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Under-the-Radar Waiver Wire Pickups (Week 3)

Apr 16, 2021

If you’ve had a rough start to the season, don’t fret! Injuries and slumps have already started to take their toll on some fantasy managers, but the season is still very young and there’s ample time to turn it around. A big part of that is by taking note of which underrated players have started out hot or have the opportunity to put it together very soon.

Now you shouldn’t get too bullish on athletes based on two-week sample sizes, but you also don’t want to overlook some heavy hitters or hot hurlers who could help out your team immediately or be valuable studs later on. Our featured experts are here to suggest some players who’ve done well so far and might be worth cutting your late-round underperformers for. Keep in mind that the following players are rostered in 20% of leagues or less, so those in hardcore or deep leagues should consider nabbing these guys, while fantasy GMs in more shallow or casual leagues should at least keep these athletes on their radar.

Q1. What one hitter should fantasy managers look into picking up that is rostered in 20% of leagues or fewer?

Jesus Aguilar (1B/DH – MIA): 15% Rostered
“Aguilar is playing every day and batting in the heart of the Marlins’ lineup so far in 2021. Of course, we all remember his extraordinary start to 2018 and its 2019 counterpart which was … well … a little more ordinary, but his 2020 is a realistic balance and is what I expect in 2021. His 2020 stats, when extrapolated to 600 plate appearances, come out to an extremely serviceable 86 runs, 94 RBIs, 22 homers, and a .277 batting average. His numbers only hurt you in steals. The best part is his peripherals and Statcast data back it up! There is no other player under 20% rostered that provides both the safety of everyday playing time and upside (as seen in his 2018) as Aguilar. Plus, he’s such a fun guy to watch.”
– Jordan Eisen (Field of Vision Sports)

Jazz Chisholm (2B/SS – MIA): 20% Rostered
“Chisholm has been an exciting young player for MLB to showcase, but he’s also shown he can be a viable fantasy option. He’s currently slashing .258/.385/.613 with a .415 wOBA and plays the shallowest non-catcher fantasy position in second base. Two things give Chisholm staying power: his ability to take a walk (17.9% walk rate, 7:11 K:BB ratio) and his speed. He already has three stolen bases and ranks in the 88th percentile in sprint speed, so there’s little to suggest he’ll stop running anytime soon. In short, he has all the makings of a top option at his position and should be added pretty much everywhere.”
– Dan Harris (FantasyPros)

Maikel Franco (3B – BAL): 10% Rostered
“Franco is available in approximately 90% of leagues, and he’s someone I have been targeting in leagues where I have the roster space and a need at CI (or could just use some depth). Baltimore was a great landing spot for him and it’s easy to envision 20 home runs, a .250 batting average, and 150 combined runs scored/RBIs.”
– Mike Maher (FantasyPros)

Tim Locastro (OF – ARI): 11% Rostered
“Waiver wire pickups are often dependent on team needs, so my suggestion may not be for everyone. But my vote is for Tim Locastro of the Arizona Diamondbacks. Locastro is arguably the fastest player in baseball. He led all of MLB in sprint speed in 2019 and 2020 and is just slightly behind Trea Turner in the early going of 2021 in that category. More importantly, Locastro is finally getting regular playing time, as he has started each of Arizona’s last seven contests. Locastro has led off in all seven of those games, and he has recorded at least one hit in each one. Not only is Locastro lightning-fast, but he is also a savvy baserunner. He has yet to be thrown out on 29 career stolen base attempts. If Locastro can stick near the top of the lineup regularly, he can easily steal 30 bases this season. Locastro will not help in the power department (career .103 ISO and 20.6 percent hard-hit rate) but he is an ideal pickup for teams lacking in the speed department.”
– Mick Ciallela (Fantrax)

Travis Shaw (1B/3B – MIL): 19% Rostered
“Shaw is still just 19% rostered despite having a .297 BA, 3 HR and 12 RBIs over his first 11 games. He has the Pirates this weekend at home and his stock could rise quickly, so in daily transaction leagues, jump on this early. With Christian Yelich dealing with back issues, Shaw is guaranteed to stick in the middle of the Brewers order for now and offers 1B/3B eligibility in most leagues.”
– Joe Pisapia (FantasyPros)

Q2. What one starting pitcher should fantasy managers look into picking up that is rostered in 20% of leagues or fewer?

