Fantasy Baseball Waiver Wire: Joey Votto, Patrick Sandoval, Daulton Varsho
Friday represents the final chance for MLB teams to make a trade. While the waiver wire remains open for fantasy managers beyond July, time is also running out on them to add some unheralded difference-makers.
The top hitter and pitcher highlighted have appeared here multiple times before. Both will no longer fall under the radar following demonstrative performances that even those more focused on football research will notice. Others swiftly re-wrote a sullen narrative with a week nobody can ignore.
The following 20 players all remained rostered in fewer than half of Yahoo leagues as of Monday night, but it’s probably already too late to grab some in competitive circles. Be sure to strike where able, as adding some of these top waiver-wire targets is as good as making an impact trade.
Note: Rostered rates are from Yahoo leagues as of Monday night.
FABulous Four: Top Waiver Targets
Earlier in July, I noted his strong performance after returning from a thumb injury on June 8. He hasn’t slowed down, now batting .297/.406/.554 with 10 home runs over those last 42 games. Although not back to peak form, his .232 ISO is his highest rate since 2017. Votto has already matched his 2019 home-run total (15) this season while smacking 26 long balls in 517 plate appearances since the start of 2020.
Votto has gone 11-for-25 with five walks, two doubles, and four home runs in his last seven games, upping his OPS from .804 to .864. Those keeping tabs on his Statcast page saw signs of such an upcoming tear, and they’ll find plenty of reason to believe he’s not done yet. The 37-year-old has his highest average exit velocity (92.5 mph) and barrel rate (13.7%) since Statcast started tracking data in 2015. This would be a good time to remind you that he was baseball’s best first baseman from 2015 to 2017.
No matter how shallow your league, Votto deserves a roster spot.
Patrick Sandoval (SP – LAA): 37%
Sandoval kept performing well enough to recommend, but apparently not well enough for people to listen. That should change after he took a no-hitter into the ninth inning Saturday.
While he lost the no-hit bid and shutout, the southpaw put his name on the map. Sandoval collected a career-high 13 strikeouts, bringing his season total to 81 in 71.1 innings. He has 64 strikeouts in 50.1 innings over his last eight starts, tallying at least six all but once. This is no mirage; Sandoval’s 16.3% swinging-strike rate in the rotation ranks second behind Max Scherzer’s 16.4% among all active pitchers with at least 50 innings pitched.
Sandoval improved his ERA to 3.52 (3.22 as a starter) with a 1.10 WHIP and 3.65 SIERA. He’s also lasted at least seven innings in three straight starts while completing five frames in his last 10. He’s flourished by tabling his fastball for more of his dominant changeup, which has flummoxed opponents to a .187 wOBA and 54.2% whiff rate.
What a performance from Patrick Sandoval.
8.2 IP 1 H 0 R 1 BB 13 K
— Inside Edge (@IE_MLB) July 25, 2021
How much more do you need to hear? This should be your last chance to grab Sandoval wherever he’s still available. It’s not often a potential top-30 fantasy starter is sitting on the waiver wire in late July.
Daulton Varsho (C/OF – ARI): 36%
It took four months longer than anticipated, but Varsho is finally helping fantasy managers.
Drafted as a top-10 catcher, Varsho opened the season in Triple-A. He faltered in on-and-off opportunities with the Diamondbacks, batting .145 through June. He didn’t offer his first home run until July 11. But he went deep again last Wednesday. Then again in his next start Friday. Then again on Saturday. That was part of a four-game streak in which Varsho recorded two hits, including another pair of doubles.
Even if he didn’t catch fire, Varsho would be getting an extended look this summer for the last-place Diamondbacks, who lost Carson Kelly to a season-ending injury and traded Stephen Vogt to Atlanta. Having swiped 21 bases in 2019, Varsho is the rare catcher who can steal bases and take his glove to the outfield when his knees need a rest away from home plate. Only a handful of top-flight catchers offer more rest-of-season upside.
Touki Toussaint (SP/RP – ATL): 44%
Last week’s Toussaint recommendation didn’t come with much enthusiasm or confidence. For all his tantalizing upside, the righty has never consistently delivered in the majors. Keep this in mind before celebrating a league-winning find.
With that said, his triumphant return to Atlanta can’t go ignored. Making his first MLB start of the season last Tuesday, Touissant held a healthy and hot Padres lineup to three hits and a run over 6.2 innings. For an encore, he recorded 10 strikeouts to no walks at Philadelphia on Sunday, allowing one run in a tough-luck loss.
