Fantasy Baseball Waiver Wire: Scott Barlow, Frank Schwindel, Matthew Boyd
August is ending, and the end of MLB’s road is in sight. If not already decided, first-place races are crystallizing in rotisserie leagues. Some head-to-head leagues are a week away from diving into the playoffs.
This late in the game, the criteria for waiver-wire moves changes. Managers should be more willing to spin the wheel on a hot hand they might have dismissed in April. They should also give far more consideration to dumping their disappointing marquee names. With September approaching, everyone’s patience threshold is dwindling.
One good week — which amounts to one game in the case of some starters — brought some players to the discussion. They may not have the highest success probability, but aggressiveness pays off late in the season.
Note: Rostered rates are from Yahoo leagues as of Monday night.
FABulous Four: Top Waiver Targets
Scott Barlow (RP – KC): 40%
With saves in four of his last six outings, it’s fair to say Kansas City’s closer job belongs to Barlow. If still operating under the mindset that the best reliever should pitch the ninth inning, Barlow deserves the title. He’s backed a 2.56 ERA with a 2.53 FIP. He’s also piling up the punchouts, registering 77 strikeouts in 63.1 innings with a 15.7% swinging-strike rate. His 66.0% contact rate is lower than Paul Sewald, Edwin Díaz, and Alex Reyes.
Now that this no longer looks like a committee, Barlow is a strong September addition to grab everywhere.
Frank Schwindel (1B – CHC): 34%
If Schwindel isn’t going to stop raking, managers eventually need to respond. Given his first starting opportunity at age 29, the first baseman is batting .310/.355/.566 in 121 plate appearances. He’s locked into the No. 2 spot, which has helped him collect 17 RBIs and 15 runs scored in August.
It’s not much of a surprise to realize the Triple-A journeyman is likely playing over his head. His .330 expected wOBA is solid, but far below the actual .387 mark. There’s nothing particularly eye-opening about his batted-ball data, so this fun hot streak probably won’t last. But hey, we all thought the same thing about Patrick Wisdom. Schwindel has at least secured playing time this September. See how much more Frank has left in the tank.
Matthew Boyd (SP – DET): 30%
In his return, Boyd reminded us of his flaws. Although he accrued five strikeouts in four innings, he served up two home runs. That was his major bugaboo when posting a 4.56 ERA alongside 238 strikeouts in 2019. The long ball also torpedoed a disastrous 2020 (6.71 ERA).
While the issue suddenly vanished long enough for him to record a 2.27 ERA in April, that success didn’t last. His ERA jumped to 3.44 before an arm injury sent him to the IL in mid-June. So before getting overly excited, it’s important that a healthy Boyd was also a headache. Yet the 30-year-old has also displayed dizzying strikeout prowess for prolonged stretches.
Brandon Belt (1B – SF): 26%
No, I won’t stop talking about Belt. You can’t make me. Actually, you can by adding him until he’s rostered in too many leagues to keep mentioning. He has a career-high 19 home runs in 73 games, including eight since returning from the IL on August 5. He’s Belted 28 long balls in just 440 plate appearances since the start of 2020 with the highest slugging percentage (.562) of all first basemen. Read that again, and remember that there are a lot of great first basemen. This isn’t the same Belt you used to know. This one needs to be rostered everywhere.
Priority Pickups – <35% Rostered
Jesús Luzardo (SP/RP – MIA): 32%
On Sunday morning, I entered multiple FAB claims in my TGFBI league that involved dropping Luzardo. How could I possibly hold onto a pitcher who surrendered 31 hits, 17 walks, and 24 runs in his previous five starts?
Later that evening, I rushed to erase those bids. Following a string of abysmal starts for the Marlins, Luzardo suddenly flipped a switch with six shutout innings against a potent Reds lineup. He issued just one hit and walk apiece while matching a season-high eight strikeouts. Maybe he just couldn’t see before?
