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NL-Only and AL-Only Waiver Wire for Week 5

pavin smith fantasy baseball waiver wire pickups draft sleepers

We are almost through the first month of the 2021 season, and it has been flying by. As we move along to the second month of the season, we officially get out of that "early period" of the year, where stats are still weird, and we get more information and certainty about which players' hot starts are going to last and which ones aren't.

For fantasy baseball purposes, managers are taking more stock and inventory of their teams now, as it is prime time to react to news and information. It's time for fantasy managers to determine whether or not they have enough talent on their rosters to make a push for a championship. This makes the waiver wire a big priority for those hoping to both improve on the margins of their roster, as well as find some players who can be difference-makers come playoff time.

Each week, I'll look at five players who are under 15% rostered in Yahoo! leagues and who can be considered as options to add in deep-league formats, such as 15-teamers or AL or NL-only leagues. I'll also include a recommendation for what to do with each player on your roster. Now, without further ado, let's get into it.

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Jordan Luplow - OF, Cleveland

11% rostered
Recommended move: Add for the long haul

Luplow originally came into the year projected to be a platoon bat--the short side as well, as he is a right-handed hitter. However, as of late, Luplow has been playing pretty much everyday, as he has started five of the team's last six games and against both right-handed and left-handed starting pitchers.

Luplow has definitely made the most of his opportunities this year, as he has fully established himself as one of the team's best hitters so far. He has been a bit light in terms of batting average, but has provided plenty of pop with his .229/.339/.667 triple slash, which includes six home runs and 14 RBI to this point. Interestingly enough, he's been better against right-handed pitchers, with a 211 wRC+ against them as compared to a still-great 155 mark against southpaws.

Statcast seems to support Luplow's hot start, and while it's hard to fully buy-in on the top-of-the-line power he's provided so far and expect it to keep going, he has done a lot of good with the bat and there is a lot to like. His barrel rate is 17.6%, his hard-hit rate is 41.2%, and his groundball rate is just 26.5%. All three things are good ingredients to a power profile, so it seems like this can last for a while still. It's not a perfect package as the batting average has been low, but there is consolation in the form of his BABIP--it's super low at just .179, so some positive regression could be in line, which would make Luplow even more intriguing. Pick him up for some good power.


Pavin Smith - 1B/OF, Diamondbacks

8% rostered
Recommended move: Add for the long haul

Smith was recommended last week as a sort of do-it-all type of player who likely wouldn't hurt fantasy managers in any particular category. He was rostered in just 1% of leagues last week, and now that's increased to 8% as he continues to play everyday, hit at the top of the lineup, and most importantly, play well. He was at an 81 wRC+ last week, but has pushed that to 120 now as he put up a strong .357/.400/.607 slash line in his last six games. Hitting at the leadoff spot is likely having an impact on his RBI totals though, as he only tallied two RBIs in that hot week, one of which was when he drove himself in on a home run, but still, there's a lot to like if you roster Smith.

The profile is very encouraging with a whopping 57.7% hard-hit rate and 11.5% barrel rate. The one downside is that Smith hits a few too many balls on the ground (46.2% groundball rate), but a few grounders should be able to find holes if they continue to be hit as hard they are now. Don't expect the hard-hitting to stick at such a high rate, but it is good to see the former first-round pick find his footing at the Major League level.

There's no reason to really expect Smith to be taken out of his current role in the immediate future, unless he really comes crashing down to earth. The D-Backs need some pop in the lineup with Ketel Marte (hamstring) still out, and Smith is providing it for them. The dual-eligibility is also quite nice, as Smith provides managers with some extra flexibility. This is a good profile, and he should probably be rostered at a higher rate.


Willie Calhoun - OF, Rangers

3% rostered
Recommended move: Add for a few weeks

After seemingly breaking out in 2019, Calhoun dealt with injuries and underperformance that made it difficult for him to properly follow up his strong 2019 season. Right now, however, it looks like Calhoun may be back to providing some impact for fantasy managers.

His current slash line of .321/.406/.429 isn't what we would expect from Calhoun. He's viewed as more of a power threat than a batting average option, but so far this year, he's been the opposite, with just one extra-base hit in his first 32 plate appearances. That's not the end of the world as the power should be expected to come around with time. For now though, Calhoun is getting the opportunity for the Rangers, and hitting leadoff to boot, which makes him an interesting fantasy option.

