Fantasy Baseball Waiver Wire: Joey Votto, Zach McKinstry, Anthony DeSclafani
Whether you’re a former MVP or a former 1,001st overall draft pick, fantasy baseball’s waiver wire doesn’t discriminate against anyone who produces.
This week’s recommendations feature a Breakfast Club casting structure, bringing an eclectic crew all under the same roof. A few were mainstays in a past life. Others were marquee prospects who never panned out, and you might not have even heard of a couple of these players until the 2021 season began.
Their background matters little now. Don’t hold past disappointments — particularly a bad 2020 — too much against someone flashing significant promise in the opening weeks. Just don’t fall in love with small surface stats not backed up by any metrics. That’s not the case for many of the following players, all available in most Yahoo leagues.
Note: Rostered rates are from Yahoo leagues as of Monday night.
FAABulous Four: Top Waiver Targets
Joey Votto (1B – CIN): 30%
Motivated by a late-season benching, Votto refined his swing and swatted six home runs last September. However, that power push didn’t immediately translate into the new season. Perhaps hampered by a COVID-19 diagnosis in March, the 37-year-old went nine games without an extra-base hit to begin the 2021 campaign.
He since has three doubles and three homers in six games.
Votto, who hit 15 home runs in 2019, has 11 long balls over his last 43 games dating back to August 29, 2020. While he has an uncharacteristically low 6.3% walk rate, his aggressiveness is paying off. The first baseman continues to lace line drives while posting his hardest average exit velocity (92.6 mph) and hard-hit rate (49.0%) since Statcast began tracking in 2015. Despite swinging more than he has in over a decade, Votto has maintained a 14.1% strikeout rate.
Following years of depleted power, Votto has reinvented himself back into a useful fantasy corner infielder. THE BAT X projects him to hit .263/.369/.461 with 23 homers the rest of the way. Those numbers no longer seem like much of a stretch, and the batting average is far from his ceiling.
Zach McKinstry (OF – LAD): 43%
Well, at least we’re not worried about playing time anymore. The Dodgers discovered worse news than anticipated for Cody Bellinger, who has a hairline fracture in his left fibula. They also placed Gavin Lux on the IL with a wrist injury. That opens up two spots for McKinstry, who has played 13 games in the outfield and six at second base. And while it probably won’t last, he’s on some heater.
— MLB (@MLB) April 17, 2021
Those waiting for a larger sample size have missed out on McKinstry hitting .319/.353/.617 with three homers and 13 RBIs in his first 15 games. His Statcast numbers don’t jump off the page, but a .356 expected wOBA (xwOBA) still represents a strong performer. The 25-year-old rookie has made contact on 92.9% of pitches seen inside the strike zone and gets to bat in a prolific lineup. This seems like a case to take a leap of faith. Worst comes to worst, you’ll drop him later.
Anthony DeSclafani (SP – SF): 39%
DeSclafani recorded an out beyond the fifth inning in just one start last year. He went six innings in each of his last two outings, blanking the Rockies and containing the Rockies to one run. While those were both opportune matchups, he began 2021 by allowing one run over five frames against a far tougher Padres offense.
Sporting a 1.06 ERA and 2.69 FIP, Tony Disco is grooving. Some of it amounts to small-sample fortune; he won’t maintain a 96.3% strand rate or 6.3% HR/FB rate. However, it’s also intriguing to see him trade line drives for a 53.1% ground-ball rate while elevating his swinging-strike rate to 12.0%. He’s earned enough leeway to use at Philadelphia this week, especially with another home matchup against the Rockies on tap next week.
Kendall Graveman (RP – SEA): 40%
At this point, we’re all getting queasy riding the Closer Carousel. Although he’s yielded just three runs, Rafael Montero also blew three save opportunities. That led the Mariners to explore other options. Graveman and Kenyan Middleton each have two saves, but the latter’s saves came in more circumstantial situations. Besides, Graveman has allowed just one hit and no runs all season.