For the first time since being traded to the Marlins, Jesús Luzardo is pitching with his glasses on pic.twitter.com/vz8EvFTxjK
— Fish Stripes (@fishstripes) August 29, 2021
It’s too soon to trust Luzardo in starting lineups, but the 23-year-old just displayed his league-altering upside when on the right track. Miami has a three-game series versus Pittsburgh sandwiched between three-game sets against Washington during the fantasy playoffs (Sept. 13 – 22).
Rafael Ortega (OF – CHC): 29%
The fantasy community hasn’t paid much attention to Ortega since he opened August with a three-homer game. That’s because he then went three weeks without clearing the fences, but he’s done so twice in the last five games. Continuing to get everyday reps as the Cubs’ leadoff man, Ortega is hitting .296/.355/.480 with eight home runs and steals apiece in 74 games. Those numbers warrant a roster spot.
Adam Ottavino (RP – BOS): 27%
As anticipated here last week, Ottavino has stepped into Boston’s closer role in place of the struggling Matt Barnes. Ottavino notched two saves last week, giving him 10 this season. Barnes has allowed 17 baserunners and 10 runs in 6.1 innings this month, so don’t be surprised if he doesn’t reclaim the ninth-inning role — where he excelled for four months — this season.
Kyle Freeland (SP – COL): 26%
Five disastrous starts to open Freeland’s season have concealed a 2.57 ERA in his last dozen turns. A modest 21.1% strikeout rate represents a career benchmark for the 28-year-old, but he’s made even more progress recently. Freeland has 48 strikeouts in as many second-half innings, issuing just five walks in those eight starts. He’s scheduled to make his next appearance Wednesday at Texas.
Connor Joe (1B/OF – COL): 25%
Joe is regularly starting as Colorado’s leadoff hitter. Since the All-Star break, he’s batting .298/.376/.553 with eight home runs in 33 games. Starting Thursday, the Rockies play seven straight games at Coors Field, where the 29-year-old is hitting .343/.430/.642. Grab him wherever still available before that homestand.
Carlos Hernández (SP/RP – KC): 25%
Hernández shined once again last week, allowing one hit and one unearned run in 5.2 innings from the bullpen at Seattle. He now boasts a 2.93 ERA since the All-Star break, with all but his last long-relief outing occurring as a starter. The 24-year-old also has 14 strikeouts in his last two outings and a 12.2% swinging-strike rate all season. Hernández’s heavy heat is gradually translating into more punchouts in his expanded role. As noted last week, Kansas City’s schedule is really soft after getting through this weekend’s series against the White Sox.
Collin McHugh (SP/RP – TB): 25%
He’s not a starter or closer, so most fantasy gamers won’t care about McHugh. This is a case of knowing your league. He’s available in three-quarters of Yahoo leagues, which have daily lineup changes and award McHugh SP eligibility since the 34-year-old has occasionally operated as an opener. He’s money in those formats. McHugh flaunts a 1.43 ERA, 0.87 WHIP, and 66 strikeouts in 50.1 masterful innings. Although managers can’t expect this as the norm, he’s produced three wins and a save in his last six appearances.
Christian Walker (1B – ARI): 20%
One of the season’s quieter disappointments, Walker looks nothing like the player who broke out for 29 homers and eight steals in 2019. He’s tallied just seven long balls without a single stolen-base attempt all season, and a first baseman with a .127 ISO doesn’t cut it in mixed leagues. However, he’s at least approving his plate approach with a 12.4% walk rate and .336 wOBA after the All-Star break. Like Hunter Dozier last week, it’s too late for Walker to reach a semblance of his draft-day value, but he’s righted the ship enough to contribute as a depth piece.
