We had some big news this week, with Corey Seager going on the IL and Brewers prospect Sal Frelick making an immediate impact at the top of the headlines. On Monday's episode of Fantasy Baseball Today, Frank Stampfl, Scott White, and myself, Chris Towers, talked about Seager replacements, with CJ Abrams, Tim Anderson, and Orlando Arcia our top options where available, and guys like Wilmer Flores, Edouard Julien, and Zachary Neto available in more leagues. There's no replacing a player like Seager, but that's the best we've got.
As for Frelick, he went 4 for 6 in his first two MLB games with a couple of defensive highlights, and it's a contact-heavy profile that we're hoping can look a lot like the good version of Steven Kwan. Frelick is a slap hitter, but he's struck out about 11% of the time in Triple-A. If he can carry that over to the bigs, he's going to provide some batting average and steals, and potentially runs if he can hit his way into the top of the Brewers lineup.
What else do you need to know about from this weekend? Well, that's why we're here. There's a lot to get to, and today's newsletter is all about hitting the most important talking points from this weekend. For more, make sure you tune in to Monday's episode of Fantasy Baseball Today for more. And, obviously, make sure you've got the right lineup set for Week 18 with Scott White's and , as well as his .
Pitchers, Part 1: Waiver targets
Seth Lugo, Padres (6 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 3 BB, 7 K at DET) – Lugo is only 57% rostered in CBS Fantasy leagues, and that just feels insulting right now. Since coming off the IL, he has a 3.24 ERA (and 3.32 FIP) with 33 strikeouts and five walks in 33.1 innings over six starts. The problem is, he doesn't go deep into games consistently, but I think that's quibbling, given how solid he's been all season at this point.
Brandon Pfaadt, Diamondbacks (6 IP, 4 H, 3 ER, 0 BB, 7 K at CIN) – In a start like this, you don't have to squint too hard to see a good pitcher here. Pfaad had a very solid 15 swinging strikes en route to his seven strikeouts. The problem is, his fastball remains kind of a disaster. He's mixing in a sinker to righties, but it hasn't really helped – that sinker had a 94.7 mph average exit velocity, while his four-seam fastball had an average EV of 97.2 mph. The secondaries are solid, but until he figures something out with the fastball, you can't really expect much more than this from him.
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Braxton Garrett, Marlins (3 IP, 7 H, 6 ER, 0 BB, 5 K vs. COL) – Nothing is really working for Garrett right now. In June, each of his pitches except his curveball had an expected wOBA of .282 or lower; in July, only his slider is better than a .376. There are some red flags mechanically here, as his release point has risen a bit and his extension has dropped, and Garrett doesn't have the kind of stuff to overcome even relatively minor changes like that. I think he can figure it out and turn things around, but with a 7.85 ERA over the past four starts, he's a pretty easy drop if you need the roster space.
Clarke Schmidt, Yankees (5.2 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 1 BB, 2 K vs. KC) – I liked Schmidt as a streamer for this one, and he's now surrendered three earned runs or fewer in 11 straight starts. The problem? Well, besides the fact that his 3.02 ERA in that stretch is not supported by his 4.08 FIP. But the problem, even if it was sustainable, is that Schmidt has only gone even six innings twice in that span. Even when things are going well, there just isn't much upside here. He's a streamer, and little more, unfortunately.
Brady Singer, Royals (6 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 9 K at NYY) – This was a very fine start from Singer, and he's had a few of those over the past month or so. I'm inclined to pay it little attention, however – this is more about the state of the Yankees lineup than anything Singer can project moving forward. That makes Alec Marsh's struggles (5 ER in 5.1 IP Friday) even worse, in contrast. His 11-strikeout outing against the Rays last week may have been a fluke.
Johnny Cueto, Marlins (6 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 8 K vs. COL) – Amid a season-worst eight-game losing streak, injuries forced the Marlins into pushing Cueto back into the rotation, so this kind of outing came as a genuine shock. Cueto had been tagged for 33 runs in 29 innings in the minors before returning from the IL, and the Marlins had not planned on using him in the rotation, but he actually looked quite good, racking up a whopping 17 whiffs on 81 pitches. I think that's probably more about the Rockies lineup away from Coors field, but Cueto's velocity is up 1.2 mph from last season, when he was a solid innings eater for the White Sox. I think he's probably just a streamer against good matchups, but that's more than we thought he'd be a week ago.
Pitchers, Part 2: Relievers to add
Adbert Alzolay, Cubs – Alzolay hasn't been perfect in the ninth inning, but it's hard to argue with a 2.51 ERA and 48 strikeouts in 43 innings overall. And he's pretty obviously the Cubs closer right now, with two saves this weekend and five in July. He's a solid starting option right now.
Kyle Finnegan, Nationals – And now we enter much less confident territory. However, with Hunter Harvey on the IL with an elbow injury, Finnegan is pretty clearly the Nationals closer, at least through the trade deadline. It's not a great situation, but Finnegan will get whatever saves are available.
