Fantasy Baseball Waiver Wire: Lane Thomas, Shane Baz, Harrison Bader (2021)
Long-term planning and dedication are the most beautiful parts of fantasy baseball. It’s now a cliché to say the season is a marathon, not a sprint.
Except that’s often not the case. After six months and 155 or 156 games played for each MLB team, many fantasy championships remain up for grabs entering the final week.
Of course, this is true in head-to-head leagues that play through the entire season. Yet there’s nothing more exhilarating than a photo finish in a roto league. A spring-to-fall grind can often end with one win or stolen base determining the winner. In those leagues, it’s crucial to appraise each category to decide precisely where you could gain or lose ground over the final week.
Good luck, and maybe reach out to an old friend or family member once you finish scouring the waiver wire. Much like fantasy baseball, life flies by faster than we think.
Note: Rostered rates are from Yahoo leagues as of Sunday night.
FABulous Four: Top Waiver Targets
Lane Thomas (OF – WAS): 36% Rostered
Those who didn’t listen last week missed out on two home runs, two steals, and seven runs from Thomas, who is now hitting .283/.379/.520 for the Nationals. The 26-year-old offers power and speed as Washington’s everyday leadoff hitter. This isn’t a bad lineup either. Despite selling at the deadline, Washington ranks 10th in wRC+ from August 1 onward.
For the cherry on top, Washington plays a three-game series at Colorado starting Monday. While Thomas is the clear top priority, he’s not the only Nationals position player worth adding.
Shane Baz (SP – TB): 48% Rostered
While Baz made last week’s column, it came with extreme caution. Did you really want to trust a rookie, on a team that’s notoriously cautious with young pitchers, making his big-league debut against the Blue Jays?
It turns out you did. The prized prospect picked up the win with two solo home runs representing his only baserunners allowed. He only needed 66 pitches to generate a whopping 15 swinging strikes over five frames. For an encore, he tossed 5.2 shutout innings with nine strikeouts to beat the Marlins. That’s a game-changing two-start week for managers that bet on the newcomer.
Shane Baz was all kinds of filthy in his second MLB start:
9 K pic.twitter.com/kqnwYU1l7l
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) September 26, 2021
If given one more start, Baz will have another steep challenge at Yankee Stadium. The Yankees will likely be fighting to secure a spot or home-field advantage in the AL Wild Card Game. Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge are both on fire, which should terrify any opposing pitcher.
Baz might be special enough to start anyway.
Harrison Bader (OF – STL): 16% Rostered
If you added Bader last week in anticipation of the Cardinals’ eight-game week, he might be the reason you’re playing for a championship. He went 15-for-29 with five doubles, three homers, two steals, and 10 runs scored (one from second base on a sacrifice fly) last week for the red-hot Red Birds. His 2021 OPS skyrocketed from .725 to .794.
LATE INNING MAGIC AGAIN! The biggest of Bader bombs ties this game up at 2 apiece in the eighth.
— Bally Sports Midwest (@BallySportsMW) September 26, 2021
After following a July bonanza with an August fizzle, Bader is hitting .359/.392/.663 this month. Try to remember this next spring when Bader blossoms into a trendy sleeper.
Michael Pineda (SP – MIN): 36% Rostered
After holding his own in consecutive starts against the Blue Jays, Pineda has allowed four earned runs (five total) in 18.2 innings this month. He has a 3.19 ERA in the second half with his vintage precision, issuing only six walks in those nine outings.
However, it’s not all good news for the 32-year-old. A 19.2% strikeout rate is the lowest of Pineda’s career, and he hasn’t tallied more than three in a start since delivering six against the Tigers on July 26. That’s no accident, as the Tigers have MLB’s second-highest strikeout rate against righties. Pineda closes the season against Detroit, giving him an excellent opportunity to pair some punchouts with solid ratios and his fifth straight win.
Priority Pickups – <35% Rostered
Brady Singer (SP – KC): 33%
It’s been an erratic second season for Singer. He’s amassed a solid 4.02 FIP and 4.26 SIERA because of a 22.5% strikeout rate and 50.1% ground-ball rate. However, the 25-year-old righty has relinquished five or more runs in six separate starts, leading to a bloated 4.72 ERA and 1.53 WHIP.
His most recent blowup occurred when the Twins tattooed him to five home runs on September 11, but he’s delivered at least five innings and five strikeouts with no more than two earned runs in his other past five outings. Although Singer is a solid streamer for Tuesday’s matchup against Cleveland, the real hope is that he gets a two-start week with a rematch against Minnesota.
Michael Fulmer (SP/RP – DET): 31%
Fulmer’s intermittent flirtation with the ninth-inning continues. The 2016 AL Rookie of the Year went over three weeks without a save before suddenly snagging four since September 15. The new relief role suits him well; he wields a 2.62 ERA and 65 strikeouts in 55 innings from the bullpen and a 1.63 ERA since the All-Star break. Fulmer hasn’t allowed a run since September 3, and at 75-80, the Tigers aren’t nearly as listless as expected. See if they can create a couple of more save chances.
Joe Barlow (RP – TEX): 28%
Barlow has a 1.67 ERA and 0.85 WHIP. He’s the closer in Texas.
Jesús Sánchez (OF – MIA): 20%
Parked in the middle of Miami’s lineup, Sánchez has submitted seven home runs and 18 RBIs in 22 games this month. This season, the rookie is translating his 70-grade raw power into results, slugging .488 with a 12.1% barrel rate. Sánchez is one of the top options for managers seeking help in the HR and RBI departments.
