MLB Week 6 Hitting Waiver Wire: Jump On This Early Rookie of the Year Candidate

NamePositionTeamESPN Own %
Pavin SmithOF, 1BArizona Diamondbacks18
J.D. Davis3BNew York Mets29.4
Jesús Aguilar1BMiami Marlins39.6
Nico HoernerSSChicago Cubs14.2
Bobby Dalbec1BBoston Red Sox13.2

1. Pavin Smith | OF, 1B | Arizona Diamondbacks

He might not strut around with the prospect status of that of players such as Ke’Bryan Hayes or Ian Anderson, but Arizona’s 25-year-old rookie outfielder has thrust himself into the middle of early Rookie of the Year discussions. While he’s admittedly cooled off a bit, he’s currently slashing .257/.295/.432 with five doubles, two home runs, seven RBIs, and a 15-to-4 strikeout-to-walk ratio. His peripherals, however, suggest we should only see improvement in his production going forward. His HardHit% is in the 90th-percentile, and his Expected wOBA is in the 77th-percentile. While he’s not drawing a ton of walks, he isn’t showing horrible plate discipline for a 25-year-old rookie, as his strikeout percentage is in the 69th-percentile and his Whiff% is in the 90th-percentile. Perhaps the most encouraging sign for Smith though is his utility, as he’s played one game in left, seven in center, nine in right, and seven at first. His everyday role is virtually locked in at this point, as is evident by his 78 plate appearances thus far, which is fourth-highest on the team.

2. J.D. Davis | 3B | New York Mets

We’ve been down this road with J.D. Davis before, haven’t we? It’s tough to say if it will stick, but it’s worth an add to find out. So far in 41 plate appearances, Davis has two doubles, two home runs, six RBIs, a 13-to-3 strikeout-to-walk ratio, and is slashing .371/.463/.600. While his .550 BABIP indicates that this is not sustainable in the slightest, there are other metrics to point at that indicate Davis could be in for a productive season at the plate. His Average Exit Velocity, Expected wOBA, and Barrel% are all in the 91st-percentile or higher. Keep in mind that Davis is also just 28 years old, which isn’t an unreasonable age for anyone to have a career year. It also doesn’t hurt that he’s surrounded by loads of offensive talent in the Mets lineup. If you’re not getting production at the 3B or CI slots in your roster, pick up Davis and ride out this hot streak as long as it lasts.

3. Jesús Aguilar | 1B | Miami Marlins

Aguilar might not have the support around him in the lineup that J.D. Davis enjoys, but it’s hard to ignore the early season production from Miami’s first baseman. Keep in mind, this is the same Jesús Aguilar that smashed for Milwaukee in 2017 and 2018. Over those two seasons, in almost 900 plate appearances, Aguilar sustained a .271/.344/.527 slash line with 51 home runs and 160 RBIs. He had solid numbers last year in his first season with Miami, and now has a .921 OPS with a league-leading 22 RBIs through 94 plate appearances in 2021. They’re not gaudy numbers, particularly for a position that has a lot of offensive competition, but the league-leader in RBIs shouldn’t be on the waiver wire.

4. Nico Hoerner | SS | Chicago Cubs

Thus far, Hoerner is making the most of the opportunity he was given with the injury to Joc Pederson. Even when Pederson returns, if this production continues from Hoerner, it will be hard to keep him out of the lineup. Although it’s just 26 plate appearances, Hoerner has a .333 Batting Average and a .985 OPS, as well as a 4-to-5 strikeout-to-walk ratio. The 23-year-old former first-round pick out of Stanford had an impressive rookie season in 2019, struggled in 2020, and disappointingly didn’t make the Cubs’ opening day roster this year. However, he appears to be on a mission to prove that was a mistake. It’s also worth noting that Hoerner has now played two games at second base, four games at shortstop, one in left field, and one in center field. This amount of utility might not only keep him on the roster, but could keep him in the lineup everyday and give him additional eligibility.

5. Bobby Dalbec | 1B | Boston Red Sox

The preseason hype probably couldn’t have been higher after Dalbec’s scorching hot spring training, in which he smashed seven home runs in 53 plate appearances, flashing the power that has everyone in Boston excited. However, the Major League concerns over Dalbec’s plate discipline reared its ugly head as soon as the season started, and he posted 10 strikeouts over his first 28 plate appearances, with just three hits. Since then, while the strikeouts have not necessarily gone away, the production has started to come. He has an .854 OPS and he hit his first home run of the season over 41 plate appearances. One look at all of the red on his Savant page and it’s clear that Dalbec can smash the baseball. Even with the discipline issues, that level of talent should produce results sooner or later. Once he finds a groove, Dalbec will start cranking home runs out left and right and his 13.2 ownership percentage is going to skyrocket.

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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