NL FAAB Factor: Waiver Pickups of the Week

NL FAAB Factor: Waiver Pickups of the Week

This article is part of our NL FAAB Factor series.

We have two goals for this article: 

1. Identify likely free agents and discuss their strengths and weaknesses.

2. Estimate how much of your $100 starting free-agent budget you should bid on them.

Bids in general are best guesstimates. With so much uncertainty at least initially, those values may be even greater estimates than usual. The FAAB chart below lets users easily see at a glance how certain players stack up against others and how much they should command in a variety of formats.

The chart, which is sortable by column (click on the header), include a very basic "player grade" column. This is a reflection of a player's skills and role on an A-E scale. An "A" grade is reserved for a high-impact prospect stepping into an everyday role.

If you have questions on players, I'm happy to provide my thoughts in the comments.

HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY TO ALL THE MOMS!!!

NOTE: Paul Skenes, who made his debut Saturday, isn't covered below. If you need us to recommend making a very large bid for him, might we suggest fantasy pickleball as a better option for your time?

PLAYERTEAMPOSGRADE12-Team Mixed $15-Team Mixed $NL-Only $
Mason BlackSFSPE$0$1$6
Cade CavalliWASSPD$0$1$6 (same early spec return bid)
Robert GasserMILSPC/D$1$5$9 (up if he sticks in the rotation)
Braxton GarrettMIASPD$2$7$11 (upped return bid)
Josiah Gray

We have two goals for this article: 

1. Identify likely free agents and discuss their strengths and weaknesses.

2. Estimate how much of your $100 starting free-agent budget you should bid on them.

Bids in general are best guesstimates. With so much uncertainty at least initially, those values may be even greater estimates than usual. The FAAB chart below lets users easily see at a glance how certain players stack up against others and how much they should command in a variety of formats.

The chart, which is sortable by column (click on the header), include a very basic "player grade" column. This is a reflection of a player's skills and role on an A-E scale. An "A" grade is reserved for a high-impact prospect stepping into an everyday role.

If you have questions on players, I'm happy to provide my thoughts in the comments.

HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY TO ALL THE MOMS!!!

NOTE: Paul Skenes, who made his debut Saturday, isn't covered below. If you need us to recommend making a very large bid for him, might we suggest fantasy pickleball as a better option for your time?

PLAYERTEAMPOSGRADE12-Team Mixed $15-Team Mixed $NL-Only $
Mason BlackSFSPE$0$1$6
Cade CavalliWASSPD$0$1$6 (same early spec return bid)
Robert GasserMILSPC/D$1$5$9 (up if he sticks in the rotation)
Braxton GarrettMIASPD$2$7$11 (upped return bid)
Josiah GrayWASSPD$0$1$7 (same early spec return bid)
Kyle HendricksCHISPD/E$0$1$5 (return bid)
Clayton KershawLASPC$0$1$5 (very early spec return bid)
Tylor MegillNYMSPD/ENo$0$5 (same early spec return bid)
David PetersonNYMSPDNo$0$7 (early spec return bid)
Eduardo RodriguezAZSPC$1$4Rostered
Randy VasquezSDSPD$0$2$7
Ryan FernandezSTLRPDNo$0$6
Daniel HudsonLARPC$3$9$14
Blake TreinenLARPCNo$0$6
Alex VesiaLARPD$1$4$7
Joe MantiplyAZRPDNo$0$6
A.J. PukMIARPD$0$1$5 (up if you think he closes)
Ivan HerreraSTLCD$1$5$9
Pedro PagesSTLCENoNo$5
Matt CarpenterSTLDHDNo0$6 (same return bid)
Mike FordCIN1BENo$0$6
Santiago EspinalCIN2BENoNo$5
Nick GonzalesPIT2BD/ENo$0$6
Brett WiselySF2BENo$0$6
Casey SchmittSF3BENoNo$4
Zack ShortATL3BENoNo$3
Geraldo PerdomoAZSSC/D$1$4$7 (early spec return bid)
Kris BryantCOLOFD$0$1$5 (early spec return bid)
Conner CapelCINOFENoNo$3
TJ FriedlCINOFC$714$22 (same return bid)
Jason HeywardLAOFD$0$2$7 (early spec return bid)
Heliot RamosSFOFD/ENoNo$4
Victor RoblesWASOFD/E$1$5$9
Eddie RosarioWASOFD$3$9$14

