Is it just me or is this 2021 season more strange than the 2020 season. Granted, it’s great that we have the minor leagues back and a full 162-game slate and all, but we’ve already witnessed four (FOUR!) no-hitters in the first month of the season. On top of that, no one can remain healthy. We’ve had to deal with more injuries this season than I can remember and that has made the Fantasy baseball waiver wire even more important this season. The goal of the waiver wire in an ideal world is to pick up players that are hot and/or can help your team moving forward. That notion hasn’t vanished, but in 2021, finding a competent injury replacement has taken on equal importance.
If you aren’t playing your dynasty leagues on Fantrax, you’re missing out on the deepest player pool and most customization around. Just starting out in a dynasty league? Then check out Eric Cross’ Top-300 Overall Fantasy Prospects and Top-500 Dynasty League Rankings.
Fantasy Baseball Waiver Wire
Josh Rojas (2B/SS/OF – ARI)
Josh Rojas is absolutely on fire right now. Currently on a seven-game hitting streak, Rojas is 12/28 with four home runs, six RBI, and eight runs scored. This hot stretch has pushed his season line .263/.344/.500 with an 11.1% walk rate to go along with it after getting off to a dreadful start this season. Rojas isn’t one to light up his savant page with red, but he’s posted a career-best hard-hit rate, barrel rate, average exit velocity, and xwOBACON so far this season. With his ability to help out across the board while being eligible at two or three positions depending on your league settings, Rojas makes for a very valuable addition right now with how hot he is at the plate.
Trevor Larnach (OF – MIN)
The hits just keep on coming in Minnesota. And not in a good way. Over the last week, the Twins have lost both Alex Kirilloff and Byron Buxton to injury, with the latter likely being out for multiple weeks. That has opened up a gaping hole in the lineup for top prospect Trevor Larnach to fill. We knew we’d see Larnach debut this season, but these injuries made this happen sooner than expected. But with that said, Larnach needs to be rostered in all 12+ team leagues as he’s one of the top offensive prospects in all of baseball.
Third-ranked Twins prospect Trevor Larnach clubs this one to center for his second homer in as many games. pic.twitter.com/PNHkoih4lK
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) March 24, 2021
After a standout final collegiate season at Oregon State, Larnach was selected in the 1st round of the 2018 draft and hasn’t stopped hitting since. The 24-year-old outfielder slashed .306/.384/.473 in 172 minor league games with 43 doubles, 20 home runs, and a 10.9% walk rate. He possesses a plus hit tool, plus raw power, and an advanced plate approach as well, giving him both a high ceiling and a high floor. More power should be on the way as well once he starts driving the ball in the air more consistently.
Willie Calhoun (OF – TEX)
I’ll admit that I’ve never been the biggest Willie Calhoun guy as he’s a bat-only player that has struggled with the bat in the Majors. However, what he’s doing at the plate right now cannot be ignored. In his 71 plate appearances this season, Calhoun is off to an impressive .338/.403/.492 start with three home runs, 8 RBI, and 10 runs scored. It’s encouraging to see him off to this start after his immense struggles at the Major League level to date as there was plenty of optimism surrounding Calhoun due to his .289/.356/.499 slash line in the minors.
It’s not just the surface stats that are impressive either. Calhoun’s .303 xBA backs up his hot start and he’s so far posted a career-best walk rate, strikeout rate, barrel rate, hard-hit rate, xwOBACON, and xSLG this season. With zero speed and below-average defense, Calhoun is going to have to hit well to stay in the lineup on an everyday basis. Luckily, he’s doing just that right now and it’s not like the Rangers have many better options to trot out there.
Adolis Garcia (OF – TEX)
Hey, look, another Texas hitter on fire right now. I’ll be honest, I didn’t see Garcia sustaining success due to his plate approach, but the man is cranking the ball right now. Through his first 103 plate appearances, Garcia has crushed seven home runs with a solid .269/.317/.538 slash line. On top of that, Garcia has recorded an 83rd percentile average exit velocity, 89th percentile hard-hit rate, 94th percentile barrel rate, and has an even .500 xwOBACON.
Road sweet road?
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) May 5, 2021
All of his quality of contact metrics look spectacular right now, but that worrisome plate approach hasn’t gone away. So far, Garcia has the 11th worst strikeout rate in baseball at 32.7% with a 33.8% whiff rate, 37.9% O-Swing, and 16.5% SwStr%, with the last two ranking in the bottom-20 in baseball. If you can stomach a .230-.240 AVG, Garcia can provide your offensive with a significant power boost.
