We’re reaching the two-month mark of the 2023 MLB season, as hard as that is to believe, and “it’s still early!” is becoming a less and less convincing crutch for fantasy managers wondering whether to stick with a draft pick or start scouring the waiver wire. This is especially true at the corner infield spots, where injuries have hit big names like Manny Machado already. That’s why we’re here to help, with four targets likely available in your league showing signs that they’re in for a big year.
Fantasy baseball waiver wire: Corner infield targets for Week 9
Jake Burger, 3B, Chicago White Sox
Roster percentage: 5.1%
Burger got waylaid by an oblique injury earlier this month, but he returned no worse for wear with homers in his first three games back. His playing time hasn’t been affected by Yoan Moncada’s return from injury, with the White Sox desperate for any sort of spark on offense, and there are signs that his breakout at the plate is no flash in the pan.
Fun fact: The hardest-hit ball of the 2023 season so far belongs not to Giancarlo Stanton, or Aaron Judge, or Oneil Cruz, or Vladimir Guerrero Jr. — it belongs to Burger at a whopping 118.2 mph. The righty has some swing-and-miss in his game, but when he makes contact it’s usually very, very loud. He’s sporting an eye-popping 53.6 hard-hit rate, with a .293 expected batting average and a .670 expected slugging percentage backing up his 1.067 OPS. The average will likely regress a bit, but the power seems very real, and he’ll rack up RBI in the middle of Chicago’s order.
Mark Vientos, 3B, New York Mets
Roster percentage: 4.9%
Welcome to the Show, kid:
Turns out calling up Mark Vientos was... a good idea! In his return to the big leagues, Vientos hits a game-tying, two-run missile of a homer.— Anthony DiComo (@AnthonyDiComo) May 18, 2023
Mets 2, Rays 2, bottom seven. pic.twitter.com/mX4V2nPznp
New York’s No. 8 prospect got his second MLB stint started with a dramatic, game-tying home run against the Tampa Bay Rays this week, evidence that his power surge down on the farm may translate at the highest level. The infielder will always have strikeout troubles, especially against tougher righties, but he slashed .333/.416/.688 in the Minors before getting the call and hit 40 homers over 150 games at Triple-A. He’s worth a flyer in 12-team and deeper leagues to see if he can make enough contact to get that power into games.
Jared Walsh, 1B, Los Angeles Angels
Roster percentage: 3.6%
It’s been a long, frustrating road for Walsh since his breakout 2021 in which he hit .277 with 29 homers. But after missing the whole spring as he tried to find a cure for his debilitating headaches, the first baseman has been tearing up Triple-A on a rehab assignment and is on the verge of returning to the Angels lineup. The headaches offer a compelling excuse for Walsh’s disappointing 2022, and if he’s right, he could approach his old heights again — at the very least it’s worth the add to see if he starts out hot.
Jake Bauers, 1B/OF, New York Yankees
Roster percentage: 0.5%
Even with Aaron Judge back, Bauers is seeing plenty of playing time amid New York’s injury-riddled lineup — and the former top prospect is determined to make the most of it. The numbers haven’t jumped off the page just yet, but Statcast is impressed with what Bauers has been doing so far, with a 113.5 max exit velocity that ranks in the top 10 percent of the league and excellent hard-hit and line drive rates. The lefty has even been leading off recently against right-handers and could nail down a permanent job even after Giancarlo Stanton returns.