Calhoun can definitely be a good pickup, but he maybe shouldn't be inserted into starting lineups just yet. What made Calhoun a good power option in 2019 was that he was first off, getting the ball in the air, and second: pulling the ball. It's a small sample of batted balls thus far, but he isn't doing much of either right now. His pull rate is just 31.9% (it was 51.9% in 2019) and his groundball rate is 50% (36.4% in 2019). He's probably getting a bit lucky with his high batting average right now, but keep track of these other indicators. If they start to shift towards his 2019 rates, Calhoun may be in line for some extra pop. Keep him on the bench right now though, unless a starting outfielder is desperately needed.


Yonathan Daza - OF, Rockies

1% rostered
Recommended move: Add for a few weeks 

Not much has gone right for the Rockies this year, but one positive has been the play of Daza. Daza wasn't expected to be the everyday center fielder this year, but has seemingly taken the vast majority of playing time from Sam Hilliard, as Daza has started five of the last six games whereas Hilliard has started just one.

The main appeal of Daza for fantasy purposes is his batting average. He's always run high batting averages in the minor leagues, and it's sitting at a pretty .326 right now (also it's notably higher than his OBP--don't expect many walks from him). The fantasy appeal here is obvious. Batting average upside from a player playing half of his games in Colorado is an attractive combination, and that is the case for Daza. Don't expect much in terms of the other categories though. He could chip in some stolen bases, as he does have a good run tool, and he perhaps could offer double-digits there with extended playing time, which is definitely valuable, but he doesn't have a stolen base yet this season, so it's still a bit uncertain.

All in all, Daza is a good cheaper option for batting average, with the potential to add some steals. He's pretty much locked into playing time right now, so unless he starts to struggle, he should be in there most days. Pick him up and see what he can do for a few weeks.


Billy McKinney - OF, Brewers

1% rostered
Recommended move: Add for a few weeks 

The Brewers are sitting pretty in first place right now even with injuries to some notable names such as Christian Yelich (back) and Lorenzo Cain (quad), as well as underperformance from others such as Keston Hiura. Their pitching has been pretty fantastic thus far, which is definitely the biggest part of their success, but when it comes to scoring runs, they've had to turn to some of their depth options, and McKinney has been one of those who has been shining so far.

It's not the best, but he's put up a .245/.259/.472 slash line. He probably won't walk much, but the power that he's shown is what makes him really stand out. He's already contributed three home runs in just 54 plate appearances. He's done that by barreling the ball at a well-above-average 10.3% clip, and also by pulling the ball quite a bit at 46.2%, as the vast majority of his hits have gone to the pull-side. Continuing to do that should be a good way to keep his power numbers up.

For now it looks like McKinney has a hold on near everyday playing time. He may not start every game against left-handed pitching, but did start against one on Monday. The playing time picture will definitely change once the team gets healthier. Yelich's return doesn't appear to be close, but Cain's does, which may impact McKinney sooner rather than later. Until then though, McKinney, while not the most glamorous of the other outfield options, should be a fairly productive one, as he provides some decent power in deep leagues.


Reviewing Last Week's Picks

At the end of each week's post, I'll review what happened with last week's picks and offer a suggestion for them in the future.

Robbie Grossman (OF, DET) 

Last week: 4% rostered. This week: 4% rostered. 

Grossman had just four hits since last week's post. He is still walking though, with a 16.3% walk rate this year. He is also hitting the ball well with a 10% barrel rate. There are a lot of outfield options to consider, and depending on the circumstances, there may be a better option available in free agency. I do think Grossman can be useful in fantasy this season, but he's a drop candidate for now.

Current recommendation: Drop. 

Stephen Piscotty (OF, OAK) 

Last week: 2% rostered. This week: 2% rostered. 

Piscotty was playing pretty much everyday, but last week that started to change, as the A's have been giving Seth Brown more opportunities and Piscotty hasn't done himself any favors by hitting just .188 in the past week. He should still get a good amount of playing time, but he's really only worth rostering if he's playing well. Feel free to drop now.

Current recommendation: Drop. 

Nicky Lopez (2B/SS, KCR) 

Last week: 2% rostered. This week: 3% rostered. 

Lopez is still hitting well and beating expectations overall, but he did have just two hits last week. His profile is still pretty much the same--he's a light-hitting shortstop who can provide batting average and some steals. It's not a glamorous profile, but it does work in fantasy. Stick with him for now.

Current recommendation: Hold.

Jose Marmolejos (1B/OF, SEA) 

Last week: 1% rostered. This week: 1% rostered. 

Well, we know that when Kyle Lewis came back from his injury that Marmolejos would see his playing time decrease, although I am surprised to have seen it drop this much. He had just one start in the last week, and didn't record a hit. I still do like his power potential, and I wouldn't be surprised to see him start to get more opportunities again in the future, but there's no need to roster a player who simply isn't playing. This is a drop.

Current recommendation: Drop. 

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