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Outfield Waiver Wire Pickups For Week 3

We’re only nine days into the 2021 regular season, but there has already been plenty of roster shuffling and player movement this year. Although fantasy managers shouldn’t make decisions based exclusively on less than two weeks of samples, there is one notable league-wide issue worth exploring before diving into this week: the ball.

As you may already know, MLB has changed the ball this year, giving it more bounce and more drag. As a result, it’s easier to hit the ball harder (so exit velocities have been up across the league), but the ball hasn’t been flying as far as it used to. Mentions of power metrics like hard-hit rate and max exit velocity should be considered with that context in mind, and I’ve tried to avoid relying on them in this article (as applicable) to avoid mischaracterizing a hitter’s performance.

One more note: all of the hitters mentioned last week continue to be worthwhile adds this week, but to avoid redundancy I’ve focused on other valuable hitters this week. With that out of the way, below are six outfielders worth considering in waivers this week - April 12th through April 18th. As always, roster rates for waiver wire pickups are based on Yahoo leagues with standard 5x5 scoring, and an outfielder must be rostered in fewer than 50% of leagues to be considered for this article. 

Editor's Note: Our incredible team of writers received five total writing awards and 13 award nominations by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association, tops in the industry! Congrats to all the award winners and nominees including Best MLB Series, NFL Series, NBA Writer, PGA Writer and Player Notes writer of the year. Be sure to follow their analysis, rankings and advice all year long, and win big with RotoBaller! Read More!


Weekly Summary

Who’s Hot?

I’ve expanded this leaderboard to 12 hitters this week to call out the strong performances of Myles Straw and Michael A. Taylor. Straw appeared in last week’s article, and Taylor is analyzed in more detail later in the article.

Player Name Rostered % Week wOBA
Chris Owings 24% 0.700
Darin Ruf 1% 0.641
Tyler Naquin 48% 0.601
Akil Baddoo 48% 0.587
Brandon Nimmo 26% 0.503
Nick Senzel 41% 0.450
Luis Arraez 35% 0.449
Brett Gardner 2% 0.443
Garrett Cooper 3% 0.420
Lorenzo Cain 46% 0.402
Michael A. Taylor 40% 0.399
Myles Straw 23% 0.383

Rest of Season Projections

It’s easy to get caught up in early season trends, but it’s been less than two weeks since Opening Day. Fantasy managers should keep the rest of season projections in mind when making roster decisions to avoid overreacting to early-season slumps (or breakouts) and to capitalize on the mistakes of other managers.

Player Name Rostered % Rest of Season wOBA Projection
Brandon Nimmo 26% 0.348
Luis Arraez 35% 0.342
Brandon Belt 11% 0.335
Aaron Hicks 40% 0.331
Alex Dickerson 20% 0.329
J.D. Davis 49% 0.327
Yasiel Puig 4% 0.326
Josh Naylor 2% 0.326
Randal Grichuk 46% 0.325
Robbie Grossman 3% 0.325

Schedule Notes

This week features a packed schedule during which many teams are slated to play every day. Some notable schedules worth keeping in mind can be found below:

  • The Mariners opens the week with four games against an unimpressive Orioles rotation at the fairly hitter-friendly Camden Yards, so Ty France and Taylor Trammell are worth considering as short-term adds.
  • The Astros play two of the worst pitching staffs in the league in the Mariners and Tigers, making Myles Straw an attractive target for fantasy managers needing steals.
  • The Brewers face hittable and righty-heavy pitching staffs this week in the Cubs and Pirates, making Jackie Bradley Jr. a viable option as a short-term add (more on him later).

Lineup Notes

  • Yoshitomo Tsutsugo seems locked into batting first against RHP for the Rays.
  • Cody Bellinger’s move to the injured list should open up more consistent playing time for Chris Taylor.
  • Randal Grichuk’s value continues to be high in the short term with George Springer’s return unlikely to come soon.
  • The Diamondbacks activated Kole Calhoun from the injured list on Friday.
  • With Jake Fraley and Kyle Lewis on the injured list, Jose Marmolejos should see extra playing time.
  • J.D. Davis is now rostered in fewer than 50% of leagues (49% rostered rate) and is worth stashing in all leagues as long as fantasy managers have an open IL spot.


Shallow League Pickups

Akil Baddoo, Detroit Tigers

48% rostered

Baddoo has enjoyed an electric start to his rookie season, and fantasy managers have reacted by quickly scooping him up -- Baddoo was drafted in only 2% of leagues coming into the season but owns a 48% rostered rate barely a week in. Baddoo boasts an impressive combination of speed and power, and that skillset has paid off so far with Baddoo posting a 1.429 OPS through his first five games.