Is the former starter turning into a shutdown reliever? Maybe not. The 30-year-old picked up five of his six strikeouts in his first outing of the season, meaning he went three outings without earning a single punchout. A 10.6% swinging-strike rate marks an improvement from his rotation days, but it’s pedestrian for a reliever. Graveman is interesting enough to add if in need of saves, but risky enough to envision a scenario where he’s far away from the ninth inning — and all fantasy rosters — by May.
Priority Pickups – <35% Rostered
JT Brubaker (SP – PIT): 29%
Brubaker has held each of his first three opponents to one run, accumulating 18 strikeouts and a 55.3% ground-ball rate in 15.1 innings. While he relies most heavily on his slider, his sinker and four-seam fastball have allowed just one hit. Pittsburgh’s top starter by default is far from a fantasy ace, but the 27-year-old righty has the makings of a usable depth option.
Tejay Antone (SP/RP – CIN): 29%
Although the Reds disappointed many drafters by leaving Antone out of the rotation, he’s contributed tremendously in long relief. The popular preseason sleeper has fired 8.1 scoreless frames in four outings, tallying 12 strikeouts while yielding just two hits and walks apiece. The 27-year-old can help most fantasy managers in his current role, especially those with daily lineup changes who can park him into an SP slot, but don’t be surprised if an injury opens the door for him to join the rotation eventually.
Jurickson Profar (2B/OF – SD): 26%
The biggest fear regarding Profar was how San Diego would fit him into a stacked lineup. That concern hasn’t materialized, as he has started the last 15 games for the Friars. He’s given them every reason to stay in the lineup, notching a .379 OBP with more walks (11) than strikeouts (seven).
Profar, who posted 20 homers in each of his last two full seasons, has stolen three bases this season. Already eligible at second base and outfield in most leagues, he could soon add first base in Yahoo formats. Versatility helps more than ever, so Profar could be especially useful if he regains some of his past power.
Raimel Tapia (OF – COL): 26%
The Rockies will play their next five games at Coors Field, where Tapia is a career .328/.369/.480 hitter. While the outfielder hasn’t gotten off to a rousing start, he took a dominant Jacob deGrom deep on Saturday with help from Colorado’s high altitude. He’s worth streaming for this week’s homestand.
Manuel Margot (OF – TB): 23%
Margot would be receiving a lot of love right now if this was his second or third season. Yet many have written off a once highly regarded prospect at the ripe old age of 26. His 12 steals in just 47 regular-season games — and two more in the World Series — got lost in the bizarreness of 2020. It’s time to give the outfielder a closer look.
Along with two more stolen bases in 2021, he has already doubled last year’s homer tally with two long balls. His 51.4% hard-hit rate is also lapping his previous single-season high of 34.8%. Most importantly, he’s playing regularly on a Tampa Bay squad that likes to manipulate matchups more than most clubs. Margot can match or exceed his 12 homers and 20 steals from 2019 while at least hitting near his .250 career norm. That’s a valuable contributor in any five-outfielder league.
Jeimer Candelario (1B/3B – DET): 22%
Candelario is batting .297/.371/.480 in 68 games since the start of 2020. Last year’s high batting average looked like a mirage coming from a career .238 hitter, but he has maintained those results while making more contact and lowering his strikeout rate. In fact, only seven hitters have made more contact on pitches inside the strike zone. Although the power is underwhelming, he’s playing every day for the Tigers and justifying a roster spot in all but the shallowest of fantasy leagues.
Rafael Dolis (RP – TOR): 17%
Kirby Yates was supposed to close in Toronto. Then he had Tommy John surgery. Julian Merryweather got the first opportunities, only to suffer an oblique strain. Jordan Romano joined them on the shelf before he could even register a save.
Dolis is likely next in line, but Romano is on track to return once eligible this Sunday. Perhaps the 33-year-old can provide a save or two, or more if Romano has a setback. Yet it’s a far better long-term decision to stash Romano in the 47% of Yahoo leagues where he remains available.
