Fantasy Baseball Waiver Wire: Brandon Belt, Adam Duvall, Kolten Wong
Before you ask, Wander Franco is rostered in too many leagues to consider for this waiver-wire article.
If he’s still available, stop reading — don’t even finish this sentence — and claim him. As we witnessed with Jarred Kelenic last month, even a “can’t-miss prospect” can struggle in their first major-league action. However, the 20-year-old prodigy possesses league-winning upside right out of the gate.
Most fantasy players know this, which is why Franco already had a home in more than half of Yahoo leagues before news of his call-up broke Sunday night. By the time you’re reading this, he should have already been scooped up in all other active leagues.
When compared to an uber-prospect with an elite hit tool, power and speed, the following players may seem underwhelming. None of them will carry gamers to glory, which is probably why so many remain available to discuss weekly. They can nevertheless play a noticeable role, even if just for a week or two in the case of some matchup plays or hot hands.
Note: Rostered rates are from Yahoo leagues as of Monday night.
FAABulous Four: Top Waiver Targets
Brandon Belt (1B/OF – SF): 33%
Belt headlined this column six weeks ago, but an oblique injury sent him to the IL near the end of May. Following five hitless games early in his return, Belt has gone 12-for-28 with three doubles, two triples, and three home runs during a scorching seven-game hitting streak. He’s now batting .280/.395/.556 with 20 home runs and a .403 wOBA in 104 games since the start of 2020. Not too shabby for a 33-year-old yet to exceed 18 long balls in a single season.
As opined last month, this power surge looks legitimate. Belt is focused more on pulling the ball (53.5%) and is continuing to make authoritative contact. He has a barrel in 15.8% of his batted balls, a rate exceeded by only a dozen hitters with at least 100 plate appearances. Like Giants teammate Brandon Crawford, Belt has discovered new muscle late into his career and should be rostered in all leagues.
Adam Duvall (OF – MIA): 42%
Rostering Duvall is all about timing. He has already gone deep in back-t0-back games four times this season, including two each on Friday and Saturday. Those count for 10 of his 16 home runs, but few managers have likely benefitted from them all. Outside of those sparks, he’s batting .216 with the fifth-worst OBP (.264) of any qualified hitter. He has a 31.4% strikeout rate this season and a bizarrely low 73 wRC+ against lefties after making his career feasting off them.
Duvall is flawed, but it’s tough to argue against the counting numbers. Sixteen home runs, which matches his 2020 tally, is a lot in June. So are his 52 RBIs as a frequent cleanup hitter, and he’s even stolen five bases. Duvall is definitely an asset for anyone who can take the punch in batting average or OBP.
Kolten Wong (2B – MIL): 29%
Wong returned from an oblique injury just in time to enjoy a series at Coors Field. Three games into his return, he smacked a home run among his three hits Sunday. Despite already making two trips to the IL this season, the 30-year-old is batting .285/.344/.453 with five homers and steals apiece. A younger teammate highlighted below has snatched away Milwaukee’s leadoff role, but Wong reclaimed it Monday night. That puts him one step closer to solidifying his status as a solid fantasy middle infielder.
Alex Cobb (SP – LAA): 19%
It’s probably not a good sign when you keep popping up on a waiver-wire column every other week. The goal is to graduate into a roster mainstay eventually, but Cobb can’t seem to stick. After ending May with one run allowed in his last three starts combined, he served up five runs in consecutive headache-inducing turns. Managers who stood by his side for a great matchup against the Tigers received a victory with eight strikeouts and one unearned run surrendered in 5.2 innings.
The 4.41 ERA still portrays him as a deep-league matchup play, but a 28.8% K rate, 60.6% ground-ball rate, and 2.41 FIP tease a possible breakthrough. If the Angels keep their six-man rotation on schedule, Cobb could close the first half against Baltimore and Seattle after a tougher encounter against his former team, Tampa Bay, this Sunday. There’s a higher reward than the typical streamer offers.
