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If you drafted a hitter early, chances are they are hurt or getting over being hurt right now. Fernando Tatis Jr. is back, but he might be compromised with his shoulder injury. Meanwhile, Ronald Acuña Jr. and Mookie Betts are banged up and Juan Soto, Christian Yelich, and Cody Bellinger are on the injured list. Going with an ace in the first round — Jacob deGrom, Gerrit Cole, Shane Bieber — might have been the safe play, after all.
Yes, there’s some hyperbole in what I just said, but all of these early injuries to key hitters (you can throw the recent injuries to Anthony Rendon and Starling Marte in this bucket too) has added some increased unpredictably to what was already going to be an unpredictable year. We still don’t know how pitchers will respond to the increased workload and what impact the altered baseball will have over a full season with warmer weather on the way. It’s going to be wild, most likely.
More than ever, perseverance is going to be a key attribute to winning a league this year. Scouring the waiver wire is a big part of that, but it would certainly be nice to see the talent pool expand in the outfield in the coming days. There’s a real chance that will happen with Jared Kelenic and the Mariners and Alex Kiriloff with the Twins. We were already anticipating their arrivals anyway, but it would be especially welcome right now. Kiriloff is rostered in just 13 percent of Yahoo leagues as of Thursday morning and it should probably be higher than that.
Have specific questions about your roster? Ask @djshort on Twitter.
(Players rostered in under 50 percent of Yahoo leagues)
Danny Duffy SP, Royals (Yahoo: 48 percent rostered)
What's old is new again. It's been a few years since Duffy has been in our good graces, but he's earned it. The southpaw is off to a great start this season, allowing just one run in 18 innings with a 19/6 K/BB ratio through his first three starts. He's averaged around 94 mph with his fastball, an area he hasn't seen since his age-27 season in 2016. The same goes for his swinging strike percentage. Whether he can maintain this velocity over the long haul is the big question, but he should be rostered in all formats while we wait to find out.
C.J. Cron 1B, Rockies (Yahoo: 40 percent rostered)
Cron had plenty of support in mixed leagues after signing with the Rockies in mid-February, but a slow start has landed him on the waiver wire in shallow formats. He didn't hit his first homer of the season until Tuesday night. Going with the hot hand is understandable in those sorts of leagues, but don't give up on Cron too soon. The 31-year-old slugged 55 homers between 2018-2019 and has never had the luxury of playing half of his games in Coors Field. Assuming the Rockies stick with him, he has a good chance of hitting his stride.
Zach McKinstry OF, Dodgers (Yahoo: 47 percent rostered)
McKinstry has been an unexpected hero for the Dodgers in the early part of the season, slashing .296/.328/.556 with three homers, five doubles, 14 RBI, and seven runs scored through 17 games. He's already been playing a ton and that shouldn't change in the near future with Cody Bellinger and Mookie Betts sidelined. McKinstry was a 33rd round pick back in 2016, but he turned himself into an interesting prospect in the minors, showing good contact ability while adding more power to his game. Ideally he'll slide back into Kiké Hernandez's old role when the Dodgers are at full strength, but he's a pretty solid add if you want to get a piece of this lineup. And you should.
JT Brubaker SP, Pirates (Yahoo: 45 percent rostered)
Brubaker has been lights out so far this season, posting a 1.76 ERA and 18/5 K/BB ratio in 15 1/3 innings through three starts. He's allowed one earned run in each of them, including a sterling outing against the Brewers last Friday where he collected 28 CSW (called strikes + whiffs) in 83 pitches. Brubaker has been throwing his slider more than ever while dominating with his four-seam fastball and sinker. Let's see where this one goes.
Omar Narváez C, Brewers (Yahoo: 36 percent rostered)
For what Narváez lacked defensively, the Brewers were hoping he would at least be able to fill the void offensively following Yasmani Grandal’s departure, but it didn’t happen in last year’s shortened season. The 29-year-old hit just .176 with two homers and a .576 OPS over 126 plate appearances. However, he’s quickly turned the page on that forgettable year by slashing .396/.455/.604 with three homers and 10 RBI through his first 16 games this season. He already has as many hits (19) than he had all of last year, for goodness sakes. The numbers back up what he’s doing too, as he’s making contact at an elite clip while hitting the ball harder than ever. And just a bonus, he’s improved behind the plate as well, which is no small thing when we’re talking about playing time. It’s a bit curious why he’s still out there in so many leagues, but as my colleague Christopher Crawford said in his Daily Dose on Thursday morning, it’s time to change that.
