Fantasy baseball waiver wire: Top three pickups this week

Sheldon Neuse of the Oakland A's is slugging .413 over his first 100 plate appearances this season. Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

For Week 5, the loaded schedule for some teams skews Monday's "Three Up" column more towards rebound than pickup candidates. Worry not, however, as there are plenty of prospective adds in the notes at column's end!

Leading off is a member of the week's lone visiting team to Colorado's Coors Field, a hotshot rookie who seems to be breaking out of a miserable early-season slump.

Bobby Witt Jr., SS/3B, Kansas City Royals: Since beginning his big-league career by batting .128 (5-for-39) with no home runs, one stolen base, 13 strikeouts and a whopping 36 swings at non-strikes, at which point his rostered percentage in ESPN leagues dipped beneath 90%, Witt has begun to pick up the pace. He has batted .308 (16-for-52) with one home run and a 3-of-5 performance on his stolen base attempts in 14 games, though he could still stand to lower his chase rate. Nevertheless, Coors games can cure a lot of what ails hitters, and Witt and the Royals gain the additional benefit of an extra game on Monday -- their road game against the Baltimore Orioles makes up for Saturday's postponement -- and 4-of-7 overall versus left-handed starters, against whom the rookie batted .353/.415/.681 with a 7.4% home run rate between Double- and Triple-A ball in 2021. Witt needs to be in all lineups considering the favorable Week 5 schedule, and he's in good shape for piling up the numbers even after that, as the Royals are scheduled for 17 games in the next 16 days.

Sheldon Neuse, 2B/3B, Oakland Athletics: The second most-added middle infielder in ESPN leagues, Neuse still finds himself out there in 82.3% of leagues as Week 5 dawns, presumably because he's one of many relative unknowns on the rebuilding Athletics. A 2016 second-rounder who never came close to a high ranking on any prospect lists over the years, plus had a one-year stint with the Los Angeles Dodgers in between stints with the A's, Neuse has settled in nicely as a regular No. 2 hitter and starter shuffling between second and third base this season. While he lacks any singularly elite skill, he has an above-average contact quality grade -- Statcast has his career big-league hard hit rate as 44.7% -- and has handled fastballs effectively enough to stick in the role, and the timing this week is perfect for an Athletics regular, as the team has a league-most nine scheduled games. The team also plays 16 times over the 17 games following Week 5, meaning Neuse could be a volume-driven, short-term option even in shallow mixed leagues, though as the pitching matchups do get tougher during that time, he's probably a name to peddle exactly one week from now.

Juan Yepez, 1B, St. Louis Cardinals: Recalled this past Wednesday after batting .279/.323/.651 with nine home runs and 26 RBIs in 22 games for Triple-A Memphis, Yepez has slotted in fifth in the Cardinals' lineup in each of their five games, hitting safely in each, four of them multi-hit efforts, including a memorable Mother's Day home run. Long considered a power-only prospect, he greatly improved his contact rates at the higher competitive minor league levels in 2021, also changing his swing to make it more fly-ball oriented. With the nine minor league homers this year, Yepez totaled 31 in 114 games at Triple-A Memphis since the beginning of 2021, and the Cardinals seem committed to giving him a chance as their regular designated hitter, with occasional starts in the outfield (important for position eligibility). He's well worth the pickup, considering his raw power, meaningful role and recent performance.

Week 5 notes:

  • Ryan Pressly's diminished fastball velocity has been a talking point all year, but it's worth noting that, during his May 7 successful save conversion, he averaged a season-high 93.8 mph with the pitch. It's another step towards his recapturing his 2021 form, and with his Houston Astros' schedule a favorable one on both sides of the ball, he needs to be activated in all formats immediately.

  • The aforementioned Royals lost Edward Olivares, who had been filling in as their leadoff hitter recently, to an quadriceps issue on Sunday, which tempers enthusiasm surrounding him despite the team's fantasy-friendly schedule. Rookie MJ Melendez has been seeing increasing time in a catcher/DH tandem with Salvador Perez, another Week 5 rebound candidate, and Melendez warrants No. 2 catcher status in any league larger than ESPN's standard. As Melendez is a left-handed hitter, however, it's hard to see him making all six of the team's starts during Week 5.

  • As mentioned in the Forecaster, the Toronto Blue Jays have one of the least appealing schedules in fantasy in Week 5. The healthy return of Teoscar Hernandez, however, does improve the production of their overall lineup, and their top five hitters still need to remain in your lineup. In any league 14-plus-team mixed or deeper, take note of Santiago Espinal's recent performance, as he appears to have taken over as the team's regular second baseman. He's a .315/.393/.556 hitter with two home runs in his past 17 games.