STARTING PITCHER

Mason Black, Giants: Black was promoted and made his major-league debut Monday, replacing Blake Snell (thigh) in the Giants' rotation. He took the loss against Philadelphia by allowing five runs on eight hits and three walks while striking out four over 4.1 innings. Despite the poor output, Black was solid up until the sixth inning as he gave up five hits - including a three-run homer - as part of a four-run frame. Considering his 1.01 ERA, 0.92 WHIP and 29:8 K:BB across 26.2 innings at Triple-A Sacramento and Snell's injury, Black wisely received another chance to prove himself Saturday versus Cincinnati where he only conceded one run on four hits and two walks with two Ks through 4.1 innings. 12-team Mixed: $0, 15-team Mixed: $1; 12-team NL: $6

Cade Cavalli, Nationals: Cavalli, out since March 2023 Tommy John surgery, threw 45 pitches over the equivalent of 2.2 innings in a live bullpen session (against hitters) Friday at the Nationals' spring training complex at West Palm Beach. He progressed to this stage after throwing non-live 60-pitch bullpen sessions, where he hit 96 MPH with his fastball, Cavalli will likely require at least a couple sessions before progressing to a rehab assignment which should last a few weeks, putting his return likely at the end of June or start of July. He pairs his fastball with a plus curveball, above-average slider and a decent fourth-pitch changeup and experienced control issues before while possibly struggling with his command upon coming back. But Cavalli may have the best stuff and upside on Washington's roster, making him certainly worth an add. 12-team Mixed: $0, 15-team Mixed: $1; 12-team NL: $6 (same early spec return bid)

Robert Gasser, Brewers: Gasser, who missed nearly a month while recovering from a bone spur in his left elbow, was promoted from Triple-A Nashville and started Friday against the Cardinals. He earned the win by allowing two hits and no walks and striking out four over six shutout innings. Gasser got off to a late start after the injury sidelined him for the first several weeks of the season as he posted a 5.25 ERA and 1.50 WHIP alongside a 17:6 K:BB through 12 innings in Triple-A. As our preseason outlook noted, what he lacks in quality offerings (zero plus pitches, 92 MPH average fastball velocity) he makes up for in quantity as he threw over 100 four-seamers, changeups, curveballs, cutters, sinkers, sliders and sweepers in the minors. With Wade Miley sidelined for the rest of the season, DL Hall working his way back from injury and Tobias Myers up and down, Gasser could stick in the Brewers' rotation. 12-team Mixed: $1, 15-team Mixed: $5; 12-team NL: $9 (up if he sticks in the rotation)

Braxton Garrett, Marlins: Garrett fanned 13 batters and gave up one hit and one walk over 5.2 scoreless innings in what was his final rehab start on Monday at the Marlins' rookie-level Florida Complex League affiliate. He's spent all year on the shelf while recovering from a left shoulder impingement and experienced a case of "dead arm" following an Apr. 15 bullpen session. The issue prompted the Marlins to temporarily pause Garrett's rehab assignment before he returned to action first for Triple-A Jacksonville. He compiled a 1.32 ERA, 0.73 WHIP and 20:4 K:BB in 13.2 innings across three outings between Jacksonville and the rookie-level stop. Garrett was activated Wednesday and started Sunday against Philly. 12-team Mixed: $2, 15-team Mixed: $7; 12-team NL: $11 (upped return bid)

Josiah Gray, Nationals: Gray, sidelined since his Apr. 6 start with a right elbow/forearm flexor strain and profiled last week, tossed 35 pitches Friday in a bullpen session at Fenway Park - all fastballs. He's yet to throw a breaking ball in any of his three mound bullpen sessions. Gray will need a few rounds of work where he incorporates his breaking ball before being beginning a rehab assignment. He's looking at possibly an end-of-May or early June activation if all goes according to plan. Gray went 0-2 with a 14.04 ERA in two starts before being sidelined. 12-team Mixed: $0, 15-team Mixed: $1; 12-team NL: $7 (same early spec return bid)

