Fantasy Baseball Waiver Wire: Jarred Kelenic, Vidal Brujan, Triston McKenzie
This is where I’m supposed to say fantasy managers can’t take any days off — even during the All-Star break — if they want to capture the championship. MLB games will halt until Friday (with exception to the Yankees and Red Sox playing a make-up game Thursday), but the waiver wire remains open for business in leagues without a weekly FAB system.
Many gamers see this as the perfect time to reassess their roster and make necessary changes before play resumes. For the only time in the season, data points actually stay stagnant. Oftentimes the hardest part of in-season management is keeping up with the never-ending wave of injuries, transactions, lineup changes, hot streaks, and slumps. For a few glorious days, the news feed slows from a spring to a breezy jog.
We’re all human. As we’re all remembering together, a 162-game season is really long. Everyone needs a break from time to time, so don’t feel bad about recharging your batteries and resetting for the second half. Perhaps you miss out on a pick-up by taking an extra personal day, but you won’t win if you get burned out in late August and stop checking entirely.
Following a hectic, injury-filled first half, a handful of interesting players remain on the waiver wire. It’s a particularly active column for closers, which is unusual since late turnover typically intensifies after the July 31 trade deadline. And in roughly a quarter of Yahoo leagues, a rehabbing Eloy Jiménez remains available as your possible ticket to glory. It’s likely to late to snag the White Sox slugger, but some high-profile young talent offer similarly lofty upside.
Note: Rostered rates are from Yahoo leagues as of Monday night.
FABulous Four: Top Waiver Targets
Jarred Kelenic (OF – SEA): 41%
Kelenic is still a blue-chip prospect with superstar potential. That hasn’t changed despite batting a putrid 8-for-83 in his first big-league stay in Seattle.
In many cases, managers who happily stashed the 21-year-old outfielder from Opening Day until his May 13 promotion dumped him after the Mariners sent him back to the minors a month later. That once again gives the majority of Yahoo gamers an opportunity to grab a potential five-category dynamo.
Kelenic stumbled in 23 MLB games, but he hasn’t lingered on the initial setback. Since going back to Triple-A, the 2018 No. 6 overall pick has batted .306 (30-for-98) with 13 walks, eight doubles, and seven homers in 24 games. That has sparked chatter of an imminent second chance. Per Larry Stone of the Seattle Times, the Mariners may re-call him this Friday to start the second half.
There’s no guarantee Kelenic will be more ready for the majors than he was in May, but the upside is too vast to ignore.
Vidal Bruján (2B – TB): 42%
It would have only taken one big game for Bruján to quickly become rostered in most Yahoo leagues. Instead, he went 1-for-9 after getting a ticket to The Show last Wednesday. Making matters worse, he only started three of five games for the unpredictable Rays. Perhaps managers, fearing another Kelenic scenario, walked back expectations for the 23-year-old infielder.
He’s still worth a roster spot. Bruján cooled down from a red-hot start that led onlookers to believe he could join Tampa Bay before Wander Franco. However, he nevertheless left Triple-A with nine home runs, 15 stolen bases, and a .357 wOBA in 49 games. He displayed a strong plate approach over his minor league career, batting .290 with a 10.6% walk rate and 11.6% strikeout rate.
Ultimately, Bruján demands attention because of his speed. He swiped 55 bags in 2018 and 48 the following year. Finding cheap speed on the wire is nearly impossible, and those available typically won’t help anywhere else. Bruján could race to the top of the steals leaderboard with a helpful batting average and decent pop. He also may go back to the minors by the end of July, but it’s a risk worth taking.
Triston McKenzie (SP – CLE): 33%
After issuing 39 walks in 42.1 innings, Cleveland had little choice but to demote McKenzie a year after his brief, but stellar MLB debut. He hadn’t seemed to fix his control woes in Triple-A, allowing a dozen more free passes in 21.1 innings. Cleveland brought the 23-year-old back up anyway, and he responded by giving up one walk and one hit over seven scoreless innings against the Royals.
McKenzie threw a first-pitch strike to 17 of 23 batters faced and generated 12 swinging strikes on 85 pitches in Friday’s return. One great start against an aggressive opponent doesn’t erase all concerns, but it reminded everyone how much upside the 6’5″, 165-pound righty possesses. Roll the dice on a possible top-50 starter with an immense strikeout ceiling.
Heath Hembree (RP – CIN): 38%
You’d want a closer with 51 strikeouts in 30 innings, right? That label now applies to Hembree, who has secured a save in five of his last six outings. The righty also has a 4.80 ERA with eight home runs relinquished this season, but most managers can’t be too picky about a current closer showcasing elite strikeout skills.
