Were reports of Shane Bieber's demise exaggerated? Bieber put together a pretty brilliant performance Thursday, striking out eight with just one walk over six shutout innings to lower his ERA for the month of June to 2.90.
That's more like it. Sure, it was against the Royals, who have a tendency to look pretty overmatched against basically any right-handed pitcher you throw out there these days. Still, it wasn't that long ago that there seemed to be a widely held belief that Bieber was past the point where you could trust him even against overmatched opponents.
But that's now at least eight strikeouts in three of the past four starts for Bieber, something he accomplished just once in his first 12 starts through the end of May. He got 12 swings and misses Thursday, and he finished the month of June with a whiff rate of 34% or better on each of his cutter, slider, and curveball; none of those pitches were at that mark before June.
Bieber is constantly tinkering, and I wasn't sure the reintroduction of his cutter this season was a great idea, but the pitch seems to be coming around as an alternative to his fastball, which remains pretty mediocre. Maybe he just needed some time to tinker his way back to a mix that worked, or maybe Bieber is just going to be a bit less reliable moving forward. But if you held on to him, you have to be feeling better about where things stand right now than you did a month ago.
As is the case every Friday, I'm Chris Towers, and I'm here to guide you through the upcoming weekend of MLB action, with a little viewing guide of waiver-wire pitchers, streaming targets, and hitters to keep an eye on.
But, before we get to the rest of the newsletter, here's the content from the FBT team this week you might have missed:
And now, here's what you need to keep an eye on this weekend:
Waiver wire starting pitchers to watch
These players are listed roughly in order of how interested I am in adding them. They're also (mostly) viable streamers this weekend:
Fair warning: I don't really love the streaming/waiver-wire options at starting pitcher this weekend. That's actually an understatement – I've done this exercise nearly every week this season, and this might be the least inspiring group of widely available pitchers for a weekend slate yet. There are a decent number of "TBAs'" on the schedule as I write this, so hopefully we'll get some pleasant surprises, but … well, there's a reason my top guy here isn't actually in the majors right now.
Tarik Skubal (IL, on Rehab Assignment at AAA) – Skubal isn't pitching this weekend, because he just made his third minor-league rehab appearance at Triple-A Thursday and continues to pitch very well. He's now up to 9.2 innings with two earned runs, 13 strikeouts, and just three walks, while his velocity has been up 1-2 mph coming back from surgery to repair a flexor tendon in his elbow. Skubal's fastball has been his biggest weakness as a major-leaguer, so the velocity bump is very intriguing. I think he's close to a must-add player as he nears his return, likely next week.
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Kyle Bradish vs. MIN (Saturday) – I don't really like Bradish much as a long-term play, but if you're looking for a sneaky streamer for this weekend, the Twins have the highest strikeout rate in baseball against right-handed pitchers. Bradish and Kremer could both be surprisingly useful in home starts this weekend.
Garrett Whitlock @TOR (Saturday) – Whitlock has given up 10 runs over his past two starts, so if you want to stop chasing this particular upside option, I understand. I remain intrigued by Whitlock's swing-and-miss potential, but another poor outing and even I won't be able to justify hanging on to him.
Griffin Canning vs. ARI (Friday) – I wish this was a better matchup, because I don't mind streaming Canning, but I can't exactly recommend him as a long-term play. The schedule lines up for a matchup against the Dodgers before the All-Star break, too, so I can't exactly recommend him for that one either, unfortunately.
Luis Severino @STL (Friday) – Severino is coming off his best start of the season, but there's still a lot to be concerned about here as he had just four whiffs in that one. His slider and cutter, both of which had whiff rates over 40% last season, just haven't had the same bite to them to so far. I don't want to give up on Severino, given his upside, but he must show some signs of progress this weekend.
Michael Soroka vs. MIA (Friday) – I'm not optimistic about Soroka's chances of being a significant contributor for Fantasy this season, but I'll certainly be rooting for him. He's been more effective since getting sent back down to Triple-A, allowing three runs in three starts with 18 strikeouts (and eight walks) in 19 innings of work, so I'll be watching this one, though not necessarily adding him in advance. He has to show us something first.
Johan Oviedo vs. MIL (Saturday) – Oviedo is riding a nice little hot streak here, with a 2.96 ERA over his past nine starts. I think he's probably more like a 4.00 ERA pitcher – and his 3.91 FIP during that stretch doesn't disagree – but the Brewers have been a pretty good matchup this season, so he's a fine streamer.
Waiver-wire hitters to watch
These players are listed roughly in order of how interested in adding them I am:
Henry Davis, C, Pirates – Davis continues to not play catcher, and that continues to be just fine by me. His .351/.415/.486 line isn't sustainable, but he's playing every day and looks like at least an average hitter, with some speed, which makes him a must-start player at catcher.
Bo Naylor, C, Guardians – Naylor carried similar prospect pedigree as Davis, but his Fantasy appeal just doesn't look nearly as clear, and not just because he hasn't been as good as Davis so far. Still, he's a career .255/.379/.507 in 126 career Triple-A games with rare power and speed for the catcher position, so I'm always going to have an eye on him until he catches fire.
