Fantasy Baseball Waiver Wire: Jarren Duran, Chad Green, Akil Baddoo
Don’t wait until the All-Star break to start fixing your fantasy baseball roster. This week could sway your title chances come September, and there are plenty of widely available reinforcements.
Finding valuable free agents can feel like pulling teeth some weeks. That’s not the case in the closing days of MLB’s unofficial first half. Help is on the way in the form of players returning from the IL just in time for a summer surge. Some popular pitchers in this space continue to run hot, and the closer carousel is still spinning wildly.
Before digging too deep into the weeds, see if a highly touted prospect remains available in your league. It shouldn’t be long before his promotion prompts a mad dash to the waiver wire.
Note: Rostered rates are from Yahoo leagues as of Monday night.
FAABulous Four: Top Waiver Targets
Jarren Duran (OF – BOS): 27% Rostered
Duran may have headlined last week’s column if not for the possibility of representing Team USA in the Olympics. Though part of the qualifying roster, he didn’t make the final cut. Per the Boston Globe’s Alex Speier, the U.S. team left him off the squad to avoid a scenario where the Red Sox would want him back from Tokyo:
Per a major league source, the decision not to include Duran on US Olympic Team was from the USOC. Red Sox would have been OK with him going – with the proviso that if they wanted to call him up, they could. With visa requirements and logistical challenges of replacing …
— Alex Speier (@alexspeier) July 2, 2021
Removing this roadblock only increases the chances that Duran is in Boston by the end of the month.
A speedy, contact-orientated hitter before 2020, Duran’s stock likely rose more than any prospect during a year without minor league baseball. Raving reviews of a revamped swing came to fruition when he earned MVP honors in the Puerto Rican Winter League, and he’s spent the season showcasing these gains in Triple-A. After previously mustering eight home runs in two years, Duran already has 15 long balls in 41 contests. The 24-year-old is batting .284/.378/.604 with 10 steals.
This could be your last chance to stash a potential five-category game-changer.
Chad Green (SP/RP – NYY): 30% Rostered
The Yankees have an Aroldis Chapman problem. Untouchable through May, the closer has allowed 15 hits, 11 walks, and 14 runs in his last 8.2 innings. He served up a grand slam Wednesday and blew the save without recording an out in the first game of Sunday’s doubleheader against the Mets.
In the second game, Green pitched three perfect innings to pick up the save. He closed the game with an immaculate seventh inning, submitting three strikeouts on nine pitches.
— New York Yankees (@Yankees) July 5, 2021
A long-running unsung hero of the Yankees’ bullpen, Green ranks sixth in K-BB% (27.8) and third in WAR among all qualified relievers since the start of 2017. He’s again been their rock this season, posting a 2.28 ERA and 0.74 WHIP in 43.1 innings. Yankees manager Aaron Boone may value Green too much as a multi-inning fireman to handcuff him to the final frame, but it’d make sense to give Chapman a break from save situations.
Green would instantly be a top-shelf fantasy closer if given the opportunity. Even now, he’s a valuable contributor without saves, particularly in Yahoo daily-lineup leagues that give him SP eligibility. Unlike the other speculative closer adds mentioned below, there’s little risk of him hurting your bottom line with or without the ninth-inning gig.
Akil Baddoo (OF – DET): 31% Rostered
Nothing to see here, folks. Just a rookie batting .274/.361/.468 with a 125 wRC+ and 13 stolen bases. Oh yeah, he’s also made his last 10 starts in the leadoff spot. Baddoo remains under the radar as a platoon hitter for the Tigers, but he’s demanding attention by crushing righties and swiping five bags in his last seven games. He especially needs to be rostered in leagues with daily lineup changes, where managers can sit him against left-handed starters and enjoy a burgeoning star the rest of the way.
Joey Votto (1B – CIN): 29% Rostered
Votto is hitting .300/.388/.533 in 26 games since returning from a broken thumb. Last year, the first baseman altered his swing after getting benched in late August. He’s since refueled a dwindling power supply. After amassing 12 and 15 home runs in 2018 and 2019, respectively, Votto has 19 long balls in his last 84 games.
