Fantasy Baseball Waiver Wire: Tyler Rogers, Tejay Antone, Jonathan Villar
Injuries are devastating MLB and fantasy clubs alike, forcing everyone to dig deep into the player pool for replacements. Whether scouring a minor-league affiliate or the waiver wire for reinforcements, it’s an increasingly difficult task.
These injuries have left far too many fantasy squads in need of a warm body to occupy a lineup spot. It’s also more imperative than ever to keep track of news, as some potential pickups have recently returned from the IL or are inching closer to a comeback. Not everybody has the ability to add someone unable to contribute today, but it’s doable for those whose commissioners have bestowed them the gift of ample IL spots. (Take it from someone who’s filled the maximum 10 spots allotted in one league. No IL limit is too high in 2021.)
With the player pool so diluted, this week’s column recycles a handful of recommendations from previous weeks. Five of them graced this article last week, and a few more have appeared earlier this season. Starting with some relievers working their way into the closer mix, they may not stay available for much longer.
Note: Rostered rates are from Yahoo leagues as of Monday night.
FAABulous Four: Top Waiver Targets
Tyler Rogers (RP – SF): 44%
Rogers has more saves (five) than runs allowed (three, two earned). The 12.6% strikeout rate is far too low for a reliever, but the sidearmer also has a sterling 67.6% ground-ball rate while giving up only four walks. With three saves in his last four outings, the right-handed Rogers has at least worked his way into a closing committee with the left-handed Jake McGee. That type of setup typically favors the righty, especially when the southpaw has a 5.09 ERA.
Tejay Antone (SP/RP – CIN): 38%
Who’s the closer in Cincinnati? The presumptive favorite entering the season, Amir Garrett has allowed nine walks and 10 runs in 11.1 disastrous innings. Lucas Sims has also fallen far short of lofty expectations, ceding 11 runs and walks apiece in 15 frames. Sean Doolittle has gotten walloped by righties, making him better suited for situational usage before the ninth.
Many fantasy gamers hoped Antone would especially find an opening in Cincinnati’s rotation, but he could stumble into an even better opportunity for his fantasy value. The 26-year-old recorded his second save of the season Sunday. Unlike the first, he began the ninth inning and preserved the 7-6 lead. (Garrett pitched the sixth, and Doolittle faced Charlie Blackmon in the eighth with the game tied.) Antone has the cleanest numbers of the high-leverage options; he boasts a 2.08 ERA, 29 strikeouts, and a 55.0% ground-ball rate in 21.2 innings. Although the Reds may — and probably should — prefer to deploy him in a multi-inning role, even the potential to scatter 10-12 saves over the season makes the electric option a tempting addition. There’s league-winning upside if he receives full-time closing duties.
Jonathan Villar (2B/3B/SS – NYM): 31%
Already down J.D. Davis and Brandon Nimmo, the Mets placed Jeff McNeil and Michael Conforto on the IL after each exited Sunday’s game with hamstring tightness. Even if a currently rehabbing Davis returns from the IL, Villar should continue to play every day at second base. The 30-year-old wields a 10.4% walk rate this season and has stolen three bases in his last nine games. Only Billy Hamilton has swiped more bags than Villar’s 179 since the start of 2016. If you’re playing fantasy baseball in 2021, you can probably use some more steals.
Logan Webb (SP – SF): 16%
Webb hadn’t garnered too much attention due to a bloated ERA he lowered to 4.09 with six scoreless innings Monday night. Take out a six-run shellacking at Coors Field –where he should not have been in anyone’s starting lineup — and he has a 3.12 ERA. Fantasy managers should also notice Webb’s 3.54 FIP supported by a spectacular 58.7% ground-ball rate and 47 strikeouts in 44 innings.
Priority Pickups – <35% Rostered
Nico Hoerner (2B/3B/SS – CHC): 33%
Hoerner hit .389/.500/.556 in 11 games before missing 11 days because of an outfield collision with Cubs teammate Ian Happ. The 24-year-old has returned as their starting second baseman, but he’s been held to one hit in three games. Give him some time to ramp back up, as Hoerner stole three bases before going on the IL and still has more walks (eight) than strikeouts (seven) on the season.
