We're in the homestretch now. Not many weeks left to play the waiver wire, which means you want to make sure your pickups count for something.
One way to do that is to look at matchups the rest of the way, targeting the players with the most favorable road ahead. Another way is to zero in on the players most capable of making a substantive impact regardless of matchups -- the ones that have slipped through the cracks for one reason or another.
Here I'm doing a little bit of both, but mostly the latter. In particular, there are 10 players that I'm surprised have gotten as little traction as they have so far, given their recent performance and rest-of-season outlook. I've decided to gather them all in one place so that you can feel confident you're making the most impactful pickups you can.
Granted, some of the players fill different purposes than others, and Seth Beer at the end of is sort of the token deep-league pickup. Still, if there was ever a Waiver Wire article to latch onto, this is the one.
Which isn't to say it'll be the last one in 2021. Still three weeks to go!
PHI Philadelphia • #55 • Age: 26
I've been banging the drum for Ranger Suarez ever since he joined the rotation. If you can't see why, I'll spell it out for you: E-R-A. Sure, we recognize these days that it's not the best predictor, but ... his is 1.38. And it's 1.67 in his eight starts, meaning he hasn't lost anything since moving out of the bullpen. The key is not allowing a single home run during that stretch, which makes sense given that his 60.7 percent ground-ball rate would rank a distant first among qualifiers, and he has a respectable strikeout rate to go with it. He's looking at matchups against the Cubs, Orioles, Pirates and Marlins the rest of the way, too, so let's not put him off anymore.
NYY N.Y. Yankees • #65 • Age: 26
The case for Nestor Cortes isn't quite as compelling as the case for Ranger Suarez, but it once again starts with just how effective he's been -- a quality that hasn't diminished since he first got stretched out to five innings eight turns ago. His numbers since then: a 3.15 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, and 8.3 K/9. Deception is his game, which is difficult to quantify but often as effective as pure stuff. He varies his delivery, giving hitters different looks to keep them from squaring up the ball, which has turned his high fly-ball rate into a strength rather than a weakness. His next two turns line up against the Orioles and Rangers.
CHC Chi. Cubs • #18 • Age: 29
You could be forgiven for thinking Frank Schwindel is destined to slip mediocrity. He's a 29-year-old rookie, after all, and had gone a combined 4 for 35 with the Royals and Athletics before joining the Cubs. But with this extended look, which was made possible by the Cubs' deadline sell-off, it's becoming clearer he never got a fair shake due to his lack of on-base skills and limited defensive profile. He always hit in the minors, though, and showed it at times in spring training as well. With another 6-for-12 showing this weekend, which included a home run and double, it's time to take him seriously.
Ian Happ CF
CHC Chi. Cubs • #8 • Age: 27
I question Ian Happ's recent production even more than I do Frank Schwindel's given that the two are on opposite ends of the strikeout spectrum, but of course, Happ has had Fantasy clout for longer. A power breakthrough seemed to be in the cards for him, and it looks like it's happening, if later than expected. Sunday's home run gives him four in his past six games, so he's showing no signs of slowing down. The Cubs matchups for this upcoming week could be better, which will impact Schwarber also, but for the two weeks thereafter, they get the Twins, Pirates and Cardinals twice.
STL St. Louis • #65 • Age: 30
For so many teams, we're constantly having to guess who'll get the next save, which leaves the myriad possibilities in a state of waiver wire limbo. But the Cardinals have handed each of their past six saves to Giovanny Gallegos, who just so happens to be an ace reliever or something close to it. They never officially declared him the closer, but we've since learned that Alex Reyes' removal from the role isn't just a temporary measure. He's expected to serve as a multi-inning reliever now in preparation for a rotation spot next year. With him out of the picture, you can invest confidently in Gallegos, who has four saves in only the past five days.
Nicky Lopez SS
KC Kansas City • #8 • Age: 26
Think back to before the season and the enthusiasm you or others like you had for Nick Madrigal. Now, look at Nicky Lopez's numbers since the end of May. Hasn't he been basically everything you hoped Madrigal would be -- i.e., lots of batting average and a pretty good steals total from a second baseman? Yeah, that's the ticket, except that Lopez is also eligible at shortstop. He knows what he is, keeping the ball on the ground and punching it to all fields rather than selling out for home runs. The minor-league track record backs it up, too. If you can do without power, he can be useful.
MIA Miami • #44 • Age: 23
No organization understands pitching right now better than the Marlins, and Jesus Luzardo is the latest evidence. The former top prospect, who impressed in his rookie season last year, looked positively broken in his final days with the Athletics, which is how the Marlins were able to acquire him for two months' worth of Starling Marte. It took a while, but Luzardo's past three turns would suggest he's fixed, capped by his career-high 24 swinging strikes against the Mets last time out. The most notable change he's made is fading his fastball, which had been getting pummeled, to make his curveball and changeup his most-thrown pitches. Given his upside, it's time to take another shot on him.
Joe Ryan SP
MIN Minnesota • #74 • Age: 25
Joe Ryan delivered a 1.96 ERA, 0.84 WHIP and 13.3 K/9 between three minor-league levels in 2019. He also had a 3.41 ERA, 0.79 WHIP and 12.5 K/9 at Triple-A this year, but because he wasn't a conventional pitching prospect, he was at best a borderline top-100 guy on a traditional rank list. His success is mostly built on the deception of his fastball, which he doesn't even throw particularly hard. It was reasonable, then, to wonder how it might translate to the majors. Also reasonable is moving to add him after seeing him take a perfect game into the seventh inning of his second start. His next few turns line up against the Royals, White Sox and Rangers.
TOR Toronto • #30 • Age: 22
Hyped at the start of the year for his incredible bat-to-ball skills that saw him strike out (39) less than he walked (56) in the minors two years ago, Alejandro Kirk went on to miss much of this season with a strained hip flexor. But he's been playing as much as most any other catcher-eligible player over the past couple weeks, splitting his time at DH. And with four home runs in his past six games to go along with a high average exit velocity (92.1 mph) and fly-ball rate (42.1 percent), it's becoming increasingly clear he's not built for contact alone. The Blue Jays' schedule is particularly favorable down the stretch, and the 22-year-old is poised to take advantage at a weak position.
Seth Beer 1B
ARI Arizona • #28 • Age: 25
The last-place Diamondbacks have finally granted the soon-to-be 25-year-old Seth Beer his audition for next year, and his first three games have gone about as well as anyone could hope. His first at-bat was a pinch-hit home run, which led to him starting the next two games at DH. Overall, he has gone 4 for 8 with the home run and a double. Slow-footed but disciplined, he's like a Moneyball-era throwback and has demonstrated his OPS potential at every level. It remains to be seen if the Diamondbacks will wager his defense at first base when there's no other choice, but if so, he could be useful over the final three weeks.