Fantasy Baseball Waiver Wire: Brandon Belt, Alejandro Kirk, Joe Ryan
It’s that magical time of the fantasy baseball season where titles hang in the balance, but most of your league has checked out to focus on football. Only three weeks remain, and more head-to-head leagues are taking a page out of that other sport’s playbook by determining their champion in the penultimate week.
Check the schedule and recent results before adding anyone. If it was May, you’d be wise to claim a struggling Tommy Pham or Jeff McNeil. In September, you’re better off riding a more productive player you hadn’t heard of two months ago.
Also, will you please just add Brandon Belt already?
Note: Rostered rates are from Yahoo leagues as of Monday night.
FABulous Four: Top Waiver Targets
Brandon Belt (1B/OF – SF): 32%
Belt has set the single-season record for most mentions in a waiver-wire column. I have no data to verify this milestone, but I’m almost certain it’s true. He’s going to stay here as long as he’s healthy and eligible.
Apologies to those who have already read this sales pitch multiple times. Belt has 23 home runs in just 84 games this season and 32 in 135 games since the start of 2020. He’s second to Vladimir Guerrero Jr. in slugging (.567) and wOBA (.390) among all first basemen with at least 300 plate appearances.
The 33-year-old continued his renaissance with three home runs and three doubles in his last five games, and the schedule aligns for Belt to stay hot. San Francisco plays seven games this week, and only one is currently projected to be against a lefty. The NL West leaders will also travel to Colorado for another three-game series next week.
Alejandro Kirk (C – TOR): 22%
Kirk has started six of the last eight days (playing once in Saturday’sdoubleheader), including three starts as Toronto’s designated hitter. He’s smashed four home runs during this span, upping his season slash line to .275/.358/.507. That’s especially pretty for a catcher with a pristine 10.1% walk and 11.9% strikeout rate in 159 plate appearances.
Joe Ryan (SP – MIN): 20%
Ryan’s strikeout upside excited everyone upon his promotion, but he has just nine punchouts in 12 innings. However, he’s also allowed four hits and one walk in those two starts for the Twins. After serving up three runs in his debut, the 25-year-old tossed seven scoreless innings against Cleveland.
Joe Ryan, Filthy Sliders. 😷 pic.twitter.com/5gkRFDECKv
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) September 9, 2021
Ryan has an 11.5% swinging-strike rate on the strength of his wipeout slider, so expect more strikeouts from a pitcher who posted a 13.0 K/9 over his minor-league career. Although the Twins haven’t set their rotation yet, Ryan could get Cleveland again in a three-game series starting Tuesday. He has the highest ceiling of any starter rostered in less than 35% of Yahoo leagues.
Tony Gonsolin (SP – LAD): 35%
Returning from a shoulder injury that cost him more than a month, Gonsolin allowed one run over three innings Thursday. A cautious workload is the only reason he’s not already universally rostered. Even before getting sidelined, he completed five innings in just two of nine starts.
He’s worth a dart throw in most leagues anyway. The 27-year-old has registered a 2.66 ERA and 128 strikeouts in 125.1 career innings for the Dodgers. The real reason to add Gonsolin, though, is because he’s slated to make his next start against the woeful Diamondbacks.
Priority Pickups – <35% Rostered
Austin Hays (OF – BAL): 26%
Nobody will like the .298 OBP, but Hays is still hitting .253 with 18 home runs. His rostered rate is perfectly reasonable, as the 26-year-old is skippable in Yahoo’s default three-outfield format. Yet he’s a steady hand slugging .660 this month. Hays also has a .371 wOBA against lefties, and the Orioles are scheduled to face three southpaws (Nestor Cortes, Jordan Montgomery, and Eduardo Rodriguez) this week.
Rowan Wick (RP – CHC): 21%
For the second year in a low, Wick is receiving a late-season closing audition. The 28-year-old righty, who made his season debut after the Cubs sent Craig Kimbrel to the White Sox, has recorded a save in three of his last five appearances. It’s not a case of desperately seeking saves; he has a 3.01 ERA and 81 strikeouts in 74.2 career innings.
Andrew Chafin (RP – OAK): 20%
Kimbrel’s move drew far more attention, but the Cubs shipped out another high-leverage reliever when trading Chafin to the A’s. He’s allowed three runs in 20 appearances, accruing 20 strikeouts to two walks. The lefty has also earned three saves with his new club. While he may have merely carved out a piece of a closing timeshare, Chafin could take the role outright from a struggling Lou Trivino, who’s given up 13 runs in his last 3.2 innings. Even if he only snags another save or two in September, Chafin’s sparkling ratios (1.78 ERA, 0.82 WHIP) will still help most fantasy managers.
