The 2023 MLB Wire Troll All-Star Team
Yainer Diaz had a brilliant rookie season. (Kevin M. Cox/Associated Press)
The 2023 Fantasy baseball season is nearly complete, and we trust that you’re putting the finishing touches on a successful year with plenty of thanks for our waiver wire recommendations.
The waiver wire can offer value in multiple ways. Sometimes, it provides a temporary fix to an injury issue or it’s simply a case of jumping on a player delivering short-term value. But when you pick up a player and he sticks on your team for all or most of the season and contributes throughout, that is the true definition of waiver wire gold.
Given this, we give more weight to players that were identified earlier in the season, as — in theory — they had an opportunity to drive value for your team over a longer stretch.
Naturally, we had plenty of misses along the way (especially given that we tend to dig deep), and because of the weekly nature of our column it means that some hot free agents get scooped up days before we can tout them. But the fact is that if you managed to wind up with, say, three or four of these guys on your team, you were probably a pretty happy owner this season.
Note that we took some liberties moving multi-position eligible players around to ensure the team was the best it can be.
Without further ado, we present the 2023 MLB Wire Troll All-Star Team.
Dates in parentheses represent when we recommended each player.
Yainer Diaz, Houston Astros (Week 15): It wasn’t the best seasons for nabbing catchers off the wire but Diaz put up a tremendous rookie effort, driven mostly with his bat (although he actually also grades out well defensively, except for framing pitches). Thanks to his power (see video below) and BA (let’s overlook his OBP), he was a real asset in all formats.
Honourable mention: Bo Naylor, Cleveland Guardians (Week 12)
Wilmer Flores, 1B/2B/3B, San Francisco Giants (Week 18): Much of Flores’ value comes from his defensive flexibility, but he was never more potent with the bat than this season despite not seeing as much action (which held his counting cats in check). However, he enjoyed career bests in BA (driven by a nice bounce back in contact rate) and homers, so we’ll take that, thank you very much. Now, if we can just somehow combine the amount of action Flores got in 2022 with his 2023 production we’d really be onto something here.
Honourable mention: Nolan Schanuel, Los Angeles Angels (Week 21)
Zack Gelof, Oakland Athletics (Week 20): Gelof has scored at least one run in nearly half his games so far and likely would have been more seriously involved in the AL ROY discussion had he arrived in the majors a bit earlier this season. Still, we love how well he’s hit and his power-speed combo is very Fantasy friendly. Gelof’s speed is currently his chief weapon, but there’s room to grow with both his hit tool and game power. We could be looking at the next Ozzie Albies, but with better base stealing skills.
Honourable mention: Davis Schneider, Toronto Blue Jays (Week 23)
J.P. Crawford, Seattle Mariners (Week 18): Crawford has quietly put together a career year, really picking things up in the second half, including a 996 OPS in July and a season-best four homers plus a nine-game hit streak (snapped Wednesday) already in September. He locked down the Mariner shortstop gig this year despite some injury issues again, but what’s really stood out is the improvements in power and walk rate. Crawford now brings a bit of everything to your team except speed.
Honourable mention: Jordan Lawlar, Arizona Diamondbacks (Week 15)
Jake Burger, Chicago White Sox/Miami Marlins (Week Six): On Tuesday, Burger extended his hit streak to six games with his fifth multi-hit showing over that stretch (including the game-winning single in the ninth). The next day he had to leave early with quad tightness. Such is the fickle nature of the game, but it’s still been a breakout campaign for Burger, who began the season with the Pale Hose, flashing major extra-base sock, before a trade to Miami, where he’s taken his game to an even higher level with some impressive counting cats. He really seems to have found a home batting fifth or sixth, so thankfully he was back in action on Friday.
Honourable mention: Maikel Garcia, Kansas City Royals (Week 13)
Nolan Jones, Colorado Rockies (Week 10): After losing 94 games last season, somehow the Rox found a way to suck even more this year, so uncovering glimmers of hope hasn’t been easy. However, the emergence of Jones definitely qualifies as he’s put together a season that deserves some ROY consideration, even if Corbin Carroll has probably already clinched that honour. Jones was recalled for good in late-May and has recorded some impressive counting cat numbers since, while flashing a much-improved walk rate compared to his first taste of the bigs in 2022. He still whiffs too much, but has made modest improvements in this regard as well, and if that continues next year, he’ll have a chance to be a fixture in Colorado’s lineup.