Kyle Hendricks, Cubs: Hendricks, out since Apr. 23 with a strained lower back, made another rehab start at Triple-A Iowa on Sunday. He registered a 12.00 ERA and 2.10 WHIP from five starts before landing on the 15-day IL and kicked off his rehab stint May 2 with Double-A Tennessee. Hendricks was to make one more start, but was activated and toed the rubber for the Cubs on Sunday with Jameson Taillon (back) not quite ready to start. 12-team Mixed: $0, 15-team Mixed: $1; 12-team NL: $5 (return bid) 

Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers: Kershaw, who underwent shoulder surgery last November, threw a 20-pitch bullpen session Tuesday - his second overall. He managed 15 pitches last week and is currently limited to fastballs. Kershaw could next advance to include breaking pitches in his mound work and ramping up to more pitches as he slowly works his way back to game action. The future Hall of Famer isn't expected to make his season debut for the Dodgers until after the All-Star break. 12-team Mixed: $0, 15-team Mixed: $1; 12-team NL: $5 (very early spec return bid) 

Tylor Megill, Mets: Megill left his season debut on Mar. 31 after four innings due to right shoulder discomfort - which turned out to be a strain - and made his fourth and possible final rehab start Sunday at Triple-A Syracuse. He gave up one earned run through four innings while striking out seven batters without surrendering a walk in his third rehab start at Double-A Binghamton. Megill fared well across his first two rehab outings by giving up one earned run through 4.2 innings while striking out 10 with no walks. If Sunday's start ends up being the 28-year-old's final rehab appearance, he would be lined up to potentially start for the Mets on Friday in Miami. Jose Butto has done well in Megill's stead, so it remains to be safe if he'll return as a starter or reliever. Even if he makes the rotation, Kodai Senga is due back at the end of the month, at which point the Mets may bounce one or two pitchers to the bullpen or minors. 12-team Mixed: No, 15-team Mixed: $0; 12-team NL: $5 (same early spec return bid) 

David Peterson, Mets: Peterson, who underwent left hip surgery during the offseason and is on the 60-day IL, tossed 3.2 scoreless innings and conceded one hit and one walk while striking out seven for Low-A St. Lucie. Through three rehab starts, he's tossed 8.2 scoreless innings with just two hits and a 16:1 K:B. Peterson should next move up to Double-A Binghamton and could return when first eligible on May 27. He fanned 128 in 111 innings last year, but walked 50 and posted a 5.03 ERA after a solid 2022. Peterson's overall performance during his month-long rehab stint as well as the state of New York's rotation by late May will likely determine whether he reclaims a starting spot or is eased back into the mix as a multi-inning reliever. 12-team Mixed: No, 15-team Mixed: $0; 12-team NL: $5 (same early spec return bid) 

Eduardo Rodriguez, Diamondbacks: Rodriguez has been sidelined all season with tightness in his pitching shoulder and has begun a throwing program out to 45 feet Friday after an MRI on Wednesday showed improvement. The left-hander had been progressing, but was shut down from throwing in mid April after he experienced renewed tightness. Rodriguez, signed to a four-year, $74 million contract with the Diamondbacks at the end of 2023, will require a lengthy build-up period before embarking on a minor-league rehab assignment and is likely at least a month away from making his season debut. 12-team Mixed: $1, 15-team Mixed: $4; 12-team NL: $7 (early spec return bid) 

Randy Vasquez, Padres: Vasquez was optioned to Triple-A El Paso on Apr. 26 after making a couple starts for San Diego, but was called back up last Sunday with Joe Musgrove (elbow) landing on the injured list. He allowed five earned runs with a 5:3 K:BB over 7.2 frames in his two outings while stepping into the rotation for Musgrove on Tuesday against the Cubs. Vasquez only gave up one run on five hits with six strikeouts in 4.1 innings during that appearance to earn at least one more start while Musgrove is sidelined. If Matt Waldron continues to struggle and Vasquez pitches well, he could remain in the rotation. 12-team Mixed: $0, 15-team Mixed: $2; 12-team NL: $7