Priority Pickups – <35% Rostered
Alex Kirilloff (1B/OF – IN): 31%
Only a harsh grader would give Kirilloff mediocre marks for his debut. He may not have set the landscape ablaze, but the 23-year-old outfielder hit eight home runs with an above-average 106 wRC+ in 54 games. Take out his first nine games in April, and the rookie is batting .282/.335/.459.
Based on the alluring Statcast data, that’s more indicative of his immediate potential. In fact, that slash line is underselling his upside compared to his batted-ball measures. Kirilloff has the same average exit velocity (90.7 mph) as Trevor Story, a higher barrel rate (13.1%) than Freddie Freeman, and a better expected wOBA (.380) than Justin Turner, Manny Machado, and Pete Alonso. Kirilloff is capable of hitting .280 with 10 homers after the break, which would make him an impact player in all five-outfielder leagues.
Ranger Suárez (RP – PHI): 30%
Having apparently lost trust in everyone else, Phillies manager Joe Girardi let Suarez seal Sunday’s victory with a seven-out save. That’s his second of his month, which is only one fewer than the earned runs he’s allowed in 35 innings this season.
Suarez’s microscopic .126 opposing batting average will elevate once the .159 BABIP rises, but the 25-year-old righty has struck out a batter per frame while inducing grounders on 65.1% of his batted balls. He’s thus far less of a long-ball threat than Hembree. However, the closing situation is also messier in Philadelphia. While Archie Bradley and/or José Alvarado could still factor into a committee, Suarez appears to have jumped the line as the top option.
Jarren Duran (OF – BOS): 26%
Still waiting for his call-up, last week’s headliner is now available in more Yahoo leagues. Duran’s time should come soon. The rapidly rising prospect has nothing left to prove in Triple-A, posting 15 home runs, 12 steals, and a .405 wOBA in 45 games. The Red Sox, who need to put their best foot forward to fend off the Rays and win a stacked AL East, can easily make room for the 24-year-old in center field by moving Enrique Hernández to second base. This is a case where it’s better to be a week early than a few minutes too late.
Patrick Sandoval (SP – LAA): 26%
Perhaps nobody is buying Sandoval’s success because of the competition. Among his last six starts, the southpaw made two against Seattle in addition to facing Arizona, Detroit, and Baltimore. He made the most of those matchups, posting a 3.63 ERA and 42 strikeouts in 34.2 innings.
Here are the only starting pitchers (minimum 40 innings) with a higher swinging-strike rate than Sandoval’s 15.9% this season: Jacob deGrom, Tyler Glasnow, Max Scherzer, Shane Bieber, Clayton Kershaw, and Corbin Burnes.
Yet to allow more than three runs in any of his nine starts, Sandoval has a 3.33 ERA since joining the Angels’ rotation. More managers should discover his emergence during the hiatus.
Joakim Soria (RP – ARI): 25%
Soria pitched a clean inning in each of his last three appearances before the All-Star break. He picked up a win and two saves, fortifying his position as Arizona’s main closer. The Diamondbacks squandered a 4-1 lead over the Dodgers without Soria on Sunday, allowing three runs in both the eighth and ninth inning. Just don’t expect him to keep getting saves through September; Arizona will likely ship the 37-year-old to a contender before the July 31 trade deadline.
Garrett Cooper (1B/OF – MIA): 23%
Few hitters entered the break hotter than Cooper, who has gone 19-for-41 with 13 walks, three doubles, and four home runs in 15 games since returning from the IL. The 30-year-old is now slashing a sensational .291/.387/.481 to hardly any fanfare. That seems par for the course, as he quietly wields a 140 wRC+ in 101 games since the start of 2020. Boasting a 12.2% walk rate and 52.8% hard-hit rate, Cooper deserves far more attention in all formats.
Alex Cobb (SP – LAA): 21%
No matter how much it hurts, I keep coming back for more. Cobb showed sparks of brilliance throughout the first half, yielding one or zero earned runs in six of 13 starts. He also allowed five or more in three outings, all in June. As a result, he remains widely available with a pedestrian 4.23 ERA despite a 2.60 FIP and 19.1% K-BB rate befitting someone who should be pitching in Colorado on Tuesday.
Cobb has the highest K-BB% (19.1%) and CSW (30.6%) of his 10-year career and concluded the first half by allowing one earned run (three total) to the Orioles and Mariners. The Angels are lining him up to face Seattle again this weekend, so see if Cobb can translate his remarkable peripherals to surface-level results. (Also, you can then change your team name to CornCobb TV.)
Logan Webb (SP -SF): 21%
Mentioned in this column a few times earlier this season, Webb was on the verge of a breakout before suffering a shoulder injury in late May. He returned Friday to tally four strikeouts over three scoreless innings, bringing his season ERA down to 3.63. Brandishing 58 strikeouts, a 3.15 FIP, and a 58.7% ground-ball rate in 52 innings, a healthy Webb could emerge as a major difference-maker during the second half.
