All of the interesting pickups right now are in the outfield, where players like Garrett Hampson and Jesse Winker are enjoying new playing time and production. But the churn of the waiver wire comes to a full stop with news like this:
Could it be? Sounds like it is. In the words of Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, "sources indicated" that a Dylan Carlson promotion would be among the moves the Cardinals make when they finally resume play, perhaps as early as Friday. The report is vague on details, not citing exactly how these sources indicated this, but the logic certainly follows. The players working out at the minor-league pool are more game-ready at this point, seeing as the major-league club has been out of commission for two weeks, and during that time, the Cardinals have lost two outfielders to the COVID-19 IL.
And it turns out Dylan Carlson isn't the only top prospect on the way to the bigs.
Both Carlson and Alec Bohm are available in more than half of CBS Sports leagues, and that number obviously needs to change. But how should we prioritize them among the other upstarts showing signs of a possible breakthrough? That's a tricky one. Do you pass on players who are already performing for ones whose production is entirely theoretical?
Of course, what makes the timing of a pickup most important is the potential to lose him to someone else. Prospects of Carlson's and Bohm's stature will most certainly be headliners on the waiver wire. Again, it comes to a full stop with news of their arrival. In particular, Carlson, who's coming to play every day. He has earned glowing reviews since way back in spring training, and after hitting .292 with 26 homers, 20 steals and a .914 OPS between two minor-league stops last year, he offers genuine reason for enthusiasm. He's a disciplined hitter with five-category potential and a top-20 prospect no matter which preseason rank list you look at.
Bohm's situation isn't as clear since the Phillies lineup, while struggling overall, doesn't have an obvious player to replace. He's a personal favorite of mine, though — a disciplined hitter with outstanding bat-to-ball skills who seemed to be developing power appropriate for a player his size last year. A hopeful outcome is something like Justin Turner. A dream outcome is something like Anthony Rendon. According to one report, he was batting over .500 at the minor-league site.
So of course Carlson and Bohm become the top priorities because there's no doubting you'll have competition for their services. You're taking what may be your only shot at a high-upside play. If things break right for them, it will be.
For the other possible outfield pickups, it's not so clear that you have to act so quickly. It may prove to be so, but you're playing the odds by passing them over for Carlson and Bohm, provided you don't have the space for all of them.
COL Colorado • #1 • Age: 25
Garrett Hampson didn't just collect four hits Wednesday. He hit leadoff for the sixth straight game and the second straight against a righty. Over his past seven, he has five extra-base hits, two steals and four walks. His strikeouts are down, his walks are up, and he's hitting line drives at such a rate that his xBA is in agreement with his actual BA -- which is to say really, really good. The breakout may well have come.
Jesse Winker DH
CIN Cincinnati • #33 • Age: 27
Jesse Winker's home run Wednesday was his third in as many games, and having started against the last three lefties the Reds have faced, his playing time is well in hand at this point. We already know he's a line-drive hitter who takes his walks, so it's really just a question of whether he can provide any power, which seemed to be trending the right direction in 2018 before a shoulder injury sidetracked him. Maybe it's back.
BAL Baltimore • #25 • Age: 25
Anthony Santander had a modest breakthrough for the Orioles last year, but the profile he's demonstrating early this year -- with strikeout and ground-ball rates that would rank among the lowest in the league -- is reminiscent of Willie Calhoun ... which is to say Mike Moustakas-like. Maybe those rates will normalize in due time, but after his third multi-hit game in four Wednesday, it's worth seeing where this ride takes you.
NYM N.Y. Mets • #9 • Age: 27
Like Winker, Brandon Nimmo is a left-handed hitter who appears to have put the playing-time concern to rest, having started every game for the Mets this year. He's another player whose best feature so far has been his on-base skills, but he's making more regular contact this year. Even with his three hits and a homer Wednesday, he's still underperforming his expected stats, his .408 xwOBA ranking in the top 10 percent of the league.
Zach Eflin SP
PHI Philadelphia • #56 • Age: 26
I'm not going to pretend to understand what made this start so different for Zach Eflin, and I'm not at all convinced his overall outlook has changed. But I do know every breakthrough begins somewhere, and I do know he did two things Wednesday that he's never done before, piling up 19 whiffs and 10 strikeouts. "It feels like the puzzle is coming together for me," he said. If not, you'll know soon enough and can move on, but if so, you'll have beaten the rush to him.
OAK Oakland • #8 • Age: 31
I acknowledge the underwhelming history of Robbie Grossman and don't suspect this season will amount to much more, but I don't know how you ignore a guy who already has three home runs, four steals and a .466 on-base percentage, especially since he's available in even the deepest of leagues. He added to each of those tallies Wednesday and may be on the verge of earning some at-bats against lefties (who he has hit even better than righties, historically).