Joc Pederson (1B/OF – CHC): 24%
Pederson is batting .400 (16-for-40) in 10 games since returning from a wrist injury. It’s not a typical stretch from the three-true-outcomes slugger, as he has no homers and just two walks with a handful of singles. But he’s healthy and once again leading off against righties. Remember, Pederson smacked 36 home runs in his last full season before enduring a prolonged slump in the condensed 2020 campaign.
Rich Hill (SP/RP – TB): 21%
Last week’s recommendation came with a caveat to exude caution for an upcoming start against the Yankees. Hill brushed away that danger by blanking the Bronx Bombers with nine strikeouts in a season-high 6.2 innings. He hasn’t allowed a run since April 26, lowering his ERA to 4.08 despite ceding four runs in each of his first four starts. The 41-year-old southpaw clearly has some fuel left in the tank, and he’s in line to get a far friendlier AL East foe in his next start at Baltimore.
Josh Fuentes (1B/3B – COL): 19%
Fuentes has started eight of the Rockies’ last nine games, which is itself enough to take notice. Batting .250/.267/.388 with as many walks as double plays (three), he wouldn’t be fantasy-relevant on any other team. However, he just experienced the beauty of Coors Field by batting 11-for-22 with three doubles and two home runs in five home contests. The corner infielder is a pure Colorado streamer.
Austin Hays (OF – BAL): 18%
Hays has made his last 17 days from the No. 2 role, an ideal spot for run and RBI production. Because of the strong lineup placement, he’s scored 22 runs in 27 games despite a middling .316 OBP. The once-hyped prospect is going under the radar while slugging .471 with a 341 wOBA. The 25-year-old has already has more barrels this season (10) than in 74 career games (eight) before 2021. This could be an intriguing post-hype sleeper poised to spike 20-25 homers with plenty of homers and steals.
Garrett Richards (SP – BOS): 18%
Richards tossed six shutout innings against Oakland since getting mentioned here last week, but Yahoo gamers still seem to view him as just a streamer. The righty now has a 2.16 ERA in his last four starts, registering 26 strikeouts and five walks (three last Thursday) over 25 innings. His average fastball velocity climbed to a season-high 95.1 mph in his last outing after failing to reach 94 until April 27. Perhaps fantasy gamers are balking at his upcoming matchup against the Blue Jays. His performance against the potent division foe will go a long way to revealing Richards’ long-term viability.
Zach McKinstry (OF – LAD): 17%
One of April’s finest waiver-wire finds, McKinstry hit .296/.328/.556 with three homers and 14 RBIs in 17 games before injuring his oblique. The 26-year-old rookie is slated to begin a rehab assignment this week. Barring a setback, he’ll return to all the playing time he can handle with Corey Seager and A.J. Pollock on the IL and Chris day-to-day with a wrist injury. (Cody Bellinger is also scheduled to commence a rehab stint this week.) McKinstry played six games at second base, so he could quickly gain eligibility there in most leagues if Gavin Lux continues to play shortstop in place of Seager. Of course, stashing McKinstry requires roster flexibility and some patience if he comes back rusty. It’s a better ploy in deeper leagues.
Drew Smyly (SP – ATL): 17%
Smyly was a popular preseason target after posting a 3.42 ERA and 37.8% strikeout rate in five starts last season, but that excitement vanished when he got rocked to an 8.05 ERA in April. The lefty is gradually finding his footing, as he allowed one run over six innings in each of his last two starts. Although the 31-year-old has a long road to regaining the trust of fantasy managers, he’s at least a viable streamer for Thursday’s scheduled matchup against the power-starved Pirates.
William Contreras (C -ATL): 16%
Contreras is running away with Atlanta’s starting catcher role in place of the injured Travis d’Arnaud, batting .263/.364/.579 with three home runs in 44 plate appearances. He’s gone yard twice in his last four games, including an absolute blast off Hyun-Jin Ryu.
What's more impressive – the 464 feet or the 111.7 mph exit velocity?
Either way, this was a blast from William Contreras. pic.twitter.com/ya8gWjyUef
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) May 13, 2021
Carson Kelly joined a long list of injured backstops, so plenty of fantasy managers can use a new, young catcher displaying pop to start his career.
