Touki Toussaint is a Changed Man

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With the reality settling in that Jacob deGrom likely won’t pitch again in 2021, this feels like the final blow in what’s been an injury-ravaged 2021 season. Shane Bieber has been out since mid-June with a right shoulder strain. Ronald Acuña Jr. tore his ACL on July 10th and he was ruled out for the remainder of the season later that day. Mike Trout missed over three months with a severe calf strain that he suffered in mid-May. As we can see, if you drafted in the first round this past offseason (majority of people did), you likely have dealt with an injury to one of your most productive players. For this reason, you likely ran to the waiver wire looking for help.

I truly hope there are significantly less injuries in 2022 than there were this season. Injuries will always occur, but we want to see as many players as possible playing a full season. With all this being said, it’s time to jump into another points league waiver wire piece. If you’re reading this, you’re likely playoff bound, so I want to make sure you’re targeting the right waiver wire options. Without further ado, let’s get into it!

Points League Options

(Players rostered in under 50% of ESPN leagues)

Touki Toussaint SP, Braves (39% rostered)

As a former 1st round pick (16th overall in the 2014 MLB Draft), it’s fair to conclude that the 25-year-old righty has yet to live up to expectations. At that time, Toussaint was a 6-foot-2, 195 pound 17-year-old who possessed a 97 mph fastball, a terrific curveball, a developing changeup, and spotty command/control. Many believed he had one of the highest ceilings in his draft class, and understandably so given the stuff he was showcasing at the time. Unfortunately, his command and control issues have held him back up to this point. Over 593 minor league innings pitched, he has a 11.4% walk rate. Over 92 ⅓ career major league innings pitched coming into the 2021 season, he had an even worse 14.2% walk rate. Now, over his first 33 ⅔ innings pitched of 2021, his walk rate is sitting at 7.9%. What’s changed? He’s been throwing his hard pitches for more strikes (career high 42.2% zone rate). More than that, he’s been throwing more first pitch strikes (career high 60.0% first strike rate).

Getting ahead in the count is one of the keys to maintaining an economical pitch count, while being a productive pitcher overall. Toussaint seemingly understands this and has been making the changes he needs to make to become a better pitcher. In addition to this, according to Pitcher List, there’s been a noteworthy increase to his glove side location rate. Glove side location is when a pitcher is essentially throwing pitches across the strike zone, to the side where their glove is. Conversely, arm side location is when a pitcher throws their pitches to the side of their throwing arm. Toussaint’s increased glove side location rate helps him attack more areas of the strike zone. When you attack more areas of the strike zone, there’s a good chance you’ll end up throwing more strikes.

However, Toussaint’s new approach has resulted in him allowing hard contact at a career worst rate (48.9%). Due to all this hard contact he’s been allowing, he’s given up at least one home run in each of his last five appearances. You can’t win them all, but above all else, we want to see Toussaint walking less batters and throwing more strikes. For the rest of the season, I can see Toussaint continuing to throw strikes -- and first pitch strikes -- at career high rates. More than that, he should continue to limit walks while racking up strikeouts with his curveball and splitter. Don’t be surprised if he has another blow up outing or two, but his fantasy value has never seemed more reliable.

Frank Schwindel 1B, Cubs (24% rostered)

I’ve addressed this in past articles, but I’m a big supporter of late-bloomers. It tells us that that player never gave up. They wanted to keep playing baseball, they kept playing baseball, and now they’re seeing their dreams come true. It’s a part of what makes this game so beautiful, and Frank Schwindel’s performance so far this season is yet another example of a player who never hung their cleats up.

It’s a very small sample size, but over 83 at-bats, the 29-year-old rookie is slashing .313/.345/.602 with five home runs, nine doubles, a 4.6% walk rate, and a 19.5% strikeout rate. As a minor leaguer, Schwindel had a below average strikeout rate in most of his minor league seasons (15.6% strikeout rate over 3,468 plate appearances). Given his low walk rate, low strikeout rate, and ability to hit for average, it’s fair to conclude that Schwindel is a good contact hitter -- and his metrics help support this. Through 32 career MLB games, he’s sporting a 93.1% zone contact rate, a 76.2% contact rate, and a 71.6% zone swing rate. So, not only does he make a lot of contact in the zone, but he swings in the zone a lot. In other words, he’s an aggressive hitter who knows how to make a lot of contact.

As his sample size grows, we’ll get a better idea of what type of hitter he is exactly. And given the Cubs’ situation and Schwindel’s approach when at the plate, we could see a good amount of hits from him down the stretch. Some deemed him a Quad-A bat, but it sounds like Schwindel has other plans. Give him a look if you’re searching for cheap offensive help that could assist you with your championship run.