The 37-year-old boasts his highest hard-hit rate (49.0%) since Statcast began tracking in 2015. That period doesn’t only cover his regression either; no qualified hitter had a higher wOBA from 2015 to 2017. Speaking of which, Votto’s .394 expected wOBA (xwOBA) this season matches that of Nelson Cruz and Nick Castellanos. With a higher average exit velocity (92.7 mph) than the new Line Drive King, Freddie Freeman, Votto is on the cusp of a commendable late-career renaissance if he can stay healthy. He should be rostered everywhere.
Priority Pickups – <35% Rostered
Drew Smyly (SP – ATL): 34%
Smyly has submitted a 3.15 ERA in 10 starts since a disastrous April and allowed just one run in his last three outings. It’s now a matter of the lefty staying healthy and consistent. Neither is a great bet, but he’s scheduled to close his first half at Pittsburgh. You may not want to hold him beyond the All-Star break in shallower leagues, as Atlanta will return against Tampa Bay, San Diego, Philadelphia, and a healthier Mets lineup.
Ross Stripling (SP/RP – TOR): 33%
Stripling, who posted a 3.68 ERA during his five-year Dodgers tenure, has a 2.35 ERA in his last eight starts. He’s compiled 73 strikeouts in 71 innings and is scheduled to get another crack at the Rays, who have mustered one run against him in two tries this season.
Adbert Alzolay (SP – CHC): 31%
Alzolay was a frequent member of this column before going on the IL with a blister. After giving up nine runs in two rocky starts back, he allowed three over seven solid innings at Cincinnati. While a 4.48 ERA won’t help many fantasy managers, a 1.08 WHIP, 25.9% strikeout rate, and 3.78 SIERA make him worth another look. Yet the two-pitch hurler may not reach that potential if he can’t curtail his long-ball issues.
Brandon Nimmo (OF – NYM): 30%
As the Mets lineup toiled, Nimmo batted .339 with a 15.0% walk rate through April before landing on the IL with a hand injury. After missing two months, he returned to record seven hits in four games. He came back just in time for a rare trip to an AL park, giving the Mets time before deciding how to arrange their outfield under NL rules. Given his .392 career OBP, Nimmo remains too valuable as a leadoff hitter to sit for a more natural center fielder. Although the batting average will fall, the 27-year-old is an OBP star who has displayed sneaky pop (.483 SLG in 2018, .484 in 2020) during his underrated career.
Patrick Sandoval (SP/RP – LAA): 28%
Sandoval hadn’t issued more than two walks in an outing all season before relinquishing five against Baltimore on Sunday. However, he allowed two hits and runs apiece. The lefty has permitted 16 runs in eight starts and has tallied 36 strikeouts in his last five games. Those late to the party should snag Sandoval before the All-Star break, as he closes the first half against a Seattle offense with MLB’s third-worst wOBA against lefties (.295).
Jon Gray (SP – COL): 28%
Regardless of the opponent and setting, starting Gray is never safe. He’s pitched far better at home (3.22 ERA) than on the road (5.32 ERA) this season. This isn’t an entirely new phenomenon; he’s performed slightly worse away from Coors Field (4.58 road ERA, 4.47 home ERA) over his volatile career. It’s nevertheless tempting anytime a Rockies pitcher is scheduled to make two turns on the road. He’s an interesting streamer for Tuesday’s matchup against the Diamondbacks, who rank 28th in wRC+ this season.
Wilmer Flores (1B/2B/3B – SF): 19%
Flores is on track to deliver an above-average wRC+ (110) for the sixth straight season. He batted .301/.342/.534 in June and has 20 home runs in 128 games with the Giants. The infielder is also a rare hitter who can provide pop with a high contact rate. Of the 10 hitters (minimum 200 plate appearances) with a lower strikeout rate than Flores’ 12.4%, only José Ramírez and Yuli Gurriel have more than five home runs. He’s also squashing his past reputation as someone who can only hit lefties, boasting a 120 wRC+ against righties in 2021.
