I can’t remember the last time I wrote up fantasy baseball waivers. A time when dinosaurs roamed the earth, maybe? Before the cataclysmic doom of ancient Valyria? Sometime around the downfall of Númenor? Let’s just say it feels like a loooong time ago.
The rules are simple here. No player is over 50% owned on Yahoo, and I work downward from there. Ideally, there’s something for everyone in here, whether it’s a 12-team home league or a competitive 15-teamer. Let’s start behind the dish...
Buster Posey (48% owned) is where I’d look first. He had some hip tightness a couple of weeks ago, but he’s past that now. Even a 34-year-old version of Posey should bat for a decent average and generate solid counting stats due to batting in the middle of the order (fifth, most likely). The news that he won’t be used at first base is a bummer, but he’s available as a second catcher, and I like the certainty of his role.
Carson Kelly (19%) may still be benefiting from some early murkiness caused by the presence of Daulton Varsho (i.e. when three catchers were on the roster). But Kelly is the man behind the plate for Arizona with Varsho optioned. His offense suffered during the abbreviated 2020, but in 2019 he slugged 18 homers in just 111 games. There’s power upside here, and plenty of playing time. That’s saying quite a lot for the catcher position. Of note is Stephen Vogt potentially being Madison Bumgarner’s personal catcher...that hasn’t been formally announced, but Vogt is catching MadBum on Opening Day. Stay tuned there and adjust in your daily lineups accordingly.
Omar Narvaez (4%) really focused on his defense after the trade to Milwaukee last year, but prior to that we knew him as a legitimate batting average asset. Add in his torrid spring and I’m sold on him as a lefty stick in Milwaukee. He should get most of the playing time against right-handed pitching, while the right-handed Manny Pina will remain a threat against lefties. I like Narvaez more than Severino or Ramos this year. Mostly, I like that I can point to a new batting stance for Narvaez this spring—a taller stance that has benefited other Brewers, such as one Christian Yelich. Between the spring results and Narvaez’s track record prior to 2020, I’m enjoying taking darts on him in deep leagues.
Hunter Dozier (50%) is right at the threshold, but bears mentioning due to being vastly underrated. Dozier broke out in a big way in 2019, slugging 26 homers in only 139 games. He only managed six dingers and a .228 batting average in 2020, but the .288 BABIP was the lowest mark of his career. His strikeout rate was in line with 2019, and he set a career-high in walk rate (14.5%). His batted ball profile looked pretty similar, too—he just didn’t hit the ball as hard. Dozier went on the I.L. at the beginning of last season with coronavirus symptoms, too. I’m willing to look past the down year given the previous breakout and all the funkiness surrounding 2020—including the disjointed spring training experience and the positive covid test. During this (more) normal spring training, Dozier slugged five homers and rapped out five doubles. He also tied for the league lead with 10 triples in 2019. Don’t forget, though he is a third base/corner outfielder, Dozier still possesses plus speed (77th percentile in 2020). He will be a fun one to own in 2021, and I have plenty of shares. Hop on board. **Update** Dozier was removed from Thursday’s game with a right thumb bruise and is considered day-today.**
I like Ryan McMahon (28%). The multi-eligibility and the Colorado backdrop are enticing. The hamstring injury recently suffered by Brendan Rodgers only further solidifies McMahon’s playing time, but I don’t think McMahon needed the injury, anyway. He’s the moving piece for the Rockies, and his ability to man second or third gives the roster some flexibility. He’s got some swing-and-miss to his game, but he makes a lot of hard contact and generates barrels at an above average rate (11.2% last year). That’s a recipe for success in Colorado, and the multi-eligibility is just icing on the proverbial cake. **Update the Rockies Rockie’d yesterday, and McMahon didn’t start because of Chris Owings. Ugh. Yes, I still like McMahon and think his time is assured, but MAN this is annoying.**
If you’re in a deep league, Mitch Moreland (3%) is lined up to be the everyday DH for Oakland. Here’s some propaganda on how the A’s feel about Moreland:
Mitch Moreland has certainly made an impression on the A’s.— Jessica Kleinschmidt (@KleinschmidtJD) March 29, 2021
“He’s one of the guys in the league that everybody can take something and learn from. He’s very knowledgeable about hitting.”
Said both Matt’s “rave about him.” They share time together in their hitting group.
Moreland is always a sneaky play against right-handed pitching, especially when he’s on a hot streak. It would have to be a deep league, but I like this fit for him. He’s been susceptible to nagging injuries over his career, but filling the DH spot every day can theoretically keep him upright and allow him to just rake. A career season for the underrated 35-year-old would not surprise me.
