MLB Week 16 Hitting Waiver Wire: Time To Upgrade At First Base

NamePositionTeamESPN Own %
Josh Bell1BWashington Nationals62.4
Andrew Vaughn1B, OFChicago White Sox37.8
Max KeplerOFMinnesota Twins59.4
Garrett Cooper1B, OFMiami Marlins11.9
Vidal Bruján2BTampa Bay Rays14.8

1. Josh Bell | 1B | Washington Nations

It’s taken some time, but Josh Bell seems to have finally come around. After slashing .207/.268/.400 with seven home runs, 22 RBIs, 27 runs, and a 39-to-11 strikeout-to-walk ratio through the end of May, Bell seems to have rediscovered his stroke. Since the beginning of June, Bell is slashing .312/.379/.548 with five home runs, 19 RBIs, 12 runs, and an 18-to-10 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Keep in mind that Bell has a career .810 OPS and it was just back in 2019 when he smacked 37 home runs and 116 RBIs with a .936 OPS in 143 games played. By no means is he a total slouch at the plate, and despite how the last season and a half has tried to convince you otherwise, Bell truthers are finally reaping the rewards. Perhaps most encouraging for Bell is the fact that he has the batted ball metrics to back him up. He’s in the 90th-percentile in both Average Exit Velocity and HardHit%, as well as in the 76th-percentile in Expected Slugging. His plate discipline is decent too, as he’s also right around league average in terms of strikeouts and walks. Call me crazy but all signs point towards an extremely valuable fantasy player down the stretch. How long are you going to keep plugging Eric Hosmer and Nate Lowe in your lineup while other available first baseman such as Josh Bell continue to produce?

2. Andrew Vaughn | 1B, OF | Chicago White Sox

If not Josh Bell, there’s another first baseman that has been rather good lately and his name is Andrew Vaughn. Sure, a lot of us drafted Vaughn and coined ourselves geniuses for the great pick. Some of us even held on to him through the Luis Robert injury in anticipation that he would both figure it out and gain outfield eligibility (me). Needless to say, he eventually was dropped almost everywhere and has been that player you keep seeing on the waiver wire list lately. Well, I’m here to tell you that he’s actually been pretty solid. Going back to June 16th, in 19 games, Vaughn is slashing .300/.323/.533 with three home runs, seven RBIs, 11 runs, and a 15-to-3 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Sure, the strikeouts and walks are a bit alarming, as they have been all season. Vaughn is in the 22nd-percentile in terms of K% and in the 36th-percentile in terms of BB%. Other than that though, he’s starting to produce at the plate. Additionally, he’s in the 84th-percentile and 88th-percentile in terms of Average Exit Velocity and HardHit% respectively. I wouldn’t break the bank to acquire him, but he’s a good end-of-the-roster piece to provide some production that you are likely not receiving from other disappointing players (still looking at you, Hosmer).

3. Max Kepler | OF | Minnesota Twins

Can I merge three left-handed Twins outfielders into one super player and put that person on the waiver wire list? I guess that’s Byron Buxton, who unfortunately is rehabbing from a broken hand. In his absence, we have been seeing a lot of Max Kepler, Alex Kiriloff, and Trevor Larnach. All three of them are left-handed hitters and two of them (Kiriloff and Larnach) are rookies who were abruptly thrust into everyday roles. Kepler, however, might have a second-half surge hidden in him somewhere. After a monstrous 2019 season, Kepler’s 2020 was disappointing and he has spent much of 2021 injured. He’s healthy now and showing some signs of life. Over his last five games, Kepler is slashing .278/.350/.833 with three home runs, four RBIs, 5 runs, and a 7-to-2 strikeout-to-walk ratio. It’s just five games, but he’s hitting the snot out of the ball. In addition, he’s batted ball statistics are rather encouraging. On the season, he’s in the 73rd-percentile or higher in Average Exit Velocity, HardHit%, and Barrel%. His plate discipline metrics aren’t horrible, either. While his strikeout numbers are right around average, he’s also in the 90th-percentile in terms of Chase Rate and in the 74th-percentile in terms of BB%. For somebody who is healthy and has a track record of success, as well as the underlying metrics to back him up, it sure feels as if he’s going to be really valuable down the stretch.

4. Garrett Cooper | 1B, OF | Miami Marlins

Not Adam Duvall, but Garrett Cooper. Although, you could pick up Adam Duvall instead if he’s available in your league. For deeper leagues though, seriously consider Garrett Cooper. In 223 plate appearances in 2021, Cooper is slashing .284/.377/.479 with nine home runs, 31 RBIs, 26 runs, one stolen base, and a 62-to-26 strikeout-to-walk ratio. While these numbers are not going to blow you away, it is solid production to be had that is in all likelihood better than a few players currently on your roster. In addition to solid overall numbers, Cooper has been scorching hot. Since returning from the injured list on June 25th, he is slashing .483/.615/.966 with nine runs, four home runs, nine RBIs, and a 10-to-10 strikeout-to-walk ratio. We seem to overlook how consistent Cooper really has been. Since becoming a staple in the Marlins lineup in 2019, Cooper has slashed .282/.355/.465 over 777 plate appearances. What more can you ask for?

5. Vidal Bruján | 2B | Tampa Bay Rays

Finally! Both Wander Franco and Vidal Bruján played in Rays uniforms yesterday. Bruján hit an RBI single in his first major league at-bat, stole second, and ultimately came around to score on a Kevin Kiermaier double. He did unfortunately follow that up with an 0-for-5 stretch between the rest of that game and the second game of their double header. He was also the 27th player added to the roster just for the double header and will likely get sent back down today. In fact, as I type this, I am still waiting word on whether or not the Rays sent him back or made a move to keep him. Is one RBI single and a stolen base enough of an impression to get the Rays to keep him up? We shall see. Either way, roster him. If they don’t keep him up now, they could be calling him back up in the near future. So far in AAA this season, Brujan was slashing .259/.344/.471 with nine home runs, 29 RBIs, 15 stolen bases, 37 runs, and a 34-to-25 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Update: They did send him down. However, he’s back! Mike Brosseau hit the IL and Brujan is back up. He should get an opportunity now to play across multiple games and possibly earn his keep.

Zach Boeder is a high school math teacher that has a passion for sports and data journalism. Zach received a Bachelor's Degree in Mathematics and a Master's Degree in Education from the University of Arizona. He currently teaches in Saint Paul and Lives in Minneapolis with his partner Sarah, their dog Dozier, and cat Remy. Zach plans to argue for a very long time that "2020 would have been the Twins' year if baseball hadn't been shut down."

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