Adam Frazier 2B/OF, Pirates (Yahoo: 26 percent rostered)
Alright, so my optimism with Kevin Newman a couple of weeks ago was a big old whiff on my part. Fair enough. Newman's teammate, Phillip Evans, has been a fun early-season pickup in mixed leagues, but Frazier might have more staying power. Mostly because he's proven himself as a useful player before, including a .279/.342/.420 batting line from 2016-2019. Last year was a different story, but I'm more inclined to bank on the track record. Frazier isn't going to stand out in terms of pop or speed, but he hits for average and gets on base as the Pirates' primary leadoff man. It's not an exciting situation, but he's a strong candidate to be dealt to a better one.
Justin Upton OF, Angels (Yahoo: 13 percent rostered)
It’s been fun to see that Buster Posey (Yahoo: 56 percent rostered) still has some life left in his bat, but the same goes for Upton, who has homered in three out of his last four games. He left Wednesday’s game in the ninth inning due to a cramp, but it doesn’t sound like a major concern. Upton is still striking out a bunch — that’s just going to happen — but he’s making all sorts of hard contact. His home run on Wednesday had an average exit velocity of 116.5 mph, the Angels’ hardest-hit HR during the StatCast Era dating back to 2015. Thanks to Sarah Langs of MLB.com for that tidbit. Upton has batted either fourth or fifth in each of the last five games and that’s a nice place to be even with the Angels’ lineup missing some key pieces. If you are missing of the many talented outfielders on the injured list right now, Upton could provide some lightening in a bottle for your lineup.
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Greg Holland was a nice surprise last season, but it was probably a mistake to bank on him to do it again. Sure enough, he’s endured a rough start to his 2021 campaign, posting a 6.43 ERA through his first seven appearances. He’s allowed nine hits (three of them homers) and walked seven batters to equal his total from all of last season. Wade Davis has been scored upon in each of his last three appearances and really shouldn’t be next in line for saves at this point, so Staumont and Barlow are the upside stashes. Staumont’s control wavered on Wednesday against the Rays, but he’s looked better in that area so far this season. His velocity and swinging strikes are down, though. Barlow is probably the more stable option, but both of these pitchers have the potential to run away with the gig.
I really thought Amir Garrett had a chance to run and hide with the Reds' closer role this season, but he's looked pretty awful so far. Wednesday was the latest example, as he entered in a tie game in the eighth inning against the Diamondbacks and loaded the bases on a walk, a double, and a hit batsman before walking Carson Kelly to force in the go-ahead run. The southpaw has now allowed seven runs on nine hits and six walks in just 4 2/3 innings this season. Sims has picked up from where he left off in 2020 and Doolittle has rediscovered some velocity, so they are both worth stashing where available. Antone should be scooped up in mixed leagues too, but he’s likely going to be more of a bulk-inning/put-out-fires type. There’s still value in that.
(Players rostered in under 10 percent of Yahoo leagues)
Josh Harrison 2B/3B, Nationals (Yahoo: 7 percent rostered)
One side effect of Carter Kieboom playing his way out of the Nationals’ starting third base job in the spring is that it pushed Harrison into a starting role at second base. That’s not an ideal scenario, but Harrison has rewarded the Nationals’ faith in him by slashing .387/.472/.458 through his first nine games. His BABIP is sitting at .379 right now, so maybe there’s some good fortune involved in his hot start, but he’s also been one of the game’s best contact hitters so far. He’s struck out just once in 36 plate appearances. After beginning the year out of the No. 7 spot, he’s hit fifth and second in recent days. Harrison might just have something left, after all.
Andrew Stevenson OF, Nationals (Yahoo: 1 percent rostered)
Stevenson might be even more of a dice roll, but he’s getting to play with Juan Soto sidelined and Nationals manager Davey Martinez has used him — and not Victor Robles — out of the leadoff spot the past two days. He’s probably going to have to hit for that continue, but it’s nice to see that volume potential at the top of the lineup. Stevenson possesses elite speed and has shown some sparkplug ability during his sporadic chances in the majors until this point. If you want to take a chance on someone in a five-outfielder league, he’s a fun option.