Add Ty France (42%) right now. What is it with this disrespect? France has a shot to be the everyday third baseman of the future in Seattle, but has a home right now in the DH spot. He’s also batting second in the Opening Day lineup. France once slugged 27 homers in only 76 Triple-A games, back in 2019. He batted an absurd .399 with a .410 BABIP...but that performance makes last year’s .305 BA and .390 BABIP easier to swallow. He’s obviously doing something right with the stick, even if last year’s exit velocity numbers leave something to be desired. He was still above the 50th percentile in barrel rate (56th) and whiff rate (55th), and was 75th percentile or better in xBA, xSLG, and xwOBA. I love him as a cheap second baseman if you miss out early, or as a strong middle infield play. And on some platforms he qualifies at the hot corner, too. He’s one of my favorite pickups right now.
Josh Rojas (22%) has done enough to get a look at the keystone for Arizona if you’re in a 15-teamer. He served as the leadoff man for Arizona on Opening Day, on the heels of his strong spring.
Enrique Hernandez (19%) should open the year leading off for Boston. Ride the wave, but be ready to drop him. I’d rather have Mauricio Dubon (8%) if I was planning long-term. Hernandez’s poor career OBP numbers do not inspire me. He should be batting ninth in that lineup before too long.
Kevin Newman (7%) had a record-breaking spring training, batting .606 with 20 hits in just 33 at-bats. Here’s a snippet from an article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Newman’s batting stance adjustment:
“He entered spring with an adjustment to his stance, bringing his hands a little bit lower to allow for him to start his swing more quickly than when his hands were up around his shoulders. It’s a similar change to the one second baseman Adam Frazier made. Frazier, of course, also played extremely well this spring, hitting .488 in 43 at-bats.”
Frazier batted fifth for Pittsburgh on Opening Day, and his 2B/SS eligibility is superb. Take a shot on a rebound and enjoy the bad team discount.
Brian Anderson (42%) is being disrespected. Fix this, if you need a steady floor of decent power production. Anderson’s hard hit rate suffered a bit in 2020 compared to career norms. And while his K-rate spiked to 28.8%, his walk rate increased to a healthy 9.6%. I’m inclined to look past some of the negatives given his solid track record.
Jonathan India (28%) has third base eligibility in most places but should be the primary second baseman for Cincinnati to begin the year. He offers the potential for power and speed, and obviously the home digs are a nice spot to be. The eligibility at the keystone will be...key. It’s such a thin position. If India makes any sort of splash at all, you’re looking at one of the top options at second. And yes, I know we are under the third base heading right now. Just know that the second base eligibility is coming...
Jeimer Candelario (13%) qualifies at both corner infield spots on most platforms and had a pretty stellar-looking Statcast profile in 2020. There’s some swing-and-miss here (a 42nd percentile K-rate last year) but in every other metric he was pink or blood-red. He set career marks in barrel rate, sweet spot rate, xBA, xSLG, xwOBA, XWOBACON, and hard hit rate. He also trimmed his strikeout rate a tad, from around 25% in the previous two years, to 23.8% last year. You could do worse than this 27-year-old who could still be up-and-coming. The switch-hitter batted second for Detroit today, sandwiched between fellow switch-hitters Robbie Grossman and Willi Castro. That’s a configuration that could stick for some time atop the lineup.
Other than these options, it’s probably down to Travis Shaw (1%) for me. I’m still hopeful he can regain some semblance of form after previously being a pretty formidable power bat with some chip-in speed. There are worse darts to take in a 15-teamer where you’re desperate. Shaw batted fifth for Milwaukee on Opening Day, and he could even move up to cleanup if Avisail Garcia doesn’t improve upon last year’s disappointing season. I don’t hate this add if looking for power. You get opportunity in a hitter’s park. Don’t overthink it.
Add Paul DeJong (50%) now. He’ll get tons of playing time, offer some power, and potentially even some speed (think 7-10 swipes). The batting average could be suspect, but we’re talking about a MI type of option based on his current wide availability. He is covering plenty of my MI slots this season. He batted cleanup on Opening Day for a top-heavy Cardinals lineup. I could see Dylan Carlson moving up from the seventh spot, but the rest of the bottom end of this St. Louis lineup isn’t scary-looking. I don’t see DeJong falling below fourth or fifth in this lineup in 2021.
I guess I’ll mention Garrett Hampson (45%) after ignoring him under second base. Although, the Rockies are gonna do Rockies things. They’ll probably sign Brett Lawrie or Brian Dozier off the street to further block every young Colorado infielder. Do with that information what you will, but I suppose Hampson is a decent dart play for speed. I forget about it because the Rockies forget about him so much—but Hampson does rank inside the 99th percentile for foot speed, checking in at 29.6 ft/s in 2020. For reference, only six MLB players were faster than Hampson in 2020, and only two of those are regulars (Trea Turner and Byron Buxton). Hampson’s wheels are legit. It’s just his opportunity that scares me. In the Opening Day lineup, Hampson batted eighth, after Elias Diaz and Chris Owings...that’s not exactly a ringing endorsement. Just temper those expectations.
