Fantasy Baseball Waiver Wire: Emmanuel Clase, Cedric Mullins, Casey Mize
It might seem hard to believe now, but your fantasy baseball season isn’t ruined yet.
You have probably endured some early injuries, but few (if any teams) will remain unscathed for long. And maybe some of your top performers have laid an egg in the 2021 campaign’s opening games. That’s baseball. It happens.
Now let’s overreact to some hot April starts.
It’s important to maintain perspective when analyzing hot performers. Yet there’s usually no time to wait and see if that talented reliever gets another save or if that streaking slugger is actually legit. In deeper leagues especially, it’s OK to cut bait on bench duds for a player showing promising signs out of the gate.
Note: Rostered rates are from Yahoo leagues as of Monday night.
FAABulous Four: Top Waiver Targets
Terry Francona left the door open for a committee, but he might have picked Clase instead of Karinchak and Nick Wittgren. The prize of the then-panned Corey Kluber trade has looked fantastic to start the season. He’s allowed just two walks and hits apiece in 4.1 innings while recording six strikeouts. The 23-year-old fires his cut fastball at the highest velocity of any reliever.
Clase as a full-time closer would be a game-changer. Picking up a save Friday should have been enough for managers to spring into action, but Sunday’s script was even more encouraging. Wittgren worked the seventh, followed by Karinchak in the eighth before Clase closed the ninth against Detroit. He’ll pad your strikeouts and ratios even if sharing save opportunities, go grab Clase despite entering permitting the game-deciding run after entering a tie game Monday night.
Cedric Mullins (OF – BAL): 46% Rostered
Dating back to last season, Mullins has a 13-game hitting streak. He already has five multi-hit games, including a five-hit performance on April 4, along with five doubles, a homer, and two steals. His sweltering start has led the 26-year-old to score seven runs in nine games despite doldrums from just about every other Baltimore starter.
Mullins won’t keep this up forever, but he’s too hot to ignore. Even when he settles down, you could be looking at a .260-.270 hitter with 10 homers, 20 steals, and a bunch of runs occupying the leadoff role. That will help in any format where five starting outfielders are required.
Casey Mize (SP – DET): 20% Rostered
So you’re saying seven disappointing starts isn’t enough to write off a No. 1 pick for good?
Mize got mutilated to a 6.99 ERA in his MLB debut last year. The previous year, he presented major potential with a 2.55 ERA and 0.94 WHIP in the minors. He’s back on the promising path after twirling seven shutout innings against the Astros in just 89 pitches Monday night. The 6’3″ righty averaged 95 mph on his four-seam fastball, showed tremendous command, and generated 12 ground outs.
While he may not brandish league-altering upside in his first full season, Mize is a future workhorse who can provide valuable inning with solid ratios and strikeout potential.
Yimi Garcia (RP – MIA): 32% Rostered
After blowing two saves in his first three outings, Anthony Bass has already lost the closer’s job in Miami. As speculated here last week, Garcia registered the first save instead. The 30-year-old righty may not keep the role for the long haul, but saves are saves. He’s now allowed just 11 hits and two runs in his last 21.1 innings pitched, so Garcia shouldn’t hurt your ratios.
Priority Pickups – <35% Rostered
Jake Odorizzi (SP – HOU): 32%
Odorizzi, a late signee, will make his Astros debut Tuesday against the Tigers. While it’s typically wise to scout a returning starter before tossing him into the lineup, the matchup immediately inserts him into streamer territory. Managers might want to keep him afterward. Before faltering in four short-lived starts last season, Odorizzi posted a 3.51 ERA and career-high 178 strikeouts in 2019. He’s now on a forward-thinking contender capable of getting the most out of their starters.
Colin Moran (1B/2B/3B – PIT): 29%
Last week’s column suggested that Moran could soon work his way onto 12-team mixed leagues as a corner (or middle in Yahoo) infielder. He’s expediting that process with a hot start, batting .278/.395/.500 with two homers as the Pirates’ regular cleanup hitter. The Gerrit Cole trade finally wouldn’t look so bad if Pittsburgh had held onto Joe Musgrove.
Moran is slugging .477 since the start of 2020 and has more barrels (21) in those 62 games than in all of 2018 (18). Nate Lowe is already rostered in 70% of Yahoo leagues because of his hot start, but Moran remains widely available because of his team and two pedestrian seasons as a full-time starter.
