Fantasy Baseball Waiver Wire: Luis Castillo, Joe Musgrove provide Michael Kopech alternatives
Miss out on adding hot-shot prospect Michael Kopech? Chris Towers identifies a few high-upside pitchers to consider for Week 22 and beyond.
Your top priority on waivers heading into Week 22 must be Michael Kopech. The White Sox will call up Kopech to make his major-league debut Tuesday against the Twins and is in line for a two-start week with another outing against the Tigers likely to follow.
, relating a story about a change in Kopech's game after he struggled with walks in the first half of the season:
"It's a fine story, but what makes it revelatory is the instantaneous transformation in Kopech's performance. Prior to that confrontation, Kopech had issued four or more walks in nine of his 17 starts. In seven starts thereafter, he issued four combined.
The result was a 1.84 ERA, 0.98 WHIP and 12.1 strikeouts per nine innings, as well as this call-up, it turns out — a reward for accepting and applying the message the coaching staff delivered him."
If you can't find Kopech, here are some other players to consider:
We might have put a bit too much hype on Luis Castillo this preseason, and he's probably been one of the more disappointing players in baseball. However, we still see flashes of what made us go so wild for him, and Sunday's start against the Giants was another example. He racked up nine strikeouts in 6.2 innings, with nine swinging strikes coming from his changeup. When it's on, that might be the most dangerous pitch in baseball, and he's been on lately. Over his last four starts, Castillo has 28 strikeouts to just four walks over 24.2 innings and has lowered his season ERA from 5.30 to 4.86 in that stretch. Castillo has gone back to what he does best, relying heavily on his changeup, throwing it at least 25 percent of the time in his last four starts. It's been a rough season, but this is what we were hoping to see. If he closes out the season strong, Castillo can be a real difference maker down the stretch.
It's been a bit of an up-and-down ride for Musgrove in his first season in Pittsburgh, but I love what we've seen from him lately. He has strung together five straight quality starts, and is starting to find more strikeouts of late, racking up 13 in his last two starts after having six in his previous three. That three-start stretch looks like the outlier here, as he had just five, three, and seven swinging strikes in those outings, compared to double digits in five of his last eight. He's doing an excellent job preventing free passes and homers, which helps him pitch effectively even when he's not racking up whiffs. If he can start to pile up strikeouts to go with it, Musgrove could be very effective down the stretch.
As expected, Taylor Ward has been playing third base for the Angels. What's been a bit more unexpected is how much he's playing third base for the Angels. Since making his MLB debut Tuesday, Ward has started six straight games for the Angels, all at third. That may not seem like a huge deal, until you see that he's catcher eligible in CBS Fantasy leagues. Suddenly, any player getting every day at-bats looks a lot more interesting. He's gone 6 for 21 with one double and one homer, while walking twice and striking out five times. That sounds about right for a player with Ward's background, though I'm waiting to see him run more after he swiped 18 bases in the minors this season. Ward isn't a star, but he doesn't have to be to be relevant at catcher. Given his everyday job, he's worth adding in whatever two-catcher leagues he remains available, in, and he might be more interesting than your catcher in a single-catcher format, too.
I don't exactly see star potential in Daniel Poncedeleon, but if you do, now's the time to add him. The 26-year-old will join the rotation for the Cardinals moving forward, after the Cardinals announced he will start Tuesday in place of Luke Weaver. Poncedeleon famously opened his MLB career with seven no-hit innings against the Reds in his debut in July and has a 2.04 ERA in 17.2 innings overall. He hasn't gotten many strikeouts, and has struggled with his control, so there's no guarantee he's useful. But he's talented and getting a chance and deserves a look if Castillo and Musgrove in particular aren't available.
One of the good things about teams like the Orioles struggling so badly is, they'll give chances to players who might not otherwise get them. Cedric Mullins is a perfect example. Never a top-100 prospect, Mullins put together a nice season in the minors, marrying a solid contact profile with more patience and power than usual to put together a .288/.346/.465 line between Double-A and Triple-A. That earned him a promotion to the majors, where he has started nine games in a row for the Orioles, even moving Adam Jones to a corner outfield spot. He hit his first major-league homer Saturday, and is 12 for 31 in his first nine games, with four walks and five strikeouts. There's 30-steal speed here, though he hasn't stolen a bag yet, so the fact that he's hitting this well early bodes well. Mullins is worth a look in category-based formats for speed and average.
There's probably some fatigue with Dominic Smith for Fantasy owners, because he's just never managed to live up to the hype. He appeared in 28 games earlier this season and struck out 26 times, with just one walk. He's been overmatched in the majors. And he hasn't done much better in the minors in 2018, hitting just six homers with a .255 average in the PCL. Maybe it will never happen for him.
On the other hand, Smith is a career .296 hitter in the minors with a top-100 prospect pedigree, who just turned 23 just two months ago. I wouldn't drop anything substantial for him – he may just be a 26th man for the doubleheader Sunday – but if I have a roster spot available in a deep league, I remain intrigued by the potential.
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Scott White is an award-winning Fantasy baseball analyst
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