The most popular waiver-wire pickups won’t always be the best options for your fantasy baseball squad.
While chasing a hot streak can occasionally lead managers to discover a breakout’s opening chapter, it often finds managers crashing the party too late. That’s certainly a risk for some of the top Priority Pickups who have drawn ample attention over the past few days. Their recent results demand consideration, but you don’t get to bank those stats retroactively.
When given the option, it’s better to take someone who has yet to meet expectations and/or has a track record of past success. That applies to the first two outfielders highlighted below.
Note: Rostered rates are from Yahoo leagues as of Monday night.
FAABulous Four: Top Waiver Targets
Hunter Renfroe (OF – BOS): 29% Rostered
Fantasy managers have apparently still not forgiven Renfroe for batting .156 in 2020 and .167 through this April. He’s since hit .313 with 10 home runs and 13 doubles in 49 games. He’s drawn 13 walks in June after collecting just seven through May and has slithered his strikeout rate down to 21.6%. Horrid April aside, the 29-year-old is slashing a hearty .272/.330/.473 in a flourishing Red Sox lineup.
His worst is nauseating, but Renfroe also smacked 46 homers in 140 games from the second half of 2018 through the first half of 2019. The slugger has yet to sniff his power ceiling yet in Boston. Monday’s two home runs could be the start of an epic heater.
Alex Kirilloff (1B/OF – MIN): 31% Rostered
Kiriloff is a top prospect who has delivered league-average results (100 wRC+) in his first taste of MLB action. Based on his dwindling rostered rate, that hasn’t been enough to appease fantasy gamers. Kiriloff hasn’t flashed thus far, batting .260/.303/.442 with six home runs in 165 plate appearances. On the bright side, he’s batting .277 (31-for-112) with a 19.0% contact rate since returning from the IL in late May.
His Statcast numbers also jump off the screen. Just for fun, let’s see how his 2021 quality of contact and expected metrics compare to an elite outfielder.
This is not meant to critique Nick Castellanos, especially since this data was taken before Monday night's seven-RBI onslaught, but simply to suggest Kirilloff is poised for bigger things than his first two months. Climb back on board now before it's too late.
Patrick Sandoval (SP/RP - LAA): 24% Rostered
Although he's not blowing anyone away with a 3.89 ERA and 1.25 WHIP, Sandoval continues to deliver decent results for the Halos and fantasy investors. The 24-year-old southpaw hasn't allowed more than three runs in any of his seven starts since moving from the bullpen. He's also tallied 29 strikeouts in his last four turns and wields an excellent 32.0% CSW this season. His next scheduled matchup against Baltimore is deceiving difficult, as the Orioles rank fourth in wOBA against lefties. Sandoval nevertheless deserves a spot on most fantasy rosters and is usable even in less favorable environments.
Amir Garrett (RP - CIN): 39% Rostered
Bad memory is often an important trait for fantasy success. Many analysts -- this one included -- pegged Garrett as a breakout closing candidate this spring. He instead got shelled to 10 runs in April, losing his chance at compiling saves in Cincinnati. While he continued to get rocked in late May and early June, the hard-throwing righty has recorded a strikeout in five consecutive scoreless outings. With Lucas Sims out for at least a month with an elbow strain, Garrett picked up two saves last week. The Reds appear willing to give him a second chance, so fantasy players seeking saves and strikeouts should cautiously do the same.
Priority Pickups - <35% Rostered
Steven Duggar (OF - SF): 32%
Let's go on a limb and say Duggar won't sustain his .462 BABIP. The career .257 hitter won't keep batting .326; a .245 expected batting average helps supports that hypothesis. But what about everything else?
The 27-year-old has smacked 10 doubles, two triples, and six home runs in 145 plate appearances. His exit velocity (88.7 mph) and barrel rate (11.9%) have skyrocketed, and he's slugging an outrageous .782 against four-seam fastballs. (On the other hand, maybe stop throwing him those.) He has also stolen six bases in as many attempts with a Statcast sprint speed in the 88th percentile. Duggar will hit a wall, which could cost him playing time, but the power, speed, and walks (11.0%) make him interesting enough to add mid-hot-streak anyway.
