The waiver wire is drying up. Most dominos have already fallen from MLB’s trade deadline, and the closer carousel is spinning at a glacial pace. Leaguemates down the standings might be getting lethargic, but most contenders aren’t too distracted by football yet.
It was admittedly a challenge picking four players worthy enough of the Top Waiver Targets section. The true difference-makers have homes by now. What’s left are players who can fill a hole, serve a specific need, or potentially sustain a hot streak for another week or two.
This late in the game, every edge counts. That extra strikeout or stolen base may make a bigger difference than you think, so stay alert, even if the available names aren’t overly exciting.
Note: Rostered rates are from Yahoo leagues as of Monday night.
Import your team to My Playbook for instant Waiver Wire advice
FABulous Four: Top Waiver Targets
Lewis Brinson (OF – MIA): 44%
To call Brinson a bust would have been an understatement. From 2017 – 2020, Jeff Mathis — a glove-first veteran backup catcher — was the only hitter (minimum 500 plate appearances) with a lower wRC+ or wOBA than Brinson. The 27-year-old was in danger of hitting his way out of the majors for good when carrying a .232 OBP into the All-Star break.
Four years later than expected, Brinson is finally displaying some of the lofty hype. He’s hitting .325/.388/.623 with five home runs in 24 games since the All-Star break. During that stretch, he’s bolstered his hard-hit rate from 29.8% to 48.1%.
The Marlins are riding Brinson’s hot hand, giving him seven straight starts in the cleanup role before bumping him up a spot Monday night. Even if this amounts to a random hot streak, fantasy managers might as well take a chance in five-outfielder leagues.
Brinson, unfortunately, has yet to even attempt a stolen base. However, he ranks in the 87th percentile of Statcast’s sprint speed and often swiped double-digit bags in the minors. He’s never translated that to MLB stolen bases, but perhaps the Marlins let him loose with little to lose this September. That would be the key to unlocking a true mixed-league stalwart.
Patrick Sandoval (SP – LAA): 43%
Sandoval was supposed to have cemented his status as a fantasy mainstay when collecting 13 strikeouts in an 8.2-inning gem on July 24. Instead, his rostered rate slid back under the midway mark after allowing 12 hits, four walks, and six runs in two starts lasting only 9.2 innings this month.
They were against the Dodgers and Astros.
There’s no reason to panic and cut bait on a breakout performer boasting a 3.62 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, and 25.9% K rate backed by a 15.2% swinging-strike rate. Sandoval is scheduled to receive a rebound opportunity at Detroit this Friday. If the Angels keep their six-man rotation in order, the lefty will make his next turn at Baltimore and commence September against the Rangers. You’ll want him around for all three starts, so pounce in any leagues where an antsy manager abandoned Sandoval.
Evan Longoria (3B – SF): 19%
Longoria was one of many veteran Giants hitters enjoying a late-career renaissance before suffering a shoulder injury that sent him to the 60-day IL. The third baseman was hitting .280/.376/.516 before getting sidelined in early June. He has his highest walk rate since 2011 and the best hard-hit rate of anybody with at least 50 batted-ball events.
Longoria would be this week’s top-priority add if not for playing-time concerns. Kris Bryant should spend most of his time in the outfield, but the Giants have enough depth to sit Longoria against righties. They at least will likely ease the 35-year-old back into action. Yet they still need to fend off the loaded Dodgers in the NL West, so Longoria could reclaim a full-time role if restoring his early-season success.
Joe Barlow (RP – TEX): 19%
Spencer Patton picked up the Rangers’ first save after they traded Ian Kennedy, but a new closer has emerged with more fantasy appeal. Barlow has tallied a save in consecutive outings, extending his scoreless streak to 12.2 innings. The 25-year-old righty has 18 strikeouts with a 15.0% swinging-strike rate in 14.2 innings, so Barlow should be rostered as long as Texas keeps giving him save chances.
Priority Pickups – <35% Rostered
Mychal Givens (RP – CIN): 26%
Givens has tossed eight scoreless innings with only two hits allowed since joining the Reds right before the trade deadline. Of course, fantasy gamers should only care because he’s picked up three saves in his last four outings. A 4.50 BB/9, 90.2% strand rate, and 4.34 FIP point to his 2.13 ERA regressing, but Givens can give a short-term boost in saves and strikeouts.
Tyler Stephenson (C/1B – CIN): 24%
Among catchers with at least 150 plate appearances, only Buster Posey and Omar Narváez have a higher batting average than Stephenson’s .291. He’s sixth in OBP (.375) with a 10.5% walk rate and higher wRC+ (121) than J.T. Realmuto. The rookie was nevertheless receiving little fantasy attention due to a lack of power. Stephenson changed that by going deep in three consecutive games. He’s now suddenly slugging a stout .453 and looking like a competent starter in single-catcher mixed leagues.
Brendan Rodgers (2B/SS – COL): 21%
Rodgers is batting .318 (28-for-88) since the All-Star break and has a solid .350 wOBA this season. He’s listed here seemingly every time the Rockies have a week at home, but the 25-year-old is slugging .509 on the road.
Luis Gil (SP – NYY): 21%
Nestor Cortes Jr. (SP/RP – NYY): 11%
Gerrit Cole returned from the COVID-19 IL on Monday, and Jordan Montgomery is slated to follow Tuesday. That creates an interesting dilemma for the Yankees, who enjoyed tremendous results from Gil and Cortes as rotation placeholders. Does Gil go back to the minors? Will Cortes return to a long-relief role? Or will New York instead give up on Andrew Heaney?
