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2021 Fantasy Baseball Waiver Wire: Zach McKinstry, Joey Votto, Kendall Graveman, and more!

Heath takes a look at the fantasy baseball waiver wire.

MLB: Chicago Cubs at Los Angeles Dodgers Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Here’s a brief look at who you should be adding right now in your fantasy baseball leagues. No frills, just digging in. Let’s do it.

CATCHERS

C Omar Narvaez, Milwaukee Brewers (35% rostered)

He’s still not owned enough. He’s the No. 10 catcher in 5x5 leagues right now, mostly due to that shiny .361 batting average. Since early April, he’s essentially moved from seventh in the order to fifth—but on Monday night he batted second for the offensively-challenged Brewers. As a unit, Milwaukee ranks 28th in batting average (.209) and 28th in SLG (.349). They need help scoring runs, and Narvaez appears to be working his way into the circle of trust. Early draft season playing time concerns are (so far) unfounded—his 47 PA rank 11th at the catcher position. He is a sturdy second catching option in your fake leagues, and has a chance to finish as a top 12 option due to his ability to hit for batting average.

C Carson Kelly, Arizona Diamondbacks (29% rostered)

Kelly is the No. 7 catcher in 5x5 leagues, he’s there due to the .400 BA and the three homers already. He’s also inched his way up in the lineup. Here are his batting order slots since April 7th: 7, 8, 8, 7, 2, 7, 5. There’s an overall trend there that we like to see. There are also some missed games, as he’s not seeing quite the amount of time as we’d like. His 41 PA rank 17th at the position. Until he gets more time, I think you view him as a second catching option. Kelly pulls a lot of fly balls, so he’ll be susceptible to dips in batting average. However, right now he is PASTING the ball, so good things are happening. His Statcast page is mostly blood red—right now he’s 90th percentile or better in hard hit, xwOBA, xSLG, barrel rate, and walk rate. I like him for power, if that’s what you need.

CORNER INFIELDERS

1B Joey Votto, Cincinnati Reds (34% rostered)

The last couple of years have been a disappointment, but early returns on his batted ball quality are encouraging. He’s inside the top 10% of the league in xBA, xSLG, xwOBA, and max exit velocity. Right now I think you have to treat the veteran as a solid corner infield option. He’s got two or more hits (and a homer) over his last three games.

1B/3B Travis Shaw, Milwaukee Brewers (25% rostered)

He’s going to be owned much higher than this at some point this season. The dual eligibility is nice, as is his opportunity batting in the middle of the order in a prime hitter’s park. So far he’s 0-for-9 against southpaws, so his performance against right-handers is carrying him. That’s been typical over the course of his career, though, so it isn’t a huge concern—and obviously he’ll get on the board soon in that split. I’m waiting on the next home run barrage to come, and I bet we see his ownership jump up in a hurry. You can get in now, while the cost is minimal.

MIDDLE INFIELDERS

2B Nick Madrigal, Chicago White Sox (46% rostered)

The middle infield is disgusting under the 50% threshold. Madrigal is a safe bet for batting average—he has one strikeout through 52 PA so far—and SHOULD be a safe bet for double-digit steals over the course of a season. If it’s middle infield help you need, I’d prefer his batting average and speed over the next guy...

2B/SS/OF Kiké Hernandez, Boston Red Sox (24% rostered)

In on-base leagues, you can’t consider this play. But if it’s a league with batting average and you need some power, you can add Hernandez and hope for something in the range of a .250 average and decent power—perhaps even sneaky counting stats. He’s scored two runs in each of his last three games, and he’s done enough with the stick to stay in the leadoff role thus far. I don’t think it will last, but you can ride the wave and pray.

OUTFIELDERS

OF Zach McKinstry, Los Angeles Dodgers (43% rostered)

He’s batting sixth or seventh for the Dodgers while Cody Bellinger (left fibula fracture) is shelved, and with Bellinger expected to be out for longer than anticipated he’ll have some leash. Bellinger is considered to be worse than “day-to-day,” from what we know. There’s also the fact that Dodgers skipper Dave Roberts compared McKinstry to Chase flipping Utley, which is some pretty darn high praise. So it would seem that his role is assured for the time being. He’s known as a tough-nosed, never-take-a-play-off sort of guy, and we know managers love those types—even if they lack certain tools. McKinstry never showed eye-popping category juice in the minors, but he should offer decent power while he’s getting this opportunity. And despite not running much in the minors, he’s right at the 70th percentile for sprint speed, so it’s not like he’s slow. I love taking a chance on guys like this and seeing where the show goes. Even if Bellinger returns, all it takes is another gimpy injury to another player and McKinstry can stick around for longer.

OF Brandon Nimmo, New York Mets (46% rostered)

He doesn’t have a home run yet, but he has been a hits machine and he’s got a pair of steals already. He’s tallied three hits in three of his last four games, and has his early season batting average up to .447. Over the course of a year I think he’s a 15/15 sort of guy, with all the counting stats you’d expect from a guy who has the leadoff role pretty well in hand. He’s a glue guy for a lot of my outfields this year, and I’m still “in” on him.

STARTING PITCHERS

SP Anthony DeSclafani, San Francisco Giants (39% rostered)

Even if he stumbles against the Phillies this week, he’s done enough to warrant ownership in all but the shallowest of leagues. The Giants are fast becoming the locale where pitchers go to rebuild their value, and why shouldn’t we be more “in” on a guy like this given the friendliness of the home pitching environment? I have “Tony Disco” on a ton of teams this year, and he’s done nothing to make me believe I shouldn’t continue to hold him—even if the Philly start isn’t the smoothest.

SP Taijuan Walker, New York Mets (38% rostered)

Walker only managed 4 13 innings in his last turn, but he still struck out eight hitters. Like DeSclafani, I love his home park, even if the NL East isn’t the greatest place to be given the potency of the opposing offenses. Walker is still just 28 years old, though it feels like he’s been around much longer. He was able to rebuild some value in 2020 due to his 2.70 ERA, even if he was pitching a bit above his head (4.56 FIP, 4.82 xFIP). So far this year his strikeouts are up, and I’m hoping he can stay healthy long enough to capitalize on the early swing-and-miss that he’s showing. His 12.0% swinging strike rate is one of the better marks of his career, as is his 31.3% chase rate.

RELIEF PITCHERS

RP Kendall Graveman, Seattle Mariners (40% rostered)

Graveman appears to have the role locked down in Seattle, and that’s enough for me. I know, hashtag analysis. I took some early darts on him this year, so I’m definitely holding onto him now!

P Tejay Antone, Cincinnati Reds (29% rostered)

You could go for a guy like Greg Holland if you need saves, but I think he’s on borrowed time this year. Antone represents tons more upside, even if it isn’t in the form of saves. If he is coming into games in a middle relief role, he’ll have a chance to surprise us in the win column while also racking up plenty of strikeouts. Think Freddy Peralta lite, and that’s what you’re buying.