In the Nick of Time

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Just some programming notes about Waiver Wired as we move into the home stretch for the 2021 MLB regular season. Next week will be the final edition of this column in its usual form, with detailed recommendations on specific players. For the following two weeks, we’ll focus more on category need as well as multi-positional eligible players and matchup plays. The final Waiver Wired of the season will be posted on Thursday, September 30th, with starting pitcher recommendations for the final weekend as well as awards for the biggest waiver wire success stories at each position.

Here’s hoping you still have a shot to win your league as the season comes to a close. Let’s get to work.

Have specific questions about your roster? Ask @djshort on Twitter.

MIXED LEAGUES

(Players rostered in under 50 percent of Yahoo leagues)

Note: Percentages are from the morning of Thursday, September 2nd

Keibert Ruiz C, Nationals (Yahoo: 21 percent rostered)

Nationals fans have already gotten a good look at Josiah Gray after coming over from the Dodgers in the trade for Max Scherzer and Trea Turner, but now it’s Ruiz’s turn. After spending a month at Triple-A Rochester, the 23-year-old was called up this week and should see the bulk of the playing time behind the plate the rest of the way. Ruiz has always displayed a strong approach in the minors, but the power progression this year (21 homers in 72 games in Triple-A) really puts him on the map among fantasy catchers. It’s unfair to expect him to stand out in single-catcher leagues from the jump, but he’s certainly relevant in two-catcher formats.

Connor Joe 1B/OF, Rockies (Yahoo: 25 percent rostered)

Joe has been mentioned in this space before, but it’s worth bringing him up again with the Rockies set to begin a seven-game homestand on Thursday. Also of note, it appears he’ll keep the leadoff spot even though Raimel Tapia has returned from the injured list. Joe deserves a real shot there seeing that he’s hit .287/.380/.477 through 205 plate appearances this season. He’s walked in 12.2 percent of his plate appearances while posting one of the lowest chase rates (18.7 percent) in the majors. Among qualified hitters, only Max Muncy (15.8 percent) and Juan Soto (15.5 percent) are lower. The 29-year-old looks like an ideal leadoff hitter, so the Rockies might really have something here. Keep going with this one.

Luis Patiño SP, Rays (Yahoo: 21 percent rostered)

Patiño holds a 3.89 ERA over seven starts since returning from the minors on July 22. He’s completed six innings in three of them and is coming off impressive back-to-back starts against the White Sox and Red Sox. Perhaps most impressively, he’s walked just two batters in that time (11 2/3 innings) after issuing five walks in a three-inning outing against the Twins on August 15. Coming off a career-best 19 swinging strikes (including 17 of them on his four-seamer) in his last start, Patiño looks ready for prime time.

Adam Ottavino RP, Red Sox (Yahoo: 40 percent rostered)

If the Red Sox keep losing everyone to the COVID-19 injured list, there might not be many games to save, but Ottavino has emerged as the top option for now. This was the case even before Matt Barnes tested positive for COVID. The All-Star had allowed 10 runs over the span of 4 1/3 innings before Ottavino stepped in and secured each of the last two saves. Expect this to continue in the coming days, even though it hasn’t been smooth sailing for Ottavino this season. But you do what you have to do at this time of the year.

Nick Solak 2B/3B/OF, Rangers (Yahoo: 33 percent rostered)

In an episode of the Circling the Bases Podcast back in the spring, I predicted that Solak would finish the season at a top-100 player in mixed leagues. That was looking pretty good back in April, but he hit just .196 with two homers and a .536 OPS from the start of May until he was demoted in late July. After a good showing in Triple-A, he’s kept that going by hitting in 10 straight games since returning last month. The 26-year-old is batting .359 (14-for-39) with two homers, two doubles, eight RBI, and six runs scored during this time while settling into the No. 6 spot in the Rangers’ lineup. He’s making a ton of contact, an encouraging sign after the way he struggled in that area prior to his demotion. Qualifying at three different positions, Solak is worth the gamble in competitive mixed leagues.