Justin Lawrence, Rockies – Lawrence's grip on the job seems weaker than Alzolay or Finnegan's, and his occasional struggles with control (plus, you know, that home park) make him a pretty tough bet for ratios. But if you're desperate for saves, he's a decent option.
Pitchers, Part 3: The rest
Mitch Keller, Pirates (5 IP, 9 H, 6 ER, 1 BB, 7 K at Angels) – In my weekend preview newsletter, I wrote about Keller as one of two pitchers with the most to prove this weekend, and he put together arguably his worst start of the season. Keller now has a 7.04 ER in four July starts, with 19 strikeouts and nine walks in 23 innings of work. There's been a bit of a velocity drop here, but the bigger issue has been a completely disappearance in whiffs – his whiff rate is below 20% on all of his pitches in July; he had a whiff rate of at least 20% on his four-seam fastball, cutter, and sweeper in May, by comparison. He still does a good job of limiting hard contact, for the most part, but without the strikeouts, the margin for error is a lot slimmer. I'm not cutting Keller, but it's hard to start him right now.
Alek Manoah, Blue Jays (5.1 IP, 3 H, 3 ER, 4 BB, 6 K at Seattle) – Manoah was the other pitcher I said had a lot to prove this weekend, and his was decidedly more of a mixed bag. The good news is that he had mostly solid results and seemed to rediscover his slider, racking up a massive 10 whiffs with the pitch on 12 swings. The shape isn't quite where it was in 2021 or 2022 – he generated more drop with the pitch, but still isn't getting as much lateral movement as he used to with the pitch – but the results were promising. The problem, obviously, is that the control still isn't there, with four more walks after he walked five in his previous outing. I'm still hanging on to Manoah, but he's clearly not back to his ace form. He may never get there, but at least there were positives this time around.
Luis Severino, Yankees (5.2 IP, 8 H, 3 ER, 0 BB, 5 K vs. KC) – Severino has plenty to prove himself, and this outing was hardly a vintage performance, given the low level of competition. He still seems to be searching for his non-fastball pitches, as he had just one swinging strike on 46 combined sliders, changeups, and cutters. I still want to hang on to Severino, mostly because I know if he figures it out, there's nobody on the waiver wire who could come close to his upside. But I don't feel comfortable starting him against the Orioles this week.
Gerrit Cole, Yankees (6.1 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 10 K vs. KC) – Last week on the FBT podcast, we re-drafted the first two rounds for the rest of the season, and there was some talk about the lack of strikeouts holding Cole's upside back. Well, in his first two starts back from the break, he has 21 strikeouts in 12.1 innings. I still think Cole is one of the two or three best pitchers in Fantasy, more for projectability than upside, but if he can keep generating strikeouts like this, he might just challenge Spencer Strider for that top spot.
Tanner Bibee, Guardians (7 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 8 K vs. PHI) – Bibee has turned things around in a big way in July, with 27 strikeouts in 23.2 innings and a 1.14 ERA so far. There hasn't been a significant change in his pitch mix in that time, but he's suddenly getting swings and misses with the entire arsenal, including at least four with each of his fastball, slider, changeup, and curveball in this one. Bibee has shown the ability to limit hard contact early on in his career, and if he can keep racking up the strikeouts, I don't see why he can't keep this run up.
Grayson Rodriguez, Orioles (5.2 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 6 K at TB) – We still haven't seen more than flashes of Rodriguez's considerable upside but I have no complaints about this performance. His velocity remained up, and he excised the cutter from his arsenal, a move that probably makes sense – that pitch has given up a 94.6 mph average exit velocity to date. Rodriguez had 17 swinging strikes in this one, and generated a ton of weak contact, and we're starting to see a path forward here that could feature a significant second-half breakout.
Kevin Gausman, Blue Jays (6 IP, 5 H, 4 ER, 0 BB, 9 K at SEA) – Gausman's velocity fell for the second start in a row, down to 92.4 mph with his four-seam fastball, the lowest it's been since April. That might be why we saw Gausman introduce a sweeper into his arsenal Saturday. He threw the pitch seven times and didn't garner any swings and misses with it, so it's not clear how much that pitch is going to help moving forward. Three of the four homers Gausman surrendered came off the fastball, and given the velocity issues there, it's hard not to be at least a little concerned. I'm not panicking; I'm just taking note, for now.
Justin Steele, Cubs (6.1 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 9 K vs. STL) – Coming off his worst start of the season, it was nice to see Steele bounce back like this, with a season-high in strikeouts. Given how slider-heavy he is, there's been a surprising lack of strikeouts for Steele this season, though that obviously isn't a prerequisite for success here. I still think there's a sell-high window here, but I also trust Steele to be a very strong starting pitcher moving forward, even if I'd bet on another half-run or so of regression from his 2.95 ERA.