Mike Tauchman, Chicago Cubs (Week Nine): Veteran journeyman Tauchman saw his most action ever, settling in as the Cubs’ primary leadoff man while enjoying his finest season from a volume perspective. His best walk rate since his rookie season in 2017 and a nice bounce back in BA after a horrendous 2022 were the highlights here, along with a boatload of runs batting at the top of a surprisingly effective Cub lineup.
Nelson Velazquez, Chicago Cubs/Kansas City Royals (Week Eight): Velazquez didn’t get nearly as much action with the Cubs as he did in his rookie season in 2022, but he hit well in the brief time he was given in the first half. A deadline deal to KC opened up more chances for him and he was even more productive with the Royals. Velazquez will need to get his walk rate back to where it was in 2022 (or beyond) to carve out a larger role next season, but his power remains intriguing.
Honourable mentions: Jarren Duran, Boston Red Sox (Week Six); Randal Grichuk, Colorado Rockies/Los Angeles Angels (Week Nine); and Johan Rojas, Philadelphia Phillies (Week 16)
Dane Dunning, SP/RP, Texas Rangers (Week Six): After showing improvements last year, Dunning took an even bigger step forward this season despite not being part of the Ranger rotation plan heading into 2023. He reached double digits in wins for the first time while his command bounced back after some regression in 2022. There was definitely a good amount of luck involved with Dunning’s results this year, but if you were fortunate enough to grab him early in the season, he paid some nice dividends.
Ryan Pepiot, Los Angeles Dodgers (Week 16): Pepiot has been vastly more effective so far (0.70 WHIP) than he was last year and has pitched better than any projections suggested. He keeps putting up impressive outings (five out of six so far) to the point that this kid is working his way into the postseason mix (yes, it helps that the Dodgers’ options are limited, but it’s still impressive nonetheless).
Gavin Williams, Cleveland Guardians (Week Seven): Another rookie hurler who caught the attention of Fantasy owners, Williams is one of several young Cleveland arms that gives the team hope for better times ahead. Okay, so his record is no hell (not a huge surprise given the Guardians’ woes), but he’s got a splendid ERA (and yes, good fortune has helped). While Williams’ flyball rate is up from Triple-A, it hasn’t hurt him too much thanks to a lower FB/HR rate. Did we mention that some luck was involved here (4.55 xFIP)?
Bailey Ober, Minnesota Twins (Week Six): Ober hasn’t been quite as effective as he was last year, but he’s been doing it over a much longer stretch this season, setting personal bests in games, starts, innings, wins and strikeouts. His workload likely affected him negatively as he seemed to hit a wall in August, but he’s bounced back nicely so far in September.
Honourable mentions: Kyle Hendricks, Chicago Cubs (Week Nine); J.P. France, Houston Astros (Week 13); Logan Allen, Cleveland Guardians (Week 15); and Drew Smyly, SP/RP, Chicago Cubs (Week Four)
Yennier Cano, Baltimore Orioles (Week Five): Cano isn’t a big strikeout reliever, but damn is he ever filthy good. He tied his career high in wins as part of a career year in which he had a microscopic ERA, but ultimately proved more effective as a set-up man than a closer. All told, Cano ranked 14th among all MLB relievers in +WPA.
Adbert Alzolay, Chicago Cubs (Week 10): Alzolay (forearm) is expected back soon, but his current health woes can’t diminish what he’s accomplished this season. Sure, the losses piled up, but he was strong in a setup role and proved extremely competent once he took over as the Cubs’ closer. Alzolay’s command remained superb despite a shift in his pitch mix as he reduced his fastball usage to career lows and continued to faze out his changeup (barely throwing it all this year), while going more slider-heavy than ever before. The new formula clearly worked for him.
Cole Ragans, RP/SP, Kansas City Royals (Week 20): Ragans’ transition into a quality starter since his trade to KC has been one of the season’s most pleasant surprises, continuing on Friday as he hurled his seventh QS to earn the W against Houston. Showing he can pitch deep into his starts, his hit rates and command have been off the charts as a Royal, leading to plenty of wins. Ragans has added a slider this season which has proven to be a real weapon.
Honourable mentions: Nick Pivetta, RP/SP, Boston Red Sox (Week 10); Javier Assad, RP/SP, Chicago Cubs (Week 21); and Michael King, RP/SP, New York Yankees (Week Six)
RotoRob Tune of the Day
Canadian actress/singer Arlene Duncan was better known in musical circles by Kairene. Here’s her tune “I Stand Up [R&B Mix]” from the 1997 Canadian compilation Dance Hits Supermix 2.