Bailey Ober SP, Twins (Yahoo: 16 percent rostered)

Ober’s numbers in the minors were always impressive, but he never found himself on top prospect lists because his raw stuff didn’t quite match up. The 26-year-old is a different pitcher these days, though, as he’s picked up velocity on both his fastball and slider while posting a 3.98 ERA and 77/17 K/BB ratio in 74 2/3 innings through his first 16 major league starts. There were some initial ups and downs, but he’s been money for the better part of the past two months, compiling a 2.81 ERA over his last eight turns. He’s allowed two earned runs or fewer in six out of his last seven starts. This has been a bitterly disappointing year for the Twins, but Ober and Wednesday call-up Joe Ryan look like keepers for this rotation.

Odubel Herrera 2B/OF, Phillies (Yahoo: 10 percent rostered)

Herrera faded terribly in July while also missing time with left ankle tendonitis, but he got back in track in August by slashing .341/.409/.634 with six homers, 14 RBI, one stolen base, and 13 runs scored over 25 games. He’s hit safely in each of his last five games and has hit leadoff in each of his last eight starts. Herrera has been sitting against lefties recently, with Jorge Bonifacio making the start in center field on Wednesday, but this still leaves plenty of room for him to produce in mixed leagues. He’s just a better fit in leagues which allow for daily lineup changes.

Joe Barlow RP, Rangers (Yahoo: 16 percent rostered)

Are you sure you want to chase saves? You sure about that? Barlow’s performance on Wednesday was a reminder about the pitfalls of the strategy, especially at this time of year. Barlow had a terrible time against the Rockies, blowing a save and taking a loss after walking two and giving up a go-ahead two-run double. To be fair, Barlow looked fine in his return from the injured list on Monday and he’s mostly been effective in his rookie season. He’s certainly a more stable option than Spencer Patton, but you never know with unproven pitchers. As I said with Ottavino above, you do what you have to do.

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Deeper Dandies

(Players rostered in under 10 percent of Yahoo leagues)

Brad Miller 1B/2B/3B/OF, Phillies (Yahoo: 6 percent rostered)

Miller has already been playing a bunch recently, but his playing time should be more secure now that we know Rhys Hoskins is done for the year due to core muscle repair surgery. It’s a tough blow for the Phillies as they try to chase down the Braves in the National League East, but Miller offers some interesting power potential and valuable versatility for most fantasy rosters. He’s gone deep three times in his last five games, giving him 15 homers in 293 plate appearances overall. He boasts an .854 OPS against right-handed pitching this season, so if used correctly, he could be quite useful.

Edward Olivares OF, Royals (Yahoo: 2 percent rostered)

Assuming the Royals haven’t demoted Olivares as I’m tying this, he could be a sneaky option for the stretch run. While his defense is a work in progress, the 25-year-old simply has nothing left to prove offensively in the minors. The 25-year-old batted .298/.370/.524 with 13 home runs and 12 steals over 63 games in Triple-A this season. He possesses elite sprint speed and has added more muscle since his prospect days with the Padres. He’s already been shuffled around a little bit since returning, but hopefully the Royals just put him in the lineup and let him play. If that happens, he could surprise.

Weekend Warriors

Friday:

Alec Mills vs. Pirates

Tyler Anderson at Diamondbacks

Here we are targeting two of the worst teams in baseball. It makes sense if you are scrounging for wins. Mills isn’t flashy, but he’s been fairly reliable in recent weeks, posting a 3.76 ERA and 39/11 K/BB ratio in 52 2/3 innings over his last 10 starts. He’s allowed more than three earned runs just once in that time. As for Anderson, he’s sporting a fine 3.18 ERA and 25/3 K/BB ratio in 34 innings through his first since starts with the Mariners. With impeccable control, the southpaw hasn’t allowed more than three earned runs in a start with his new team.