Omar Narvaez (C – MIL): 29%
Narvaez batted .277 in 2017, .275 in 2018, and .278 in 2019. It’s safe to say last year’s .176 average — in just 40 games — doesn’t properly represent the 29-year-old catcher. He’s quickly reminding everyone of his abilities by going 11-for-25 with two homers in 29 plate appearances. You might not hold him all year as your lone catcher in a 12-team mixed league, but he’s a fine option in those formats while rolling.
Brandon Nimmo (OF – NYM): 28%
Although they lost the DH, the Mets have started Nimmo in every game this season. Aside from Opening Day, he’s led off — including against southpaw Trevor Rogers — each of the past four contests. He’s already reached base 13 times (seven hits, six walks) in an otherwise struggling lineup, so there’s no reason to change the formula any time soon. Get Nimmo now before the Mets head to Coors Field for a three-game series starting Friday.
Myles Straw (SS/OF – HOU): 23%
A popular sleeper highlighted as a top add in the season’s first waiver-wire column, Straw quickly got dropped in many leagues after an uninspiring start. He’s yet to record an extra-base hit this year, so it’s borderline impossible to roster him in points leagues. However, don’t abandon ship just yet in a roto format. The speedster has stolen two bases in his last three games and has more walks (five) than strikeouts (four) through 10 games. He can still be who we thought he was entering the season.
Phillip Evans (3B – PIT): 11%
Two Pirates hitters feel like two too many, but Evans is batting .380/.450/.606 in 80 plate appearances since the start of 2020. Is he following the Justin Turner path from bench depth to stardom after leaving the Mets? Probably not, but he has just nine strikeouts in those 19 games. Perhaps more importantly, Pittsburgh should give Evans every chance to prove he deserves a permanent place in the starting lineup. He’s an add in NL-only and deeper mixed leagues, for now.
Anthony DeSclafani (SP – SF): 10%
Ignoring 2020 is looking like a fruitful strategy thus far. DeSclafani got torched to a 7.22 ERA last season, which was uncharacteristic for a solid back-end starter sporting a career 4.23 ERA. He’s looked far better this month, surrendering just one run against the Padres and Rockies. He faced the latter at home rather than Coors, making it an ideal streaming opportunity, so treat Tony Disco as a matchup play rather than a legitimate breakout candidate. Luckily he’s lined up to face the Marlins twice before once against hosting the Rockies. Ride the hot hand through April.
Lou Trivino (RP – OAK): 10%
It remains unclear who will close for the 3-7 Athletics in place of Trevor Rosenthal, who will undergo Tommy John surgery, because a save opportunity has yet to arise as of Monday. All we have is the word of manager Bob Melvin, who suggested Trivino could get some opportunities if the left-handed Jake Diekman is better suited to work an earlier inning.
Sounds like Lou Trivino is a strong option to close games going forward, especially if match-ups dictate Diekman go in the eighth, Melvin says.
"If we can move it forward with Lou, maybe he gives us an option to close as well and/or pitch the 8th inning depending on match ups."
— Shayna Rubin (@ShaynaRubin) April 8, 2021
That at least makes Trivino worth adding in deeper formats. He’s only allowed two hits (including a home run) in 7.2 innings this season and possesses a career 25.3% strikeout rate. Stash him now in case he gets the first save attempt, especially since he pitched the ninth inning in Monday’s 9-5 victory.
Huascar Ynoa (SP – ATL): 10% Rostered
Called upon for a spot-start, Ynoa blanked a depleted Nationals lineup over five frames. The Braves rewarded the 22-year-old with another opportunity, which he seized by allowing one run and accruing 10 strikeouts Monday against the Marlins.
Huascar Ynoa, Disgusting Sliders (5th, 6th and 7th Ks) pic.twitter.com/VemVIFhO1I
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) April 13, 2021
You’re right to be skeptical of a two-pitch pitcher with a career 4.32 ERA in the minors, but a high-90s heater and slider with heavy movement have done the job so far. He’s earned an extended stay in the rotation, and he’s scheduled to get another favorable matchup against the struggling Cubs.
