Three players to grab off the fantasy baseball waiver wire immediately

It might be trade deadline time in the baseball world -- that moment arrives at 6 p.m. ET on Tuesday -- but that doesn't mean it's "all trades, all the time" in this space.

Sure, the news cycle has been dominated by the nine trades that occurred between Friday and Sunday (including the unexpected Max Scherzer deal between then New York Mets and Texas Rangers) and additionally by the reports that both the Los Angeles Angels and Chicago Cubs will retain Shohei Ohtani and Cody Bellinger, the former team subsequently making it clear with bolstering-the-roster trades that they'll make a push for the postseason, and the latter perhaps formulating a similar plan.

Still, fantasy baseball opportunities present themselves daily, so keep your eyes and ears open. On that note, here are three players to pick up who have been surging in value lately, each of whom is available in more than 50% of ESPN leagues, and all of whom should be universally rostered at this stage.

Kenta Maeda, SP, Minnesota Twins: His initial return following 2021's Tommy John surgery didn't go especially smoothly, as he sported a 9.00 ERA and .329/.356/.557 hitting rates allowed in his first four starts of the season, his fastball command shaky to say the least. Maeda then spent the next seven weeks back on the IL, three of those on a rehabilitation assignment for Triple-A St. Paul, due to a triceps injury that he had termed as "mere arm fatigue."

Since his return from that, however, he has been under-the-radar excellent, his ERA checking in at 2.63 over his last seven big league starts. More unexpectedly, Maeda has been missing bats during that time like never before in the majors, striking out at least seven batters in five of those seven starts while sporting a 34.2% strikeout rate -- better than he has had at any stay with any professional team in any single season, including his time in Japan.

Now, some of that is the result of a K-friendly schedule, as six of those starts came against offenses that rank among the 10 most strikeout-prone for the year, but credit Maeda as well for a change in pitch repertoire, as well as the performance of his splitter over this time. Statcast currently has the pitch -- which, by the way, is actually more of a splitter/changeup hybrid -- generating a 37% whiff rate on hitters' swings at 33% usage.

At his peak, he possessed both the swing-and-miss ability and command of a top-20 caliber fantasy starter, and while the Twins might not want to push him to "ace" levels as far as rest-of-year workload, he might well deliver consistently top-30 stats with his recent changes. It will certainly help that the Twins have one of baseball's more favorable remaining schedules, as in their final 56 games, 25 will come against teams that have already provided clear indicators of their rebuilding status.

Triston Casas, 1B, Boston Red Sox: His raw power has long been considered among the best from his age group (even as far back as his high school days) with some of the other facets of his game in need of polish. The development of Casas, however, appears to have made significant strides as of late. Beginning on June 8, the first day this season that he elevated his batting average above the Mendoza Line, he has hit .331/.410/.638 with 10 home runs and 23 RBI over 38 games (32 of them starts). The Red Sox have taken notice and, on Saturday, they elevated him to the cleanup spot against San Francisco Giants opener Ryan Walker -- and that's despite their suspecting that lefty Sean Manaea would then become the "bulk reliever."

What has made a significant difference for Casas has been his recognition of breaking pitches as, since June 8, he has swung at them 6% more often than he did in his brief big league career up until that date, while batting .303 with a 62% Statcast hard-hit rate against them (compared to .188 and 41% up until then). Casas has long had a keen eye for the strike zone, his chase rate nearly 5% better than the league's average this season, hinting that his hot spell is more a matter of his getting settled at the game's most competitive level than a fluky stretch.

Perhaps the final step in his development will be mastering left-handed pitching. He has only seven starts against them all year and .188/.350/.354 career rates against lefties. Still, for now, Casas is a universal 1B start against righties and a locked-in corner infielder in any fantasy format.

Adbert Alzolay, RP, Chicago Cubs: A starter for most of his minor-league ascent, a long reliever to conclude 2022 and a multi-inning setup man to begin this year, Alzolay appears to have found his niche as a single-inning closer of late. He converted his first save of 2023 on May 6, as the Cubs struggled to find a consistently reliable ninth-inning option. Since July 5, he is a perfect 8-for-8 in converting saves -- capturing all of Chicago's saves during that time -- all with a 1.80 ERA over 10 appearances.

It shouldn't be a complete shock, considering Alzolay has one of the majors' most underrated sliders. He has thrown the pitch nearly 40% of the time this year, generating a 43% whiff rate with it. The pitch is responsible for 25 of his 52 total strikeouts, which reminds us of his 2021 when 78 of his 128 strikeouts came on that particular pitch. Alzolay's sinker, which he uses more heavily against righties, and his cutter, which he uses more against lefties, have both taken steps forward to help him narrow his righty/lefty splits.

In a short-relief role, he might be less susceptible to the injuries he had in the past, and his raw stuff is competitive with any reliever, outside only the handful of names atop fantasy rankings lists. There's a top-10 potential fantasy stat line in his arm over the season's final two months, though it's more reasonable to term him as a top-20 positional option for the rest of the season.

Pitching opportunities in Philly this week

The Philadelphia Phillies, one half-game back of an NL wild card spot as fantasy baseball's Week 17 dawns, face the divisional rival they trail in the standings, the Miami Marlins, in one of their most important series of the season. This begins a stretch of 10 games in which Phillies pitchers should capitalize upon soft matchups, as the Marlins rank fourth-worst in baseball in runs per game (and worst since the All-Star break), with the next two opponents being the Kansas City Royals and Washington Nationals.

This is a good time to load up on Phillies starters, with three of the five within their rotation available in more than 50% of ESPN leagues, as well as closer Craig Kimbrel, out there in 54%. This week, both Taijuan Walker (60% available) and Ranger Suarez (74%) align for two-start weeks, meaning both will pitch at Miami's loanDepot Park as well as back home against the Royals.

Walker has delivered seven wins and a 2.72 ERA in his 10 starts since June 1, while Suarez has six quality starts and a 3.38 ERA in his 10 starts during that same time span. If you play in a weekly lineup league, add and/or activate both pitchers, and both are worthy streamers in ESPN standard formats.