There are plenty of positives to take from these two excellent outings. Walks have always been a major problem for Touissant, but he threw more first-pitch strikes (62.7%) and pitches inside the strike zone (45.0%) than usual. A curveball that allowed a .500 SLG during a disastrous 2000 season had San Diego and Philadelphia slugging .125.
This is also a miniature sample size from an erratic pitcher who’s flashed brilliance before. The Toussaint with a 5.38 career ERA and 13.2% walk rate could spoil the party soon, but purchase the lottery ticket anyway.
Priority Pickups – <40% Rostered
Jorge Soler (OF – KC): 39%
Remember when Soler hit 49 home runs in 2019? That’s the clear outlier in his career portfolio, but nobody could have expected him to be this bad. After hitting an underwhelming .228/.326/.443 in 2020, he’s fallen further to a ghastly (but recently improved) .195/.289/.376 slash line.
Yet the Royals keep trotting out Soler, who’s finally showing a pulse. After going deep twice Sunday, the beleaguered DH now has six home runs in his last six games.
You wouldn’t realize he’s been one of baseball’s worst hitters when seeing his 92.3-mph average exit velocity — it was 92.6 mph in 2019 — and 13.2% barrel rate. Soler can still pummel baseballs, so don’t be surprised if he keeps up this power tear and skyrockets over the Mendoza Line. Consider how quickly other all-or-nothing sluggers Kyle Schwarber and Hunter Renfroe flipped the switch from futile to fierce this season.
Justin Upton (OF – LAA): 29%
Upton was batting .338/.463/.631 in June before a back injury sent him to the injured list. While he hasn’t sprinted back to that interrupted hot streak, the 33-year-old outfielder has batted third or fourth in the Angels’ last five games. With 14 homers in 68 games, Upton still packs a power punch worth rostering in 12-team mixed leagues with five outfield slots.
Tylor Megill (SP – NYM): 28%
Fantasy managers remain surprisingly slow to add Megill. Some hesitation made sense when he wasn’t working past the fifth inning, but the newcomer tossed six scoreless innings in consecutive starts. That now gives him a 2.10 ERA and 27.0% strikeout rate in six turns. Opponents are hitting .207 against the towering righty, and that’s higher than his .173 expected batting average (xBA). Having served up only two barrels, Megill also flaunts an exceptional 2.15 xERA and .227 xwOBA.
Megill would be rostered in over three-fourths of Yahoo leagues rather than a quarter if he was a prized prospect. While he won’t be this stellar all year, tossing a gem against Toronto earned him a spot on just about all fantasy rosters until he proves otherwise.
Paul Sewald (RP – SEA): 26%
Sewald hadn’t surrendered an earned run in 19 outings from June 2 through July 16 before giving up two in consecutive outings. Don’t abandon the sudden breakout reliever; he rebounded with five strikeouts in 2.1 hitless innings. Only Craig Kimbrel and Josh Hader have a higher strikeout rate than Sewald (42.7%), who has earned a 2.37 ERA and 1.70 FIP.
Any saves he offers are just gravy. Regardless of if he’s now Seattle’s primary closer, Sewald is too good to leave on the waiver wire.
Madison Bumgarner (SP – ARI): 26%
The good news? Bumgarner has allowed one run in each of his two starts back from the IL. The not-so-great news? He coughed up three additional unearned runs and mustered only one strikeout in Wednesday’s turn against the Pirates. His average fastball velocity has dipped below 90, reminiscing a disastrous 2020 in which he posted a matching 6.48 ERA and K/9. While nobody should get too excited about the return of vintage Bumgarner, he’s a tempting matchup play at Texas this Wednesday.
Tanner Houck (SP – BOS): 25%
After returning from a three-month absence to toss three scoreless innings from the bullpen, Houck recorded eight strikeouts in Thursday’s start against the Yankees. His slider especially made a depleted Bronx Bombers lineup look silly over 4.2 innings.
Tanner Houck, Sick Sliders. 🥴 pic.twitter.com/VNmf4pKoc3
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) July 22, 2021
He’ll stay in Boston’s rotation, drawing another tough AL East challenger in Toronto. You don’t have to start him just yet in shallower leagues, but Houck possesses sky-high strikeout upside for the stretch run.
Peter Fairbanks (RP – TB): 25%
Already sick from riding Tampa Bay’s closer carousel? We already did this dance with Fairbanks before, and he punished backers by surrendering 11 runs (eight earned) in his final five June outings. However, he then hadn’t given up another run until Friday. He also has 12 strikeouts and one walk in nine innings this month, along with two saves and wins apiece. Fairbanks has at least righted the ship into a worthwhile reliever even if the saves dry up.