RELIEF PITCHER 

Ryan Fernandez, Cardinals: Fernandez, a 23rd-round selection by the Red Sox in 2018, was a Rule 5 pick of the Cardinals this past offseason. He enjoyed a solid spring training to make St. Louis's roster and is being used mainly in low leverage situations, though he's proved his worth with a 2.20 ERA, 1.04 WHIP and 19:5 K:BB in 16.1 innings across 12 appearances. 12-team Mixed: No, 15-team Mixed: $0; 12-team NL: $6

Daniel Hudson/Blake Treinen/Alex Vesia, Dodgers: Evan Phillips went on the IL last Sunday with a Grade 1 strained hamstring and is expected to miss the minimum. In his stead, Hudson - who missed almost all of 2023 with knee issues - is the favorite to close, which was the case Wednesday when he registered the save. But Vesia, who has been arguably LA's best reliever (outside of Phillips) this season with a 1.56 ERA, 1.15 WHIP and 20:12 K:BB over 17.1 innings, earned the save Monday. Treinen, sidelined after suffered a bruised lung when he was struck in the chest by a comebacker in early March, returned to action last Sunday. He's being used as a setup man, but could also notch a save or two. Hudson - 12-team Mixed: $3, 15-team Mixed: $9; 12-team NL: $14; Treinen - 12-team Mixed: No, 15-team Mixed: $0; 12-team NL: $6; Vesla - 12-team Mixed: $1, 15-team Mixed: $4; 12-team NL: $7

Joe Mantiply, Diamondbacks: Mantiply struck out one in a scoreless two-thirds of an inning to record his first save of the season Wednesday. With Paul Sewald unavailable after making his season debut Tuesday and Kevin Ginkel struggling to shut the door in the ninth, Mantiply got the call to close it out. Sewald represents Arizona's top option for saves, though Mantiply could see further situational chances as the team's top lefty reliever. He's been reasonably effective this season having recorded a 3.52 ERA, 1.17 WHIP and 13:6 K:BB through 15.1 innings with 22 holds in 2022. 12-team Mixed: No, 15-team Mixed: $0; 12-team NL: $6 

A.J. Puk, Marlins: Puk, sidelined since Apr. 20 with shoulder fatigue, kicked off a rehab stint on May 3. The left-hander broke camp as a member of the Miami rotation after a solid spring, but hit the injured list after turning in a 9.22 ERA and 2.63 WHIP through four starts. Puk will work out of the bullpen once the Marlins activate him and could immediately settle into a high-leverage role in front of closer Tanner Scott upon his return to the bigs. With Miami struggling, Scott could be dealt to open the closer role to Puk or Andrew Nardi. 12-team Mixed: $0, 15-team Mixed: $1; 12-team NL: $5 (up if think he eventually closes)

CATCHER 

Ivan Herrera/Pedro Pages, Cardinals: Willson Contreras was placed on the 10-day injured list Wednesday with a fractured forearm suffered on a J.D. Martinez backswing, with the problem likely to keep him out for 6-to-8 weeks. Herrera, who stood in for Contreras when he was hurt earlier in the year, should get most of the playing time behind the plate with Pages and his breakthrough campaign at Double-A Springfield spelling him occasionally. Herrera took a big step forward last season at Triple-A Memphis with a .291/.451/.500 line alongside 10 homers and 11 steals. He's showed some pop at the plate with the Cardinals and should get consistent run while Contreras is out. Herrera - 12-team Mixed: $1, 15-team Mixed: $5; 12-team NL: $9. Pages - 12-team Mixed: No, 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team NL: $4 

