Baseball is back! Well, it’s technically been back for a couple of months now, but regular-season baseball is finally upon us after what seemed like an offseason and winter that would never end. But that’s life in these COVID times. This opening day also feels a bit sweeter than year’s past as this will be a full 162-game slate following an abbreviated 60-game 2020 season. And with each opening day comes another chance to hit the fantasy baseball waiver wire hard and improve your team where you need to. Don’t you sit there and lie to me either saying your team is perfect and doesn’t need to be upgraded. With how many injuries happened in spring training, I can almost guarantee someone went down on your squad. Probably more than one too.
This week’s waiver wire report has a little bit of everything from exciting rookies to underappreciated infielders to exciting relievers. Let’s start the season strong!
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Fantasy Baseball Waiver Wire
Donovan Solano (2B/3B/SS – SFG)
After a career as a journeyman with little success and two years away from the Majors in 2017 and 2018, Donovan Solano has rejuvenated his career in San Francisco. Over the last two seasons, Solano has hit .330 and .326 for a combined .328 mark across 431 plate appearances. We’re no longer talking about a small sample size when you’re approaching 500 PA. But at the same time, that stellar batting average didn’t come with much in the way of counting stats.
That still likely won’t be the case in 2021, but Solano showed some decent power in spring training (two doubles, three homers in 42 PA). On top of that, Solano appears to be locked into the middle of the lineup for San Francisco and hit 3rd on opening day. Don’t go hog wild to try and acquire him, but the average should be good along with double-digit homers and modest runs and RBI. That multi-positional eligibility is crucial as well, especially with COVID issues and postponements hanging around for another season.
Jazz Chisholm (2B/SS – MIA)
A big part of early-season waiver wire and FAAB claims is centered around trying to find the potential breakouts. Jazz Chisholm fits that mold quite well. The 23-year-old Bahamas native possesses an intriguing power/speed blend for fantasy purposes, but comes with his fair share of risk as well. That’s due to his below-average contact skills and big-time swing and miss concerns. In the minor leagues, Chisholm struck out in 30.1% of his plate appearances. That number then rose to 30.6% in his 62 MLB plate appearances in 2020. Fortunately, Chisholm has improved his walk rate when compared to his low-minors rate of 7.6%, walking at an 11.4% clip in 2019.
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) March 17, 2021
If Chisholm hits enough to stay in the lineup, his aforementioned power/speed blend could be impactful. Chisholm posted back to back 20+/15+ seasons in 2018 and 2019 while averaging 29 homers and 25 steals per 162 games. This spring was no different as Chisholm swatted three dingers and swiped four bags in his 45 plate appearances. That performance earned him the starting 2nd base gig over Isan Diaz and put Chisholm squarely on the 2021 fantasy map. If you need help at middle infield, grabbing Chisholm could pay solid dividends. And if his strikeout woes play him out of a starting spot, you move onto the next hot free agent.
Taylor Trammell (OF – SEA)
While it might not be the Seattle outfield prospect we were hoping for, looking the other way because his last name is spelled T-R-A-M-M-E-L instead of K-E-L-E-N-I-C would be a mistake. While Taylor Trammell had a down 2019 in the minors for his standards, he possesses the tools to provide immediate fantasy value. Trammell is a phenomenal athlete with plus speed that he flashed early and often at every level of the minors. In total, Trammell accumulated 110 steals in his 426 minor league games with a 74.8% conversion rate along with a .363 OBP and 12.2% walk rate.
While he might not provide a ton of power to go with the OBP and steals, Trammell does have enough pop to reach double-digit homers annually and he hit three this spring to go with two steals and a .311/.392/.644 slash line. Trammell is going to have to hit well to keep his spot, especially with Kyle Lewis returning from injury eventually and Jarred Kelenic about to kick down the door, but I believe the skills are here for him to do so.
Nate Lowe (1B – TEX)
As a long-time Nate Lowe supporter, seeing him begin his 2021 season with a bases-clearing double give me all the feels. Lowe didn’t stop there either, adding another RBI single later in the game as part of a 2/6, 4 RBI day. Unfortunately, that also came with a trio of strikeouts though. And let me say this before we continue… Lowe would’ve been in this article if he went 0/5 yesterday. His opening day performance isn’t the reason for his inclusion here. What Lowe showed as a minor leaguer and in brief bursts with his two abbreviated seasons with the Rays is why he’s in here.
You go, Nate Lowe pic.twitter.com/DWce3Aqp2f
— Tampa Bay Rays (@RaysBaseball) September 15, 2020
Despite his erratic playing time and strikeout woes in 2019 and 2020, Lowe posted above-average hard-hit and barrel rates each season, including a 15.4% barrel rate last season which would’ve tied him with Marcell Ozuna for 11th-best in baseball if he had enough batted ball events to qualify for the leaderboard. Some other names in that area were Ronald Acuña Jr, Corey Seager, Nick Castellanos, Nelson Cruz, and Mike Trout, just in case you were curious. I’m not saying Lowe is going to break out and finish as a tip-5 first baseman, but he has shown the ability to hit for average and get on base in the minors (.300/.400) and has the power and barrel rate to push 20-25 homers this season while hitting in the middle of the Rangers lineup. He’s going to need to trim that strikeout rate though.
