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Fantasy Baseball Waiver Wire: Young hitters headline priority pickups

If it feels as if half your pitching staff is on the IL and several of your early-round hitters are underperforming, welcome to the club. We're all dealing with fantasy problems. Here are seven widely available players who can likely help …

Colton Cowser, OF, Baltimore Orioles (28%)

After a two-homer Thursday, Cowser is now 6-for-13 with 10 RBI over the past three days. We can assume he'll be playing ahead of Austin Hays for the foreseeable future. Cowser is another name from Baltimore's endless supply of blue-chip prospects, coming off a season in which he slashed .300/.417/.520 at Triple-A Norfolk. When guys like this catch fire, they should be auto-adds in fantasy. Cowser's power is legit, plus he has a dash of speed. Go grab him while he's still under-rostered.

Michael Busch, 1B/3B, Chicago Cubs (23% rostered)

Busch was a longtime Dodgers prospect who needed relocation in the worst way, as he had no clear path to regular playing time in L.A.’s zillion-dollar lineup. Let’s give Chicago credit for making a bold, shrewd move to acquire a gifted hitter at a position of need. Busch was a machine at Triple-A OKC last season, slashing .323/.431/.618 with 27 homers and 90 RBI in just 98 games. After a productive spring, he’s now firmly established as a heart-of-the-order hitter in a respectable lineup.

Busch was bumped up to the fifth spot in the batting order on Wednesday and he responded favorably, launching a bomb off Dylan Cease. He's a good bet to produce another 20-25 home runs this year while hitting for average and driving in 80-plus runs. If those numbers will play in your fantasy league (and they should), don't hesitate to make the add.

Nelson Velázquez, OF, Kansas City Royals (16%)

Velázquez seemed lucky to make KC's Opening Day roster after a rough spring, but he's been sensational in the season's first two weeks. He's homered twice this year and delivered multiple hits in four of his last seven games. Velazquez has been an exit-velocity and barrel-rate monster since he reached the big leagues, so his power upside is well known. Assuming regular at-bats, he's a clear candidate to hit 30 or more homers.

We’ll make no promises about the batting average, but this gentleman has beyond-the-bleachers pop:

If you require a power boost, it’s hard to believe there’s a better option than Velázquez available on the wire.

Brett Baty, 3B, New York Mets (16%)

Many of us anticipated a Baty breakout last season, but sometimes these young prospects don't cooperate. As a 23-year-old rookie, Baty basically struggled from start to finish en route to an unfortunate .212/.275/.323 slash with nine homers over 389 plate appearances. Not great. It's been a very different story in the early weeks of 2024, however, as he's opened by reaching base safely in every game but one while playing stellar defense. At the moment, he's hitting .311 with one homer and six RBI. Baty has had a few nice moments against LHPs, too.

All things considered, it’s an encouraging start for a guy who rarely struggled in the minors (career .290/.390/.507). His developmental history suggests we can expect double-digit power along with respectable batting average and on-base ability.

Joey Loperfido, Util, Houston Astros (1%)

Just in case you hadn’t noticed, there’s currently a large Jose Abreu-shaped hole in Houston’s lineup. After a disappointing 2023, Abreu has opened this season with a string of 0-for-3s. He’s now hitting a dreadful .081 and we’re still waiting for his first extra-base hit.

Meanwhile, the 24-year-old Loperfido is hitting rockets down at Triple-A, batting .275 with five homers and an OPS of 1.004. At some point soon, the Astros have to seriously consider making the move. Loperfido hit 25 homers and swiped 27 bases last season, spending most of his year at Double-A and Triple-A. His career minor league OBP is .378, so there's a lot to like in his game. Loperfido may not have the same level of prospect hype as guys like Jackson Holliday, but his fantasy impact could be just as great. If you have open NA spots on your roster, make him a priority.

Dean Kremer, SP, Baltimore Orioles (25%)

We're two starts into Kremer's season and he's piled up 11 Ks in 12.1 innings while producing a WHIP of 0.73. So that's not too shabby. It appears he's enhanced an already solid arsenal with an effective splitter, which seems promising. Kremer had a career K/9 of 10.9 back in his minor league days, so he offers plenty of strikeout potential.

We can assume run support won’t be much of an issue in Baltimore. Kremer will draw a Saturday start against the Brewers, then face the Royals and Angels in the weeks ahead. He’s looking like something more than a streaming option.

Michael Kopech, SP/RP, Chicago White Sox (33%)

If you have a fondness for closers with triple-digit velocity and vicious sliders, Kopech should probably already be on your rosters. The White Sox have only won two games to this point, but Kopech saved both of them. He's struck out a dozen batters over 7.1 innings, which is no great surprise, and the fantasy ratios have been perfectly fine.

Even the worst MLB clubs are fully capable of producing 30-save closers, so please don’t be a snob about team context. Kopech has a firm grip on the ninth and he has the stuff necessary to succeed. This guy has team’s-lone-All-Star-rep written all over him.