Hunter Dozier (1B/3B/OF – KC): 20%
Forgiveness is essential in fantasy baseball. Dozier was batting .160 through June, but he’s offered a belated apology by hitting .292 with five homers and 13 RBIs in September. A 112 wRC+ in the second half is much closer to what drafters expected from the steady hand. The Royals, who left him untouched in the starting lineup through months of turmoil, are one of few teams playing seven games this week.
Alex Cobb (SP – LAA): 19%
Last week’s recommendation came with trepidation, only because Cobb was scheduled to face the Astros. The matchup didn’t spoil his comeback; Cobb allowed one run in just 5.2 innings. In his last start back from the IL, he blanked the White Sox over five innings. That’s two solid turns against AL division winners for a pitcher now brandishing a 3.46 ERA and 2.66 FIP this season. He’s scheduled to make his final outing against the Mariners, who rank 24th in wOBA against righties despite refusing to exit the wild-card hunt.
Keibert Ruiz (C – WAS): 16%
Ruiz has 16 hits and nine RBIs over his last eight games, including home runs on Friday and Saturday.
Keibert Ruiz is the No. 13 prospect in @MLB.
— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) September 26, 2021
The rookie is batting .299 (20-for-67) since joining the Nationals, who open the week with three games at Coors Field. Don’t be afraid of replacing a heavily rostered Gary Sánchez, Christian Vázquez, or Omar Narváez with Ruiz.
Nick Gordon (2B/SS/OF – MIN): 16%
Given an extended tryout over the closing weeks, Gordon is batting .305 with four doubles, three homers, and five steals this month. While Gordon has always flashed plenty of speed, the power is surprising from the 160-pound player who never reached double-digit home runs in a minor-league season. Worry about its sustainability during the offseason. For now, take a streaking rookie who’s earned a consistent starting role.
LaMonte Wade Jr. (OF – SF): 16%
Wade continues to play his part to aplomb, delivering 18 home runs and a .378 wOBA in 321 plate appearances against righties. The Giants only have one lefty (Madison Bumgarner) on their schedule this week, making one of San Francisco’s many unheralded waiver-wire gems — take it from someone who rosters Wade, Brandon Belt, Evan Longoria, Logan Webb, and Anthony DeSclafani in the same league — an above-average option for the other five games.
Bailey Ober (SP – MIN): 14%
On Friday, Ober quieted Toronto’s thunderous offense to one run in 5.1 innings. He compiled six strikeouts to no walks, a common occurrence for a newcomer who’s collected 96 strikeouts and only 19 free passes in 92.1 innings. Despite a September setback, the 26-year-old righty has recorded a 3.49 ERA and 1.11 WHIP in the second half. Ober is scheduled to conclude his season against the Tigers. Scroll back up to the Pineda section to recall their high strikeout rate against righties.
Deep League Targets – <10% Rostered
Alcides Escobar (2B/SS/OF – WAS): 7%
You probably realize where this is going by now. The Nationals have a three-game series at Coors Field, so you should add Washington’s hitters. Escobar has started every game this month, including both halves of a September 4 doubleheader, in the No. 2 slot. He tallied five doubles, a homer, and a steal during an 11-game hitting streak snapped Sunday. He only has three home runs and steals apiece all season, but Escobar should bolster your batting average and score some runs at Colorado.
José Siri (OF – HOU): 6%
Siri, show me unheralded September success. Receiving more reps in place of the injured Michael Brantley, the 26-year-old rookie is batting .310/.356/.595 with four homers and three steals in his first cup of coffee. He previously filled up the box score by hitting .318 with 16 long balls and 24 steals in Triple-A. Plate discipline remains a significant problem, as he has 15 strikeouts to one walk in 45 plate appearances. However, Siri is worth a dice roll if needing a last-minute power/speed boost in deeper formats. He’ll likely keep playing since the Astros have wrapped up the AL West wrapped up while Brantley “hit a lull” in his recovery.
Eli Morgan (SP – CLE): 6%
This month alone, Morgan has held the Red Sox and White Sox scoreless and allowed one run in a victory at Yankee Stadium. He also coughed up seven runs to the Brewers, so there’s risk like with any deep-league streamer. A 4.19 ERA and 1.17 WHIP after the All-Star break is nevertheless solid enough to trust the matchup. Morgan is scheduled to make his final start at Globe Life Park, which has suppressed home runs more than all but five other MLB stadiums. As of Sunday, the Rangers are 28th in wOBA against righties.
Glenn Otto (SP – TEX): 3%
What’s that? You don’t want to stream a pitcher with an 8.02 ERA? What’s that? I’m an idiot who’s actively trying to sabotage your team? Following two encouraging turns, the debuting Otto got shelled for eight runs at Oakland and seven against Houston. He bounced back to allow two runs and strike out seven in five frames at Baltimore. A 3.21 FIP lurks underneath his erratic start, and he’ll close the season with a manageable home start against the Angels. Otto contained them to two runs over 4.2 innings on September 3.
Sam Hilliard (OF – COL): 3%
Hilliard heats up when everyone drops him and gets cold when they add him back. This vicious cycle may repeat itself over the final week. He gets three more games at Coors Field against Washington’s ransacked pitching staff, so it might be worth risking a potential headache.
Lewin Díaz (1B – MIA): 1%
If Jesús Sánchez isn’t available in your deeper league, turn to his teammate for some cheap pop. Díaz is rounding out the season as Miami’s starting first baseman in place of the injured Jesús Aguilar. While he’s only hitting .216 with a .248 OBP this season, the 24-year-old is slugging .474. He went yard 20 times in 74 Triple-A games and has deposited four more home runs this month.
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.