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Pickups of the Day: Smash Burger

Jake Burger

Jake Burger

Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

Rotoworld’s brand-new Pickups of the Day column is designed to help fantasy managers uncover a handful of widely-available targets over the course of the season. It could be a breakout candidate, a prospect stash, an injury replacement, a pitcher with a favorable matchup or week, a player who is due some better luck, or any other number of scenarios. If there’s value to be found on the waiver wire, we will find it and bring it your way. Today’s edition features the emergence of a potential middle-of-the-order force in Chicago, a top pitching prospect getting a chance for Los Angeles, and an intriguing offensive spark plug providing a jolt for New York’s struggling lineup.

Jake Burger, 3B, White Sox

Available in 78 percent of Yahoo leagues

Burger’s unexpected emergence as one of the more fearsome sluggers in baseball has been one of the more remarkable storylines of the opening seven weeks of the 2023 campaign. The 27-year-old third baseman’s breakthrough has flown a bit under the radar, especially since he didn’t make Chicago’s season-opening roster and wound up missing time earlier this month due to a mild left oblique strain. However, he’s made the most of his opportunities this year, homering three times in four games since returning from the injured list and is now up to 10 round-trippers in just 27 games overall. He’s batting a robust .277/.344/.723 with 14 runs scored, 16 extra-base hits and 20 RBI across 93 plate appearances so far.

The fantasy landscape is littered with one-dimensional power-only sluggers, and Burger’s underwhelming plate skills certainly leave much to be desired, and will make him prone to extreme hot-and-cold streaks. However, his ultra-aggressive approach is undeniably working for him at the moment, translating into bushels of homers against quality pitchers. He’s not going to be much help in the batting average department, but he has a real opportunity to blossom into a reliable four-category, power plus counting stats, fantasy contributor over the next few months. There will be some competition for playing time between third base and designated hitter, especially if both Yoán Moncada and Eloy Jiménez manage to remain somewhat healthy. However, at this stage there’s simply no way rookie manager Pedro Grifol can justify leaving Burger off the lineup card.

Gavin Stone, SP, Dodgers

Available in 92 percent of Yahoo leagues

While fellow top pitching prospects Matthew Liberatore and Taj Bradley are undoubtedly higher priority waiver wire pickups for fantasy managers this weekend in shallow mixed leagues, Stone makes sense as a speculative fallback option. The 24-year-old right-hander, who has compiled a strong 4.04 ERA, 1.26 WHIP and 41/19 K/BB ratio across 35 2/3 innings (eight starts) this season for Triple-A Oklahoma City in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League, is the logical choice to replace an injured Dustin May (forearm) in the Dodgers’ starting rotation over the next few weeks. He struggled a bit earlier this month in his big league debut against the Phillies, allowing five runs (four earned) over four innings, but offers enough strikeout upside to warrant consideration as a streaming option, especially in deeper mixed leagues. He’s in line to take the ball on Monday in May’s rotation spot against the Braves in a tough road matchup, but his excellent fastball/changeup combo gives him a chance to succeed right away.

Mark Vientos, UTIL, Mets

Available in 84 percent of Yahoo leagues

After spending the opening month of the season tearing the cover off the ball for Triple-A Syracuse, Vientos finally got the call to the majors earlier this week. The 23-year-old slugger made an immediate impact on Wednesday night, blasting a dramatic game-tying two-run homer off righty reliever Ryan Thompson in the seventh inning of his season debut. He wound up stapled to the bench on Thursday afternoon with righty Taj Bradley on the mound for Tampa Bay, but figures to play regularly against left-handed pitching and offers enough over-the-fence pop to merit consideration for a roster spot in deeper mixed leagues. He’s unlikely to offer much help in the batting average department, but should provide enough in terms of power and counting stats to warrant a roster spot moving forward.

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