Griffin Canning (LAA): 20% Rostered
“In Canning’s first two starts of 2021, he’s been good, but not the breakout I was hoping for in the draft season. Nevertheless, I like the change he’s made in throwing his best pitch (slider) more than he has in years past. In 2020, Canning threw his slider 23% of the time for a 47% whiff rate, comparable to his 2019 numbers. Though 2021 is still a minuscule sample size, I trust tangible changes (such as which pitches you throw) and Canning’s now leading with his slider, throwing it 47% of the time for a still elite 44% whiff rate. In the past few years, we’ve seen leading with your best pitch bring huge success to several guys and I think Canning can be the next on that exponentially growing list.”
– Jordan Eisen (Field of Vision Sports)

Kyle Gibson (TEX): 8% Rostered
“I want to throw up a bit when I say this, but I’m intrigued by Gibson. After getting demolished by the Royals in his first start, he has allowed just two runs through 13 innings over his last two starts against the Blue Jays and Rays. There was talk this spring of Gibson adding a cutter to his arsenal, and so far it’s been highly effective, allowing a .167 batting average against and an identical slugging percentage against. It also has an elite 46.7% whiff rate, which pairs nicely with Gibson’s plus slider (50% whiff rate). So long as he continues to throw his cutter 18% of the time as he has been so far this season, he should continue to find success and be worthy of fantasy consideration.”
– Dan Harris (FantasyPros)

Tejay Antone (CIN): 17% Rostered
“This is another recommendation that may depend on your roster construction, but I am going with Antone of the Cincinnati Reds. Antone features a slider and a curveball that are among the nastiest offerings in all of baseball. Opposing hitters are a combined 9-for-93 with 44 strikeouts in at-bats ending against those two pitches since the beginning of last season. His overall strikeout rate is 50 percent higher (32.7-21.8) than the Major League average during his brief career. The argument against Antone is that he is currently in fantasy limbo, as he is neither a starter nor a closer. This means his potential for wins and/or saves is relatively low. However, we operate in a landscape in which you can probably count the number of pitchers who will throw 200-plus innings on two hands. The same can arguably be said of relievers who will compile more than 20 saves. Therefore, a pitcher like Antone is more valuable than he would have been in years past. Plugging in a pitcher like Antone over a scuffling starter can stabilize ratios without costing you much in the way of wins and strikeouts. I would much rather have Antone in my lineup than continue to watch Madison Bumgarner destroy my ratios each week, for example.”
– Mick Ciallela (Fantrax)

David Peterson (NYM): 6% Rostered
“Peterson had a rough first start of the season, but he just struck out 10 Phillies batters over six innings and now has a 13.50 K/9 after a solid 2020 that saw him pitch to a 3.44 ERA. His exit velocity and barrel rate numbers are concerning, but Peterson is available almost everywhere and is someone I am grabbing in several leagues, even if it’s just to stash on my bench for a couple of weeks while we see how he performs in his next couple of starts.”
– Mike Maher (FantasyPros)

Danny Duffy (KC): 16% Rostered
“How in the world is Duffy still available in 84% of leagues!? He has back-to-back quality starts to start the season with 6 IP in both. His ERA sits at 0.75 and his WHIP at 1.17 with 11K in 12 IP and just 4 BB. Royals pitchers don’t get much press because it’s a small market club, but for at least the short term, you’d be crazy not to ride this Duffy hot streak. ”
– Joe Pisapia (FantasyPros)

Thank you to the experts for naming their under-the-radar waiver wire pickups. Make sure to give them a follow on Twitter for more great advice all season and check out our Leading Off Podcast every single day for quick-hitting takeaways and advice.

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