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We’ve reached the end of the road, y’all. I greatly appreciate you sticking with me for Waiver Wired this season, whether it’s been for one week, six weeks or every Thursday. Hopefully you’ve already locked up your league title or are still in the thick of things. If I helped play a small part in that, it’s been my pleasure.
For the final Waiver Wired of the season, we’re going to look back rather than forward. It’s time to hand out some hardware, going position-by-position to highlight some of the best pickups of the 2022 season.
Best Waiver Wire Catcher
William Contreras, Braves
You could make an argument for Alejandro Kirk here if you played in a shallower, one-catcher format. I’m going with Contreras, though, a guy who was well off fantasy radars in all but the deepest of leagues before the season. Willson’s younger brother has broken out in his age-24 season with a .868 OPS and 20 home runs as he earned a trip to the All-Star Game. Travis d’Arnaud will be back in Atlanta next year, but Contreras’ bat can play at designated hitter on days he doesn’t catch. It might be the best thing for his sustained fantasy success, saving some wear and tear.
Best Waiver Wire First Baseman
Nathaniel Lowe, Rangers
Lowe had a perfectly solid first season with the Rangers, but he took a big step forward this year. In 149 games to date, the 27-year-old has posted a .305/.359/.494 batting line with 25 home runs and 73 RBI. He’s in line to finish inside the top-10 at the position in fantasy after generally being ignored in standard formats this spring. Lowe has always put up above-average exit velocities, and if he can find a way to hit the ball in the air more often, there could be another level here from a power standpoint.
Best Waiver Wire Second Baseman
Andres Gimenez, Guardians
Gimenez was the Guardians’ Opening Day shortstop in 2021 but flopped majorly and wound up spending a large chunk of the season in the minors. Expectations were much lower coming into 2022 and his ADP reflected that. Gimenez has been excellent, though, with a .856 OPS, 17 home runs and 19 stolen bases. One of the most impressive aspects of his season has been the consistency. He had an OPS under .800 in just one month, and that was in May when he was perfectly solid with a .754 OPS, three long balls and three steals. The left-handed swinger has also hit .330/.393/.491 versus southpaws.
Best Waiver Wire Shortstop
Gleyber Torres, Yankees
I’ll use this space to highlight Torres, who went undrafted in plenty of 12-teamers this spring following a dreadful .697 OPS with only nine home runs in 2021. He’s made a full-time move over to second base in 2022 and perhaps that allowed him to relax a bit, as the 25-year-old has clubbed 24 home runs and stolen 10 bases for the Bronx Bombers. The 2019 campaign is almost surely going to go down as a career year for Torres, but he’s actually hit the ball harder than ever this season and has also chipped in double-digit stolen bases for the second straight year.
Best Waiver Wire Third Baseman
Brandon Drury, Reds/Padres
Drury settled for a minor league contract for the second straight offseason, latching on with the Reds in March. He won an Opening Day roster spot and never looked back, putting up a .855 OPS with 20 home runs for the Reds before being dealt to the Padres at the trade deadline. Drury has slowed down in San Diego, although he has clubbed eight dingers over 39 contests. Was Drury mostly a product of Great American Ball Park? Perhaps to a degree. He had a .915 OPS with 12 homers there and has posted a .487 OPS at Petco Park. Drury has certainly earned a major league contract this winter, though, and probably a multi-year deal.
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Best Waiver Wire Outfielders
Michael Harris, Braves
Steven Kwan, Guardians
It’s an all-rookie outfield. There was some buzz during spring training that Rodriguez could crack the Mariners’ Opening Day roster, but depending on when you had your draft and how deep it was he easily could’ve gone undrafted. The impending American League Rookie of the Year was taken outside the top 225 picks in NFBC drafts. Congrats if you were able to beat the rush to add the wunderkind, as he’s going to finish as a top-five fantasy outfielder even after a late-season back issue. He’ll be in contention for the No. 1 overall pick in future years.
Harris was a surprise call-up by the Braves in late May, as they took a chance in promoting a 21-year-old with fewer than 50 games under his belt above A-ball when injuries struck their outfield. The youngster could’ve easily found himself back in the minors after a couple weeks if things had gone poorly. He hit the ground running, though, with a .946 OPS in his first full month. Harris is playing some of his best ball late in the season, too, with a .959 OPS since the start of August as he closes in on a 20-20 season.
Kwan doesn’t boast the pedigree or the flashy tools of Rodriguez or Harris. It also looked like he might be out of a starting job after he followed up a terrific April with a horrid May as his OPS dipped below .700 for the season. Kwan came roaring back with a vengeance, though, collecting a .320/.386/.418 batting line with five home runs and 17 stolen bases since the beginning of June. The 25-year-old running more and more as the season has gone along has been huge for his roto league prospects, as he’s never going to be a guy to offer a ton of power. Now, Kwan looks like a pretty good bet in three categories moving forward.
Best Waiver Wire Starting Pitchers
Tony Gonsolin, Dodgers
Kyle Wright, Braves
Spencer Strider, Braves
I obviously could have gone any number of directions here given the breadth of starting pitcher. It seemed fairly clear during draft season that Gonsolin was going to be relied on heavily in the Dodgers’ rotation, but he was coming off an injury-shortened, disappointing season and facing workload concerns. A late-season forearm injury puts a damper on things, but Gonsolin has gone a ridiculous 16-1 with a 2.10 ERA and 0.87 WHIP. He never threw 100 pitches in a single start this season but his remarkable efficiency still allowed him to average six innings per start from mid-May on.
Wright went from going undrafted in the majority of leagues to this season’s only 20-game winner. Pretty crazy. The pedigree was there with Wright as a former No. 5 overall pick and top-50 prospect, but a 6.56 ERA at the major league level coming into the season didn’t inspire much confidence. Wright has blossomed, though, after a pitch mix alteration which has seen him throw more curveballs and sinkers and fewer four-seamers and sliders. The 26-year-old has stumbled a bit in September while battling some fatigue, which isn’t a huge surprise since he’s blown past his previous workload high.
Strider began the season in the Braves’ bullpen in a multi-inning relief role and was so dominant that he eventually forced his way into the rotation in late May. From then on he was, well, dominant, posting a 2.77 ERA, 0.99 WHIP and ridiculous 165/34 K/BB ratio over 107 1/3 frames covering 20 starts. He needed only 131 2/3 innings this season to reach the 200-strikeout plateau. Strider still basically throws only two pitches even as a starter, but those offerings are just so good that it hasn’t mattered.
Best Waiver Wire Reliever
Ryan Helsley, Cardinals
Non-closer relievers rarely get drafted in standard fantasy leagues and non-closer relievers with pedestrian career numbers certainly aren’t going to be taken in those drafts. Helsley, though, came into 2022 healthy following elbow and knee ailments last year and has turned into one of the most dominant relievers in the game. He has only 18 saves on the season, but Helsley has managed to vulture nine wins while posting a 1.28 ERA, 0.74 WHIP and 93/19 K/BB ratio over 63 1/3 innings to vault himself to the top of the National League leaderboard in terms of reliever fantasy value.