Fantasy Baseball Waiver Wire: Evan Longoria, Garrett Hampson, Jarred Kelenic
The day has finally arrived. Brandon Belt is no longer available in most Yahoo leagues.
All it took was six home runs in his last 11 games, but the unheralded slugger has graduated from this article’s consideration. With 15 long balls in 35 second-half games, he’s powered many fantasy managers deep into the playoffs. Belt may steer players to the championship podium following another three-game series at Coors Field this weekend.
While it’ll be challenging to find other free agents capable of making the same mark, plenty of valuable options — including some of Belt’s teammates — remain widely untouched on the waiver wire.
Note: Rostered rates are from Yahoo leagues as of Sunday night.
FABulous Four: Top Waiver Targets
Evan Longoria (3B – SF): 30%
Whatever the Giants are doing behind the scenes is working. Across the diamond from Belt, Longoria is also enjoying a late-career renaissance. The 35-year-old is hitting .288 with the highest OBP (.386), slugging percentage (.542), and wRC+ (147) of his decorated 14-year career. As of Sunday, his 94.1-mph average exit velocity tied Fernando Tatís Jr. for fifth among all hitters with at least 150 batted balls.
Longoria hasn’t missed a beat since returning from a finger injury. In fact, he’s smacked three doubles and three home runs in his last eight starts. Although he still sat twice last week, he should play at least two of San Francisco’s three games at Colorado this weekend. Longoria is raking too much to leave on the waiver wire.
Garrett Hampson (2B/SS/OF – COL): 34%
In 2019, a long-ago discarded Hampson ended a disappointing campaign by batting .318 with five home runs and nine stolen bases in September. He’s once again coming alive in the closing month, hitting .271/.333/.542 with three homers and a steal. The 26-year-old has also displayed more patience this summer, logging a 9.8% walk rate since the start of August.
This is all great, but the main reason to add Hampson is much simpler. The Rockies play all six of this week’s games at home, where Hampson has hit .301/.350/.507 this season.
Jarred Kelenic (OF – SEA): 33%
Considered a first-ballot Hall of Famer in April but a colossal bust by June, Kelenic has quietly settled into a groove. The highly touted neophyte is batting .283/.338/.650 with six home runs and two steals in 16 games this month. He’s hitting the ball with much more authority, crushing nine barrels in September — before after previously tallying nine all season.
110.9 mph off the bat. Straight into the seats.
Jarred Kelenic connects on his 11th homer in the Majors. pic.twitter.com/fFyITNgqPu
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) September 18, 2021
It may go against unconventional wisdom to add a .178 hitter with your season at stake, but Kelenic is finally showcasing his top-flight talent in a low-pressure situation. Don’t be surprised if he bolsters his 2022 draft price a few rounds during these final two weeks.
Lane Thomas (OF – WAS): 28%
Thomas’ rostered rate is slowly creeping up, so he should already be accounted for in most competitive leagues. He’s batting .298/.386/.521 in 32 games with the Nationals after amassing five hits (.104/.259/.125 slash line) in 32 games for the Cardinals. A cushy leadoff role has led to 23 runs and 22 RBIs with his new club. Take the strong production across the board from the revived 26-year-old outfielder.
Priority Pickups – <35% Rostered
Carlos Hernández (SP/RP – KC): 30%
Hernández had the makings of a league-winning find earlier this summer. Instead, he destroyed some championship bids by surrendering seven runs to Oakland last Wednesday. With seven strikeouts to 10 walks in his last three starts, some managers might be better off finding a hotter hand. However, he still boasts a 3.51 ERA since joining Kansas City’s rotation. The Royals close out their season against Cleveland, Detroit, and Minnesota, with the 24-year-old righty in line to face each middling AL Central offense once.
Gavin Lux (2B/SS/OF – LAD): 27%
Lux had no spot in the Dodgers’ lineup after they acquired Trea Turner, and he didn’t exactly demand a closer look by slugging .382 with one home run in 74 Triple-A plate appearances. He’s nevertheless got another chance in left field to replace the A.J. Pollock. The 24-year-old has responded by going 11-for-24 with four walks, a double, triple, and home run since returning to the majors on September 10. Lux is the typical fantasy manager’s only chance at gaining extra exposure to the Dodgers’ lineup for a three-game series at Colorado.
Joe Barlow (RP – TEX): 21%
This is what happens when you ignore closers on bad teams. Barlow has five saves in the last 11 days. He’s allowed three hits and no runs over his last seven outings for the Rangers, who play their final 10 games against the Orioles, Angels, and Cleveland.
Chris Stratton (SP/RP – PIT): 20%
This is also what happens you ignore closers on bad teams. Replacing the injured David Bednar, who was replacing the traded Richard Rodriguez, Stratton had four saves and a win in five appearances before blowing another opportunity Sunday. While a 3.75 ERA and 3.89 FIP are unspectacular for a closer (or any reliever), he has 81 strikeouts in 74.1 innings. See if the former starter can offer a few more cheap saves down the stretch.
Brendan Rodgers (2B/SS – COL): 19%
Rodgers is the rare Rockie hitting better on the road (.323 wOBA) than at home (.313 wOBA). He’s deposited 12 of his 14 home runs away from Coors Field, so not everyone will view a six-game homestand as motivation to snag the 25-year-old. In that case, how bout adding Rodgers because of his .305/.338/.507 slash line since the All-Star break?