Antonio Senzatela (SP – COL): 20%
Senzatela has submitted a 3.09 ERA and 3.10 FIP after the All-Star break with six straight quality starts. The 15.9% strikeout rate and Coors Field dampen his fantasy appeal, but he’ll at least escape one of those problems by pitching at Atlanta this week.
Evan Longoria (3B – SF): 17%
Longoria’s success has gotten lost in the shuffle with so many old Giants suddenly playing like superstars. In a season interrupted by injuries, the 35-year-old is batting .289/.389/.526 with a career-best .386 wOBA in 229 plate appearances. After sitting against the first two righties San Francisco faced following his return, Longoria has started three of the last four games against righties. He’s playing far too well to park in a platoon, and that’s the only thing blocking him from joining Belt as a top-priority addition.
A.J. Alexy (SP – TEX): 16%
Alexy will be a trendy add after allowing one hit in each of his first two scoreless starts. He had previously delivered a 1.66 ERA in 65 minor-league innings (Double-A and Triple-A). Buyer beware: Alexy makes his next start against the Astros and could then have to contest the White Sox this Sunday. Consider him no more than a two-start pitcher for points leagues.
Michael Wacha (SP/RP – TB): 14%
Wacha isn’t for the faint of heart. He’s surrendered a 5.37 ERA during a wild roller-coaster season and began August by allowing 30 hits and 18 runs in three starts. However, he’s since relinquished seven runs (six earned) in four starts, collecting 28 strikeouts to two walks in 20.1 innings. While facing Baltimore, Minnesota, and Detroit has certainly helped the righty’s recent resurgence, Wacha might get the Tigers again this week. He’s a viable streamer if that’s the case, but don’t test your luck if he’s instead tasked with pitching at Toronto on Wednesday.
Lane Thomas (OF – WAS): 13%
Thomas is hitting .305/.396/.537 in 26 games with the Nationals and has reached base in every game this month. Since he’s regularly leading off, the 26-year-old has scored a dozen runs in as many September games. Although he doesn’t jump off the screen in any single column, Thomas has emerged as a potent five-category contributor. This is a classic case of a late-season breakout falling under the radar until he materializes as a popular offseason sleeper for 2022 drafts.
Joe Barlow (RP – TEX): 13%
Barlow briefly held Texas’ closer role after the trade deadline, but a blister sent him to the IL on August 20. He’s reclaimed the claim with three saves in the last five days and lowered his ERA to 1.59 in 22.2 innings. Barlow has also benefitted from a .161 BABIP and 4.3% HR/FB rate, so consider him a cheap closer on a bad team rather than an elite talent.
LaMonte Wade Jr. (OF – SF): 11%
As touched upon in the Belt section, the Giants are projected to face five right-handed starters (and one TBA) this week. Even though some of the competition (Yu Darvish, Joe Musgrove, Charlie Morton) is steep, this is the time to utilize Wade. The platoon specialist wields a .246 ISO and .367 wOBA against righties. After spending most of the season leading off in these situations, he’s made his last five starts in the No. 3 or 4 spot.
Deep League Targets – <10% Rostered
Yoshi Tsutsugo (1B/3B/OF – PIT): 5%
Tsutsugo kept hitting home runs in a limited role, so the Pirates started him in seven straight games before giving him a breather Sunday. Since he’s produced four doubles, a triple, and seven homers in just 72 plate appearances with the Pirates, deep-league managers should see what he can do with an extended opportunity down the stretch.
DJ Peters (OF – TEX): 4%
Peters continues to do his best Joey Gallo impersonation — minus the walks — in Texas. Although he’s batting .206 with a 34.8% strikeout rate, the 25-year-old has smacked 10 home runs in 36 games since joining the Rangers on August 3. He’s playing regularly in the middle of the batting order, so consider Peters if (but only if) you can sacrifice batting average for power.
Erick Fedde (SP/RP – WAS): 5%
Paolo Espino (SP – WAS): 4%
How daring are you? This is all about the matchups, as Espino and Fedde are in line to face the Marlins on Monday and Tuesday, respectively. Espino could then complete a two-start week at home against the Rockies, while Fedde gets the Marlins on the road against next week. Fedde has allowed 17 runs in his last three starts, but he previously allowed just one run — with 10 strikeouts — against Miami. Espino tossed five scoreless innings against the Marlins on July 20 and has limited opponents to a 4.8% walk rate this season.
Yonny Hernandez (3B – WAS): 2%
Like Peters, Hernandez is severely limited but can make a specific contribution. He’s swiped nine of his nine stolen bases over his last six games and flaunts a sturdy .349 OBP in 110 plate appearances. He’s also slugging .295, so you need to be all set on power.
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.