Sean Murphy is leading the A’s in hitting this season. (Dallas Timko)
The 2022 Fantasy baseball season wraps up shortly, so here’s hoping you’re just completing a great campaign and that our waiver wire recommendations helped you earn success.
The waiver wire can offer value in many 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 rank players higher 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, 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 2022 MLB Wire Troll All-Star Team.
Dates in parentheses represent when we recommended each player.
Sean Murphy, Oakland Athletics (Week One): We recommended Murphy in our season debut, and this pick really panned out as he put together his best season yet. He was not his usual drag on your team’s BA (actually leading the A’s in batting) thanks to a K rate that keeps improving. Murphy’s extra-base power has dipped each season (not that he doesn’t still have power, as you can see in the video below), but he’s compensated for that by becoming a more well-rounded offensive force. He killed fastballs even more than usual, also turning in better work against curves and changeups, but sliders continue to be his Achille’s Heel.
Honourable mentions: Shea Langeliers, Oakland Athletics (Week Six); and Danny Jansen, Toronto Blue Jays (Week Six).
Brandon Drury, 1B/OF/2B/3B, Cincinnati Reds/San Diego Padres (Week Seven): We pimped Drury fairly early on, and it was another stellar selection as he enjoyed his best year. He was a monster in June, enjoyed a strong July, but struggled in August before righting the ship with a strong September. Drury spent most of the season with the Reds, getting more action than he had in a couple of years while enjoying a power breakout. Since arriving in San Diego at the deadline, he hasn’t hit nearly as well, but has turned that around more recently (.275 BA, 910 OPS in September). Drury never hit sliders better and did better against changeups, too, and while he improved against cutters, it’s still the pitch that gives him the most trouble.
Honourable mentions: Albert Pujols, St. Louis Cardinals (Week One); and Harold Ramirez, 1B/OF, Tampa Bay Rays (Week Nine).
Vaughn Grissom, 2B/SS, Atlanta Braves (Week 20): Grissom burst onto the scene late in the season, but has been a difference maker from Day One. He’s hit extremely well, flashing decent power and nice speed. Grissom has excelled against fastballs and sliders, but has had major issues with curveballs so far.
Honourable mentions: Matt Carpenter, OF/2B, New York Yankees (Week Nine); and Bryson Stott, SS/2B, Philadelphia Phillies (Week 19).
Elvis Andrus, Chicago White Sox (Week 21): Andrus was having a slightly more productive season in Oakland, but he didn’t catch our eye until a trade to the Pale Hose, and he’s been vastly better since. In fact, since arriving in Chicago, he’s been playing his best (725 OPS) since his career year with Texas back in 2017. After struggling to hit fastballs last year, Andrus is back to smoking them, while also feasting on cutters and sinkers. Sliders, however, have been a real challenge.
Honourable mentions: Nico Hoerner, SS/2B, Chicago Cubs (Week 14); and Nick Gordon, OF/2B/SS, Minnesota Twins (Week 10).
Christopher Morel, OF/2B/3B/SS, Chicago Cubs (Week Nine): Morel showed nice extra-base pop in a fairly productive rookie season. More valuable than his numbers thanks to his great position eligibility, he spent most of the time batting leadoff, so chalked up a nice run total. Morel also pitched in with a decent amount of steals, while doing his best work against four-seam fastballs and having his worst struggles against cutters.
Honourable mentions: Kyle Farmer, SS/3B, Cincinnati Reds (Week 10); and Brendan Donovan, 3B/1B/2B/OF, St. Louis Cardinals (Week 12).
Andrew Vaughn, OF/1B, Chicago White Sox (Week One): Another pick we nailed in our season debut, Vaughn took a big step forward in his sophomore campaign, hitting much better and enjoying a far more productive effort. He saw more PT, and while his reduced walk rate was a disappointment, a much higher BA meant he didn’t suffer in the OBP department. There’s next to no speed here, but if his walk rate bounces back, Vaughn is going to be a major asset in OBP leagues next year. He managed to make even better contact this year despite seeing slightly more pitches in the zone.
Oscar Gonzalez, Cleveland Guardians (Week Nine): One of several rookies to grace our team this year, Gonzalez has hit very well and come through with some timely hits along the way. His gap power has been impressive, helping carve out a very serviceable 775 OPS. Gonzalez is a free swinger, but doesn’t whiff much. He tends to swing at pitches outside the zone fairly often, but makes contact with those offerings at a good rate.
Corbin Carroll, Arizona Diamondbacks (Week 17): Carroll has struggled down the stretch, but played very well when first recalled by the Snakes (800 OPS in limited action in August). He’s flashed solid extra-base sock while putting up some decent counting cat numbers. With Carroll, it’s all about potential, as he’s capable of a much higher BA (.287 at Triple-A) and will likely be an excellent fielder in time (rated 60 for the future).