Kyle Muller (SP – ATL): 22%
Back from a brief minor-league detour, Muller blanked the Mets for five innings in the first game of Monday’s doubleheader. He now sports a 2.55 ERA and 26 strikeouts in 24.2 innings for Atlanta this season. With Ian Anderson sidelined and Drew Smyly day-to-day after leaving his last start with a knee injury, Muller should stick around this time.
Harrison Bader (OF – STL): 22%
A favorite among these parts in May, a healthy Bader is back and once again on the verge of a breakthrough. After missing five weeks with a right rib hairline fracture (his second IL stint of the season), the center fielder has returned to bat a blistering .362 (25-for-69) with four home runs and two stolen bases in July. The 27-year-old now wields a gaudy .289/.358/.507 slash line in 159 plate appearances.
The best part of his fragmented campaign is a 16.4% strikeout rate nearly cut in half from last season’s 32.0% mark. Bader is a possible high-impact add who could headline this column — or get claimed in a majority of Yahoo leagues — next week. His rostered rate already more than doubled from Sunday’s 10% by Monday.
LaMonte Wade Jr. (1B/OF – SF): 11%
Wade was nearly relegated to the Deep League section before a standout Sunday provided a long-overdue spotlight. He’s a platoon player, but an incredible one who regularly leads off a potent Giants lineup against righties. Wade is slugging .581 with a .391 wOBA, and those numbers include his 21 hitless plate appearances against southpaws. He upped his home-run tally to 12 by going deep three times over the weekend, and he’s chipped in three steals this season. Much like the oft-recommended Akil Baddoo, who is finally rostered in over half (54%) of Yahoo leagues, Wade is useful in all mixed leagues with daily lineup changes.
Deep League Targets – <10% Rostered
Greg Allen (OF – NYY): 8%
It’s not often deep-league targets are littered with Yankees hitters, but their outfielder is currently missing … everyone. Getting reps out of default, Allen is batting .292 (7-for-24) with four walks in nine games. More importantly, he’s stolen four bases. This is a pure speed play. The career .241 hitter hasn’t sustained prolonged big-league success at the plate, but he swiped 21 bags for Cleveland in 2018.
David Bednar (RP – PIT): 5%
It makes perfect sense for the last-place Pirates to shop Richard Rodriguez before Friday’s trade deadline. Should they move the 31-year-old closer, Bednar would likely be next in line for saves opportunities. Having last allowed a run on June 30, the 26-year-old righty has registered a 2.77 ERA with 48 strikeouts in 39 innings. He’s the top reliever to stash in hopes of a deadline deal yielding a job promotion this week.
Daniel Lynch (SP – KC): 4%
Lynch got shelled (14 ER in 8.0 IP) in his first big-league trial, and he wasn’t much better in Triple-A (5.84 ERA). Of course, this is leading to him tossing eight shutout innings with no walks in Sunday’s return to the Royals. He only delivered four strikeouts in his first career win over the Tigers, so Lynch’s intrigue is limited to deeper leagues. Still a highly regarded prospect, the 24-year-old should eventually blossom into a better-in-real-life No. 3 starter.
Rougned Odor (2B – NYY): 4%
Odor has recorded a hit in 11 of his last 12 starts, including two doubles and a home run during last weekend’s series at Boston. Although still batting .230 with a bleak .297 OBP, he’s slugging .460 with a dozen long balls while matching a personal-best 107 wRC+ from 2015. The Yankees are milking Odor’s hot streak for all it’s worth, regularly batting the polarizing second baseman third or fourth. Follow suit if seeking power in deep leagues.
Bradley Zimmer (OF – CLE): 2%
Zimmer appeared last week after ordering a Combo Meal on Sunday. He’s since recorded at least one hit in four of five starts, two of which came in the leadoff role. A 10.5% walk rate especially makes him valuable in OBP leagues, but those free passes can also lead to some fun on the bases.
Josh Sborz (RP – TEX): 0%
Pitching on a one-year deal, 36-year-old closer Ian Kennedy checks all the boxes for an obvious deadline deal. The Rangers don’t have an obvious alternative, but Sborz is most worthy of stashing. Although wild, the righty has ridden his high-90s heater to 46 strikeouts and a 15.5% swinging-strike rate in 36.1 innings.
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.