Avisail Garcia (OF – MIL): 16%
Mentioned here last week, Garcia’s avenue for playing time is now wide open with Lorenzo Cain and Christian Yelich on the IL. Batting third or fourth nearly every day, he’s recorded a hit in eight of the last nine games. Furthermore, a thunderous 55.8% hard-hit rate and .456 xwOBA foreshadow a major hot streak ahead. This could be your last chance to scoop up a 20/10 contributor in most leagues.
Michael Fulmer (SP/RP – DET): 13%
The 2016 AL Rookie of the Year and an All-Star the following season, Fulmer clearly wasn’t back to 100% when returning from Tommy John surgery last year. He’s looking much sharper this April. His average fastball velocity has jumped from 93.3 mph to 95.4 mph, resulting in a higher swinging-strike rate (12.0%) than he ever produced in a season. He’s collected 12 strikeouts to just one walk and earned his first win since 2018 against the Astros last Wednesday. Even those skeptical of his long-term merit should look his way for Tuesday’s home matchup against the Pirates.
Alex Wood (SP/RP – SF): 10%
Making his Giants debut Sunday, Wood tossed five scoreless innings with four strikeouts and no walks against the Marlins. It’s especially encouraging since he mostly worked out of the bullpen last year and got decimated to a 5.77 ERA over the last two injury-plagued seasons.
Despite his recent blemishes, the 30-year-old southpaw still wields a 3.42 ERA and 1.23 WHIP over his career. After revitalizing Drew Smyly last season, the Giants can do the same for Wood. It certainly helps that he’s lined up to face the Marlins again in his second start, possibly followed by a home start against the Rockies.
Deep League Targets – <10% Rostered
Josh Harrison (2B/3B – WAS): 6%
After starting the season on the COVID list, Harrison quickly made his presence felt with four consecutive multi-hit games. The veteran has 11 hits without a single strikeout in 28 plate appearances. It’s probably just a hot streak, but one that will give him a longer rope in Washington’s starting lineup. He also played well for the Nationals last year, hitting .278/.352/.418 in 33 games, and has valuable dual-position eligibility.
Renato Nunez (1B/3B – DET): 4%
Nunez didn’t make the Tigers’ Opening Day roster, but they selected his contract after placing Miguel Cabrera on the IL. The former Baltimore slugger hasn’t done much yet, batting .148 with two homers and eight strikeouts in seven games. He’s worth a look in deep leagues anyway. Nunez crushed 31 homers in 2019 and 12 more with a career-high 120 wRC+ in the shortened 2020.
Yandy Diaz (1B/3B – TB): 4%
Diaz has started the last seven games for Tampa Bay. After three straight games in the cleanup role, he’s led off the last three contests. Just like last season, he has a high OBP (.400) with more walks (11) than strikeouts (nine). Also like 2020, he’s not elevating any of his hard contact, leading mostly to singles. He won’t help a shallow-league manager until he turns some ground balls into fly balls, but Diaz remains a steady contributor for batting average and OBP in deeper formats.
Garrett Whitlock (SP/RP – BOS): 3%
After retiring all eight batters faced on Patriots’ Day, Whitlock hasn’t allowed a baserunner in his last 7.2 innings pitched. Yet to allow a run this season, the Rule 5 pick — poached from the Yankees — has 11 strikeouts to no walks in nine frames. The former starter has paired his sinker with a dominant changeup that has baffled the opposition all month.
Garrett Whitlock, Wicked Changeups. ???????????? pic.twitter.com/2n53HMnVms
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) April 14, 2021
No mere consolation prize for managers unable to add Antone, Whitlock is an excellent source of ERA, WHIP, and strikeouts in his current long-relief role.
Guillermo Heredia (OF – ATL): 1%
Promoted to replace the injured Cristian Pache, Heredia hit two home runs on Sunday Night Baseball. A journeyman typically limited to platooning against lefties could get a temporary full-time role with Pache and Ender Inciarte sidelined. Add him in NL-only leagues and truly deep mixed leagues.
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.