Fantasy Baseball Waiver Wire: Brandon Belt, Willie Calhoun, Tyler Anderson
A can’t-miss rookie or no-brainer breakout won’t materialize on the waiver wire every week. Fantasy baseball managers will often need to dig deeper to identify promising metrics under the surface or unexpected success stories the public isn’t ready to trust.
Without a potential league-winner demanding everyone’s attention (assuming Jared Kelenic isn’t available), this week features many players cast aside over the years for shinier new toys. Some are showcasing new skills in their thirties while others simply needed a starting spot or fresh bill of health. All are available in over 60 percent of Yahoo leagues and positioned to help your squad.
Note: Rostered rates are from Yahoo leagues as of Monday night.
FAABulous Four: Top Waiver Targets
Brandon Belt (1B/OF – SF): 37%
Belt raked last year, but nobody seemed to notice. In a potential make-or-break season, the life-long Giant batted .309/.425/.591 with nine home runs and a 172 wRC+ in 179 plate appearances. Because of the depreciated sample size and an offseason injury, he was overlooked in most 2021 drafts.
That looked like the right call for a while; he entered April 17 batting .154/.290/.269. He now has a .229/.359/.510 slash line. With eight long balls, an 11-year-pro yet to reach 20 home runs in a single season now has 17 in 85 games since the start of 2020.
He’s done so with eye-popping Statcast numbers. Only Shohei Ohtani has a higher rate of barrels per batted-ball event than Belt’s 20.7%. Belt has barreled 31 balls in the limited 2020 and 2021 sample, matching tallies from 2017 and 2018, while hitting 53.4% of batted balls at least 95 mph. Through this all, Belt hasn’t sacrificed his keen batting eye and affinity for live drives. Forget 20; he has a legitimate shot of shattering his personal best by hitting 25 or more home runs this season. Belt is an especially pivotal add in OBP or OPS leagues.
Willie Calhoun (OF – TEX): 21%
When a once highly regarded prospect heats up early in the season, fantasy managers usually only have days — not weeks — to act. That hasn’t been the case for Calhoun, who keeps working his way up this column. After starting in the Deep League section, he graduated to the Priority Pickups grouping last week. There’s still time to pounce in an overwhelming majority of Yahoo leagues.
This is the masher everyone dreamed of when Calhoun arrived as a bat-first prospect with a tantalizing contact and power bend. Thus far he’s showed off more of the former, batting .324 with a modest 12.2% strikeout rate. Although yet to truly turn on the jets with three homers, the 26-year-old is slugging .473 with a personal-best 44.4% hard-hit rate. Recall his 21 home runs in 337 plate appearances two years ago before dismissing his big-league power potential.
Calhoun is now a fixture in the Rangers’ starting lineup and leading off against righties. While never the most patient hitter, he’s also justifying that spot atop the batting order with a career-best 8.5% walk rate. This should be the last time Calhoun is eligible for this wavier-wire article.
Tyler Anderson (SP – PIT): 21%
Everyone can’t ignore Anderson’s fantastic start to 2021 forever. In addition to boasting a 3.05 ERA backed by a 3.13 FIP, the 31-year-old is delivering every time. In all seven starts, Anderson has allowed three or fewer runs in at least five innings. He’s tallied five or more strikeouts all but once, totaling 37 with a career-high 12.9% swinging-strike rate.
A 24-year-old with prospect pedigree would be rostered everywhere if providing the same numbers as Anderson, a solid real-life, but subpar fantasy starter derailed by Coors Field to start his career. After fizzling in San Francisco last year, he’s garnering more whiffs and ground balls by leaning more on his cutter.
Anderson likely won’t pitch to this level all season. However, he shouldn’t have a lower Yahoo rostered rate than Zach Davies. Even when he falls back to earth, Anderson should be a solid depth piece to round out a fantasy rotation.
Adbert Alzolay (SP – CHC): 17%
Alzolay continues to succeed with just two pitches, allowing no more than four hits or two walks in each of his five starts. While four home runs have bloated his ERA to 4.50 ERA, he’s sporting a 0.88 WHIP with a 3.29 SIERA and 23.0 K-BB% that’s 0.2 points behind Aaron Nola and Trevor Rogers.
