The 2021 MLB season has been defined by a lot of different factors, but the biggest one might just be injuries. And, if it wasn't the biggest before Saturday, the loss of Ronald Acuña to a season-ending ACL tear certainly added to the case.
There's no replacing a player like Acuña on your Fantasy Baseball roster, just like there's no replacing him in the Braves lineup. Oh, sure, technically Ehire Adrianza stepped into the lineup for Acuña on Sunday, just like technically you'll have to put someone in your lineup to replace him too, but there's obviously no one player who can help make up for the production you're going to be losing with Acuña sidelined.
You still have to try, of course. You have to make some roster moves to try to find immediate help, and the most obvious way is on the waiver-wire. But it won't be the most effective way. I'll have some waiver-wire options to consider below, but first, here are some potential trade options to consider who could help you weather the storm with Acuna sidelined:
- We talk Ronald Acuña and ranking Shane McClanahan, Jameson Taillon, Jake Odorizzi and Jon Gray after this weekend on the Fantasy Baseball Today in 5 podcast. You can follow us to get the latest episodes on Apple, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.
Option 1: Trade for another bonafide star. Duh. But also, obviously, much easier said than done. Any trade you make for a direct replacement of Acuña is going to weaken you somewhere else. Maybe you've got enough depth to do it without severely limiting your chances of competing, but it's going to be tough. Players with both power and speed are rare, and finding one who doesn't hurt you in batting average is especially tough. You'll probably have to look outside of the outfield position to find the right fit. I would consider Trevor Story an ideal target for this. He's a bit of a buy-low candidate since the power and average haven't been there so far, but they should be moving forward. It's also worth considering Javier Baez, whose batting average makes him difficult to stomach, but you're probably a lot more desperate than whoever currently has him.
Option 2: Make some buy-low offers. There are two obvious candidates here: Christian Yelich and Cody Bellinger. Both are struggling through very difficult seasons, and there is rightly a lot of skepticism about whether they'll be able to turn it around. At this point, I would probably bet against either playing like a superstar moving forward. But, if you're going to win a championship after losing Acuña, you're going to need someone who isn't currently performing like a superstar to do so. If you're already a long-shot without Acuña, you don't lose much if Bellinger and Yelich don't produce moving forward. If they do, you've got your Acuña replacement, and potentially then some. On a lower level, I would also suggest Randy Arozarena, who has been a bit of a disappointment following his mammoth stretch run in 2020. There are real flaws in his game he needs to fix, but a 20-homer, 10-steal second half isn't at all out of the question if he can start driving the ball in the air consistently.
Option 3: Acquire other injured superstars. This is a gigantic risk, but as with the prior option, if you can't see a path forward without Acuña, you aren't losing anything by taking on risks anyway. I would be looking at Ketel Marte, Byron Buxton, and Luis Robert as potential stretch run difference makers. These would have to be moves made in conjunction with waiver-wire adds who can hopefully keep you afloat until they are healthy enough to play. Buxton and Marte don't exactly have clear timetables right now, but the hope is they can be back in August. Amazingly Robert might actually have the clearest path and might be the first back. He was cleared to begin baseball activities a few weeks ago and could be ready to go on a rehab assignment before the end of July. That creates a path for a potential early-August return for a player who could certainly do a passable Acuña impersonation over the final few months of the season. Robert has hit .259 with a 24-homer, 26-steal pace in his 81 major-league games, and at 23, he's just getting started. If he can come back from this calf injury at full strength, he could be one of the best mid-season acquisitions anyone could make -- and he's available in 31% of CBS Fantasy leagues right now.
Option 4: Play the waiver wire. Here are the top outfielders to consider to fill that Acuña-sized hole in your lineup, if not your heart:
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NYM N.Y. Mets • #9 • Age: 28
Nimmo is an obvious choice in points leagues because he's a plate-discipline expert and hits at the top of what should be a pretty good Mets lineup in the second half. It's been a tough few seasons for Nimmo thanks to injuries, but he's still hit .264/.393/.442 with 17 homers and 83 runs in 155 games since the start of 2019.
KC Kansas City • #16 • Age: 27
Benintendi is never going to be the superstar some thought he could be during his Boston days, but he's enjoying a solid bounceback season for the Royals. The biggest thing he's got going for him is how much the Royals have let him run so far, with 13 steal attempts in 66 games, compared to 13 in 138 back in 2019 for the Red Sox. He heads into the All-Star break cold since coming back from his rib injury, but if he's right, he can be a decent stop gap.
CHW Chi. White Sox • #25 • Age: 23
If you're looking for upside, Vaughn is probably your best bet on the wire. Vaughn has been a disappointment overall as a rookie, but heads into the break with 17 hits in his past 12 games, including three homers and 19 combined runs and RBI. He's an incredibly skilled hitter who just may be figuring things out at the right time. The 14.5% strikeout rate over his past dozen games is especially promising for a player whose plate discipline was a defining characteristic as a prospect.
MIN Minnesota • #19 • Age: 23
Kirilloff isn't quite on Vaughn's level as a prospect, but he's a solid one in his own right who has sported impressive batted-ball data even while putting up somewhat pedestrian numbers overall. If you believe his .297 expected average and .567 expected slugging percentage are likely to lead to better days ahead, he's an obvious add -- and the fact he's hitting .289/.372/.500 in 10 games since the start of July is a pretty promising sign.
Vidal Brujan 2B
TB Tampa Bay • #7 • Age: 23
OK, technically Brujan isn't an outfielder in CBS Fantasy -- yet. But he's played three games there already, so he only needs two more appearances, and as long as he remains with the team after the break, he'll get there very soon. The question is whether he'll play enough for that to matter, and then whether he'll hit enough for it to really matter. He played just one of three games after being recalled Friday, so that's not a great sign, and the Rays are the kind of organization that will play a top prospect in a platoon if they think it gives them the best chance of winning. Brujan was hitting .259/.344/.471 with nine homers and 15 steals in 49 games at Triple-A Durham, so it's obvious how he could make an impact, though his power production was pretty out-of-nowhere early on, and he's slowed down considerably since the first few weeks, so there's certainly no guarantee there. However, he might have as much upside for a categories league as you'll likely find.
Akil Baddoo CF
DET Detroit • #60 • Age: 22
Baddoo is less of a sure thing than the guys ahead of him, and the fact that he has mostly been consigned to platoon duty of late doesn't help either. However, he's hitting .315/.408/.449 since May 15 with a 30-plus steal pace. The counting numbers beyond that may leave you wanting more, but if you're just looking to replace Acuña's speed without killing you in average, Baddoo might be the best option.
CLE Cleveland • #35 • Age: 26
I liked Mercado as a deep sleeper coming into the season, but he was unceremoniously shipped off to the minors after a miserable spring and hit just .216/.327/.392 in Triple-A Columbus. However, he's up with the big-league team and is 9 for 32 with four extra-base hits and two steals, so maybe there's something here. Mercado was a top-150 pick heading into last season after he had 15 homers and 15 steals in 115 games in 2019. If he can tap into that, he can be one of the better Acuña replacements possible.