Kiké Hernandez (2B/OF – BOS)
While I still don’t quite get why you would want to place a career .313 OBP guy in the leadoff spot, it looks like that’s the plan in Beantown to start the season. And it doesn’t matter who it is, the leadoff hitter for the Boston Red Sox needs to be rostered in fantasy leagues. Word out of Boston is that manager and fellow Puerto Rican native Alex Cora called Kiké Hernandez after Boston acquired him and challenged him to prove he’s capable of being a leadoff hitter. If spring training is any indication, Hernandez did a damn fine job of doing so with more walks (10) than strikeouts (8) with three homers, four doubles, and a .327/.450/.592 slash line across 60 plate appearances with 12 runs scored.
As a diehard Red Sox fan and someone that has endured the peaks and valleys that come with rostering a guy like Hernandez, I’m still a bit skeptical that him leading off is something that sticks over a full 162-game season. However, Cora appears to be confident in him and Hernandez has done nothing but impress in a Red Sox jersey thus far. With him hitting leadoff in front of Alex Verdugo, Xander Bogaerts, Rafael Devers, and JD Martinez, Hernandez should score plenty of runs and can bring some modest pop from the 2nd base position as well. Honestly, I never thought my first waiver wire article of the season would include Hernandez, but here we are.
Alex Reyes (RP – STL)
“Alex Reyes has the stuff to be an elite fantasy reliever.” –Me, several times.
With it appearing that Reyes will get plenty of save opportunities this season, at least to start, he needs to be rostered in all fantasy leagues. Yes, even 8-team leagues with your grandma Ruth and Uncle Frank. When I said that Reyes could be an elite fantasy reliever, I meant it. And now the influx of additional save opportunities makes him even more appealing for fantasy purposes.
In 2020, Reyes was wild, yet effective in the Cardinals bullpen, posting a 3.20 ERA despite a putrid 16.3% walk rate. Luckily, a 31.4% strikeout rate helped erase most of the damage done by the excessive free passes. That command and control is why Reyes is likely done as a starter, but the filthy arsenal above is why he’s so damn interesting in the closer’s role. In addition to pumping upper-90’s cheese with the ability to hit triple-digits, Reyes features two very good breaking balls with his curveball and slider registering a 57.9% and 46.4% whiff rate respectively. If Reyes is floating around on your waiver wire, fix that in a hurry.
Jake Diekman (RP – OAK)
If you’re someone that didn’t pay much for closers in your draft, you must be pretty damn happy today when Reyes and Jake Diekman become prime waiver wire fodder. With the Athletics placing Trevor Rosenthal on the IL with shoulder inflammation, the role shifts back over to Diekman who was very effective for the Athletics last season. In 21.1 innings, Diekman allowed only eight hits while posting a 0.42 ERA, 0.94 WHIP, and 36.9% strikeout rate. On top of that, he was unscored upon this spring in his six innings, allowing only one lone walk with seven strikeouts.
As long as Rosenthal is on the shelf, Diekman could be a rock-solid RP2 for fantasy purposes as someone that has shown the ability to keep his ratios low and miss bats at a high clip with a 98th percentile whiff rate in 2020, largely due to his slider that posted a 46.8% whiff rate and .161 xwOBA. But the great thing about Diekman is that he can put hitters away with his fastball as well which registered a 27.7% putaway rate, 5.3% above his fastball.
Deep League Target(s): Adam Frazier (2B/OF – PIT) & Kevin Newman (2B/SS – PIT)
Yes, I know playing for the Pittsburgh Pirates is a bit of a drag these days and now overly appealing, but Adam Frazier and Kevin Newman still deserve some deep-league love. The 2020 season wasn’t kind to either Frazier or Newman who slashed .230/.297/.364 and .224/.281/.276 respectively, but both showed they are capable of hitting for a high average prior to 2020. For three straight seasons, Frazier hit a hair above .275 and posted a .308 average and .353 OBP in 2019 while finishing in the top-10 for contact%, Z-Contact%, O-Contact%, and SwStr% (Lowest).
Neither are sexy fantasy options but both can provide a good AVG and will hit in the upper half of the lineup with Frazier leading off for the most part. Both excelled this spring too with Frazier slashing .488/.511/.860 and Newman a ridiculous .606/.641/.788. If you need some middle infield help in deeper leagues, this Pittsburgh duo is a great plate to begin your search.
Deep League Target: Kyle Isbel (2B/OF – KC)
When it comes to prospects, the team and age often influence rankings and overall hype one way or another. If you looked at what Kyle Isbel did as a prospect, most would probably be pretty excited if he was a couple of years younger and in a more exciting organization than Kansas City. But that’s also the silver lining here as we can now scoop him up for basically free in deeper leagues. In the minors, Isbel slashed .284/.347/.455 with 14 homers and 35 steals in just 123 games and 534 plate appearances. His plus speed immediately makes him mixed league relevant and Isbel has shown above-average contact skills and modest power in the minors as well.
Honestly, he kinda reminds me of Whit Merrifield to a degree. That’s obviously not a direct comparison, but there’s definitely a path to solid fantasy value here in deeper leagues now that Isbel starting for the Royals following the Adalberto Mondesi injury. And as long as he hits well, Isbel could stick in the starting lineup even after Mondesi returns in a few weeks. If you need speed and are looking for a good upside play, Isbel is a phenomenal target right now. After excelling in spring training (.333/.420/.548, 2 HR, 2 SB, 50 PA), Isbel got off to a great start yesterday, collecting three hits and two RBI in five plate appearances.
Media Credit: Keith Gillett/Icon Sportswire, Baseball Savant, Tampa Bay Rays, MLB Pipeline
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