I would be remiss if I didn’t call out the massive small-sample size caveat here. Baddoo had never played above High-A ball before 2021, and fantasy managers have reacted to a total of 14 plate appearances to roster Baddoo this year. Still, Baddoo’s 1.429 OPS is the second-best mark from a rookie through any 14 PA sample in the live-ball era, a testament to his tremendous start to the year.

Although that’s more of a fun fact than a real point in Baddoo’s favor for fantasy purposes going forward, it underscores an important point. Specifically, projecting Baddoo’s rest of season performance based on lower-level minor league games and a few MLB games is a fool’s errand, but he clearly has a high upside and has already shown an ability to make a significant impact at the major league level -- that’s enough to make Baddoo worthy of roster consideration in all leagues. 

Michael A. Taylor, Kansas City Royals

40% rostered

Like Baddoo, a hot start to the season has propelled Taylor onto the rosters of fantasy managers, as Taylor went from being undrafted in almost all leagues to being rostered in 40% of leagues just over a week into the season. A breakout candidate heading into the season thanks to some offseason swing adjustments, Taylor has lived up to his billing so far with a 1.112 OPS through his first six games.

Although Taylor’s 17.6% swinging-strike rate is ugly and not what fantasy managers should hope to see from a player whose adjustments were targeted at lowering his strikeout rate, Taylor’s under the hood performance has been encouraging. In particular, Taylor’s 80% z-contact rate is the second-highest mark of his career, and his poor swinging-strike rate is inflated by a high chase rate that is likely to fall back toward his career average over the rest of the season. Taylor won’t stay this hot all year, but he’s a 20 home run, 20 stolen base threat if his adjustments continue to work, and fantasy managers should target him on waivers as a result.

Kole Calhoun, Arizona Diamondbacks

24% rostered

Calhoun appeared in this series about as much as anyone last season, and he’s back this year after being activated from the injured list on Friday. Before getting into the details of why Calhoun is worth rostering in most fantasy leagues, consider that Calhoun was typically a top-250 draft pick in NFBC leagues before his knee surgery on March 3, and he hadn’t been selected later than pick 340 during that time.

Now fully healthy and back to being a regular in the Arizona lineup, fantasy managers should expect Calhoun to return the value of a top-250 pick over the rest of the season, making him worth rostering in most leagues. More specifically, Calhoun should be back to being the hitter who was on pace for 43 home runs and a .864 OPS over a full season last year. Well, maybe Calhoun won’t be quite that good, but with two consecutive seasons with double-digit barrel and walk rates, Calhoun is a good bet for another 30 homer season and is worth a look from fantasy managers as a result.


Deeper League Pickups

Jackie Bradley Jr., Milwaukee Brewers

9% rostered

Although this article series generally focuses on longer-term waiver additions early in the season, Jackie Bradley Jr. is too good of a weekly streaming option to not mention this week. As I point out in the schedule notes section, the Brewers go up against a pair of unimposing pitching staffs in the Cubs and Pirates. Making matters even better for Bradley, those pitching staffs combine to account for just one southpaw, and Bradley has a career .748 OPS against righties compared to a .685 mark against lefties*.

It’s worth noting that JBJ has endured a rough start to the season, picking up just one hit with no walks and nine strikeouts through his first six games. That’s far too small of a sample to be seriously concerned with, though, and fantasy managers should expect Bradley to hit well this week. 

Yoshitomo Tsutsugo, Tampa Bay Rays

2% rostered

Tsutsugo appears to be locked into the leadoff role for the Rays against righties (as locked into a lineup slot as he can be while he plays for the Rays, anyway), boosting both his short and long term fantasy value. For this week, the Rays start with a four-game set against a Rangers staff that is devoid of left-handed starting pitchers (and is also not very good), a desirable series for Tsutsugo.

Longer-term, Tsutsugo is a breakout candidate this year, and a less than stellar start to the season doesn’t change that. Fantasy managers should expect Tsutsugo to begin heating up sooner rather than later, and he should be worth rostering in deeper leagues for much of the rest of the year.

Josh Naylor, Cleveland Indians

2% rostered

Naylor is a notable outlier in terms of rest of season projections, as he has the lowest rostered rate of any outfielder (max. 50% rostered) to crack the top-10 rest of season wOBA projections. Naylor’s power makes him easy to get excited about -- his 115.1 max exit velocity (set in 2019) is elite, and that power gives Naylor exciting upside.

Further working in Naylor’s fantasy value is that he hardly strikes out, and none of the five projection systems hosted on Fangraphs expect Naylor to post a strikeout rate above 18% this season. Naylor has some of the most upside of any player widely available in fantasy leagues as a result, and fantasy managers should strongly consider adding him on waivers.

*Bradley’s splits reversed in 2020, but given the small sample of games, it seems likely that his splits will revert towards his career numbers in 2021.

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