Priority Pickups – <35% Rostered
Michael Fulmer (SP/RP – DET): 24%
A two-week IL hiatus has not halted Fulmer’s ascension up the Detroit bullpen’s pecking order. He’s picked up saves in his last two outings, though the first came after allowing two runs. The former starter now has a 2.84 ERA, 33 strikeouts, and six walks in 25.1 innings as a reliever. Even if just to bolster his trade value next month, Fulmer should be Detroit’s main closer for the foreseeable future.
J.P. Crawford (SS – SEA): 21%
Is this a hot stretch or a breakout? Crawford has an eight-game hitting streak and reached base in 20 of his last 22 games. A below-average hitter throughout his career now carries a 112 wRC+ this season on the strength of a .364/.414/.584 slash line in June. The Mariners have inserted the 26-year-old shortstop into their leadoff role, and his five home runs already put him two away from matching a personal high. Before getting too excited, a .361 expected slugging (xSLG) hardly forebodes a true coming-out-party. Without much upside in any category, Crawford’s progression into a capable regular is more exciting for Seattle than fantasy managers. Ride the hot streak, but don’t get too attached in shallow mixed leagues.
Patrick Sandoval (SP – LAA): 18%
Sandoval continues to excel in the starting rotation, registering a 3.13 ERA and 32 strikeouts in 31.1 innings. The lefty has allowed no more than two walks or three runs in any of his six starts. Although he piled up most of his punchouts in favorable matchups against Seattle (10) and Detroit (nine), both his changeup (33.3% swinging-strike rate) and slider (20.3% SwSTR) are inducing significant whiffs. Recommended as more of a streamer last week, Sandoval has earned the chance to stick around.
Erick Fedde (SP/RP – WAS): 18%
A first-round pick in 2014, Fedde was floundering before 2021. Now he is enjoying the finest stretch of his career, throwing 19 scoreless innings over his last three starts. Missing nearly a month after testing positive for COVID-19 hasn’t halted his momentum, as he returned to toss gems against the Giants and Mets. The 28-year-old now possesses a 3.33 ERA and 1.15 WHIP, with the highest strikeout rate (23.3%) of his career. He also continues to induce ground balls with regularity (51.9%). Fedde probably won’t maintain this dominance, but he’s settling into a depth piece who should stay in Washington’s rotation and get deployed by fantasy managers in the right matchup.
Ross Stripling (SP/RP – TOR): 17%
Last week’s column touched upon Stripling’s tough schedule thus far. While often cruel, the baseball gods can also be fair. He’s slated to make his next two starts against the Marlins and Orioles this week. Having posted a 2.45 ERA and 29 strikeouts in his last five starts, the 31-year-old righty is well worth using in both favorable matchups.
Luis Urías (2B/3B/SS) – MIL: 16%
Although he is only hitting .237, disappointing for a former top prospect touted as a future batting champion, Urías is gradually finding his footing. The 24-year-old regularly led off for the Brewers in Wong’s absence because of his 12.3% walk rate. Having entered 2021 with six career home runs, he’s already smacked eight home runs with a career-high 30 runs and RBIs each. If the hit tool develops alongside his power, Urías will make a mighty middle infielder in all mixed leagues.
Adrian Houser (SP/RP – MIL): 14%
Houser had allowed four runs in his last four starts before serving up five at Coors Field. He’ll go from one of baseball’s toughest assignments to one of its easiest, all against the same team. The Rockies are last in wOBA on the road (.254 wOBA). This makes most opponents intriguing, especially one with a 3.95 ERA and 60.0% ground-ball rate. Don’t drop Houser immediately after either. If Milwaukee’s rotation stays in order, he’ll make his next start at Pittsburgh.
Jesús Sánchez (OF – MIA): 12%
Unlike Franco, Sánchez wasn’t stashed beyond deep leagues despite demolishing Triple-A pitching to a .349/.400/.643 slash line and nine home runs before his promotion. There hasn’t been a mad dash to add the 23-year-old slugger either, as he’s gone 5-for-22 with no walks and nine strikeouts in five games. Brandishing elite raw power with the ability to steal a few bases, the Marlins outfielder is worth a speculative dart throw anyway.