Adolis Garcia OF, Rangers (Yahoo: 3 percent rostered)
Speaking of fun, how about Garcia? The 28-year-old has slugged three homers in his last eight games, all of them go-ahead shots. The latest came in the eighth inning of Wednesday’s victory over the Angels. The 28-year-old never really got much of a chance for the Cardinals and strikeouts remain a major concern, as he fanned in 30.1 percent of his plate appearances over 132 games in Triple-A in 2019. He’s already fanned 12 times in 38 plate appearances with the Rangers this year, so chances are this isn’t built to last, but the Rangers are giving him a real chance at playing time right now. He hits the ball hard and runs well too, though he’s been caught stealing and picked off so far. Still, similar to Stevenson, he’s worth grabbing in deeper formats in the short-term.
Alex Wood SP, Giants (Yahoo: 13 percent rostered)
How long will Wood stay healthy? Recently history suggests probably not for long, but he looked good in his Giants' debut against the Marlins last Sunday, striking out four and walking none over five scoreless innings. He collected nine swinging strikes in his 61 pitches and his velocity was up a tick compared to what we've seen in recent years. Wood has been good enough in the past to give him a shot in a rematch against the Marlins on Friday in San Francisco.
Brady Singer SP, Royals (Yahoo: 45 percent rostered)
It's probably unfair to put Singer in a category which is focused on matchup plays, as I generally see him as rosterable in all formats. Still, there's no way he should be on the waiver wire with the Tigers coming up this weekend. Singer scuffled to begin the year, but he was brilliant against the Blue Jays last Sunday, allowing just two hits over six scoreless frames with six strikeouts and three walks. Singer doesn't miss a ton of bats, but he has shown a knack for collecting called strikes by the bucketful, something our own Matt Williams discussed in his By The Numbers column this week. He's a perfectly respectable fifth or sixth starter on mixed league rosters.
Mike Ford 1B, Yankees (Yahoo: 0 percent rostered)
Not a lot has gone right for the Yankees so far, but Luke Voit should be back by mid-May. Until then, the Yankees figure to go with a combination of Ford and DJ LeMahieu at first base. Ford just returned to the majors following Jay Bruce’s retirement, though he hasn’t done anything of note so far. The 28-year-old struggled during his time with the Yankees last year, but he slugged 12 homers with a .909 OPS in 163 plate appearances in 2019. Worth a shot in case something clicks for him.
Anthony Castro RP, Blue Jays (Yahoo: 0 percent rostered
The Blue Jays’ closer situation has been the subject of plenty of interest following Kirby Yates’ Tommy John surgery, but fate continues to keep us guessing. Julian Merryweather went down with an oblique strain and Jordan Romano quickly followed him to the injured list, throwing this whole situation into question. The Blue Jays have only had two players notch saves in the past couple of weeks, one of them an unconventional save from Tommy Milone on April 10 and the other of the one-out variety from Castro on Wednesday against the Red Sox. Who knows if this will turn into anything, but Castro has looked pretty good so far. The stuff is nasty, including a mid-90s fastball with cut and a slider which he relies on heavily. He was a decent prospect with the Tigers, so the Blue Jays might have really found something here. Romano is due back soon, but Charlie Montoyo could keep his word about using a committee approach.
Brad Miller 2B/3B/OF, Phillies (Yahoo: 1 percent rostered)
Miller notched four hits Wednesday against the Giants and should see plenty of opportunities while Jean Segura is on the shelf with a right quad strain. His longtime contact issues will cap his batting average upside, but he brings plenty of pop to the table, including 20 homers in 341 plate appearances over the past two seasons. With his multi-position eligibility, he’s a nice plug-and-play option. You could even make the case for him in deeper mixed leagues depending on the severity of Segura’s injury and how the playing time might shake out. Also of note with the Phillies, it looks like Mickey Moniak is getting a real shot in center field.
Lewis Brinson OF, Marlins (Yahoo: 0 percent rostered)
Listen, folks, I don’t know. Brinson might never figure things out, but he at least showed some slights signs of improvement last year, improving his contact rate to the point where he could possibly have a passable batting average. He also improved his quality of contact and displayed his usual excellent sprint speed. With Starling Marte sidelined due to a fractured rib, it appears Brinson should see plenty of time in center field. As long as the opportunities are there, go for it. The same goes for Ka’ai Tom with the Pirates after he was claimed off waivers from the Athletics this week. He should play a bunch with Anthony Alford and Dustin Fowler out of the picture.
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