Fantasy Baseball Waiver Wire: Daulton Varsho, Nicky Lopez, Tylor Megill
To give a quick sense of the dwindling talent remaining on the fantasy baseball waiver wire: this column is littered with Royals players.
In most leagues, we’re far past having tantalizing options like Logan Webb, Triston McKenzie, and Joey Votto available. Then again, someone’s journey from rags to riches has to start somewhere. Even if most of the highlighted players don’t scream league-winner, a select few could wind up making a major mark.
With only six weeks remaining, it’s also more important to inspect a player’s upcoming schedule. That especially comes into play for the recommended starting pitchers.
Note: Rostered rates are from Yahoo leagues as of Monday night.
FABulous Four: Top Waiver Targets
Daulton Varsho (C/OF – ARI): 33%
Varsho was slugging .220 on July 20. It’s up to .470 after going yard for the third straight game Monday night.
That five-week window also opened with three home runs in as many days. He has eight dingers in the last 19 games, along with five doubles and a triple. Varsho had nine total hits — none were home runs– in his first 24 games.
Varsho suddenly has a 113 wRC+ and a strong case for full-time work in the dog days of Arizona’s season. The 25-year-old has lost some playing time behind the plate since Carson Kelly returned from a wrist injury, but he’s made three of his last four starts in the outfield. As long as the last-place Diamondbacks give him reps, Varsho is a top-10 fantasy catcher for the rest of the season. Don’t dismiss his speed either. While four stolen bases in 63 games may not seem like much, J.T. Realmuto (eight), Christian Vázquez (eight), and Jorge Alfaro (seven) are the only catchers with more all season.
Nicky Lopez (2B/SS – KC): 32%
Lopez has stolen 10 bases since the All-Star break, placing third behind Starling Marte (22!) and Royals teammate Whit Merrifield (13). Those other two were high draft picks who probably should have gone higher. Lopez, on the other hand, remains widely available.
While Lopez is a complete power drain, he’s at least batting .281 with a .351 OBP and 13.9% strikeout rate. As a result, the Royals have bumped him up from ninth to second in their lineup behind Merrifield. That should lead to more runs and running on the basepaths.
Tylor Megill (SP – NYM): 27%
In July, Megill was the toast of the fantasy town, authoring a 1.04 ERA and 27 strikeouts in 26 innings. He then gave up four earned runs each to the Phillies and Marlins, prompting managers to discard the recent addition. It looked like an open-and-shut case of a rookie pitcher regressing to the mean and hitting the proverbial wall.
Not so fast. Megill responded by allowing four runs combined to the Dodgers and Giants, recording six strikeouts in each start. He has a 3.21 ERA and 19.4 K-BB% this season with a lower expected ERA (2.85 xERA) than Gerrit Cole (2.87) and Walker Buehler (2.96). The 26-year-old is no ace of that caliber, but you won’t find other pitchers with those numbers hanging around the waiver wire. If you don’t trust him for Tuesday’s rematch against the Giants, at least add him before Sunday’s scheduled matchup against the Nationals. If the Mets’ rotation stays in order, he will open September by facing Washington once more before going to Miami.
Brandon Belt (1B – SF): 28%
Belt has three hits since getting recommended as the top-priority pickup two weeks ago. All three were home runs. Strange slump aside, the 33-year-old is one long ball away from matching a career-high (18) set in 2015. He’s done so in just 70 games, slugging .523 with a higher wOBA (.368) than Pete Alonso, Paul Goldschmidt, and José Abreu. Belt remains a dangerous power supplier despite his recent contact woes, and his .071 second-half BABIP should certainly improve in September.
Priority Pickups – <35% Rostered
Nestor Cortes Jr. (SP/RP – NYY): 33%
Cortes looked like a regression candidate, but he’s only growing stronger. After working commendably in a long-relief role, the 26-year-old has recorded a 3.14 ERA in his last five starts. He lasted at least five innings in each of them, pitching a career-high seven frames against the Twins last Friday. Cortes has also compiled seven strikeouts in consecutive turns. He’s earned a prolonged stay in the Yankees’ (and your fantasy) rotation.
Scott Barlow (RP – KC): 31%
Barlow picked up two saves last week, giving him a team-high eight this season. Wielding a 2.55 ERA and 74 strikeouts in 60 innings, you can roster the righty even if he’s not Kansas City’s full-time closer. He at least looks to be the current captain of an all-hands-on-deck approach.