Spencer Torkelson, 1B, Tigers – We keep waiting for Torkelson to figure it out, and maybe Thursday's game will be the start of it, as he had a pair of homers and two walks. He hit seven homers in June, but has seen his strikeout rate spike, negating much of the gains. If he can cut the strikeouts while still hitting for power, there's still a path for Torkelson to be a difference-making hitter.
Brice Turang, SS, Brewers – Turang's first stint in the majors showed some promise, but he was ultimately sent down after hitting just .205/.254/.307. He was doing much better in 15 games since going back to Triple-A and he's getting another chance now with the Brewers sending Luis Urias down Thursday. Turang still has a little bit of pop and a lot of speed, and I don't mind picking him up to see if he can figure it out this time.
Jeimer Candelario, 3B, Nationals – Candelario is the No. 6 third baseman over the past 21 days, and while I'm skeptical he can keep it up, the relative weakness of the position makes it awfully tough to justify his roster rate being just 42%, especially since that might actually be underselling him. Candelario is hitting .278/.366/.511 since the start of May.
Riley Greene, OF, Tigers – Greene is heading to the Tigers Triple-A affiliate in Toledo to begin a rehab assignment in the coming days, a sign that his return from a stress reaction could be imminent. It might not happen until next week, but Greene was hitting .296/.362/.443 with a 15-15 pace before the injury. His 69% roster rate is way too low.
Luis Matos, OF, Giants – Matos hasn't quite looked the part of a difference maker just yet, but it's hard to find too much fault in a 21-year-old with more walks than strikeouts even just two weeks into his career. The bat-to-ball skills are real, and I think there's some pop here he hasn't quite tapped into. I want Matos on my teams.
Adam Duvall, OF, Red Sox – Duvall has been ice cold since coming back from his fractured wrist, hitting .167/.265/.283 with just one home run. But I still think his swing is a perfect fit for Fenway Park, and he's going to be a useful Fantasy option.
Trent Grisham, OF, Padres – We're a few years removed from people having much interest in Grisham as a Fantasy option, but I still think there's an interesting player there waiting to be unearthed. He still hits too many popups and strikes out too much, but he's also showing signs of growth in the underlying numbers, most notably with a career-high 15.2% barrel rate. His expected wOBA of .338 is solidly above average, and the potential for 20-plus homers and 20-plus steals is still here.
Injuries, news & notes
Corbin Carroll was removed from Thursday's after experiencing discomfort in his right shoulder. Manager Torey Lovullo said there is only "minimal" concern, but that's the same shoulder Carroll had surgery on back in 2021, so I can't say I'm not at all worried. Let's keep an eye on it.
Carlos Rodon is set to make his next minor-league rehab start Saturday and if all goes well, his first Yankees start could come July 7 at home against the Cubs. I thought he might get pushed back to the All-Star break, so that's also good news!
Clayton Kershaw acknowledged he's dealing with left shoulder inflammation. He received a cortisone injection and won't throw for the next few days, but the Dodgers aren't placing him on the IL just yet. You knew he was due for some kind of IL stint at some point, of course, which is what has made Kershaw so tough to rank the past few seasons – when he's out there, he's still excellent.
Oneil Cruz played catch Thursday from 75 feet. He's currently rehabbing from a fractured fibula and the hope is that he should be able to return some time in August. I'm stashing him where I have the IL spot.
Eduardo Rodriguez threw 4.1 scoreless innings in Thursday's rehab outing at Triple-A. He threw 58 pitches, so it wouldn't be a surprise if he was back after just one more rehab outing – or potentially even sooner.
Chris Sale was cleared to begin a throwing program after getting encouraging results from an MRI on his shoulder. He's first eligible to return in early August, and this makes me feel a bit better about stashing him.
Anthony Rizzo left Thursday's game early after getting hit by a pitch on his elbow. X-rays came back negative, but it's obviously a bit concerning heading into the weekend.
Michael Wacha threw a bullpen session Thursday. If all goes well, he should start this weekend in Cincinnati.
Kris Bryant will be activated from the IL Friday. He was batting .263 with just five homers in 50 games this season, so he needs to rediscover his power stroke to be a difference maker again in Fantasy.
White Sox manager Pedro Grifol said Michael Kopech could have his turn in the rotation skipped this weekend in an effort to give him an extended break before the second half. Kopech's had a very up and down season, with a few stretches of brilliance, but I remain pretty pessimistic.
The Guardians optioned Logan Allen to Triple-A on Thursday. He had a 3.46 ERA but an ugly 1.44 WHIP and is down to 58% rostered. I'd prefer to stash in deeper leagues, because I would imagine he'll be back after the break, but if you need the roster spot, you can drop.
Reese Olson left his start Thursday after getting hit by a comebacker in the second inning. X-rays turned up negative and he said he expects to make his next start.
Seiya Suzuki has missed two straight with tightness in his neck.