Harrison Bader (OF – STL)
This is more of a deep-league pickup, but a very enticing one. Since Bader made his season debut on April 30th, he’s racked up three home runs, eight RBI, and two steals in eight games. The story on Bader has been consistent throughout his five seasons in the Majors. He’s displayed a decent power/speed (96th percentile or better sprint speed every season) blend to pair with his stellar defense, but there have been issues with his contact metrics and plate approach. Bader has always struck out too often and will likely never be more than a .230 hitter or so, but his defense will keep him in the lineup and he could realistically flirt with a 20/20 pace this season. If you need an outfielder and the guys above are gone, Bader represents a cheaper alternative.
Tony Gonsolin (SP – LAD)
This one is easy and I’ll break it down into two parts. First off, Tony Gonsolin is a very good pitcher that would likely be a top-3 arm on over half of the teams in the Majors. It just so happens that he’s on a team that came into the season with 498 good starting pitchers. That pushed Gonsolin out of the rotation and eventually onto the IL. But he’s getting closer to returning to action and should slot right into the rotation as David Price and Dustin May are both hurt with May out for the season due to needing TJS. A good pitcher with a great opportunity equals someone worth stashing in all leagues.
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) September 20, 2020
In Gonsolin’s two seasons in the Majors, he’s posted a stellar 2.60 ERA and 0.92 WHIP across 86.2 innings. The strikeout hasn’t been quite as impressive at 24.5%, but still useful for fantasy purposes. And with Gonsolin’s arsenal, I can easily see that ticking up here in 2021. Gonsolin works mostly with a four-seamer, splitter, and slider with the last two each having a whiff rate above 40%. He’ll also mix in the occasional curveball that has recorded a whiff rate above 30% in both 2019 and 2020. With Gonsolin’s stuff, above-average control, and golden opportunity, he needs to be stashed in all leagues right now with his return right around the corner.
Yusei Kikuchi (SP – SEA)
Coming into the season, Yusei Kikuchi was a popular late-round target that many thought would break out this season. A less than stellar start to the season (5.70 ERA in first four starts) cooled those jets a bit, but Kikuchi appears to be righting the ship. Over his last two starts, Kikuchi has allowed just three runs on seven hits and three walks in 14 innings while striking out 14. He’s done so with three pitches (four-seamer, slider, and changeup, registering a whiff rate above 33% on the season. This won’t be a league-winning addition or one to gloat about to your leaguemates, but Kikuchi could flirt with top-50 SP value moving forward, especially if he can continue to miss bats at a solid clip.
Nate Pearson (SP – TOR)
It’s absolutely mind-boggling that Nate Pearson is sitting on the waiver wire in so many leagues. The 24-year-old right hander is currently working his way back from a spring groin injury but is expected to rejoin the Blue Jays rotation within the next week or so. And once he’s back, you’re going to want Pearson on your roster, making him a great pickup right now before everyone runs to the waiver wire to add him. In 127 minor league innings, Pearson posted a stellar 2.20 ERA, 0.88 WHIP, and 31.7% strikeout rate. To put that in perspective, that 31.7% strikeout rate would’ve ranked 9th in the Majors last season and 15th this season.
Pearson is one of the top-5 pitching prospects in all of baseball with frontline potential thanks to an electric four-pitch arsenal that contains two 70-grade pitches in his upper-90’s fastball and filthy slider. Once back, Pearson has top-40 SP upside ROS and could be one of the best pickups you make all season. If Pearson is sitting on your waiver wire, correct that in a hurry before someone else does.
Garrett Richards (SP – BOS)
I’m still skeptical that he can remain healthy all season, but Garrett Richards is pitching extremely well right now. Over his last two starts, Richards has allowed two runs on 11 hits and one walk with 17 strikeouts in 12 innings, striking out 37% of the batters he faced. He’s actually pitched well in four of his six starts, with blowups against Baltimore in his first start and Toronto a few weeks ago really ballooning his surface stats.
Garrett Richards, Bowel-Locking 78mph Curveball. 💩 pic.twitter.com/xnp390m3eK
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) April 28, 2021
While he has had plenty of issues avoiding the IL in his career, Richards has pitched well when he has been on the mound and is worth a look with how well he’s pitching at the moment. Richards has tweaked his pitch mix this season, throwing more fastballs and curveballs while decreasing the slider usage and basically abandoning his sinker. Ditching the sinker was the right call as hitters recorded an AVG above .350 on the pitch in each of the last three seasons.
Media Credit: MLB Pipeline, Pitching Ninja, Steve Nurenberg/Icon Sportswire
Fantrax has been one of the fastest-growing fantasy sites over the last few years and we’re not slowing down in 2021! With multi-team trades, designated commissioner/league managers, and drag/drop easy click methods, Fantrax is sure to excite the serious fantasy sports fan – sign up now at Fantrax.com.