We won’t the answer just yet, as the Yankees will use all of those aforementioned starters (and Jameson Taillon) this week because of Tuesday’s doubleheader. Gil didn’t allow a run in his first two career starts, and Cortes now carries a 2.55 ERA in 49.1 innings. Since Gil is still tough to trust against a formidable Red Sox lineup, Cortes is a better short-term add to use against Minnesota this Friday. That may sway the decision on which one to grab, but Gil offers more upside if the Yankees keep him around.
Tyler Wade (2B/3B/SS/OF – NYY): 17%
Stolen bases are scarce, and Wade has provided five in his last five games. Batting 10-for-23 in August, he’s now getting regular reps at shortstop in place of the injured Gleyber Torres. While Wade won’t provide any power, he’s played more than 15 games at four different positions, making him a remarkably versatile speedster for the Yankees and fantasy managers.
Bobby Dalbec (1B – BOS): 15%
Dalbec has two doubles, a triple, three home runs, and 11 RBIs in his last four games. He’s also hitting .230 with a 5.1% walk rate and 36.4% strikeout rate this season. The Boston slugger remains too unpolished to trust on a long-term basis, but he can certainly offer power in spurts. For all his flaws, Dalbec has slugged .470 with 22 home runs in 120 career MLB games.
Frank Schwindel (1B – CHC): 14%
The Cubs’ new starting first baseman is replacing Anthony Rizzo with aplomb, batting .380 (19-for-50) with five doubles and four home runs in August. MLB pitchers will probably figure out Schwindel, a Triple-A slugger finally getting his first chance to shine at age 29. But he’s secured a full-time job in the heart of Chicago’s lineup, so hop on the bandwagon in deeper formats.
Tyler Gilbert (SP/RP – ARI): 13%
Come on, how can I not mention a pitcher who threw a no-hitter in his first career start? The 27-year-old converted reliever delivered the shock of the season Saturday at San Diego’s expense. It’ll likely never get better for Gilbert. He doesn’t throw particularly hard, and the lefty posted 4.21 FIP in Triple-A this season. Still, he deserved a shout-out. Just don’t start him if he’s asked to attempt an encore at Coors Field this weekend.
Deep League Targets – <10% Rostered
Connor Joe (1B/OF – COL): 8%
Joe has started Colorado’s last eight games as the leadoff hitter, and the Rockies are playing at Coors Field all week. He’s slugging .740 with a 14.3% strikeout rate at home after going yard Monday night.
A.J. Puk (RP – OAK): 5%
Puk has thrown four scoreless innings since getting recalled to work as a reliever. The 6’7″ lefty has fired his fastball in the mid-to-high 90s with a revamped pitching motion that resembles another tall southpaw:
A. J. Puk vs. Randy Johnson. pic.twitter.com/IXJk10NsMm
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) August 11, 2021
A former top prospect who has struggled to stay on the field, Puk could find new life in a dedicated relief role. The 26-year-old is a tantalizing source of strikeouts who could follow an Andrew Miller career path.
Bailey Ober (SP – MIN): 3%
Ober has a 3.28 ERA in five second-half starts with the same K-BB% (19.8) as Zack Wheeler and Germán Márquez. He’s elevated his swinging-strike rate to 13.6% in those outings, and now’s a good time to note that he’s twice faced the White Sox with another turn at Houston. Ober, who has improved his SIERA to 3.92 this season, is scheduled to get a far more favorable draw when hosting Cleveland on Tuesday. Aggressive streamers may want to give him a twirl in standard mixed leagues.
Jorge Mateo (2B/OF – BAL): 2%
Once a prized prospect with the potential to break fantasy baseball with game-changing speed, Mateo instead turned into an afterthought. Jettisoned by the Yankees, A’s, and Padres, he’s found another new home in Baltimore. Given a starting job and a green light on the bases, the 26-year-old has gone 13-for-40 with three steals in 11 games. He’s also showcased more pop than expected, smacking four doubles and a triple. Although Mateo is still hitting .238 with two walks in 133 plate appearances this season, he brandishes more than enough speed to roster.
Chas McCormick (OF – HOU): 2%
Starting regularly since the Astros traded Myles Straw, McCormick should remain a lineup fixture with Kyle Tucker placed on the IL. The 26-year-old has socked 11 dingers with a .211 ISO and .328 wOBA in 229 plate appearances. Although the Astros aren’t limiting the lefty to a platoon, McCormick is best deployed against righties (.346 wOBA).
Renato Núñez (1B/3B – DET): 2%
The Tigers haven’t used Núñez all this time because …. well … I’ll have to get back to you on that one? He couldn’t land a big-league gig despite clubbing 31 home runs in 2019 and slugging .492 last season. Promoted after notching a .412 wOBA in Triple-A, Núñez went yard in each of his first two games with Detroit. He still has 3B eligibility in Yahoo leagues from 2019, but the 27-year-old is most valuable as a depth piece in larger leagues.
Yonny Hernandez (3B – TEX): 1%
Although Hernandez hit a pedestrian .250 in Triple-A before his promotion, he left with more walks (51) than strikeouts (41). He’s struck out two times in nine games with Texas. While the 140-pound infielder only has one extra-base hit (a double), he’s batting .290 (9-for-31) with three stolen bases. The Rangers have utilized Hernandez’s contact-oriented approach near or at the top of their lineup card. That makes the 23-year-old an intriguing deep-league speed contributor who may also help in batting average and runs scored.
Get a FREE 6-month upgrade with our special offer
Subscribe: Apple Podcasts | Spotify | Google Podcasts | Stitcher | SoundCloud | iHeartRadio
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.
Andrew Gould is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Andrew, check out his archive and follow him @andrewgould4.