Elias Díaz (C – COL): 17%
Díaz, on the other hand, has taken full advantage of Denver’s high altitude. The catcher is batting .279/.346/.543 with nine home runs at Coors Field. He’s also swinging a hot bat, slugging .560 with 11 home runs and a 14.0% strikeout rate in the second half. Consider him a strong streamer in all leagues this week.
Shane Baz (SP – TB): 14%
In different circumstances, Baz’s arrival would headline this article. The 22-year-old dominated Double-A and Triple-A opposition to a 2.06 ERA with 113 strikeouts and 13 walks in 78.2 innings. He vaulted up to MLB.com’s third-best pitching prospect behind Grayson Rodriguez and the recently drafted Jack Leiter.
Baz’s promotion would have been a moment for celebration and swift action in June. Unfortunately, it’s September. With only two weeks remaining, the Rays are unlikely to fully unleash their prized talent. Neither Shane McClanahan nor Luis Patiño worked five innings until their fourth career start. Fantasy managers no longer have the luxury of patience. Making matters worse, Baz will debut against the red-hot Blue Jays on Monday. Tampa Bay also closes the final week on the road against the Astros and Yankees.
Only gamble on the upside in deeper leagues where you don’t need a win or quality start. Baz at least may have one opportunity for a great matchup if he also faces the Marlins this weekend.
Alex Cobb (SP – LAA): 14%
On skills alone, Cobb is easily the most valuable pitcher on the waiver wire. He flaunts an excellent 2.60 FIP underneath a solid 3.59 ERA, making him popular among these parts before injuring his wrist in July. Cobb returned Tuesday to blank the White Sox over five innings, so he’d be a high-priority add if the schedule cooperated.
Unfortunately, he’s set to make his next turn against the Astros. Since he’s allowed at least five runs in four of 16 starts, including at Houston in April, Cobb is still too risky to trust in such a difficult matchup. However, managers should keep next week’s friendlier Texas turn against the Rangers in mind.
LaMonte Wade Jr. (OF – SF): 13%
Wade continues to slip under the radar because of his platoon status. Yet he’s spectacular in his assigned role, wielding 18 home runs, six steals, and a .386 wOBA against righties. The Giants should face at least two right-handed starters at Coors Field later this week.
Deep League Targets – <10% Rostered
Bryan De La Cruz (OF – MIA): 7%
Acquired from Houston for Yimi García, De La Cruz is hitting a sweltering .329/.386/.484 in 25 games. A .418 BABIP deserves some credit, but the 24-year-old slashed .324/.362/.518 with a .373 BABIP for the Astros’ Triple-A affiliate. De La Cruz is a good source of run/RBI production as a regular starter who’s batted second or third in each of his last dozen starts.
Harrison Bader (OF – STL): 7%
Edmundo Sosa (2B/SS – STL): 5%
The Cardinals bring an eight-game winning streak into a monumental week with eight games — they have a doubleheader with the Cubs on Friday — on the schedule. Two players who have sparked their playoff push remain available in most leagues. Bader was on the verge of a breakout in July (1.021 OPS) before cratering in August (.421). The center fielder is gaining steam again, batting .286/.318/.524 in September. Sosa, meanwhile, has snatched the shortstop job away from Paul DeJong by batting .310 since the All-Star break.
Erick Fedde (SP/RP – WAS): 6%
Streaming Fedde against the Marlins worked last week; he notched a win with eight strikeouts and one run allowed in five innings. Managers should test their luck again in deeper leagues, especially since Monday’s rematch is in Miami. He’ll conclude a two-start week in a far more dangerous matchup at Cincinnati. Only play him in weekly-lineup formats if purely chasing wins and strikeouts.
Tommy La Stella (1B/2B/3B – SF): 6%
La Stella has nine hits in his last nine starts, eight of which have come in the leadoff role. Although he’s endured an underwhelming season, an 11.0% strikeout rate and 89.6% contact rate are far too pretty to yield a .242 batting average. You’ll need to do some matchup homework, but he joins Wade as a valuable platoon option when the Giants face a righty.
Aaron Ashby (SP/RP – MIL): 5%
Ashby recorded five strikeouts without allowing a walk or run in consecutive three-inning outings. The first netted a save, and he earned a win Friday. Ashby has authored a 2.77 ERA, 2.81 FIP, and 13.9% swinging-strike rate over 26 innings, so he can help most fantasy managers in an unconventional role.
Bobby Bradley (1B – CLE): 3%
Bradley Zimmer (OF – CLE): 2%
Oscar Mercado (OF – CLE): 1%
Cleveland plays nine games this week, commencing with one of two doubleheaders Monday. There’s ample opportunities to chase volume, but it’s also likely these ancillary pieces rotate out of the lineup. With two doubles and a homer in his last four games, Bradley is a pure power option for those who can stomach the strikeouts. Although he’s cooled off considerably in recent weeks, Zimmer has compiled eight homers and seven steals after the break. The most intriguing option of the trio is Mercado. Two years removed from a breakout rookie campaign, the 26-year-old has two doubles and two home runs in his last eight games.
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