Fantasy baseball waiver wire: Promising Minnesota Twins picks

There's a lot to love about the Minnesota Twins right now. Getty Images

Over the past three weeks, no team has been hotter than the Minnesota Twins. Winners of 17 out of 20 games during that time, the Twins currently rank first in runs scored per game (6.40), ninth in runs allowed per game (3.80), and they have made up 7 1/2 games in the AL Central race, sitting just half a game behind the division-leading Cleveland Guardians.

Fantasy managers can capitalize upon this surging team, as only three Twins are rostered in more than 75% of ESPN leagues: Pablo Lopez (97.9%), Joe Ryan (96.0%) and Jhoan Duran (83.1%). An additional three are rostered in more than 50% of leagues: Bailey Ober (74.3%), Royce Lewis (73.9%) and Ryan Jeffers (73.0%).

Let's take a quick look at two Minnesota options you should definitely be giving heavy consideration this week:

Chris Paddack, SP (5.4% rostered): Paddack has a pair of double-digit strikeout performances over his last four outings, during which time his ERA is 2.76 and his FIP is 3.07. While the matchups had something to do with it (two were home starts against the terrible Chicago White Sox and strikeout-prone Seattle Mariners), Paddack's pitch performance during that stretch was as good as it has been at any point since the 2021 season.

His four-seam fastball got a 33.3% whiff rate and his changeup 26.4%, with the performance of the latter pitch offering the most promise for the weeks ahead. After all, if you recall Paddack's career peak during his 2019 rookie campaign, it was his changeup that fueled much of his success (an 8.0 Statcast Run Value).

Paddack will probably face an innings cap, after totaling just 22 1/3 innings in 2022 and a mere 14 2/3 between the majors and minors last year after recovering from Tommy John surgery, but he's a plenty valuable short-term add at the least. Bear in mind that over the Twins' next 38 games, they'll play seven against the Oakland Athletics and three each against the Colorado Rockies, Pittsburgh Pirates and Washington Nationals, all of which the Forecaster grades as "plus" fantasy matchups.

Max Kepler, OF (29.6%): April 22 marked the beginning of the Twins' hot streak and it not only coincided with the start of Paddack's solid stretch, but it also marked the day that Kepler returned to the lineup following a knee injury. Since then, he has hit .413/.465/.698 with three home runs and 17 RBI, starting 15 of the Twins' 20 games and entering as a defensive replacement in four others. He's pretty much forced himself into the team's regular cleanup role.

Kepler's improved play might not be merely a small sample-size fluke. After starting last season mired in a miserable slump -- he was batting .189/.261/.365 through his first 46 games -- Kepler adopted a more aggressive approach at the plate, swinging 47.6% of the time, up from the 45.5% he had from 2020 through June 19, 2023, especially against fastballs (48.0% swing rate, versus 42.9%).

Since June 20 of last season, he has hit .303/.371/.544 with 20 home runs, with a fly ball-oriented swing that could be especially advantageous for homers in road games. Remember, Target Field's high right-field fence presence a challenge for him there.

Stash this prospect

James Wood, OF, Nationals (4.4%): Last week's column gave you Tampa Bay Rays IF Junior Caminero as a prospective stash. Today's gives you Wood, who is on a scorching-hot streak for Triple-A Rochester. Wood has homered five times across a three-game span in the past week, and he's a .390/.469/.805 hitter with 14 RBI to go along with those five homers in 11 May games.

Kiley McDaniel's No. 11 overall prospect entering the season, Wood is a potential 30/20 player who almost broke camp with the Nationals after batting .364/.509/.705 with four homers across 57 spring trips to the plate. He'll be more of a rotisserie than points-based performer initially, in large part due to his 26.9% career minor league strikeout rate, but will be a universal add the moment he gets the call. Get out ahead of that, as Wood might be up in the near future.

Deeper-league adds

Robert Gasser, SP, Milwaukee Brewers (4.4%): The Brewers' No. 9 prospect entering the season, Gasser was recalled to make his MLB debut on Friday, buying an extra day for the team's rotation while Freddy Peralta served his suspension. Gasser was outstanding, tossing six shutout innings of no-walk, four-strikeout baseball, which was enough to earn him a more permanent rotation spot in place of Tobias Myers, who was returned to Triple-A Nashville on the same day.

Gasser is mostly a strikeout source -- his career minor league strikeout rate sits at 28.9% -- but his ERA is 3.79. That's no shock if you noticed that he threw his sweeper 46% of the time in his debut while getting three of his four strikeouts and seven of his 10 swings and misses with the pitch. Still, strikeouts fuel fantasy scoring, and Gasser will face the Pirates and Miami Marlins in his next two outings.

Abraham Toro, 3B/1B/2B, Athletics (18.6%): Though Oakland is a rebuilding team sure to grant opportunities to youngsters whenever they prove themselves ready, Toro has done a fine job of capturing a prominent role while filling in for the team until the youth movement truly kicks in. He has made starts across four positions (counting DH) and recently has emerged as both the team's regular second baseman and leadoff hitter.

Toro (27) has hit .410/.455/.607 over his last 16 games and, for the season, his 88.3-mph average exit velocity and 27.0% line-drive rate would represent career bests. Zack Gelof's impending return does cast some question about Toro's future role, but considering he brings the capability to play either corner infield spot, he should retain value in 15-team mixed leagues and larger.

Feel free to cut

Colton Cowser (35.2%); Michael Busch (35.6%); Ke'Bryan Hayes (42.6%); Reid Detmers (66.4%); Jason Foley (39.2%).