Fantasy owners received a boost this week as Atlanta Braves outfielder Ronald Acuna Jr. returned to the lineup April 28. After tearing the ACL in his right knee in July 2021, the Braves will ease in their superstar during the next couple of months. It appears Acuna will be used as the designated hitter a lot and won’t play in day games after night games. This plan could always change, but Acuna is at least a month away from being an everyday player.

This has a huge fantasy impact in weekly lineup formats. It’s hard to recommend sitting Acuna, but if he’s going to play four games a week, we’re not going to get the stats needed to compete. Next week will be a big week to see what the Braves do and we will adjust from there. There will be no issues in leagues that allow daily lineup changes other than the frustration of not having Acuna playing every day.

Waiver-Wire Targets:

Baltimore Orioles Starting Pitcher Bruce Zimmermann — The left-hander has allowed two earned runs all season, which spans over four starts and 19.1 innings pitched. Zimmermann is only 13 percent owned but ranks third in all of baseball with a 0.93 ERA. The hesitation will always be that he pitches for the Orioles and in a tough American League East. It’s clear fantasy owners aren’t buying into this success, but acquiring any player who ranks in the top five in baseball in a category after the first month is a must. Zimmermann has pitched against the New York Yankees twice and a tough lineup in the Los Angeles Angels so we can’t use the excuse that he hasn’t pitched against any good teams. We understand that Zimmermann won’t rank in the top five in ERA all season, but I don’t think this is a fluke. I believe he settles in as a middle-of-the-rotation option for fantasy owners with the ability to get five to six strikeouts per start.

Los Angeles Angels Outfielder Taylor Ward — Depending when waivers run, Ward may not be available. He’s a hot commodity and for good reason. The outfielder is batting .381 with four home runs, 11 RBIs, 13 runs scored and one stolen base. Ward has also been batting leadoff for the Angels, which may be fantasy gold since Shohei Ohtani, Mike Trout and Anthony Rendon are batting right behind him. The 28-year-old doesn’t have much of a track record of success at the big league level, so it’s hard to know if he’s in the midst of a good month of performance or a true breakout. However, acquiring the leadoff hitter for a team like the Angels is a must and we’ll hope he continues this streak for a while.

Minnesota Twins Outfielder Max Kepler — The Twins are in first place in the American League Central, and their strong start has a lot to do with Kepler’s performance. The 29-year-old is enjoying a nice bounce-back season, as he’s batting .246 with four home runs and eight RBIs. Kepler struggled in 2021, as he hit .211 with 19 home runs. However, in 2019, Kepler hit .252 with 36 home runs, 90 RBIs and 98 runs scored. It’s hard to say that Kepler will put those stats up again, but at least we know he’s done it before. It should also be noted that Kepler did steal 10 bases last year and already has one this season. Kepler is batting fifth or sixth for the Twins, so he’s in prime position to drive in runs for fantasy owners. Only 16 percent owned in Yahoo! Sports leagues, the veteran is firmly on the fantasy radar.

Philadelphia Phillies Third Baseman Alec Bohm — There was a strong chance the 25-year-old was going to lose his starting spot to rookie Bryson Stott at the end of spring training. However, Bohm was able to hold off the youngster and Stott was demoted to the minors. The third baseman is enjoying a nice month of April, as he’s batting .326 with two home runs, 14 RBIs and nine runs scored. Bohm was a top prospect but hasn’t been able to put everything together at the big league level. The Phillies’ lineup is stacked, so Bohm doesn’t have as much pressure. That seems to be benefiting him. Even batting lower in the lineup as a result, he’s still in position to drive in runs. If you need a boost in batting average and RBIs, Bohm appears to be a nice target.

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Phil Backert

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