Week 4 Fantasy Baseball Waiver Wire: Nick Lodolo, Mackenzie Gore headline injury-replacement pitchers



lodolo

The story of the 2024 MLB season through the first couple of weeks has been the epidemic of elbow injuries to high-end pitchers. Elbow injuries have been on the rise in MLB for years – decades, really – but with so many big names going down in spring training and then in the first few weeks here, it’s been impossible to ignore or overlook, even if nobody really has an answer for how to fix this problem.  

And, of course, we got more hits this weekend. So, before we take a look at the top waiver-wire targets for each position heading into Week 4 of the Fantasy Baseball season, let’s look at four more pitcher injuries – three new ones, one an update on an existing injury – and then 10 pitchers to consider adding this week to replace them. 

  • Spencer Strider (elbow) is out for the season. He did not have his second Tommy John surgery, it’s worth noting – this was the internal brace procedure that involves a shorter recovery time for elbow ligament damage. The hope is he’ll be able to return in around 12 months, so he could be in line for a more or less normal 2025, but he’s done for this season. 
  • Bobby Miller (shoulder) was placed on the IL with inflammation. He has dealt with similar issues recently, but an MRI showed no structural damage and he hopes to be cleared to begin throwing this week. 
  • Cody Bradford (back) was placed on the IL. It’s not clear when the injury occurred, but it doesn’t sound too serious at this point. It does open up a rotation spot for the expected debut of Michael Lorenzen this week. Bradford has been one of the best surprises of the season, and I would definitely try to stash him, even if it’s not clear where he’ll slot in the rotation when healthy. 
  • Marco Gonzales (forearm) has a muscle strain. The Pirates will not be calling top prospect Paul Skenes up to take Gonzales’ place in the rotation just yet, though I’m still expecting him sometime in the next month or two. 

So, Strider’s out the rest of the way, and Bradford and Miller won’t be of any help for at least a couple of weeks. Yep, we still need pitching help on the wire. So, before we get to the rest of this week’s waiver-wire targets, here are 10 starting pitchers to consider adding in leagues from 10 to 15-teams: 

