This weekly waiver-wire watch column is designed to help you monitor and pick up players in the coming weeks. These are the players you’ll want to add now before becoming the hot waiver commodity in a week or two. Using underlying and advanced metrics, this “watchlist” will help you get ahead of the competition in your league and reap the rewards from your pickups later.
The players could be anyone from a prospect in an ideal situation close to the Majors, a reliever in a saves+holds league, or even a starter doing well with misleading surface-level stats like ERA. They might even be hitters with quality underlying stats. Or they could be none of those types of players and entirely different.
The point is that they’ll help you find success in your fantasy league while staying ahead of the curve against your league mates.
Fantasy Baseball Waiver Wire Watch List
This late in the fantasy baseball season, it can be as simple as searching out the right matchups down the stretch. Series against lineups who have struggled all year take more prominence, so too do series in extreme hitter-friendly parks like Coors Field and Great American Ballpark. The same applies to games in more pitcher-friendly locales.
For Avila, his remaining regular-season slate ticks two of those boxes. Fortunately for fantasy managers, neither is one that includes a game at a launchpad of a stadium. The Padres hurler will finish the regular season with scheduled starts at home against the St. Louis Cardinals and on the road against the Chicago White Sox.
The first outing against St. Louis is particularly noteworthy, considering it takes place at Petco Park – a stadium with the joint third-lowest park factor per Statcast. It also comes against a Cardinals team that ranks 20th in runs scored away from home this season.
Next up, in Chicago, Avila will get a White Sox lineup that has only outscored two teams in total runs scored (Detroit and Oakland) so far this season. Chicago also sports the league’s highest ground ball rate at the plate, with a 46.3% metric that will certainly play to the right-hander’s strengths.
The hurler entered play Monday having appeared in 12 games for San Diego, including five starts, throwing 42.2 innings in the process. He’s logged a 3.38 ERA and a 3.96 FIP in those 42.2 innings of work while adding 45 strikeouts compared to 23 walks and three home runs allowed.
The 26-year-old hasn’t always done the best job in terms of limiting walks and hard contact. His 12.2% ground ball rate sits in the eighth percentile league-wide, while his 43.6% hard-hit rate is in the 19th percentile. Still, most of the damage he’s allowed this year has come via his four-seamer and sinker. His secondary offerings have largely been effective.
Furthermore, Avila has helped offset the walks and hard-hit balls limiting barrels (as well as inducing grounders) at a rather above-average rate. As of the beginning of play Monday, the right-hander ranked in the 88th percentile in barrel rate (5.1%) and the 94th percentile in ground ball rate (57.3%).
Considering the matchup with the Chicago (and St. Louis), Avila is a prime streaming candidate for the season’s final weeks. The only question is how deep he’ll go into the game. Avila has thrown more than five innings just once this year, though that was two starts ago in a home outing against Philadelphia. If he can generate some quick, easy outs – something that’s not out of the question given his propensity for ground balls – he should be in good shape in terms of pitching a bit deeper into both games.
There should be a quick amendment to the previous statement about searching for the right matchups against the right teams in the right ballparks. All that matters, but sometimes the combination of opportunity for playing time and the fact that a player is enjoying a productive stretch at the plate can be just as impactful.
Enter Miguel Rojas, who’s hitting just .235 with a .291 on-base percentage, four home runs and eight stolen bases in 394 plate appearances for the Los Angeles Dodgers this season. The shortstop has made more of an impact in the field, where he has an 8.5 Def, than at the plate where he’s sporting just a 69 wRC+.
That’s certainly not ideal for fantasy managers when looking at season-long results, but the veteran has been plenty productive as of late. He’s sporting a 95 wRC+ in 144 plate appearances since July 25 and is batting .323 with a .380 on-base percentage, a home run and a stolen base in 73 plate appearances dating back to August 22, driving in nine runs and scoring six.
Just like with Travis d’Arnaud last week, Rojas speculatively has a chance to see more playing time down the stretch – or simply hit further up the lineup – if the Dodgers rest some of their starters more often.
Of course, that’s again all entirely speculative, but if Rojas is able to hit a bit further up the lineup alongside even just a few of Mookie Betts, Freddie Freeman, Jason Heyward, J.D. Martinez, James Outman, Max Muncy and Will Smith, he’ll be in a strong spot to provide quality fantasy production down the stretch. And while that’s a long list and literally most of the Dodgers’ lineup, Los Angeles’ batting order has been just that productive across the board this year.
Dodgers’ Most Productive Hitters This Season Based On wRC+, Minimum 300 Plate Appearances:
- Mookie Betts: 639 PA, .410 on-base percentage, 171 wRC+
- Freddie Freeman: 668 plate appearances, .413 on-base percentage, 166 wRC+
- Jason Heyward: 339 plate appearances, .357 on-base percentage, 134 wRC+
- J.D. Martinez: 426 plate appearances, .314 on-base percentage, 125 wRC+
- Will Smith: 513 plate appearances, .365 on-base percentage, 122 wRC+
- Max Muncy: 524 plate appearances, .332 on-base percentage, 121 wRC+
- James Outman: 520 plate appearances, .354 on-base percentage, 118 wRC+
Dynasty Addition/Trade Target of the Week
Nootbaar has been limited by injury to 104 games and 451 plate appearances this year, but he’s been excellent when he’s been on the field, hitting .266 with a .373 on-base percentage, 13 home runs and 10 stolen bases in those aforementioned 451 plate appearances. The outfielder, who has also spent a considerable hitting leadoff for the Cardinals this season, has a chance to be even better next season.
Of course, the rather obvious argument here is more plate appearances and chances for Nootbaar to produce, but sometimes the most obvious and simple arguments ring the most true. Because in addition to the surface-level metrics, Nootbaar has done nothing but make quality contact while making good decisions at the plate.
Entering play Monday, the outfielder was sporting a .364 xwOBA on the season to go along with a 16.7% chase rate and an 18.2% whiff rate. All three metrics ranked in the 86th percentile or higher, with the chase rate in particular standing out in the 99th percentile.
And if a player doing that well where all three metrics are concerned sounds uncommon, it’s because it is. Only six qualified batters rank in the 85th percentile or better in all three metrics. Nootbaar is obviously one of them. The other five? Mookie Betts, Ronald Acuna Jr., Kyle Tucker, Yandy Diaz and Adley Rutschman. That’s it.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, considering how little he swings at the wrong pitches, Nootbaar is also sporting a 14.6% walk rate and just a 19.3% strikeout rate. With this type of production at the plate, the 26-year-old has a real chance to log 20 home runs and 20 stolen bases next season with strong batting average and on-base percentage numbers.
Due to injury and the fewer games played, his numbers appear to depict merely a good fantasy outfielder this season. Next season though, he could be great with additional plate appearances. If someone in your fantasy league’s opinion of Nootbaar lines up more with the former statement, now’s the ideal time to work out a trade.