DESIGNATED HITTER 

Matt Carpenter, Cardinals: Carpenter, sidelined with a strained right oblique since Apr. 4, rejoined the Cardinals on Saturday. He logged four games at Triple-A Memphis after two at Double-A Springfield on a rehab assignment. He made the St. Louis Opening Day roster after a strong spring where he hit .346 with five doubles, a homer and five RBI in 13 games prior to suffering the injury. Carpenter had progressed to swinging both off a tee and soft toss while taking infield practice, but received a platelet-rich plasma injection for his strained right oblique on Apr. 23. He resumed hitting on the field and progressed to batting practice, paving the way for the rehab assignment. He should appear at DH with Nolan Gorman and Alec Burleson struggling and also possibly at first base. 12-team Mixed: No, 15-team Mixed: $0; 12-team NL: $6 (same return bid)

FIRST BASE

Mike Ford, Reds: Ford is back for his third stint with the Reds after signing a major-league deal on Wednesday. With Cincy placing Christian Encarnacion-Strand (wrist) on the 10-day injured list the same day, Ford could potentially be in line to consistent playing time at first. They could also have Jeimer Candelario move over from his usual spot at third to cover there, opening the hot corner for Santiago Espinal. 12-team Mixed: No, 15-team Mixed: $0; 12-team NL: $6

SECOND BASE 

Santiago Espinal, Reds: Espinal has done little at the plate with a .169 average, one homer, four stolen bases, 12 RBI and five runs across 90 plate appearances while in a utility role, but looks to be prime to retain that spot as the Reds put Christian Encarnacion-Strand (wrist) on the 10-day injured list Wednesday. Jeimer Candelario moved over from his third base to cover at first to give Espinal the spot at third. Moving forward, the Reds may use Mike Ford at first. But even if they did, Espinal should continue to appear at multiple positions. 12-team Mixed: No, 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team NL: $5 

Nick Gonzales, Pirates: Gonzales was promoted from Triple-A Indianapolis Thursday. He earned the call-up by slashing .358/.431/.608 with four homers and 19 RBI across 137 plate appearances to build off his strong 2023 in the minors. The 24-year-old infielder – a first-rounder from 2020 - gives the Pirates another player capable of fielding multiple positions and could dethrone the struggling Jared Triolo as Pittsburgh's primary second baseman. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: $0; 12-team-NL: $6

Brett Wisely, Giants: Wisely was promoted from Triple-A Sacramento with Austin Slater (concussion) hitting the 7-day injured list Saturday after crashing into the outfield fence on Friday. The 25-year-old utilityman slashed .311/.403/.487 with four home runs, three steals and a 21:19 K:BB in 140 plate appearances in the Pacific Coast League. Wisely primarily operated at second base and center field at Triple-A while also picking up a couple starts at shortstop. Tyler Fitzgerald started in center field Saturday, though Wisely earn some appearances there while Slater is sidelined. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: $0; 12-team-NL: $6

THIRD BASE 

Casey Schmitt, Giants: Schmitt was promoted Friday from Triple-A Sacramento to replace the injured Nick Ahmed (wrist) on the Giants' active roster. The 25-year-old has spent all of 2024 with Sacramento, where he slashed .269/.313/.440 with five homers and 31 RBI across 147 plate appearances. Schmitt will likely be used primarily off the bench and can fill in at second, short and third. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team-NL: $4

Zack Short, Braves: Atlanta acquired Short from the Red Sox on Thursday in exchange for cash considerations. He slides right into the role fellow utility infielder Luis Guillorme vacated after being traded to the Angels earlier that day. Short, who will turn 29 later this month, is a career .169/.262/.299 hitter over parts of four ML seasons and has only managed one hit through 19 plate appearances this year between his time with the Mets and Red Sox. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team-NL: $3

SHORTSTOP

Geraldo Perdomo, Diamondbacks: Perdomo, who underwent surgery to repair a torn right meniscus in early April, started some baseball activity earlier this month that including fielding grounders and throwing. He's expected to start hitting this week and could progress to a rehab assignment. Blaze Alexander has ably stepped in while Perdomo was sidelined, yet has slumped the last few weeks. Perdomo should regain his starting role once he's back, which is likely the last week of May. 12-team Mixed: $1; 15-team Mixed: $4; 12-team-NL: $7 (early spec return bid) 

