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1B and 3B Waiver Wire Pickups for Week 5

It's only been one month, but I feel comfortable admitting that the 2021 fantasy baseball season has been harder to manage than 2020. Last year, those who played were just along for the ride. This season was supposed to be a return to normalcy, and instead, we're left with unending trips to the injured list, constant questions about workload, and not enough information to always make an informed decision.

The best solution is to stay active and vigilant. Constantly scour the waiver wire for players in good situations, even if they would be replacing a more known quantity. Little is truly known this season.

For our purposes in this column, we are using Yahoo!'s rostered percentages, as well as its positional eligibility. We are searching for useful players rostered in fewer than 40 percent of Yahoo! leagues. With that being said, below are my first base and third base waiver wire pickups to consider for Week 5 - April 26 through May 2.

Be sure to check all of our fantasy baseball lineup tools and weekly lineup resources:

 

Austin Riley - 3B/OF, Braves

38% Rostered

We have yet to see Riley move up the lineup for Atlanta. With a few exceptions of him hitting sixth, he has batted in the bottom third of the lineup each time out. That doesn't mean he isn't producing. This past week specifically, he was one of the best hitters in the league. More importantly, he's been in the lineup nearly every day for the Braves and has showcased what made him a top-flight prospect.

Riley ranks in the 89th percentile in max exit velocity while producing a quite pristine 11.2 percent walk rate. The former has never been a question, though finding consistency with his power stroke has been. That makes some of his early returns somewhat interesting. He is barreling up fewer balls, but is it because he is going for that higher level of consistency? Riley is hitting 51.2 percent of his balls on the ground, while going opposite field at a career-high rate and making solid contact at a rate more than double either of his previous seasons.

As for the eye at the plate, his walk rate has steadily increased each season Riley has been in the Majors, paired with a dropping K-rate each year as well. Nothing is a large sample size quite yet, including Riley's two previous seasons at the MLB level. In fact, adding up all of 2019, '20, and '21, Riley has played in just 150 total games. Nevertheless, early returns this year are making me perk up and pay attention.

 

Evan Longoria - 3B, Giants

31% Rostered

As of this posting, Longoria (hamstring) is hurt. This isn't a great look for a waiver wire pickup. However, a tight hamstring is not expected to land him on the IL. He has already gotten a few days off to rest it and will hopefully be back in the lineup full bore this coming week. When he's been in the lineup, Longoria has looked like his former All-Star version circa half a decade ago.

There is currently nothing he is doing wrong at the plate. The batted-ball profile is unbelievable. His walk rate dwarfs what it has been in recent memory. He is biting on nothing: 16.3 percent chase rate. The holes in Longoria's game right now are not with his swing. They are contained in peripheral details. He will get banged up, as he currently is. And the San Francisco lineup is just 18th in team OPS. That won't help his counting stats. Thankfully, he's been batting in the middle of the lineup. There are issues, but Longoria is nothing if not fantasy relevant in this, his age 35 season.

 

Bobby Dalbec - 1B, Red Sox

24% Rostered

Dalbec used to be rostered in more leagues. A lot of managers bailed on him after his horrific start to the year. Don't feel bad, the waiver wire is utilized best when rotating through players to help you, taking chances that someone may come back around for you at a later date. Now is the time to return to Dalbec.

The situation hasn't improved all that much, but Dalbec is ready to break out nonetheless. Yes, he is still batting near the bottom of the Boston lineup, but that's less of an issue when the Red Sox rank first in the MLB in OPS and second in runs. The wealth gets spread around. And yes, he is still waiting for his first home run while slugging just .385. Take a look at his batted-ball data, though, and tell me you don't see a power surge on the horizon.

Dalbec ranks in the 84th percentile in max exit velocity, the 93rd percentile in barrel percentage, and the 90th percentile in xSLG. Based on how and where he is hitting the ball, we would expect his slugging percentage to be .605 right now. That is a 220-point increase! Dalbec's time is coming; add him back while you still can.

 

Brandon Belt - 1B/OF, Giants

10% Rostered

Belt is an interesting case. I get why he is only 10 percent rostered. He has been sitting against lefties, he's been hurt, and he hasn't been hitting. All bad news. However, a lot of good news exists here as well. When he plays, Belt is slotted in as the cleanup hitter for San Francisco. Though he has been sitting against lefties, he actually has three hits in seven at-bats against them, and the struggles have come against the strong side of the platoon advantage. And though he hasn't been collecting hits, Belt has been getting on base at a very high clip and putting big-time power behind the ball when he does connect.

His 18.5 percent walk rate is in the 95th percentile of the league. His 57.1 percent hard-hit rate is almost as elite, ranking in the 92nd percentile. Last year was a career-year for Belt. People discounted it because it came in the shortened season. After these early returns, critics may be feeling vindicated. However, the underlying numbers compare favorably with what he did in '20, with the lone exception being his 29.6 percent K-rate. If he gets his zone contact percentage back above league-average, the results will come.

 



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