  1. Nick Lodolo, SP, Reds (79%) – Lodolo looked about as good as you could have hoped in his first start in more than 11 months Saturday against the White Sox, allowing one hit and one walk while striking out 11 in 5.2 innings. That’s just about the easiest matchup in the league, but Lodolo did exactly what he needed to justify being rostered in all leagues. 
  2. Mackenzie Gore, SP, WAS (74%) – Gore also dominated a cake matchup, as he struck out 11 over five shutout innings against the A’s. I’ve written about some of the changes Gore has made in the early going this season, and I think he deserves to be rostered in all formats right now. 
  3. Gavin Stone, SP, LAD (68%) – On Friday, I wrote that Stone needed to give us reason to be optimistic, and then he went out and held the Padres to two runs over 6.2 innings Saturday. He’s probably not an ace, but he’s worth using against most matchups. 
  4. Spencer Turnbull, SP, PHI (63%) – Saturday was a big step backwards for Turnbull, but he still has a 1.80 ERA and 0.93 WHIP through three starts, with his new sweeper potentially making him a viable streamer against most matchups. 
  5. Max Meyer, SP, MIA (52%) – Meyer is just spamming sliders right now, as he threw it 54% of the time in a gem against the Braves Saturday. Limiting the Braves to one earned run over six innings while striking out seven is an extremely impressive performance, and I have to think the team’s former top prospect is going to stay in Miami’s rotation even when Braxton Garrett and Edward Cabrera are back, which could be this week. 
  6. Javier Assad, RP, CHC (52%) – Assad fell just one out short of a quality start in Seattle Sunday, allowing two earned runs over 5.2 innings with six strikeouts. He has a 2.16 ERA over his first three starts with 18 strikeouts in 16.2 innings of work, and now he gets the Marlins in his next start, which he should be active for in all formats. 
  7. Yariel Rodriguez, SP, Blue Jays (24%) – Rodriguez was a lot of fun to watch. He mostly went fastball/slider in his debut, throwing those two pitches 84% of the time, however because he’s one of those pitchers who changes his arm angle and release point regularly, it’s more accurate to say he might have multiple versions of every pitch he throws – which also included a splitter, sinker, and curveball Saturday. It was his first MLB start, against a bad Rockies lineup away from Coors Field, and his unique approach could make him less effective the more video is out there on him, but I think Rodriguez showed enough upside while striking out six over 3.2 innings to be worth adding in deeper leagues. 
  8. Michael Lorenzen, SP, Rangers (23%) – Lorenzen probably isn’t a difference maker, but he’s joining one of the best team contexts in the sport, with a Rangers lineup that should provide him with plenty of run support. If he can keep that ERA in the low-4.00s range, he should be plenty useful, especially in points leagues. 
  9. Ben Brown, SP, Cubs (13%) – Brown’s overall numbers still look pretty rough after he was tagged for six earned runs in 1.2 innings in his debut, but he’s been pretty solid the past couple of outings, striking out 10 in 8.2 innings with just two walks. He’s a two-pitch pitcher who may not be long for the Cubs’ rotation, but that curveball is deadly, with a 46.9% whiff rate so far, and in deeper leagues, could be helpful Monday against the Diamondbacks. 
  10. Jose Butto, SP, Mets (9%) – It’s not clear if Butto is going to stay in the rotation for the Mets, but I’d be pretty surprised if he didn’t. He had a tremendous start against the Royals Sunday, striking out nine over six innings of work, and now has allowed just one earned run in 12 innings while striking out 15 and walking four. In Sunday’s outing, he had 16 swinging strikes, including at least four on each of his four-seamer, slider, and changeup, and while I’m no sure there’s more than mid-rotation upside, he’s earned more respect from Fantasy players. 

Catchers

Bo Naylor, Guardians (60%) – It’s been a frustratingly slow start for Naylor so far, mostly thanks to an elevated (39%) strikeout rate and a few too many popups. That’s never been a big issue for him in the past, so I have little doubt that Naylor is going to fix that and get back on the right track. He still has top-12 catcher upside if he’s been dropped anywhere.

Deep-league target: Danny Jansen, Blue Jays (18%) – Jansen is expected to return to the Blue Jays perhaps as early as this week, and the Blue Jays really need him with Alejandro Kirk looking worse than ever in the early going. It’s not out of the question to think Jansen could be the top option for the Blue Jays moving forward.

First Base

Nate Lowe, Rangers (53%) – Low made his rehab assignment debut Friday, as he works his way back from an oblique injury. Lowe showed impact upside in 2022, but even if he can’t get back to that level again, he combined for 171 combined runs and RBI in 2023 and should be a solid starting CI at worst in the Rangers lineup. 

Deep-league target: Gavin Sheets, White Sox (11%) – Sheets is probably the best hitter in the White Sox lineup right now, which says a lot of bad things about how their season is going right now. However, he’s going to keep hitting in the middle of the lineup for the foreseeable future, and might have 20-plus homer upside with decent RBI numbers moving forward.

Second base

Jordan Westburg, Orioles (50%) – Westburg has gotten a bit lost in the shuffle among the Orioles incredible stock of young hitters, especially after an underwhelming rookie campaign, but he’s been pretty impressive in the early going in Year 2. He’s hitting .265/.345/.510 through 14 games, while sporting an elite 94.0 mph average exit velocity and 59.5% hard-hit rate. There’s a bit of speed in his profile, too, enough to think he could end up stealing double-digit bases over a full season, in addition to 25-homer upside. Even in a home park that is going to make it tough to maximize his power, Westburg belongs on more teams than his current roster rate. 

Deep-league target: Luis Garcia, Nationals (7%) – Garcia somehow hasn’t hit one over the fences yet, but he does have seven doubles in 13 games, while sporting dramatically improved quality-of-contact metrics. There’s always been upside here, and maybe he’s just starting to tap into it.

