Every player depicted in this edition of Waiver Wire is a rookie. Every single one.
That's not me concocting some cutesy theme or looking to make a statement of some sort. Their presence here is completely organic. In case you haven't noticed, a bunch of rookies have been making a bunch of noise lately.
None louder than George Kirby.
He showed exactly why in a scintillating debut Sunday. Just look at how his first inning went:
So why is he, a pitcher, the preferred target off the waiver wire when the bigger need across Fantasy Baseball right now is hitting? And how does he, along with Lewis and Thomas, stack up against other recent prospect call-ups like Jose Miranda and Juan Yepez?
Let's break it down ...
George Kirby SP
SEA Seattle • #68 • Age: 24
George Kirby is in the running for top pitching prospect not named Grayson Rodriguez, and frankly, there may not be a ton of separation between those two. I regret not sounding the alarm sooner, having expected him to make a stop at Triple-A before moving onto the majors, but the need is now and he's clearly capable of filling it. His uncanny control (a true 80-grade attribute) gave him the look of a Shane Bieber clone when he first broke into the minors, but then his velocity jumped to the high 90s last year. Now, his fastball is so overpowering that it was responsible for 13 of his 15 swinging strikes in his debut, a telltale sign of serious upside. He's a must-add in all leagues.
Royce Lewis SS
MIN Minnesota • #23 • Age: 23
Among the hitters recently called up, I believe Royce Lewis to have the most upside. He was the top pick in the 2017 draft, after all, but saw his stock slip because of some mechanical issues in 2019, followed by the canceled minor-league season in 2020, followed by a torn ACL in 2021. But you see the numbers he was putting up at Triple-A. The swing appears fixed, the knee hardly an afterthought. At age 22, he talks like a player on a mission to make good. The problem is he also has zero job security, called up as an injury fill-in for a player (Carlos Correa) who hasn't actually gone on the IL. Lewis has begun his career 3 for 10 with only one strikeout and is capable of playing anywhere but catcher. But will the Twins be willing to play him somewhere other than shortstop?
Jose Miranda 3B
MIN Minnesota • Age: 24
On the one hand, Jose Miranda hasn't impressed in his first major-league stint, but on the other hand, he absolutely has. Just one strikeout in 28 plate appearances? That, friends and neighbors, is the sign of a player who belongs. HIs contact skills are long established, but let's not overlook that he hit .344 with 30 homers and a .973 OPS between Double- and Triple-A last year. I wondered if his defensive shortcomings would impact his playing time whenever he got the call, but so far, not at all. He has started every single game since he arrived, whether at third base, first base or DH. The former is where he's of the most value in Fantasy Baseball.
Josh Winder SP
MIN Minnesota • #74 • Age: 26
A bout with shoulder fatigue to end last year undermined Josh Winder's prospect standing coming into this year, making him the lovely surprise he is now. His latest start saw him pile up 16 swinging strikes on just 80 pitches, his fastball, slider and changeup all generating their share, and if you want to dismiss it because it came against the Athletics, note that he also two-hit the Rays over six innings in his previous start, striking out seven. For as much as I raved about Kirby's control in the minors, Winder issued 1.6 BB/9 last year. Initially an injury replacement for Bailey Ober, his job security appears even greater with Chris Paddack leaving Sunday's start due to elbow inflammation.
Alek Thomas CF
ARI Arizona • #5 • Age: 22
Going purely by preseason rank lists, Alek Thomas is the top choice to add after Kirby, but he's always been a better prospect for real life than for Fantasy, earning high marks for defense and intangibles. That's not to say he has no offensive potential, but the most questionable part of his skill set is also what's in short supply across the league right now: power. While he seemingly broke through with 18 homers in 106 games between two levels last year, favorable venues were largely to credit, and he only puts the ball in the air about 25 percent of the time. Still, the hit tool is plus, and he's also a capable base-stealer.
Juan Yepez LF
STL St. Louis • #13 • Age: 24
A candidate for the DH job in spring training, Juan Yepez continued to make his case after being sent to Triple-A, homering nine times in just 22 games. You see how successful he's been since getting the call, collecting two hits in four of his first five games, and the Cardinals have yet to take him out of the lineup, starting him in left field, right field and at DH. If they're willing to accept whatever he gives them in the outfield, then they obviously value his bat, as well they should. He had an average exit velocity of 98 mph against fastballs prior to getting the call, and he makes contact at a high rate for someone with that kind of slugging ability.
Bryson Stott SS
PHI Philadelphia • #5 • Age: 25
After a splashy spring training that nearly saw him steal the third base job away from Alec Bohm, Bryson Stott struggled to settle in as a part-time utility guy, going 4 for 30. He was promptly sent back to the minors ... where he caught fire. "Getting those at-bats day after day after day is big," Stott said. "That's how you get back to yourself and get back to being comfortable." This time, he'll get that chance at his natural shortstop position with Didi Gregorius sidelined by a sprained knee. Of course, it may be only a short stay for Gregorius, but who's to say Stott can't steal the job in the meantime? Gregorius has only a .694 OPS after a .639 mark last year and isn't the defensive standout he once was.
ATL Atlanta • #99 • Age: 24
The Braves have tried Huascar Ynoa, Tucker Davidson, Bryce Elder and Kyle Muller in the fifth starter role, all to disastrous effect. Might they finally be ready to turn the role over to their young flamethrower who sped from Low-A all the way to the majors last year? The Braves didn't even bother with a starter the last time Spencer Strider pitched, but instead had him follow an opener. He threw a season-high four innings, striking out eight. If they were stretching him out to start, that's about what it would look like. They won't need him for the rotation this week with only five games on the schedule, but you may want to have him stashed away for the next time through.