Tyler Stephenson (C – CIN): 21%
Need a replacement catcher for Yasmani Grandal? Stephenson is batting .322/.438/.506 since the start of June, and his 122 wRC+ at the break matches J.T. Realmuto and Will Smith. Despite sharing time with Tucker Barnhart, the 24-year-old is one of 20 catchers with at least 200 plate appearances this season. Only three others (Smith, Buster Posey, and Omar Narváez) have a double-digit walk rate with a strikeout rate below 20.0%. Stephenson hasn’t offered much fence-clearing power, but he’s a strong source of average and OBP who should continue to carve out more starts in Cincinnati.
Paul Sewald (RP – SEA): 19%
Sewald had dominated enough to recommend as an elite set-up man last week. What if he’s about to deliver more? Yet to allow a run since June 12, the 31-year-old has two saves this month. His 1.03 FIP is the best of all relievers with at least 20 innings pitched, with his 42.7% K rate trailing Josh Hader, Craig Kimbrel, and Matt Barnes. Add him for the strikeouts and ratio help while hoping he at least remains an active member of Seattle’s closer committee. If he takes the ninth inning for himself, Sewald would make a seismic fantasy impact.
Tylor Megill (SP – NYM): 18%
Megill has yet to record an out past the fifth inning, giving him a goose egg in the win and loss columns through four starts. He’s also collected 26 strikeouts in just 18 innings with help from a wicked slider inducing a .159 wOBA and 42.4% whiff rate. Don’t bank on Carlos Carrasco or Noah Syndergaard returning any time soon to take the towering 6’7″ righty’s rotation spot. If he can harness his control and go a bit deeper into games, Megill would become a must-roster hurler in all mixed leagues.
Kole Calhoun (OF – ARI): 10%
Calhoun’s career-high 33 home runs — he had only reached 20 once before — seemed like a byproduct of MLB’s happy-bouncy-fun balls in 2019. Then he went yard 16 times with a .300 ISO in the truncated 2020. The 33-year-old hasn’t gotten a chance to validate this power surge in a season marred by a torn meniscus and hamstring injury, both of which required surgery. While it remains to be seen if he’s anywhere near full strength, Calhoun returned to Arizona’s depleted lineup Saturday. He may deliver a decent power jolt in five-outfielder formats.
Deep League Targets – <10% Rostered
Niko Goodrum (1B/2/SS/OF – DET): 7%
Goodrum strikes out way too much to hit for a decent average, but he offers power and speed in bunches. He went deep in his fourth game back from the IL and enters the break with a dozen steals despite missing time with a finger injury. His positional versatility is also a major selling point in deep leagues.
Elvis Andrus (SS -OAK): 7%
Andrus is still recovering from batting a brutal .151/.202/.186, so few have noticed that he’s since hit .267. At least Oakland has taken stock of those improvements; the 32-year-old shortstop made his last nine starts in the No. 2 hole after spending most of the season buried down the lower third of its lineup card. Having offered 12 homers and 31 steals in his last full season, Andrus could once again make a steady middle infielder in 15-team mixed leagues.
Cal Raleigh (C – SEA): 4%
Although not the Mariners call-up of paramount interest, Raleigh made his MLB debut Sunday after slashing a sizzling .324/.377/.608 in Triple-A. The timing forces everyone to wait until getting a sense of how much Seattle will play the 24-year-old, but there’s enough power to bite in two-catcher formats.
Brian Goodwin (OF – KC): 2%
A platoon player in the truest sense of the word, Goodwin garners a ridiculous 206 wRC+ against righties, but a nauseating -19 wRC+ versus southpaws. Managers in deeper leagues should look at the glass as half full and play the 30-year-old outfield in the right matchups. The Royals have done just that, making Goodwin their cleanup hitter in his last seven starts.
Nestor Cortes (RP – NYY): 2%
A long-relief star, Cortes allowed one run in eight combined innings as a short starter/long opener against the Mets and Astros. That brought his ERA to 1.05 at the half with 31 strikeouts and 10 walks to 100 batters faced. An expanded role could expose the 26-year-old junkballer, but Cortes has our attention. His ideal role would be following an opener, which would give him a chance to compile wins.
Oscar Mercado (OF – CLE): 2%
You might remember Mercado from that time he tallied 15 home runs and steals apiece as a rookie way back in 2019. A relatively high pick in 2020 drafts, he batted .128 with a minus-11 wRC+ before getting mercifully sent to the alternate site. Cleveland let the 26-year-old get Triple-A reps to start this season, and he only batted .216 in 203 plate appearances. He’s nevertheless getting a second chance because of injuries to Josh Naylor and Eddie Rosario.
Mercado put his name back on the radar by going 3-for-4 with a double, home run, and steal in Cleveland’s first-half finale. Add him in AL-only leagues and watch him closely elsewhere.
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.