It initially appeared like he had the Brewers’ number in three consecutive starts, but he since limited the Braves and Dodgers to two runs apiece. Fire him up for a favorable matchup at Cleveland before determining if Alzolay is a long-term fit for your fantasy rotation. He’s certainly making a compelling case to stick around.
Priority Pickups – <35% Rostered
Tyler Rogers (RP – SF): 32%
Jake McGee picked up six saves over his first eight scoreless outings, but he’s since coughed up 10 runs (eight earned) over 7.2 innings. Hee surrendered four of those runs at Coors Field and still sports a 2.80 expected ERA, so managers shouldn’t panic just yet. However, his recent struggles could open the door for Rogers to receive some save opportunities, perhaps as a lefty-righty closing duo. That isn’t mere speculation; Giants manager Gabe Kapler said as much after McGee’s blown save in Colorado.
Rogers isn’t drawing nearly enough whiffs for a high-leverage reliever, but he still possesses a 0.87 ERA by inducing weak contact. The 30-year-old righty has allowed an 85.2-mph average exit velocity and just one barrel in 66.1 career innings. Seek out the unconventional sidearm for a potential ERA and saves boost.
Luis García (SP/RP – HOU): 20%
García was cruising Monday night before allowing back-to-back homers to Jared Walsh and Justin Upton in the sixth. Had he completed that inning, it would have represented the longest outing of his career. He still collected seven strikeouts over 5.1 innings, giving him 35 in 30 frames this season. The 24-year-old righty boasts a 3.60 ERA and 1.07 WHIP despite already pitching at Coors Field and Yankee Stadium.
García is nevertheless a volatile investment. Along with benefitting from a .221 BABIP and 86.5% strand rate, an inability to last a third time through the order has him still chasing his first career win. With that said, he’s hard to hit and is piling up strikeouts on a playoff contender. There’s blow-up risk, but ample upside.
Brandon Crawford (SS – SF): 20%
Like Belt, Crawford has displayed new power heights for the Giants. He has seven homers in 103 plate appearances this season and 15 since the start of 2020. The 34-year-old has only exceeded 14 long balls once in his career (21 in 2015), but he’s launching more fly balls and hard hits than ever before. He’s also levered an 10.7% walk rate and stolen three bases, so ride the hot hand if needing a middle infielder with a full-time gig.
Garrett Richards (SP – BOS): 18%
Four starts into the season, Richards allowed 12 runs and 13 walks with just 12 strikeouts in 16.2 innings. After years of hoping for a healthy rebound, he no longer looked able to perform to past levels. Yet he’s since flipped a switch, posting a 2.84 ERA, 22 strikeouts, and two walks in his past three turns.
His fastball velocity has risen in those outings, but he’s throwing more of a lethal curveball that has ceded a .228 wOBA. Despite the tumultuous April, the righty has a 4.00 FIP and his highest ground-ball rate (50.5%) since 2017. Although still a long shot to stay healthy for the long haul, Richards is once again mixed-league relevant, for now.
Adam Duvall (OF – MIA): 18%
Duvall is far from a complete baseball player, but he does one thing very well. The slugger has smacked 32 homers in 131 games (456 plate appearances) since the start of 2019. Although he’s also hitting .238 with a .292 OBP and 29.4% strikeout rate, the Marlins are letting the usual platoon man take regular hacks from the cleanup role. Duvall has hit four of his six homers against fellow righties this season, which could help him maintain a starting job. His power comes in spurts, so keep a close eye on Duvall anytime he heats up, as he did when touching them all last Wednesday and Thursday.
William Contreras (C – ATL): 14%
Contreras will have an extended trial as Atlanta’s starting catcher with Travis d’Arnaud on the 60-day IL. Rookie catchers typically don’t flourish at the plate, and Contreras didn’t hit much in the minors either two years ago. Not an essential add in one-catcher mixed leagues, the 23-year-old has enough of a hit tool to chase in deeper formats.
Sam Coonrod (RP – PHI): 13%
There appears to be a closer committee forming in Philadelphia, as Coonrod has picked up a save in two of his last four outings. Buoyed by a high-90s sinker, the 28-year-old has a 1.13 ERA with 18 strikeouts and two walks in 16 innings. And yes, this is an unproven reliever who posted a 9.82 ERA last season. Bullpens are weird. Ride a hot hand who can help your ratios while potentially pushing his way further into the saves mix.
