MLB FAAB Factor: The Cream Will Rise

MLB FAAB Factor: The Cream Will Rise

This article is part of our MLB FAAB Factor series.

This FAAB article is in addition to the AL and NL FAAB articles that run Sunday. Bids are based on a $100 FAAB budget. Throughout the season, this column will have two goals:

1. Identify FAAB targets for fantasy managers in leagues with Thursday FAAB.

2. Offer a preview of FAAB targets ahead of Sunday's columns.

Memorial Day Weekend is here, and that means there's an extra day of baseball watching and obsessing over fantasy teams and player performances. This holiday, though, makes me miss the great Hall of Famer Vin Scully. Every year during the broadcast on this day of remembrance, Scully would spin some yarm about either World War II or how Memorial Day came about. For some reason, players often fouled off two-strike, two-out pitches so that his tales wouldn't end early. 

So as we celebrate however we choose this weekend, it's also a great time to remember any friends or family members who served our country. And to thank them for their service. 

This time of year, fantasy managers also could be taking harder looks at players who have not lived up to draft capital as of now. For every Shohei Ohtani, Mookie Betts, Kyle Tucker and Tarik Skubal getting off to great starts, there are Ronald Acuna, Julio Rodriguez, Matt Olson and Pablo Lopez who are leaving many fans and managers wanting.

Those players have fantasy managers tearing their hair out — at least those who have hair. Yet I remember a

This FAAB article is in addition to the AL and NL FAAB articles that run Sunday. Bids are based on a $100 FAAB budget. Throughout the season, this column will have two goals:

1. Identify FAAB targets for fantasy managers in leagues with Thursday FAAB.

2. Offer a preview of FAAB targets ahead of Sunday's columns.

Memorial Day Weekend is here, and that means there's an extra day of baseball watching and obsessing over fantasy teams and player performances. This holiday, though, makes me miss the great Hall of Famer Vin Scully. Every year during the broadcast on this day of remembrance, Scully would spin some yarm about either World War II or how Memorial Day came about. For some reason, players often fouled off two-strike, two-out pitches so that his tales wouldn't end early. 

So as we celebrate however we choose this weekend, it's also a great time to remember any friends or family members who served our country. And to thank them for their service. 

This time of year, fantasy managers also could be taking harder looks at players who have not lived up to draft capital as of now. For every Shohei Ohtani, Mookie Betts, Kyle Tucker and Tarik Skubal getting off to great starts, there are Ronald Acuna, Julio Rodriguez, Matt Olson and Pablo Lopez who are leaving many fans and managers wanting.

Those players have fantasy managers tearing their hair out — at least those who have hair. Yet I remember a wise saying that I read a long time ago: The cream rises. The best of the best, their numbers end up there at the end of the season.

Derek Jeter in 2004 is a prime example I like to refer to. On May 25 of that year, Jeter went 1-for-6 and his batting average rested at a sub-Mendoza .189. A month away from turning 30, fans and media had to be wondering if something was up with the Captain. Then he went a combined 9-for-16 on the next three games, and raised his batting average a whopping 32 points. 

In the final 111 games through the rest of the season, he hit .336 with 94 runs scored, 20 homers and 20 stolen bases. His OPS was a sturdy .946. The reports of his demise were greatly exaggerated. All was fine in Gotham. At least until the Yankees were up 3-0 on the Red Sox that fall. But that's for another day.

What needs to be remembered is that great players, especially those in their prime, they are the cream that rises. Rafael Furcal, a notorious slow starter, used to remind the media that it was not the way he started, it's the way he finishes. Remember that this Memorial Day weekend. 

Now it's time to check out some players to recommend in this week's MLB FAAB Factor. Rostership rates are in Yahoo leagues. 

Starting Pitcher

Tyler Anderson, Los Angeles Angels (38%)
Three straight victories, with what's largely a collection of castoffs and Quadruple-A players, has to make fantasy managers notice Anderson. Over those three solid starts, he has a 1.05 WHIP and more-pedestrian 3.60 ERA, striking out 13 batters. But pitching well against the Royals, Rangers and Astros is worth at least taking a flier on Anderson. Even if that flier would be against the Yankees next week. At least it's a home game. FAAB: $3

Brandon Pfaadt, Arizona Diamondbacks (67%)
The former top prospect now has three straight quality starts, the latest a six-inning outing where he allowed two runs and struck out seven against the mighty Dodgers. It was just his second win of the season, and first since beating Colorado on March 31.