Travis d’Arnaud C, Braves (48% rostered)

Considering the raw power he possesses, the fact that d’Arnaud has yet to have a 20 home run campaign is kind of surprising, but understandable at the same time. The 32-year-old veteran began his professional career in the Phillies’ system, and he’s been with five different organizations since. His offensive performance has never been much of an issue. Rather, it’s his durability -- or lack thereof -- that’s been holding him back from reaching his ceiling.

Dating back to 2013 -- his rookie season -- d’Arnaud has dealt with a plethora of injuries. In 2014, he suffered what was already the third official concussion of his professional baseball career. In 2015, he broke his hand on a hit by pitch and sprained his left elbow, limiting him to just 268 plate appearances. Then, if we fast-forward past all of his other injuries, just this year he dealt with a torn left thumb ligament that held him out for over three months. The guy’s fragile, and he isn’t getting any younger.

Nevertheless, when healthy, d’Arnaud has the upside to be one of the best offensive catchers in the game. While he’s never had a 20 home run season, over his last 627 at-bats dating back to 2019, he has a .265/.326//451 slash line with 29 home runs. This shows us that if d’Arnaud ever did play a full season’s worth of games, he’d likely surpass that 20 home run mark. To further support his power upside, since 2018 (480 batted ball events), he has a 113.1 max exit velocity, 8.1% barrel rate, and a 43.8% hard hit rate. All these rates are well above average and point to a hitter that possesses a fair amount of raw pop. He is currently on the paternity list, but I see no reason why he can’t be a rock-solid source of power for fantasy teams when he returns.

Miles Mikolas SP, Cardinals (18% rostered)

Miles Mikolas’ 2.83 ERA campaign (200 2/3 innings pitched) feels like a very distant memory. It only happened a few years back in 2018, but so much has occurred since then -- most notably a worldwide pandemic. In that 2018 season, Mikolas had an 18.1% strikeout rate (14.5% K-BB). So how did he manage to limit runs so consistently? His command and control skills were phenomenal. Armed with low-mid 90s hard pitches that had slightly above average spin rates, a slider, a curveball, and a changeup, Mikolas had no issue commanding his arsenal in 2018. Each of his offerings had a 3.6% walk rate or less and he was limiting hard contact with the help of his strong command (29.2% hard hit rate). He’s not a 2.83 ERA pitcher, but it isn’t too difficult to understand how he limited runs so efficiently when you understand how strong his command was.

Sad to say, but we haven’t seen the type of command he showcased in 2018 since. In 2019, his 4.16 ERA over 184.0 innings pitched was a more accurate representation of his overall skill set. More than that, his command wasn’t as sharp that year and it’s very much possible -- if not probable -- that Mikolas never performs similarly to how he did in 2018 again. So what does this mean for his fantasy value going forward? He should be a serviceable option for as long as he’s healthy.

A right forearm injury forced him to miss the entire 2020 sample size and just this past spring, he went on the injured list due to right forearm tightness. Additionally, he was dealing with right shoulder soreness just a couple months before the tightness appeared, so in all, his right arm has been in a lot of pain over the past year plus. He appears healthy now, but his long-term health is a legitimate concern. Thankfully, we’re only worried about redraft here and Mikolas should be a solid source of depth for the rest of the season. He’s not going to win you your matchup, but having a good amount of starting pitching depth in a points league playoff matchup could be the difference between winning and losing.

Bobby Dalbec 1B, Red Sox (11% rostered)

I’ve said it before and I’ll continue to say it until it happens: Bobby Dalbec can be a perennial All-Star in this league if he learns how to stop swinging and missing so much. Why? The 26-year-old right-handed hitter possesses massive raw power.

As a minor leaguer, his profile wasn’t too difficult to comprehend: big time power, below average contact skills, a lot of walks (11.7% walk rate), and even more strikeouts (29.8% strikeout rate). He slightly decreased his strikeout rate in 2019 playing between Double-A and Triple-A (24.7% strikeout rate), but his overall ability to make contact remained poor. He made his MLB debut on August 30th, 2020 and over the first 397 at-bats of his MLB career, he’s earned a .234/.297/.463 slash line with 22 home runs, a 6.5% walk rate, and a 37.3% strikeout rate. Almost exactly as advertised.