Nico Hoerner (2B/3B/SS – CHC): 18%
Hoerner has already had his season interrupted twice since getting the call-up in late April, but he’s shown promise when able to compete. The 24-year-old infielder was batting .338/.405/.432 with a 14.3% strikeout rate before returning from a hamstring injury Sunday. He’s eligible for three infield positions in Yahoo formats and could soon gain outfield eligibility if the Cubs continue to move him across the diamond. Hoerner would make a valuable addition if he picks up from where he last left off.
Jake Fraley (OF – SEA): 17%
Any interest in an outfielder with seven homers, seven steals, a 23.0% walk rate, and a .242 ISO? Fraley has dazzled in 126 plate appearances. While a .386 xSLG doesn’t back his recent power surge, a .363 xwOBA — far below his .408 wOBA — is still ahead of Mookie Betts and Giancarlo Stanton. This play should lock down more secure playing time and better lineup positioning for Fraley, whose success would/should then quickly get recognized by more fantasy managers.
Merrill Kelly (SP – ARI): 17%
Kelly strung together seven strong starts (3.19 ERA) from April 27 to May 26 before getting shredded to a 6.97 ERA in his next four turns. He’s found his footing once more, allowing four runs with 17 strikeouts and one walk over his last three starts. Kelly runs too hot and cold to park in your lineup permanently, but he’s worth deploying for a home date against the Rockies.
Ranger Suárez (RP – PHI): 16%
Pop quiz: Who is Philadelphia’s closer? Joe Girardi probably doesn’t even know the answer. We can probably eliminate Héctor Neris, who has surrendered 10 runs in his last three outings (including six on Independence Day). José Alvarado or Archie Bradley may damage your ratios too much to chase a few saves.
Yet another wild card has emerged in Suárez, who scooped up his first career save Saturday. The 25-year-old lefty has allowed only three earned runs (five total) in 31.2 innings. A .156 BABIP and 90.1% strand rate have undoubtedly helped his cause, and the Phillies may want to deploy the ground-ball specialist against fellow lefties before the ninth. He’s worth a low-cost dart throw in deeper leagues.
Joakim Soria (RP – ARI): 16%
Expected to close when joining the Diamondbacks, Soria got hurt after his first appearance. He’s mostly toiled since coming back a month later, but the 37-year-old picked up his first save of the season Thursday. While nobody should place high hopes on a veteran with a 4.64 ERA, 1.50 WHIP, and 11.8 K-BB% on MLB’s worst teams, it may behoove Arizona to try to bolster his trade value with a few weeks as the main closer.
Paul Sewald (RP – SEA): 13%
If he continues to pitch this well, the Mets’ non-tendering him will forever be remembered as the Sewald Folly. After posting a 5.50 ERA (with a sparkling 1-14 record) over four forgettable seasons, the veteran had to work to find an MLB roster spot. He’s suddenly transitioned into a lights-out reliever, registering a 1.59 ERA and 40 strikeouts in 22.2 innings. He hasn’t allowed an earned run since June 1, and he picked up his first save on July 1. While that doesn’t make him the new closer, Seattle hasn’t settled on a single option. Sewald has earned a high-leverage role, even as a dominant set-up man to Kendall Graveman.
Deep League Targets – <10% Rostered
Gavin Sheets (1B – CHW): 8%
He’s not quite as hot as Yermín Mercedes in April, but Sheets has taken over the White Sox’s DH gig — with Mercedes demoted to Triple-A — with three doubles and two home runs in seven games. Not an all-or-nothing slugger, the 25-year-old has just four strikeouts in 28 plate appearances. Tread with caution, however, as Sheets could lose some reps to a player highlighted below if he doesn’t keep raking.
