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Week 21 Waiver Wire - Outfielders (OF)

Week 21, RotoBallers. I’ve always thought the number 21 was lucky to me, in a much as I believe in luck. I mean, it makes some measure of sense, right? Blackjack, legal drinking age, Adele’s best record, all 21. It was even the number worn by one of my favorite athletes of all time, Mike Eruzione. Mike was the captain of the 1980 “Miracle on Ice” Olympic men’s hockey team and one of the key players in maybe the “luckiest” sports moments in history. The luckiest 21 is sum of the good ole’ triple 7s, the very epitome of lucky.

But luck is generally not really luck, is it? Really, luck is just the intersection of preparation and opportunity. A moment can present itself, just a split second, and those that seize that moment can consider themselves to be, say it with me, lucky. I’m not lucky. I’ve had really bad luck in my life, in fact. All of the great things in my life, including fantasy championships, came from preparation and the willingness to act when others would shy away. This might all seem a bit heavy-handed for a game in which we figure out which collection of grown men are the best, but don’t tell me that a well-earned fantasy championship doesn’t feel like a million bucks.

Rotoballers, you guys are prepared. You’ve got some of the best resources and access to some of the savviest group of experts in the business. So you have no reason to not be prepared. Absorb everything we have to offer, pick up a premium membership, follow the Twitter feeds. Find value where no one else that you know will. Why? Because don’t you want to get lucky? Here’s the top week 21 outfield waiver wire targets. Happy hunting.

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Week 21 Outfield Waiver Wire Targets

Steven Souza Jr. (OF, ARI) - 25% owned

I’ll keep this short. Souza has real power that he’s yet to tap into since returning to the lineup. But while the pop hasn’t quite come back, he’s been a more effective hitter than ever. Career low strikeout rate, career best batting average, and improved contact metrics are in place just waiting for the massive raw power to start rearing its head once more. Souza should be owned in all leagues.

Kevin Pillar (OF, TOR) - 19% owned

Kevin Pillar returns to the WW after spending some time being shuffled around the lineup. Regular readers will recall that where he slots in the batting order is of fairly significant importance when determining start/sit with Pillar. Whenever Pillar hits in a premium spot, he plummets. Whenever he is buried in the lineup, he shines. Of course, when he shines, the Jays move him up the lineup, and he falls back to earth. Strange relationship, but the numbers don’t lie.

Shuffling between the sixth and ninth spots in the order, Pillar put together a .368/.429/.579 week over 21 plate appearances with a home run. This is a notable improvement over his usual .228/.268/.409 batting fifth. And when compared to hitting in the bottom third, Pillar knocks .283/.307/.439. For some reason, he’s an entirely different hitter. And as discussed earlier in the season, this is no outlier. He’s the only guy you’ll have on your team that you’ll need to check his hitting spot instead of just if he’s in the lineup, but weeks like the last two make the effort worth it.

Travis Jankowski (OF, SD) - 4% owned

San Diego Padres outfielder Travis Jankowski might be the most purely explosive player on this list. He’s an incredibly streaky player, which is maddening for fantasy owners. Guys like Jankowski are like deep ball receivers in fantasy football. You never know when they’re gonna hit, but you definitely want them around when they do. The 27-year-old has 20 steals in 312 plate appearances, which is pretty good. True to his reputation, five of them have come in the last seven games. Jankowski’s nickname should be “Cheap Steals”. Actually, that’s not bad.

Cheap Steals is owned in just 4% of leagues, and it’s worth noting that he’s cut his strikeout rate nearly in half this season while maintaining a 10.3% walk rate. He’s also improved his contact greatly, and the gains in his approach have helped him to a career best batting line of .259/.338/.331. But Cheap Steals is here for steals, but if he gets on base more often, it stands to reason that weeks with four or five swipes could happen more often.

Melky Cabrera (OF, CLE) - 2% owned

The 34-year-old Cabrera is a rare example of the ballplayer that’s better in fantasy than he is in real life. He’s a terrible defensive outfielder and, despite attractive looking peripheral numbers, he’s actually been a below replacement level hitter at the dish four of the last six seasons. But, of course, almost no fantasy league in the world counts WAR or other, more subjective advanced metrics. We’re stuck with the old standards, and by those measures old-man Melky can still be useful.

Over the last week, put up a pair of homers and a .364/.391/.636. Sure, those two dingers represent two-thirds of his power production in 149 at-bats, but this is a guy who has overperformed subpar ISO numbers to slug double digit home runs each of the last four seasons. Cabrera also still does all the same things he’s been doing most of his career, which is banging out singles in bunches, not striking out, and collecting enough counting stats to make him a reasonable play. And certainly his .259 average doesn’t look super appealing for a guy like that, but he also has a BABIP currently more than 20 points below his worst season-long performance in that area since 2013. With a little positive regression, Cabrera’s line likely looks more like .280/.320/.410, a perfectly reasonable line for a fill-in bat that will cost you next to nothing.

Rafael Ortega (OF, MIA) - 1% owned

Pop quiz: if you get production from a guy, do you care what it says on the back of the jersey? Such is life in fantasy, especially mining the depths of the deep league wire in mid-August.

Rafael Ortega is a 27-year-old non-prospect who had gone through four organizations before coming to the Marlins as a minor-league free agent this past offseason. Weighing in at a slight 160 lbs., he’s got good-to-great speed, makes good contact, but has almost no pop. His one extended look in the bigs took place in 2016 with the Angels, where he finished up 202 plate appearances with a paltry .232/.283/.292 with a homer and eight steals. Looks pretty Quad-A, right?

Flash forward to 2018, and Ortega has put together an interesting couple of weeks with the Marlins. In a small-sample 35 plate appearances, he’s got a high BABIP .313/.371/.344 with four steals. Ok, so that was a bit underwhelming for the build-up sure, but regular readers to the old OF WW know that I am just a sucker for guys who can do two things: control the plate and make contact.

Take a look at Ortega’s strikeout rates over the last few years. Since 2015, he’s put up 14.1%, 11.4%, 10.4%, and now 9.5% before his call up. Suffice to say, that’s really good. So Ortega has a very good eye, and he makes contact around 90% of the time he swings the bat. That’s also really good. And Ortega has the speed to put up stolen bases in the mid-20s, just like he did in 2016 and 2017. These might be the cheapest steals you’ll ever buy, but a steal is a steal is a steal. And, personally, I’d rather have him for the rest of the season than Cameron Maybin, as an example.

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