His 61.4% career contact rate is well below average and he’s been swinging and missing at a very high rate against breaking and offspeed pitches. However, his tendency to swing and miss has been gradually decreasing since his MLB debut. In fact, since August 1st of this season, he has a 10.9% walk rate and 26.1% strikeout rate over 46 plate appearances. Going deeper, he’s struck out just three times since August 10th (28 plate appearances). These are microscopic sample sizes and we shouldn’t draw any concrete conclusions from them. However, if a player like Dalbec starts to show signs that their plate discipline could be improving, we need to start paying very close attention.

Tyler Anderson SP, Mariners (22% rostered)

Tyler Anderson has always been a strike thrower. From 2016-2019, he never had a zone rate less than 46.6%. He pounds the zone and understands how to do it consistently. Now, saying he’s just a strike thrower might be underselling him a bit because his overall command of his arsenal has always been rather solid. Pitching for Colorado between 2016-2019 capped his ceiling, but locating his pitches and limiting hard contact has always been Anderson’s game.

More than this, he’s always been a pitcher who’s had above average spin rates on his hard pitches. However, when the foreign substance crackdown occurred in June, Anderson saw his spin rates drop. What followed seemed to be a slight adjustment period, as it’s possible Anderson has been learning to pitch again without the use of a certain foreign substance. Thankfully, banning the usage of foreign substances can’t directly take away someone’s solid control and command skills, so there’s no reason to believe Anderson can’t continue to limit free passes. His ceiling in points leagues is low due to his capped strikeout ability, but don’t overlook starting pitching depth. If you’re desperate for some depth as we approach the fantasy playoffs, Anderson is worth a look.

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Deep Points League Options

(Players rostered in under 10% of ESPN leagues)

Tommy La Stella 2B/1B, Giants (7% rostered)

Over the course of his entire professional career, La Stella has just refused to strike out like a normal human being. In his minor league career, his walk rate (11.0%) was notably higher than his strikeout rate (9.6%). To put it simply, La Stella possesses some of the best plate discipline skills in the baseball world -- and the metrics back it up. He has a career 91.6% zone contact rate, 86.9% contact rate and 25.9% chase rate. All he does is make contact through utilizing above average bat control and a strong eye at the plate. He’s a professional hitter who lacks one thing that would make him a perennial All-Star: power.

Over 1,430 career MLB at-bats, he’s hit just 33 home runs. In 2019 (321 at-bats), he hit 16 of those 33 home runs by obliterating fastballs. However, he’s hit just seven home runs over his last 353 at-bats, so it’s possible that we look back at his 2019 season and see it as a true outlier. Nonetheless, La Stella doesn’t need to hit home runs to provide value in points leagues, he just needs to stay healthy and receive regular playing time. His low strikeout rate will never hurt you, which helps him maintain a nice floor when he’s on the field. His playing time has been slightly sporadic since his return in early August, but La Stella could easily be a solid utility option for fantasy teams down the stretch -- unless his playing time becomes too sporadic.

Daniel Lynch SP, Royals (6% rostered)

Standing at 6-foot-6, 190 pounds, the young southpaw is an imposing figure whenever he steps out onto the mound. Back in 2018, the Royals selected Lynch 34th overall in the 2018 MLB Draft. As a minor leaguer, Lynch limited walks, ate innings, and struck out batters at an above average rate. He did this by demonstrating the ability to locate his pitches nicely while throwing them all for strikes. However, his mid-high 90s four-seam fastball’s location had reportedly been spotty in the minors at times, leading to a lot of contact and hits off of the pitch. And understandably, his four-seamer’s location at the major league level hasn’t been ideal early on either.

He’s thrown 292 four-seamers and the pitch has allowed a .430 wOBA (.455 xwOBA) and a 93.3 mph average exit velocity. The pitch in and of itself has below average spin and mediocre vertical movement when compared to four-seamers similar to Lynch’s. As a result, where Lynch throws his four-seamer is key. Right now, he’s been pounding the top of the zone with the pitch, but he’s also been throw it to his glove side a lot.

As I mentioned earlier in this piece, throwing to your glove side results in you catching more of the strike zone with pitches, which can be a good thing. But in this case, Lynch’s four-seamer has giving up a lot of hits because he’s been pounding the zone with it (56.5% zone rate). Lynch needs to start throwing his four-seam arm side almost every time. This will likely result in right-handed hitters touching his fastball less and Lynch becoming an abundantly more effective pitcher when on the mound. In all honesty, I’m surprised by his low ownership. He had a rough start to the season, but as of late he’s been eating up innings while getting more comfortable on the mound. Given his low ownership and skill set, he’s definitely capable of helping you in the fantasy playoffs. He’s still a rookie though, so tread lightly.