Robbie Grossman (OF – DET): 11%
Grossman has quietly stolen seven bases, tied for MLB’s third-most with Trea Turner and Garrett Hampson. He’s never reached double-digits in a single season, but the outfielder stole eight in just 51 games last season, giving the 31-year-old 15 steals in 16 attempts over his last 84 games. Despite batting .225, an 18.4% walk rate should keep Grossman in the leadoff role for the lowly Tigers, who have little reason to give him a red light. Grossman is worth a roster spot in any five-outfielder format and is quietly blossoming into an OBP-league star.
Adrian Houser (SP/RP – MIL): 10%
Houser has recorded four or fewer strikeouts in five of seven starts, but he has 17 punchouts in the other two turns against the Marlins. Although that should fortify him as a matchup-only play, the 28-year-old righty has registered a 3.44 ERA and 3.61 SIERA for the Brewers. He’s also gone six innings in consecutive starts after previously not recording an out beyond the fifth. Houser, who struck out over a batter per frame in 2019, has induced an elite 61.0% ground-ball rate.
Deep League Targets – <10% Rostered
Rich Hill (SP – TB): 7%
Hill isn’t over the hill just yet. Since yielding four runs in each of his first four outings, the 41-year-old has allowed five runs over his last 15 innings. Even better, he gave up just five hits while stockpiling 18 strikeouts, 10 of them against Oakland on April 26. Given his age and Tampa Bay’s quick hook to the bullpen, it’s encouraging to see Hill work six innings in two of those starts. However, managers might want to proceed with caution, as the southpaw is scheduled to take his next turn against a Yankees lineup full of right-handed studs.
Vidal Bruján (2B – TB): 6%
It’s been a while since we could get giddy about minor-league production. A week into Triple-A’s return, Bruján has accrued four homers and six walks in six games. Most are waiting for blue-chip prospect Wander Franco to join the Rays, but Bruján might get the call first. The 23-year-old second baseman stole 24 bases apiece in High-A and Double-A in 2019, so this newfound power could lend to an immediate impact player.
Harrison Bader (OF – STL): 5%
Bader has always had the makings of an interesting power/speed threat whose stellar glove could keep him in the lineup. Unfortunately, his contact abilities have never cooperated. The career .235 hitter is saddled with a 28.6% strikeout rate that jumped to a personal-worst 32.0% in 2020. This season, however, he’s improved that mark to a stunning 13.5% by chasing fewer pitches outside the strike zone. Those gains have resulted in a .250 batting average despite a .200 BABIP far below his career norm of .308. Given that he’s also tallied three homers and two steals in 10 games, Bader could quietly be on the cusp of a breakout.
Spencer Turnbull (SP – DET): 5%
Turnbull handled himself well in two starts against the Pirates and Royals before struggling against the Yankees and Red Sox. That’s what you’d expect from a starter so widely available. He recorded a 3.47 FIP and 3.81 xERA in those four outings, which is good enough to trot him out for another matchup against Kansas City.
Hunter Renfroe (OF – BOS): 5%
The batting average is too putrid to roster Renfroe for prolonged stretches, but there’s top-shelf power when he gets into a groove. He’s on a heater in May, batting .316 with three homers, nine RBIs, and seven runs in nine games. This is a player who clobbered 46 homers in 140 games from the second half of 2018 through the first half of 2019. See if he can provide a few weeks of elite pop in a sizzling Red Sox lineup.
Trevor Larnach (OF – MIN): 4%
Alex Kirilloff injured his wrist less than three weeks into his anticipated arrival. The Twins have replaced him with another premier hitting prospect in Larnach, who crushed two homers in three Triple-A games before his promotion. The 25-year-old went 0-for-5 in his MLB debut, buying fantasy managers more time to add a promising neophyte with a career .306/.384/.473 minor-league slash line and considerable raw power.
Tyrone Taylor (OF – MIL): 2%
Taylor would have made last week’s recommendations if not for Christian Yelich and Lorenzo Cain returning from the IL. Yelich played just one game before getting sidelined again, re-vacating a starting spot for Taylor. The 27-year-old is batting .269/.356/.481 with a .370 expected wOBA and a sprint speed ranking in the 94th percentile. Batting third in each of the last four games solidifies his status as a strong addition with power and speed upside in five-outfielder formats.
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.