Fantasy Baseball Waiver Wire: Jonathan Villar, Carlos Hernández, Bobby Dalbec
Let’s get all of the clichés out of the way. Your fantasy baseball season must be going well if you’re reading a waiver-wire article in September. With the contender pool dwindling and more managers shifting their focus to football, this is your time to shine.
Hot streaks tend to get lost in the summer heat, leaving sizzling performers available longer than they would have been if catching fire in May. There’s also less time to worry about the bottom falling out, so strike while the iron is hot.
During these final weeks, it’s also more important to check out a player’s upcoming schedule. Tyler Anderson has pitched commendably since joining the Mariners, but do you really trust the lefty to tame the Astros this week? He’s then in line to make his next start against the Red Sox. Pass on Anderson in favor of someone highlighted below with more favorable matchups.
The playoffs are already underway in some head-to-head leagues. Let’s see who on the waiver wire can help us take one step toward glory.
Note: Rostered rates are from Yahoo leagues as of Monday night.
FABulous Four: Top Waiver Targets
Jonathan Villar (2B/3B/SS – NYM): 47%
If all you’d known about Villar’s 2021 campaign was that he’s stolen 11 bases in 18 tries, you’d assume he was a dud relegated to a bench role. However, the 30-year-old has reinvented himself with a career-high 122 wRC+ and .201 ISO. If hitting .311/.367/.509 after the All-Star break wasn’t impressive enough, he’s blasted four doubles, a triple, and three home runs over his last 10 games.
Villar has not only etched out a full-time role, but also elevated to the Mets’ leadoff spot in each of their last eight games. That’s unlikely to change with former leadoff man Brandon Nimmo going on the IL. While it’d certainly help Villar’s fantasy worth if he regained some of his past stolen-base prowess, this version carries plenty of value.
Carlos Hernández (SP/RP – KC): 30%
A recent fixture in this column, Hernández continued his stellar summer by allowing two runs over six innings against the White Sox. He now has a 2.94 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, and .199 opposing batting average since the All-Star break. While the strikeouts continue to ebb and flow, all four of his pitches have netted a double-digit swinging-strike rate.
If managers didn’t want to deploy him against the White Sox, fair enough. However, Hernández is set to face the Orioles on Wednesday. Aside from a three-game series against Oakland next week, the Royals play 18 of their final 21 games against Minnesota, Cleveland, and Detroit. Ride Hernandez to the finish line.
Bobby Dalbec (1B/3B – BOS): 28%
Maybe you’re not sold on Dalbec yet. We typically don’t trust guys hitting .239 with a .296 OBP and 35.1% K rate. Among batters with at least 350 plate appearances, only Javier Báez and Joey Gallo have a worse contact rate. This is likely more a hot streak than a breakout, and you might be too late.
He also hit .339/.431/.774 in August. That bananas month came with huge improvements in plate discipline. Dalbec upped his walk rate to 11.0% while striking out in a quarter of his plate appearances. That’s a huge improvement given his 36.8% K rate before the All-Star break.
Even if you’re still skeptical, Dalbec’s raw power output remains impressive. Through 477 career plate appearances, he’s slugged .487 with 26 home runs and 79 RBIs in 136 games. He’s moved up to fifth or sixth in Boston’s prolific lineup, leading to even more run-producing opportunities down the stretch. Dalbec is hitting far too well to leave on the waiver wire.
Nick Solak (2B/3B/OF – TEX): 37%
It’s been an odd year for Solak. He burst out of the gate by batting .293/.375/.535 with seven homers and a 151 wRC+ through April. Managers thought they landed a breakout star, but he instead stumbled into the Rangers demoted the 26-year-old in July.
Solak is making the most of a second chance, going 17-for-50 with two homers and a steal in 13 games. He’s only struck out six times in 54 plate appearances and is starting every day for a Rangers squad looking to next year. It’s too greedy to expect April’s power, but Solak is at least returning to mixed-league viability.
Priority Pickups – <35% Rostered
Rich Hill (SP – NYM): 32%
Hill’s Mets tenure wasn’t particularly pretty before allowing two runs in as many starts against the Nationals. Despite his ups and downs, the southpaw has a 3.92 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, and 119 strikeouts over 132 solid innings. This week, Hill gets another feeble NL East foe in the Marlins, who mustered just one hit against the 41-year-old on August 5.
Brandon Belt (1B/OF – SF): 29%
There are only so many times I can tout Belt’s power surge, so I’ll just say that the Giants start the week with a three-game series at Coors Field. And yeah, he’s slugging .535 with a higher wOBA (.370) than José Abreu, Paul Goldschmidt, and Pete Alonso.
Brady Singer (SP – KC): 29%
Hernandez isn’t the only widely available Royals pitcher who can benefit from a soft September schedule. Since getting rocked by the Yankees (3.2 IP, 10 H, 5 ER) in his return from the IL, Singer has allowed four runs in his last four starts. Two were against Houston, and he fired seven scoreless innings against the White Sox on Sunday.
While Singer has fallen short of 2020’s promising debut because of a ghastly 1.53 WHIP, he’s deposited a strikeout per inning with a 49.4% ground-ball rate and 3.68 FIP. The rotation currently sets him up to make his next outings against Minnesota, Seattle, and Cleveland.
Lorenzo Cain (OF – MIL): 23%
Cain is hitting a career-low .246, but he’s tallied seven home runs and successfully stolen 11 of 12 attempts in just 61 games. A 17.1% strikeout rate is right in line with career norms, so the 35-year-old could at least bump his batting average bump up to 2019’s .260. Initially in a timeshare with Jackie Bradley Jr., Cain has started five of Milwaukee’s last six games in center field.