Pfaadt does not have a dominant fastball — his average velocity is 92.8 mph — though he does have an impressive barrel rate allowed of 4.6 percent, which is in the 82nd percentile in the league. A road game in Texas against the world champion Rangers is on tap for Pfaadt next week. FAAB: $5

Ben Lively, Cleveland Indians (20%)
All three of Lively's victories have come in the month of May, with his latest being a 3-2 victory over the Mets where he allowed one run on six hits in 5.2 innings on May 20. He struck out seven to equal his season high.

The well-traveled right-hander is taking advantage of the opportunity with the Guardians' highly regarded pitching coaches. He's also going to try to take advantage of a start against the Angels, scheduled for May 26. Lively has already defeated the Angels on May 4, going six innings of one-run ball. FAAB: $4

Alek Manoah, Toronto Blue Jays (51%)
For those who missed the recommendation from a couple weeks back, we're rooting for fun when it comes to Manoah. Mic up Manoah for an inning again! The 285-pounder looks more like a defensive lineman than a pitcher, but he now has back-to-back solid starts after giving up just one hit and one walk in seven shutout innings against the Rays.

Up next, the Tigers on May 24, and that team from the Motor City is merely tied for 26th in the big leagues in home runs. Manoah's rostership number jumped 25 percentage points in the past few days. That number should continue to grow as people look to stream the burly right-hander in case he's rediscovered his 2022 form. FAAB: $7

Relief Pitcher

Reed Garrett, New York Mets (55%)
Garrett was already a popular reliever on the waiver wire, as he's accumulated five relief wins and an incredible strikeout rate of 41.0 percent. And that was before Edwin Diaz was given his sabbatical from the ninth inning. Garrett subbed in with a two-inning effort on May 19, striking out four batters in the process to close out the victory.

The right-hander hasn't had a save opportunity since, but it looks like he'll be the first option for saves for the Mets until Diaz rights the ship and plays the trumpets again sometime this summer. FAAB: $10

Daniel Hudson, Los Angeles Dodgers (30%)
With Evan Phillips (hamstring) likely needing multiple rehab outings before being reinstated from the IL, Hudson remains one of the first options for closing duties for the Dodgers. He closed the 6-4 victory for the Boys in Blue on May 20 and has been getting plenty of high-leverage work in his return from injury. He has eight holds on the season.

A word of warning: the Dodgers travel to Cincinnati and that bandbox called Great American Ball Park this weekend. If saves are needed, take a shot with Hudson. Just remember that opportunities might not be pretty this weekend for a pitcher with a 33.3 percent groundball rate. FAAB: $8

Catcher

David Fry, Cleveland Guardians (33%)
A catcher hitting .338 with a 1.064 OPS and five home runs in just 80 at-bats? Well, more of a first baseman and outfielder for the Guardians this year, though fantasy managers will happily make Fry wear the tools of ignorance in their lineups. 

In his last 11 games, Fry is hitting .370 with a 1.064 OPS, adding in four home runs and nine RBI. The second-year player also has a great K:BB of 22:19. He's been hitting either fourth or fifth in his last six starts. FAAB: $6

First Base

Alec Burleson, St. Louis Cardinals (25%)
In the Cardinals' last 13 games, Burleson has started and hit in the heart of the lineup in 12 of them. The .413 average with 1.121 OPS will keep him in there, as will the three home runs, seven RBI and eight runs scored.

Burleson has kept Matt Carpenter on the bench, though the longtime Cardinal was expected to get plenty of work at DH this season. Burleson qualifying in the outfield as well only adds to his value. FAAB: $8

Luke Raley, Seattle Mariners (33%)
From May 13 to 21, Raley went 15-for-33, which was good for a .455 average and 1.242 OPS. He smacked three of his four home runs on the season during that stretch and added a pair of steals in that span. Raley also scored seven times and drove in six runs.

Raley is sitting most of the time against lefties, so he's someone to keep an eye on in leagues with daily moves. His hot streak has moved him up to the third spot in the lineup in his most recent start on May 21. FAAB: $4

Second Base

Dylan Moore, Seattle Mariners (13%)
Batting ninth on May 21, Moore went 3-for-4 with two home runs and four RBI. That's part of a six-game run where the second baseman went 9-for-19 with six runs and six RBI for a Mariners team that needs some offense — remember that J-Rod mention up higher in this article. Seattle is first in the AL West standings, but last in runs scored in the division. FAAB: $3

Nick Gonzales, Pittsburgh Pirates (6%)
Paul Skenes is not the norm when it comes to prospects getting to the big leagues. Gonzales is on the other, more likely, end of the spectrum, going from seventh overall pick in the 2020 MLB Draft to scuffling in his big-league debut with a .209 average in 35 games last season. He picked himself up and mashed at Triple-A in the early part of 2024 to the tune of a 1.039 OPS in 30 games.