Third base

Michael Busch, Cubs (60%) – I’ll admit, the fact that the Dodgers more or less gave up on Busch scared me a bit, but he’s looking like the guy we thought he could be based on his incredible minor-league production. Busch has now homered in four straight games, and he’s putting up pretty ridiculous quality-of-contact numbers, ranking in the top 15% in the league in average exit velocity, barrel rate, and expected wOBA, among other numbers. For a player with a career .293/.385/.544 line a Triple-A, this hot start might just be for real. 

Deep-league target: Josh Smith, Rangers (10%) – There isn’t much exciting about Smith’s profile, but he’s playing pretty regularly for the Rangers right now and is getting on base and making a ton of contact while starting against righties. In this lineup, that might be enough to make him useful.

Shortstop

Vaughn Grissom, Red Sox (37%) – Grissom began his rehab assignment at Triple-A Friday, and while I’d expect it might be a somewhat lengthy one after he missed the entirety of spring due to injury, his return is now imminent. Whether that means he’ll be back this week or next, you want him on your roster if you can get him, because Grissom could be a batting average standout in Fenway Park. 

Deep-league target: Blaze Alexander, Diamondbacks (17%) – Alexander is hitting .313/.389/.500 and has some prospect pedigree, so maybe he can keep this up. He’s certainly going to get the opportunity thanks to the Diamondbacks injuries in the middle infield.

Outfield

Colton Cowser, Orioles (76%) – Cowser showed his upside in that series against the Red Sox this week, driving in 10 runs in three games. He’s already seemingly forced his way into the everyday lineup, and if he keeps crushing the ball – he’s in the 97th percentile in expected wOBA right now – I don’t see why playing time should be an issue for him moving forward. 

Esteury Ruiz, Athletics (55%) – I didn’t think it ever made much sense for the A’s to send Ruiz down, so I can hardly claim to have any insight into when they’re going to call him back up. But he’s hitting .333 with six walks in 10 games since being sent down to Triple-A while the other outfielders on the A’s roster are hitting .216/.289/.339, so it has to be pretty soon, right? 

Jack Suwinski, Pirates (45%) – Suwinski never lacked for pop; the problem for him has always been making enough contact for it to matter. Well, in the early going, he’s showing some signs of having figured out the latter issue, sporting an 18.9% strikeout rate with dramatically improved underlying plate discipline numbers. If he manages to sustain that while hitting for power, we could see a significant breakout here for Suwinski. 

Deep-league targets: Jurickson Profar, Padres (27%), Josh H. Smith, Rangers (11), Ramon Laureano, Guardians (4%) – We have a long enough track record for Profar that I don’t see much reason to buy into his 91.9 mph average exit velocity as anything more than a hot streak. But it’s a hot streak that is currently going on, as he has an OPS north of 1.000 in April so far.   

Relievers 

Kirby Yates, Rangers (12%) – There was no save situation Sunday, so we don’t know how the Rangers are likely to use their late-inning relievers, but it doesn’t seem unreasonable to think Yates might get the next save situation. After all, on Friday, Jose LeClerc was working the sixth inning, while Yates got the ninth in a four-run game. David Robertson could also figure into the team’s plans, but if you have to add one to speculate on, Yates seems like the priority right now. 

Deep-league target: Anthony Bender, Marlins (2%) – Tanner Scott’s struggles continued Sunday in a blown save to the Braves, and he now has 10 walks to just seven strikeouts in 7.2 innings of work. He’s looked awful since the start of the spring, while Bender has 11 strikeouts to two walks in his return from Tommy John surgery and seems like the likeliest candidate to get a save opportunity if the Marlins turn away from Scott. One dark horse contender here, of course, is A.J. Puk, who could get moved back to the bullpen if the Marlins decide to take him out of the rotation, which seems likely.





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