Chris Flexen (SP/RP - SEA): 30%
Flexen allowed eight runs to the Padres in 1.2 innings last month. He's given up 10 hits in two other starts and five earned runs each in two other starts, so it's quite the feat that he sports a solid 3.87 ERA and 1.25 WHIP. The 26-year-old has tossed three straight quality starts and picked up 14 strikeouts in his last two outings. He's also liable to give back all of those gains in Tuesday's tough start against the Blue Jays, so stash him on the bench or scout him from the waiver wire if still possible. Flexen still looks like a better deep-league piece or matchup play because of his volatility and 16.6% strikeout rate.
José Alvarado (RP - PHI): 28%
Hector Neris recorded a save right after Joe Girardi declared Alvarado his new primary closer. On Sunday, Alvarado pitched the eighth with a 4-0 lead. He allowed one run before Archie Bradley did likewise before picking up his first save with the Phillies. Yeah, this might be a situation to avoid unless desperate for saves. With 13 strikeouts and 12 walks in 17 innings, Bradley especially isn't worth an add in nearly any mixed league. Alvarado is also way too erratic to trust in high-leverage spots; he's issued 24 walks, four hit batters, and five wild pitches in 29 messy innings. He's nevertheless notched a 2.79 ERA with 40 strikeouts and a 55.7% ground-ball rate, so take the chance at your own peril.
Zach Thompson (SP/RP - MIA): 23%
Yet another exciting Marlins pitcher, Thompson has had quite the eventful first month in the majors. He already threw five scoreless innings against Atlanta and four hitless frames against the Cubs before submitting 11 strikeouts Saturday against Washington. He posted a 5.50 ERA in Triple-A in 2019 and allowed 11 runs in 15 innings before his call-up, so the 27-year-old rookie is naturally looking like an ace.
Zach Thompson strikes out 11 batters in his 4th MLB Career start. pic.twitter.com/ZQGJZcvhud
— Miami Marlins (@Marlins) June 27, 2021
Thompson has a 2.00 ERA and 25 strikeouts in 18 innings for Miami. His cutter has yielded a .202 wOBA while his curveball has induced a ridiculous 57.1% whiff rate. He doesn't have the prospect pedigree to bank on this lasting, especially with Atlanta and the Dodgers next on the docket. Then again, a 22-year-old rookie with this kind of start to his career would have caused a mad dash to the waiver wire. Thompson justifies a speculative add in most settings.
Luis Arráez (2B/3B/OF - MIN): 19%
Arráez is elite in a category where very few can make the same claim. He's a .319 hitter through 174 career games. Not only does that tie DJ LeMahieu for third (behind Ketel Marte and Tim Anderson) since his arrival in 2019, but it makes Arraez just one of 11 hitters to bat .300 or higher in at least 500 plate appearances. Arráez doesn't offer any power or speed, so only add him if you need help in batting average. Having led off in five of his last seven starts, he could also start contributing more runs with the benefit of multi-position eligibility.
Brendan Rodgers (2B/SS - COL): 14%
Rodgers is batting .289/.360/.526 in June. More importantly, he hasn't got lost in the shuffle since Trevor Story's return. The former top prospect starts most days at second base for the Rockies, who spend this entire week at Coors Field. Rodgers is slugging .491 on the road, so you don't necessarily have to drop him the second their plane leaves Colorado.
José Cisnero (RP - DET): 11%
Michael Fulmer's comeback didn't last long. Less than two weeks after returning from a right shoulder strain, the converted reliever went back on the IL with a cervical spine strain in his neck. Getting the first crack at replacing Fulmer, Cisnero pitched a spotless ninth inning Saturday to earn his third save of the season. He's not the clear-cut closer, however, since the Tigers deployed him in the eighth inning of a tie game the next day.