Bailey Ober (SP – MIN): 19%
The needle isn’t moving on Ober despite his 2.81 ERA after the All-Star break. He’s issued 40 strikeouts to just six walks in those eight starts, allowing no more than three earned runs despite combatting the Astros, Red Sox, and White Sox. Ober, who has a 3.98 ERA and 3.89 SIERA this season, gets a much nicer two-start week against Cleveland and Kansas City.
Adrian Houser (SP – MIL): 17%
Houser, who previously hadn’t completed seven innings in a single start this year, tossed only the 27th complete-game shutout of the season. In most leagues, it went wasted on the waiver wire. The gem improved his ERA to 3.41 and will likely garner considerable attention before he attempts an encore against Cleveland this week.
Temper expectations. Houser still has an unappetizing 7.8 K-BB% that’s unlikely to improve with a poor 7.3% swinging-strike rate. He’s still more of a decent matchup play, but a solid one who can continue to outperform his 4.32 FIP because of an elite 59.0% ground-ball rate. He’s usable in an above-average matchup following the best start of his career.
Leody Taveras (OF – TEX): 12%
Come on, who doesn’t want to add a .131/.189/.238 hitter? Taveras, a popular preseason sleeper, quickly hit his way to the minors by batting 4-for-46 with 23 strikeouts in April. He hasn’t fixed his woes since getting recalled, going 8-for-43 with 15 strikeouts in 11 games.
However, all of those hits — including three doubles and two home runs — have come in his last six games. He’s also stolen five bases since rejoining the Rangers. Taveras now has 15 steals in 58 career MLB games despite a gruesome .260 OBP, and the Rangers have let him lead off two of their last three games. The 22-year-old is a tempting September lottery ticket.
Joe Ryan (SP – MIN): 11%
The prized acquisition of the Nelson Cruz trade, Ryan made his MLB debut for the Twins last Wednesday. Having posted an eye-popping 13.0 K/9 over his minor-league career, the 25-year-old was developing a cult following before the Cruz trade illuminated his exploits. Ryan is a high-upside strikeout option who will make his second start against Cleveland.
Glenn Otto (SP – TEX): 10%
Otto’s second start (4.2 IP, 2 ER) didn’t go as great as his debut, which consisted of five scoreless innings against the Astros. He still has 11 strikeouts to one walk in both starts, and his slider has yielded a .144 wOBA with a 29.0% putaway rate. The one caveat: Texas’ schedule is brutal from Sept. 10 -22 (@ OAK, vs. HOU, vs. CHW, @ NYY).
Deep League Targets – <10% Rostered
Edmundo Sosa (2B/SS – STL): 7%
Sosa is batting .353 (24-for-68) with two doubles, three triples, and two home runs over his last 26 games. The Cardinals are now giving the 25-year-old more time at shortstop than Paul DeJong, who’s batting .198. Although he won’t offer significant power or speed, Sosa is an above-average hitter (109 wRC+) receiving more playing time during a hot streak.
Carlos Estevez (RP – COL): 7%
Estevez has registered three saves in his last five appearances and tossed 14 scoreless innings before serving up a solo shot to Travis d’Arnaud on Saturday. He’s the new closer for Colorado, which starts a 10-game homestand Thursday.
Kris Bubic (SP – KC): 6%
Jackson Kowar (SP – KC): 4%
Remember Kansas City’s easy schedule highlighted for Hernandez and Singer? Bubic and Kowar could leverage those opponents to deep-league relevance down the stretch. This is more of a volume play in points or category leagues, particularly for Bubic’s two-start week against the Orioles and Twins.
Ramón Urías (2B/3B/SS – BAL): 4%
A boringly productive regular, Urías is hitting .273/.355/.413 with a 115 wRC+ in 273 plate appearances. He’s a particularly appealing deep-league volume play with the Orioles scheduled for eight home games — they have a doubleheader Saturday — this week.
Luke Weaver (SP – ARI): 4%
Last seen May 16, Weaver returned from a shoulder injury Wednesday to allow four hits, no walks, and one run in six innings against the Padres. He’s had quite the topsy turvy career, posting a 2.89 ERA in a dozen 2019 starts before getting crushed to a 6.58 ERA in as many starts last year. The 28-year-old also brandishes a career 23.5% K rate and should start either against the Rangers or Mariners this week.
Yoshi Tsutsugo (1B/3B/OF – PIT): 4%
Tsutsugo has gone deep seven times in his last 16 games with the Pirates. The problem? He’s only started nine of them. Let’s see if he can rake his way out of the light side of a platoon for a last-place team.
Lane Thomas (OF – WAS): 2%
From 2019 to 2021, Thomas had 21 hits in 84 games for St. Louis. He has 22 hits in 19 games since moving to Washington. He’s batting .328/.403/.567 with five doubles, a triple, and three home runs (all in five games this month) for the Nationals, who have awarded him the full-time leadoff role. This renaissance warrants attention beyond deep leagues.
Kevin Pillar (OF – NYM): 2%
We started with Villar and end with Pillar. The Mets placed Brandon Nimmo on the IL with hamstring tightness in between’s Saturday doubleheader. Pillar tallied two home runs and a steal in the ensuing two games. The .265 OBP is brutal, but he possesses a career-best .198 ISO. He’s also hot, cranking four home runs, two doubles, and two steals in his last seven games. Defense will keep him in the lineup as their starting center fielder.
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.