Aledmys Díaz (1B/2B/3B/OF – HOU): 24%
Slashing .302/.351/.476 this season with a 148 wRC+ after the All-Star break, Díaz isn’t making it easy for the Astros to bench him when Alex Bregman returns. He should at worst get plenty of starts as a super-utilityman, but a semi-permanent outfield gig is also possible.
J.A. Happ (SP – STL): 21%
Happ has enjoyed a delicious dose of Cardinal Devil Magic. Traded from the Twins with a 6.77 ERA, the veteran lefty now has a 1.99 ERA in four starts for St. Louis. Don’t read much into his August renaissance, as he’s made his last three outings against the Royals and Pirates (twice). Yet he’s scheduled for another date at Pittsburgh (last in wRC+) this Friday, so stream the hot hand.
Miles Mikolas (SP – STL): 18%
After missing all of 2020 to repair his right flexor tendon, Mikolas’s comeback was short-lived. He lasted just four innings in his May 22 return before a forearm strain sidelined him once more. The righty returned Friday to allow two unearned runs over five innings against the Pirates.
A low strikeout rate will leave most fantasy managers nonplussed, but Mikolas posted a 2.83 ERA in a superb 2018 MLB comeback. Even when regressing the following year, his 4.16 ERA and 1.22 WHIP proved useful in deeper formats. He’s scheduled to get another crack at the lowly Pirates this Thursday, making Mikolas a shallow-league streamer and deep-league hold.
Adam Ottavino (RP – BOS): 17%
Following Monday afternoon’s blown save, Matt Barnes has surrendered nine runs in 5.1 innings this month. He had allowed 11 through July. With the Red Sox trailing the Rays and Yankees in the AL East, they might want to give their beleaguered closer a break from high-leverage situations.
Ottavino, who already has eight saves this season, stands out as the clear replacement candidate. He has his own issues, most notably a bloated 12.9% walk rate, but there’s an opportunity for saves and strikeouts in the foreseeable future.
Carlos Hernández (SP – KC): 17%
Since moving into Kansas City’s rotation, Hernández has posted a 3.38 ERA and 1.10 WHIP in seven starts. After initially struggling against favorable opponents in Detroit and Baltimore, he handled a gauntlet of AL juggernauts (White Sox twice, Yankees, Astros) with aplomb. Stretched out and given a more manageable opponent, the 24-year-old righty relinquished one run and registered a career-high eight strikeouts against the Cubs.
Able to hit triple-digits, Hernández should amplify his 20.4% K rate as a starter and hold his weight in most mixed leagues. The schedule will remain light with his next start scheduled at Seattle, and it won’t pick up much in September. Hernández can make a huge postseason impact in head-to-head leagues, as the Royals play their final 16 games against Seattle, Cleveland, Detroit, and Minnesota.
Jake Meyers (OF – HOU): 16%
The only reason Diaz isn’t ensured outfield reps when Bregman displaces him from the hot corner? Meyers has also proven a replacement revelation, batting .313/.346/.563 in 52 plate appearances. He tallied 14 home runs and 10 steals in 68 Triple-A games and has hit safely in 10 of his last 11 games with Houston. The 25-year-old will need to keep raking to preserve his spot in the starting lineup.
Luis Patiño (SP/RP – TB): 15%
Patiño has pitched well enough to get giddy over his long-term outlook, but not great enough to always trust in standard re-draft leagues. Following an ugly five-walk outing against Minnesota, the 21-year-old rookie posted a quality start (6 IP, 2 ER, 5 K) against the White Sox on Friday. The talented righty will likely remain a short-term roller coaster, but he’s worth a spin against Baltimore this week.
Hunter Dozier (1B/3B/OF – KC): 15%
Anyone beyond a 15-team, AL Central-only league should have dropped Dozier long ago. Once a steady hand, he entered the All-Star break batting .174 with the third-worst wOBA (.255) among all qualified hitters. But the 30-year-old has finally turned a corner, hitting .280/.359/.421 since the All-Star break.
Per The Athletic’s Alec Lewis (h/t FanGraphs’ Jeff Zimmerman), Royals manager Mike Matheny placed some of the blame on an early-season thumb injury. Dozier looks healthy and is once again a usable depth piece whose playing time never wavered throughout the doldrums.
Michael Lorenzen (RP – CIN): 13%
Hey, so remember when Mychal Givens definitely looked like Cincinnati’s new closer last week? Lorenzen picked up two saves over the weekend. He’s yet to permit a run in 13.1 innings this season and has limited opponents to a puny 69.5% contact rate. Looking at a 14.4% swinging-strike rate, there’s more strikeout upside than he’s displayed thus far.