Keibert Ruiz (C – WAS): 18%
Ruiz made his Nationals debut Monday night, nearly a month after getting traded in the blockbuster that sent Trea Turner and Max Scherzer to the Dodgers. He earned the promotion by batting .310 with 21 homers in 72 Triple-A games for both organizations. He also brandished a polished approach, recording 30 walks to just 33 strikeouts in 316 plate appearances. Washington should give him the stage throughout September, making Ruiz an easy add in all two-catcher leagues and a rookie to watch carefully in one-catcher formats.
Bailey Ober (SP – MIN): 18%
We’re a day or two late here. The time to add Ober was before Monday afternoon’s start at Detroit. He earned the victory with two runs allowed over six innings, lowering his ERA to 3.98. He’s now issued just six walks in his last eight starts while crafting a 25.1% strikeout rate during his rookie campaign. Sunday’s next scheduled start at Tampa Bay isn’t as friendly, but Ober is in line to face Kansas City and Cleveland.
Colin Moran (1B – PIT): 10%
Moran was one of my favorite unheralded deep-league targets earlier this season before injuring his wrist in June. Despite returning to no fanfare, he’s batting .299/.338/.463 in 21 games off the IL. Moran has 17 home runs and a 110 wRC+ in 122 games since 2020 and regularly bats cleanup for the Pirates against righties. He can commendably round out a lineup in 15-team mixed leagues.
Deep League Targets – <10% Rostered
Alejandro Kirk (C – TOR): 6%
Think of Kirk as the two-catcher-league version of Daulton Varsho. The preseason hype got out of hand, leading to heartbreak when managers had to dump the trendy sleeper. Now healthy and getting more playing time, Kirk is finally showing why drafters liked him by batting .278 (15-for-54) with seven strikeouts in August. He’s even made two of his last four starts as the DH, so Toronto has more willingness to get the 22-year-old into the lineup. Kirk is a second catcher with a sturdy contact floor, which is what drafters desired this spring.
Ramón Urías (2B/3B/SS – BAL): 4%
Because he’s in Baltimore. Urías is getting little recognition for slashing .272/.353/.420 with a 116 wRC+ and 11.3% barrel rate. He won’t offer too much power or speed, but the 27-year-old brings a starting job, steady plate approach, and multi-position eligibility to the table.
Carlos Estévez (RP – COL): 4%
Daniel Bard has allowed 11 runs in his last 4.2 innings. With his ERA skyrocketing to 5.61, the Rockies are finally looking elsewhere for ninth-inning reps. Estévez, who hasn’t surrendered a run since July 28, picked up a save Friday. Given his 3.99 ERA and 1.39 WHIP (and his home park), Estévez is hardly an exciting alternative to bolster your ratios. But he’s on a roll and carries a career 24.1% K rate into the new gig.
Jesús Sánchez (OF – MIA): 3%
Sánchez only has a .299 OBP with the Marlins, but he’s clubbed home runs in consecutive games. He previously crushed Triple-A pitching to a .348/.406/.652 slash line. The 23-year-old neophyte has plenty of playing time and power potential to appeal to deep-league managers.
DJ Peters (OF – TEX): 1%
Desperate for pop? Peters has started to showcase his 70-grade raw power with four home runs in his last seven games. The 25-year-old is regularly batting fourth or fifth in Texas’ starting lineup despite his batting average drowning below the Mendoza Line. You’re in the wrong place if desiring anything more than some dingers.
Glenn Otto (SP – TEX): 0%
Five shutout innings with two hits, no walks, and seven strikeouts is an awfully nice MLB debut. Especially when facing the Astros. Acquired from the Yankees in the Joey Gallo deal, Otto posted a 2.70 ERA in four starts for the Rangers’ Triple-A affiliate before his call-up. Buoyed by an excellent slider, he has an 11.8 K/9 throughout his minor-league career.
Glenn Otto was dealing in his MLB debut 👀
7 K 🔥 pic.twitter.com/pyBzWG1ozf
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) August 28, 2021
He might be a future reliever, but Otto could stockpile strikeouts in a September rotation tryout.
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.