Jon Berti (2B/3B/SS/OF – MIA): 11%
Despite batting .170/.282/.286 through May, the versatile Berti stuck around in Miami’s lineup. He’s rewarded their trust by batting .327 (18-of-55) with nine walks and nine strikeouts in June. Strangely enough, the 31-year-old hasn’t stolen a single base during this hot streak. That should hopefully change soon; he swiped 26 bags in 112 games over the last two seasons and stole four more this May. Playing multiple positions preserved Berti’s job and could also make him a valuable piece to most fantasy rosters.
Deep League Targets – <10% Rostered
Taylor Ward (OF – LAA): 8%
Ward has reached base in each of his last 14 starts. He also feasted on Detroit’s feeble pitching, tallying three doubles and a homer in their four-game series. A Triple-A stud in 2019, Ward now wields a 119 wRC+ this season for the Angels, who have elevated him to third in the batting order. He should be rostered in all 15-teamers, and it’s only a matter of time before the 27-year-old starts receiving more mainstream attention.
Daulton Varsho (C/OF – ARI): 8%
Carson Kelly could be out a while after fracturing his right wrist. That opens the door for Varsho, who passed the time in Triple-A with nine homers and two steals in 18 games. Often drafted as a top-10 catcher for his rare blend of power and speed behind the plate, Varsho has hit a putrid .178/.264/.322 in 163 career plate appearances. The 24-year-old needs to prove himself in 12-team mixed leagues that mercifully start one catcher, but managers can roll the dice now in deeper leagues and all two-catcher formats.
Sammy Long (SP/RP – SF): 5%
Long has flashed promise through three big-league outings, tallying 16 strikeouts to just three walks in 15 frames. He’s allowed seven runs but just 13 baserunners (10 hits). His bread is butter is a dominant curveball that’s yet to yield a hit while inducing a whiff on one-third of his pitches. It’s led to a microscopic .176 expected batting average (xBA) for the San Francisco southpaw, who went six innings in his first official start Sunday. Long could be an impact player down the stretch.
Harold Ramírez (OF – CLE): 4%
This is the third straight week here for Ramírez, who is batting .320 (16-for-50) with three home runs and only five strikeouts in June. Such consistent contact is interesting when paired with a 52.2% hard-hit rate and .393 xwOBA. Managers have yet to take notice in Yahoo leagues, but there’s still a good chance his rostered rate is closer to 40% than 4% by the All-Star break.
Bailey Ober (SP – MIN): 4%
Ober has yet to pitch past the fifth inning, but this could be a case of quality over quantity. The 6-foot-9 righty has compiled 21 strikeouts to two walks in his first 17 big-league frames. This also may be smoke in mirrors, as he’s generated a mediocre 8.9% swinging-strike rate while permitting a smorgasbord of line drives (31.8%). Long is the more intriguing newcomer, but Ober has strong command and attacks the strike zone.
Abraham Toro (3B – HOU): 2%
Any purists who hate the current state of baseball will love Toro’s early line. In nine games with the Astros, he’s batting .348 (8-for-23) with just two walks and one strikeout. That’s along with a .352/.485/.593 slash line and eight strikeouts in 68 Triple-A plate appearances. Toro has seven hits in just three games since getting recalled to replaced the injured Alex Bregman, who has no timetable for his left quad strain. That gives Toro playing time in a thriving Astros lineup.
Johan Oviedo (SP – STL): 4%
This is a pure streaming play, as Oviedo is scheduled to face the Tigers on Tuesday and the Pirates this weekend. The 23-year-old proved capable of carving up a weak opponent when tossing seven shutout frames against the Marlins last Wednesday. He also limits hard contact (31.4%) and keeps the ball grounded (52.4%) enough to feel less frightened of a truly disastrous blow-up outing that can befall deep-league streamers.
Abraham Almonte (OF – ATL): 2%
Getting regular reps in place of Marcell Ozuna, Almonte is hitting .264/.429/.453 with 16 walks in 70 plate appearances. While he’s only gone yard once this season, the 31-year-old has sprayed five doubles in his last 10 games. He can also help deep-league managers as a short-term injury replacement.
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.