Saturday:

Reynaldo Lopez at Royals

Ranger Suarez at Marlins

Lopez has been lights out with the White Sox this year, compiling a 2.06 ERA and 37/7 K/BB ratio over 35 innings and now he’ll slot in the rotation with Lance Lynn on the injured list due to a knee issue. It’s worth noting that Lopez threw a scoreless inning of relief on Wednesday, so maybe this will change, but it’s possible the White Sox just wanted to use him on his throw day. Assuming Lopez remains on track, he’s a must-start here in most competitive leagues. Suarez is also becoming a bankable fantasy starter, having posting a 2.03 ERA through six starts in August. The Phillies used him in short bursts initially, but he pitched 6 2/3 innings against the Rays on August 24 before going 5 1/3 innings for the win against the Diamondbacks this past Sunday. Keep rolling with him.

Sunday:

Tylor Megill at Nationals

Taylor Hearn at Angels

Sunday is a little trickier, but at least he bounced back from a disastrous start against the Giants by limiting the Nationals to two runs on just one hit over five innings in his last start. Yes, facing the same team in back-to-back starts can be tough — Megill learned that lesson the hard way with the Giants — but the Nationals’ lineup isn’t nearly as intimidating. Go for it, depending on your need Sunday. Hearn has been a bright spot since moving into a bulk role in mid-July, posting a 2.94 ERA with 28 strikeouts and 11 walks in 33 2/3 innings. The southpaw moved into the rotation last month and has won each of his last two starts, including holding the Astros in check last time out. Hearn has switched up his pitch mix this year with a sinker to play off his four-seam fastball and so far the results are promising. Let’s see if he can keep it going.

AL ONLY

Romy Gonzalez 2B, White Sox (Yahoo: 0 percent rostered)

In a series of moves, Gonzalez was called up on Wednesday with Tim Anderson hitting the injured list due to a hamstring strain. Leury Garcia made the start at shortstop for Wednesday’s game, but Gonzalez is worth watching in case he gets a real shot here. The 24-year-old posted an impressive .275/.357/.525 batting line with 23 home runs and 22 stolen bases over 87 games between Double- and Triple-A this season. He worked hard despite the lack of a minor league season in 2020 and packed on muscle leading into this year. The results really speak for themselves. Gonzalez played all over the infield in the minors this year, so he could play a fun role for the White Sox down the stretch.

Khris Davis UTIL, Athletics (Yahoo: 1 percent rostered)

Well, we didn’t see this one coming. Davis’ future in the game was legitimately in doubt after he batted just .157/.262/.333 over 61 plate appearances with the Rangers this season leading to his release, but something clicked after his return to the Athletics’ organization. The 33-year-old straight-up mashed during his time with Triple-A Las Vegas, slugging 10 homers with a 1.303 OPS over just 16 games, leading to a call-up when rosters expanded on Wednesday. Who knows where this will go — it’s also worth noting that Davis struck out 25 times in 68 plate appearances with Vegas — maybe the A’s can catch some lightening in a bottle as they try to secure a playoff spot.

NL ONLY

Hoy Park SS/OF, Pirates (Yahoo: 0 percent rostered)

Park finally snapped out of an 0-for-24 hitless streak in Wednesday’s game against the White Sox. It was his second start since returning from the minors, as he was recalled when Michael Chavis went down with a strained elbow. It’s unfair to judge Park by this recent struggle, as he’s always shown a strong approach in the minors. He slugged 10 homers over 48 games with the Yankees’ Triple-A affiliate this year prior to being traded to Pittsburgh in the Clay Holmes deal, but we’ve never really seen this level of power before. He’s mostly known for his on-base ability and speed. It would appear the Pirates are testing the South Korea native for a utility role moving forward.

Matt Vierling OF, Phillies (Yahoo: 0 percent rostered)

A fifth-round pick from 2018, Vierling had a brutal 2019 season in High-A, but he put himself back on the map by hitting .276/.358/.444 with 11 home runs and 10 steals over 79 games this season between Double- and Triple-A. His numbers weren’t nearly as impressive in Triple-A (.690 OPS compared to 1.065 in Double-A), but he hits the ball hard. Case in point, this week he became just one of nine players since 2015 to hit five balls of at least 102 mph-plus in the same game. Thanks for Mike Petriello of MLB.com for that tidbit. Keep your eyes and ears open in case he gets a real chance for at-bats over the final month.