Gonzales has continued hitting since his recent promotion on May 10. He's 5-for-14 in his last three games, driving in three runs. Over the past six games, Gonzales has hit fifth in each game. He does not look like he'll be going back down to the minor leagues anytime soon. FAAB: $6

Third Base

Matt Chapman, San Francisco Giants (65%)
Going 11-for-18 (.611, not a typo) in his past five games, Chapman has filled out the stat sheet for fantasy managers. Over that span he's scored 10 runs, driven in five more and hit two home runs. He's even pitched in with a pair of steals. 

Chapman appears to have gotten comfortable across the Bay Area from his former Oakland home. The Giants need runs, and have been hitting the slick-fielding third baseman either third or cleanup in the past eight games. FAAB: $9

Colt Keith, Detroit Tigers (11%)
Hitting an anemic .171 after going 0-for-2 on May 15, Keith banged out four hits – in five at-bats –in his next game and scored three runs with a pair of RBI. That started a run where he went 11-for-18 (sound familiar?) with a 1.354 OPS. The former top prospect has four RBI in those five games. 

Has Keith figured it out? Hard to say, but it's worth taking a chance on a young player possibly coming into his own. FAAB: $4

Shortstop

Tyler Freeman, Cleveland Guardians (29%)
On May 12, Freeman was inserted at the top of the Guardians' lineup, and promptly went 0-for-5. After that he's been blanked just once in nine games, going 11-for-28 (.393 average) and scored 10 times. He's even stolen two bags. 

Freeman is eligible at four different positions, so he's that movable chess piece that's a dream for fantasy managers. FAAB: $5

Masyn Winn, St. Louis Cardinals (8%)
The rookie shortstop is riding a 14-game hitting streak, going 17-for-47 (.362) with two home runs, six runs and seven RBI. He's still hitting primarily toward the bottom of the lineup, but on May 22 he took advantage of a rare move to the leadoff spot and he responded by going 2-for-4 with a home run and two runs scored. Could that be the sign of more to come for a prospect stepping into the long shadow of Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith? FAAB: $4

Outfield

Luis Matos, San Francisco Giants (52%)
Which Matos is the real one? The one who hit .218 with a .663 OPS in 31 Triple-A games in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League? Or the one who upon getting called up to the big leagues on May 12 went on a five-game run where he went 10-for-22 (.455) with 16 RBI? There's a big middle ground where he'll likely reside.

Matos is going to have a long runway the rest of this season, as Jung Hoo Lee is out for the season with a shoulder injury. Matos is the only player on the Giants who can play center field regularly, and at 22, San Francisco needs to find out if this promising young outfielder can be a long-term starter alongside Lee next season. This is a volume play on the sheer number of at-bats he'll have, though there likely will be slumps happening at times in 2024. FAAB: $8

Byron Buxton, Minnesota Twins (37%)
The toolsy outfielder returned on May 18 after a 17-day stint on the IL, and now has a hit in all four games he's started. He even hit a pair of home runs on May 21 in Washington. That's what he's capable of when he's on the field. "When he's on the field" is the exact term that we need to focus on, as Buxton has a long and winding injury history. 

The play here is to snatch him up and see if Buxton can help fantasy rosters while he's healthy. Those home runs against the Nationals are a good indication that he's in a good place now. Just keep the fingers crossed that he remains that way for a long stretch. FAAB: $5

Alex Verdugo, New York Yankees (52%)
The cleanup hitter for the Yankees is available in almost half of all Yahoo leagues? The guy hitting behind Juan Soto and Aaron Judge? That's right, Verdugo has started and hit fourth in all but one game since May 7 and is heating up at the plate. He has at least a hit in eight of his last nine games and in his last three games has five RBI.

Verdugo could be an RBI machine rest of season, and there are few better places for a left-handed hitter to aim for than that short porch in right field at Yankee Stadium. He may sit against tough lefties, but will be in there a great majority of the time. FAAB: $8

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jorge Martin
Jorge Martin is a reformed sportswriter whose career highlight so far has been his eight years as the Publications Director for the Los Angeles Dodgers, his hometown team. In 2020, he launched the Familia FFB podcast, where he analyzed and argued fantasy football with his two cousins, adding a Latin flavor to the breakdowns. He also debuted the familiaffb.com blog at the same time, where he posted his first fantasy content - he's now a member of FSWA. Most recently he's written for RotoWire, Yahoo Fantasy, FantasyPros and Fantasy Points, creating both football and baseball fantasy content, his first loves. He used to hate the DH, but now would rather drink bad tequila than watch pitchers hit.
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