In a season that has thus far been filled with injuries, fantasy baseball managers are surely seeking a bunch of replacements on the waiver wire. Here are three players well worth adding in ESPN leagues:
Ian Anderson, SP, Atlanta Braves
While 2020 has been a season rich in pitching debuts from top prospects, it hasn't been a year full of many successful outings from the pitchers within that group. Of the five starting pitchers ranked within Kiley McDaniel's preseason top 100 prospects who have debuted this season, not one has pitched deeper than five innings or thrown more than 81 pitches in a start. On top of that, the group's collective ERA is 6.80. That serves as a reminder of the difficulty young pitchers typically have adjusting to the game's highest level of competition. However, that doesn't mean this group isn't well worth the fantasy add when the opportunity arises. Chasing upside, after all, is a fine pitching strategy.
Anderson's opportunity should arrive on Tuesday, when the Braves need a starter for their series opener against the New York Yankees. He'll bring along three above-average pitches -- a fastball, a curveball and a changeup. Anderson has been quite the strikeout artist as a professional, posting a 29.4% K-rate in 2018 and 2019 combined between the Class A, Double-A and Triple-A levels.
While he struggled in his five Triple-A starts late last year (a 6.57 ERA) and has trouble with control at times (a 10.7% walk rate over the past two seasons combined), Anderson's profile is still strong enough to have earned him McDaniel's No. 47 overall preseason prospect rating and the No. 16 ranking among pitching prospects. Even with the Braves linked to several starting pitchers on the trade market, their rotation is starved enough for options that he should get a long look for the rest of 2020.
Ryan Mountcastle, 1B/3B, Baltimore Orioles
Speaking of long looks, at the time of Mountcastle's promotion to the big leagues this past Friday, Orioles general manager Mike Elias said of his prospect, "We wanted him to be the type of guy, when he gets promoted to the big leagues, he's here to stay."
That's a strong endorsement of Mountcastle's prospective role with the team, which included three consecutive starts in left field during Baltimore's weekend series against the Boston Red Sox. (Think of his soon-to-be three-position eligibility!) Mountcastle's bat has long been regarded as worthy of the big leagues, and his power potential is an attractive asset, especially with hitting-friendly Camden Yards helping his cause. He's the kind of player who might hit 30-plus homers annually through his prime years, even if his free-swinging ways could lead to slumps and batting-average liability.
Mountcastle's defense, though, was likely the final obstacle to his big league role, as he's considered more of a designated hitter type. There's a reason Nicholas Castellanos is frequently mentioned as a comparison. Nevertheless, with the Orioles in the midst of a rebuild, Mountcastle should settle into a No. 5-6 lineup spot on a daily basis. It's not often you'll find a power-hitting prospect with as cushy a role as this right away.
Brad Miller, 3B, St. Louis Cardinals
If you're digging deeper, Miller's hot start to the season warrants attention, especially if you consider that the Cardinals have more remaining games (42) than any other team in baseball. (The Miami Marlins are the next closest, and they have 37 to go.) There's a volume advantage to be had, even with some of those games coming in the form of seven-inning doubleheaders. Miller has picked up six of the team's past 10 starts at third base and even nabbed the No. 2 spot in the lineup in their past two contests.
After a pair of disappointing fantasy seasons in 2017 and 2018, Miller returned to relevance with nine homers in his final 25 games in 2019 as a Philadelphia Phillies utility performer. A more selective approach at the plate coupled with a more fly ball-oriented swing fueled the comeback. Both of these things have extended into this season. He has a 26.7% chase rate (which would be the best in his eight-year big league career) along with a 37.5% ground ball rate (which would be the lowest such number in the majors).
It's not unthinkable that Miller could maintain a power rate along the lines of his 30 homers in 2016, and he could do it with a higher batting average than the .243 he posted that year. Certainly, with all these games ahead for him and his teammates, he's worth adding, if only for the possibility that he'll keep the average up to go along with the pop.