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Fantasy Baseball Waiver Wire: Schwellenbach thriving, Springs and Ray nearing returns

Twins' Lee is worth rostering in Lewis' absence
Minnesota Twins top prospect Brooks Lee has made the most of his opportunity in the majors and he's worth stashing on your fantasy baseball rosters even if Royce Lewis returns from his injury.

It’s been an exciting time over the last few weeks for fantasy managers with several young hitters emerging as viable mixed-league options. We’ve witnessed Jose Miranda put together an unexpected post-hype breakthrough in addition to the arrival of top prospects James Wood and Brooks Lee, who have made an instant impact since arriving in the majors earlier this month. We’d be remiss if we didn’t include the unexpected emergence of unheralded slugging prospect Ben Rice as the Yankees’ potential first baseman of the future with his recent performance.

We would’ve led off this edition of the Rotoworld Fantasy Baseball Waiver Wire column with another young hitter in Parker Meadows, who was hitting .364 (4-for-11) with one homer and one steal in three games since returning from a two-month stint in the minors where he made a swing adjustment to keep his hands higher in an effort to be more direct to the ball. Unfortunately, he suffered a hamstring injury over the weekend and is going to miss at least a few weeks. He’ll be worthy of a fantasy roster spot once he’s set to return, but can be safely ignored for now, unless you have room to stash him. This edition instead focuses on a couple pitchers that might be ready to make an impact for fantasy managers following next week’s All-Star break including Spencer Schwellenbach, Jeffrey Springs and Robbie Ray.

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Spencer Schwellenbach, SP, Braves
Available in 85 percent of Yahoo! leagues

It’s worth noting that Schwellenbach was facing an injury-depleted Phillies lineup that was missing their top left-handed sluggers in Bryce Harper and Kyle Schwarber, but he delivered arguably his strongest outing yet in the big leagues over the weekend, striking out six and allowing one run over six innings of work. The biggest difference in that outing was that he started to lean more heavily on his splitter, which has been his best offering at generating whiffs so far. The 24-year-old righty, who spent most of his collegiate career as a position player, is relatively new to pitching and didn’t generate a ton of buzz as a prospect prior to reaching the big leagues last month when injuries decimated Atlanta’s starting rotation depth. The raw surface stats, most notably an inflated 5.02 ERA, aren’t attractive through seven starts, but a quick glance under the hood at his 3.57 FIP seems to indicate that he’s been a bit unlucky so far and that there’s some regression looming. The positive news for fantasy managers is that his six-pitch mix is keeping opposing lineups off-balance so far and has resulted in an impressive 38/9 K/BB ratio across 37 2/3 innings in the big leagues. He’s in line for a tough matchup on Friday night against the Padres at Petco Park, but there’s definitely some appeal here for fantasy managers in mixed leagues moving forward.

Jeffrey Springs, SP, Rays
Available in 74 percent of Yahoo! leagues

Springs was on the precipice of cementing his status as an upper-echelon fantasy starter when he hit the injured list last April with a flexor strain and eventually underwent Tommy John surgery a couple weeks later. The 31-year-old southpaw is in the final stages of his lengthy rehabilitation process and is looking like the pitcher we saw prior to last year’s elbow procedure. He struck out six over four shutout innings last Wednesday in a minor league rehab start for Triple-A Durham and appears likely to rejoin Tampa Bay’s starting rotation mix following next week’s Midsummer Classic. It might be unrealistic to expect him to return to ace status right out of the gate, but we’re confident he’s going to miss enough bats to make a second-half impact for fantasy managers in shallow mixed leagues. There’s no reason he should be on the waiver wire in roughly three quarters of fantasy leagues, especially given how close he is to returning to the majors.

Robbie Ray, SP, Giants
Available in 75 percent of Yahoo! leagues

Ray has been a bit of an afterthought for fantasy managers after missing pretty much all of last year recovering from Tommy John surgery. The 32-year-old former AL Cy Young Award winner appears poised to join San Francisco’s starting rotation mix following next week’s All-Star break as he’s made seven minor league rehab appearances so far. He struck out three and allowed three runs over three innings last Thursday in his latest rehab outing for Triple-A Sacramento. There’s probably going to be some variance from a run-prevention standpoint, but the one thing that has been consistent for Ray throughout his career is his ability to consistently pile up strikeouts. We’re confident he’s going to miss bats once he arrives in San Francisco and that ability alone is enough to give him some appeal for fantasy managers in shallow mixed leagues.