Cole Sulser (RP – BAL): 7%
Sulser’s five saves came with an atrocious 5.56 ERA and 2.0 K-BB% last season. He surprisingly opened 2020 with the job, but quickly lost the handle. This year, he’s pitched his way into more opportunities with a 2.61 ERA and 24.2 K-BB%. The 31-year-old had two saves in his last three outings before taking the loss Sunday, so Sulser should remain the next man up in Baltimore’s rapidly spinning closer carousel.
Heath Hembree (RP – CIN): 7%
Amir Garrett looked poised to get another chance to close for Cincinnati, but Hembree instead collected saves on Friday and Saturday. He struck out two batters in each, giving him a gaudy 45 punchouts in 26.2 innings. He’s also allowed eight home runs this season and 24 in 85.1 innings since the start of 2019. Although that’s a terrifying trend for a high-leverage reliever, those strikeouts are too tantalizing to ignore Hembree.
Tylor Megill (SP – NYM): 6%
Megill has held his own as a replacement in the Mets’ rotation, allowing six runs with 19 strikeouts in 14.1 innings. After inducing 16 swinging strikes while allowing one run to the Brewers on Monday night, the 6’7″ has impressed enough to utilize for a home matchup against the Pirates this weekend. With Carlos Carrasco, Noah Syndergaard, and David Peterson all sidelined, the Mets are going to need Megill beyond the All-Star break.
Jake Burger (3B – CHW): 5%
Mmmmmm … Burger. The 2017 first-round pick missed all of 2018 with a torn Achilles. A bruised heel halted his comeback the following year, and a global pandemic prevented him from returning to official action in 2020. After three years away, Burger grilled Triple-A pitching to a .322/.368/.596 slash line and 10 home runs in 42 games. Promoted by the White Sox last week, he started three games at third base in place of the injured Yoán Moncada.
A returning Moncada could send Burger back to the minors or in the rare end of a DH platoon with Sheets. That’s not a certainty, however, as White Sox manager Tony La Russa said he’s considering playing Burger at second base. (That wasn’t the case Monday night; Burger was benched with Leury Garcia at second.) Based on La Russa’s expressed desire for Burger to play regularly, he shouldn’t get squandered on the bench as Andrew Vaughn did in April.
Miguel Cabrera (1B/UT – DET): 5%
This section is usually reserved for young upstarts and surging journeymen, not a future Hall of Famer with four batting titles, a Triple Crown, and two MVP trophies. Cabrera hasn’t helped any fantasy teams since nosediving in 2017. You’d be forgiven if your first reaction was, “Oh, he’s still playing?” While Cabrera is still batting a putrid .241/.297/.354, he hit .329 with five doubles and three homers in June. A .439 BABIP may deserve the most credit, and plenty of fantasy gamers outside of Yahoo leagues have a stud (Shohei Ohtani, J.D. Martinez, Cruz) in their utility slot. But wouldn’t it be fun if Miggy had one more tear in him?
Anthony Bender (RP – MIA): 4%
After Atlanta lit up Yimi García to four runs on Sunday, Bender picked up his first career save for the Marlins on Monday night. The 26-year-old has a 0.68 ERA, 34 strikeouts, and seven walks in 26.1 innings. Bender’s name makes sense after seeing his wicked slider in action. If more opportunities come, he may end up being this week’s most valuable closer pickup.
Trevor Larnach (OF – MIN): 3%
Larnach continues to get completely ignored in Yahoo formats. You don’t see that often from promising newcomers delivering above-average offense (121 wRC+) out of the gate. The 24-year-old already has eight hits in five games this month. He draws walks (10.2 BB%), makes strong contact (43.7% hard-hit rate), and is increasingly operating from the top half of Minnesota’s lineup. Perhaps managers don’t see league-winning upside, but Larnach is a worthwhile option in five-outfielder formats.
Harrison Bader (OF – STL): 3%
I tried to make a Bader breakout happen in May, but he tumbled before suffering a rib fracture. Since returning, he’s quickly offered two home runs and steal, all at Coors Field. As a quick refresher, Bader’s combination of power, speed, a significantly reduced strikeout rate (17.5%), and a glove that locks down playing time make the center field an intriguing option.
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.