OUTFIELD 

Kris Bryant, Rockies: Bryant, out since Apr. 13 with back issues, took batting practice before Friday's game against the Rangers. That progression came after he had been doing infield drills and hit in the batting cage on Wednesday. Since Bryant was initially sidelined, it's since been disclosed that he has disc and arthritis issues in his lower back that likely will plague him moving forward. He's dealt with major injury woes four of the last five years and has seen his numbers substantially decline. Bryant will likely need a rehab assignment, meaning there's a good chance he won't be activated until at least late May. 12-team Mixed: $0, 15-team Mixed: $1; 12-team NL: $5 (early spec return bid)

Conner Capel. Reds: Capel was promoted from Triple-A Louisville on Tuesday. He replaces Bubba Thompson - who was optioned to Double-A Chattanooga - on the Reds' roster. In 31appearances at Louisville, Capel slashed .268/.397/.567 with seven homers and six stolen bases while slotting in as an extra outfielder. 12-team Mixed: No, 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team NL: $3 

TJ Friedl, Reds: Friedl, profiled the last three weeks, gets another mention as he was activated off the injured list after completing his rehab assignment with Triple-A Louisville. He suffered a fractured right wrist diving for a ball midway through spring training and was to miss 4-to-6 weeks. Friedl played four games on the rehab assignment, paving the way for his return. He became a fantasy darling last season with a .279/.352/.467 line, 18 homers and 27 steals in 556 plate appearances. Friedl should be to be the Reds' everyday center fielder. 12-team Mixed: $7, 15-team Mixed: $14; 12-team NL: $22 (same return bid) 

Jason Heyward, Dodgers: Heyward, out with lower-back tightness since early April, will start a rehab assignment with Triple-A Oklahoma City on Tuesday. With Andy Pages grabbing a solid hold on the right field spot, Heyward may be coming back to a bench role or the Dodgers could demote James Outman (-0.1 fWAR) to Triple-A to make room. 12-team Mixed: $0, 15-team Mixed: $2; 12-team NL: $7 (early spec return bid)

Heliot Ramos, Giants: Ramos was recalled from Triple-A Sacramento on Wednesday to replace Jorge Soler (shoulder) on the active roster. The 24-year-old has produced a .953 OPS with eight homers and 21 RBI over 30 games for Sacramento this season with only a career .470 OPS in the Majors. Ramos has only appeared in 34 games in the bigs and never received an extended run of playing time to show he belongs. Soler could be back in a week, at which point Ramos likely will head back to the minors barring additional injuries. 12-team Mixed: No, 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team NL: $4 

Victor Robles, Nationals:. Robles, who missed more than a month with a strained left hamstring, was activated off the IL Tuesday. He's profiled for the second straight week as he started over Nick Senzel Friday and Saturday against a right-handed pitcher (both Senzel and Robles bat right-handed), which allows the Nationals to plug Jesse Winker in at DH to improve the outfield defense. Jacob Young is the clear starter in center with Robles picking up starts now in right. That should remain the case at least until the Nationals promote James Wood, who is banging on the door for a call-up, 12-team Mixed: $1, 15-team Mixed: $5; 12-team NL: $9

Eddie Rosario, Nationals: Rosario has been red-hot, which is a good thing for his tenuous job security as Victor Robles just returned and James Wood may be inching closer to a promotion. He's racked up nine hits over the last six games with three homers, three steals, five RBI and nine runs. That surge comes on the heels of an 0-for-27 slump and an overall .167/.232/.333 slash line. Rosario will need to remain productive to hold off Jesse Winker and others once Wood is promoted. But for now, get him in your lineup ASAP. 12-team Mixed: $3, 15-team Mixed: $9; 12-team NL: $14

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jan Levine
Levine covers baseball and hockey for RotoWire. He is responsible for the weekly NL FAAB column for baseball and the Barometer for hockey. In addition to his column writing, he is master of the NHL cheat sheets. In his spare time, he roots for the Mets and Rangers.
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