was called up by the Dodgers in 2019. Batting .235, with a 368 slugging percentage didn’t turn many heads in the fantasy world. But hitting .352 and slugging .500 in his first six games of 2022 makes me think he’s figured things out. Eligible in the infield and outfield, he’s finally getting regular playing time.
JESUS LUZARDO, SP, MIAMI (52% YAHOO/32% ESPN)
The southpaw proved spring training was no fluke, striking out 12 batters in five innings, while allowing one earned run and two hits in five innings Tuesday against the Angels. The Marlins pitcher mixed throws his fastball close to 100 mph and mixes in a nasty curve, sinker and changeup. If the Marlins pitcher is on your waiver wire, you need to get him.
KYLE WRIGHT, SP, MIAMI (54% YAHOO/34% ESPN)
Wright nailed down a spot in the Braves starting rotation with his impressive debut last Saturday. He picked up a win against Cincinnati, pitching six scoreless innings, allowing just two hits and a walk. He also struck out six. He fired 56 of 76 strikes and didn’t allow a baserunner to get into scoring position. He generated 12 swinging strikes. Pick him up if he’s available.
MICHAEL LORENZEN, SP, LA ANGELS (8% YAHOO/7% ESPN)
If you can’t get Luzardo or Wright, you should be able to find Lorenzen in all but the deepest leagues. He’s surely worth adding after an impressive performance on Monday against Miami. He allowed just two hits one earned run over six innings, and he struck out seven without issuing a walk. He made just one mistake – giving up a solo home run in the fourth inning.
NICK MARTINEZ, SP, SAN DIEGO (7% YAHOO/2% ESPN)
Another good pitcher for deeper leagues, Martinez also had an impressive start on Monday in San Francisco. He struggled with traffic on the bases in the first three innings but only permitted a single run and retired eight of the final nine batters he faced. Martinez allowed five hits, struck out six and walked a batter. He has another tough matchup Saturday against Atlanta.
Follow Thomas L. Seltzer, AKA Doubting Thomas, on Twitter @ThomasLSeltzer1.