Tyler Chatwood (SP/RP – TOR): 13%
Chatwood was on the precipice of a revival when recording 19 strikeouts in his first two starts last season. Then, in time for everyone to add and insert him into starting lineups, he gave up eight runs to the Royals. He went on the IL and returned to throw just 3.2 innings.
No longer a sunk cost for the Cubs, the 30-year-old righty is once again starting a season ablaze, this time performing on a $3 million deal from the bullpen. He’s transforming into a relief ace, allowing just eight hits and one run over 14.1 innings with 21 strikeouts and a 15.7% swinging-strike rate. No active Blue Jays reliever has more than one save. While Jordan Romano is the front-runner, he hasn’t fortified a stronghold on ninth-inning opportunities just yet. Chatwood could sneak into the conversation or keep dominating in his current role.
Hansel Robles (RP – MIN): 10%
Minnesota’s relievers have collectively recorded just two saves since manager Rocco Baldelli removed Alex Colomé from the closer role three weeks ago. Taylor Rogers picked up the first on May 3, but he coughed up two runs in the process. The lefty has allowed four more runs in his last four outings. The second went to Robles on Friday night.
He has issued an alarming 19 walks in 31.1 innings since the start of 2020, but Robles nevertheless has a 3.45 ERA this season with help from a 51.4% ground-ball rate, 25.4% K rate, and .167 BABIP. Trouble lurks around the corner (see last year’s 10.26 ERA), but he may be in line for more save opportunities. Yet Colomé, who has thrown six scoreless innings in May, could reclaim the role if nobody seizes it soon.
Deep League Targets – <10% Rostered
Michael Fulmer (SP/RP – DET): 9%
Fulmer’s comeback wasn’t going according to plan, so the Tigers moved the former AL Rookie of the Year to the bullpen. The switch has paid dividends; he’s allowed three runs (two earned) in 7.2 innings with seven strikeouts and two saves. He geared his slider up to 92 mph in his last outing while throwing his fastball at his highest average velocity (96.5 mph) since returning from Tommy John surgery. This transition into a late-inning stopper makes perfect sense, as Fulmer struggled to parlay his stuff into strikeouts as a starter. Detroit also has an influx of young starters and MLB’s worst bullpen ERA by a wide margin. Closing is a perfect second act for the 28-year-old righty.
Miles Mikolas (SP – STL): 9%
Mikolas missed all of 2020 after undergoing surgery to repair a forearm strain in his pitching arm. He looked sharp in his third Triple-A rehab start, firing six scoreless innings against a Milwaukee affiliate featuring Keston Hiura and a rehabbing Christian Yelich. Mikolas won’t pile up strikeouts, but he posted a 3.46 ERA in two full seasons since returning to the U.S. He issued 61 walks over those 64 starts, so managers can stash a strong ratio stabilizer before he makes his big-league comeback.
Harrison Bader (OF – STL): 7%
I strongly endorsed Bader last week, and that excitement remains despite few managers jumping on the bandwagon. He’s now batting .283/.361/.528 with four homers and two steals in 16 games. As noted last week, he’s noticeably slashed his strikeout rate, cut by more than half from his 28.3% career average. Although he’s currently tucked down the bottom of the Cardinals’ lineup, that could change if he maintains this refined contact approach alongside a characteristically high walk rate
Jacob Stallings (C – PIT): 5%
Stallings has the seventh-most plate appearances (119) among all catchers. He has the most doubles (10) at the position and boasts a sterling .370 OBP with a 14.3% walk rate. The 31-year-old is also batting cleanup for the Pirates. Put it all together, and he makes an excellent second catcher, and perhaps even a solid single-catcher placeholder in the midst of a hot streak. That’s as long as he’s not required to miss time after suffering a left quad contusion over the weekend.
Khalil Lee (OF – NYM): 2%
Kevin Pillar occupied this spot before he got hit in the face by a pitch in a scary moment Monday evening. If Pillar joins Nimmo, Conforto, and Albert Almore Jr. on the IL, Lee becomes a starter by default. The 22-year-old made his MLB debut as a pinch-runner Monday and struck out in his only plate appearance. But he stole 53 bases in Double-A two years ago, so maybe the severely short-staff Mets let him run wild.
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.