Deep League Targets – <10% Rostered
Zach McKinstry (OF – LAD): 7%
Have the Dodgers done it again? The No. 1,001 overall pick in 2016, McKinstry wasn’t quite on the typical drafter’s radar despite offering 19 homers and eight steals between Double-A and Triple-A in 2019. Not expected to sniff a loaded lineup, the 25-year-old rookie is suddenly playing regularly with Mookie Betts and Cody Bellinger out of commission. He’s batting .321/.355/.679 and could stick in the lineup with Bellinger placed on the IL. Along with recently adding outfield eligibility in Yahoo leagues, he could soon qualify for second base as well.
Hansel Robles (RP – MIN): 7%
Alex Colome hasn’t made a strong first impression in Minnesota, allowing three runs in his first and most recent appearances. Robles, on the other hand, has permitted just one hit and one unearned run in five outings. If Colome falters once more, the former Angels closer could receive some save chances instead.
Luke Weaver (SP -ARI): 6%
This isn’t as simple as forgetting 2020; Weaver also got wrecked to a 4.95 ERA in 2018, his only season with more than 65 big-league innings. However, it was still strange how quickly everyone abandoned a 27-year-old with a career 4.03 FIP and 4.07 SIERA. After falling one out shy of a quality start at Coors Field, Weaver silenced the red-hot Reds to one hit over seven spectacular innings Sunday. En route to eight strikeouts, Weaver consistently attacked the upper plate with his fastball and got batters to chase low changeups.
Luke Weaver's lovely low changeup pic.twitter.com/4pSrslJc0L
— Nick Pollack (@PitcherList) April 12, 2021
Even if he never truly takes the next step, last year’s 6.58 ERA stands out as a clear outlier. He’s a valuable deep-league addition and intriguing standard-league option this weekend against the Nationals.
Travis Shaw (1B/3B – MIL): 6%
Shaw deposited 31 homers in 2017 and 32 in 2018 before swiftly falling downhill. Back with the Brewers, he’s rediscovered his swing with two early home runs. Routinely batting fourth or fifth has helped the 30-year-old tally 10 RBIs in nine games. He already has seven strikeouts, but he’s hitting .276 with a substantial gain in contact rate. While that average will surely drop, it’s worth seeing if he has another 25-homer season in the tank on a team starving for power.
Alex Cobb (SP – LAA): 6%
Cobb caught a break when a Sunday postponement pushed him back to face the Royals instead of the White Sox. Capitalizing on the softer AL Central matchup, he compiled 10 strikeouts and was cruising before allowing all three runs in the sixth. That gives him 17 punchouts to just two walks in two starts. True to form, the 33-year-old sinkerballer also has a 57.1% ground-ball rate. There’s deep-league appeal and standard-league streamer merit in the right matchup.
Avisail Garcia (OF – MIL): 5%
Garcia looked to be out of luck when the Brewers signed Jackie Bradley Jr. shortly before Opening Day. He’s instead started all but one game, often batting fourth. Garcia justified that lineup spot by going deep twice over the weekend. While a subpar 2020 sunk his stock, recall the 20 homers and 10 steals he offered in a breakout 2019. Having lost significant weight in the offseason, he could return to that production level if he continues to play. That seems increasingly likely after Christian Yelich exited Sunday’s game with a back injury.
Jed Lowrie (2B – OAK): 5%
Lowrie didn’t tally a single hit during his two-year contract with the Mets. Back in Oakland, he seems to have found the magic Moneyball potion again. Having already played more games this season (10) than all of 2019 and 2020 (nine), the soon-to-be 37-year-old infielder has gone 12-for-38 with five walks, three doubles, and a homer. In his last full season, also with the A’s, he batted .267/.353/.448 with 23 homers and 99 RBIs in 680 plate appearances.
Tim Locastro (OF – ARI): 5%
Locastro has started and led off the last five games in place of the injured Ketel Marte. With two more stolen bases this season, he’s yet to get thrown out on 28 career attempts. Used scarcely as a fourth outfielder, the 28-year-old brandishes a .363 OBP in 388 career plate appearances due to his propensity for getting hit by pitches. Although likely just a temporary stop-gap, Locastro can swipe a few bags and score some runs for deep-league managers.
If you want to dive deeper into fantasy baseball, be sure to check out our award-winning slate of Fantasy Baseball Tools as you navigate your season. From our Lineup Assistant – which provides your optimal lineup, based on accurate consensus projections – to our Waiver Wire Assistant – that allows you to quickly see which available players will improve your team, and by how much – we’ve got you covered this fantasy baseball season.