The Reds may revert to Givens by the end of the week, but Lorenzen has shown more than enough potential to roster anyway, just in case he sticks as a game-changing closer for the stretch run. Note: Be sure to add Lorenzen the pitcher, not hitter, in Yahoo leagues.
Edward Cabrera (SP – MIA): 12%
The Marlins broke the news to Cabrera that’s heading to the majors:
Let’s check in on Edward Cabrera’s Sunday Night. pic.twitter.com/I8H4zLCFno
— Miami Marlins (@Marlins) August 23, 2021
The 23-year-old righty is scheduled to make his MLB debut Wednesday night at Washington. As with most rookie pitchers, Cabrera has a wide range of outcomes. Buoyed by an electric fastball and burgeoning secondary offerings, he notched 48 strikeouts in six Triple-Astarts spanning 29.1 innings. However, he also issued 19 walks. Cabrera will likely endure some growing pains while developing his control, but the K upside is immense. A cushy opening matchup will also tempt new investors to toss the neophyte right into the starting lineup.
Deep League Targets – <10% Rostered
David Bednar (RP – PIT): 9%
We all forgot to check back on Pittsburgh’s closer situation because the Pirates weren’t winning, but Bednar has picked up a save in his last two appearances. He has a 2.44 ERA and 2.98 FIP this season, with 13 strikeouts to one walk this month. Even the worst MLB teams win sometimes.
Miguel Cabrera (1B – DET): 8%
This isn’t entirely a nostalgia pick to commemorate Cabrera’s 500th career home run. He’s batting .283 (64-for-226) with nine long balls in 62 games since the start of June. He’s also improved his strikeout rate to 16.3% since the All-Star break and continues to start regularly as Detroit’s No. 3 or 4 hitter. Although the milestone may soon boost him to a double-digit rostered rate in Yahoo leagues, Cabrera is still best saved for deep leagues.
Eli Morgan (SP – CLE): 7%
Cleveland is cultivating another intriguing young pitcher in Morgan, who has a 3.52 ERA and 1.04 WHIP in August. He also has 21 strikeouts in those 23 innings due to impressive road performances at Toronto and Minnesota. Pairing that with a microscopic 5.2% walk rate in 11 big-league starts would make him a valuable back-end arm in deep leagues.
Jorge Mateo (2B/OF – BAL): 3%
Mateo hasn’t stolen a base in his last 10 starts, but he’s collected 13 hits. The recent acquisition is too fast not to run as long as the Orioles keep playing him.
Lars Nootbaar (OF – STL): 1%
Nootbaar is proving more than just a Hall of Fame-caliber baseball name. In 16 games since the All-Star break, he’s gone 12-for-34 with five walks and three home runs. He’s demonstrated an excellent plate approach early in his big-league career, logging an 80.4% contact rate with just a 7.8% swinging-strike rate and 11 strikeouts in 68 plate appearances. Unfortunately, Dylan Carlson could return this week and take away Nootbaar’s playing time.
Aaron Ashby (SP – MIL): 1%
Ashby’s MLB debut was a disaster. Given the starting nod on June 30, he served up four hits, three walks, and seven runs (four earned) before he could even escape the first inning. That’s concealed a more encouraging second run; he’s tossed eight scoreless innings with nine strikeouts since getting promoted two weeks ago. He’s firing his fastball at an average velocity of 96.7 mph, peaking at 99 to baffle Juan Soto:
Aaron Ashby, 99mph ⛽️
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) August 22, 2021
Brewers outfielder Lorenzo Cain called Ashby “the real deal,” per MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy. The main issue is his role. Ashby will likely continue working as a long reliever or short starter who won’t work deep enough to produce wins. He’s interesting enough to take a flier anyway in NL-only and 15-team or deeper mixed leagues.
Lane Thomas (OF – WAS): 0%
Thomas felt like the quintessential out-of-nowhere breakout position player that pops up annually in St. Louis. (See Lars Nootbaar. OK, I just wanted an excuse to type Lars Nootbaar again.) Instead, he fizzled in limited work after an impressive, but short-lived 2019 debut. Given a second chance in Washington, Thomas has gone 9-for-15 with five walks, two doubles, and a triple in six games. Given the dire straight of the Nationals’ lineup following a deadline firesale, they already bumped him up to the leadoff role.
The 26-year-old brandishes some interesting skills in the form of a 14.2% walk rate and 79.5% contact rate in 162 career plate appearances. He also recorded his first stolen base for his new club Sunday, and it likely won’t be the last if he remains atop the lineup card.
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.