Honourable mentions: Connor Joe, OF/1B, Colorado Rockies (Week One); Jose Siri, OF, Houston Astros/Tampa Bay Rays (Week Seven); Jarren Duran, Boston Red Sox (Week Six); Robert Hassell III, San Diego Padres/Washington Nationals (Week Six); Yonathan Daza, Colorado Rockies (Week 15); and Lane Thomas, Washington Nationals (Week 24).
Jeffrey Springs, SP/RP, Tampa Bay Rays (Week Nine): Springs was a real revelation off the wire this season, recording six quality starts in 24 tries, and he’s been particularly sharp down the stretch (1.44 ERA, 0.96 WHIP in 31 1/3 IP over his last six starts). He shattered his personal best in ERA by nearly a full run, while once again improving his control, now at near elite levels. Springs managed to get batters to swing more often than ever this season.
Jose Quintana, SP/RP, Pittsburgh Pirates/St. Louis Cardinals (Week Four): The Cards really nailed it when they dealt for Quintana (and Jordan Montgomery, for that matter) at the trade deadline. Quintana was having a splendid season with the Pirates (best ERA since 2016), masked somewhat by a poor record, but took it to a whole new level in St. Louis. He produced a winning record with even better control. All told, Quintana produced a WAR of 4.0, his best since racking up 6.0 with the Pale Hose in 2016.
Ross Stripling, SP/RP, Toronto Blue Jays (Week 12): Using a slider-heavy approach against righties, Stripling did much better work against them this year (682 OPS vs. 828 last year). This helped him produce results that matched his best ever effort with the Dodgers in 2018, although much better control was also a huge factor. Still, getting a 3.16 ERA out of Stripling was a massive boon for the Jays considering how lost he looked in his first season in Toronto in 2020, with only slightly better results last year. A career-best WARP of 9.0? No wonder he was such a great free agent find off the wire this season.
Johnny Cueto, Chicago White Sox (Week 10): Cueto came off the scrap pile to pitch his most innings since 2016, but perhaps the workload is wearing him down as he looked very shaky over his last three starts. Double-digit losses for the first time since 2009 wasn’t what we wanted, but he was harder to hit en route to his best ERA in four years. Still, who can forget his epic meltdown from 2013?
Happy Johnny Cueto Day to all who celebrate. https://t.co/xiJ9y6NDpO
— Terry Kelly (@kellytm) October 1, 2022
Honourable mentions: Bailey Falter, SP/RP, Philadelphia Phillies (Week 22); Matt Manning, Detroit Tigers (Week 15); Mitch Keller, Pittsburgh Pirates (Week 13); and Kyle Bradish, Baltimore Orioles (Week 22).
David Robertson, Chicago Cubs/Philadelphia Phillies (Week One): We jumped all over Robertson’s revival in the opening week of the season, so this one really struck gold. He was already enjoying his best season since 2013 before the Cubs peddled him to Philly at the deadline. Robertson wasn’t quite as sharp with the Phils, yet continued to pile up the Ks and saves. He’s always been a great source of strikeouts, and this year was more of the same (over 12 per nine after the trade). Wildness, however, was an even bigger issue than usual for Robertson.
Felix Bautista, Baltimore Orioles (Week 19): Few players benefited from the trade deadline more than Bautista, who took over as the O’s closer in the wake of Jorge Lopez getting moved to Minny. Another top rookie, Bautista proved to be a workhorse and wound up with an impressive 15 saves — with a dozen coming after we recommended him. Armed with perhaps the best heater in the system, this huge Dominican could slide under the radar when the closer run happens in your 2023 draft. Don’t sleep on Bautista.
Seranthony Dominguez, Philadelphia Phillies (Week 12): Dominguez enjoyed a superb season, slightly marred by a second half injury and real swoon since his return in mid-September (10.50 ERA for the month). Still, he posted a winning record and a new career best ERA. The Phils babied him a bit with his outings, but Dominguez had enough Ks, holds and saves to offer great value off the wire. If this Dominican righty can stay healthy next year, he can be a real asset as either a high-strikeout, non-closing reliever or even as a ninth-inning man.
Honourable mentions: Justin Steele, SP/RP, Chicago Cubs (Week 19); Erik Swanson, Seattle Mariners (Week Six); and Austin Voth, RP/SP, Baltimore Orioles (Week 20).
RotoRob Tune of the Day
Rock band New Order was formed by vocalist/guitarist Bernard Sumner, bassist Peter Hook and drummer Stephen Morris. Here’s another track from the 1994 London Records compilation (the best of) NewOrder, “Run,” which was the final single from the 1989 album, Technique.