Gregory Soto may also get some opportunities, but a 14.1% walk rate isn't ideal for a high-leverage reliever. Cisnero, on the other hand, has 42 strikeouts and 12 walks in 34 innings alongside a 2.91 ERA and 1.21 WHIP.
Deep League Targets - <10% Rostered
Yonathan Daza (OF - COL): 9%
Daza has started each of Colorado's last eight games in the No. 2 spot. His .322 batting average is undoubtedly driven by success at his favorable home park, where the 27-year-old is batting .375. Luckily for Daza, the Rockies have six more games at Coors Field this week after he already touched them all Monday night. That's his last taste of home cooking before the All-Star break, so only stream him for the week.
Collin McHugh (SP/RP - TB): 9%
McHugh has 39 strikeouts, six walks, and one run allowed in his last 25.1 innings pitched. He's tallied at least two strikeouts in each of his five outings this month, totaling 21 punchouts (to one walk) in 14.1 scoreless frames. The 34-year-old has been so dominant that a .353 BABIP hasn't deterred him one bit. Because he's occasionally worked as an opener, McHugh also has SP eligibility, a major advantage in leagues with daily lineup changes. Consider him a major weapon in those formats, as you're better off soaking up his elite bullpen outings than wasting the spot on an idle starter.
Kyle Muller (SP/RP - ATL): 8%
Given the dubious task of making his second career start at Cincinnati, Muller allowed one hit over five scoreless innings. He even sprinkled in nine strikeouts with 16 swinging strikes in 93 pitches.
Kyle Muller was dealing in his third outing for the @Braves:
9 K pic.twitter.com/DMHbfXw4Qb
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) June 27, 2021
That performance should keep him in Atlanta's rotation, which may set up Muller to face the Marlins twice before the All-Star break. Use him as a matchup play, and see if the 23-year-old southpaw earns an extended stay for the second half.
Daz Cameron (OF - DET): 7%
Cameron strikes out too often to hit for a high batting average, but he has a keen batting eye with ample power and speed. No, that's not an old scouting report on Mike Cameron, but the former outfielder's son. Let's pause a second for those of us having a "Wait, am I that old?" moment of crisis. OK, we're back. Since getting called up by the Tigers on June 10, Daz has three home runs and stolen bases apiece in 14 games. He's swiped as many as 32 bags in a minor-league season (in 2017) and could keep getting the green light on a Tigers team with nothing to lose.
Garrett Cooper (1B/OF - MIA): 6%
Cooper quickly reintroduced himself to fantasy managers with two doubles and a home run in his first game back from a back injury. There's still time to grab him in most leagues, as he sat Saturday and offered only a single Sunday. The career .276/.344/.445 hitter continues to get overlooked as a late-bloomer without a standout skill. Take advantage and snag a valuable depth piece.
Harold Ramírez (OF - CLE): 4%
No, I'm not giving up. Ramírez might as well get comfortable, as he's not leaving this column. The 26-year-old is batting .343 (23-for-67) with four home runs and five strikeouts in June. He's already Cleveland's best outfielder in terms of wOBA (.344) and WAR (0.7), but Josh Naylor's broken ankle should lock Ramírez into a full-time role. That .514 xSLG and .367 xwOBA are still superb, so Ramírez will keep getting touted here until more managers notice.
Luis Torrens (C - SEA): 4%
Torrens has five home runs in seven starts since getting re-called on June 15. It's probably just a random hot streak from a career .204/.268/.330 hitter, but that's enough to take notice in two-catcher formats.
Jake Bauers (1B/OF - SEA): 1%
Bauers slugged .280 in 100 at-bats before Cleveland jettisoned him to Seattle, where he's now batting .283. He's still slugging a paltry .363 with one home run, so there's no tangible skill climb to support a second-chance breakout. But he's playing regularly and often batting fifth, which is good enough for a stop-gap fifth outfielder in 15-team 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.