You can give Jazz Chisholm Jr. (16% owned) a shot if you’re desperate for speed...he had a solid spring and is viewed as the shortstop of the future for Miami (though he will play second base this year). His exit velocity numbers were much improved during spring training compared to his forgettable 2020, and that trend continued during his first at-bats on Opening Day:
Jazz Chisholm with hard-hits in both of his first two ABs today. Just no luck.— Jordan McPherson (@J_McPherson1126) April 1, 2021
100.5 mph exit velo on a second-inning groundout (.510 xBA).
95.1 mph exit velo on a fifth-inning lineout to left (.420 xBA).#Marlins-Rays tied 0-0 as we head to the sixth inning at loanDepot park.
Brian Anderson (42%) is still outfield-eligible on Yahoo. You know what to do.
Raimel Tapia (30%) is one of my favorite outfield plays in 2021. He should bat leadoff for Colorado’s everyday lineup, and offers some speed.
Bryan Reynolds (12%) is the No. 3 hitter for PIT. Last year was a year to forget, but I’m all about value that is hidden by the bad team smokescreen. Everyday at-bats are underrated, and Reynolds was previously a guy we knew as a batting average asset. I’m willing to look past the shortened 2020 season.
Taylor Trammell (11%) is starting for Seattle in center field after the injury to Kyle Lewis. He’s on borrowed time, but he has had a hot spring. You never know where these early pickups go, or what can cause a guy to stick for the year. Trammell has shown plus defense and an ability to hit for average and power this spring...he’s an exciting short-term play, for sure.
Adam Eaton (10%) gets a boost with Eloy Jimenez out, and he batted second in the White Sox lineup on Opening Day. He’s got double-digit home run and stolen base potential in a still potent Chicago lineup.
Dylan Cease (39%) is my top guy under 50% to add. His final turn of the spring resulted in a whopping 11 strikeouts against zero walks. The control/command is the key. If we get a trimming of the walks, we could have a legitimate breakout candidate on our hands. Cease managed a 22/7 K/BB ratio over his 17 spring innings.
Tarik Skubal (24%) was a strikeout artist in the minors—a 17.43 K/9 over 42 1⁄3 Double-A innings in 2019, for example. He also missed bats in 2020 during his MLB debut (10.41 K/9) but the home run ball dinged him (2.53 HR/9). Home runs weren’t an issue in the minors, however. Maybe that’s too simplistic...but if Skubal curbs the home runs he could be useful pitching in front of that Detroit backdrop.
Anthony DeSclafani (4%) is so far down the ‘rostered’ list...I think I scrolled through 10 pages. Dang. Anyway, “Tony Disco” is in some new San Francisco digs, and primed for a rebound after a rough 33 1⁄3 innings in 2020. He battled through an early season back injury, one that could have explained last year’s dip. But he had his breakout in 2019, when he posted 3.89 ERA (3.77 xERA) with 167 strikeouts across 166 2⁄3 innings. The Giants are turning themselves into the reclamation spot for starting pitching (see Gausman, Kevin) and it’s possible DeSclafani is the next man up. He’s filled out most of my fantasy rotations this season.
How is Michael Wacha (3%) being so neglected? Per the Rays’ wacky tendencies, it’s possible we see Wacha used behind an opener in 2021. He ditched his curveball last year, and traded out a few four-seamers for more cutters and changeups. The result was his best strikeout rate (23.7%) since his rookie season (25.0%). His 4.5% walk rate was also the best mark of his career. If you’re into strikeouts and walks like I am, then last year’s 37/7 K/BB ratio should have you salivating over what Wacha can do in Tampa. Call him a poor man’s Freddy Peralta, even...
Daniel Bard (50%) gets the Colorado smokescreen. He’s had a strong spring following his stellar bounce-back of 2020, and he’s been named the Rockies’ closer by manager Bud Black. Add in Scott Oberg’s continued struggles with health (prayers for him that he can get healthy again) and it’s Bard’s job to lose in Colorado. Bard nailed down the opening day save, so go crazy here, folks.
Jake Diekman (33% owned) probably gets the first crack at closing for Oakland while Trevor Rosenthal (shoulder) is sidelined. Go crazy!
Tanner Scott (21%) reads like the top option in Baltimore’s bullpen. He can get into trouble with free passes, but he’s got a career 30.2% strikeout rate, too.
I like all of the above mentioned guys for one reason or another...who are YOU adding right now in your fantasy baseball leagues?