Tony Gonsolin, Dodgers (5 IP, 2 H, 4 ER, 3 BB, 6 K at TEX) – Because he defies so much of what we think we know about what makes pitchers successful, it's hard to know what to make of Gonsolin's cold stretch. He's not getting many strikeouts, but he never really gets many strikeouts, even when he's thriving. I will say, Gonsolin's game has taken a step back across the board so far, with his strikeout and walk rates plus his quality-of-contact metrics all moving in unison in the wrong direction. He's defied convention for so long that it feels foolish to write him off, but let's just say, I'm not actively trying to buy Gonsolin during this down stretch.
Lance Lynn, White Sox (6.2 IP, 8 H, 6 ER, 3 BB, 6 K at MIN) – Lynn has had two starts with seven innings and at least 11 strikeouts over his past six and still has a 5.02 ERA in that span. We may be seeing the limit of our collective tendency to view strikeouts as a proxy for general upside here. Yes, Lynn has a tendency to rack up whiffs in bunches when he's going right, but he's just getting crushed when he isn't getting strikeouts, and that 16-strikeout effort from June hasn't turned into the turning point we hoped it would. If there were better waiver-wire pitchers available, I'd be inclined to cut Lynn and be done with it.
Joe Ryan, Twins (6 IP, 7 H, 4 ER, 1 BB, 10 K vs. CWS) – Ryan had a complete game shutout in late June and still has a 5.75 ERA over his past seven stats. The story here is similar to Lynn's – there's been no shortage of strikeouts (57 in 40.2 innings!), but that hasn't been enough to overcome 13 homers in seven starts. I have more faith in Ryan turning it around than Lynn, but given his fly-ball approach and how much he lives in the strike zone, these kinds of blowup stretches might just be the cost of doing business.
Cody Bellinger, Cubs – Bellinger wouldn't be the first player to outproduce his underlying metrics in a sustainable way – Nolan Arenado is going to go to the Hall of Fame with the Statcast page equivalent of Jesse from Breaking Bad screaming "He can't keep getting away with it!" Maybe Bellinger is the next example. But I'm gonna need more than 68 games to make that call. If that means I'll keep banging my head against the wall while Bellinger keeps socking balls over them, so be it. I don't buy what Bellinger is doing, and I'd be actively trying to trade him if I had him anywhere. If you don't trust me on that, hey, I get it. He's been awesome.
Lane Thomas, Nationals – Thomas had multiple multi-hit games this weekend, including his 16th homer Friday and four steals Sunday. Before that, he was 15 for 65 in July. I still think he's a sell-high candidate, and even more so after this weekend.
Ketel Marte, Diamondbacks – There have been a few nagging bumps and bruises, but Marte has mostly managed to stay healthy this season, and unsurprisingly, is putting together one of his best seasons yet. He homered twice Friday, went 6 for 10 this weekend, and is hitting .290/.362/.532 in July, showing no real signs of slowing down. And, in this case, the underlying numbers largely back what he's doing up.
Nate Lowe, Rangers – Lowe hasn't been terrible this season, but it has mostly been a disappointment coming off last year's breakout. That's changed in July, as he is hitting .329/.397/.571 after going 4 for 9 with five RBI this weekend.
Austin Riley, Braves – Riley is one of those players I never really moved down in my rankings, even when he was struggling, and I sure hope none of you sold low on him. He has six homers in his past six games and his OPS up over .900 in July despite opening the month just 5 for his first 31. He's rewarded your patience, and I still expect he'll end up right around 35 homers, despite having just 16 in his first 92 games.
Kyle Tucker, Astros – Tucker is usually more known for relatively quiet greatness, but he's having a pretty flashy July. He homered three times Friday and is up to six, while hitting .382/.463/.750. He's had a tendency to get off to slow starts the past few seasons, but the numbers always end up where they should be.
Henry Davis, Pirates – Davis has been making a lot of loud contact over the past few weeks, and it turned into a two-homer game Friday. He's got his OPS over .830 in the month of July, and he's arguably deserved even better – his .364 wOBA in the month actually trails his .392 expected mark. He's a must-start catcher already.
Triston Casas, Red Sox – The Red Sox have largely shielded Casas from left-handed pitching of late, which helps explain in part why he's been so good lately. But I do wonder if they have to at least start considering giving him more opportunities to play everyday after his two-homer showing Saturday. He has his OPS up to .985 since the start of June, and while overall strikeout rate against lefties is still 34%, I think the overall growth he's shown of late could garner another look as an everyday option. At the very least, he probably belongs not far from the Nolan Gorman range in the rankings.
Tim Anderson, White Sox – It's been a pretty dreadful season for Anderson, but he's starting to turn things around. He had five hits this weekend and is now hitting .378 over nine games since the All-Star break. I wondered if he came back too early from his knee injury earlier in the season, so now I have to wonder if he's finally starting to get healthy. If you need a SS, he's available in 29% of CBS Fantasy leagues right now.
Zack Gelof,Athletics – Gelof hit his first career homer Saturday, and has been pretty solid, hitting .273 with two steals and an .896 OPS in his first nine games. He gets three games at Coors Field this week, which is pretty cool, though the A's only play five games total, so he's probably still more of a daily lineups league play right now. But I'm looking to add him in deeper categories leagues.